Beyond Being Drones

Frederick Clarkson notes in an Institute for Public Accuracy (where I work) news release today that the Trump administration, following a long standing agenda, is using "religious liberty" to pursuing anti-women and anti LGTB policies, on this, National Prayer Day. 

A microcosm of how the U.S. government is aggressor and paints itself as victim, the religious right at times attempts to play the role of the oppressed while oppressing others. 

But what gets me is that we don't talk about other people being prosecuted by the state for religiously inspired actions. When religious folks fought against slavery, their religious motivation was properly cited by them and others (I think). 

But now, we have for example, people protesting against U.S. government drone assassinations in upstate New York outside Hancock Air Force base where drones are being operated to kill people in the other countries. My colleague Norman Solomon just wrote an important piece about what's happening there: "Finding New Homes for Lethal Drones." 

Some -- though certainly not all -- of the protesters against drone killing emanating from upstate New York are people associated with the Catholic Worker or other religious movements. And they are frequently using religious imagery. Norman notes that one protest outside the military base had a nativity tableau. The signs featured around Christmas time were "Peace on Earth" and "If Herod Had Drones, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph Would Have Been Incinerated" outside the military base. 

Around Easter time, just last month, protesters depicted three people being crucified upon drones. Read their "Good Friday" statement: "As Jesus and others were crucified by the Roman Empire, drones are used by the U. S. Empire in a similar fashion. In Roman times, crosses loomed over a community to warn people that they could be killed whenever the Empire decided. So too, our drones fly over many countries threatening extrajudicial killings of whoever happens to be in the vicinity."

Years ago, I wrote a piece for the media watch group FAIR about how the major media ignore the religious left. But part of the reason for that is that frequently the left -- including at times even the religious left -- ignores the religious left. 

And part of the reason for that might be that because the religious right has so dominated discourse around religion that people don't want to be associated with being a "bible thumper" who forces their beliefs on others. Jesus did instruct his followers to pray in private -- but then, seemingly contradictorily, admonished them not to hide their light. 

Of course, lots of people are "against" drone killing in that they might say something about it, blog about it, tweet about it. What's interesting about what's going on in upstate New York is that they are confronting it, frequently facing jail time. (They are hardly alone in this -- as I write, activist Desiree Fairooz of CodePink is facing jail time for laughing at Jeff Sessions' confirmation hearings.) 

We're all weak in many ways, but I've found that frequently, people who are religiously motivated are -- sometimes for good and sometimes for ill -- more prone to putting themselves on the line. It's possible that religious conviction and community embolden people to act out their convictions. 

And the folks in upstate New York don't seem to be doing what they're doing because they hate Trump; they didn't start doing it a few years ago because they hated Obama. They don't hate the people at the military base. They are doing it because they love the people -- who they don't know -- who are being killed by their government using drone technology. And perhaps they love the people at the military base enough that they don't want them destroying their souls by killing their fellow human beings on the other side of our planet. 

The challenge before us is to develop ways of relating with each other, working with each other, to achieve a more peaceful and more just world. To do that, we need to develop the structures that are both steeped in meaning, drawing from the best of traditions, while they are universal, free from chauvinism. 

Such structures need to be resilient enough to withstand the onslaught of oppressive corporate and state forces -- and gentle enough so that people want to be part of them. Such structures, should they succeed in bringing about a better world, may well be the same structures that provide what we actually need as humans in that future world. It's possible that attempts like those happening in upstate New York are some of those structures in embryonic form. 

The Twistedness of "No Trump Accomplishments" in First 100 Days

A CNN headline blares a few days before the end of his "First 100 Days": "Trump's race against the clock to do something."

Similarly, "Democracy Now" headlines a segment: "'It Has Not Gone Well': 100 Days of President Trump and No Major Achievements."

It certainly hasn't gone well, but Trump has in fact accomplished a great deal. Neil Gorsuch was put on the Supreme Court using the rhetoric of "pro-life" and has already facilitated death. His ascension basically consolidates rightwing control over all three branches of government. 

Trump has assembled a incredible cabinet of corporate bosses and Wall Street and pro-war apparatchiks. 

He has adroitly broken the letter and spirit of virtually any positive promises he made to curtail U.S. interventionism and warmaking around the world; to take on Wall Street; to up taxes on the wealthy, etc. He appears to be escalating Obama's war on whistleblowers to a war on publishers

What are euphemistically called "flip flops" are actually betrayals of the interests of most of the people who actually voted for Trump. 

This is a phenomenal accomplishment. 

Like Obama before him, he has ensured the continued solidification of an oppressive pro war and pro Wall Street establishment that runs at odds to the aspirations and interests of much of U.S. public, to say nothing of the global public. 

By putting forward the "crit" that Trump has "no major achievements," do alleged opponents of Trump pretend that they are helping prevent further damage by him?

Trump could be carrying out horrific policies and many would ignore that if he just makes a dumb comment. Oh, wait, that's what's happening. He can bomb human beings in any nation and it gets minimal coverage because -- stop the presses -- the White House misidentified Steven Mnuchin as "commerce secretary" when he's actually treasury secretary. 

They should identify Mnuchin as a Goldman Sach insider, foreclosure king, or someone whose net financial worth -- estimated at $46 million -- is only a fraction of that of Wilbur Ross, the actual commerce secretary, who has $2.5 billion. 

This non-crit of Trump will actually empower him to do more damage. 

The problem here is quite similar to how George H. W. Bush was depicted early in his administration by liberals: "A wimp." The typically sensible media watch group FAIR even ran a piece way back then scrutinizing the Bush administration's attempts to characterize him as a "rough rider."  

This depiction of Bush as "wimp" actually helped enable his use of military violence, with the invasion of Panama and then the first attack on Iraq in the early 90s. 

It's clear that when Van Jones calls Trump "presidential" when he uses military violence, that that increasing the likelihood of more violence. But a similar effect is achieved in other ways. 

And as Trump racks up "accomplishments" -- as he and his cabal of corporate bosses cut deals with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell -- the liberal "crit" of Trump "not accomplishing anything" will deserve an assist on every one of those "accomplishments." 

Mission accomplished? 

How Trump and Obama are Exactly Alike

Not until faithfulness turns to betrayal
And betrayal into trust
Can any human being become part of the truth.
-- Rumi

Trump won the 2016 nomination and election largely because he was able to pose as a populist and anti-interventionist "America Firster". 

Similarly, Obama won the 2008 election in good part because he promised "hope and change" and because he had given a speech years earlier against the then-impending invasion of Iraq.

Short of disclosure of diaries or other documents from these politicians, we can't know for certain if they planned on reversing much of what they promised or if the political establishment compelled them to change, but they both eventually perpetrated a massive fraud.

What is perhaps most striking is actually how quickly each of them backtracked on their alleged purpose. Particular since they were both proclaimed as representing "movements".

Even before he took office, Obama stacked his administration with pro-war people. He incredibly kept Bush's head of the Pentagon, Robert Gates; nominated Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State, who he beat largely because she voted for giving Bush authorization to invade Iraq. Other prominent Iraq War backers atop the administration included VP Joe Biden, Susan Rice and Richard Holbrooke. Before he was sworn in, Obama backed the 2008 Israeli slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza. See from 2008: "Anti-War Candidate, Pro-War Cabinet?

Ted Postol Updated Assessment of U.S. Gov Claims Regarding the Khan Shaykhun, Syria Attack

I just received this updated critical assessment from Theodore A. Postol (professor of science, technology, and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) of U.S. government claims. 

"A Quick Turnaround Assessment of the White House Intelligence Report Issued on April 11, 2017 About the Nerve Agent Attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria." 

Executing Birth

Today [April 9] is my dad's birthday, he died on January 26. The song that's been going through my head about him the last month or so is "The Mercy Seat". It overlays with my dad in many ways. World weariness at the end, a pleading to be with Jesus. It's about a man being executed while maintaining that he is innocent, though he admits at the end of the song that he lied, but not about what. The Mercy Seat my dad climbed into was his mother's grave, with her bones now upon his abdomen.

Is U.S. Policy to Prolong the Syrian War?

Many are claiming that Trump is being inconsistent in illegally attacking the Syrian regime with cruise missiles. 

After all, he had been saying the U.S. should focus on defeating ISIS, and now he seems to be going after Assad. But contradictions from Trump are a dime a dozen. 

A closer examination shows a deeper pattern of remarkable consistency in U.S. policy toward Syria that is far more critical than the perennial contradictions of politicians like Trump.  

To summarize U.S. actions and non-actions in terms of direct publicly announced U.S. air attacks targeting the Syrian regime: In 2013, when Assad was losing the war, Obama refrained from strikes that may well have ended his regime. Now, four years later, when Assad seems close to winning the war, Trump with a revamped NSC does a 180 on his previous pronouncements and attacks Assad.

Push away the personalities. Dispense with the rhetoric. Free yourself from the spin cycle that much of the media obsess over. Just follow the policy. 

The evidence is that the underlying U.S. policy -- whether the president is Obama or Trump -- is to prolong the Syrian war as much as possible. Let Assad off the hook when he's cornered, hit him when he's about to win. 

Martin Luther King Escalated his Attack on Vietnam War and Establishment Media 50 Years Ago

After Martin Luther King, Jr was denounced by major media following his April 4, 1967 speech at the Riverside Church in New York City, he actually responded in stronger terms, including in this Sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967:

Excerpts on YouTube:

The sermon which I am preaching this morning in a sense is not the usual kind of sermon, but it is a sermon and an important subject, nevertheless, because the issue that I will be discussing today is one of the most controversial issues confronting our nation. I'm using as a subject from which to preach, "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam." 

Now, let me make it clear in the beginning, that I see this war as an unjust, evil, and futile war. I preach to you today on the war in Vietnam because my conscience leaves me with no other choice. The time has come for America to hear the truth about this tragic war. In international conflicts, the truth is hard to come by because most nations are deceived about themselves. Rationalizations and the incessant search for scapegoats are the psychological cataracts that blind us to our sins. But the day has passed for superficial patriotism. He who lives with untruth lives in spiritual slavery. Freedom is still the bonus we receive for knowing the truth. "Ye shall know the truth," says Jesus, "and the truth shall set you free." Now, I've chosen to preach about the war in Vietnam because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal. 

Ilan Pappe Response to Questions on Expulsion And Genocide

I asked author Ilan Pappe what -- exactly --was preventing Israel from doing another mass expulsion. The following question was about why he doesn't use the term genocide. I don't agree with all Pappe said, and will likely come back to this with some depth, but it was a thoughtful reply on some of the core, long term issues. (I'd be happy to post if someone transcribed this.)

Behind the Liberal Embrace of Trump's Speech

I can't say I'm surprised by the liberal turn on Trump. I said a couple of weeks ago that Trump and the establishment media were like George and Martha in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" What I meant was that they are a deranged, destructive couple who argue like mad, but ultimately collude to destroy others. So, anger and hate give way to insidious bond and admiration in how they each fulfill their roles in the larger manipulative project.

So, Van Jones is admiring of Trump now really "becoming the President" because of Trump's emotional manipulation in the person of Carryn Owens. Jones did this because he's a triangulator himself and because he is very much part of the continuing imperial project.

Some of this rather reminds me of how the media used Jessica Lynch to pretend she was in danger to continue selling the invasion of Iraq at a critical moment in 2003. The actual scandals are pushed aside: The criminal invasion of Iraq then; the US-backed Saudi destruction of Yemen now.

Disinformation and emotional manipulation for the privileged "race" of USians is the order of the day. Feminism and femininity are weaponized as all emotion is focused on one person to the exclusion of the suffering of others. I imagine it's how The Passion Plays were used to fuel hatred of Jews; it's how Israel uses the Nazi Holocaust to excuse all its criminality.

The other major such manipulation last night was highlighting African American "victims" of public schools and "illegal immigrants". This allows Trump to ridiculously pose as an anti-racist xenophobe. As Martin Luther King warned in his final days: "We're integrating into a burning house."

Video: Schumer Eventually Calls Israel's Nuclear Arsenal a "Fact", Cuts off Further Questioning

A day before President Donald Trump's address to a joint session of Congress, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer spoke at the National Press Club Newsmaker on February 27, 2017. 

Sam Husseini questioned Chuck Schumer about Israel's nuclear weapons arsenal:


Full exchange here

Sam Husseini: You voted for the 2002 Iraq War Resolution, claiming Iraq was vigorously pursuing nuclear weapons. Do you acknowledge that Israel has nuclear weapons?[another question directed at Nancy Pelosi] ...

SH: Senator Schumer -- on Israel's nukes -- do you acknowledge --

Chuck Schumer: I didn't get your question.

SH: Do you acknowledge that Israel has nuclear weapons, sir?
 
CS: I'm not -- you can -- go read the newspapers about that. [walks away from podium] 

SH: You can't acknowledge that Israel has nuclear weapons, sir?

CS: It is a well known fact that Israel has nuclear weapons, but the Israeli government doesn't officially talk about what kinds of weapons and where, etc.

SH: Should the U.S. government be forthright?

CS: Ok, that's it.

Jeff Ballou (National Press Club President, news editor at Al Jazeera): Ok, we'll move on.

----

There are a number of problems with Schumer's response. 

Roger Mattson, author of Stealing the Atom Bomb: How Denial and Deception Armed Israel notes: "First Schumer tried to duck the question, then, trying to be forthright, he went further than anyone of his stature has gone before, at least to my knowledge. Too bad the moderator did not realize you were plowing new ground, or maybe he did realize that and cut [it] off intentionally."

Another is that Israel does not simply not "officially talk about what kinds of weapons and where" -- it refuses to acknowledge that they exist at all. This has been echoed by U.S. administration after U.S. administration which have refused to acknowledge the existence of Israel's nuclear weapons arsenal. See: The Absurd U.S. Stance on Israel’s Nukes: A Video Sampling of Denial." 

Grant Smith of Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy has noted: "DOE Classification Bulletin WPN-136 on Foreign Nuclear Capabilities’ forbids stating what 63.9 percent of Americans already know -- that Israel has a nuclear arsenal.” See: "Israel Silently Lapping Field in “Mideast Nuclear Arms Race

Smith suggests: "So a final question would be: 'Since aid to non-NNPT countries is subject to the Arms Export Control Act sanctions, why do you keep passing it?'"

More coming on this issue. 

[Thanks to Ingrid Monkiewicz and Andrew Stewart]