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Are you a patriot or a nationalist?
(Charley Reese, AntiWar.com, June 5, 2006)
I'm getting tired of hearing politicians and generals talk about Americans dying for peace and freedom. The main breaker of the peace in recent years has been the United States. . . . Since 1945, no nation on Earth has either declared war against us or attacked us. We intervened in a Korean civil war, a Vietnamese civil war and a Lebanese civil war, and we have gotten men killed to remove political leaders our political leaders didn't like (Panama, Grenada, Afghanistan, Iraq). I can't think of a logical reason why we bombed Serbia, the only Balkan country that fought on our side in two world wars, unless it was because the Bosnians hired a better public-relations firm. . . . A Muslim fanatic, Osama bin Laden, has declared war on us, but he does not have a nation, a government or an army. He sent 19 young men against us. They penetrated our multibillion-dollar intelligence and defense apparatus and hijacked and crashed four airplanes, killing themselves in the process. That was five years, two American invasions and a quarter of a trillion dollars ago, and we still have not found bin Laden, who is a very tall man hiding among short people. . . . The blood of this nation's sons and daughters is the most precious treasure it has. It is dishonorable to spend that treasure for any reason but the defense of the United States and its people. . . . It is despicable to send them to war based on lies. . . . President Bush let the cat out of the bag in his recent speech at West Point. He didn't talk about world terrorism. He talked about reshaping the Middle East, a fool's errand if ever there were one. Our precious people are not dying for peace and freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are dying for corporate profits and to make the Middle East a safer place for Israel. The only people who are dying for freedom are the Iraqis and the Afghans who want to free their countries of our presence. . . . It seems to me that we the living have an obligation to those dead. One is to make sure the country they died for remains worth dying for. Two, make sure the civilian leaders are worthy of the young men and women they might put in harm's way. To allow a bunch of corrupt liars and incompetents to feed our youth into the meat grinder of war for hidden and frivolous reasons dishonors both the dead and the living. . . . It's been said that a patriot loves the land and the people, and a nationalist loves the government. That is something to think about. The government is not our country; it is only one aspect of it. Plenty of American heroes don't wear uniforms or carry guns. The work of America is not done in Washington, and every politician in the Senate, the House and the White House is a temporary worker whom the people can fire if they so choose. . . . A lot of those "temps" deserve to be fired, and the people can start this November by dumping incumbents wholesale. Now that would be a fitting Memorial Day tribute.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 5:47 PM

U.S. says personal data on 2.2 million troops stolen
(Will Dunham, The Star, 7 June 2006)
Personal information on about 2.2 million active-duty, National Guard and Reserve troops was stolen last month from a government employee's house, officials said on Tuesday in the latest revelation of a widening scandal. . . . This means nearly all current U.S. military personnel may be at risk for identify theft, the Pentagon said. . . . The Department of Veterans Affairs said the information, including names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth, may have been stored in the same stolen electronic equipment that contained similar personal data on 26.5 million U.S. military veterans. . . . Lawmakers and veterans' advocates have expressed alarm that the government failed to safeguard the data, which in the wrong hands could be used in credit card fraud and other crimes. . . . The government over the weekend said personal information on about 50,000 active-duty, National Guard and Reserve personnel may also have been involved in the theft. . . . But now Veterans Affairs said that as it and the Pentagon compared electronic files, officials discovered that personal information on as many as 1.1 million military members on active duty, 430,000 National Guard troops and 645,000 members of the Reserves may have been taken in the theft. . . . 'CAREFULLY MONITOR' . . . Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said, "We want to encourage service members to be vigilant and carefully monitor their personal information and any statements related to recent financial transactions." . . . Veterans groups have criticized the government for allowing personal data to be compromised and for responding slowly to the theft. Officials have said Nicholson first heard of the May 3 crime on May 16 and only informed the public on May 22, almost three weeks after the theft occurred.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 5:38 PM

Jean Rohe: American Hero
[COMMENT by Lorenzo: If you haven't had the pleasure of hearing Jean Rohe's commencement address at the New School, you owe it to yourself to listen to it. You can find the full transcript below, but to hear this powerful speech from the lips of a true American Hero is something that will give you courage to continue opposing neo-Fascists like McCain, Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, and the rest of this sorry lot of anti-American loosers.]

Why I Spoke Up . . . by Jean Rohe
(Click the link above for the full text of her comments about this speech. It will be worth your time.)

I checked the schedule for the ceremony and realized that I would be speaking just before the senator got his award. And that's when the idea for a preemptive strike began to brew in my little stressed-out brain. What if I tore McCain's speech apart before he even opened his mouth? After reading his speech a couple of times I picked out a few particularly loathsome sections--and believe it or not, none of these actually came from the extensive section where he defends his position on the war in Iraq--and I began planning an attack against him using his own words. . . . At two in the morning when my boyfriend came home I hadn't even started writing yet. I was in a terrible state of anxiety. What if it didn't work? Didn't my earlier speech make my position clear enough? I told him my new idea. "Jean, you have to do it. You'll kick yourself later if you don't." "But it's two in the morning. There's no way it's going to be any good." "Jean, do it. You'll have nothing to regret." . . . So in the wee hours of the morning I set out to revise my speech . . . The entire afternoon leading up to my speech I imagined that everyone who saw me knew what I was up to. I felt like an infiltrator. I wanted to go home and I was sick to my stomach. But when I heard an organizer on her walkie-talkie speaking nervously with another coordinator about the students outside who had leaflets and armbands, I knew that I would have my supporters. Later, John McCain arrived in the green room, and with the encouragement of Laurie Anderson, another honoree, Christina and I introduced ourselves to him. I almost wanted to warn the guy that I was about to make him look like an idiot so that he would at least have a fighting chance and an extra moment to change his speech to save himself. But he didn't even make eye contact when we shook hands, so I figured I didn't owe him anything. . . . [COMMENT by Lorenzo: None of us owe this traitor anything. I wouldn't walk across the street to piss on his grave.] . . . It's been noted in several columns that anti-McCain sentiment coming from the left may actually help him to garner support from the conservatives by giving him the opportunity to paint us as extremist liberals, so we should all keep our mouths shut. I say we need some "extremist liberals" if we're ever going to get our democracy back. Others have said that he's a moderate at heart and that we should let him continue pandering to the religious right so he can get the vote. Once he gets into office he'll show his true colors and be the centrist he always was. I don't buy that. People who truly care about human beings don't vote for an unjust war, among other things, simply as a political maneuver. Enough said. . . . I feel obligated to respond to one thing that McCain told the New York Times. "I feel sorry for people living in a dull world where they can't listen to the views of others," he said. This is just preposterous. Yes, McCain was undoubtedly shouted-out and heckled by people who were not politely absorbing his words so as to consider them fully from every angle. But what did he expect? We could've all printed out his speech and chanted it with him in chorus. Did he think that no one knew exactly what he was about to say? And it was precisely because we listen to the views of others, and because, as I said in my speech, we don't fear them, that we as a school were able to mount such a thorough and intelligent opposition to his presence. Ignorant, closed-minded people would not have been able to do what we did. . . . I think we must remember that as big as this moment may seem to me today and perhaps to other supporters who are reading this article, this is a very small victory in a time when democracy is swiftly eroding under the pressure of the right wing in this country. We all have much work to do, and for the most part the media do not represent us, the small people who don't hold any special titles but who feel the weight of our government's actions on our backs each and every day. I never expected to get the opportunity to speak the way I did yesterday, but I'm so glad that I did. I hope that other people found strength in my act of protest and will one day find themselves in my position, drawing out their own bravery to speak truth.

Here's my commencement speech:
[Audio version in MP3 format]

If all the world were peaceful now and forever more,

Peaceful at the surface and peaceful at the core,

All the joy within my heart would be so free to soar,

And we're living on a living planet, circling a living star.

Don't know where we're going but I know we're going far.

We can change the universe by being who we are,

And we're living on a living planet, circling a living star.

Welcome everyone on this beautiful afternoon to the commencement ceremony for the New School class of 2006. That was an excerpt of a song I learned as a child called "Living Planet" by Jay Mankita. I chose to begin my address this way because, as always, but especially now, we are living in a time of violence, of war, of injustice. I am thinking of our brothers and sisters in Iraq, in Darfur, in Sri Lanka, in Mogadishu, in Israel/Palestine, right here in the U.S., and many, many other places around the world. And my deepest wish on this day--on all days--is for peace, justice, and true freedom for all people. The song says, "We can change the universe by being who we are," and I believe that it really is just that simple.

Right now, I'm going to be who I am and digress from my previously prepared remarks. I am disappointed that I have to abandon the things I had wanted to speak about, but I feel that it is absolutely necessary to acknowledge the fact that this ceremony has become something other than the celebratory gathering that it was intended to be due to all the media attention surrounding John Mc Cain's presence here today, and the student and faculty outrage generated by his invitation to speak here. The senator does not reflect the ideals upon which this university was founded. Not only this, but his invitation was a top-down decision that did not take into account the desires and interests of the student body on an occasion that is supposed to honor us above all, and to commemorate our achievements.

What is interesting and bizarre about this whole situation is that Senator Mc Cain has stated that he will be giving the same speech at all three universities where he has been invited to speak recently, of which ours is the last; those being Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, Columbia University, and finally here at the New School. For this reason I have unusual foresight concerning the themes of his address today. Based on the speech he gave at the other institutions, Senator Mc Cain will tell us today that dissent and disagreement are our "civic and moral obligation" in times of crisis. I consider this a time of crisis and I feel obligated to speak. Senator Mc Cain will also tell us about his cocky self-assuredness in his youth, which prevented him from hearing the ideas of others. In so doing, he will imply that those of us who are young are too naive to have valid opinions and open ears. I am young, and although I don't profess to possess the wisdom that time affords us, I do know that preemptive war is dangerous and wrong, that George Bush's agenda in Iraq is not worth the many lives lost. And I know that despite all the havoc that my country has wrought overseas in my name, Osama bin Laden still has not been found, nor have those weapons of mass destruction.

Finally, Senator Mc Cain will tell us that we, those of us who are Americans, "have nothing to fear from each other." I agree strongly with this, but I take it one step further. We have nothing to fear from anyone on this living planet. Fear is the greatest impediment to the achievement of peace. We have nothing to fear from people who are different from us, from people who live in other countries, even from the people who run our government--and this we should have learned from our educations here. We can speak truth to power, we can allow our humanity always to come before our nationality, we can refuse to let fear invade our lives and to goad us on to destroy the lives of others. These words I speak do not reflect the arrogance of a young strong-headed woman, but belong to a line of great progressive thought, a history in which the founders of this institution play an important part. I speak today, even through my nervousness, out of a need to honor those voices that came before me, and I hope that we graduates can all strive to do the same.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 11:45 AM

U.S. confronts brutal culture among its finest sons
(Paul Harris and Peter Beaumont, The Observer, June 4, 2006)
American veterans of the war in Iraq have described a culture of casual violence, revenge and prejudice against Iraqi civilians that has made the killing of innocent bystanders a common occurrence. . . . The US military is now involved in at least three separate investigations into its own soldiers' conduct in Iraq that may illegally have led to the deaths of Iraqi civilians. It is widely expected that more incidents will be uncovered. . . . Last week it was revealed that two more incidents have also been under investigation. The first is the death of 11 Iraqis during an American raid near Balad in March. The dead included five children. . . . Some American veterans have expressed little surprise at the latest revelations. 'I don't doubt for one moment that these things happened. They are widespread. This is the norm. These are not the exceptions,' said Camilo Mejia, a US infantry veteran who served briefly in the Haditha area in 2003. . . . American veterans have told The Observer of a military culture that places little practical emphasis on avoiding civilian casualties in the heat of battle . . . We dehumanise the enemy under these circumstances,' said Mejia. 'They called them gooks in Vietnam and we called them Hajis in Iraq.' . . . Mejia described an incident in Ramadi when his unit was manning a roadblock near a mosque. When one car refused to stop, US soldiers opened fire on it. Then the American unit came under fire from elsewhere. In the resulting firefight, however, no insurgents were killed while seven Iraqi civilians stuck at the roadblock died. No weapons were found in the car that had refused to stop. 'There was no sense in it. There was no basic humanity. They were all civilians and we didn't kill any insurgents,' Mejia said. . . . At the heart of the issue is a culture of violence against Iraqi civilians that has been present in large measure since the moment US forces crossed the border into Iraq - an inability and unwillingness to distinguish between civilians and combatants that as three years have passed has been transformed, for some, into something more deliberate. . . . From the shootings of civilians in Nasiriya by marines during the US advance to similar shootings by the Third Infantry Division on the outskirts of Baghdad during the so-called 'Thunder Run' into the city, the same pattern has reasserted itself. . . . And as the occupation and insurgency have dragged on, the sense of unaccountability has only increased. . . . It is a lack of discipline that has been commented on with horror by British officers - representing an army that itself has seen its own soldiers seriously mistreat Iraqi civilians. . . . In the days since evidence of the Haditha killings emerged, media organisations, including The Observer, have been contacted with details of other incidents that Iraqis have long claimed involved the execution of civilians by US troops. . . . Among them is an alleged massacre at Makr al-Deeb, near the town of Al-Qaim on the Syrian border, where marines were alleged to have bombed a wedding party and then shot a number of survivors. . . . However, the impact of the scandals is likely to have a damaging impact on American attitudes towards the war. They have emerged in the wake of the prisoner abuse incidents at Abu Ghraib, which greatly damaged US public opinion about events in Iraq and deeply affected troop morale. . . . But many believe that the new scandals, in particular Haditha, will have a much larger political and military effect than Abu Ghraib. 'It will be bigger than Abu Ghraib. That was torture. At Haditha we are talking about people being killed. It will be a huge blow to US efforts,' said Aidan Delgado, a veteran whose unit served at Abu Ghraib. . . . The emerging picture of US military behaviour in Iraq is likely to shatter America's image of its soldiers, even in the midst of the 'war on terror', when extreme patriotism has become a growing facet of American public life. . . . They make it look like Abu Ghraib, that it was just some bad soldiers who went crazy - they were the bad apples,' said Mejia. Yesterday, however, Pentagon sources suggested that even before the Haditha court martials take place some senior officers may be relieved of their commands. . . . Mejia believes the problem is a systemic one. He points out that both the Abu Ghraib scandal and the Haditha massacre have only come to light because either locals or US soldiers took photographs of the crimes or their aftermath. If left to the army alone, they would never have been uncovered. . . . 'These things are just the ones we know about. Just think about how much else has gone that we don't know about. Civilians are dying there almost every day,' he said.
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 4:56 AM

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