Three high-ranking military officers have requested Facebook friendship with me this week. The last said he was a retired air force general. Before I gave him the bum’s rush with the others, I checked his wall to see if there might be even the shred of a basis for friendship. I didn’t think liking Dolly Parton was sufficient to overcome the militarism thing.

Just read about a rant last October by Howard Stern against Roger Waters for promoting BDS. In his usual belligerent-moronic style, Stern said “…the Palestinians are these Arabs that could live in Egypt, that could live in Saudi Arabia, but guess what? Those countries don’t want them either.”

Howard Stern is the embodiment of social decay in US popular culture. His misogyny has gone beyond pornographic to sadistic torture of women. His racism is not just toward Palestinians but toward Black women in particular he doesn’t rise above the level of a pre-Civil War plantation owner. His speciality is adolescent fart humor–which is really where he’s stuck intellectually & emotionally.

What a relief to know he’s a rabid, belligerent-moronic supporter of Israel. It would hurt like hell to stand shoulder to shoulder with such a dirt-ball.

Drumpf to meet with Kissinger, the horny toad of US realpolitik

Kissinger May 18 2016

The Drumpf is meeting today with Henry Kissinger, the horny toad of US realpolitik who hasn’t been an official in the US government since the Nixon & Ford regimes. But he remains the éminence grise of all regimes since in the shadowy underbelly of US foreign policy.

Every book written by or about Kissinger is at least 1,000 pages long, presumably to dispense the wisdom of this monstrous war criminal who negotiated detente with the Soviet Union & China–both wallowing in political decline & corruption. There’s some kind of twisted mystique of genius around the guy when the secret of his success has always been brute force & the extremes of violence used against several million people all over the world on every continent.

The Washington Post made asses of themselves when they said
Drumpf’s meeting with Kissinger is “building relationships with Republican elders.” How do they explain Clinton’s long political relationship with Kissinger? Like it or not, Kissinger is the realpolitik face of US foreign policy–no matter which party is in office.

Kissinger is now 92 years old. Though he’s been dead for a very long time. We look with anticipation & glee to writing his obituary.

Obama chides Rutgers students over kicking Condoleezza Rice’s ass; why didn’t they kick his?

Obama at Rutgers

When Obama spoke at Rutger’s University commencement last Sunday, he chided students for protesting & forcing former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to withdraw as a 2014 commencement speaker because of her role in the Iraq War.

Obama said: “Now, I don’t think it’s a secret that I disagree with many of the foreign policies of Dr. Rice & the previous administration, but the notion that this community or the country would be better served by not hearing from a former Secretary of State, or shutting out what she had to say, I believe that’s misguided. I don’t think that’s how democracy works best, when we’re not even willing to listen to each other.”

Well I’m all ears & I would like to know exactly which of Bush’s foreign policies that Obama disagrees with? Because from Texas they are absolutely indistinguishable. What exactly does Obama think we have to learn from a lying-assed war criminal? If our political officials don’t listen to us, why the hell should we listen to them?

And lastly, it’s confusing why students didn’t protest Obama for continuing the foreign policies of the Bush administration? Where were all the thousands who rallied on the campus with Bernie Sanders just a few weeks ago to call for a political revolution?

US impunity for war crimes

Children of victim of Robert Bales in Afghan. May 18 2013

This post from 2013 is about the impunity the US government gives to soldiers who commit war crimes. The Pentagon actually negotiates security agreements with Iraq & Afghanistan guaranteeing impunity for its personnel. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act used by India is the same kind of legal protection for soldiers who commit war crimes in Kashmir.

The grotesque contrast is the impunity for war crimes by soldiers & US justifications for bombing & occupying entire countries to rout out terrorists.

When it comes to travesties of justice, nothing comes close to how the US government handles soldiers accused of war crimes. That’s not because it gives a rat’s ass about the soldier but to make damn certain the crimes are treated like individual psychopathy & not US war policy. To do that, the trials have to be controlled by the Pentagon & conducted out of public scrutiny.

Robert Bales, a US Army officer, is now under court martial for the Kandahar Massacre when he murdered 16 Afghan civilians last March 11th. In a murderous rampage in the middle of the night, Bales invaded homes in two different villages, yanked people out of bed, executed them, repeatedly punched small children in the head, grabbed one 2-year-old child by the hair & violently shook her head back & forth, shoved the barrel of a gun into an infant’s mouth. Nine of the victims were children, 3 were women, & 11 were from the same family. Some of those killed were then set on fire like rubbish. A crime of monstrous proportions which indicts the entire US-NATO war–especially since it came on the heels of US soldiers photographed urinating on Afghan war victims, the US government burning the Quran like it was rubbish, & the US “kill teams” caught in deranged trophy shots with Afghan corpses & taking body parts for souvenirs.

Bales was whisked out of the country 3 days after the crimes & ended up in a military prison outside Tacoma, WA that is less a prison than a half-way house for rehabilitation to civilian life. Afghan victims & some Afghan government officials demanded the trial be a public civilian trial in Afghanistan–& they are absolutely justified in that demand! Especially because there is such dispute about how many US soldiers were involved in the massacre. The Pentagon insists it was just Bales; many Afghan witnesses report up to 20 soldiers & some claim there were helicopters involved. But the US insisted on a court martial (the equivalent of traffic court) in the US precisely to cover up the nature of the crime & the direct responsibility of US war policy in Afghanistan. Reportedly, the testimony of some witnesses has been televised into the courtroom; others have been brought to the US, tutored briefly in US legal procedure, & asked to testify. What an indignity & parody of justice!

Speaking of parodies, media coverage about Bales provides a cornucopia of alibis for his crimes–in complete contrast to coverage of alleged Muslim “terrorists.” Bales walked into camp drenched in Afghan blood & said “I did it,” but the media still refers to him as the “alleged” murderer! Even his lawyers don’t dispute his involvement. We’re told he had money problems, marriage problems, that he scammed old people & joined the service to hide out for awhile, that he had traumatic brain injury, multiple deployments, didn’t want to return to the front lines, was nursing a grudge at the death of a war buddy, was on steroids, drinking hooch whiskey & watching revenge films, that he was deranged, snapped under strain, wasn’t all there. Cry me a river!

Media is also reporting how confused the Afghan witnesses are, how they changed their stories, how some are coached by relatives & are not reporting what they actually saw. In other words, the media is running defense for Bales & indicting the victims!

Appropriately, John Henry Browne, the civilian lawyer defending Bales also defended serial killer, Ted Bundy. Bales hasn’t entered a plea but Browne is expected to make the insanity defense. He says he intends to put the US-NATO war on trial–probably not because he’s opposed to the war but to get his client off. Part of his defense will be indicting Lewis-McChord Army base in Washington state which trained Bales as well as the US kill teams & has a history of misconduct toward soldiers & veterans. That’s why you don’t hear a peep about the court martial in the media! Mum’s the word!

Bales committed a monstrous crime & it doesn’t matter how much hooch he drank or how deranged he was, he has to face the consequences–just like any drunk driver. But US-NATO war policy indoctrinated him in putrid racism, put him, those kill teams, & other psychos in the field & let them run wild. Of course, the US & NATO won’t hold themselves to account. That’s the job of the international antiwar movement.

Like Lt. William Calley who massacred 500 Vietnamese villagers at My Lai in 1968, Bales will be found guilty by the court martial. And again like Calley, they’ll send him back to rehab jail, shortly place him under house arrest with his wife & kids, & in a few years exonerate him. The Afghan victims will never see justice without the active support of an international antiwar movement.

This is a photo taken in April 2013 of Hazratullah with his two sisters. Bales dragged his father from bed, took him outside & executed him; Shahara (on the left) is the little girl grabbed by her pigtails & violently shaken; Hazratullah had a pistol shoved down his throat. Masooma, their mother, pleaded for their lives. She spoke to the Associated Press about their ordeal but it’s not clear she will be asked or able to testify at the court martial of Bales.

US-NATO out of Afghanistan! Justice for the victims of Kandahar! Prosecute the US government for crimes against the people of Afghanistan!

(Photo by Anja Niedringhaus/AP)

The fatal dangers of war journalism

Afghan boys watching US-NATO patrols (AP Photo:Anja Niedringhaus) May 18 2016

In a recent post about journalists in US war zones being embedded with the military & the consequent lack of war coverage, I might have given the impression that I blamed that on journalists. In fact, there are hundreds of freelance journalists & media stringers—foreign & local–who operate in war & conflict zones & are not attached to or controlled by the military. Some of their work is picked up by corporate news services, most is not. What corporate media publishes are political & editorial decisions, not the fault of the reporters whose work is often published elsewhere.

Between 1992 & 2016, 1,189 reporters were killed doing their work, the vast majority of them (82 percent) covering war, human rights issues, or corruption. The deadliest places are Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, Russia, Bangladesh, Yemen, South Sudan, Mexico, Brazil, Somalia, Pakistan, Kashmir, Philippines, Turkey. Some of them are killed as casualties of war; nearly 70 percent are targeted & murdered by government or paramilitary groups.

It is not without concern that the Committee to Protect Journalists reported journalist deaths in “Israel & the Occupied Palestinian Territory” when all of the deaths were of journalists in Gaza as a result of Israeli bombing. Deaths in Kashmir are reported as in India, which is formally true but politically misleading.

Much of photojournalism in corporate media is formulaic & getting worse. There are many photos of striking moments in sports; inexplicably lots of coverage of Hindu religious practices (done in a voyeuristic way), captive animal shots, fashion runway oddities. Coverage of Kashmir is as often about Muslim religious rituals as it is protests against the occupation. Coverage of Afghanistan & Kashmir are scenes from life, as if there was no war or occupation going on. There is no photographic coverage of Iraq or Somalia & not a lot of reporting either.

Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus was killed in 2014, shot to death by an Afghan policeman while covering the national election. She covered several wars including Bosnia, Iraq, & Afghanistan for more than 20 years. Her work is not without criticism since it appears to glorify the military & is as often of military personnel doing war as it is the civilians suffering the consequences of war. May she RIP.

This photo is an Afghan boy making a face at Canadian & Afghan soldiers patrolling the village where he lives in 2010.

(Photo by Anja Niedringhaus/AP)

Egypt’s military dictator General al-Sisi–who is engaged in a crackdown on journalists & presides over a gulag–told a US congressional delegation visiting Cairo that human rights & civil liberties in Egypt should not be approached from a “Western perspective” because there are domestic & regional differences.

Given the state of human rights & civil liberties in the “West,” our man certainly has a point. What we need internationally is to approach democracy from the perspectives of the Arab Spring, from the perspectives of the glorious Egyptian uprising so mercilessly crushed by the military junta, from the perspectives of the Bahraini & Yemeni uprisings. That’s what democracy worth a damn looks like.

The confederacy of royal dunces: Britain & Bahrain

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain & Betty at 90th birthday (photo by PA) May 17 2016

Many people think Betty Windsor an endearing relic of feudalism with a fetish for corgi dogs, horse racing, a cadaverous, flatulent consort, & sponging off the body politic. In fact, she plays a role in British politics & a very unsavory one indeed.

There was an article in the Daily Mail yesterday about the decades-long relationship between the Windsors & the “royal” (for want of a better word) dynasty that rules Bahrain. It made the news because Betty invited “King” Hamad Al Khalifa to her 90th birthday extravaganza. Whether it’s a personal friendship between feudal dynasties or political diplomacy & expedience is of little interest. The relationship says everything you need to know about the corruption of the British moochocracy.

In 2011, an international commission found Al Khalifa’s police & military used excessive force, torture, summary execution, & other human rights crimes to crush the uprising that was part of the Arab Spring. With Amal Clooney acting as his lawyer, Al Khalifa publicly swore to reform the police & military & hired John Yates (a corrupt UK supercop famous for his use of wire-tapping & police surveillance) & John Timoney (a US supercop notorious for militarized methods against protestors, including rubber bullets, Tasers, concussion grenades, pepper spray, tear gas, electrified riot shields, baton charges, & police agents) to make a mockery of reform.

Both the US & UK have strategic political & military interests in Bahrain which conflict with the democratic needs of the Bahraini people & both have been involved in Bahraini military & intelligence training for decades (including training death squads & Saudi national guards deployed in crackdowns on protestors). Along with Yates, a team from Scotland Yard trained & directed the al-Khalifa police force. Both also provide millions in military assistance to the regime.

The UK has a long history of orchestrating police violence in Bahrain. From 1966 to 1998, Ian Henderson, a former British colonial officer led Bahrain’s secret police, gaining the sobriquet, “Butcher of Bahrain” because of the extreme kinds of torture used against thousands of dissidents, including children. Repeated calls for the UK to prosecute Henderson under international law were ignored because of Britain’s close ties with the Bahraini dictatorship. He croaked in 2013 (& good riddance to him though he never faced justice).

None of the recommendations of the international commission on human rights violations were implemented. US & UK involvement has emboldened the regime to escalate violence & repression; they use special force units to round up human rights activists; death squads; torture, beatings, pellet guns, kidnappings, disappearances (including of children); indiscriminate but methodical use of tear gas in residential areas (termed “carpet gassing” resulting in maiming, blinding, deaths); incarceration; house raids; road check points for routine stops, searches, & intimidation.

The murderous Al Khalifa is here seated next to Betty in the Royal Box at Windsor Castle for her 90th birthday celebration. Endearing relic of feudalism?

(Photo from PA)

The silent collusion of governments with Myanmar’s genocide of Rohingya Muslims

Rohingya refugees (Christophe Archambault?AFP) May 17 2015

It’s hard to believe it was only a year ago we stood witness to the horror of Rohingya refugees stranded in boats for days without food & water. There still is no accounting for thousands of them & so much criminality on the part of so many governments. Genocide is the name for what we witnessed. We’ve been mentored by media to read about these horrors, feel pity for the Rohingya, then shake our heads in helplessness. Those days of blunted insensitivities & amoral indifference are over. As capitalism spirals into its barbaric phase, we are called to arms in international solidarity & all men & women of good will must respond.

(Originally posted May 17 2015)

It’s so comforting to know the UN human rights chief is “appalled” at reports Thailand, Indonesia, & Malaysia are pushing immigrants back to sea; that the White House spokesperson ‘expressed concern’ about the refugees, that the US State Department is ‘urging’ countries to work together, & that the US is working with the UN refugee agency to save lives. Because if there’s anything the massive humanitarian crisis in the Andaman Sea needs, it’s more platitudes & hand-wringing–especially of the appalled kind. The Council on Foreign Relations is really worked into a fury over the monumental human rights crimes against the Rohingya in Myanmar & the Andaman Sea. Their man says, albeit with some peeve, Myanmar should “rethink its “racist” plan for the Rohingya.” You can’t talk tougher than that.

The persecution & ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in Myanmar has gone on for decades including being stripped of citizenship; religious persecution; forced labor; land confiscations; arbitrary taxation & various forms of extortion; forced eviction & house destruction; restrictions on travel for health & work; restrictions on marriage, education, & trade. Today, 130,000 to 140,000 homeless Rohingya live in refugee camps in Myanmar & thousands more in camps in Bangladesh. The camps in Myanmar are filthy & wretched & infectious diseases are rampant. Residents are not allowed to leave without police escort so they’re more like concentration camps. The NY Times called them “apartheid-like conditions” but they’re really more like Auschwitz.

When then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the country in late 2011 & when Obama went there in 2012 & 2014, the ethnic cleansing & flight of Rohingya was in high gear. Media reported “there was much fanfare about the country’s political reforms & apparent road to democracy after decades of oppressive military rule.” There was fanfare, but only if you had your head stuck up your ass because the military still ruled the country without making much effort to camouflage that fact.

The US State Department claims they have a “calibrated” approach to human rights in Myanmar. They like that word; they think they’re being foxy with it. It means the US can maintain some minor sanctions on Myanmar but still do substantial financial business & work out an understanding with the junta so Myanmar can join Thailand & the US in annual military exercises. It’s called talking a good game. Obama calls it “engaging with the country.” And you wonder why so many graduates with international affairs degrees end up as Fox News commentators or driving taxi?

One US State Department official put it so subtly–what they call nuance in apologia: “I don’t think we’re going to see breakthroughs in the short term. Burma was an opening to a breakthrough, and it’s one that we always knew would take years to move from its starting point to its finishing point.” “An opening to a breakthrough.” It could be poetic if it weren’t complete horse manure.

The Australian regime also has a “calibrated” approach. That’s why prime minister Tony Abbott glibly defended turning boats away from sanctuary, as Australia does. When was he released from the criminally insane asylum? He hasn’t even the good sense to talk with “nuance,” the essential tool of diplomacy.

The US claims in the past year it’s sent $109 million in humanitarian assistance for “vulnerable Burmese people, including the Rohingya.” It’s apparent not a dime has gone for that project but given the US track record on promised humanitarian aid, it’s more likely it was actually never sent. Both Obama & Clinton met with Nobel Peace Prize winner Aug San Suu Kyi who spent years under house arrest for opposing the military dictatorship. As a member of parliament now, she remains as mute today as she was in 2012 about the persecution of Rohingya even though she is considered one of the most influential women in the world. But then of course, you wouldn’t ask Obama about peace.

While the Thai navy is pushing refugees further out to sea to die, the Thai government is organizing a regional conference on May 29th to window-dress the crisis. Myanmar is threatening to boycott the meeting if the issue of Rohingya is on the agenda. They don’t have to be there to be condemned or to have sanctions leveled against them. But of course, that won’t happen.

Truth of the matter is, with close up shots like this from journalist boats, we are being offered a front row seat to slow-motion genocide. Journalists are tossing water bottles to the boats; Thai fishermen are passing supplies–but there are no UN vessels in sight. There are no US ships though they could move the 5th Fleet from Bahrain or those warships off the coast of Yemen.

The Thai, Malaysian, & Indonesian regimes are shamed. And so is every other country that could move navies into the Andaman Sea & take the refugees to safety.

Immigration is a human right! Open the borders!

(Photo of Rohingya on ships by Christophe Achambault/AFP)