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By Linn Washington, Jr.
Even in politics, where alarming perversions too often parade as acceptable standards, it is pretty astounding for a politician to assert that inadvertent error is the reason for his failure to report receipt of gifts and other free items valued at $160,050 over a five-year period.
ABC Television's 20/20 will air a program on Friday called "The Girl Left Behind," the main thrust of which is already apparent on ABC's website.
The horribly tragic story is that of Kayla Mueller, an American held hostage and reportedly raped and tortured by ISIS before dying -- it's unclear how, possibly at the hands of ISIS, possibly killed by bombs dropped by U.S. ally Jordan.
Another hostage who was freed reported that ISIS blamed Kayla Mueller for U.S. actions in the Middle East. Among those actions, we learned this week, was imprisoning future ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at Abu Ghraib, not just at Camp Bucca as previously reported.
Mueller, like fellow ISIS victim James Foley, meant well and was in Syria to try to help people nonviolently. But U.S. policy has made it unsafe for Americans to travel to many places.
ABC will seek to pin blame for what happened to Mueller on Doctors Without Borders. She was kidnapped out of a Doctors Without Borders car, and that organization negotiated the freedom of its employees while refusing to help Mueller or even to trust her family enough to share with them information intended for them from ISIS.
But Doctors Without Borders was in Syria to help people and appears to have meant well. Blaming the doctors is easy to overdo here, and not just because the United States has been bombing its hospitals -- acts that may not involve rape or torture, but do involve murder and maiming. The U.S. government could have helped Mueller by never having destroyed Iraq in the first place, never having sought to overthrow Syria, never having overthrown Libya, or never having flooded the region with weapons. Or the U.S. government could have negotiated with ISIS or allowed victims' families to do so -- something it now allows, too late for Kayla Mueller. Or the U.S. government could have announced new policies that ISIS would likely have accepted as ransom.
ISIS asked, in exchange for Mueller's freedom, for the freedom of Aafia Siddiqui or $5 million Euros. If the U.S. government had, instead, offered an apology to the victims of its wars and prison camps, and massive reparations to the region, ISIS might very well have responded in kind. Instead, the U.S. government proceeded to bomb people, including many civilians, for a cost many times greater than $5 million Euros.
The telling of Mueller's story is, in itself, worthwhile. But the focus on an American victim of a war that is victimizing all kinds of people fuels dangerous attitudes. Focusing on the crimes of ISIS, but not of Saudi Arabia or Bahrain or, for that matter, the United States, looks like propaganda for more war. When a New Yorker like Jeffrey Epstein rapes, nobody proposes to bomb New York, but when Baghdadi allegedly rapes, the appropriate response is widely understood to be bombing people.
I don't think the suffering of Kayla Mueller or James Foley should be used to justify the infliction of more suffering. As 9/11 victims have been used as a justification to kill hundreds of times the number of people killed on 9/11, some of the victims' relatives have pushed back. James Foley is pushing back from the grave. Posted online is a video of Foley talking about the lies that are needed to launch wars, including the manipulation of people into thinking of foreigners as less than human. Foley's killers may have thought of him as less than human. He may not have viewed them the same way.
The video shows Foley in Chicago helping the late Haskell Wexler with his film Four Days in Chicago -- a film about a protest of NATO. I was there in Chicago for the march and rally against NATO. And I met Wexler who tried unsuccessfully to find funding for a film version of my book War Is A Lie.
In the video you can watch Foley discussing the limitations of embedded reporting, the power of veteran resistance, veterans he met at Occupy, the absence of a good justification for the wars, the dehumanization needed before people can be killed, the shallowness of media coverage -- watch all of that and then try to imagine James Foley accepting the use of his killing as propaganda for more fighting.
When Foley's mother sought to ransom him, the U.S. government repeatedly threatened her with prosecution. So, instead of Foley's mother paying a relatively small amount and possibly saving her son, ISIS goes on getting its funding from oil sales and supporters in the Gulf and free weapons from, among elsewhere, the United States and its allies. And we're going to collectively spend millions, probably billions, and likely trillions of dollars furthering the cycle of violence that Foley risked his life to expose.
New York Times shames itself: Attacking Wikileaks’ Assange for Doing What Journalists are Supposed to Do
By Dave Lindorff
While I periodically have written commentaries dissecting and pillorying news articles in the New York Times to expose their bias, hypocrisy half-truths and lies, I generally ignore their editorials since these are overtly opinions of the management, and one expects them to display the elitist and neo-liberal perspective of the paper’s publisher and senior editors.
Not just toilet lids Pentagon Money Pit: Unaccountable Army Spending of $6.5 Trillion and No DOD Audit for the Past Two Decades
By Dave Lindorff
What if the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services were to report that $6.5 billion in spending by that federal agency was unaccounted for and untraceable? You can imagine the headlines, right? What if it was $65 billion? The headlines would be as big as for the first moon landing or for troops landing on Omaha Beach in World War II.
750 Sanders Delegates in Convention Walk-Out as Green Party’s Jill Stein Joins Anti-Hillary Protests Outside
By Dave Lindorff
‘Clintonville’ reflects true horror of poverty in US: Green Party’s Stein Walks with Poor While Democrats Party in Philly
By Linn Washington, Jr.
By John Grant
Someone's crying, Lord, kumbaya
- From the Gullah song meaning, Lord, come by here and help us
Dead end in New Hampshire: Bernie Sanders Endorses Hillary Clinton, Candidate of Wall Street and Corporate Power
By John Grant
Kill one person, it’s called murder.
Kill 100,000, it’s called foreign policy.
- A popular bumper sticker
By Kathy Kelly
Two major news stories here in the U.S., both chilling, point out how readily U.S. authorities will murder people based on race and the slightest possibility of a threat to those in places of power.
On July 5th Baton Rouge police killed Anton Sterling in a Louisiana parking lot. Sterling was a 37-year-old Black father of five selling CDs outside of a local storege. As captured on widely seen cellphone video, two officers tased him, held him with their hands and knees down on the ground and then shot him multiple times at close range. The officers pulled a gun out of Sterling’s pocket after they had killed him but witnesses say Sterling was not holding the gun and his hands were never near his pockets.The situation might have escalated further but clearly little concern was shown for the sanctity of a human life deemed a threat to officers. In the witness-recorded video one officer promises, "If you f---ing move, I swear to God!"
Snared in a web of deceit: FBI Investigation Produces No Indictment, But Proves Hillary Clinton’s a Serial Liar
By Dave Lindorff
By Alfredo Lopez and Jackie Smith
We just celebrated "Juneteenth" (the start of the end of slavery in the U.S.) amid tumultuous and sometimes confusing politics and what appears to be an increase in racist mobilization. For internet activists the situation begs the question: what, at this moment in our history, is the relationship between technology and black people?
Supreme Hypocrisy in Pennsylvania: US High Court Opens Door to New Appeal by Mumia Abu-Jamal of His 1982 Conviction
By Linn Washington, Jr.
One unintended consequence of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a death penalty case that rebuked actions of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice and prosecutors in Philadelphia for conflict of interest was to open a new avenue for activist-journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal to appeal his own 1982 murder conviction in a trial that was tainted by the same exact type of conflict of interest.
A campaign death march? State Dept. IG Report on Private Server has Clinton Resembling Gen. MacArthur on Luzon
By Robert Nelson
As with becoming a whistleblower or an activist or an artist there must be numerous reasons why any individual becomes a terrorist -- whether military, contract, or independent. Various irrational hatreds and fears (and promises of paradise after death) and the ready availability of weaponry certainly play roles.
But did you know that every single foreign terrorist in the United States in recent decades, plus domestic terrorists claiming foreign motivations, plus numerous poor suckers set up and stung by the FBI, plus every foreign terrorist organization that has claimed or been blamed for attempted or successful anti-U.S. terrorism have all claimed the same motivation? I'm not aware of a single exception.
If one of them claimed to be motivated by the needs of Martians, we might set that aside as crazy. If every single one of them claimed to be acting on behalf of Martians, we would at least get curious about why they said that, even if we doubted Martians' existence. But every single one of them says something much more believable. And yet what they say seems to be a secret despite being readily available information.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
By David Swanson
An atheist's sermon on Luke 7: 36-50 delivered at Saint Joan of Arc in Minneapolis, Minn., on June 12, 2016.
Forgiveness is a universal need, among those of us who are not religious and among believers in every religion on earth. We must forgive each other our differences, and we must forgive much more difficult occurrences.
Some things we can forgive easily -- by which, of course, I mean eliminating resentment from our hearts, not granting an eternal reward. If someone kissed my feet and poured oil on them and begged me to forgive her, frankly, I would have a harder time forgiving the kisses and oil than forgiving her a life of prostitution -- which is, after all, not an act of cruelty toward me but the violation of a taboo into which she was likely compelled by hardship.
But to forgive men who were torturing and killing me on a cross? That I would be very unlikely to succeed at, especially as my nearing end -- in the absence of a crowd to influence -- might convince me of the pointlessness of making my last thought a magnanimous one. As long as I live, however, I intend to work on forgiveness.
If our culture truly developed the habit of forgiveness, it would dramatically improve our personal lives. It would also make wars impossible, which would further dramatically improve our personal lives. I think we have to forgive both those who we think have wronged us personally, and those whom our government has told us to hate, both at home and abroad.
I suspect I could find well over 100 million Christians in the United States who do not hate the men who crucified Jesus, but who do hate and would be highly offended at the idea of forgiving Adolf Hitler.
When John Kerry says that Bashar al Assad is Hitler, does that help you feel forgiving toward Assad? When Hillary Clinton says that Vladimir Putin is Hitler, does that help you relate to Putin as a human being? When ISIS cuts a man's throat with a knife, does your culture expect of you forgiveness or vengeance?
Forgiveness is not the only approach one can take to curing war fever, and not the one I usually try.
Usually the case that's made for a war involves specific lies that can be exposed, such as lies about who used chemical weapons in Syria or who shot down an airplane in Ukraine.
Usually there is a great deal of hypocrisy one can point to. Was Assad already Hitler when he was torturing people for the CIA, or did he become Hitler by defying the U.S. government? Was Putin already Hitler before he refused to join in the 2003 attack on Iraq? If a particular ruler who has fallen out of favor is Hitler, what about all the brutal dictators whom the United States is arming and supporting? Are they all Hitler too?
Usually there is aggression by the United States that can be pointed to. The U.S. has aimed to overthrow the Syrian government for years and avoided negotiations for the nonviolent removal of Assad in favor of a violent overthrow believed to be imminent year after year. The U.S. has pulled out of arms reduction treaties with Russia, expanded NATO to its border, facilitated a coup in Ukraine, launched war games along the Russian border, put ships in the Black and Baltic Seas, moved more nukes into Europe, begun talking about smaller, more "usable" nukes, and set up missile bases in Romania and (under construction) in Poland. Imagine if Russia had done these things in North America.
Usually one can point out that no matter how evil a foreign ruler is, a war will kill large numbers of people unfortunate enough to be ruled by him -- people who are innocent of his crimes.
But what if we tried the approach of forgiveness? Can one forgive ISIS its horrors? And would doing so result in free reign for more such horrors, or in their reduction or elimination?
The first question is easy. Yes, you can forgive ISIS its horrors. At least some people can. I feel no hatred toward ISIS. There are people who lost loved ones on 9/11 who quickly began advocating against any vengeful war. There are people who've lost loved ones to small-scale murder and opposed cruel punishment of the guilty party, even coming to know and care for the murderer. There are cultures that treat injustice as something in need of reconciliation rather than retribution.
Of course, the fact that others can do it doesn't mean that you can or should do it. But it's worth recognizing how right were those family members of 9/11 victims who opposed war. Now several hundred times as many people have been killed, and the hatred toward the United States that contributed to 9/11 has been multiplied accordingly. A global war on terrorism has predictably and indisputably increased terrorism.
If we take a deep breath and think seriously, we can also recognize that the resentment that calls out for forgiveness is not rational. Toddlers with guns kill more people in the United States than do foreign terrorists. But we don't hate toddlers. We don't bomb toddlers and whoever's near them. We don't think of toddlers as inherently evil or backward or belonging to the wrong religion. We forgive them instantly, without struggle. It's not their fault the guns were left lying around.
But is it the fault of ISIS that Iraq was destroyed? That Libya was thrown into chaos? That the region was flooded with U.S.-made weapons? That future ISIS leaders were tortured in U.S. camps? That life was made into a nightmare? Maybe not, but it was their fault they murdered people. They are adults. They know what they are doing.
Do they? Remember, Jesus said they did not. He said, forgive them for they know not what they do. How could they possibly know what they are doing when they do things like what they have done?
When U.S. officials retire and quickly blurt out that U.S. efforts are creating more enemies than they are killing, it becomes clear that attacking ISIS is counterproductive. It also becomes clear that at least some people engaged in it know that. But they also know what advances their careers, what provides for their families, what pleases their associates, and what benefits a certain sector of the U.S. economy. And they can always hold out hope that perhaps the next war will be the one that finally works. Do they really know what they do? How could they?
When President Obama sent a missile from a drone to blow up an American boy from Colorado named Abdulrahman al Awlaki, one should not imagine that his head or the heads of those seated too close to him remained on their bodies. That this boy wasn't killed with a knife shouldn't make his killing any more or less forgivable. We should desire no revenge against Barack Obama or John Brennan. But we should not limit our outraged demand for truth, restorative justice, and the replacement of murderous with peaceful public policies.
A U.S. Air Force officer recently said that a tool that would allow dropping food accurately to starving people in Syria would not be used for such a purely humanitarian operation because it costs $60,000. Yet the U.S. military is blowing through tens of billions of dollars on killing people there, and hundreds of billions of dollars every year on maintaining the ability to do the same all over the world. We've got CIA-trained troops in Syria fighting Pentagon-trained troops in Syria, and -- as a matter of principle -- we can't spend money on preventing starvation.
Imagine living in Iraq or Syria and reading that. Imagine reading the comments of Congress members who support militarism because it supposedly provides jobs. Imagine living under a constantly buzzing drone in Yemen, no longer allowing your children to go to school or to go outside the house at all.
Now imagine forgiving the United States government. Imagine bringing yourself to see what looks like massive evil as in fact bureaucratic mishaps, systemic momentum, partisan blindness, and manufactured unawareness. Could you, as an Iraqi, forgive? I've seen Iraqis do it.
We in the United States can forgive the Pentagon. Can we forgive ISIS? And if not, why not? Can we forgive Saudis who look and sound like, and who support, ISIS, but who our televisions tell us are good loyal allies? If so, is it because we haven't seen Saudi victims of beheading or because of what those victims look like? If not, is it because of what Saudis look like?
If forgiveness came naturally to us, if we could do it immediately for ISIS, and therefore instantly for the neighbor who makes too much noise or votes for the wrong candidate, then marketing campaigns for wars would not work. Neither would campaigns to pack more Americans into prisons.
Forgiveness would not eliminate conflict, but it would render conflicts civil and nonviolent -- exactly what the peace movement of the 1920s had in mind when it moved Frank Kellogg of St. Paul, Minnesota, to create the treaty that bans all war.
This afternoon at 2 p.m. we are going to be dedicating a peace pole here on the grounds of this church. With permanent war ever present in our culture, we badly need such physical reminders of peace. We need peace in ourselves and in our families. But we need to be wary of the attitude taken by a school board member in Virginia who said he'd support a celebration of peace as long as everyone understood he wasn't opposing any wars. We need reminders that peace begins with the abolition of war. I hope you'll join us.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Emails and documents obtained from Oklahoma State University (OSU) under the state's open records law depict an arrangement in which former U.S. Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) donated his U.S. Senate papers to OSU, a public university, but still maintains full control of the papers and who gets permission to view them.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
America’s party-line corporate media: The Democratic Primary Race Has Been Called Before 15% of the Country Votes
By Dave Lindorff
Reading the papers and listening to the radio about the Democratic primary race, which is reaching its climax tomorrow in California, New Jersey, Montana, New Mexico and South Dakota, I’m having a powerful sense of deja vu harking back to my years living and working as a journalist in China in the 1990s.
By Jackie Smith and Alfredo Lopez
(The following article was co-written by Dr. Jackie Smith -- of the International Network of Scholar Activsts -- and TCBH member Alfredo Lopez. It is being published here and in other places.)
By David Swanson
NBC's Dateline program aired pro-drone propaganda this week and has posted the video online. Their so-called report purports to be "balanced" and "even-handed." In fact it misleadingly promotes an extremely destructive government program that millions of people would protest if they knew the actual facts of the matter.
Dateline introduces us to drones with the claim that drones have saved lives by "hitting terrorist targets." Unlike any negative statement about drones made in the course of this Dateline video, such positive statements are never immediately countered by somebody authoritative saying the opposite in a different vocabulary (such as "murdering human beings never convicted or even indicted for any crime" rather than "hitting terrorist targets"). Much less is any positive statement countered with actual facts. At the very end of the program we'll hear that during this "war on terrorism" terrorism has increased, but the causal connection recognized by numerous experts is brushed over. In fact numerous top officials involved in the U.S. drone program blurt out, the moment they retire, that it is generating more enemies than it is killing. Numerous such statements are publicly available, and such voices could have been included in this program.
Next Dateline shows us a drone pilot in Nevada in his car and "on his way to fight ISIS." In fact, U.S. drone pilots (who dress up as pilots and sit at a desk) blow people up in numerous countries, have (like their commanders) no idea who most of the people are whom they blow up, and have seen ISIS recruitment soar since the U.S. began bombing that organization which its earlier bombings and occupations and prison camps and torture and weapons sales were absolutely central to creating.
Dateline shows us footage of drones, but none of what they do -- only fuzzy videos selected by the Air Force in which we see no humans, no bodies, no body parts, and are just told that the people murdered were ISIS, which is supposed to make it moral and legal. Endless footage exists and is available, including of course from the Air Force, of the people blown to pieces by drones. Plenty of reporting explains that this type of warfare kills more innocent people than even other horrific types of warfare. But Dateline will instead eventually get around to focusing on phony critiques like "Is this too much like playing a video game?"
Key issue left unraised is secret financial deals: With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
By Dave Lindorff
When it comes to Hillary Clinton’s State Department email scandal, reporters -- and even her right-wing critics in the Republican Party -- are asking the wrong question.
A lesson here for Sanders?: 72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
By Dave Lindorff
A 72-year-old college professor named Alexander van der Bellen, running for president as the candidate of the leftist Austrian Green Party, a fringe party that had never been considered a serious contender in post-war Austrian politics, just won a narrow victory over Norbert Hofer, a right-wing candidate of the neo-fascist Freedom Party who had been favored to win.