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BUSH WATCH...Mickey Z
Mickey Z. is the author of several books, including the soon-to-be-released "50 American Revolutions You're Not Supposed to Know: Reclaiming American Patriotism" (Disinformation Books). He can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net
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I say it’s never too early to start planning the predestined Iraq War veteran’s memorial. Why wait till the bombs start dropping on Iran or Venezuela or North Korea or Colombia? The whole mood will be blown by then. But, let’s face it: time is of the essence. So, for now, maybe we can just extend the oily-black wall they constructed for the Vietnam vets. (Can you imagine if Vietnam ever erected something similar for its dead? Look out Great Wall of China.) An obvious choice for remembering those who have done all the liberating in the Persian Gulf since 1990 would be, of course, a mock oil rig (sponsored by Halliburton)…but I think it might be more appropriate to hire the geniuses who created the mini-versions of New York and Paris in Las Vegas.
Yeah, I can see it now: A virtual Iraq theme park smack dab in the middle of Washington, D.C. where patriotic Americans can park their SUVs and honor OIL (Our Iraqi Liberators). Genuine desert sand shipped in from the Gulf, an actor playing Dubya will fly in a fake fighter jet to deliver a fake Thanksgiving dinner, and don’t forget the giant plastic statue of Saddam Hussein—ready to be pulled down every hour on the hour for those who take the guided tour. Mission Accomplished everyone…now keep moving, we have five minutes till the WMD Search begins.
To give visitors that trendy “reality show” vibe, fake IEDs (improvised explosive devices) will “explode” when they least expect it as fake suicide bombers careen past them in fake trucks, detonating fake bombs. Imagine getting all that reality on your cell phone video recorder. Praise OIL indeed.
There’ll be a realistic Sunni-Shiite civil war re-creation once a day, a mock Abu Ghraib where twenty bucks will land you a picture of yourself hooked up to fake electrodes with an actress playing Lynndie England—cigarette dangling and leash in hand—enthusiastically pointing at your crotch, and please don’t miss the bloodcurdling depleted uranium dungeon…complete with gas masks and untested vaccines. Particularly adventurous visitors can rent military uniforms and bravely rescue a scantily clad Jessica Lynch each day at noon and three o’clock. Lest the Afghan War veterans feel neglected, the Tora Bora display will feature an interactive “Where’s Osama?” game for kids while adults test their shooting skill in the Pat Tillman Friendly Fire video game. Wave your Taliban Towels, people, here comes the football hero.
Speaking of neglected, we all know OIL comes in more than one variety. Veterans from 1991’s Operation Desert Storm will be honored with their very own Highway of Death Pavilion, customers can compete to see who pulls the most fake Kuwaiti babies from fake Kuwaiti incubators in one minute, and, of course, there’s the ever popular Madeleine Albright “It was worth it” Hall—made up of 500,000 bricks…one for each Iraqi child killed by U.S.-enforced sanctions. Best of all, the price of a tour includes an official OIL t-shirt that reads: I VISITED THE OIL MEMORIAL AND ALL I GOT WAS GULF WAR SYNDROME. --posted April 6, 2006
U.S. Racism and Fear: Nothing New
by Mickey Z.
The recent uproar over the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Dubai Ports World demonstrates not only a woeful lack of understanding on how U.S. ports work; it also exposes anti-Arab racism across the spectrum. Even if one accepts the presupposition that Islamic terrorists represent the most serious threat to world peace, it's remains racist to assume guilt based on ethnicity. Racist...but nothing new.
Two months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 giving the army the unrestricted power to arrest-without warrants, indictments, or hearings-every Japanese-American on a 150-mile strip along the West Coast and transport them to internment camps in Colorado, Utah, Arkansas, and other interior states to be kept under prison conditions. This order was upheld by the Supreme Court and the prisoners remained in custody for over three years.
Thanks to an unending wave of anti-Japan propaganda, there was little public outcry. A Los Angeles Times writer defended the forced relocations by explaining "a viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched-so a Japanese-American, born of Japanese parents, grows up to be a Japanese, not an American." It was no better in neighboring countries.
"Canada enacted similar removal and internment programs," says historian Daniel S. Davis. "Many Latin American countries were shaken by anti-Japanese riots. Some shipped their Japanese people to the United States at the urging of Washington ... Ironically, after the war ended, the U.S. government tried to deport these Latin American Japanese on the grounds that they had entered the country without passports or official visas."
Life in the internment camps entailed cramped living spaces with communal meals and bathrooms. The one-room apartments measured twenty by twenty feet and none had running water. The internees were allowed to take along "essential personal effects" from home but were prohibited from bringing razors, scissors, or radios. Outside the shared wards were barbed wire, guard towers with machine guns, and searchlights. The atmosphere was often charged with a hostile discomfort.
While 110,000 Japanese-American men, women, and children suffered in prison camps, the U.S. media whipped up a post-Pearl Harbor frenzy of fear on the West Coast. If one were to believe the news reports of the day, it was always just a matter of hours until Japanese Zeros were spotted over the Left Coast. In January 1942, Edward R. Murrow stirred up fifth column worries by telling an audience in Seattle should their city be attacked, they'd "be able to look up and see some University of Washington sweaters on the boys doing the bombing."
Despite such xenophobic paranoia, the FBI admitted: "We have not found a single machine gun, nor have we found any gun in any circumstances indicating that it was to be used in a manner helpful to our enemies. We have not found a single camera which we have reason to believe was for use in espionage."
This did little to ease the minds of men like California attorney general Earl Warren (later chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court). "I believe that we are just being lulled into a false sense of security," Warren declared, "and that the only reason we haven't had disaster in California is because it has been timed for a different date."
Sound familiar? Now, if you really wanna get the racists in your life worked up, remind them that most of the world's shipping is dominated by Chinese firms and the UAE operates a port in Venezuela. --Posted Feb. 26, 2006
Celluloid Subversives: Is Clooney Our Brando?
by Mickey Z.
I was genuinely glad to see George Clooney, one of the few Hollywood zillionaires taking any chances, get nominated for three Academy Awards this year. His cinematic output (whether acting, writing, or directing) in 2005—“Syriana” and “Good Night, and Good Luck”—reminded me of the best consciousness raising efforts Tinsel Town has put forth in the past. It also reminded me that long before he became an easy punch line on late night talk shows, it was Marlon Brando who set the bar for radical chic.
When he stepped onto the stage in that now immortal white undershirt in 1947, Brando revolutionized American acting. "He burst onto our consciousness wearing a torn T-shirt, mumbling, growling, scowling, screaming for 'Stel-la!' as Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams' 'A Streetcar Named Desire,' first on Broadway, then on film," wrote Lawrence Grobel in his book “Conversations with Brando.” "From the beginning, Brando unleashed a raw power that had never been seen before on the screen." In the role of Stanley Kowalski, Brando, says Andy Seiler of USA Today, "made theatrical history with his brutish yet complex performance." It was no accident that Brando would commandeer the Kowalski role, eventually becoming synonymous with the character. He drove all the way to Provincetown to personally audition for Williams who, it's said, knew instantly that he had his lead. Brando would be the actor to lure audiences into empathizing with Stanley, making the character's actions later in the play that much more profound. Thus was the power of "The Method," the style of acting Brando came to represent...for better or for worse. "He didn't invent 'method acting' (Stanislavsky did), but he made the term familiar around the world, revolutionizing the actor's art with his natural, tortured and spontaneous early performances," Seiler says.
As Jack Nicholson once said of Brando’s trailblazing labors: "He gave us our freedom."
Speaking of freedom, Brando's reach far exceeded the stifling limits of stage and screen. He marched in support of fair housing, participated in anti-nuclear rallies, spoke out about the plight of Native Americans, and famously bowed out of the lead role of a film (“The Arrangement”) to further devote himself to the growing civil rights movement.
"In the aftermath of the slaying of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. one of the most total commitments made to Dr. King's work by anyone came from Academy Award winning actor Marlon Brando," wrote Louie Robinson in the May 1968 issue of Jet magazine.
"If the vacuum formed by Dr. King's death isn't filled with concern and understanding and a measure of love," Brando declared on national television, "then I think we all are really going to be lost here in this country."
"He is considered by many to be ... the man who changed the style of the movies, the most influential and widely imitated actor of his generation," concluded Grobel. "He is one of the select artists who will doubtless be remembered into the next century."
Can Clooney step up in the style of Brando? Judge for yourself from his own words: "In 2003 I was saying, where are the ties [between Iraq] and al-Qaida? Where are the ties to 9/11? I knew it; where the fuck were these Democrats who said, 'We were misled'? That's the kind of thing that drives me crazy: 'We were misled.' Fuck you, you weren't misled. You were afraid of being called unpatriotic." --posted Feb. 18, 2006
Betty Friedan asked: "Is that all?"
by Mickey Z.
"The core of the problem today is not sexual but a problem of identity--a stunting of growth that is perpetuated by the feminine mystique." -Betty Friedan
When Betty Friedan (1921-2006) attended her fifteenth college reunion at Smith College, she conducted a survey among her fellow alumni. What the women she spoke to had to say about the state of their lives eventually became a book that, upon its release in 1963, would spark a national debate about a woman's role in American society. "The Feminine Mystique" begins, famously:
The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night-she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question-"Is this all?"
"The book reached millions of readers," says Kenneth C. Davis. "Women were...suddenly discussing the fact that society's institutions-government, mass media and advertising, medicine and psychiatry, education, and organized religion-were systematically barring them from becoming anything more than housewives and mothers."
Far from a manifesto, "The Feminine Mystique" focused almost exclusively on white middle-class women and eschewed radical solutions. Nonetheless, the book was a crucial catalyst in the re-launching of the relatively dormant woman's rights movement conceptualized by earlier feminists like Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger. Friedan herself recognized her obligation to takes things further.
"I realized that it was not enough just to write a book," says Friedan. "There had to be social change. And I remember somewhere in that period coming off an airplane [and] some guy was carrying a sign." That sign, which read, "The first step in revolution is consciousness," inspired Friedan to puts words into action by founding the National Organization for Women, the National Women's Caucus, and the National Abortion Rights Action League.
Viewed through the prism of the twenty-first century, Friedan's critique appears obvious...even tame. But that is the essence of social change. Initially rejected, new ideas are typically co-opted and eventually taken for granted. Friedan and her book played their role, it's the work of today's feminists that takes the struggle to the next level. --posted Feb. 5, 2006
Excerpted from "50 American Revolutions You're Not Supposed to Know: Reclaiming American Patriotism" (Disinformation Books) by Mickey Z. For more info, please visit: http://www.mickeyz.net.
by Mickey Z.
Once upon a time...
"But we're hungry, Big Daddy" the children cried, their emaciated bodies a testament to their neglect.
"We all have to make sacrifices," Big Daddy declared, "and if I spend money on food for you, I'll be too broke to join the gym. And if Big Daddy's muscles don't stay strong, you kids will have a lot more to worry about than being a little hungry."
"We're not a little hungry, Big Daddy. We're starving. We're dying." Big Daddy eyed this particularly brazen child before bashing him with a clenched right fist. The child sailed across the room and landed in a bloody heap against the wall.
"I didn't want to do that, children," announced Big Daddy as he flexed his triceps in the mirror. "But if you allow one bad apple to act as a cancer, the whole barrel will rot. Sometimes it's necessary to exert force to promote peace and stabilize a situation."
"Oh, Big Daddy, we're just asking for you to fix the hole in the roof so we don't freeze again tonight."
"What? Exert myself in such a petty affair? What if Big Daddy hurt himself? Who would fight off our neighbors? What would you kids do then?"
"But I like our neighbors. They don't want to hurt us."
Big Daddy hit this child with his left hand. "Don't ever let me hear you say that. You kids aren't smart enough to know danger when you see it and if that sneaky neighbor ever heard you speak kindly of him, he'd take advantage of our weakness. We must stick together to fight the evil he's building next door. If even one family member isn't behind me, I can't use these muscles. I need all of you to support me. Do you understand?"
Big Daddy's bellowing scared the children and they agreed. He told them some of the stories that his parents had told him and the children saw that it was long family tradition for the Big Daddy to spend all his time, energy, and money to build himself up in order to protect his weaker family members. It truly is sometimes necessary to destroy something in order to save it. The children began to see what "family values" really means.
The two kids who were hit crawled back and apologized to Big Daddy for forcing him to hurt them. Another child tried to thank Big Daddy for keeping his biceps so strong, but the words wouldn't come out. The child was too sick and too cold. Big Daddy hinted that this particular child wasn't fit to be in their family. And, as Big Daddy conveniently turned the other way to flex his back muscles, the fit children ganged up and beat their unfit sibling before sending him from their home.
"Go out there," one kid yelled, "and see how long you last without Big Daddy."
They all watched from the window as their evil neighbor emerged from his house with a blanket and some food for the sick child. This confused the children and they were tempted to join their exiled brother when suddenly, Big Daddy appeared. He roughly pulled his child from the clutches of evil and proceeded to beat the wicked neighbor senseless.
"Keep your filthy hands off this child!" Big Daddy screamed as his children cheered him on. The police arrived and arrested the neighbor for kidnapping while Big Daddy re-entered his home with his prodigal son.
"Children," Big Daddy stated, "your brother is home. He was lured away by that clever animal next door."
"But now," the child interrupted, "I see how wrong I was. Please take me back."
Big Daddy beamed proudly as all his skinny children embraced him. He flexed his muscles in the mirror and made sure his hair was in place.
The End? --Posted Feb. 4, 2006<
Dealing With Homelessness
by Mickey Z.
I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
John "Indio" Washington, 67, is editor-in-chief of Street News (SN), a longtime New York City publication that focuses on issues of homelessness...primarily written and sold by homeless New Yorkers. This wasn't always the case. In the late 1980s, Indio was homeless. "In December 1989," he recalls, "I was riding on the #3 train 'n I saw this Black sister selling SN. I asked her if I could help sell the paper 'n she could hit me with whatever she wanted to give me for helping her. She instead took me downtown to SN headquarters 'n they gave me 5 or 10 free papers to sell. I never looked back."
Those were the days when homelessness was the cause du jour in the Big Apple and SN's circulation was close to 100,000. Then, says Indio, "The Mayor and or President of Transit or both, directed the Transit Police to arrest anyone selling our paper on the subways. The Port Authority, Grand Central Terminal, Staten Island Ferry 'n other agencies jumped on the bandwagon. We loss nearly 80% of readership."
In April 1996, Indio took the reins at the troubled newspaper. "I became the first Native American Indian Editor 'n Chief of SN," he says. "Sales went up to 20,000 per issue thanks to our staff of reporters, vendors 'n of course, our readers! We are still the only for-profit homeless paper in the United States."
On September 11, 1997, in Seattle, Washington, SN received an award from The North American Street Newspaper Association for "inspiring the modern street newspaper movement. More than eight years later, Indio and SN continue their mission. "We still have more pages than any other active homeless newspaper on this planet!" Indio declares. Maintaining the tradition of 16-plus years, SN still gives out 25 free papers to all new vendors to get them started.
I have been writing for Street News for well over a decade and am fortunate to call Indio a friend. I asked him a few questions via e-mail:
MZ: How long were you homeless?
Indio: Two years.
MZ: What would you say is the biggest myth about homeless people?
Indio: That they don't want to work!
MZ: The Coalition for the Homeless just released a report that found the number of homeless in NYC to have risen. Is this a surprise to you?
Indio: Hard to tell if it's true or not because reports can be padded to go in the direction told to take it. I do not respect "reports" 'n other negative stuff. You have to be on the streets to know the real deal! They think about getting more funds 'n generally go by their work load. Same think goes for the places that feed us 'n give out food 'n so on. Plus there's a lot of reports 'n books that say it's hard to get an accurate account of homeless in the streets. I think they call it, "Unexpected difficulties."
MZ: What measures do you think must be taken in the short term to deal with homelessness?
Indio: There is no short-term solution unless the definition has changed. We could do with more media about the beating 'n killing of homeless to get people to starting caring, but that need to be done everyday as much as possible. There is no short term answer to homelessness. Jesus said, "The poor will always be with us." So many people use this as a cop-out to not give a damn.
MZ: What's the state of Street News in 2006?
Indio: We still are the voice of the voiceless, the heart, soul 'n spirit of the streets that tells the Real Deal like 'tis! Still in the struggle! --posted Jan. 29, 2006
Street News website: http://nystreetnews.tripod.com Contact Indio: Indio143@aol.com
Here we go again
by Mickey Z.
Since quoting Marx makes a writer appear both more educated and more serious, I figured I'd start this piece about Iran with a bit of Marxism...from "Duck Soup."
Ambassador Trentino: "I am willing to do anything to prevent this war." President Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho): "It's too late. I've already paid a month's rent on the battlefield."
Now I'm not trying to imply the reasons America goes to war are this frivolous but...WMDs? Hussein connected to 9/11? Spreading democracy? Even Harpo would be laughing out loud.
The U.S. has a long history of conjuring up dubious rationales to wage war...and this goes for those on both sides of the proverbial aisle. During the 2004 presidential campaign, for example, Senator John F. Kerry declared: "The United States of America never goes to war because we want to; we only go to war because we have to."
Can someone ask Harpo to quiet down?
"He started it" or "She hit me first." It's an excuse we all learn in childhood. By portraying oneself as the target-or potential target-of an unprovoked sneak attack; all bases are covered. As George W. Bush explained on March 17, 2003, the night he gave Saddam Hussein a final ultimatum, "The United States and other nations did nothing to deserve or invite this threat, but we will do everything to defeat it."
More Marx: "Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?" Our history books and newspaper headlines portray an ever-benevolent U.S. as minding its own business yet incessantly awakened by surprise events and unprovoked threats that test its celebrated patience, e.g. the sinking of the Maine, the "surprise" attack on Pearl Harbor, and too many others to detail here.
Now we have Iran...a nation with the audacity to make decisions without first asking for U.S. permission. We are faced with the spectacle of America (the only nation to have used nuclear weapons on civilians) warning the world about how nuclear weapons might, well, be used on civilians. We can't allow just anyone to sneak around and acquire such technology (well, except Israel). We can't allow those Commie Chinese (Cold War II, anyone?) to arm men so evil they might, well, use nuclear weapons on civilians. Before you know it, Iran will be using depleted uranium and white phosphorous, abusing prisoners, setting up interrogation centers in Eastern Europe, spying on its own people, and fixing elections at home and abroad.
As Marx explained: "Military intelligence is a contradiction in terms." --posted Jan. 19, 2006
Which Wolf Will You Feed in 2006?
by Mickey Z.
“Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”
This statement (made by Dubya in late 2001) has been mocked by just about anyone to the left of Genghis Khan, but in 2005, I came to realize how often we all slip into that mentality...myself very much included.
For example, in the 10 years I’ve been vegan, I’ve often enforced the “you’re either with us or against us” mindset. In 2004, during the presidential election, I publicly mocked anyone who tried to find a reason to vote for Kerry. To the Anybody-But-Bush crowd, I ranted: “you’re either with us or against us.” Or, in a more general sense, I’d see someone driving an SUV into a McDonald’s parking lot, smoking a cigarette and yakking loudly on a cell phone...and I’d have that person judged, categorized, pigeon-holed, and lined up on the “other side.” (And these are only a few of far too many examples I could list.)
In turn, I’ve had variations of the “you’re either with us or against us” tactic used on me...and it’s both disconcerting and frustrating. My personal resolution for 2006 is to not let this mentality recrudesce...to check myself before I so readily “identify the enemy,” so to speak. Of course, there are times when one can genuinely—and perhaps justifiably—feel “you’re either with us or against us.” But I submit that those instances are few and far between...much less frequent than we’d all like to believe.
If we call ourselves left or liberal or progressive or radical or any other similar label, I believe the path towards creating social change involves the realization that we can sometimes differ strongly with our allies and comrades on certain issues but still remain allies and comrades. If a disagreement or difference of opinion results in a person or group reflexively being written off, we all lose.
Howard Zinn sez: “As dogma disintegrates, hope appears. Because it seems that human beings, whatever their backgrounds, are more open than we think, that their behavior cannot be confidently predicted from their past, that we are all creatures vulnerable to new thoughts, new attitudes. And while such vulnerability creates all sorts of possibilities, both good and bad, its very existence is exciting. It means that no human being should be written off, no change in thinking deemed impossible.”
An elder Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, pride, and superiority. The other wolf stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside of you and every other person too.” The children thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied: “The one I feed.”
Which wolf will we feed in 2006? --posted Jan. 10, 2006
Politics On Your Plate
by Mickey Z.
As most of us in America wallow in a season of gastronomical over-indulgence, here's some food for thought: In the late 1960s, thanks to Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers (UFW), deciding whether or not to buy grapes was a political act.
Three years after its establishment in 1962, the UFW struck against grape growers around Delano, California...a long, bitter, and frustrating struggle that appeared impossible to resolve until Chavez promoted the idea of a national boycott. Trusting in the average person's ability to connect with those in need, Chavez and the UFW brought their plight-and a lesson in social justice-into homes from coast-to-coast and Americans responded. "By 1970, the grape boycott was an unqualified success," writes Marc Grossman of Stone Soup. "Bowing to pressure from the boycott, grape growers at long last signed union contracts, granting workers human dignity and a more livable wage."
Chavez is perhaps best known for the grape boycott, but in line with his collective soul, he was always the first to admit that it was not entirely his idea. In fact, he was initially against the boycott until his co-workers explained that the best method was not to boycott individual labels, but all grapes. In this way, the grapes became the label itself.
Through hunger strikes, imprisonment, abject poverty for himself and his large family, racist and corrupt judges, exposure to dangerous pesticides, and even assassination plots, Chavez remained true to the cause and to the non-violent methods he espoused. Even when threatened with physical harm, the furthest Chavez and his comrades would go is deterrence. Once in 1966, when Teamster goons began to rough up Chavez's picketeers, a bit of labor solidarity solved the problem without violence. William Kircher, the AFL-CIO director of organization, called Paul Hall, president of the International Seafarers Union.
"Within hours," writes David Goodwin in Cesar Chavez: Hope for the People, "Hall sent a carload of the biggest sailors that had ever put to sea to march with the strikers on the picket lines...There followed afterward no further physical harassment."
"The fight for equality must be fought on many fronts-in urban slums, in the sweat shops of the factories and fields," said Martin Luther King, Jr. in a telegram to Chavez after a UFW electoral victory. "Our separate struggles are really one-a struggle for freedom, for dignity and for humanity." The roots of Chavez' effectiveness lay in his ability to connect on a human level. When asked: "What accounts for all the affection and respect so many farm workers show you in public?" Cesar replied: "The feeling is mutual."
"He never owned a house," says Grossman. "He never earned more than $6,000 a year. When he died...he left no money for his family. Yet more than 40,000 people marched behind the plain pine casket at his funeral, honoring the more than 40 years he spent struggling to improve the lives of farm workers."
Another food-related struggle for freedom, dignity, and humanity just marked 25 years since its inception: Food Not Bombs (FNB).
Created in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1980, FNB was the brainchild of Keith McHenry and seven other activists. "We came out of the Clamshell Alliance," says McHenry, " [which was] trying to shut down Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant. It was a collection of mostly anarchists but also included Quakers and the Red Clams, who were socialists."
FNB is responsible for starting hundreds of autonomous chapters throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia and Australia...where food that would otherwise be thrown out is recovered and transformed into hot vegetarian meals that are then served to the homeless and at protests and other events. With roots in a variety of social causes, it's not surprising that McHenry describes the FNB project as essentially "the food wing of a movement that includes anti-authoritarian music, art, unlicensed radio, zines, squatting, needle exchange, bike and hemp liberation, info shops, computer networking, autonomous decentralized non-hierarchical organizing, consensus decision-making, and sharing a philosophy of tolerance, joy, and free expression."
By linking the national problem of homelessness with the larger issue of rampant militarism, McHenry's goal is to address "the inhumane agenda of the government at both the personal and international levels" as a path towards beginning a nationwide debate.
"The FNB volunteers believe that it's not too late to help build an alternative to transnational corporate greed," says McHenry. "People, through their actions, can change the political agenda." --posted Dec. 11, 2005
Excerpted from "50 American Revolutions You're Not Supposed to Know: Reclaiming American Patriotism" (Disinformation Books). Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.
An Occupation Worth Applauding
by Mickey Z.
Until the federal penitentiary was closed in 1963, Alcatraz Island was a place most folks tried to leave. On Nov. 20, 1969, the island's image underwent a drastic makeover. That was the day thousands of American Indians began an occupation that would last until June 11, 1971.
The 1973 armed occupation of Wounded Knee along with the siege at the Pine Ridge Reservation one year later (which led directly to the incarceration of Leonard Peltier) are etched deeper in the public consciousness in terms of recent Indian history, but is was the Alcatraz Island occupation that ushered in a new era of Native American activism.
"The occupiers," writes Ben Winton in the Fall 1999 issue of Native Peoples magazine, "were an unlikely mix of Indian college activists, families with children fresh off reservations and urban dwellers disenchanted with what they called the U.S. government's economic, social and political neglect."
"We hold The Rock," proclaimed Richard Oakes, a Mohawk from New York. Oakes became the occupiers' spokesman...and his words became their motto. "The occupation of Alcatraz was about human rights," said Winton. "It was an effort to restore the dignity of the more than 554 American Indian nations in the United States."
Over the course of the occupation, over 5600 American Indians took part-some for a day, some for the entire 18 months. Twenty-three year-old John Trudell, a Santee Sioux from San Bernardino, California heard about the occupation, packed a sleeping bag, and headed to Frisco. "He became the voice of Radio Free Alcatraz, a pirate station that broadcast from the island with the help of local stations" explains Winton. "When he hit the airwaves, the response was often overwhelming. Boxes of food and money poured in from everywhere-from rock groups such as The Grateful Dead and Creedence Clearwater Revival (who staged a concert on a boat off Alcatraz and then donated the boat), Jane Fonda, Marlon Brando, city politicians, and everyday folks." For the first time in modern American history, the plight of Native Americans was making headlines.
The fledgling American Indian Movement (AIM) visited the occupiers and soon began a series of their own occupations across America. AIM would soon become a powerful multi-tribal protest organization...just one of the many important outcomes of the Alcatraz takeover.
"Despite its chaos and factionalism, the event resulted in major benefits for American Indians," Winton states. "Years later, Brad Patterson, a top aide to President Richard Nixon, cited at least ten major policy and law shifts." Some of those policy shifts include:
•Passage of the Indian Self Determination and Education Act
Even today, Alcatraz Island remains part of Native American culture as every November since 1975, on what is called "Un-Thanksgiving Day," Indians gather on the island to honor the occupation and those who continue to fight today. --posted November 18, 2005
Stealing Veteran's Day from the Militarists
by Mickey Z.
In a society where "support the troops" is little more than a euphemism for "support the policy," the concept of setting aside a day to celebrate military veterans has always been touchy for the Left. But here's an idea: what if we instead honored veterans of the anti-war movement? I mean those-- from Eugene Debs and Helen Keller to the Berrigans, right up to Cindy Sheehan--who put their ass on the line to stop war...not wage it. To add a twist, how about military veterans who have since become veterans of the anti-war movement, e.g. Howard Zinn, Stan Goff, Ward Churchill, and Rosemarie Jackowski?
Even better, if you truly want to acknowledge bravery in the line of fire, why not find more heroes like Hugh Clowers Thompson, Jr.?
Thompson arrived in Vietnam on December 27, 1967 and quickly earned a reputation as "an exceptional (helicopter) pilot who took danger in his stride." In their book, "Four Hours at My Lai," Michael Bilton and Kevin Sim also describe Thompson as a "very moral man. He was absolutely strict about opening fire only on clearly defined targets." On the morning of March 16, 1968, Thompson's sense of virtue would be put to the test.
Flying in his H-23 observation chopper, the 25-year-old Thompson used green smoke to mark wounded people on the ground in and around My Lai. Upon returning a short while later after refueling, he found that the wounded he saw earlier were now dead. Thompson's gunner, Lawrence Colburn, averted his gaze from the gruesome sight.
After bringing the chopper down to a standstill hover, Thompson and his crew came upon a young woman they had previously marked with smoke. As they watched, a U.S. soldier, wearing captain's bars, "prodded her with his foot, and then killed her."
Unbeknownst to Thompson at that point, more than 560 Vietnamese had already been slaughtered by Lt. William Calley's Charlie Company. All Thompson knew for sure was that the U.S. troops he then saw pursuing civilians had to be stopped.
Bravely, landing his helicopter between the charging GIs and the fleeing villagers, Thompson ordered Colburn to turn his machine gun on the American soldiers if they tried to shoot the unarmed men, women, and children. Thompson then stepped out of the chopper into the combat zone and coaxed the frightened civilians from the bunker they were hiding in. With tears streaming down his face, he evacuated them to safety.
Officially termed an "incident" (as a opposed to a "massacre") My Lai has been widely accepted as an aberration. While the record of U.S. war crimes in Southeast Asia is far too lengthy to detail here, it's clear that was not the case. In fact, on the very same day that Lt. Calley entered into infamy (he later explained: "We weren't there to kill human beings, really. We were there to kill ideology"), another company entered My Khe, a sister subhamlet of My Lai. That visit was described as such: "In this 'other massacre,' members of this separate company piled up a body count of perhaps a hundred peasants-My Khe was smaller than My Lai-'flattened the village' by dynamite and fire, and then threw handfuls of straw on corpses. The next morning, this company moved on down the Batangan Peninsula by the South China Sea, burning every hamlet they came to, killing water buffalo, pigs, chickens, ducks, and destroying crops. As one of the My Khe veterans said later, 'what we were doing was being done all over.' Said another: 'We were out there having a good time. It was sort of like being in a shooting gallery.'" Colonel Oran Henderson, charged with covering-up the My Lai killings, put it succinctly in 1971. "Every unit of brigade size has its My Lai hidden someplace." But not every unit had a Hugh Thompson.
This Veteran's Day, let's hear it for those brave souls who do the fighting...to end the fighting. --posted November 4, 2005
Silence is the greatest of all crimes"
An interview with Peace Grandma, Rosemarie Jackowski
by Mickey Z.
I've been extremely fortunate to attract an amazing mix of visitors to my blog ... a crew self-dubbed "The Expendables." The matriarch of the Expendables is one Rosemarie Jackowski, a 67-year-old grandmother/veteran/writer from Vermont currently facing jail time for participating in an anti-war demonstration in 2003. Her journey from flag-waver to rabble-rouser is a palpable source of inspiration and an excellent illustration of the motivating power of example. When, in a recent e-mail, I wrote to her: "you rock," this was Rosemarie's reply: "Hearing that from you has made my day. Those were the words that my daughter, Christine, said to me after I was arrested. They were very special words that day because she, not too long before, had married into a Republican-type family. She means the world to me and, at the time of my arrest, I was not 100% sure of her reaction."
I interviewed Rosemarie via e-mail on October 23, 2005.
MZ: Why were you protesting and how did you end up in cuffs?
RJ: The date was March 20, 2003. It was my 66th birthday and also the beginning of the intense bombing campaign that our government named, "Shock and Awe." Prior to that date, there had been a big build up by the government. Most people forget that we were threatening the use of nuclear weapons. That is a war crime. On March 20, 2003, there were worldwide protests. In my little town of Bennington, others had planned events. I went to the center of town. There were a lot of people already there. Some others did street theater. I simply stood in silence, with my head bowed, holding my protest sign. It was the most difficult and the most solemn time of my life. Twelve of us were arrested because we were in the road at the main intersection in town.
MZ: What were you charged with?
RJ: The official charge was disorderly conduct with intent to harass and annoy. I was arrested, hand cuffed, booked, finger printed, and photographed. I would like to add here that at all times all of the protesters were peaceful. I often say that those moments, leading up to my arrest, were the most orderly moments of my life. The charge of disorderly conduct places a false image in the minds of many people.
MZ: What happened at the police station?
RJ: The act of conscience was a very solemn time for me but as soon as the man in blue said the magic words, "I will have to arrest you," my mood changed. I had conquered my fear, defeated the life-long held taboo against disobedience, and knew that my job was done for that day. When I arrived at the police station, accompanied by the mighty big guy in blue, he grabbed the protest sign out of my hands. I said, "Why did you do that" and he answered, "Because it's evidence." I said, "I know that it is evidence. It is evidence for me and that's why I need it." He was not impressed. He leaned my sign up against the back door and put me in solitary confinement. The cell was bare except for a built in wooden bench. Bolted into the bench was a set of heavy metal handcuffs. The big guy sat me down on the bench and put the cuffs on me. Then he left.
MZ: They left you all alone?
RJ: Yes, I looked around the cell and thought that it should not be so bare. It definitely needed a woman's touch. Perhaps a picture of Malcolm X would be the perfect decorating accessory. I glanced down to the cuffs that encircled my wrists. I started to examine them because I had never seen a pair close up like this before. Suddenly I realized, that because I am so small, I could easily slip the cuffs off. AH, I thought, I have invented a new game...slip the cuffs off and then slip them back on. I played my new game for a little while but then the thought of my sign popped into my mind. I suddenly realized that I could slip out of the cuffs, go around the corner, retrieve my sign, and get back into my cell and re-cuff myself. Wow, visions of a jail break danced through my head. I quietly slipped out of the cuffs, tip-toed to the doorway of my cell, looked out, and made a mad dash towards the back door. All I wanted was my sign.
MZ: You didn't actually sneak out, did you?
RJ: Yes, but I soon heard the loudest, booming voice that I had ever heard shout, "Hey, where are you going? Get back in that cell." I told the big guy, who now appeared to be at least seven feet tall, that I just wanted my sign. I went back into my cell and re-handcuffed myself. Soon I was told to go to another room to be booked. During the booking procedure I was asked if I had any tattoos or body piercings. I answered, "No." Then I was asked if I had any aliases or was known by any other name. I first answered, "No" but then corrected myself and said, "Yes, sometimes I am called 'Mom'." Throughout all of the proceedings, I continued to ask for the return of my sign. They kept refusing. Finally I told them that if they did not return my sign to me, the law required that they at least give me a receipt for it. I did not know if I was on firm legal ground there but it worked. I was given a receipt. Then, as I was about to leave the police station through the back door, one of the officers insisted that I go out the front door. I didn't know why but as I emerged through the door I was greeted by a group of supporters who waited and cheered each protester as he came out. It was a wonderful moment. I was asked to give a statement. I was not prepared for that but still remember what I said, "Bring the troops home now. We need them here to protect us from the government."
MZ: After hearing about all this, it's hard to believe you were once in the armed forces. Can you explain that transformation?
RJ: When I graduated from high school, I was filled with patriotism. I was a real flag waver. I believed everything that I had been taught. I was a total pacifist and that is how I wound up in the military. Hard to believe, I know. It was not until I was in my early 30's that I started to realize that what I had believed, all of my life was wrong. I felt betrayed by the system, by the schools, by the culture, etc. Since then, I have dedicated my life to unlearning what I had been taught in my younger years. It is one reason that I feel so strongly about what is happening in the schools now.
MZ: I'm not sure I understand how being a pacifist led you to the military.
RJ: I had been so brainwashed that I believed all of the propaganda about the U.S. military being the main protector of peace on the planet. Also, remember that this was before the Internet. Access to alternative publications was very limited. The flow of information is much different today.
MZ: Are you still a pacifist?
RJ: I am no longer a total pacifist. Because of the Shock and Awe bombing campaign and because I have seen the photographs of children with their heads blown apart by U.S. cluster bombs, I now believe that all of us must work to protect the lives of innocent civilians ... in the words of Malcolm X, "By any means necessary."
MZ: Does your journey-from "brainwashed" to handcuffed-give you hope that others can make the same transitions?
RJ: Because I had been so affected by my school experience, I think that it gives me an advantage when I speak with students now. I have a genuine respect for the young people who hold different world views. I understand how they got where they are in their thought process because I was there once. I find it very easy to identify with and bond with some of the most right-wing students.
MZ: You certainly have genuine credibility as a veteran of both the military and the anti-war movement. Where do things stand now, re: your trial? RJ: I was tried and convicted. The jury deliberated less that 10 minutes, which says something about the jury system. I have appealed the conviction in the Vermont Supreme Court. Currently, I wait for the decision of the court. If I win the appeal, the government will retry me. If I lose the appeal, I will probably go to prison.
MZ: If they offer you the chance to perform community service, will you choose that option?
RJ: No, and there is a reason. I have chosen to live the rest of my life in opposition, as long as the government continues to kill civilians. As I have stated in my courtroom speech, I and many others would gladly live the rest of our lives in prison if the U.S. would only stop bombing civilians. If I go to prison, I will be a model prisoner. That is different than performing community service. I do perform community service in many ways, but will refuse to perform government mandated community service. I see a big difference there.
MZ: I think many will saw you were performing community service on March 20, 2003. What can readers do to offer support?
RJ: I often say that even though a jury found me guilty, my trial was a success because the CBS-TV channel in Albany that covered the trial showed my photographs of the bombed Iraqi children on the news that night. More than anything, I want everyone to look at those photographs, which are available on the Robert Fisk site. About what will happen to me, I don't know. I would suggest letters to the editors of Vermont newspapers, but I know that most of the papers just refuse to publish them. I have been receiving a lot of support and it has made a big difference. No one will ever know how much I appreciate it. I am open for any ideas that anyone else has.
MZ: Any closing thoughts?
RJ: I just want to thank you and so many others who have offered support. I know that this is not about me. U.S. foreign policy has inflamed the passions of so many around the world. Now is a time in history when silence is the greatest of all crimes.
These are images Rosemarie mentions: http://www.robert-fisk.com/iraqwarvictims_mar2003.htm
POW Abuse: Nothing New Going on Here
by Mickey Z.
As news of a prisoner hunger strike finally beging to trickle out from Guantanamo, rest assured any wrongdoing will be pinned on a few bad apples. However, even a cursory glance at U.S. treatment of enemies captured during military interventions will demonstrate that the goings-on at Gitmo (or Abu Ghraib for that matter) are standard operating procedure for the home of the brave.
During the Second World War, for example, it required a mouthpiece none other than prominent racist Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr. to expose American tactics in the Pacific. His sentiments are summed up in the following journal entry:
"It was freely admitted that some of our soldiers tortured Jap prisoners and were as cruel and barbaric at times as the Japs themselves. Our men think nothing of shooting a Japanese prisoner or a soldier attempting to surrender. They treat the Jap with less respect than they would give to an animal, and these acts are condoned by almost everyone. We claim to be fighting for civilization, but the more I see of this war in the Pacific the less right I think we have to claim to be civilized."
"When Lindbergh finally left the Pacific islands and cleared customs in Hawaii," says author John Dower, "he was asked if he had any [Japanese] bones in his baggage. It was, he was told, a routine question."
While the treatment of Japanese POWs was commonly little more than making sure there were no Japanese POWs, those Axis soldiers captured in the European theater often learned firsthand how good the good guys were.
"Before the invasion of Sicily, General Patton told his men to accept no surrender from enemy soldiers who continued to fire within the highly lethal 200-yards range," says historian Michael C.C. Adams. "At Biscari, U.S. troops killed thirty-four unarmed prisoners who had given up at the correct distance, but these GIs had seen buddies killed, and they didn't feel that a few yards made any difference...[Even] Audie Murphy told new men to take no prisoners and to kill Axis wounded."
Many of those who were actually taken prisoner may have soon wished they were killed. "Captured Germans held in France under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower were systematically starved," writes David K. Wright while another 676,000 or so German prisoners were shipped to the United States between 1942 and 1946.
Alexander Cockburn adds: "In U.S. camps, POWs were starved to the point of collapse, performed 20 million man-days of work on army posts and 10 million man-days for contract employers. Some were assigned to work for the Chemical Warfare Center at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland."
Some 372,000 German POWs in the United States were forced-at the behest of Eleanor Roosevelt-to undergo a re-education program, "to return them to 'Christian practices' and to reject 'German thinking,' says Cockburn. "As time wore on, the name of the program was changed to 'intellectual diversion'."
Canadian writer James Bacque, in his book "Other Losses," goes even further, claiming that up to one million German POWs in Europe died from Allied neglect while others were used by the French to fight the Vietnamese. While perusing "Good War" documents called the "Weekly Prisoner of War and Disarmed Enemy Report," Bacque found statistics under the heading "Other Losses" which he interpreted to mean POW deaths. The author consulted with Colonel Philip S. Lauben, who had been chief of the German Affairs Branch of the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF).
"[Other Losses] means deaths and escapes," Lauben explained.
When asked how many escapes he recalled, Lauben replied, "Very, very minor." Bacque later discovered the number was less than one-tenth of one percent.
"It is beyond doubt," Bacque writes, "that enormous numbers of men of all ages, plus some women and childen, died of exposure, unsanitary conditions, disease and starvation in the American and French camps in Germany and France starting in April 1945." Bacque puts those numbers at "almost certainly over 900,000, and quite likely over a million."
Needless to say, these controversial figures have been vigorously denied by official sources. Adams addressed Bacque's unsettling work in his book: "Bacques' crediblity has been assailed by Stephen Ambrose, a biographer of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the man who would bear ultimate responsibility for these crimes. Ambrose points out that Bacque at times relied on slender or circumstantial evidence and that it would have been hard to keep so great a scandal quiet for so long [New York Times Book Review, February 24, 1991]. On the other hand, American guards have come forward to support Bacque. One wrote: 'I witnessed the atrocities Stephen E. Ambrose tries to deny or gloss over' [New York Times Book Review, April 14, 1991]...The truth is probably somewhere in the middle...As another guard admitted: 'we sometimes slipped over the boundary of civilized behavior and resembled to some extent what we were fighting against.'"
With the high level of censorship existing in the Allied theater of operations, perhaps the key to keeping "so great a scandal quiet for so long" is that, for most people, it never existed. At the time, General George S. Patton wrote in his diary: "Ike made the sensational statement that while hostilities were in progress, the one important thing was order and discipline, but now that hostilities were over, the important thing was to stay in with world public opinion-apparently whether it was right or wrong...Eisenhower talked to us very confidentially on the necessity for solidarity in the event that any of us are called before a Congressional Committee."
No matter who's in office or where the war takes place, it's all the same. --posted October 16, 2005
Lords of War: Arming the World
"I hope they kill each other . . . too bad they both can't lose."
"Do not support dictators. Do not sell them weapons."
It's not every day Amnesty International asks me to go see a Nic Cage movie. So, when I got their e-mail about Lord of War, I promptly caught a bargain matinee at my local multiplex. This is not a movie review, but, by Hollywood standards, Lord of War rates R for radical: a film about the governments and freelancers supplying the weapons that kill men, women, and children every minute of every day.
According to the Federation of American Scientists:
"Since the end of the Second World War, tens of millions of people have been killed by conventional weapons, mostly small arms such as rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers," reports Lowell Bergman of Frontline ("Sierra Leone: Gallery of International Arms Dealers," May 2002). "Low-tech, handheld weapons and explosives do the vast majority of the killing today. There are more than 550 million small arms currently in circulation, many of them fueling bloody civil strife in countries from Sri Lanka to Sierra Leone" (Bergman, May 2002)
And the home of the brave is the number one merchant of death. In 2004, the number two and number three weapons-exporting nations were France ($4.4 billion) and Russia ($4.6 billion). At number one was the United States at $18.5 billion . . . and if that number alone isn't enough to provoke action, consider where those weapons are going.
"The U.S. has a long-standing (and accelerating) policy of arming, training, and aiding some of the world's most repressive regimes," says Frida Berrigan, Senior Research Associate with the Arms Trade Resource Center of the World Policy Institute ("U.S. Leads the World in Sale of Military Goods," Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, 12 September 2005). "The U.S. transferred weaponry to 18 of the 25 countries involved in active conflicts in 2003, the last year for which full Pentagon data is available" (Berrigan, 12 September 2005).
I walked to the movie theater with no concern for landmines, snipers, or IEDs . . . but every foot that steps on a landmine somewhere in the Third World is blown off on our watch.
If nothing else, Lord of War shines a much-needed light on the deadly impact of arms trafficking. Anyone can take issue over certain aspects of the film, but what the mediocre reviews of the film -- and there have been many of them -- knowingly ignore is the daily price of the arms trade and the role Hollywood usually plays in fetishizing the use of weapons. Governor Arnold once said, "I have a love interest in every one of my films -- a gun." I say, as a tiny first step to countering business as usual, go see Lord of War instead of The 40-year-old Virgin this week and encourage others to do so. Do this not only to experience what Hollywood could do if it wanted but to vote with your movie dollar for a little less spectacle and a little more rabble-rousing at a theater near you. posted September 27, 2005
Helen Keller: Not Blind to War Crimes
In a textbook example of whitewashing, if today's America knows Helen Keller (1880-1968) at all, it's the easy-to-digest image portrayed in the 1962 film, "The Miracle Worker." Brave deaf and blind girl "overcomes" all obstacles to inspire everyone she meets. "The Helen Keller with whom most people are familiar is a stereotypical sexless paragon who was able to overcome deaf-blindness and work tirelessly to promote charities and organizations associated with other blind and deaf-blind individuals," writes Sally Rosenthal in "Ragged Edge."
But, in 1909, Helen Keller became a socialist. Soon after, she emerged as a vocal supporter of the working class and traveled the nation to voice her opposition to war. "How can our rulers claim they are fighting to make the world safe for democracy," she asked, "while here in the U.S. Negroes may be massacred and their property burned?" Of course, as a woman with disabilities, she was patronized by the same mainstream media that previously championed her as a heroine. The editors of the Brooklyn Eagle wrote: "Her mistakes spring out of the manifest limitations of her development." Keller minced no words in her responses...one of which appeared in newspapers across America: "So long as I confine my activities to social services and the blind, the newspapers compliment me extravagantly, calling me an 'arch-priest of the sightless' and 'wonder woman'. But when I discuss poverty and the industrial system under which we live that is a different matter."
As the militaristic frenzy spread across America, Keller appeared at New York City's Carnegie Hall on January 5, 1916. "I have a word to say to my good friends, the editors, and others who are moved to pity me," she said. "Some people are grieved because they imagine I am in the hands of unscrupulous persons who lead me astray and persuade me to espouse unpopular causes and make me the mouthpiece of their propaganda. Now, let it be understood once and for all that I do not want their pity; I would not change places with one of them. I know what I am talking about. My sources of information are as good and reliable as anybody else's. I have papers and magazines from England, France, Germany and Austria that I can read myself. Not all the editors I have met can do that. Quite a number of them have to take their French and German second hand. No, I will not disparage the editors. They are an overworked, misunderstood class. Let them remember, though, that if I cannot see the fire at the end of their cigarettes, neither can they thread a needle in the dark. All I ask, gentlemen, is a fair field and no favor. I have entered the fight against preparedness and against the economic system under which we live. It is to be a fight to the finish, and I ask no quarter."
Keller's critique of the government propaganda campaign to stir up Americans to support U.S. intervention in the war remains more germane than ever. "Every modern war has had its root in exploitation" Keller said. "The Civil War was fought to decide whether the slaveholders of the South or the capitalists of the North should exploit the West. The Spanish-American War decided that the United States should exploit Cuba and the Philippines. The South African War decided that the British should exploit the diamond mines. The Russo-Japanese War decided that Japan should exploit Korea. The present war is to decide who shall exploit the Balkans, Turkey, Persia, Egypt, India, China, Africa. And we are whetting our sword to scare the victors into sharing the spoils with us. Now, the workers are not interested in the spoils; they will not get any of them anyway."
She urged workers-the ones who do the fighting and dying-to strike at the heart of America's drive toward war. "Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought," she declared. "Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human beings. Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction. Be heroes in an army of construction." (In solidarity with Cindy Sheehan) --posted August 15, 2004
Excerpted from the soon-to-be-released "50 American Revolutions You're Not Supposed to Know: Reclaiming American Patriotism." Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at: http://www.mickeyz.net.
Vermin and Souvenirs
Because Japan chose to invade several colonial outposts of the West, the war in the Pacific laid bare the inherent racism of the colonial structure. In the United States and Britain, the Japanese were more hated than the Germans. The race card was played to the hilt through a variety of Allied propaganda methods. Spurred on by a growing Chinese lobby and vocal American trade protectionists wary of inexpensive Japanese goods, the campaign would eventually help cajole the American public into a pro-war, anti-Japan position. By 1938, as historian Michael C.C. Adams writes, polls showed more Americans favored military aid to China than to Britain or France. Even more so than the Third Reich, Japan was the U.S. villain of choice.
"Periodicals that regularly featured accounts of Japanese atrocities," says author John Dower, "gave negligible coverage to the genocide of the Jews, and the Holocaust was not even mentioned in the "Why We Fight" [film] series Frank Capra directed for the U.S. Army."
The Japanese soldiers (and, for that matter, all Japanese) were commonly referred to and depicted as subhuman: insects, monkeys, apes, rodents, or simply barbarians that must be wiped out or exterminated. The American Legion Magazine's cartoon of monkeys in a zoo who had posted a sign reading, "Any similarity between us and the Japs is purely coincidental" was typical. A U.S. Army poll in 1943 found that roughly half of all GIs believed it would be necessary to kill every Japanese on earth before peace could be achieved. Their superiors in Washington appeared to agree. By December 1943, as Adams notes, there were more troops and equipment in the Pacific than in Europe and it has been estimated that 1,589 artillery rounds were fired to kill each Japanese soldier.
As a December 1945 Fortune poll revealed, American feelings for the Japanese did not soften after the war. Nearly twenty-three percent of those questioned wished the U.S. could have dropped "many more [atomic bombs] before the Japanese had a chance to surrender."
This virulent brand of genocidal hatred was the end result of a massive public relations effort to demonize the enemy in the Pacific and thereby justify anything in the name of victory. A fine example could be found in the New York Times when the newspaper of record ran an ad that showed a flamethrower being used to kill Japanese, bearing the headline: "Clearing Out a Rats' Nest."
With generals like the Australian Sir Thomas Blamey informing his troops that, "Beneath the thin veneer of a few generations of civilization, [the Japanese] is a subhuman beast," the feeding frenzy of ignorance and race antagonism culminated in the Allied forces acting out their predetermined role in a self-fulfilling prophecy. If a subhuman will fight to the death like an animal, those fighting on the side of good were simply left with no alternative but to slaughter them unmercifully. Since Japanese soldiers were under pressure not to surrender and were often killed when they did, this became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
General Blamey later told the New York Times: "Fighting Japs is not like fighting normal human beings. The Jap is a little barbarian... We are not dealing with humans as we know them. We are dealing with something primitive. Our troops have the right view of the Japs. They regard them as vermin."
This dissertation was quoted by the Times on the front page. Eugene B. Sledge, author of With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, wrote of his comrades "harvesting gold teeth" from the enemy dead. In Okinawa, Sledge witnessed, "the most repulsive thing I ever saw an American do in the war"-when a Marine officer stood over a Japanese corpse and urinated into its mouth.
There was no shortage of horror stories about Japanese atrocities to fuel such animosity and a large part of them were true. Of the 235,473 U.S. and U.K. prisoners reported captured by Germany and Italy combined, only 4 percent (9,348) died while an astonishing 27 percent of Japan's Anglo-American POWs (35,756 of 132,134) did not survive. Indeed, with the rape of Nanking, the Bataan Death March, and incidents such as when Marines on Guadalcanal were ambushed by Japanese soldiers pretending to surrender, the litany of Japanese war crimes did not need much embellishment to stir up Allied fury. The ensuing behavior of the men fighting the Japanese in the Pacific (and those rooting for them back home) was merely the anticipated outcome of a deadly campaign of manipulation and propaganda against an enemy, which often played right into those fears. The results, however predictable, are no less appalling.
"In April 1943," Dower reports, "the Baltimore Sun ran a story about a local mother who had petitioned authorities to permit her son to mail her an ear he had cut off a Japanese soldier in the South Pacific. She wished to nail it to her front door for all to see."
In a 1943 issue of Leatherneck, the Marine monthly, a photo of Japanese corpses was run above the caption: "GOOD JAPS are dead Japs." The March 15, 1943 issue of Time followed suit by reporting without criticism about a "low-flying fighter turning lifeboats towed by motor barges and packed with Jap survivors, into bloody sieves."
Where is such behavior spawned? One breeding ground is boot camp. Consider this U.S. Marine Corps boot camp chant:
"Rape the town and kill the people, that's the thing we love to do! Rape the town and kill the people, that's the only thing to do! Watch the kiddies scream and shout, rape the town and kill the people, that's the thing we love to do!"
Perhaps Edgar L. Jones, a former war correspondent in the Pacific, put it best when he asked in the February 1946 Atlantic Monthly, "What kind of war do civilians suppose we fought anyway? We shot prisoners in cold blood, wiped out hospitals, strafed lifeboats, killed or mistreated enemy civilians, finished off the enemy wounded, tossed the dying into a hole with the dead, and in the Pacific boiled flesh off enemy skulls to make table ornaments for sweethearts, or carved their bones into letter openers."
The "official" word was equally as repugnant: Elliot Roosevelt, the president's son and confidant, told Henry Wallace in 1945 that America should bomb Japan "until we have destroyed about half the Japanese civilian population." Paul V. McNutt, chairman of the War Manpower Commission, went a little further when he advocated to a public audience in April 1945 the "extermination of the Japanese in toto." Secretary of War Henry Stimson concurred, stating that, "to get on with Japan, one had to treat her rough, unlike other countries." That these sentiments were often translated into action is borne out in the reality that the U.S. bombers killed four to five times as many civilians in the last five months of the Pacific war than in three years of Allied bombing in Europe combined. And then there was the man who'd eventually give the order to drop atomic bombs on Japanese civilians.
"We have used [the bomb] against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international laws of warfare," Harry Truman later explained, thus justifying his decision to nuke a people that he termed "savages, ruthless, merciless, and fanatic."
Such rhetoric and the comportment it spawned was encouraged, according to Dower, by three basic rationalizations. Firstly, the "suicide psychology" involved the myth that since the fanatical Japanese would rather die than surrender, they "invited destruction." The second rationalization had its roots in the First World War and the treaty that ended it. "Anything less than a thoroughgoing defeat" would be "incomplete" and invite the Japanese to use peace as a chance to prepare for war...as the Germans did between the two world wars. Finally, the "psychological purge" evoked the concept of the Japanese requiring castigation in the form of "great destruction and suffering." As Alger Hiss explained at the time, "[Japan's] entire national psychology [must] be radically modified."
The inherently racist premises behind these three rationalizations eerily evoke the justifications often proffered for the extermination of Native Americans or the enslavement of Africans. Two decades after the end of the "Good War," the U.S. was still getting mileage from what became known as the "mere gook rule."
"During the Vietnam War," writes Edward S. Herman, "it was reported that cynical U.S. lawyers working in that country had coined the phrase 'mere gook rule' to describe the very lenient treatment given to U.S. military personnel who killed Vietnamese civilians." This policy held sway right on through various American intervention in Latin America, the "humanitarian" effort in Somalia, and, of course, the Gulf War and Kosovo. Herman sums up the philosophy as follows: "If our opponents do not submit and we are obliged to blow them up, clearly it is their responsibility."
Of course, for the men doing the actual fighting, it essentially comes down to the most basic of racist tenets. In order to inflict inhumane punishment, it is necessary to convince oneself that the enemy is not fully human. Once that belief is established, slavery, genocide, and the boiling of flesh off of Japanese skulls to be saved as souvenirs have all the justification they will ever need. --posted August 12, 2005
Excerpted from the upcoming book, "There is No Good War: The Myths of World War II" (Vox Pop). Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.
The views expressed are the writer's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Bush Watch.
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