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Sunday, July 05, 2015

THE NATURE OF EVIL: WARLORDS OF THE MIDDLE EAST 

JAZZMAN CHRONICLES. DISSEMINATE FREELY.


By Jack Random



One of the questions consuming the meditation of philosophers through the ages: What is the nature of evil? Some suggest that greed is at its core and center. Others suggest it is vengeance. Still others propose that evil lacks a moral core. It is violence, death and destruction without external motive. It is essentially masochism. It enjoys the suffering of others for its own sake.

We like to believe we know evil when we see it. As Americans we recognize evil in others far more often than we see it in ourselves. We see evil whenever our leaders proclaim it and we sanction the full force of the most awesome military machine the world has ever known. When Presidents Bush, Clinton and Bush proclaimed evil in the person of Saddam Hussein, we sanctioned a series of military actions culminating in the most disastrous strategic blunder in modern history.

The warlords in Washington are undaunted. They look at the disintegration of the Middle East, the chaos, destruction and perpetual dysfunction that we ourselves have wrought, and they see opportunity. They see a new personification of evil on earth and they will not rest until they have stirred the American people into yet another irrational cry for war.

They know how it ends. They know the price to be paid will be bloody and pointless yet they do not seem to care. They are the paper generals who sit on the mountaintop and watch the battle unfold below. They will never be called upon to sacrifice. Their children will not be pulled into the fight. They will issue the call for more soldiers and mightier weapons and they will call it patriotism. They will invent victories out of mirages that vanish as quickly as they appear. They will hold parades in their own honor. The will hold press conferences and make television appearances to congratulate themselves. They will reap the benefits of war in political success.

What is evil? Have we not been here before? Have we not seen this movie? Do we not know how it ends or rather how it does not end?

Our Supreme Court has proclaimed that it is not unconstitutional to execute individuals by a means that may and has produced twenty, thirty minutes, even hours of unspeakable suffering before death claims an end. Such executions are beyond doubt cruel but by no means are they unusual. Why? By the time the case reached the ultimate arbiter of constitutional judgment, botched executions had become commonplace. Cruel but not unusual.

What is evil? We have witnessed the beheading of individuals and we are rightfully repulsed but would we not experience the same revulsion if we were compelled to view the execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, an ordeal so horrific that those in charge of the procedure closed the curtains so that the media could not show the world the torture they inflicted? Should we feel differently now that the court has delivered its stamp of approval?

I abhor virtually everything the Islamic State (by any other name) represents. I detest any individual or organization that condones violence in the name of their God, their prophet, their religion or their code of conduct and belief. I am repulsed by the violent and depraved acts they have committed in the name of Islam. I would be no less repulsed if their religion was Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Atheism, Gnosticism, Agnosticism or any other system of belief.

But are the adherents to this particular sect of Islam the embodiment of evil on earth or are they rather the unfortunate products of their culture, upbringing and education? In a very real sense, the soldiers of jihad are the victims of a convergence of historical circumstance: The rise of the radical Saudi-sponsored Madrassas and their prevalence throughout much of the Sunni world combined with the western wars on the sacred grounds of Islam.

The horrendous acts the soldiers of ISIS have committed can only be committed when the enemy has been dehumanized. The leaders of this movement have dehumanized their enemies just as our leaders have dehumanized them.

I suspect that if the followers of Christianity were raised from a tender age to believe in holy war against the followers of rival religions, a significant portion of them would be prepared for the next crusade. Who is more culpable: the brainwashed or those who brainwash? Who is more responsible for the implosion of the Middle East: the soldiers who committed atrocious acts at Abu Ghraib and Fallujah or Cheney, Bush and the Neocon war machine?

The ongoing wars in the Middle East are not a contest of good versus evil. Try as we may the only cause that can claim moral grounding in the regional conflicts is that of the Kurds. They are fighting for their land, their nation and their right to exist as a people. The reason we are not providing the assistance they deserve is that our long-standing ally, the Turks, are vehemently opposed to Kurdish autonomy. The Turks are the traditional oppressors of the Kurdish people and the perpetrators of a genocide that the entire world acknowledges save the Turkish government and us.

As for all the other parties at war throughout the region, none can stand on virtue’s ground. They are flawed human beings led by men exploiting twisted ideologies with unspoken self-interests. The Turks want the Islamic State to crush the Kurds before being contained. The Saudis want to placate the radical jihadists within their borders by continued support of the Madrassas while confining the threat of the Islamic State to nations outside their borders. For this they want the ongoing assistance of the American military in exchange for preferential access to Saudi oil. The military leaders of the Islamic State, many of whom were exiled from the army of Saddam Hussein, want power and territory. The Shias and Sunnis in Iraq continue to want control of their government or at least their regions. The Iranians and the Americans want influence.

The central lesson we should have learned from a history that reaches into the distant past all the way to the present chaos is that we cannot enforce our will on the people of the Middle East by military means. We can stay another decade, spend another three trillion dollars, prop up one party and another, destroy institutions and kill as many soldiers and civilians as we will but in the end we will not prevail. Indeed we will continue to lose ground on all fronts. Our very presence there is the reason ISIS took root and grows to this very day.

We must yield this ground.

The only reason our leaders, the warlords still holding sway in our government, are able to continue this path of endless war is that they are adept at persuading the people that we are fighting evil. Once the American people recognized that we are fighting human beings, not monsters, and we are fighting them on their own land, our part in these futile wars will finally end. It will not require a presidential decree or an act of congress. It only requires the people to stand up and say: No! Enough is enough!

Let the Saudis clean up their own mess. Let the Turks accept their own crimes against humanity and finally leave the Kurds alone. Let the men and women of the region determine their own destinies.

History informs us that in time the will of the people will prevail. The roots of the many conflicts in the region date back centuries but they were exponentially magnified by western interference from the creation of Israel and the British Mandate to the deposing of an elected leader in Iran to a succession of wars for control of Iraqi oil.

The one thing certain is that whatever form and shape the Middle East takes on in the coming years we will not determine it. We can and should help the Kurds in their effort to establish and defend Kurdistan as an independent state. Beyond that we can only do harm.

Jazz.

JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS), GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS), WASICHU: THE KILLING SPIRIT (CROW DOG PRESS) AND NUMBER NINE: THE ADVENTURES OF JAKE JONES & RUBY DAULTON (CROW DOG PRESS). THE CHRONICLES HAVE BEEN POSTED ON COUNTERPUNCH, DISSIDENT VOICE, THE NATIONAL FREE PRESS, GLOBAL FREE PRESS AND PACIFIC FREE PRESS. SEE WWW.JAZZMANCHRONICLES.BLOGSPOT.COM.

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

CRAZY HORSE & THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD  

JAZZMAN CHRONICLES. DISSEMINATE FREELY.




In the Spirit of Charlie Hebdo



By Jack Random



The son of a spirit guide (what the white eyes call a medicine man), a young Crazy Horse went alone into the sacred mountains (perhaps the very spot where the Great White Fathers were later carved in stone) to cry for a vision. He was blessed with seven visions, among them: He would accept no rewards, no acknowledgement and no tribute for his deeds and accomplishments. On the one occasion he violated the dictum of that vision he was shot in the head by a jealous warrior.

In keeping with his vision of modesty, Crazy Horse did not consent to be photographed and did not wish to be depicted in any form. While he lived his wish was honored.

There is no one more revered in Lakota and perhaps all of Native American history than Crazy Horse. It is ironic that more than a century after his death in 1877, the elders of the Lakota chose to immortalize the same man who explicitly decried any such honor by having his likeness carved into the granite of the sacred Black Hills of North Dakota.

Like Crazy Horse the Prophet Muhammad of the Islamic religion did not wish his likeness to be rendered in any form. Like Crazy Horse he did not wish to become the object of adulation. He did not wish his image to become a symbol of religious or spiritual reverence. He wanted all glory to be directed at his God.

If I were a member of the Lakota tribe I would wonder at the selection of Crazy Horse for the monument that is now being carved into the Black Hills only miles from the more famous Mount Rushmore. But even the most fervent followers of Crazy Horse would not wish to kill the elders who selected him or the artists who carve the mountain even as I write these words. I am certain beyond certain that Crazy Horse would not wish such a murder to be committed in his name.

As a member of civilization and one who respects Native American heritage, I object to the image of the Great White Fathers carved into the Black Hills, a site the Lakota hold sacred. But I would not wish to kill those who disagree with me.

I am not a scholar of Islam. I have not studied the life of its prophet. I have no desire to insult or demean anyone for his or her sincere religious beliefs. But I refused to believe that any messenger of God would want his followers centuries later to kill in his name those who violate his expression of modesty.

When Jyllands-Posten, a newspaper in Denmark, published a series of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in 2005, protests broke out around the world. Some of them erupted into violence. Despite my firm belief in freedom of speech and freedom of the press I took the stance then that it was an unnecessary provocation, not unlike crying fire in a theater. I was wrong.

Now we are compelled to revisit the issue under the most horrifying circumstance. When crazed gunmen in the name of the Prophet Muhammad attacked the offices of the Parisian publication Charlie Hebdo, they attacked members of my tribe. Not the tribe of Christians. I have no idea if any of the victims were or were not Christians or Jews, Buddhists or Hindus, Muslims or Zarathustrans, Gnostics or agnostics, deists or atheists. I have no wish to know. They were members of the tribe of artists. I choose to create in words. They choose to create in words and drawings.

I lament the loss of treasure in war for it could have been used to save lives and alleviate suffering. I despise the loss of lives, the loss of limbs and the suffering that spreads like a vicious cancer from acts of mass violence. It poisons the spirit and leads inevitably to more violence and suffering. But more than any other loss or sacrifice I mourn the loss of art and the loss of artists for it deprives all humanity for all time the creations that were and might have been the legacy of our tenure on earth.

We are now in a war against an enemy for whom I can have little sympathy. I understand we are all products of our upbringing, our culture and environment. I know my country and much of the western world has engaged in crimes against humanity, including the most horrendous crime of all: unnecessary war. I know that every action has a reaction. I understand that acts of mindless violence and terror do not occur in a vacuum.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan created blowback that will outlast every man, woman and child now walking the earth. The drones we send to attack our enemies wherever they may be exact an unconscionable cost in innocent lives and propel the cycle of perpetual violence forward.

Now is not the time to recount our crimes except to say this: Satiric cartoons were not among them. This cannot stand.

We have heard a great deal of discussion concerning the balance of a free press against the responsibility of religious sensitivity but there can be no free press if it must assuage the sensitivities of any religion, political interest or culture. In a free society we criticize the content, not the right to express it.

We have heard our leaders refer to the terrorists as cowards when in fact what they have done is despicable, horrific, bloodthirsty, vicious, vengeful and even evil, but fails miserably to meet any reasonable definition of cowardice. It would do well for us to remember that in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attack, professors and comedians alike lost their jobs for speaking uncomfortable truths.

Back then our entire nation suffered under a cloud of self-censorship. We would not allow dissenting voices to be heard. We silenced or attempted to silence those who protested our government’s misguided response until our numbers became too large to ignore. We condemned France for standing up at the United Nations Security Council to say: No, this is not a compelling case for war! No, there is no proof of weapons of mass destruction! And no, we cannot agree to a war for vengeance against a nation that did not attack you or anyone else!

Our leaders and most of our people decried the French as cowards then. Now we cry for them. Now we cry with them.

But it is not enough to cry and mourn. We must stand with them. We must defend our convictions, our values and our sacred principles. Those in positions to act should do more than express condolences. The New York Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Wall Street Journal, the Daily News and every major newspaper in America should join with Le Monde, the London Times and every major newspaper across Europe in saying: No, we will not yield freedom of the press to the sensitivities of religion! No, we will not legitimate censorship in the name of the Prophet! We stand with the French! We stand with Paris! We stand with Charlie!

Every publication across Europe and America should designate one day for a declaration of unity and freedom of the press. On that day a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad should appear on the front page above the fold.

Some say it will provoke the radicals. Of course it will. A free press is always provocative. Some say they will declare war on all western media. I say: They already have. But there is a curious sense of safety in numbers. If all media are targets then none will feel the debilitating effect of intimidation.

I know: The moment will pass. We will forget. We will move on with our lives until another artist is targeted. Then we will mourn and debate again. But if we all stand together now in a display of unity, freedom and defiance, it would create a monument that will last the ages.

We are Charlie! Charlie is one of us. And though we may be afraid we will not yield.

Jazz.

JACK RANDOM IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES. HIS POLITICAL COMMENTARIES WERE WIDELY POSTED DURING THE DARK YEARS OF THE GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION, MOST NOTABLY ON DISSIDENT VOICE AND GLOBAL FREE PRESS.

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Price of Unjustified Intervention: One Hundred Years of Retribution 

A JAZZMAN CHRONICLE. DISSEMINATE FREELY.



By Jack Random



Given the radical antiwar sentiments I have expressed over the years, I am sometimes mistaken for a pacifist. I am not a pacifist. Though I stand in opposition to every major American military intervention in my lifetime, I am not opposed to all wars or all interventions regardless of circumstance.

I believe the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and the Second World War were fought with clear purpose and justifiable cause. I believe that every war since that time has failed on both accounts.

The Korean War was unnecessary because our national interests were by no means at stake. It was unjustified because without the philosophical conflict of the Cold War and the eagerness of the American military to demonstrate its superiority, we would not have been engaged. The stalemate that war produced led directly to the paranoid dictatorship that provokes world powers today.

The Vietnam War was a travesty and a crime against humanity that ranks in its depravity among the worst in modern history: Native American genocide, the Holocaust, the Turkish-Armenian genocide, the Rwanda genocide and Vietnam. It began as an unjustified intervention and became a full-scale war with a fictional account of an attack on our ship in the Gulf of Tonkin. So began the tradition of American presidents lying to congress and the American people to falsify a case for war. Three million Southeast Asians and over 58,000 American soldiers would pay with their lives.

In our long and tortured history of military intervention in Latin America we consistently sided with rightwing military dictatorships over the forces of democracy. Who can forget the world’s first infamous September 11th? Certainly not the people of Chile. It happened in 1973 when the democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende was ousted by a CIA backed coup, installing the dictator Augusto Pinochet, beginning a 17-year reign of terror in which dissenters and dissidents were systematically tortured and “disappeared”.

Who can forget Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s incredibly hypocritical comment: “I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”

Then came the relatively benevolent foreign policies of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Reagan famously traded arms for hostages, empowering our avowed enemies in Iran. Under any other president, his administration’s actions in the Iran-Contra affair would be considered an impeachable offense. His defense was laughable: “A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it’s not.” This was Reagan’s first term when he was still in possession of his faculties. There can be no doubt that his actions were a blatant betrayal of principle and the rule of law.

To his credit, Reagan refused to be drawn into a bloody war in the Middle East even when the bombs of Islamic militants in Beirut, Lebanon killed over two hundred marines. Those who canonize him now would have called him a coward for withdrawing our forces then. Reagan knew better than to engage in a war without clear objectives, without a visible path to a just end.

Clinton’s turn came in an intervention of choice, an action of distraction in the war-torn land of Bosnia. It was our first experiment in tribal warfare. We pushed back genocide on one side of the conflict and enabled genocide on the other. The moral implications of that intervention, including the indiscriminate bombing of civilian populations (and the Chinese embassy), are far more muddled than any Clinton loyalist would have you believe.

The conflict in which Clinton chose not to engage was the genocide in Rwanda. It is important at this juncture to draw a distinction between two types of genocide as defined by international law. When interventionists speak of genocide in Bosnia they generally refer to a forced evacuation or relocation of a segment of the population (think Trail of Tears); when they speak of genocide in Rwanda they refer to mass extermination (think Holocaust).

It is not certain what might have happened had we intervened in Rwanda. We may have failed utterly to stop the slaughter of the Tutsi and found ourselves embroiled in a protracted civil war, spreading from state to state, enflaming a volatile region of the world. What is certain is that we would have been justified in trying. The cause was just though the means were tenuous and the outcome uncertain.

Without retracing the facts (its all documented), there was nothing virtuous about Bush the elder’s intervention in Iraq. A faltering president (and former Director of Central Intelligence) simply wanted an opportunity to prove that America was still the most powerful nation on earth. He proved it so well that his son felt compelled to finish the job years later.

Bush the younger seized the opportunity that tragedy affords and became a self-proclaimed War President. He proceeded to bungle his way through two disastrous wars with a grim determination to fight another. Though the goal was to establish American military preeminence and to gain geopolitical advantage (particularly with respect to oil), neither war had a just cause or a visible endgame. We assumed the Afghans would yield their country to American might though they did not yield to Russia or the British or the Turks; they did not yield to Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great but somehow they would lay down their arms to the little man from Texas. We assumed that the Iraqis would forget about our duplicity in the war with Iran (and the hundreds of thousands who lost their lives) and embrace us as the great liberators.

We were wrong. We were so profoundly wrong that the memory and blowback from these strategic blunders may endure beyond Vietnam. In a supreme irony, the most valuable assets we possessed in the war against Al Qaeda after September 11, 2001 were Iran and Iraq. Had we formed an alliance against a common terrorist enemy, engaging Pakistan and the Taliban, we could have crushed Al Qaeda without war. That possibility ended with the president’s proclamation of the Axis of Evil (Iran, Iraq and North Korea).

The chronology of events brings us to the presidency of Barrack Obama, who won the White House largely on a pledge to end the war in Iraq. It must be said that he was never an antiwar candidate. He supported the war in Afghanistan. He escalated our involvement there with a surge of 30,000 soldiers in an attempt to capture the “success” of a similar strategy in Iraq. Sadly, that move demonstrated a lack of understanding on both fronts in the war on terror. The surge in Iraq (supplemented by the practice of paying and arming our enemies to fight our common enemies) produced only a temporary effect. It was “successful” only as a political tool to pacify the American people and pass the doomed war effort to the next president. The surge in Afghanistan is even more of a failure.

Now both nations are erupting in renewed civil war and the Obama administration is being tempted by the same Neocons who led us to war under George W. Bush to reinvest. Already he has agreed to several hundred advisors and the possibility of air strikes. Both are or would be mistakes. It has taken our leading foreign policy minds over a decade to understand that we have no allies in Iraq; we have no allies in Afghanistan; we in fact have no real allies in Syria or Pakistan. It would be a mistake because it would represent backsliding on the most critical decision of the Obama foreign policy: ending the Iraq War.

With the exception of the Afghan surge, Obama has resisted the call to war and events on the ground have served only to reinforce caution and diplomacy. Even his limited engagements in Egypt and Libya have had decisively mixed results.

If President Obama wishes to employ military force, he should look to Nigeria and the recent case of Boko Haram, a genuine terrorist group that kidnapped hundreds of girls and young women for the purpose of selling them. In this case and all such cases where the host country is unwilling or incapable of dealing with the criminals, where failure to act would result in horrific crimes (like the rape, murder or selling of school girls), the International Criminal Court should be empowered to convene an emergency session and authorize immediate action.

America should be first in line to answer such a call. The entire world should be prepared to bring its technological, logistical and operational means to track these villains down, free their victims and deliver justice. A timely rendering of international justice would serve notice to all groups intent on committing crimes against humanity. The world is watching and is prepared to act. The same formula for justice could be applied to groups like ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) in Iraq or indeed Al Qaeda.

Of course, we would have to ratify the International Criminal Court and that we seem incapable of doing. We would rather commit our soldiers to decades of war and retribution without end.

In the movie Zero Dark Thirty a captured Islamist militant recalls a recruitment letter from the Sheikh: “Continue the jihad. The work will go on for a hundred years.”

Think about that. Remember it the next time an American president wants to go to war in the Middle East. Think about it the next time some Neocon warmonger asks: How long are they going to blame everything on Bush?”

The answer: About a hundred years. Maybe more. People in that part of the world tend to have enduring memories, memories that are passed down across generations. The do not forget British and French attempts to colonize their lands and exploit their resources. They do not forget the British Mandate that carved lines in the sand, creating nations that did not exist, creating Israel without provision for the Palestinians, setting the stage for centuries of conflict and oppression.

They do not forget the American sponsored coup deposing the most progressive and democratic leader in the region, replacing him with a brutal dictator under western control.

They do not forget our double cross, leaving an American military post on sacred land in Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War.

They do not forget our support for Saddam Hussein, supplying him with deadly chemical weapons (the same weapons used as a pretense for war) to stem the tide in the deadly war with Iran.

They do not forget and neither should we. Wars in the Middle East have long-term consequences most of which we never see or feel until an explosion disrupts the routine of an autumn morning in lower Manhattan and the world is forever changed.

Jazz.

JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS). THE CHRONICLES HAVE BEEN POSTED ON NUMEROUS CITES OF THE WORLDWIDE WEB, INCLUDING THE ALBION MONITOR, BELLACIAO, BUZZLE, COUNTERPUNCH, DISSIDENT VOICE, THE NATIONAL FREE PRESS, GLOBAL FREE PRESS AND PACIFIC FREE PRESS. SEE WWW.JAZZMANCHRONICLES.BLOGSPOT.COM.



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

GOD IS ONE OF US 

JAZZMAN CHRONICLES. DISSEMINATE FREELY.




GOD IS ON OUR SIDE


By Jack Random



“What if God was one of us?”

Eric Bazilian (from the song recorded by Alanis Morissette and Joan Osbourne).


One of the critical lessons of science is that change of any magnitude does not occur by random chance. Chance is the standard by which we measure the effects of change. Introduce a variable into the field of play (a universe of chance) and you will be able to measure cause and effect.

Those who deny this basic scientific truth live in a world without reason. They are rudderless wanderers, lost in a field of infinite darkness. They are cave dwellers in a world of technology or apes before the discovery of tools.

In today’s political environment, the science deniers are the low-lying fruit that multi-billion dollar corporations exploit to their own interests. They deny climate change. They live in doublewide mobile homes in tornado alley and wonder why god has forsaken them. They are the desperately poor of Biloxi, Mississippi and Mobile, Alabama believing that the great flood is biblical prophecy and something to be welcomed with the grace of our lord.

They are the farmers and ranchers on the barren wastelands of Texas and Oklahoma watching the soil dry out and crack like hardened leather while the oil barons and energy marketeers contaminate underground water supplies to seize natural gas, unleashing waves of rumbling earth in the process.

The end is nigh! they mumble as they wait through another year of punishing drought.

They watch Fox News and listen to Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage and its never about fact or reason. It’s about whose side you’re on.

Are you with us or against us? a bumbling president once asked. If you’re with us, you’re one of us; you believe as we believe; you talk as we talk…and you suffer as we witness your suffering for it is divine will.

They value loyalty above all other virtues. They have no sense of justice, fairness, right or wrong. They stand with their tribe at all costs.

They prepare their children to engage the world by despising science, distrusting truths and rejecting acquired wisdom as blasphemy. They send them to wars we have no business fighting and cheer them as heroes even as they kill innocents of other nations.

After centuries of indoctrination (like Al Qaeda or the Taliban) it may be impossible to reach them and enlighten them in time to save us from the mass destruction that awaits us just around the corner of global climate change. We can only hope to fight back and we must choose our weapons wisely.

The enemy has guns. They have automatic and semi-automatic weapons, grenades, missile launchers, anti-aircraft guns, bombs and ammunition and the will to use them. They have the firepower to stall a rampaging pack of pachyderms. If they could kill a drought or blow away a chain of tornadoes, their lives would be safe and secure. If they could turn back the pulse of time with machine guns and explosives, a solution would be at hand.

The real question is: Why haven’t they turned on the corporations that stole their homes, took their retirements, denied their benefits, slashed their wages, ravaged their lands, poisoned their water and destroyed their communities?

The answer is: They believe they are on the same team.

It is as ludicrous as Joe the Plumber believing he’s a country rock star but they believe it without question or doubt. Our job is to convince them they’re wrong. Not only are they not on the same team; they are not in the same league.

It does no good to call them names (however quick they are to belittle us by the same crude tactic). Rush Limbaugh is neither a fool nor an idiot; he is a very effective propagandist. The time may come when Rush (perhaps on his deathbed) confesses that he didn’t believe a word that spewed from his mouth but he made a great deal of money spewing it.

No, we can’t beat them at name-calling. They have mastered the art. They have raised the standard for playground bullying by refining the rules for: I know you are but what am I? (If you want to know your opponents weakness, listen to his accusations.) It makes them giddy to apply such nonsense to virtually any challenge or accusation.

What then can we do?

If we want to engage them, persuade them, enrage them and disrupt the simplistic view of the world that envelops them, we must claim allegiance with the one and only entity they cannot abide being without.

We must stand with God.

We must defend God against all detractors: God did not destroy your town with a massive, unprecedented chain of twisters; Exxon, BP and Chevron did. God did not poison your drinking water; the fracking natural gas industry did. God did not curse your land with a seven-year drought; T Boone Pickens and two hundred years of fossil fuel burning industry did.

We must claim God as one of us. We must claim Jesus as a captain on our team.

Anyone who claims that God wants contaminated water, toxic air, vengeful wars and mass destruction is a charlatan and a fraud.

God is one of us and their gods are just pretenders.

Jazz.

JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS). THE CHRONICLES HAVE BEEN POSTED ON NUMEROUS CITES OF THE WORLDWIDE WEB, INCLUDING THE ALBION MONITOR, BELLACIAO, BUZZLE, COUNTERPUNCH, DISSIDENT VOICE, THE NATIONAL FREE PRESS, GLOBAL FREE PRESS AND PACIFIC FREE PRESS. SEE WWW.JAZZMANCHRONICLES.BLOGSPOT.COM.



Saturday, January 04, 2014

LETTERS TO LEADERS SERIES PART 1 

LETTERS TO LEADERS SERIES: JAZZMAN CHRONICLES. DISSEMINATE FREELY.




LETTERS TO AMERICAN LEADERS: Chief Justice John Roberts, Senator Ted Cruz, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senator Rand Paul, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Governor Chris Christie, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Sherrod Brown, President Barrack Obama.



January 2014

The Honorable John Roberts
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

Justice Roberts:

You shocked the Tea Party world when you cast the deciding vote upholding the Affordable Care Act. Didn’t they get the memo? Scalia and Thomas may adhere to the antiquated and knee jerk views of the antebellum league but you and Alito are firmly planted in the corporate wing of the party. Without a clear corporate interest (insurance corporations and pharmacies on one side; the service industry on the other), the Roberts court could go either way. By casting the decisive vote you became the most powerful member of your own court, a role that had been held almost exclusively by Anthony Kennedy.

It will be fascinating to see how you rule on the excesses of the National Security Agency. Without corporate interests (unless you consider the scope and depth of information gathered by private corporations or the role of contractors in government surveillance) we will soon discover whether or not there exists a constitutional right to privacy. We will also learn whether or not the libertarian ideal still informs the so-called conservative judicial philosophy. I have my doubts.

The Supreme Court is supposed to be the ultimate defender of civil liberties. At a time when both the executive and legislative branches cower before the gods of security, surprise us all by fulfilling your solemn duty.

Respectfully,
Jack Random


The Honorable Ted Cruz
United States Senator for the State of Texas

Dear Senator:

You have been garnering more than a fair share of attention these days and I was wondering if it might be affecting your psyche. It takes more than a Texas-sized ego to read Dr. Seuss on the floor of the Senate. Before this process of self-aggrandizement goes any further you would do well to remember those who came before you.

Remember the former and sometime governor of Alaska? She used to be at the forefront of the political forum. Now you have to google her resume. Sarah Palin had her moment upon the stage and then was banished to the sidelines of Fox news. She is you. The flavor of the day is running stale. Enjoy your moment but do not be fooled by the hype of your sponsors and friends. Fame is illusory and vanishes before the paint dries on the Cruz 2016 banner. Remember Rick Santorum? He is you. He had his shot, his time in the spotlight, and he will never be allowed a second run. Remember Rick “not ready for primetime” Perry? What plays in San Antonio doesn’t necessarily play in Akron.

You also may be given a run but in the end you will shuffle on back to Texas where they seem to embrace substandard intellects, intolerance in the name of Biblical morality and a twisted sense of constitutional intent. Most of all, Texas loves a man who knows he’s right even when he’s dead wrong.

Sincerely,
Jack Random


The Honorable Hillary Clinton
Former United States Senator for the State of New York
Former Secretary of State

Dear Ms. Clinton:

The question is as obligatory as the answer is obvious: You are running for president. Everything you have done since the last run in 2008 has been geared to the next in 2016. You have bolstered your foreign policy credentials by serving honorably as Secretary of State and resigned to give yourself distance from the Obama administration in the event things do not go well in the second term.

A word of advice: We need a woman president. We do not need a second coming of Bill Clinton. Yes, everyone remotely associated with Democratic Party politics loves Big Bill now; and yes, he is a remarkably talented politician. But he is also singularly responsible for eliminating the left from mainstream American politics. The Democratic Party today is the moderate branch of the Republican Party not too many years ago. It did not start out that way for President Clinton but that is his legacy.

What would you bring to the White House to distinguish yourself from your husband? One of the low points of your previous campaign was when you attempted to channel Bill in defending a gas tax holiday: “I’m not going to put in my lot with economists.” Bill could get away with that sort of tomfoolery; you cannot. Be yourself and let the chips fall. We can only hope that who you really are is what we need in a president.

Respectfully,
Jack Random


The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker of the House of Representatives

Representative Boehner:

For too long you have hidden behind the cover of the lunatic fringe. In the last days of the 113th congress you stepped out of the shadows by issuing a very public challenge to the Tea Party and their corporate sponsors on the far right. At long last the second most powerful official in America found his vocal chords. Was that the plan all along? Did you give them just enough rope to hang themselves without doing irreparable harm to the Republican brand? Or are they still alive and kicking, rested and ready to resume their March of the Lemmings over the political cliff?

The real question is: What now? Do you begin to work with the president if not for the benefit of the nation then for the appeal and reputation of the Republican Party? Passing the Dream Act, raising minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits is the least congress can do to restore viability to the legislative branch. If it costs you your leadership role so be it. Better to step away than to lead the march over that cliff.

With Regards,
Jack Random


The Honorable Rand Paul
United States Senator for the State of Kentucky

Senator Paul:

I am not a libertarian but I admire the libertarian philosophy for its strict adherence to the principle that the role of government should be confined to protecting the rights and liberties of individuals. If you are going to claim the banner of libertarianism, you must be true to the libertarian ideal that government should not impose its subjective morality on any individual citizen.

Your position on reducing sentences for nonviolent drug offenders is progressive but it is not libertarian. Your refusal to come out for legalization of illicit drugs or even to state that nonviolent drug offenders should not be imprisoned removes you from the libertarian party. Moreover, your radical non-libertarian opposition to abortion even in cases of rape and incest makes us wonder how you could ever be confused with a libertarian.

Maybe I have misstated the libertarian ideal. If so please enlighten me. Or maybe your philosophy borrows more from the rigid individualism and pure capitalism of your namesake Ayn Rand than it does from the libertarianism she derided as a vehicle for anarchy.

So what is it, Senator? Are you an Objectivist in the Ayn Rand tradition, are you a libertarian or are you something else entirely? Before you become a candidate for the presidency, we’d really like to know.

Respectfully,
Jack Random


The Honorable Elizabeth Warren
United States Senator for the State of Massachusetts

Dear Ms. Warren:

If not for the irrational and unprecedented Republican obstructionism in congress you could have been a largely unknown bureaucrat, head of the under-funded and ineffectual Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Instead, you have joined the ranks of the most elite body of legislators in the nation. Thank you, Republicans!

You have established yourself as an extraordinary voice for the needs of working people and against the unbridled avarice of Wall Street. You have addressed the ever widening disparity between the rich and poor as clearly and eloquently as any politician in recent memory.

While the case of Barrack Obama proclaims it possible for a first term senator to reach the White House, he had something you decidedly do not: support of Wall Street financiers. For now, you would do well to follow in the footsteps of Al Franken and Sherrod Brown as the leaders of the Democratic branch of the Democratic Party in the United States Senate.

Live long and prosper. Few could have imagined you a Senator four years ago. Four years from now, who knows?

Warm Regards,
Jack Random


The Honorable Mitch McConnell
United States Senator for the State of Kentucky
Minority Leader of the United States Senate

Dear Sir:

They say you’re a tough guy. You’d better be. You’re behind the eight ball with nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

The Tea Party is banging on your door and all your coffers of corporate sponsorship may not be enough to protect you. Yours is the most difficult challenge of tacking hard right for your party primary and pulling hard to the middle for the general election without appearing the political chameleon that you will have become. You’ve had a long run in the halls of power. It would surely be best for your reputation and legacy to retire gracefully and yield to the next generation of leadership – even if that generation appears to have lost its grounding on the solid earth.

Sadly, when an individual has sat at the table of the elites and enjoyed the finest wines of influence, it rarely leads to common sense. Sadly, the longer you have tasted that sweet nectar, the less you are inclined to let it go.

With Regards,
Jack Random


The Honorable Harry Reid
United States Senator for the State of Nevada
Majority Leader of the United States Senate

Dear Sir:

At long last you took a decisive step in curtailing the power of the filibuster in the United States Senate. We are not impressed.

In ending the filibuster for presidential appointments to the bench you finally did what the party of opposition would have done in a New York minute. Had you ended the filibuster as a tool of obstruction to legislation I might be more inclined to applaud. Had you ended the filibuster during Obama’s first term, preferably in the first year, I would sing your praises to the mountaintops.

Consider what might have been accomplished: the right to organize in the workplace, a long overdue raise in minimum wage, labor and environmental protection in trade policy, a Put America to Work program rebuilding our antiquated infrastructure, a comprehensive mass transit and alternative energy program, immigration reform, the Dream Act, an expanded voting rights act, common sense gun control, on and on.

I am no fool. I know that too many Democrats and their corporate sponsors wanted the cover of Republican obstructionism as an excuse not to act. I suspect you are one of them. Just don’t expect us to applaud because you took one little step for democracy in the royal halls of the United States Senate. It is far too modest and much too late.

The only virtue of the Senate today is that states (unlike congressional districts) cannot be gerrymandered; they can only be distorted by disenfranchisement. It is past time we struck down all the antiquated, aristocratic protocols of the Senate. The British stripped away the power of the Lords ages ago.

When the Republican leaders warned that you would pay a price, you should have replied: Go ahead, make my day!

Respectfully,
Jack Random


Governor Chris Christie
State of New Jersey

Dear Governor:

My Republican friends wrote you off when you shook the hand of our president and welcomed federal aid in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. I replied: He just made himself the leading contender for 2016.

They saw you as a turncoat. I saw you for what you are: A shrewd operator, an opportunist, a slick politico and a powerful enemy of the working folk you pretend to represent. You are a corporate Republican. You are radically anti-labor and your empathy for the poor and needy begins and ends with sympathetic words and well-timed hugs for the television cameras. You are a gifted politician.

At a time when your party was demanding severe budget cuts, you secured ample funding to rebuild homes, buildings, structures and lives destroyed by the hurricane but how you used that funding remains shrouded in mystery. The common folk who needed your help most are still waiting.

Maybe you’d like to know how people voted before handing out assistance. Whether the scandal regarding the partial bridge closure that served to punish a New Jersey city whose mayor refused to back you in the recent election, can be traced directly to your hands or not, we have begun to see how you operate. The more we see, the less appealing you will become.

You are far from the second coming of Teddy Roosevelt (as some would suggest). You more resemble the second coming Warren G. Harding.

Respectfully,
Jack Random


The Honorable Bernie Sanders
United States Senator for the State of Vermont

Dear Senator:

I love you, Bernie. There is little ground between your positions on the major issues of the day and my own. But I have to chuckle when I see your name mentioned as a progressive candidate for the White House on the Democratic ticket. Has everyone forgotten that you are not a Democrat?

To run for the Democratic nomination your first act would have to be a repudiation of your independence. Don’t go there, Bernie. If you want to run for the presidency do so as an independent. As a United States Senator with decades of governing experience, you are eminently qualified. Within the Democratic Party you would be branded a socialist and marginalized just as Dennis Kucinich was marginalized. As an independent candidate you would inject fear into the core of the Democratic machine.

In our heart of hearts, we both know that real systemic change, the kind of change that our national evolution demands, can never come within the confines of the two-party system. We both know that the probability of third party or independent success is remote but it is no more so than the chance of your prevailing within the Democratic Party.

Whatever path you choose, no public official has earned the loyalty and support of the progressive community more than you have.

Warm Regards,
Jack Random



The Honorable Sherrod Brown
United States Senator for the State of Ohio

Dear Senator:

When you won reelection to the United States Senate from the critical state of Ohio, you instantly became a candidate for the presidency. From a progressive perspective no one is stronger on trade policy or labor rights than you.

You were a primary target of the Karl Rove hit machine, the Chamber of Commerce and every major corporate interest in the nation. They deployed every dirty trick in the Rovian handbook, yet they failed miserably to stop you in Ohio. Do you think they might be afraid to take you on nationally?

You opposed the Iraq War from its inception even when all around you yielded to post 911 madness. You have called for full withdrawal from the long war in Afghanistan. You have been a voice of reason and restraint in our dealings with foreign adversaries. The time has come to reward a political leader for demonstrating the courage of his conviction and being on the right side of history.

Most politicians have to reinvent themselves to make a run at the White House but you were a populist before populism was popular. Check the record: Fair Trade, Fair Wages, Minimum Wage, Labor Rights, Income Inequality, on and on. You were among the first to speak out and you have never wavered.

Run, Sherrod, Run!

Most Sincerely,
Jack Random


Barrack Obama
President of the United States of America

Dear Mr. President:

The clock is already running down on your presidency. In many ways you have been what you pledged to be. That is the foundation of our discontent.

We knew or should have known from the beginning that your primary corporate sponsors were the wolves of Wall Street. One does not become the first person of color to be elected president without significant corporate sponsorship. We knew or should have known that you would answer to corporate interests even in the wake of a financial meltdown born of corporate fraud. We knew that your hands would be tied not only by congress and the Supreme Court but also by powerful international interests that reign over all presidencies. We knew and yet we hoped for better and greater things.

If you believed (as I presume you did) that the Affordable Care Act would secure your legacy, by now you should be recalibrating. ACA is and will continue to be a legislative accomplishment of uncertain value. History may consider it a bridge or an obstruction to a more rational healthcare system. Only time will tell.

If you want your presidency to rest on more than the substantial symbolism represented by the color of your skin, you must do more. Consider what you can still accomplish: Pardon Edward Snowden and open the books on the NSA. Pass the Dream Act. Pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq completely. Declare an end to the war on terror. Close Guantanamo Bay. Call for an international framework on the future of war: Drone and robotic war.

These are some of the things a president can do without much help from congress. You will not receive much help from congress. But you don’t need congressional approval to do the most important thing of all: Tell the truth about the halls of power. Tell the truth as Eisenhower did. Reach for greatness as only a president can and your legacy will secure itself.

Hopefully,
Jack Random

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Wednesday, June 05, 2013

THE STRUGGLE FOR RELEVANCE: OBAMA, MCCAIN & MEDEA BENJAMIN 

JAZZMAN CHRONICLES. DISSEMINATE FREELY. THIS CHRONICLE POSTED BY DISSIDENT VOICE 6/5/13.





THE STRUGGLE FOR RELEVANCE:
OBAMA, McCAIN & MEDEA BENJAMIN


By Jack Random



There is no shortage of rhetoric in American politics but as for real world consequences it begins to resemble the Bard’s immortal lament: Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

President Barack Obama gave what might have been the most significant speech of his second term, proclaiming the eventual end of the Global War on Terror, over a decade long strategic blunder that should never have happened. Lest we forget, after the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, the Taliban government of Afghanistan offered to hand over Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda conspirators to an impartial, international tribunal, an offer that was summarily dismissed by then President George W. Bush.

Americans wanted revenge and would settle for nothing short of global war, even if it meant attacking a dysfunctional nation whose government had less to do with the actions of its terrorist inhabitants than our own Central Intelligence Agency, who recruited and armed them during the Afghan-Soviet war. We would have our revenge even if it meant invading and occupying a nation that was in fact an enemy of Al Qaeda on manufactured evidence concerning weapons of mass destruction.

The past is forgotten and history rewritten in the nation’s fervor never to admit wrong. We are convinced that the entire world understands our actions as the natural response of an aggrieved nation but there are families in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia who are not persuaded. They will never forget the vengeance we have wrought and so the war continues in perpetuity, propelled by its own volition.

President Obama’s declaration is significant but only if it can be believed. Within a week of his speech, promising a shift in policy on targeted assassinations, a CIA directed drone strike killed a Taliban leader in Pakistan.

Unlike the Bush administration, this president was supposed to understand the difference between the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The latter is our sworn enemy. The Taliban is a primitive religious organization like so many others in a dangerous world. As a government, they were brutal and despotic like so many others in under-developed nations. But the Taliban had no interest in geopolitics or international jihad. Before we invaded, the Taliban had tacit American support as the best of bad alternatives to instill order in the Afghan nation.

We were supposed to be negotiating with the Taliban for the end of hostilities in Afghanistan. Clearly, those negotiations have failed. This targeted assassination of a Taliban leader had nothing to do with any threat posed to America or American interests. The threat was to Pakistani institutions, most notably the military. It appears therefore that our use of drones is extended to allies, even allies as unreliable as Pakistan.

Obama promised to curtail the practice, to make it more transparent, subject to legislative review, and to remove the CIA from control. By expanding the use of drones to intervene in the internal affairs of another nation, this action strips the president’s declaration of all meaning.

What then can we expect of his promise to restore civil liberties sacrificed in the name of the War on Terror? What then can we expect of his renewed intent to close the abomination that is Guantanamo Bay?

We begin to wonder if the CIA has gone rogue. We begin to wonder if the president and commander-in-chief is truly in charge of the nation’s foreign policy.

Any impartial observer of American history cannot doubt that our intelligence community has at times betrayed our elected government. Beyond the assassinations that turned the nation’s course on its head, there are the curious affair of the botched Iranian hostage rescue under Jimmy Carter and the subsequent arms for hostages deal that played a critical role in bringing Ronald Reagan to power.

Is it so farfetched to believe that the CIA would have its own agenda? This latest action would seem in direct contradiction to the president’s announced intentions. It is worth emphasizing that removing the CIA from control of the drone program was central to the president’s proposals. It is also worth noting that the CIA was in charge of the spying operation in Libya that cost an esteemed American diplomat his life.

If these musings are correct, how would we know? Would any American president be willing to announce publicly that the CIA is out of control? How would he prove such a charge and what actions could be taken to right the balance? The CIA should be dismantled from the bottom up and rebuilt to its original intent but it has become too powerful to allow that to happen.

His domestic agenda stymied at home by an intransigent congress, the president finds himself waiting for the midterm elections, hoping for the impossible and struggling to assert his second-term relevance.

Meantime, his former rival in the race for the White House, the man who never saw a war he did not like, Senator John McCain engaged in his own struggle for relevance by starring in a little political theater for the cause of war in beleaguered Syria.

As if we needed a reminder of how many wars we’ve missed by not electing him commander (remember Georgia?), McCain pulls off a virtual bungee jump into Syria for brunch and a photo op with Rebel Commander #9. The aging senator assures us he can tell the good guys from the bad by a simple vetting process.

Remember how adept the McCain bunch was at vetting it’s vice presidential nominee? It turns out his handlers in this bit of theater were equally adept. One of the men chosen for the senator’s photo op was quickly identified as the photographer for a terrorist group that kidnapped a dozen Lebanese pilgrims. Whether that charge turns out to be true or not, it points out the absurdity of his vetting proposal.

A decidedly under whelmed American media dutifully greeted the returning senator but failed to ask the pressing questions: First, if this was so important, where was Lindsay (i.e., Senator Graham, McCain’s sidekick in virtually all political theater)? Second, does anyone really care?

Why anyone would still listen to a man who has been wrong on every issue of any importance for the last twenty years is beyond understanding. His only claim to validity in recent years is his support of “The Surge” in Iraq but the strategy only worked to the extent it did because we paid our enemies to fight a common enemy; once the payments stopped, they returned to their own interests.

Rounding out our featured trio in the fight for relevance is veteran activist and worthy heroine of the left, co-founder of CODEPINK, Medea Benjamin. I have long admired Benjamin and CODEPINK for their constant presence and principled actions on the streets of protest against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but when Benjamin chose to heckle the president at the moment when his message was most allied with hers, it looked a little too staged, a little too desperate, as if all that mattered was getting on the nightly news.

Political theater has its time and place but in my humble judgment this was neither. Her explanation after the fact was that she listened carefully to what the president said and found it lacking. He did not promise to begin releasing prisoners from Guantanamo next week as if he could unilaterally take such an action. What nations will take the prisoners? If we sent them to a war zone or a nation prone to torture and brutal oppression, would CODEPINK be pleased?

Obama did not announce that CIA control of the drone program would immediately stop or questionable assassinations would immediately cease and that too was cause for dissatisfaction. To believe that the president could affect these changes immediately is more naivety than I am willing to believe Medea Benjamin possesses.

In the end, as much as I wanted to be with her and to support her action, the most I could muster was empathy.

It is no secret that the left is in decline. Since the gradual and perhaps inevitable disappearance of the Occupy Movement, the culture of principled protest has suffered. Sadly, we are not building a movement at the moment; we are struggling for relevance and ill-timed gestures with an uncertain message will not help.

So where do we stand? Do we crawl back into the cracks and shadows of the counter culture or do we find new ways to affect change?

Contrary to popular opinion, there is no left in American mainstream politics. There is the middle and the right. We can thank Bill Clinton for this state of affairs for it was Clinton who redefined the Democrats to bring in moderate conservatives. Republicans had little choice but to move further to the right.

To my way of thinking, this represents a huge opportunity. Poll after poll tells us the people are moving to the left. The younger the population grows, the more progressive the electorate becomes.

I believe it is critical for the left to mobilize its resources to engage the system directly. That means finding candidates to run for office, finding congressional races that are winnable, and supporting campaigns with time, organization and money.

If we cannot do this, if the best we can do is staged disruption, then we will fall even further into the pit of political irrelevance and the anarchists are right: Tune out, get off the grid, and refuse to participate.

Jazz.

JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS). THE CHRONICLES HAVE BEEN POSTED ON NUMEROUS CITES OF THE WORLDWIDE WEB, INCLUDING THE ALBION MONITOR, BELLACIAO, BUZZLE, COUNTERPUNCH, DISSIDENT VOICE, THE NATIONAL FREE PRESS, GLOBAL FREE PRESS AND PACIFIC FREE PRESS. SEE WWW.JAZZMANCHRONICLES.BLOGSPOT.COM.

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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

SHAME OF A NATION: GUANTANAMO BAY 

JAZZMAN CHRONICLES. DISSEMINATE FREELY.





SHAME OF A NATION:
GUANTANAMO BAY


By Jack Random



Like any being capable of reflection, every nation must acknowledge not only its legacy of pride but its legacy of shame as well. A nation must have pride to bind its people together in common cause. Pride inspires achievement and enables us to withstand threats, to overcome barriers and to bear the burden of hardship along the path of history.

National pride is not only healthy; it is essential to the survival of a nation. But without concomitant shame to hold it in check, it becomes dangerous and ultimately self-destructive. A nation must have shame to right its wrongs, to alter a wayward course of action, to form a more just and democratic union, and (god forbid) to make reparations for injustice.

The American nation is rightfully proud of establishing the first modern and enduring democracy. We are rightfully proud of expanding the franchise to the landless, to women and minorities. We are proud of ending the damnable scourge of slavery though it required a river of American blood to accomplish it.

We are proud of our essential role in stopping the Nazi fascist machine from overrunning much of the world. We are proud of our advances in civil rights and civil liberties. We are proud of economic success and the technological advances that enabled an American to set foot on the moon, that led to the creation of the worldwide web, an unstoppable force that unites the global community.

America’s proud legacy is rich and varied but just as every man has his flaws so every nation has its legacy of shame.

That our founders built this nation on soil made rich with the blood of its native children is undeniable and as shameful as the Holocaust or any other attempt to annihilate an entire race of human beings.

We have fought wars without just cause against innocent people, killing millions of Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians, Indonesians and South Americans. We have built a military machine so powerful and omnipotent that it can only serve the cause of empire and greed. When we have squandered the greatest treasure the world has ever beheld on weapons of war and mass destruction while so many of our people go homeless and jobless and without decent medical care, we should be ashamed.

That we have witnessed the daily slaughter of men, women and children, watched drug lords outgun the police, enabled terrorists and madmen dedicated to massive harm, and failed in every effort to stem the tide of gun violence is shameful beyond belief. That we have failed to act in the name of the constitution and the Bill of Rights though we know in our hearts it is a fool’s argument, the verbal knee-jerk of the gullible, is all the more shameful.

In the face of all evidence that we are poisoning the planet past the point of no return, we cling to our avaricious ways and protect at all costs the right of corporations to pursue wealth without regard to cost. We would rather mortgage the health and well being of future generations than to alter our course.

For that we should be ashamed.

We exploit the vulnerable for a cheap labor force and demonize the exploited. We sanction slave labor under deplorable and inhumane conditions overseas by enforcing a hands-off, Free Trade policy, yet we are outraged when a building in Bangladesh collapses, a chemical plant in India explodes, or a sweatshop in Nepal burns to cinders. How many lives would be spared if only we insisted on the most basic labor rights and working standards from our trading partners? And to those compassionate corporations that have pledged to abandon Bangladesh after the latest catastrophe, don’t pretend you care if you only move your operations to a substandard facility in Malaysia.

For this we should be ashamed.

Our government has performed deadly experiments on unsuspecting, unknowing and innocent people. We have overthrown democratic governments in the name of freedom, shredded the Bill of Rights in the name of law and order, denied citizens the fundamental right to vote by a myriad of nefarious means, turned a blind eye to crimes against humanity, including genocide, and yet, at this time in history, viewed up close and personal, there is no greater shame than what we are doing on a small corner at the southern tip of Cuba at a godforsaken place called Guantanamo Bay.

From the beginning in January 2002, the Guantanamo Bay prison facility aka detention center was a bad idea, one in an almost infinite chain of bad ideas from the Neocon officials of the Bush administration. It was chosen because it was outside the United States and therefore not subject to American law. Our government claimed it was exempt from the Geneva conventions as well, a claim struck down by the Supreme Court, and yet few outside that small circle of Bush madmen would deny that the detainees of Guantanamo were tortured, abused and denied every protection of due process under the law.

Of the 779 men detained at Guantanamo, nearly 200 were released by 2004. Of the 517 detainees still held in 2005, independent reviews of Defense Department data found that 80% were not enemy combatants captured on the battlefields of Afghanistan but individuals turned over by Afghans and Pakistanis in exchange for bounty and favors. Far from the “worst of the worst” the officials claimed publicly, most of the detainees were “low level” combatants and individuals unaffiliated with terrorist groups. Eight detainees have died at Guantanamo, including six by suicide. By May 2011, 600 had been released, most without charges.

In 2008 five individual detainees were charged with acts of terrorism connected to the September 11 attack under the 2006 Military Commissions Act, an act ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Of all the proceedings against the detainees, exactly two have not been overturned.

Of the roughly 170 remaining in perpetual limbo at Guantanamo Bay, at least 86 have been deemed no threat and cleared for transfer. An estimated 100 are involved in a hunger strike protesting their conditions and status. Twenty-one have been force-fed through tubes inserted into their throats.

When elected President Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay but he soon found that task politically impossible. As a result, the remaining detainees, including those determined non-threatening, are placed in a hopeless state. They have no access to anything resembling legal recourse. The trials that have been staged under the guise of military tribunals have been something out of an unfinished Kafka novel. They can neither go home nor anywhere on this earth where they can walk as free men.

That so many have chosen to starve themselves is not surprising. What would any man do under such circumstance?

Now they are being denied the right to die by their tormentors. If they persist in their refusal to eat to the point of starvation, a tube will be inserted into their throats so that their suffering can continue indefinitely.

Where is our sense of shame? Where is our compassion? Where is our sense of right and wrong? Where is the justice we proclaim to the world?

Mr. President, damn the politics and keep your promise. Close Guantanamo now.

Jazz.


JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS). THE CHRONICLES HAVE BEEN POSTED ON NUMEROUS CITES OF THE WORLDWIDE WEB, INCLUDING THE ALBION MONITOR, BELLACIAO, BUZZLE, COUNTERPUNCH, DISSIDENT VOICE, THE NATIONAL FREE PRESS, GLOBAL FREE PRESS AND PACIFIC FREE PRESS. SEE WWW.JAZZMANCHRONICLES.BLOGSPOT.COM.

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