Lessons from Vietnam

By Mediagonebad

We may see ourselves through rose-colored glasses and convince ourselves that we are right and they are wrong, that we are the good guys and they are the bad guys.

But are we really morally superior to anyone? We reacted to terrorism by becoming terrorists ourselves when we attacked Iraq. We responded to beheadings by becoming torturers ourselves. Their religious fanatics want to kill us, so our religious fanatics want to kill them.

We are reactionaries. We think in the short-term and do not consider the long-term consequences of our actions. We do not consider alternative actions through grassroots discussion as a genuine democratic republic would do, but we let the media corporations and paid lobbyists set the agenda and control the debate. Alternative views are ignored in this country.

Some neocons advocate the use of nuclear weapons in the Arab East, but the use of nukes anywhere will virtually ensure that Washington and Omaha will burn as well. That is an insane argument, a suicidal argument.

The real fight is for freedom, democracy, and liberty under law here at home, not in some foreign land.

Catholic Priest and Vietnam activist Philip Berrigan dictated the following from his death-bed just one day before he died on Dec. 6, 2002:

“I die in a community including my family, my beloved wife Elizabeth, three great Dominican nuns - Ardeth Platte, Carol Gilbert, and Jackie Hudson (emeritus) jailed in Western Colorado - Susan Crane, friends local, national and even international. They have always been a life-line to me. I die with the conviction, held since 1968 and Catonsville, that nuclear weapons are the scourge of the earth; to mine for them, manufacture them, deploy them, use them, is a curse against God, the human family, and the earth itself. We have already exploded such weapons in Japan in 1945 and the equivalent of them in Iraq in 1991, in Yugoslavia in 1999, and in Afghanistan in 2001. We left a legacy for other people of deadly radioactive isotopes - a prime counterinsurgency measure. For example, the people of Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Pakistan will be battling cancer, mostly from depleted uranium, for decades. In addition, our nuclear adventurism over 57 years has saturated the planet with nuclear garbage from testing, from explosions in high altitudes (four of these), from 103 nuclear power plants, from nuclear weapons factories that can't be cleaned up - and so on. Because of myopic leadership, of greed for possessions, a public chained to corporate media, there has been virtually no response to these realities…” [From Common Dreams.]

Philip Berrigan is best known for his opposition to the Vietnam war, which he expressed by destroying Selective Service Files, pouring blood on nuclear missiles at a General Electric nuclear weapons plant, and similar acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. He served seven years in prison after being convicted of conspiracy, burglary and criminal mischief. His motivating philosophy-- that we humans cannot serve both love and war -- has stood the test of time and deserves a reading today:

“When a people arbitrarily decides that this planet and its riches are to be divided unequally among equals, and that the only criterion for the division is the amount of naked power at its disposal, diplomacy tends to be essentially military, truth tends to be fiction, and the world tends to become a zoo without benefit of cages. And war tends to be the ultimate rationality, because reason has been bankrupted of human alternatives….

Our lives, to be agencies of peace, must stand the scrutiny of both God and man, and by man I mean not our peers, but the billions of people suffering from war, tyranny, starvation, disease, and the burden of color prejudice. In our better moments we may pity them, but sentiment has yet to stop bombing or feed starving children. They will hold us to our acts, and if these acts will not bear human analysis, we will be judged and condemned and withstood in the same coin.

If disengagement from the violent aspects of the ‘system’ is one side of peacemaking, service of truth and human rights is the other. As Pope John used to say, ‘Love ought to be the motive, but justice is the object.’ This is a very large order, calling for people who know humanity by principle and by experience, who are as pained by the plight of starving millions in India as by the sufferings of our own poor, by Chase Manhattan Bank investments in South Africa as by the ruthlessness of Detroit car manufacturers, by napalmed Vietnamese children as by rat-bitten Harlem kids. For as they see it, people are one before they are many, they are a man before men, not objects to be manipulated, exploited, cursed, or killed.”

[By Philip Berrigan, Prison Journals of a Priest Revolutionary, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967.]


We will not be silenced

By Mediagonebad

"We will not be silenced" is a T-shirt campaign to spread the message that all of us who believe in freedom for all, democracy and social justice cannot afford to be silent now. “We will not be silenced” is a multi-language statement attributed to a student-resistance movement in Nazi Germany called The White Rose. It is not a statement of action, but a statement of purpose intended to inspire acts of resistance and dissent against a corrupt government that abuses its power, lies, tortures, kills, and abandons the rule of law.

I think everyone who believes in the Constitution should be wearing one of these shirts anywhere people congregate. Bit by bit, yard by yard, the professional politicians now in power are working hard to render the Bill of Rights obsolete, and the shirt’s message is that we, the people of Earth, will speak up to preserve our rights and freedoms. We will not be silenced.

Someday, these professional politicians and their corporate benefactors have got to go. Democracy should be from the bottom up, not from the top down. Maybe someday we will see public financing of campaigns so all candidates have an equal share of the monies and cannot use personal money or donations. Maybe someday we will have more term limits so no one person gets to be all-powerful in any position. Imagine campaigns actually focusing on social issues and solutions!

I believe the Wall Street multi-millionaires who control the military/industrial/media complex have launched a war against the American people. They have long wanted to drive down wages and eliminate benefits, cut corporate taxes, break up the remaining unions, resume COINTELPRO covert spying on Americans, and further rob the public treasury and Social Security to finance extremely profitable weapons production. Through the imbeciles in the Bush administration, they have found a way to advance their agenda.

The people advocating increased domestic surveillance pine for the days of COINTELPRO, a 40-year counterintelligence program that targeted individuals like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King and groups like the Socialist Worker's Party, the Black Panthers, and yes, the Democrats. The Watergate break-in helped to expose the enormity and scope of the program. Some of the tactics used by the FBI included break-ins of offices and homes, illegal wiretapping, the infiltration of union and political groups, advocating violence at peaceful antiwar rallies, and workplace harassment.

If anyone thinks that there will be oversight of domestic spying now or that it will be used just to root out potential terrorists, then think again. Stick with FISA. It was set up after COINTELPRO was exposed and it works just fine. The so-called “war on terrorism” is a hoax designed to instill fear, exert social control, and keep the American people in check. Imagine a government so insecure in its rhetoric that it must resort to spying on its own citizens in order to protect itself from them.

We the people have been systematically dumbed-down by education and the mass media and the corporate rulers have us right where they want us -- at each others' throats instead of trying to organize, rebuild democracy, and fulfill the American dream for all. Divide and rule. Make us believe it is "us vs. them" while the super-rich further rob the public treasury and Social Security and drive the United States into Third World status. Bush is a criminal, no better than bin Laden, and I hope that they both answer to the world someday. Bin Laden attacked the US without provocation and Bush attacked a sovereign Iraq without provocation. They are both terrorists.

And we will not be silenced.


Students: Organize for meaningful social change

By Mediagonebad

Americans have no sense of history. We see the news headlines presented in the mass media, yet we have no understanding of historical causation, no understanding of how past events shape present events. The only historical knowledge we have is the information spoon-fed to us through the schools and the mass media, information often intended to steer us toward a linear way of thinking about history.

For example, Saddam Hussein is portrayed today as an evil dictator who ruthlessly gassed his own people, yet there is no mention that the nerve gas was used with the full knowledge of our government at the time. Officially, the government objected to the use of gas against the Kurds, but it took no action to prevent its use because it, like Saddam Hussein, was concerned with the "Kurdish problem." The knowledge of the U.S. as a silent partner in the gassing of the Kurds provides important historical context, yet the media -- in typical fashion -- censor the news by omission.

Americans have been so dumbed-down by poor education, shallow news reporting, mindless entertainment, wasteful consumerism, and, now, by the greatly overblown fear of terrorism, that we allow our government to systematically alter the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The Bush administration claims, for example, that the secret wiretapping of Americans -- Americans not even suspected of crimes -- is constitutional. If we were properly educated in history, millions of us would be marching in the streets, walking off the job, and striking until our government rescinded all infringements upon the Constitution and expanded protection to ensure that this not happen again without the full knowledge and consent of the people.

The most important lessons that high school students must learn these days are critical thinking and historical causation. These concepts can be easily integrated into any class, but ignoring them will leave every child behind at a time when we need the younger generation to take control of the nation and restore genuine democracy so that we set a good example for the developing world and become good neighbors and trade partners instead of conquerors and bullies, so that we learn to solve problems through communication and consensus-building rather than warfare.

After 9/11, we rushed into war in Afghanistan -- one of the poorest nations on Earth -- in order to capture Osama bin Laden and destroy the Taliban. But we did neither. Instead, the Bush administration fabricated evidence and blatantly lied to the American people in order to invade Iraq. This is not the way our government is supposed to function, but our representative government has become beholden to the big corporations rather than to the people.

It is up to you, the youth of America, to actively work for meaningful social change. Perhaps, as a first step, practice Civics 101 and demand that military recruiters be denied access to your school during school hours. You can also form after-school discussion groups and political action groups. You can organize community teach-ins and marches. You can write articles for your school paper. And you can talk with your parents and grandparents about the lessons of Vietnam, Watergate, and COINTELPRO. You can even ask your school to invest in low-power community radio to provide music and news to the community near your school. Until the schools learn how to teach, educate yourselves.

Finally, consider these words from Pastor Martin Niemoller: "In Germany they came first for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me -- and by that time no one was left to speak up."


Iran for Rednecks

Cast of Characters
Dale Earnhardt Jr. as Iran
Junior’s car as Iran’s nuclear sites
Jeff Gordon as the U.S.
Gordon’s pit crew as the U.S. military
NASCAR as the United Nations
Other drivers as other countries
The fans as the U.S. mass media

Pretend for a minute that Dale Jr. wins Daytona. While Junior is celebrating his victory, Jeff Gordon complains to NASCAR that Junior has been illegally altering his car’s engine. NASCAR and other drivers know this is not true, but Gordon keeps insisting that Junior is breaking the rules and ought to be punished. The fans believe what Gordon says even though they can offer no proof to back up his claims and Gordon gets upset because NASCAR is not doing anything about it. Gordon then gets his pit crew and surrounds Junior’s car. He tells the fans that he will destroy Junior and his car no matter what NASCAR says. The fans all cheer except for a few dissenters in the back who cannot be heard over the noise.


Open letter to FCC Chairman Martin

April 16, 2006

FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, DC 20554

Television is the most powerful educational tool in history and could be used much more effectively to keep the general population informed. The airwaves belong to the public, but this great educational tool is being squandered away by private corporations interested only in profit. Meanwhile, the informational needs of the public go unmet.

Consider the state of the union today from a citizen's point-of-view:

1) U.S. troops are occupying Iraq in a war that could have been prevented if television news had been used in the public interest. In the lead-up to the war, virtually all of the national news stations and cable stations banged their drums for war. Voices of truth who knew that the war was based on lies from day one had no mass media forum to express their views other than the internet.

But the internet alone is not enough. Television could have been used as a national forum for inquiry and education about Iraq, but the corporations have so much control over news content that it becomes easy to simplify and manipulate the news through sheer repetition. How many times did we hear Condoleezza Rice's references to the "mushroom cloud"?

The manner in which news is presented should be a critical part of the FCC licensing process. All news and news-related programming offered by CNN, MSNBC, FOX, CBS, ABC, NBC and PBS are hosted by moderates (presented as "liberals") and/or conservatives. Genuine alternative positions are rarely presented. More programming like Democracy Now should be widely available because this is what genuine public interest programming looks like when stacked up against the formula programming offered by the mass media barons. The media corporations will not provide public interest news programming on their own, so it will be up to Congress and the FCC to ensure that the public interest standard is met.

2) Political campaigns are presented in the media as popularity contests -- all style and no substance. Television could be used to educate the public about the past record, financial ties, and opinions of the candidates, but all we get are slick PR commercials and attack ads. These ads should be stopped and replaced by nonpartisan, factual candidate information spots and unscripted televised debates that allow unscreened audience questions.

3) Pharmaceutical companies are big businesses that provide a lot of advertising revenue to stations, but there is no way for consumers to find out about preventative medicine techniques or alternative therapies unless they do their own research. All we get are a barrage of ads promoting this or that drug product and stating possible side effects. Drug advertising is a disservice to the public and to the medical profession and increases consumer prices for these medications.

4) It is important to keep the internet as it is by not allowing private corporations to carve it up for their own profits at the expense of alternative news and information. As it is today, the internet is the last bastion of democracy in the United States and it must be defended strongly by the FCC against the corporate broadband wolves.

In 1934, the FCC was given a broad mandate to grant licenses in order to promote “the public interest, convenience and necessity” and “full power to investigate and study the business of existing companies." As a result of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, however, I believe the 1934 public interest mandate is not given nearly enough weight and that the FCC Commissioners ought to examine the cause-and-effect relationship between corporate ownership of the mass media and the absolute failure of these corporations to provide critical news and information in the public interest.


The Life or Death Struggle for Unity

The world’s population is growing at a rate of about 74 million each year. By 2050, there will be approximately 9 billion people living on our world -- maybe more -- each with hopes and dreams of family, friends, good health, decent housing, and a living wage.

The consumer nations, led by the United States, must change their selfish, wasteful habits or this planetary population growth will be unsustainable. There will be an increase in greenhouse gases, further complicating an already dangerous global warming. There will be a reduction of both tillable land and drinking water resources. The oil supply will dwindle and prices will skyrocket. And because of today’s corporate greed and irresponsibility regarding agriculture, untested, nutrient-deficient GE crops will lead to an increase in hunger and increased vulnerability to new diseases and famine.

If there were a chance that the people of the United States would rise up and take back the power of the people, then maybe there would be room for optimism regarding the future. But we are too preoccupied by the rampant disease of warmongering, wasteful consumerism, and the lack of political will for planning. We are too divided over our red and blue states to realize that we need to unite around the very planet that sustains us. This is the common bond we share with all people and all nations.

The United States has a shameful record on recycling and reusing, as consumer goods such as televisions, VCRs, printers, furniture and appliances are often dumped into landfills. It has become cheaper and more convenient to simply throw away rather than repair. Computer printers, for example, have become so cheap that when an ink cartridge runs out, some of us throw the printer in the trash and buy a new one, as the replacement cartridge may cost more than the printer. Of course, some cartridges are refillable, but information about refilling them is omitted from the printer documentation.

The secret message behind all of this is buy, buy, buy and spend, spend, spend! Corporations are so out of control in their greed for profit that the needs of the future are not even considered. And Americans are so uninformed by a corporate media that focuses on news as entertainment rather than as a public forum for serious discussion that the possibilities for a change of priorities look bleak. It is imperative that we unite for the sake of the planet. It is imperative that we take back our public airwaves. Our very lives depend on it.


Big, Fat Smiley Faces!

During a recent public relations speech in West Virginia, a woman in the carefully screened audience commented to President Bush that the media do not report the good things the Bush administration does.

In her mind, I suppose, hearing stories about violence in Iraq, the New Orleans fiasco, and presidential misconduct shows the Bush administration in a bad light. She wishes the media would report more good stories.

That’s it! We need more happy stories! We do not need an independent media that reports the truth, holds politicians accountable, and lets the political chips fall where they may. We do not need stories showing the gruesome reality of the Iraq war or showing fallen soldiers coming home in coffins. We do not need to know that, as a result of Bush’s war, tens of thousands of Iraqis have died, including innocent men, women and children. We do not need to hear evidence that shows the president has lied repeatedly to the American people and to Congress. We do not need to know about Bush’s war on dissent and his approval of the unconstitutional wiretapping of American citizens. We do not need to know about the administration’s plan to produce -- and use -- a new generation of nuclear weapons.

As if the media do not have enough built-in filters that toe the administration line and keep citizens ignorant, now we need stories with big, fat smiley faces to show that they meet the goodness test! The war is going just fine and the troops are exited to be promoting American democracy in Iraq! The economy is strong because Bush’s tax cuts to the wealthy are creating new jobs! These are the happy stories that show the Bush administration in a positive light. Never mind that growing numbers of demoralized Iraq veterans are joining antiwar protests. Never mind that the new jobs being created are low paid service jobs that do not provide benefits. The administration knows that if you repeat your message and catch phrases often enough for gullible Americans, they will believe anything. According to Hermann Goering, Hitler's designated successor in the Third Reich, "the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

So, to the West Virginia woman who wants big, fat smiley faces masking the truth, I would say that the world is in a far more dangerous position after George W. Bush used the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to launch a vague war on a tactic and then decided to use preemptive warfare in Iraq. There are no smiley faces big enough to hide his crimes against humanity.


Hands Off Iran!

Just like the build-up to the Iraq war, the hypocritical U.S. Government and its media allies are creating an artificial sense of urgency regarding Iran. Vice President Dick Cheney said that there will be “meaningful consequences” if Iran does not change its present course. “We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon,” Cheney said.

Sound familiar? Remember the constant media drumbeat in 2002 and 2003 regarding Saddam Hussein and Iraq? Remember the accusations that Iraq was supporting terrorism? Remember the bogus assertion that Iraq was responsible for 9/11? Remember the imagery of the “mushroom cloud” and the U.S. insistence that Iraq had a vast stockpile of chemical weapons? Of course, the former United Nations weapons inspectors were saying at the time that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, but this point of view was drowned out by the loud drumbeat for war. There was no meaningful diplomacy during that time because the Bush crime family had already decided upon war.

So why all of the interest in Iran now? Is it really about nuclear proliferation, or is that just a smokescreen for something else. After all, Bush recently made a nuclear technology pact with India, a pact that sends signals throughout the world -- and to the Iranian leadership -- that nuclear proliferation is O.K. and that the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty doesn’t mean anything. In fact, the U.S. is planning a new generation of nukes, so it has no right to criticize other nations. So what is really going on?

It so happens that Iran -- like Iraq -- is a major oil producer and is in a strategic location for the long-term U.S. plan to control the Caspian Sea oil reserves and build pipelines through Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran. There will be a pretense of diplomacy as the United Nations tries to find a solution to the Iranian situation that will satisfy the United States, but a solution acceptable to the U.S. will not be found, so the Bush regime will launch a unilateral military strike. Who can doubt it? The campaign to sway public opinion has already begun. The oil-mongers are at it again, no matter what the human and environmental cost.


Constitution? What Constitution?

History will regard the 109th Senate as the most corrupt ever.

In the same way that President Bush fixed the facts to fit his neocon war plans in Iraq, the Republican leadership in the 109th Senate uses its power to short-circuit meaningful debate and independent investigations of presidential wrongdoing.

On March 13, 2006, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), called upon the Senate to censure President Bush for ignoring the Constitution and misleading Congress and the American people on the use of warrant-less wiretapping. Bush loyalists claim that the president has the right to circumvent existing statutes and to use whatever means he sees fit in the so-called “war on terror.” One chief loyalist, Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH), even wants to introduce legislation making Bush’s warrant-less wiretapping on American citizens legal in order to cover the president‘s past illegal actions. What a sham!

Senate Majority Leader Frist (R-TN) wanted to force an immediate vote on the Feingold resolution with no discussion on the Senate floor, a tactic that seems just plain wrong in a supposed constitutional democracy, but the resolution will likely be sent to the judicial or intelligence committee, where the Republican majorities will quietly squash it.

It is unlikely that the Feingold resolution will get any support from a single Republican. As for Democratic support, well, let’s just say that the Democrats in the 109th Senate are spineless jellyfish and have been known to buckle under to the Republicans. A clear violation of the U.S. Constitution is not even enough incentive for more than a handful of Democrats to consider censoring Bush during wartime.

Feingold did what needed to be done in order to preserve the integrity of the Constitution and President Bush deserves censure -- and eventual impeachment -- for his illegal actions.


Democracy and Capitalism are not synonyms

The Republic of China is growing increasingly apprehensive about the massive debt associated with the U.S. dollar, so it is reportedly shopping around for a new currency such as the Euro or Yen.

It doesn't take an economist to figure out that the consequences of this in the U.S. would be immense. Cheap Chinese products now line the shelves of department stores, convenience stores and gift shops all over the country, so if the government imposes tariffs on Chinese imports -- as it has threatened -- then prices will rise and the economy will suffer greatly.

China is mastering capitalism, but it remains a repressive society that does not practice democracy. When Chinese students began a pro-democracy movement at Tiananmen Square, the government acted quickly to squelch it. The famous photograph of the man in front of a tank is a worthy symbol of the pro-democracy movement, but the government arrests people who speak out and thus maintains its power and control by fear and repression. At the same time, business is booming, thanks largely to low paid workers and child and prison labor.

In the U.S., capitalism has propelled the nation to the largest economy in the world and its Constitution and Bill of Rights has long served as a beacon for immigrants. But democracy and capitalism are not synonyms. Hitler understood capitalism well and envisioned a worldwide corporate oligarchy in which the individual exists to serve the state.

Although Hitler is dead, his concept of capitalism is not. George W. Bush -- whose grandfather, the late Senator Prescott Bush, supported Hitler financially through business dealings -- also understands capitalism and has, through tax cuts for the rich and a war in Iraq, created massive debt that has been absorbed largely by China and Saudi Arabia. In so doing, Bush has taken billions of dollars out of the public sector and put it in the private sector and the result is a lower standard of living for the middle class. Forget the poor.

Corporations, emboldened by Bush policies, are cutting health benefits and pension plans for workers, yet they are making record profits. In civil society, illegal wiretaps are being used to spy on Americans. Repressive tactics are on the rise and are slowly, almost imperceptively, replacing democratic principles while citizens are being entertained and distracted by the corporate media.

President Bush has obtained a level of presidential power that usurps Congress and is appointing pro-business judges to control the Judicial Branch. Capitalism is working well for the rich, but they are not satisfied with being rich; they want to be richer.

Ever since 9/11/01, Bush has used the "war on terror" as an excuse to erode civil liberties and constitutional protections for individuals. He has authorized intelligence organizations to capture "enemy combatants," deny them access to representation, and to torture them without regard for the Geneva Convention. He has also authorized a policy of "extraordinary rendition" to hold prisoners in other nations so they will not be subject to humane protection under U.S. law.

Bush is making up rules as he goes along and his supporters join in lock-step. But there is no way to win a war on terror because terrorism is a tactic, not a nation. The war is being used hypocritically to impose Bush's will on other nations as he hopes to propel the United States toward unbridled world dominance. Dissent will not be tolerated, even if that means using nuclear weapons. Bush is a danger to humanity. Hitler would be proud.