Hold It All

Category: The War-making State

The Way It Looked Fifty Years Ago

“The war is simply an obscenity, a depraved act by weak and miserable men, including all of us, who have allowed it to go on and on with endless fury and destruction — all of us who would have remained silent had stability and order been secured.”

–Noam Chomsky, American Power and the New Mandarins: Historical & Political Essays

 

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The Good Old Days before Trump (Peas in a Pod)

 

In November 2010 Ralph Nader wrote an imaginary letter penned by former president George W. Bush to his successor President Barack Obama. Here’s an excerpt…

The Leftists are always trying to have your policies show me up negatively. Hah—they’re having one hell of a tough time, aren’t they?

Me state secrets, you state secrets. Me executive privilege, you executive privilege. Me stop the release of torture videos, you backed me up. Me indefinite detention, you indefinite detention. Me extraordinary rendition; you extraordinary rendition. Me sending drones, you sending tons more, flying 24/7. Me just had to look the other way on collateral damage, you doing the same and protecting our boys doing it. Me approving night time assassination raids, you’re upping the ante especially since General Petraeus took over. Me beefing up Defense, you not skipping a beat. Me letting the CIA loose, you told them operate at large. Me demanding no pictures of our fallen troops, you doing the same, but allowing the families to go to Dover which I should have done.

Highly recommended:

In Today’s News…

Come you masters of war

$8.7 Trillion

Assange by Andrew Wimmer

There are several journalists worth reading in order to understand what is happening with Julian Assange and what is at stake. I’d suggest, too, that you avoid all media coverage, at least until you have read and digested these few pieces.

Julian Assange sought political asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London because he feared extradition to the United States for having published the video dubbed Collateral Murder that had been provided by Chelsea Manning. Now we see that he was correct in his fears.

1. Watch the video to remind yourself of where this all began and what is really at stake.

2. Jonathan Cook. Premier British reporter with excellent history of coverage of the Middle East. His two blog posts explain the history of Assange’s struggles and outline current maneuvering in the UK. Start with him.

3. John Pilger. Australian reporter and documentary filmmaker of outstanding courage and clarity. Read him to understand the implications for press freedom.

4. Daniel Ellsberg. Our Pentagon Papers whistleblower and consistent public defender of Assange and the whistleblowers who have used WikiLeaks to publish their information. Listen to or read this interview with him.

Andrew

“Using Hatred to Fight Hatred Is the Surest Way to Create Even More Hatred”

Thich Nhat Hanh, Love in Action: Writings on Nonviolent Social Change

Immediately before I read this book by Nhat Hanh, I read David Grossman on  the advances in psychology to get us to kill, to overcome our disposition NOT to kill;  then I read Bao Ninh’s novel about the sorrow of war, and how many people were done in by the bombing, the rape, the destruction.  Herein, Nhat Hanh looks at the same worlds as these authors and offers his Buddhist, non-dualistic, interbeing approach to solving social problems.

The best chapter of the book is the play, “The Path of Return Continues the Journey.” How I’d like Magan Wiles  to direct this play, with all an Vietnamese cast, a fund-raiser for Plum Village’s Love and Understanding project.  Reread this play, which will take an hour.  Think about it, and recognize how  deeply it makes me feel.

There are also several chapters from the 60s and 70s which deal directly with the war in Vietnam, some of his poetry, and the Buddhist path to peace: “Love in Action,” “A Proposal for Peace,” “Our Green Garden,” “The Ancient Tree” (written for Nhat Chi Mai), “Call Me by My True Names,” “If You Want Peace, Peace is with You Immediately,” while “The Way Ahead for Buddhism in Vietnam” deals with the need for guaranteeing the right to religious freedom and “To Veterans” examines how veterans can be a constructive force for peace. Read the rest of this entry »

We’ll Always Have Berkeley

Letter/3 (Dissidents/4)
The Book of Mev

In August 1995 as Mev and I were getting settled in our new home in St. Louis, we learned that Steve Kelly had been arrested for a Plowshares action in California on the anniversaries of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Steve and his friend Susan Crane went to the Lockheed-Martin Corporation in Sunnyvale, California and, inspired by the biblical call to “beat swords into plowshares,” used a hammer to beat on missiles; they also poured blood on them. They and their partners on the East Coast issued a statement, which read, in part, as follows: “The period of August 6 through 9 marks the 50th anniversary of the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. . . Since August 1945 the entire world, led by the U.S. has been held hostage by nuclearism and the exponential rise of military violence. This violence permeates every level of society … Disarmament is the necessary first step to Christ’s Jubilee. We refuse to see violence as inevitable, injustice as the order of the day, and death dealing as the only way of life. Join us in this declaration for disarmament to announce the jubilee for the poor, relief for the children, and peace for us all.”

August 25, 1995
The day of your sentencing

Dear Steve,
What? No book? Are you meshugah? No way — Mev and I have already pledged that we will edit your letters and postcards, and have contacted Robert Ellsberg at Orbis for a deluxe edition. Mev’s going through her negatives of you for the appropriate cover shot.

I miss you, Steve. So you were preparing us for the big civil disobedience action by driving us over to Lockheed in San Jose — I shoulda known better with a resister like you/that I would love every action that you do/and I do, and I do, hey hey hey. Read the rest of this entry »

Books To Read before We Die

Recently, I gave a bibliophilic friend the new book by James Mustich, 1,000 Books To Read Before You Die: A Life-Changing List. It is a delight to peruse the tome, as the author and his associates have done a brilliant job of layout, summary, enticement—each day I pick it up, I make mental notes of works to reread or discover afresh.

Mustich encourages his readers to start their own list and add books that have been significant in their lives. I noticed that of his thousand, there’s not one by Noam Chomsky. This reminded me that a book by Chomsky that I read, way back in 1985, deepened how I was then learning to see the world.

The timing was perfect. With friends in Louisville, I had the good fortune to be a part of three projects that had as their focus U.S. foreign policy and Central America—the Sanctuary Movement for Salvadoran refugees; Witness for Peace in the war zones of Nicaragua under attack by the U.S.-backed contras; and the Pledge of Resistance which aimed to make Congress accountable for funding the terrorists against the Sandinista government and the Nicaraguan people.

During that period I read Chomsky’s Turning the Tide: U.S. Intervention in Central America & The Struggle for Peace. I had already been developing a sharper, critical perspective on the role of the U.S. government, having been informed by the radical Catholic perspectives of Dorothy Day, Daniel Berrigan, and Thomas Merton. Chomsky, free from all religiosity, set as his task to de-mystify the U.S. policies and to expose the intellectuals who were the agents and beneficiaries of that mystification. (It was shortly after this period that I read The Fateful Triangle, Chomsky’s book on the U.S., Israel, and the Palestinians, which influenced me to such a degree that I later expanded a small point Chomsky made therein about Elie Wiesel into my first book.) Read the rest of this entry »

Facing the Burden of History

Dorothee Sölle, The Arms Race Kills even without War

This is a short collection of talks (rallies, radio programs) mostly given to German audiences in the days when West Germany still existed. The context for much of these—early 80s—is NATO, the Reagan arms build-up, and the re-activated European (and American—“there are two Americas” is a refrain) peace movement. Later on, her work would peer into the abyss that was Central America, compliments of the Reagan administration.

The following are worth my attention—

How to be a Christian is something you do not learn from books or information packets, but primarily from other human beings. 39

Nothing brings my own aging home to me as clearly as the impossibility of passing on to my children the meaning of Auschwitz for my generation. 14

To pray means to collect ourselves, to reflect, to gain clarity about our direction in life, about our goals for living. It means to remember and in that to achieve  a likeness with God, to envision what we seek for ourselves and for our children, to give voice to that vision loudly and softly, together and alone, and thus to become more and more the people we were intended to be. 23 Read the rest of this entry »

A U.S. American Voice, Laotian Voices

Fred Branfman, Voices from the Plain of Jars: Life under an Air War (first published in 1972)

If our country had  decency, at the death of Fred Branfman there would have been coverage, interviews, retrospectives, similar to that at the recent death of U.S. Senator John McCain.  You reading this have surely heard of McCain yet  you may wonder, who is Branfman?

In the 60s Branfman had been a volunteer in Laos, and he later bore witness to what was happening there involving the U.S. Air Force.  He and a team managed to interview Laotians who survived. He worked tirelessly to expose what the U.S. inflicted upon an innocent people.

_____________________

Fred Branfman

The disappearance of the Plain of Jars was indeed “the other war”: automated war, in which participants are never face to face; war from the air, in which ground troops play but a supplementary role; total war, inevitably waged against everyone below; secret war, in which whole societies are eradicated without a trace.

For five and a half years—as village after village was leveled, countless people buried alive by high explosives, or burnt alive by napalm and white phosphorus, or riddled by anti-personnel bomb pellets—the leaders of the superpower waging this war kept it secret.
Read the rest of this entry »

Remembrance, Responsibility, Reparations

Ariel S. Garfinkel, Scofflaw: International Law and America’s Deadly Weapons in Vietnam

With the recent passing of Senator John McCain, it’s clear how hard it is for many Americans see what we’ve done in the world. It’s much easier to see what others have done to us, in this case, the Vietnamese  who held McCain captive and tortured him.  Despite Trump’s demurrer that McCain was no “hero,”  the week-long mourning and focus on his death and life speaks otherwise.

Ariel Garfinkel can help us better see who we are and who we’ve been.  In her timely, informative, and piercing  book, Scofflaw: International Law and America’s Deadly Weapons in Vietnam, she brings attention to the damage the U.S. did to the Vietnamese people both during the war and since, with its unexploded ordnance (UXO), and the lethal defoliant, Agent Orange.  Because of these, people continue to suffer and die in excruciating ways.

Regarding UXO, Garfinkel writes, “Children are still being maimed by cluster bombs, their parents are still dying from grenades and mines, and the full removal of remaining live ordnance at the rate of success over the past two decades will reportedly take hundreds of years more.”  As for Agent Orange, it is true that the U.S. government has acknowledged the significance of Agent Orange when it comes to care for our veterans, yet  the government is unable and unwilling to  acknowledge its responsibility for the death and devastation its has caused the Vietnamese people.  According to the author, “an estimated 400,000 Vietnamese died as a result of exposure to the chemical sprays.” Read the rest of this entry »