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Eugenedebs

From Wikipedia:

“Eugene VictorGeneDebs (November 5, 1855 – October 20, 1926) was an American union leader, one of the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or the Wobblies), and five times the candidate of the Socialist Party of America for President of the United States.[1] Through his presidential candidacies, as well as his work with labor movements, Debs eventually became one of the best-known socialists living in the United States.

Early in his political career, Debs was a member of the Democratic Party. He was elected as a Democrat to the Indiana General Assembly in 1884. After working with several smaller unions, including the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, Debs was instrumental in the founding of the American Railway Union (ARU), one of the nation’s first industrial unions. After workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company organized a wildcat strike over pay cuts in the summer of 1894, Debs signed many into the ARU. He called a boycott of the ARU against handling trains with Pullman cars, in what became the nationwide Pullman Strike, affecting most lines west of Detroit, and more than 250,000 workers in 27 states. To keep the mail running, President Grover Cleveland used the United States Army to break the strike. As a leader of the ARU, Debs was convicted of federal charges for defying a court injunction against the strike and served six months in prison.

In jail, Debs read various works of socialist theory and emerged six months later as a committed adherent of the international socialist movement. Debs was a founding member of the Social Democracy of America (1897), the Social Democratic Party of America (1898), and the Socialist Party of America (1901).

Debs ran as a Socialist candidate for President of the United States five times, including 1900 (earning 0.63% of the popular vote), 1904 (2.98%), 1908 (2.83%), 1912 (5.99%), and 1920 (3.41%), the last time from a prison cell. He was also a candidate for United States Congress from his native Indiana in 1916.

Debs was noted for his oratory, and his speech denouncing American participation in World War I led to his second arrest in 1918. He was convicted under the Sedition Act of 1918 and sentenced to a term of 10 years. President Warren G. Harding commuted his sentence in December 1921. Debs died in 1926, not long after being admitted to a sanatorium due to cardiovascular problems that developed during his time in prison. He has since been cited as the inspiration for numerous politicians.”

A brief note.  I think that this essay should be required reading for all those who consider joining the armed forces and participating in the cycle of terrorism and destruction that currently dominates our foreign policy and geo-political goals here in the West.   Many thanks to Tom’s Dispatch for hosting the essay.

“Why The War on Terror Shouldn’t Be Your Battle.”

[…]

Let’s start that unpacking process with racism: That was the first and one of the last times I heard the word “enemy” in battalion. The usual word in my unit was “Hajji.”  Now, Hajji is a word of honor among Muslims, referring to someone who has successfully completed a pilgrimage to the Holy Site of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. In the U.S. military, however, it was a slur that implied something so much bigger.

The soldiers in my unit just assumed that the mission of the small band of people who took down the Twin Towers and put a hole in the Pentagon could be applied to any religious person among the more than 1.6 billion Muslims on this planet.  The platoon sergeant would soon help usher me into group-blame mode with that “enemy.”  I was to be taught instrumental aggression. The pain caused by 9/11 was to be tied to the everyday group dynamics of our unit. This is how they would get me to fight effectively. I was about to be cut off from my previous life and psychological manipulation of a radical sort would be involved.  This is something you should prepare yourself for.

When you start hearing the same type of language from your chain-of-command in its attempt to dehumanize the people you are off to fight, remember that 93% of all Muslims condemned the attacks on 9/11.  And those who sympathized claimed they feared a U.S. occupation and cited political not religious reasons for their support.

But, to be blunt, as George W. Bush said early on (and then never repeated), the war on terror was indeed imagined in the highest of places as a “crusade.” When I was in the Rangers, that was a given.  The formula was simple enough: al-Qaeda and the Taliban represented all of Islam, which was our enemy. Now, in that group-blame game, ISIS, with its mini-terror state in Iraq and Syria, has taken over the role. Be clear again that nearly all Muslims reject its tactics. Even Sunnis in the region where ISIS is operating are increasingly rejecting the group. And it is those Sunnis who may indeed take down ISIS when the time is right.

“If you want to be true to yourself, don’t be swept up in the racism of the moment. Your job should be to end war, not perpetuate it. Never forget that.

The second stop in that unpacking process should be poverty: After a few months, I was finally shipped off to Afghanistan.  We landed in the middle of the night.  As the doors on our C-5 opened, the smell of dust, clay, and old fruit rolled into the belly of that transport plane. I was expecting the bullets to start whizzing by me as I left it, but we were at Bagram Air Base, a largely secure place in 2002.

Jump ahead two weeks and a three-hour helicopter ride and we were at our forward operating base. The morning after we arrived I noticed an Afghan woman pounding at the hard yellow dirt with a shovel, trying to dig up a gaunt little shrub just outside the stone walls of the base. Through the eye-slit of her burqa I could just catch a hint of her aged face. My unit took off from that base, marching along a road, hoping (I suspect) to stir up a little trouble. We were presenting ourselves as bait, but there were no bites.

When we returned a few hours later, that woman was still digging and gathering firewood, undoubtedly to cook her family’s dinner that night. We had our grenade launchers, our M242 machine guns that fired 200 rounds a minute, our night-vision goggles, and plenty of food — all vacuum-sealed and all of it tasting the same.  We were so much better equipped to deal with the mountains of Afghanistan than that woman — or so it seemed to us then.  But it was, of course, her country, not ours, and its poverty, like that of so many places you may find yourself in, will, I assure you, be unlike anything you have ever seen. You will be part of the most technologically advanced military on Earth and you will be greeted by the poorest of the poor. Your weaponry in such an impoverished society will feel obscene on many levels. Personally, I felt like a bully much of my time in Afghanistan.

Now, it’s the moment to unpack “the enemy”: Most of my time in Afghanistan was quiet and calm.  Yes, rockets occasionally landed in our bases, but most of the Taliban had surrendered by the time I entered the country. I didn’t know it then, but as Anand Gopal has reported in his groundbreaking book, No Good Men Among the Living, our war on terror warriors weren’t satisfied with reports of the unconditional surrender of the Taliban.  So units like mine were sent out looking for “the enemy.”  Our job was to draw the Taliban — or anyone really — back into the fight.

Believe me, it was ugly. We were often enough targeting innocent people based on bad intelligence and in some cases even seizing Afghans who had actually pledged allegiance to the U.S. mission. For many former Taliban members, it became an obvious choice: fight or starve, take up arms again or be randomly seized and possibly killed anyway.  Eventually the Taliban did regroup and today they are resurgent.  I know now that if our country’s leadership had truly had peace on its mind, it could have all been over in Afghanistan in early 2002.

If you are shipped off to Iraq for our latest war there, remember that the Sunni population you will be targeting is reacting to a U.S.-backed Shia regime in Baghdad that’s done them dirty for years. ISIS exists to a significant degree because the largely secular members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party were labeled the enemy as they tried to surrender after the U.S. invasion of 2003. Many of them had the urge to be reincorporated into a functioning society, but no such luck; and then, of course, the key official the Bush administration sent to Baghdad simply disbanded Saddam Hussein’s army and tossed its 400,000 troops out onto the streets at a time of mass unemployment.

It was a remarkable formula for creating resistance in another country where surrender wasn’t good enough. The Americans of that moment wanted to control Iraq (and its oil reserves).  To this end, in 2006, they backed the Shia autocrat Nouri al-Maliki for prime minister in a situation where Shia militias were increasingly intent on ethnically cleansing the Sunni population of the Iraqi capital.

Given the reign of terror that followed, it’s hardly surprising to find former Baathist army officers in key positions in ISIS and the Sunnis choosing that grim outfit as the lesser of the two evils in its world.  Again, the enemy you are being shipped off to fight is, at least in part, a product of your chain-of-command’s meddling in a sovereign country. And remember that, whatever its grim acts, this enemy presents no existential threat to American security, at least so says Vice President Joe Biden. Let that sink in for a while and then ask yourself whether you really can take your marching orders seriously.

Next, in that unpacking process, consider noncombatants: When unidentified Afghans would shoot at our tents with old Russian rocket launchers, we would guesstimate where the rockets had come from and then call in air strikes. You’re talking 500-pound bombs. And so civilians would die. Believe me, that’s really what’s at the heart of our ongoing war.  Any American like you heading into a war zone in any of these years was likely to witness what we call “collateral damage.” That’s dead civilians.

The number of non-combatants killed since 9/11 across the Greater Middle East in our ongoing war has been breathtaking and horrifying. Be prepared, when you fight, to take out more civilians than actual gun-toting or bomb-wielding “militants.” At the least, an estimated 174,000 civilians died violent deaths as a result of U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan between 2001 and April 2014. In Iraq, over 70% of those who died are estimated to have been civilians. So get ready to contend with needless deaths and think about all those who have lost friends and family members in these wars, and themselves are now scarred for life. A lot of people who once would never have thought about fighting any type of war or attacking Americans now entertain the idea. In other words, you will be perpetuating war, handing it off to the future.”

During World War One, 10% of all casualties were civilians.

During World War Two, the number of civilian deaths rose to 50%.

During the Vietnam War, 70% of all casualties were civilians.

In the war in Iraq, civilians account for up to 90% of all deaths.

                                                         — The War You Don’t See by John Pilger.
Iraq-pain

Vietnamrape    There are no just wars.  The death, the depravity, and destruction should never have pretense of being a noble endeavour.  War is like being dragged face first through fifteen kilometres of shit, nobility and honour be damned.

We’re going to look at a “bad” war, that is a war that we did all the things we usually do, but couldn’t manage to spin a victory or even a “Mission Accomplished” out of the briny wash.  Vietnam seems to cause soul-searching in the US. The Vietnam War should do that at the barest of minimums.  I wonder how much “soul-searching” the Vietnamese do considering it was their country that was systematically raped, poisoned and bombed into a moonscape.

War kills people, like you and like me.  Not the Enemy, not the “evildoers” but women, men and children.  Families, friends, acquaintances are all maliciously erased by the callous hand of war.   The article from Alter.net that excerpts a book by Nick Turse is about the humiliations, gang rapes and murders visited upon the women of Vietnam by the invading American troops.  Make no mistake, this happens in every war and is committed by almost every military.

“In 1971, Major Gordon Livingston, a West Point graduate who served as regimental surgeon with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, testified before members of Congress about the ease with which Americans killed Vietnamese. “Above 90 percent of the Americans with whom I had contact in Vietnam,” said Dr. Livingston, treated the Vietnamese as subhuman and with “nearly universal contempt.” To illustrate his point, Livingston told his listeners about a helicopter pilot who swooped down on two Vietnamese women riding bicycles and killed them with the helicopter skids. The pilot was temporarily grounded as the incident was being investigated, and Livingston spoke to him in his medical capacity. He found that the man felt no remorse about the killings and only regretted not receiving his pay during the investigation.”

War makes us forget who we are and what we value.  Once we strip the humanity from our enemies, anything becomes possible.

“General George S. Patton III. Son of the famed World War II general of the same name, the younger Patton was known for his bloodthirsty attitude and the macabre souvenirs that he kept, including a Vietnamese skull that sat on his desk. He even carried it around at his end-of- tour farewell party. Of course, Patton was just one of many Americans who collected and displayed Vietnamese body parts.”  [..]

Some soldiers hacked the heads off Vietnamese to keep, trade, or exchange for prizes offered by commanders. Many more cut off the ears of their victims, in the hopes that disfiguring the dead would frighten the enemy. Some of these trophies were presented to superiors as gifts or as proof to confirm a body count; others were retained by the “grunts” and worn on necklaces or otherwise displayed. While ears were the most common souvenirs of this type, scalps, penises, noses, breasts, teeth, and fingers were also favored.”

Ah yes, even this very day,  we boldly proclaim our civilization and our humanity to all of those who would listen.  Can you imagine the rage and indignation of those who have suffered at our hands?

Read the rest of this entry »

I’m struck by the casual nature of the media when it comes to reporting on imperial wars.   Casualties are tallied, the right words are said, but then off we go to the next soundbite.  Time for reflection and contemplation is becoming (has become) a lost art.  Louder, Bigger, and Faster are what we’re all about now; and it is wrong, dead wrong.

 

Lest We Forget.

Poignant words. Powerful words. Oft recited words by people of all political stripes, but what do they mean? Do we honour them on Remembrance Day, every other day?

The words are often added to the end of the Ode of Remembrance, although they were never a part of it. As the actual Ode of Remembrance is actually quite long, we often only hear the third and fourth stanzas:

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

I remember hearing this every year during school, from grades 1 to 12, and repeating Lest We Forget back to the speaker at the end of the recital of that poem. I remember seeing the veterans of WWI and WWII dressed in their uniform and being proud of them. I was told they were great men, and I still believe they are today. The WWI veterans fought in the Great War, the war to end all wars it was called. We were very lucky to still have some among us in my small town. The WWII veterans fought what could be called a continuation of that war. But finally they won the war, again, and this could be the end of war.

I also remember the days that were not the eleventh day of the eleventh month of my childhood. I remember the first Gulf War, and what heroes we were being by rescuing Kuwait. I remember glorifying the soldier and the war. I remember trading collectible cards. I remember watching that war on television every night with my father and talking about it the next day with my classmates during recess. It was what everyone was doing.

Hardly what those who fought the war to end all wars would have wanted us to do, I would think.  As just as that war may or may not have been, the glorification of that war instead of what should have been a sombre seems contrary to the spirit of remembrance.

Lest We Forget?

Of course, then there are all the wars that have been fought by the participants of WWI and WWII since then. Korea in the 50’s. Vietnam in the 60’s and 70’s. Iraq and Kosovo in the 90’s. Of course the omnipresent, hyper-militarization of the Cold War throughout that time. Then of course the Current war in Afghanistan and the second Iraq war. If you count Canada’s garrisons ready to fight during the cold war, there has not been a single decade that’s passed since the end of WWII that Canada has not been involved in the making of war.

Lest We Forgot?

Lest We Never Learned Our Lessons at All?

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