Pacific Free Press

Opinion

  • Written by Norman Solomon

Is the USA the Center of the World?

By Norman Solomon

Some things don’t seem to change. Five years after I wrote this column in the form of a news dispatch, it seems more relevant than ever:

WASHINGTON -- There were unconfirmed reports yesterday that the United States is not the center of the world.

The White House had no immediate comment on the reports, which set off a firestorm of controversy in the nation’s capital.

Speaking on background, a high-ranking official at the State Department discounted the possibility that the reports would turn out to be true. “If that were the case,” he said, “don’t you think we would have known about it a long time ago?”

On Capitol Hill, leaders of both parties were quick to rebut the assertion. “That certain news organizations would run with such a poorly sourced and obviously slanted story tells us that the liberal media are still up to their old tricks, despite the current crisis,” a GOP lawmaker fumed. A prominent Democrat, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said that classified briefings to congressional intelligence panels had disproved such claims long ago.
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  • Written by Stephen Soldz

650,000 dead given voice in Congress

by Stephen Soldz

I just watched the Congressional briefing on the Lancet Iraqi casualty study: "650,000 excess deaths in Iraq". Speaking were Gilbert Burnham, Les Roberts, and Juan Cole. The briefing was organized by Rep, Kucinich, with the support of rep. Ron Paul.

The briefing was to discuss the October 2006 study Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional cluster sample survey,which appeared in the British medical journal The Lancet. This study estimated that 655,000 more Iraqis had died ("excess deaths") since the invasion than would have died if the prewar rate of death (mortality) had continued. It further estimated that about 600,000 of these had died from violence.

I have great respect for Rep. Kucinich, who kept the entire briefing focused on the effects of the fighting on the Iraqi people and on Iraqi society. It is the first time I've seen anyone from the U.S. government focus on Iraqis and what they have experienced and what they are suffering. For example, he asked about the effects on Iraqi society of the loss of so many young men. He also asked about the creation of Iraqi orphans. Unfortunately, none of the three scholars had any real information on these topics, a sign of how little we really know about what is going on in that unfortunate country. Add a comment

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  • Written by Dave Lindorff

Torture, Impeachment and a Vietnam Veteran's Tears

by Dave Lindorff

The true horror of what President Bush--and the Republican-led 109th Congress--have done to all of us American citizens by authorizing torture in our names came clear during a talk I was giving on impeachment to a group organized by the New Jersey chapter of Progressive Democrats of America.

I had been reciting the growing list of Bush crimes against the Constitution and the laws of the land and had gotten to the issue of torture. At that point a large guy in the back of the room, a marine veteran of the Vietnam War who was proudly wearing a baseball hat emblazoned with the words "Third Marine Division" and "Vietnam Veterans Against the War," offered up the comment that he had witnessed torture in Vietnam. Add a comment

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  • Written by Joel S. Hirschhorn

Economic Apartheid Kills

by Joel S. Hirschhorn

To be successful in overturning our elitist plutocratic system we should add economic apartheid to our semantic arsenal. Better than economic inequality, economic injustice and class warfare, because apartheid is loaded with richly deserved negative emotions. Sadly, in South Africa , economic apartheid has taken over from racial apartheid.

How ironic that the Bush administration successfully talked up the global threat from terrorism while it pursued domestic and foreign policies promoting economic apartheid, a far greater and more pervasive threat to national and global stability.

The human race on planet Earth, taken as an aggregate mass abstraction, may be getting richer. But a new report from the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University shows that wealth creation is remarkably - one might say criminally - unequal. Follow this hierarchy at the top of the wealth pyramid: The richest 1 percent of adults alone owned 40 percent of global assets in the year 2000; the richest 2 percent owned more than half of global household wealth; and the richest 10 percent of adults accounted for 85% of the world total. That leaves very little for the remaining 90 percent of the global population. Could it be any worse? Yes, the rich are still getting richer, more millionaires are becoming billionaires.

As to the world's lower class: the bottom half of the world adult population owned barely 1 percent of global wealth, defined as net worth: the value of physical and financial assets less debts. Over a billion poor people subsist on less than one dollar a day. Every day, according to UNICEF, 30,000 children die due to poverty – that's over 10 million children killed by poverty every year! Global economic apartheid is killing people.
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  • Written by Andrew Bard Schmookler

The Pro-Life Position on Climate Change

by Andrew Bard Schmookler

The sacred, it would seem, is deeply and inextricably connected with that miraculous quality we call Life.

Life is inseparable from the whole domain of value. If the universe were lifeless, how could anything really matter? It is life –and the needs of living creatures—that makes one course of events better or worse than another.

Life also is the epitome of the Wholeness that is the essence of the Good and the Beautiful—Wholeness being defined as the ordering of things in an ideal way. Whether one believes that life on earth is the result of an undirected evolutionary process, or that it shows the handiwork of some kind of intelligent Designer, one can hardly behold the fabric of life without a feeling of awe for the incredible intricacy of how life has ordered the matter and energy of which it is composed.

One can surely judge the godliness –or lack of it—of any political leadership by the attitude it brings to the needs of life.
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  • Written by Mickey Z

"Defending our interests and our people" (lessons from Panama)

by Mickey Z.

Close your eyes. Try to visualize a nation whose people are ruled by a despot, a tyrant allied with none other than the U.S. government. Keep your eyes closed and now imagine that same autocrat falling out of favor with his American patrons. Picture him demonized in the press. Envision his country invaded. In your mind's eye, you can see him arrested and forced to stand trial. Finally, conjure up an image of the man behind all this... a man named Bush.

Open your eyes. If you thought you were dreaming of Saddam and Iraq and Dubya, think again because we're coming up on the seventeenth anniversary of another American intervention in a little place David Lee Roth likes to call Panama.

On December 20, 1989 - just two weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall - President George H.W. Bush ushered in the post-Cold War era by sending 25,000 troops into Noriega's Panama. Called Operation Just Cause (sic), the foray would have been deemed a "surprise attack" if any other nation had initiated it.

"That invasion, less than eight months before Iraq invaded Kuwait, was condemned by the UN General Assembly," explains former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. "No action was taken, although the United States violated all the international laws later violated by Iraq when it invaded Kuwait, plus a number of Western Hemisphere conventions and the Panama Canal Treaties."

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America's Shame: Brought Low By a Gang of Cretins

by Chris Floyd

Only Six Fluent in Arabic at U.S. Embassy in Iraq (Reuters)
Among the 1,000 people who work in the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, only 33 are Arabic speakers and only six speak the language fluently, according to the Iraq Study Group report released on Wednesday.
This tells you pretty much all you need to know about the American debacle in Iraq. Imagine the arrogance and stupidity of conquering, occupying and trying to run a country without being able to speak its language. A nation of 26 million people – and your embassy has only six people who can actually understand what is being said, written, and broadcast there. This is a folly that amounts to a monstrous crime in itself, aside from the inherent evil of launching an unprovoked war of aggression.

Evil is the only word to describe the wilful ignorance at work throughout the entire process of the Iraq War, from its inception to its execution to the catastrophic endgame now unfolding before our eyes. The reality of the situation is almost unimaginable, almost unend urable: that the most powerful nation in the history of the world has thrown itself, deliberately, for no compelling reason whatsoever beyond the selfish interests of a few elitist cliques, into a cauldron of mass murder and moral ruin, whose financial, political and spiritual costs will be felt, with deep suffering, for generations. Add a comment

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  • Written by Tom Engelhardt

Tomgram: Jamail, Emails from the Front Lines of Iraqi Daily Life

by Tom Engelhardt



[Note to Readers: For those of you who want a provocative and fascinating background overview of the ever-roiling crisis in the Middle East at this perilous moment, here's a Tomdispatch.com recommendation. Don't miss the just published book-length conversation between Noam Chomsky and Lebanese scholar Gilbert Achcar, Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy.]


Right now, we have on the table a "possible exit strategy" from Iraq -- James A. Baker's Iraq Study Group report -- that, once you do the figures, doesn't get the U.S. even close to halfway out the door by sometime in 2008; and that report is already being rejected by the Republican and neocon hard right; by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who continues to plug for some form of "victory" ("The enemy must be defeated...") on his last lap in Iraq, while still flaying the media for only reporting the "bad news"; by a President who is still on the IED-pitted road to success ("Not only do I know how important it is to prevail, I believe we will prevail..."), has called for three other reviews of Iraq policy (by the Pentagon, National Security Council, and White House) in an attempt to flood Washington with competing recommendations, and is probably on the verge of "surging" 15,000-20,000 more U.S. troops into Baghdad.

All sides in this strange struggle in Washington would add up to so much political low comedy if the consequences in Iraq and the Middle East, the oil heartlands of our increasingly energy-hungry planet, weren't so horrific. As Andrew Bacevich, historian, former military man, and author of The New American Militarism, wrote recently in the Boston Globe, Iraq's many contradictions "render laughably inadequate the proposals currently on offer to save Iraq and salvage American honor. Dispatch a few thousand additional US troops into Baghdad? Take another stab at creating a viable Iraqi army? Lean on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to make ‘hard decisions?' One might as well spit on a bonfire."

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  • Written by Ramzy Baroud

Hudna or Not: Palestinian Rights Must Be Preserved

By Ramzy Baroud

 

Palestinian groups have recently suggested a ceasefire, in exchange for a cessation of Israeli violence. Ehud Olmert responded with a conciliatory speech, cleverly timed with President Bush’s arrival to Jordan on November 29 for a two-day conference with top Iraqi officials.

 

Israel, then, accused Palestinians of firing five rockets into Israel in violation of the ceasefire; a Palestinian militant group said that the violation was in response to Israel’s continuous military activities in the West Bank.

 

Meanwhile, standing side by side with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, yet once again, declared a deadlock in his talks with Hamas aimed at forming a national unity government.

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  • Written by Jason Miller

Bread, Bread, Everywhere, Yet not a Morsel to Eat

By Jason Miller

Pelted by a perpetual hail of electrons fired through a cathode ray tube, the pixels on my PC monitor feed me a generous intellectual bounty of words and images emanating from virtually infinite points dotting the globe. Enabling me to interface with the Internet at will, my computer serves as my window to the world and as a portal through which I can unleash my writings upon the unsuspecting.

Earlier this week as I peered into cyberspace through my ostensibly one-way aperture, I happened upon a picture that my imperialist indoctrination had conditioned me to reflexively dismiss or ignore. However, I’ve grown increasingly resistant to the “charms” of the pathological delusions of American superiority, invulnerability, impunity, and entitlement to decadence. Something about this particular assemblage of glowing pixels left me flailing in a raging river of emotion. As I negotiated the tempestuous feelings surging within me, I made the conscious decision to forgo the American Way of dismissal and distraction. Instead, I connected and contemplated.

Staring me in the face was the tragic image of a Kenyan child condemned to the abject suffering of death by starvation. A massive tear confirmed the depth of his misery, yet his angelic eyes still beamed with the radiance of his life force. Not even the brutal assault of famine could extinguish the persistent flame of the human spirit. In sharp contrast to the enduring blaze of his inner being, his corporeal shell had withered in a macabre synchronicity with the plants of his drought-ravaged environs. Yet despite his region’s temporary scarcity of food, like his metaphorical counterpart, this diminutive scare-crow existed in a world glutted with comestibles that were not meant for him. With leather-like skin stretched tautly over his protruding skeleton, the slightest breeze would surely have caused him to rustle like a dry corn husk. Blood seeped from my heart as I made a vain attempt to imagine his pain. Add a comment

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  • Written by Mickey Z

Felonious Monk - What's the deal with the Dalai Lama?

by Mickey Z.
Here's the scene: I'm in my local health food store when my eyes are drawn to the cover of the latest issue of New York Yoga magazine. Smiling at me is none other than the Dalai Lama. Inside, "His Holiness" spouts boilerplate platitudes like, "If we do love our enemies, we shall cease to have enemies, and wouldn't the world be a much happier place if we could all be friends?" Let's be honest here, the same exact line, if spoken by a ten-year-old child, might elicit a patronizing smile.

Also in this article, the Tibetan leader was asked how he was able to "deal with the Chinese who had taken so much from his people." His response was pure Dalai: "We may be different on the outside; but on the inside, we are all the same. We all seek happiness and an end to suffering."

Here's what I'm wondering: Who, exactly, designated the Dalai Lama as a conduit of wisdom...and why? And while we're at it, let's put to rest the myth that the Dalai Lama is an innocent bystander and his fellow Tibetans are all pacifists. Add a comment

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  • Written by Walter C. Uhler

The South Continues to "Make" Race: Will the Supreme Court Follow?

by Walter C. Uhler

A Review of How Race is Made: Slavery, Segregation, and the Senses, by Mark M. Smith (University of North Carolina Press, 2006, 200 pp.)

A few years ago, in exasperation over pre-invasion polls indicating that a large majority of Americans erroneously believed that Saddam Hussein was involved in al Qaeda's terrorist attacks on 9/11, I was forced to return to Walter Lippmann's classics about Public Opinion and The Phantom Public, along with other books explaining why Americans were so highly susceptible to political manipulation. Ultimately, that reading led to the article, "Democracy or dominion?" written for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists [ Jan/Feb. 2004]

Although the general response to that article was quite positive, a highly esteemed professor insisted that I overlooked the obvious: "Most Americans are incapable of deep and rigorous thought." True, the article never directly addressed that point. Nevertheless, I thought it was implied, when I wrote about Chapter 2, titled "The Barbarians," of Robert H. Wiebe's exceptionally insightful book, Self Rule: A Cultural History of American Democracy.

Wiebe's Chapter 2 explains the shock of mid-19th century European visitors to America as they witnessed white Americans subdue both Native Americans and the frontier in the course of establishing their low-class self-rule. Alexis de Tocqueville, for example, complained that Americans leave no trace of their past, because "no one cares for what occurred before his time." To which Weibe added: "So it always was with savages." [p, 48]

Other European visitors belittled Americans for ignoring "the necessity of disciplining the mind…which lays the foundation for self-control" [p.47], for "the extremely superficial nature of their moral qualities," and for their astonishing "insensitivity to death" [p. 49]. Most unsettling to these Europeans, however, was "America's edge of violence, its creation of society at the border of jungle terror." [p. 51


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  • Written by Linda Milazzo

Kennedys, Bushes and Oil: Public Interest vs. Self Interest

by Linda Milazzo 

 
The history of the United States is filled with prominent families who achieved wealth, power and influence through legitimate and/or nefarious means.  But in the two hundred thirty year history of this nation, no two families have ascended to the apex of American politics like the Bushes and Kennedys of today.  And while both families have amassed enormous wealth and unparalleled notoriety, they couldn't be further apart ideologically or share more different views of America, being American, and the importance of public service.
 
For the Bush family, public service is principally an exercise in self-interest.  It's the effort to make the nation and the world suitable for Bush family values by using the highest positions of government to amass vast personal wealth.  Holding office is not public service for the Bushes.  Election to office inspires no allegiance to the electorate or commitment to honor its requests.
 
To the contrary.  Election to office is part of the Bush family's perverse sense of destiny, backed by a well "oiled" campaign machine.  What an extraordinary shock for the Bushes when Bush, Sr. lost his '92 bid for a second Presidential term to that 'hillbilly Governor from Arkansas'.  
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  • Written by David Swanson

McKinney, Smith, Bush, and Impeachment

by David Swanson.

Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney has introduced articles of impeachment [PDF] against George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice. In doing so, she alone has spoken for the 51 percent of Americans who Newsweek says want Bush impeached. A considerably higher percentage of Americans would, if asked, almost certainly acknowledge that the abuses with which McKinney charges Bush et al. have, in fact, been committed by them and are impeachable offenses. That is to say, there are those who recognize the grounds for impeachment but don't want to see them pursued. There are even those who want impeachment pursued but wish it were not being pursued by McKinney

McKinney charges that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld manipulated intelligence and lied to justify war, and that Bush has engaged in illegal domestic spying. The former charge has been extremely well documented, and the latter proudly confessed to. The former charge was central to the concern of those who included impeachment in the U.S. Constitution. The latter charge is one of openly violating a law that was established in response to President Richard Nixon's impeachable offenses. Add a comment

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  • Written by Mickey Z

The U.S. government hates democracy (lessons from Italy)

by Mickey Z

As far as I'm concerned, we can't put forward enough reminders of how the U.S. government and the corporations that own it do business. Platitudes about peace, freedom, justice, etc. aside, the land of the free is not even remotely interested in spreading democracy. There is an abundance of evidence to back up this assertion. For now, I offer the example of post-World War II Italy. Mussolini was gone but the U.S. elites had no intention of letting Italy slip through the cracks.

When the war-weary Italian people went to the polls in 1946, the Italian Communist Party and the Socialist Party combined to gain more votes and more seats in the Constituent Assembly election than the U.S.-favored Christian Democrats. This was not surprising, considering that a worker- and peasant-based movement fought off six German divisions during the liberation of northern Italy...with the invaluable aid of the Communist party. As a 1948 election loomed on the horizon, however, the U.S. realized that certain perceptions of reality needed to be seriously altered. "It was at this point that the U.S. began to train its big economic and political guns upon the Italian people," William Blum explains in Killing Hope. "All the good ol' Yankee know-how, all the Madison Avenue savvy in the art of swaying public opinion, all the Hollywood razzmatazz would be brought to bear on the 'target market'." Add a comment

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  • Written by Stephen Soldz

The systematic destruction of Jose Padilla

by Stephen Soldz

The New York Times today gives a glimpse of the systematic destruction of a human being as they describe the routine treatment of U.S. citizen Jose Padilla, held for years without charges as an “enemy combatant” until the government, on the eve of a crucial court hearing challenging their ability to hold him without charges, decided to charge him after all.

The Times article describes the total isolation he was held in for three and a half years, before being charged:

One spring day during his three and a half years as an enemy combatant, Jose Padilla experienced a break from the monotony of his solitary confinement in a bare cell in the brig at the Naval Weapons Station in Charleston, S.C. Add a comment

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  • Written by Winter Patriot

Rockford, Illinois: Terrorist Plot Foiled? Or Just Another Knucklehead Stung?

Surely the Washington Post had fun trying to keep the word "entrapment" out of this story:
An Illinois man has been charged with two terrorism-related charges after allegedly planning to set off hand grenades in garbage cans at a mall in Rockford, about 90 miles west of Chicago, federal officials announced today.

Derrick Shareef, 22, of Rockford was arrested Wednesday after meeting with an undercover federal agent at a store parking lot to trade a set of stereo speakers for four hand grenades and a handgun, according to the FBI and U.S. Attorney's offices in Chicago.

In a complaint filed today in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Shareef was charged with attempting to damage or destroy a building by fire or explosion and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.
Apparently a hand grenade is now a weapon of mass destruction. Well, what do you know?

 

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