Published: Tuesday 27 November 2012
The political and corporate elites in the industrialized world continue, in spite of overwhelming scientific data, to place short-term corporate profit and expediency before the protection of human life and the ecosystem.

 

Humans must immediately implement a series of radical measures to halt carbon emissions or prepare for the collapse of entire ecosystems and the displacement, suffering and death of hundreds of millions of the globe’s inhabitants, according to a report commissioned by the World Bank. The continued failure to respond aggressively to climate change, the report warns, will mean that the planet will inevitably warm by at least 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, ushering in an apocalypse.

The 84-page document, “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must Be Avoided,” was written for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics and published last week. The picture it paints of a world convulsed by rising temperatures is a mixture of mass chaos, systems collapse and medical suffering like that of the worst of the Black Plague, which in the 14th century killed 30 to 60 percent of Europe’s population. The report comes as the annual United Nations Conference on Climate Change begins this Monday [Nov. 26] in Doha, Qatar.

A planetwide temperature rise of 4 degrees C—and the report notes that the tepidness of the emission pledges and commitments of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will make such an increase almost inevitable—will cause a precipitous drop in crop yields, along with the loss of many fish species, resulting in widespread hunger and starvation. Hundreds of millions of people will ...

Published: Tuesday 20 November 2012
Despite China’s greater weight in world affairs, Xi faces internal strains that make China more fragile than is generally understood.

 Xi Jinping, China’s newly anointed president, made his first visit to the United States in May 1980. He was a 27-year-old junior officer accompanying Geng Biao, then a vice premier and China’s leading military official. Geng had been my host the previous January, when I was the first US defense secretary to visit China, acting as an interlocutor for President Jimmy Carter’s administration.
 

Americans had little reason to notice Xi back then, but his superiors clearly saw his potential. In the ensuing 32 years, Xi’s stature rose, along with China’s economic and military strength. His cohort’s ascent to the summit of power marks the retirement of the last generation of leaders designated by Deng Xiaoping (though they retain influence).

Despite China’s greater weight in world affairs, Xi faces internal strains that make China more fragile than is generally understood. China’s export-led economic model has reached its limits, and the transition to domestic-led growth is intensifying internal frictions. Managing unrest through repression is more difficult than in the past, as rapid urbanization, economic reform, and social change roils a country of 1.3 billion people. Ethnic conflicts in outlying regions will also test Xi’s political control.

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Published: Saturday 10 November 2012
“Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed... the question is not a game of Battleship, where we're counting ships.”

It’s 2025 and an American “triple canopy” of advanced surveillance and armed drones fills the heavens from the lower- to the exo-atmosphere.  A wonder of the modern age, it can deliver its weaponry anywhere on the planet with staggering speed, knock out an enemy’s satellite communications system, or follow individuals biometrically for great distances.  Along with the country’s advanced cyberwar capacity, it’s also the most sophisticated militarized information system ever created and an insurance policy for U.S. global dominion deep into the twenty-first century.  It’s the future as the Pentagon imagines it; it’s under development; and Americans know nothing about it.

They are still operating in another age.  “Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917,” complained Republican candidate Mitt Romney during the last presidential debate.

With words of withering mockery, President Obama shot back: “Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed... the question is not a game of Battleship, where we're counting ships. It's what are our capabilities.”

Obama later offered just a hint of what those capabilities might be: “What I did was work with our joint chiefs of staff to think about, what are we going to need in the future to make sure that we are safe?... We need to be thinking about cyber security. We need to be talking about space.”

Amid all the post-debate media chatter, however, not a single commentator seemed to have a clue when it came to the profound strategic changes encoded in the president’s sparse words. Yet for the past four years, working in silence and secrecy, the Obama administration has ...

Published: Tuesday 23 October 2012
The history books will tell you Richard Nixon won the 1972 election, that George McGovern went down to the worst defeat of any presidential candidate in history. But those who write history do not take into account the moral or the good, what is right or what is wrong, what endures and what does not.

 

In the summer of 1972, when I was 15, I persuaded my parents to let me ride my bike down to the local George McGovern headquarters every morning to work on his campaign. McGovern, who died early Sunday morning in South Dakota at the age of 90, embodied the core values I had been taught to cherish. My father, a World War II veteran like McGovern, had taken my younger sister and me to protests in support of the civil rights movement and against the Vietnam War. He taught us to stand up for human decency and honesty, no matter the cost. He told us that the definitions of business and politics, the categories of winners and losers, of the powerful and the powerless, of the rich and the poor, are meaningless if the price for admission requires that you sell your soul. And he told us something that the whole country, many years later, now knows: that George McGovern was a good man.

McGovern, even before he ran for president, held heroic stature for us. In 1970 he attached to a military procurement bill the McGovern-Hatfield Amendment, which would have required, through a cutoff of funding, a withdrawal of all American forces from Indochina. The amendment did not pass, although the majority of Americans supported it. McGovern denounced on the Senate floor the politicians who, by refusing to support the amendment, prolonged the war. We ...

Published: Sunday 21 October 2012
Praising our military while ignoring the wars we send them to be perhaps the biggest shame of American political discourse today (and that is indeed saying a lot).

Here's something I'd like to see this campaign season: our two major party candidates debating our wars rather. Both President Obama and Governor Romney prefer to praise the troops rather than to address the tragic consequences of continuing military action in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The latter, when they're addressed at all, are reduced to sound bites and homilies about the need to "stay the course" and "support our troops." 


Praising our military while ignoring the wars we send them to be perhaps the biggest shame of American political discourse today (and that is indeed saying a lot). Think about it. The eleventh anniversary of our war in Afghanistan recently passed with barely a murmur in the media. This is three times as long as the U.S. military fought in World War II. Presidential conventions and debates occur with no sustained discussion of Afghanistan (Iraq having been already consigned to political oblivion). The most vital, essential, and sacred decision we can make as a nation -- when to send our troops into harm's way and under what conditions we grant them the authority in our nation's name to take the lives of others -- this is neither critiqued nor discussed in our political discourse.


Even as we build more military bases and deploy more troops overseas, even as we elevate defense spending to new heights, our political elites work to isolate war from their politics and our society. But war is inseparable from politics, as the Prussian theorist of war, Carl von Clausewitz, reminded us two centuries ago. At the same time, ...

Published: Friday 12 October 2012
“It seems that the first rule of the debate club now is: no disagreeing on what matters most.”

 

We had a debate club back in high school. Two teams would meet in the auditorium, and Mr. Garrity would tell us the topic, something 1970s-ish like “Resolved: Women Should Get Equal Pay for Equal Work” or “World Communism Will Be Defeated in Vietnam.” Each side would then try, through persuasion and the marshaling of facts, to clinch the argument. There’d be judges and a winner.

Today’s presidential debates are a long way from Mr. Garrity’s club. It seems that the first rule of the debate club now is: no disagreeing on what matters most. In fact, the two candidates rarely interact with each other at all, typically ditching whatever the question might be for some rehashed set of campaign talking points, all with the complicity of the celebrity media moderators preening about democracy in action. Waiting for another quip about Big Bird is about all the content we can expect.

But the joke is on us. Sadly, the two candidates are stand-ins for Washington in general, a “war” capital whose denizens work and argue, sometimes fiercely, from within a remarkably limited range of options.  It was D.C. on autopilot last week for domestic issues; the next two presidential debates are to be in part or fully on foreign policy challenges (of which there are so many). When it comes to foreign -- that is, military -- policy, the gap between Barack and Mitt is slim to the point of nonexistent on many issues, however much they may badger each other on the subject.  That old saw about those who fail to understand history repeating its mistakes applies a little too easily here: the last 11 years have added up to one disaster after another abroad, and without a smidgen of new thinking (guaranteed not to put in an appearance at any of the ...

Published: Tuesday 9 October 2012
Washington, it seems, now has only one mode of thought and action, no matter who is at the helm or what the problem may be, and it always involves, directly or indirectly, openly or clandestinely, the application of militarized force.

 

Americans lived in a “victory culture” for much of the twentieth century.  You could say that we experienced an almost 75-year stretch of triumphalism -- think of it as the real “American Century” -- from World War I to the end of the Cold War, with time off for a destructive stalemate in Korea and a defeat in Vietnam too shocking to absorb or shake off.

When the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, it all seemed so obvious.  Fate had clearly dealt Washington a royal flush.  It was victory with a capital V.  The United States was, after all, the last standing superpower, after centuries of unceasing great power rivalries on the planet.  It had a military beyond compare and no enemy, hardly a “rogue state,” on the horizon.  It was almost unnerving, such clear sailing into a dominant future, but a moment for the ages nonetheless.  Within a decade, pundits in Washington were hailing us as “the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome.”

And here’s the odd thing: in a sense, little has ...

Published: Monday 8 October 2012
“Now, for the first time, a recently uncovered U.S. army report reveals that, during the Vietnam War, the United States stockpiled 25,000 barrels of Agent Orange on the Pacific island.”

 

Since 1945, the small Japanese island of Okinawa has been unwilling host to a massive U.S. military presence and a storehouse for a witches’ brew of dangerous munitions and chemicals, including nerve gas, mustard gas, and nuclear missiles. However, there is one weapon the Pentagon has always denied that it kept on Okinawa: Agent Orange.

Now, for the first time, a recently uncovered U.S. army report reveals that, during the Vietnam War, the United States stockpiled 25,000 barrels of Agent Orange on the Pacific island. The barrels, containing over 1.4 million gallons of the toxic defoliant, were brought to Okinawa from Vietnam before being taken to Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean, where the U.S. military incinerated its stocks of the compound in 1977.

Contradicting decades of denial by Washington, the report is the first direct admission by the U.S. military that it stored these poisons on Okinawa. A series of photographs was also uncovered, apparently showing the 25,000 barrels in storage on Okinawa’s Camp Kinser, near the prefectural capital of Naha.

The army report, published in 2003 but only recently discovered, is titled “An Ecological Assessment of Johnston Atoll.” Outlining the military’s efforts to clean up the tiny island that the United States used throughout the Cold War to store and dispose of its stockpiles of biochemical weapons, the report states directly, “In 1972, the U.S. Air Force brought about 25,000 55-gallon (208 liter) drums of the chemical Herbicide Orange (HO) to Johnston Island that originated from Vietnam and was stored on Okinawa.”

A Leaky Story

In the early 1970s, the U.S. government banned the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam after scientific studies showed the dioxin-tainted herbicide posed a

Published: Friday 28 September 2012
“Put bluntly, are they helping us to win wars, or are they essentially prolonging wars that are ultimately unwinnable?”

 

There's little question that unmanned aerial vehicles or drones are helping to save the lives of U.S. and NATO troops in places like Afghanistan while aiding in the killing of terrorist suspects in regions largely inaccessible to ground troops.

But the bigger question is whether drones are in any way decisive to the war effort. Put bluntly, are they helping us to win wars, or are they essentially prolonging wars that are ultimately unwinnable?

So far, it appears that drones aren't decisive. They're merely instrumental. They're instrumental in keeping us in a losing cause. They keep our military's casualty rate at a "sustainable" level, low enough so as not to rankle the folks back home, while they give us an illusion of progress in the sense of a body count of suspected militants killed.

But is sustainability a good thing if you're sinking deeper and deeper into a quagmire? Is killing "militants" a good thing if in the process you alienate and terrorize the people, turning them against you and sowing the dragon's teeth of further militant action and more war?

Think here of the Vietnam War. Had we had drones in the skies over the Ho Chi Minh trail, surely we'd have seen with greater clarity the Viet Cong (VC) and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) coming. Surely we'd have killed more VC while losing fewer U.S. troops, at least in the short term. But would ...

Published: Thursday 20 September 2012
How American Democracy Became the Property of a Commercial Oligarchy

 

[A longer version of this essay appears in "Politics," the Fall 2012 issue of Lapham's Quarterlythis slightly shortened version is posted at TomDispatch.com with the kind permission of that magazine.]

 

All power corrupts but some must govern. -- John le Carré

The ritual performance of the legend of democracy in the autumn of 2012 promises the conspicuous consumption of $5.8 billion, enough money, thank God, to prove that our flag is still there. Forbidden the use of words apt to depress a Q Score or disturb a Gallup poll, the candidates stand as product placements meant to be seen instead of heard, their quality to be inferred from the cost of their manufacture. The sponsors of the event, generous to a fault but careful to remain anonymous, dress it up with the bursting in air of star-spangled photo ops, abundant assortments of multiflavored sound bites, and the candidates so well-contrived that they can be played for jokes, presented as game-show contestants, or posed as noble knights-at-arms setting forth on vision quests, enduring the trials by klieg light, until on election night they come to judgment before the throne of cameras by whom and for whom they were produced.

Best of all, at least from the point of view of the commercial oligarchy paying for both the politicians and the press coverage, the issue is never about the why of who owes what to whom, only about the how much and when, or if, the check is in the mail. No loose talk about what is meant by the word democracy or in what ways it ...

Published: Monday 17 September 2012
“Experts at the World Conservation Congress here in South Korea’s southern resort island of Jeju warned that there are only four specimens of the famous turtle known to be alive.”

 

The Red River Giant soft-shell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) is the stuff of legend in Vietnam. The fabled turtle in Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake is popularly known by the name Kim Qui or Golden Turtle God, and it made its first historical appearance in 250 BC.

Today this species could indeed use some divine intervention. Experts at the World Conservation Congress here in South Korea’s southern resort island of Jeju warned that there are only four specimens of the famous turtle known to be alive. And only two have any realistic hope of breeding, said Professor Jonathan Baillie, director of conservation at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

At the Congress, which ended Saturday, the ZSL and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) released a list of the 100 most threatened species in the world and called for concerted action to save those unfortunate enough to make it on to the list, like the Red River Giant turtle.

The report, titled “Priceless or Worthless?”, says that all breeding efforts to produce hatchlings of the Red River Giant have failed since 2008. “We have to get the last ones together to breed,” Baillie put it starkly.

The Red River Giant is probably the most famous species on the list that includes such obscure species as the Liben Lark (Heteromirafra sidamoensis) from Ethiopia, of which less than 300 survive, or the Javan Rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus), considered the rarest of all living rhinos. A Javan Rhino horn goes for as much as 30,000 dollars on the black market, it is that rare.

Or take the case of the Suicide Palm (Tahina spectabilis), found in northwestern Madagascar. Only discovered in 2007, it is probably a good thing that it can grow so large that individuals can be detected on satellite imagery, as only 90 known individual trees have been located. The tree’s name comes from ...

Published: Monday 17 September 2012
“Leading with fists is the way large brawlers with little brains settle disputes. We have tried that approach for the past eight years.”

During his first term in office, President Obama has sent mixed messages and tried to appease his implacable critics on the right while greatly disappointing many of his friends on the left. It's no secret: Obama's indecisiveness and failed attempts to woe the rabid right (in the deficit debate debacle, for example) has disappointed moderates and progressives, as well as his liberal base. So far, Obama has appeared in the guise of a tragic figure, would-be leader who lacks the mettle to lead. Many hoped that the 2008 election would be a turning point, that Obama would abandon an over-reliance on military muscle in favor of a more traditional reliance on diplomacy, one that would restore our badly damaged reputation in the world. Here are six keys to a more sane and sensible - and less self-defeating - foreign policy.


First, give peace a fighting chance before chancing a fight. Leading with fists is the way large brawlers with little brains settle disputes. We have tried that approach for the past eight years. It worked out very well if you happened to be a friend of George Bush or one of Dick Cheney's cronies. If so, chances are you were also a big defense contractor, beltway bandit, or revolving door lobbyist on the most corrupt corridor in America, otherwise known as K-Street. For the rest of us, whether we know it or not, it was an unmitigated disaster.


Second, avoid unilateralism like the plague because that what it is. The United States was plagued by the protracted war in Vietnam as the old Soviet Union was plagued by the war in Afghanistan. As we know, that "plague" killed (or contributed greatly to the demise of) the once-mighty Soviet empire. The perpetrator became the victim of its own misguided use of force. A formidable arsenal of nuclear weapons could not save the patient. And it was the economic, as well as the social and political consequences, of unilateral armed intervention ...

Published: Sunday 26 August 2012
“After serving as a bombardier in World War II, Zinn went on to become a lifelong dissident and peace activist.”

The late historian, writer and activist Howard Zinn would have turned 90 years old today. Zinn died of a heart attack at the age of 87 on January 27, 2010. After serving as a bombardier in World War II, Zinn went on to become a lifelong dissident and peace activist. He was active in the civil rights movement and many of the struggles for social justice over the past 50 years. In 1980, Howard Zinn published his classic book, "A People's History of the United States," which would go on to sell more than a million copies and change the way we look at history in America. We air an excerpt of a Zinn interview on Democracy Now! from May 2009, and another from one of his last speeches later that year, just two months before his death.

 

Transcript

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We end today’s show with a tribute to the late historian, writer and activist Howard Zinn. He was born on August 24th, 1922. He would have turned 90 years old today. Zinn died of a heart attack at the age of 87 on January 27, 2010. After serving in World War II, he taught at Spelman College, the historically black college for women, and became deeply involved in civil rights and antiwar movements.

AMY GOODMAN: In ...

Published: Thursday 9 August 2012
The Election Year Outsourcing that No One’s Talking About

In the 1980s, the U.S. government began funneling aid to mujahedeen rebels in Afghanistan as part of an American proxy war against the Soviet Union. It was, in the minds of America’s Cold War leaders, a rare chance to bloody the Soviets, to give them a taste of the sort of defeat the Vietnamese, with Soviet help, had inflicted on Washington the decade before. In 1989, after years of bloody combat, the Red Army did indeed limp out of Afghanistan in defeat. Since late 2001, the United States has been fighting its former Afghan proxies and their progeny. Now, after years of bloody combat, it’s the U.S. that’s looking to withdraw the bulk of its forces and once again employ proxies to secure its interests there.

 

From Asia and Africa to the Middle East and the Americas, the Obama administration is increasingly embracing a multifaceted, light-footprint brand of warfare. Gone, for the moment at least, are the days of full-scale invasions of the Eurasian mainland. Instead, Washington is now planning to rely ever more heavily on drones and special operations forces to fight scattered global enemies on the cheap. A centerpiece of this new American way of war is the outsourcing of fighting duties to local proxies around the world.

While the United States is currently engaged in just one outright proxy war, ...

Published: Saturday 14 July 2012
“Liberals like the idea of a military draft because they think it would curb any president’s eagerness to go to war.”

 

Retired Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, bounced out of his job for revels in Paris as witnessed by Rolling Stone, has recycled a perennial chestnut: Bring back the draft — i.e., a conscripted military, not the volunteer military of today.

These days, McChrystal teaches at Yale University with what must be a protection unique in the annals of academic freedom. Everything he tells his students is, by contractual agreement, off the record. But he made his proposal about the draft in a public venue, at the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival. McChrystal said: "I think we ought to have a draft. I think if a nation goes to war, it shouldn't be solely represented by a professional force, because it gets to be unrepresentative of the population. I think if a nation goes to war, every town, every city needs to be at risk. You make that decision and everybody has skin in the game."

It's certainly true that the volunteer military is a mess. The Associated Press reported recently that suicides are surging among the troops. According to the AP, "the 154 suicides for active-duty troops in the first 155 days of the year far outdistance the U.S. forces killed in action in Afghanistan." The volunteer military struggles with increased sexual assaults, alcohol abuse and domestic violence.

Liberals like the idea of a military draft because they think it would curb any president's eagerness to go to war. There are indeed sound arguments for a draft. They were put eloquently not so long ago by Bill Broyles, a Vietnam vet: "In spite of the president's insistence that our very civilization is at stake, the privileged aren't flocking to the flag. The war is being fought by Other People's Children. The war is impersonal for the very people to whom it should be most personal. If the children of the nation's elites were facing enemy fire without body armor, riding ...

Published: Sunday 8 July 2012
When the United States finally tired of the corruption and waste of Vietnam, we pulled out our props, only to witness the unviability of our client state without massive U.S. aid.

Two New York Times stories this week capture the persistence of U.S. folly in Afghanistan. The first highlights the persistence of corruption in Afghanistan and our country's key role in funding it. The second showcases the enormous expense of providing U.S. air power as a "force multiplier" to prevent the Taliban and other anti-coalition forces from prevailing. The subtext of both articles is that without massive funding and aid from the United States, and without profligate expenditure of money and munitions by American air assets, the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai would almost certainly collapse.

Haven't we seen this before? Think Vietnam in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The United States spent enormous sums of money, and used air power in even more profligate ways, to prop up the corrupt and ultimately illegitimate government of South Vietnam. Prodigious expenditures of money fed the corruption of Vietnamese officials while profligate expenditure of munitions kept the North Vietnamese enemy from prevailing (as in our ability to thwart the North Vietnamese Army's Spring Offensive of 1972), even as a suspect South Vietnamese army (ARVN) became dependent on that same U.S. air power.

When the United States finally tired of the corruption and waste of Vietnam, we pulled out our props, only to witness the unviability of our client state without massive U.S. aid.

What happens when we finally tire of Afghanistan? Though we won't witness a massive conventional military assault that ended in the chaos of Saigon in 1975, it is likely that the corrupt government of Karzai and the

Published: Tuesday 26 June 2012
“Lolly radiates the indomitable and magnificent strength of the women and men who rise up in the pockets of poverty and despair we reported from, whether in Camden, Pine Ridge, S.D., the coal fields of southern West Virginia or the produce fields in Florida.”

I park my car in the lot in front of the rectory of Sacred Heart in Camden, N.J., and walk through a gray drizzle to Emerald Street. My friend Lolly Davis, whose blood pressure recently shot up and whose kidneys shut down, had been taken to a hospital in an ambulance but was now home. I climb the concrete steps to her row house and ring the bell. There is an overpowering stench of garbage in the street. Her house is set amid other brick and wooden residences, some of which have been refurbished under Monsignor Michael Doyle’s Heart of Camden project at Sacred Heart, a Roman Catholic parish. Other structures on Davis’ street sit derelict or bear the scars of decay and long abandonment.

Lolly’s grandson, nicknamed Boom Boom or Boomer, answers the door. He tells me his grandmother is upstairs. I enter and sit on a beige chair in the living room near closed white blinds that cover the window looking out on Emerald Street. The living room has a large flat screen television and two beige couches with brown and burnt-red floral patterns that match the chair. There is a stone fireplace with a mantel crowded with family photos. Her grandson, one of numerous children from the neighborhood whom she adopted and raised, yells upstairs to let Lolly know I have arrived.

Lolly, 69, appears at the top of the ...

Published: Friday 22 June 2012
“Vietnam toughened us up, made us better human beings. I would submit the President is wrong on that score, that there are profound lessons we have failed to learn.”

 


The Vietnamese won the Vietnam War by forcing the United States to abandon its intention to militarily sustain an artificially divided Vietnam. The history is clear: It was the United States, not the Vietnamese, who scotched the unifying elections agreed on for 1956 in the Geneva negotiations following the French rout at Dien Bien Phu. Why did the US undermine these elections? As Dwight Eisenhower said in his memoir, because everyone knew Ho Chi Minh was going to win in a landslide of the order of 80% of the population of Vietnam.

So much for Democracy.

“We can lose longer than you can win,” was how Ho described the Vietnamese strategy against the Americans. Later in the 1980s, a Vietnamese diplomat put it this way to Robert McNamara: “We knew you would leave because you could leave. We lived here; we couldn’t leave.”

The Vietnam War was finally over in 1975 when the North prevailed over the US proxy formulation known as South Vietnam, which then disappeared as a “nation,” as many thousands of our betrayed Vietnamese allies fled in small boats or were subjected to unpleasant internment camps and frontier development projects deep in the hostile jungles.

In a word, the Vietnam War was a debacle for everyone involved.

Now, we learn the United States government is planning a 13-year propaganda project to clean up the image of the Vietnam War in the minds of Americans. It’s called The Vietnam War Commemoration Project. President Obama officially launched the project on Memorial Day with a speech at the Vietnam Wall in Washington. The Project was established by Section 598 of the 604-page National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2008. It budgets $5 million a year.  

 

“Some have ...

Published: Monday 4 June 2012
In the history of human rights, the worst atrocities are always committed by somebody else, never us – whoever “us” is.

 

In his penetrating study “Ideal Illusions: How the U.S. Government Co-Opted Human Rights,” international affairs scholar James Peck observes, “In the history of human rights, the worst atrocities are always committed by somebody else, never us” – whoever “us” is.

Almost any moment in history yields innumerable illustrations. Let’s keep to the past few weeks.

On May 10, the Summer Olympics were inaugurated at the Greek birthplace of the ancient games. A few days before, virtually unnoticed, the government of Vietnam addressed a letter to the International Olympic Committee expressing the “profound concerns of the Government and people of Viet Nam about the decision of IOC to accept the Dow Chemical Company as a global partner sponsoring the Olympic Movement.”

Dow provided the chemicals that Washington used from 1961 onward to destroy crops and forests in South Vietnam, drenching the country with Agent Orange.

These poisons contain dioxin, one of the most lethal carcinogens known, affecting millions of Vietnamese and many U.S. soldiers. To this day in Vietnam, aborted fetuses and deformed infants are very likely the effects of these crimes – though, in light of Washington’s refusal to investigate, we have only the studies of Vietnamese scientists and independent analysts.

Joining the Vietnamese appeal against Dow are the government of India, the Indian Olympic Association, and the survivors of the horrendous 1984 Bhopal gas leak, one of history’s worst industrial disasters, which killed thousands and injured more than half a million.

Union Carbide, the corporation responsible for the disaster, was taken over by Dow, for whom the matter is of no slight concern. In February, Wikileaks revealed that Dow hired the U.S. private investigative agency Stratfor to ...

Published: Sunday 3 June 2012
“It’s undeniable that chronic underfunding of the Veterans Administration unduly harmed Vietnam-era soldiers.”

 

Out of all the status-quo-sustaining fables we create out of military history, none are as enduring as Vietnam War myths. Desperate to cobble a pro-war cautionary tale out of a blood-soaked tragedy, we keep reimagining the loss in Southeast Asia not as a policy failure but as the product of an America that dishonored returning troops.

Incessantly echoed by Hollywood and Washington since the concurrent successes of the Rambo and Reagan franchises, this legend was the central theme of President Obama's Memorial Day speech kicking off the government's commemoration of the Vietnam conflict.

"You were often blamed for a war you didn't start, when you should have been commended for serving your country with valor," he told veterans. "You came home and sometimes were denigrated, when you should have been celebrated. It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened."

It's undeniable that chronic underfunding of the Veterans Administration unduly harmed Vietnam-era soldiers. However, that lamentable failure was not what Obama was referring to. As the president who escalated the Vietnam-esque war in Afghanistan, he was making a larger argument. Deliberately parroting Rambo's claim about "a quiet war against all the soldiers returning," he was asserting that America as a whole spat on soldiers when they came home — even though there's no proof that this happened on any mass scale.

In his exhaustive book entitled "The Spitting Image," Vietnam vet and Holy Cross professor Jerry Lembcke documents veterans who claim they were spat on by antiwar protestors, but he found no physical evidence (photographs, news reports, etc.) that these transgressions actually occurred. His findings are supported by surveys of his fellow Vietnam veterans as they came home.

For instance, Lembcke ...

Published: Tuesday 29 May 2012
“Officials say that the number of disability claims is increasing because of better treatment for battlefield wounds and more outreach from the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

 

About 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are seeking compensation for service-related injuries — more than double the 21 percent of veterans who filed such claims after the first Gulf War, according to an AP investigation. And new veterans are claiming an average of eight or nine ailments, and in the last year, the average has jumped from 11 to 14. By comparison, Vietnam veterans are receiving compensation for fewer than four injuries on average.

Officials tell the AP that the number of disability claims is increasing because of better treatment for battlefield wounds and more outreach from the Department of Veterans Affairs. And doctors are seeing different types of ailments, including traumatic ...

Published: Tuesday 22 May 2012
Once again American troops are being asked to keep fighting for a mistake -- this time the 2001 fantasy of the Bush/Cheney administration that it could make a client state out of Afghanistan.

John Kerry, back before he was a pompous windsurfing Senate apologist for American empire, back when he wore his hair long and was part of a movement of returned US military veterans speaking out against the continuation of the Vietnam War, famously asked the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a hearing, “How do you ask a man to be the last one to die for a mistake?”

That was 1971, and the Vietnam War continued to drag on for two more years, with more Americans dying, and with many more Vietnamese being killed, until finally the last US combat troops were gone. But even then the fighting continued, with the Army of South Vietnam armed and financed by the United States, until April 30, 1975, when the last resistance ended and Vietnam was liberated and reunified and finally at peace.

During those two terrible years between Kerry’s statement and the end of US combat operations, American soldiers stationed in Vietnam knew that the war was lost, and knew they were there for no reason other than keeping President Nixon from looking like he had lost a war, particularly as he faced re-election during the campaign year of 1972. There was, understandably, massive resort to drugs, including marijuana, opium, heroin, LSD and others, as well as alcohol. There was the fragging of commanding officers who were too aggressive about sending their troops into danger. There was insubordination and insurrection and there was ...

Published: Friday 4 May 2012
From the Opium Wars to the contemplation of using nuclear weapons to bomb China back to the Stone Age because of our differences with it over Korea and Vietnam, the response of the West has been one of brute intimidation.

 

Let’s stop jacking the Chinese around. We do not care a whit now—nor have we ever cared—about their human rights or any other aspect of their lives as long as they satiate our unbridled appetites. To pretend otherwise is to deny centuries of exploitative history in which the West drugged the Middle Kingdom and plundered it for its resources and cheap labor while obliterating any sign of popular resistance to our imperial sway.

From the Opium Wars to the contemplation of using nuclear weapons to bomb China back to the Stone Age because of our differences with it over Korea and Vietnam, the response of the West has been one of brute intimidation. Never have we been willing to acknowledge that China, for all of its immense contradictions, upheavals, sufferings and errant ways, represents the most complex and impressive example of national history.

Instead we intrude upon China in fitful moments of pique or treat it as a plaything. Who owns China? That was the question that marked the first period of U.S. involvement, when we joined other Western imperialists in carving up China into economic zones. And then came the bitter argument in the U.S. in the late 1940s and the ’50s about “Who lost China?” Now Americans find themselves preoccupied with how best to exploit China’s amazing economic prowess while feigning interest in the well being of its people.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton performed the expected diplomatic dance around the latest flare-up of pretend concern, involving a blind lawyer suddenly made world-famous when he escaped from house arrest in rural China. The fact that Chen Guangcheng was targeted by Chinese authorities because of his opposition to his nation’s oppressive population control policies added the United States’ “pro-life” lobby to the army of morally subjective China watchers. Now if we can get the pro-lifers to care about the human ...

Published: Tuesday 1 May 2012
“War is grim work and we shouldn’t play up the glory of it.”

My cousin Gary returned from Vietnam a broken man in almost every sense of the word. I never met him, but by all accounts the war shattered him. When he came home the people who fought to end Vietnam took what was left of him and finished what the war started. They treated him like he was everything they hated made flesh and it took the life out of him. He ended up freezing to death in lower Manhattan after shooting himself full of heroin and falling asleep. His story isn’t very different from any number of other Vietnam vets who were called baby killers and denied re-entry to a normal civilian life. It was a disgrace how this country treated those people who were drafted into an unpopular war. Gary wasn’t a hero, but he didn’t deserve to be labeled a villain. Near the end of the 1970s our society made an unspoken vow not to let that kind of disgraceful treatment happen to our armed forces ever again.

 

Fast forward to 2012 and it’s difficult to remember a time when we didn’t collectively refer to those who choose military service as heroes. It goes without question that they risk their safety to perform a duty for the common good and tossing the word around doesn’t seem to do anyone any harm. I, on the other hand, think it does a great disservice to active duty soldiers, veterans, and civilians alike.

 

Before he passed away I asked my grandfather if he was a hero. He’d served in two foreign wars, three theaters in total. His ship was sunk in the Mediterranean and he drifted in the oil-black water for days until being rescued; that’s when he earned his medals. He told me a story about how, early in World War II,  he was tapped to operate a bulldozer after the success of the Guadalcanal campaign. He was assigned to shovel the bodies of Japanese soldiers into mass graves, sometimes fifty at once. He said the smell was so foul he had nothing to compare it to. He told me that ...

Published: Tuesday 24 April 2012
“Green Zones of the Mind, Guerrillas, and a Technical Knockout in Afghanistan.”

Recently, after insurgents unleashed sophisticated, synchronized attacks across Afghanistan involving dozens of fighters armed with suicide vests, rocket-propelled grenades, and small arms, as well as car bombs, the Pentagon was quick to emphasize what hadn’t happened. “I’m not minimizing the seriousness of this, but this was in no way akin to the Tet Offensive,” said George Little, the Pentagon’s top spokesman. “We are looking at suicide bombers, RPG [rocket propelled grenade], mortar fire, etcetera. This was not a large-scale offensive sweeping into Kabul or other parts of the country.”

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta weighed in similarly. “There were,” he insisted, “no tactical gains here. These are isolated attacks that are done for symbolic purposes, and they have not regained any territory.” Such sentiments were echoed by many in the media, who emphasized that the attacks “didn’t accomplish much” or were “unsuccessful.”

Even granting the need to spin the assaults as failures, the official American reaction to the coordinated attacks in Kabul, the Afghan capital, as well as at Jalalabad airbase, and in Paktika and Logar Provinces, reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of guerrilla warfare and, in particular, of the type being waged by the Haqqani network, a crime syndicate transformed by the conflict into a leading insurgent group. Here’s the “lede” that should have run in every newspaper in America: More than 40 years after the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive, after more than a ...

Published: Tuesday 24 April 2012
“Will we succeed? Given the magnitude of the forces dedicated to disorienting us, only a fool would bet all, or even most, of what he or she has on our victory.”

In her “Conversation with Simone Weil”, a stirring meditation on the limits of human compassion and the frequent moral irrelevance of even the most well-wrought products of culture, the Peruvian poet Blanca Varela says in the middle of one stanza that, “I am not in the place of my soul.”

 

In the years since I first read that beautiful and haunting line, I have often thought about what it means to be “in” or “out of” the place of one’s soul?

 

A few days back an article, written by the novelist and Boston Globe columnist James Carroll on the subject of depression, gave me pause to ponder the question anew. After describing how the recently departed Mike Wallace and his Martha’s Vineyard buddies Art Buchwald and William Styron braved the devastation of this terrible mental illness, Carroll then seeks to clarify what depression is by describing what it is not:

 

“I once heard the poet Donald Hall define happiness as absorbedness, the experience of being so taken up by the project of, in his case, writing a poem that he lets go of everything else. Absorbedness like that defines the bliss of satisfying work - and, also, the contentment of being in love. For a time, you forget yourself. This release from self-consciousness can seem the antidote to the hyper-obsession with the self that may, ironically, be the cruelest burden of depression.”

 

That sounds, to me at least, like a another way of describing what it might mean to “be in the place of one’s soul”, or, to use yet another phrase that our culture has, it seems, forcibly eliminated from both public and private discourse over the last three decades,  “t0 live an authentic life”.

 

If there is one thing that manages to consistently surprise me in what I am hoping is still the middle passage of my time on the planet, it is ...

Published: Thursday 23 February 2012
How drone war became the American way of life.

In the American mind, if Apple made weapons, they would undoubtedly be drones, those remotely piloted planes getting such great press here.  They have generally been greeted as if they were the sleekest of iPhones armed with missiles.

When the first American drone assassins burst onto the global stage early in the last decade, they caught most of us by surprise, especially because they seemed to come out of nowhere or from some wild sci-fi novel.  Ever since, they've been touted in the media as the shiniest presents under the American Christmas tree of war, the perfect weapons to solve our problems when it comes to evildoers lurking in the global badlands.

And can you blame Americans for ...

Published: Tuesday 14 February 2012
“American decline is real, though the apocalyptic vision reflects the familiar ruling class perception that anything short of total control amounts to total disaster.”

Significant anniversaries are solemnly commemorated -- Japan’s attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, for example.  Others are ignored, and we can often learn valuable lessons from them about what is likely to lie ahead.  Right now, in fact.

At the moment, we are failing to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s decision to launch the most destructive and murderous act of aggression of the post-World War II period: the invasion of South Vietnam, later all of Indochina, leaving millions dead and four countries devastated, with casualties still mounting from the long-term effects of drenching South Vietnam with some of the most lethal carcinogens known, undertaken to destroy ground cover and food crops. 

The prime target was South Vietnam.  The aggression later spread to the North, then to the remote peasant society of northern Laos, and finally to rural Cambodia, which was bombed at the stunning level of all allied air operations in the Pacific region during World War II, including the two atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  In this, Henry Kissinger’s 

Published: Tuesday 7 February 2012
“The core of unhistory is to ‘disappear’ what happened.

George Orwell coined the useful term “unperson” for creatures denied personhood because they don’t abide by state doctrine. We may add the term “unhistory” to refer to the fate of unpersons, expunged from history on similar grounds.

The unhistory of unpersons is illuminated by the fate of anniversaries. Important ones are usually commemorated, with due solemnity when appropriate: Pearl Harbor, for example. Some are not, and we can learn a lot about ourselves by extricating them from unhistory.

Right now we are failing to commemorate an event of great human significance: the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s decision to launch the direct invasion of South Vietnam, soon to become the most extreme crime of aggression since World War II.

Kennedy ordered the U.S. Air Force to bomb South Vietnam (by February 1962, hundreds of missions had flown); authorized chemical warfare to destroy food crops so as to starve the rebellious population into submission; and set in motion the programs that ultimately drove millions of villagers into urban slums and virtual concentration camps, or “Strategic Hamlets.” There the villagers would be “protected” from the indigenous guerrillas whom, as the administration knew, they were willingly supporting.

Official efforts at justifying the attacks were slim, and mostly fantasy.

Typical was the president’s impassioned address to the American Newspaper Publishers Association on April 27, 1961, where he warned that “we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence.” At the United Nations on Sept. 25, 1961, Kennedy said that if this conspiracy achieved its ends in Laos and Vietnam, “the gates will be opened wide.”

The short-term effects were reported by the highly respected Indochina specialist and military ...

Published: Monday 23 January 2012
“We must look at the war in Iraq and cite clearly its many consequences so that they may never happen again.”

The war in Iraq is over and I have heard very little reaction from those around me, certainly no ticker tape parade. But among the interested and informed, I have heard much speculation on the reasons why its end isn’t the topic of conversation.

I’ve heard that our involvement in Iraq has been a long and ugly part of recent American History and we just don’t want to hear about it anymore, we would like to forget. Some want to forget for political reasons and others just want to forget because the last eight years were so painful. Some say that we avoid reflection to avoid offending our troops, many of them just now returning home after numerous tours; that seeking truth and consequence of our actions may make them feel as though their sacrifices weren’t worthwhile.

There are those like my twenty seven year old daughter who remind me that little attention was paid all of the way through the war so why would we expect it now, “Wasn’t it the Bush plan that we not be connected to the war, that it not affect our day to day life?”  She noted that it was policy under the Bush administration not to allow photos of soldier’s caskets returning home—effectively shielding the public from the cost of our actions.

But not seeing and understanding our history accurately is what causes us to repeat mistakes of the past. We must look at the war in Iraq and cite clearly it’s many consequences so that they may never happen again. 

Many from my generation lived through Vietnam and were sure that such a mistake could never possibly be repeated. But those who designed the war in Iraq had never served in Vietnam. They chose not to, they never had the experiences that would have made them aware of the consequences of invasion and occupation.  They chose to hide their motives and rationale for the invasion from the public who was paying for it, and most importantly with the ...

Published: Wednesday 11 January 2012
“The Three Top Hot Spots of Potential Conflict in the Geo-Energy Era”

Welcome to an edgy world where a single incident at an energy “chokepoint” could set a region aflame, provoking bloody encounters, boosting oil prices, and putting the global economy at risk.  With energy demand on the rise and sources of supply dwindling, we are, in fact, entering a new epoch -- the Geo-Energy Era -- in which disputes over vital resources will dominate world affairs.  In 2012 and beyond, energy and conflict will be bound ever more tightly together, lending increasing importance to the key geographical flashpoints in our resource-constrained world.

Take the Strait of Hormuz, already making headlines and shaking energy markets as 2012 begins.  Connecting the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, it lacks imposing geographical features like the Rock of Gibraltar or the Golden Gate Bridge.  In an energy-conscious world, however, it may possess greater strategic significance than any passageway on the planet.  Every day, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, tankers carrying some 17 million barrels of oil -- representing 20% of the world’s daily supply -- pass through this vital artery. 

So last month, when a senior Iranian official threatened to block the strait in response to Washington’s tough new economic sanctions, oil prices instantly soared. While the U.S. military has vowed to keep the strait open, doubts about the safety of future oil shipments and worries about a potentially unending, nerve-jangling crisis involving ...

Published: Monday 5 December 2011
A disability tied to military service might take years to emerge and or might steadily worsen after it does.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may be winding down, but the long-term costs of caring for those wounded in battle is on path to rival the costs of the Vietnam War.

While Vietnam extracted a far higher death toll — 58,000 compared with 6,300 so far in the war on terror — the number of documented disabilities from recent veterans is approaching the size of that earlier conflict, according to a McClatchy analysis of Department of Veterans Affairs data.

The data, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and detailing all disability payments to veterans of all wars, show that veterans leaving the military in recent years are filing for and receiving compensation for more injuries than did their fathers and grandfathers.

At the same time, McClatchy found, the VA is losing ground in efforts to provide fast, efficient and accurate disability decisions. And the agency has yet to get control of a problem that has vexed it for years: The wide variation in disability payments by state and region, even for veterans with the same ailments.

For soldiers now coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, this ongoing variation in an already-clogged disability system means the size of monthly compensation checks might be a quirk of geography.

Given the nature of today's disabilities, it's ...

Published: Saturday 26 November 2011
“For the Vietnamese Americans in the area whose labor — fishing, cleaning, sorting, packing, cooking and selling — makes up about one-third of the gulf’s seafood industry, any hard-won stability after Katrina suddenly vanished.”

Some say that Asian America began in Louisiana. In the late 1700s, Filipino sailors escaped Spanish galleons and started shrimping the hot, humid Gulf Coast, where the weather reminded them of Southeast Asia and the water teemed with oysters, lobsters, scallops, crab, crayfish and shrimp. After the Vietnam War, new waves of Vietnamese and Cambodian immigrants settled in the area, indelibly shifting the region’s mix of food, culture and history.

 

But neither history nor affinity could protect New Orleans-area Asian Americans from the multiple disasters of the last six years. Neighborhoods were just beginning to recover from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in April 2010. Fishermen watched the news nervously, hoping the spill would be contained quickly. It wasn’t. The oil — between 55,000 and 62,000 barrels a day — flowed for 87 days into the gulf before it was capped.

 

For the Vietnamese Americans in the area whose labor — fishing, cleaning, sorting, packing, cooking and selling — makes up about one-third of the gulf’s seafood industry, any hard-won stability after Katrina suddenly vanished. But this disaster presented no riveting Superdome, no wrenching images, to engender sympathy and assistance — only an ongoing series of setbacks and recalculations for this community that has been so central to the ocean economy for decades.

 

They now face protracted compensation battles, diminished business and skepticism about the future. Yet as local Vietnamese Americans apply some entrepreneurial thinking and a rolling up of sleeves to work the land instead of the sea, a new chapter of Asian America seems set to begin in the region.

 

 

“The bread will rise again — it just kneads time.” — sign on Vietnamese-owned Le Bakery and Cafe in East Biloxi, MS

 

Shortly ...

Published: Tuesday 15 November 2011
America's long over due attention shift to Asia and the south pacific is finally happening.

Some 40 years ago, when I entered Oxford University as a graduate student, I declared my interest in the Middle East. I was told that this part of the world came under the rubric of “Oriental Studies,” and that I would be assigned an appropriate professor. But when I arrived for my first meeting at the professor’s office, his bookshelves were lined with volumes bearing Chinese characters. He was a specialist in what was, at least for me at the time, the wrong Orient.

Something akin to this mistake has befallen American foreign policy. The United States has become preoccupied with the Middle East – in certain ways, the wrong Orient – and has not paid adequate attention to East Asia and the Pacific, where much of the twenty-first century’s history will be written.

The good news is that this focus is shifting. Indeed, a quiet transformation is taking place in American foreign policy, one that is as significant as it is overdue. The US has rediscovered Asia.

“Rediscovered” is the operative word here. Asia was one of the two ...

Published: Friday 28 October 2011
Brian Willson served in the Vietnam War and he took part in a nonviolent political action outside the Concord Naval Weapons Station in California.

Today we spend the hour with a man who put his life on the line twice: once when he served in the Vietnam War and again when he came back. On September 1, 1987, Brian Willson took part in a nonviolent political action outside the Concord Naval Weapons Station in California. He sat down on the train tracks along with two other veterans to try to stop a U.S. government munitions train sending weapons to Central America during the time of the Contra wars. The train didn’t stop. Willson suffered 19 broken bones, a fractured skull and lost both of his legs. "Before, I had spent many months in Nicaragua in the war zones, and I had been to El Salvador talking to guerrillas and talking to human rights workers. Understanding incredible extent of murders that were going on and maimings and displacements cause of fear of being murdered," Willson said. He decided, "I have to at least escalate my own nonviolent occupation, if you will, of the tracks." In retrospect, Willson added, "I regret that I lost my legs, but I don’t regret that I was there. I did what I said I was going to do... Following orders, I discovered, is not what I’m about." Today, he is traveling the country visiting solidarity protests with Occupy Wall Street, where some of his fellow protesters are also veterans. He’s also been talking about his new memoir, "Blood on the Tracks: The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson." On the West Coast, he completed much of the tour on his handcycle.

Partial Transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: Today we spend the hour with a man who put his life on the line at least twice: once, when he served in Vietnam, and again, when he ...

Published: Saturday 27 August 2011
“Try as readers may to find the tale of Cheney’s Vietnam service or, to be more precise, his meticulous avoidance of service, they just won’t find that In My Times offers much in the way of revelation about Cheney’s times.”

Dick Cheney’s hyper-hyped autobiography is short on revelations (it turns out that the “secret undisclosed location” was his house) but long, very long, on excuse making when it comes to the wars of whim into which he steered the United States. The former vice president is still sure there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, dismissing any talk of apologizing for his own weapons of mass deception pontificating in the run-up to the Iraq War. In fact, Cheney remains enthusiastic about every aspect of the wars of whim he steered the country into as Ronald Reagan’s chief congressional ally during the Iran-Contra scandal, George H.W. Bush’s hapless secretary of defense and George W. Bush’s neoconman prince regent, But where’s the chapter on Cheney’s heroic service in Vietnam? Of, that’s right, he had “other priorities” than responding to draft notices.

Try as readers may to find the tale of Cheney’s Vietnam service or, to be more precise, his meticulous avoidance of service, they just won’t find that In My Times offers much in the way of revelation about Cheney’s times.

Cheney has always positioned himself as an arch militarist. But when he had a chance to get on the frontlines, he instead deferments. A lot of them

Richard Bruce Cheney was “of age” for service durng the Vietnam conflict. Faced with the chance to engage on the battlefield or the home front, however, he dodged out—not for moral reasons but selfish ones. Pulitzer Prize–winning author David Maraniss, who interviewed Cheney for his book They Marched Into Sunlight, says the vice president just couldn’t be bothered. “I think he’s emblematic of a certain type. ...

Published: Saturday 27 August 2011
MLK National Monument Inspires Calls to Continue Civil Rights Leader’s Work to End Poverty and War

This week, the public got its first look at a newly unveiled memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., that honors the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is the first memorial on the National Mall not dedicated to a war, president or white man. The threat of Hurricane Irene has forced organizers to postpone the planned dedication of memorial on Sunday, which was to have been attended by 250,000 people, including President Barack Obama. The dedication ceremony was to have taken place on the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, when Dr. King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Despite the storm, a related Rally for Jobs and Justice will proceed tomorrow, ending with a march to the King Memorial. We speak with longtime civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson, president and founder of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and with Dr. Vincent Harding, a longtime friend and a former speechwriter for Dr. King. He co-wrote his famous "Beyond Vietnam" address. Harding reads from a Carl Wendell Hines poem written shortly after Dr. King’s assassination and notes that "Dead men make such convenient heroes... It is easier to build monuments than to build a better world."

Transcript:

 

JUAN GONZALEZ: This week the public got its first look at a newly unveiled memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., that honors the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s the first memorial on the National Mall not dedicated to a war, a president or a white man. The memorial features a 30-foot-tall sculpture in which the civil rights leader appears to emerge from a chunk of granite that is carved to resemble the sides of a mountain. It was sculpted by ...

Published: Saturday 13 August 2011
“The chained CPI would reduce Social Security and VA benefits by cutting the annual COLA, as well as increase taxes, by slowing the rate at which tax brackets rise.”

Eight leading veterans’ groups sent letters to President Obama, and members of the House and Senate this week, urging them not to adopt the chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) for determining cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for Social Security and VA benefits. The letter relied on information from a new analysis by the Strengthen Social Security Campaign showing that the chained CPI will have an especially large effect on veterans and their families.

The letters from the American GI Forum, AMVETS, Blinded Veterans Association, National Military Family Association, Paralyzed Veterans of America, VetsFirst, a program of United Spinal Association, Vietnam Veterans of America, and VoteVets.org identified significant cuts that would occur to 9 million veterans receiving Social Security retirement benefits, 3.2 million receiving VA Disability Compensation Benefits, and 310,000 receiving VA Pension Benefits if the chained CPI was used to calculate the annual COLA.

The letters from veterans groups said: “Many veterans who rely on these programs live on fixed incomes and very tight budgets. For them, every dollar of hard-earned benefits counts in meeting basic expenses, attaining quality of life, and building a better future for themselves and those who depend on them. For many of them, reducing the annual COLA would mean real sacrifice. We ask that you not do that for those who ...

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