January 13, 2011

National defense — or imperial offense?

Dallas Darling writes at World News:

Like citizen soldiers of the American Revolution, Pfc. Manning is fighting a Revolution. This Revolution is also against imperial soldiers and generals that have sworn allegiance to a tyrannical empire with a global military presence. These professional soldiers have forgotten the true meaning of their oath to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution from foreign enemies. Instead, they are well paid foreign mercenaries fighting resource wars for wealthy American corporations. And like the insurgents that barely survived through the harsh winter at Valley Forge, Pfc. Manning is barely surviving in the Valley of Death. As I write this, Pfc. Manning — the U.S. Army soldier who is accused of leaking thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan war logs to WikiLeaks — is in a military prison at Quantico, Virginia.

For months, Pfc. Manning has been jailed in solitary confinement. Salon's Glenn Greenwald writes that his conditions "constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture." There are also concerns over long-term psychological and mental injuries, as noted by Jeff Paterson who is leading Pfc. Manning's legal defense fund. A friend, David House, was recently allowed to visit Pfc. Manning. He verified solitary confinement in a small cell 23 hours a day, no personal items, and no exercise. He was shocked at the decline in Pfc. Manning's psychological state and physical well-being. Others have noticed too that Pfc. Manning's military confinement, such as sleep deprivation and exposure to extreme temperatures, is the same type of harsh treatment terrorism detainees receive. There are reports that other types of punitive measures are being implemented.

One can only imagine the verbal and physical harassment Pfc. Manning is subjected to too, along with abusive interrogation techniques. While the next House Intelligence Chairman has called for his execution, other politicians have declared that he should be charged with murder for "communicating, transmitting and delivering national defense information to an unauthorized source." But was it national defense information or imperial offense information? In other words, his disillusionment with, and resistance against, the United States Empire harkens back to the citizen soldiers that fought to free themselves from the British Empire. Communicating and transmitting imperial war crimes revealing innocent civilians being murdered actually makes Pfc. Manning a true patriot of human rights. ...

The Valley of Death today is the Pentagon, which just extracted another $1 trillion dollars from the poor and working classes in America. The shadow of the Valley of Death are well paid and highly armed imperial soldiers that preemptively invade nations and try to conquer movements wanting self-determination, or insurgencies seeking to maintain their religions and cultural traditions. The Valley of Death is also corporate militarism that has captured the Continental Congress and has extinguished the flames of the Revolution.

January 12, 2011

In the crosshairs

This is how we try to make the world fit our vision: "tough" foreign policy is echoed by the man in the street. John Walsh writes in Counterpunch: "Sarah Palin's Crosshairs . . . and Obama's" (click on the title of this post).

January 11, 2011

Gun fetishist shot by gun fetishist

Gun fetishists, defiant, express sadness, call for more guns to defend selves from madness.

"Life is a video game, and God is the programmer." —mourner at memorial

January 9, 2011

War: the gift that keeps on giving

From no-bid war contracts (for a war that Bechtel lobbied for) to the free-money fountain of wind energy development (a war against our own rural and wild places) — this full-page ad appeared in the January 2011 issue of North American Windpower. Happy new year!

January 5, 2011

Behind the Perennial U.S. Urge to Surge

Tom Engelhardt writes at CBS News (click the title of this post for the entire piece):

To one degree or another, we have been on the Soviet path for years and yet, ever more desperately, we continue to plan more surges. Our military, like the Soviet one, has not lost a battle and has occupied whatever ground it chose to take. Yet, in the process, it has won less than nothing at all. Our country, still far more wealthy than the Soviet Union ever was, has nonetheless entered its Soviet phase.

At home, in the increasing emphasis on surveillance of every sort, there is even a hint of what made “soviet” and “totalitarian” synonymous.

The U.S. economy looks increasingly sclerotic; moneys for an aging and rotting infrastructure are long gone; state and city governments are laying off teachers, police, even firefighters; Americans are unemployed in near record numbers; global oil prices (for a country that has in no way begun to wean itself from its dependence on foreign oil) are ominously on the rise; and yet taxpayer money continues to pour into the military and into our foreign wars. It has recently been estimated, for instance, that after spending $11.6 billion in 2011 on the training, supply, and support of the Afghan army and police, the U.S. will continue to spend an average of $6.2 billion a year at least through 2015 (and undoubtedly into an unknown future) -- and that’s but one expense in the estimated $120 billion to $160 billion a year being spent at present on the Afghan War, what can only be described as part of America’s war stimulus package abroad.

And, of course, the talk for 2011 is how to expand the American ground war -- the air version of the same has already been on a sharp escalatory trajectory -- in Pakistan. History and common sense assure us that this can only lead to further disaster. Clear-eyed leaders, military or civilian, would never consider such plans. But Washington’s 30-year high in the region, that urge to surge still coursing through its veins, says otherwise, and it’s not likely to be denied.

January 2, 2011

Wikileaks and Devil's Island

“The Wikileaks documents may not produce any world-changing revelations, but every day they are adding to the steady, gradual erosion of people's belief in the US government's good intentions, which is necessary to overcome a lifetime of indoctrination.”

January 1, 2011

How Green Became the Color of Money

Jeffrey St. Clair writes at Counterpunch ... click here for the entire first part, excerpted from the upcoming book with Joshua Frank, "Green Scare: The New War on Environmentalism" ...
  • here for Part 2 [the H.W. Bush years]
  • Part 3 [Clinton]
  • Part 4 [more Clinton: ‘One of the strange pathologies afflicting contemporary environmentalism is that a conservation group without a law firm behind it suffers extreme pangs of institutional impotence. “The problem was that the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund’s arguments stemmed from political, not legal, judgments,” recalls Oregon environmentalist Larry Tuttle. “And those arguments were shaped in large measure by their own economic self-interest, that is, their right to sue and reap heft attorneys’ fees from the government, and not the future of the forests or the spotted owls.”’]
  • Part 5 [Bruce Babbitt: ‘Enter the Environmental Defense Fund, a fanatical espouser of free trade as the salve for more or less everything. EDF was vociferously pro-NAFTA and had positioned itself as a long-time foe of dolphin protection laws as “ideologically unsound.”’]
  • Part 6 [Carol Browner]
  • Part 7 [Al Gore]
  • Part 8 [more Al Gore: ‘It is a hallmark of the Gore style that he knows how deftly to exploit public interest groups even as he betrays their constituents. ... He knew that what the big green groups based in DC craved most was access.’]
  • Part 9 [more senators]
  • Part 10 [The Wilderness Society: ‘A quarter century after the first Earth Day, the corporate counter-attacked launched in the 1970s was nearly complete.’]
  • Part 11 [George W. Bush, Gale Norton, et al.]
  • Part 12 [‘Back in the good old days, a corporation with an unappetizing relationship to the natural world would often try to burnish their image by luring an executive or top staffer from an environmental group onto their board or into their public relations department, where they could offer testimonials to the toxic firm's newfound reverence for Mother Earth. But times have changed. Now it's the environmental groups who seem to be on a shopping spree for corporate executives. For a ripe example of this repellent trend let us turn to the World Wildlife Fund.’]
  • Part 13 [‘From Greenpeace to Greenwash’]
  • Part 14 [‘All for Oil, Oil for One’]
  • Part 15 [Ken Salazar et al.]
In the early summer of 1995, Jay Hair quietly resigned as head of the National Wildlife Federation. This Napoleonic figure had transformed a once scruffy, apolitical collection of local hunting and gun clubs into the cautious colossus of the environmental movement with more than four million members and an annual budget of nearly $100 million. By the time Hair left, the Federation enjoyed more political clout in Washington than the rest of the environmental groups combined.

Hair, a former biology profession who also served as a special assistant to Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus during the Carter Administration, was the architect of this astounding transformation. Under the firm hand of Hair’s leadership the Federation’s membership doubled and it’s budget tripled. His strategy was simple: market the Wildlife Federation as a non-confrontational corporate-friendly outfit. Hair created the Corporate Conservation Council and forged relationships with some of the world’s most toxic corporations: ARCO, Ciba-Geigy, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Exxon, General Electric, General Motors, IBM, Mobil Oil, Monsanto, Pennzoil, USX, Waste Management and Weyerhauser. The corporations received the impri,atur of the nation’s largest environmental group, while the National Wildlife Federation raked in millions in corporation grants.

The conservation giant showed less deference to its members. In 1975, Dr. Claude Moore, a long-time member, donated a 367-acre tract of forest land in Loudon County, Virginia to the Federation to be managed as a wildlife sanctuary. The land provided rich habitat for an extraordinary number of birds. A Smithsonian guidebook called the area a natural gem.

Then in 1986 the National Wildlife Federation decided to sell the sanctuary to a developer for $8.5 million and use the money to help pay for the construction of the Federation’s new seven-story office building on 16th Street in DC. Outraged, Dr. Moore and other members sued the Federation, alleging it had violated a contract to manage the land as a nature preserve. Moore lost. The land was sold and 1,300 houses constructed on the site.

While Hair was turning the National Wildlife Federation into a corporate-friendly operation, the Wilderness Society was being run by a millionaire from Montana named Jon Roush. Roush had formerly been the chairman of the Nature Conservancy, the most unapologetically pro-corporate of all environmental groups.

In the winter of 1995, Roush was caught selling off $150,000 worth of timber from environmentally-sensitive lands on his own 800-acre ranch in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. The trees went to Plum Creek Timber Company, the corporate giant which a conservative congressman from Washington, Rod Chandler, labeled the “Darth Vader of the timber industry.”

Roush’s first gallant reaction to a probing call was to blame it on his wife, whom he was in the process of divorcing. He later claimed that he need to sell of the timber to pay his property taxes. However, local tax records revealed that Roush owed less than $1,000 a year in taxes on property valued at nearly $3 million.

At the same time, the National Audubon Society was being run by a lawyer named Peter Berle, who commanded an annual salary of $200,000. After he savagely trimmed away the muscle from the Society’s conservation staff, Berle gloated, “Unlike Greenpeace, Audubon doesn’t have a reputation as a confrontational organization.” ...