Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Reckoning: Bush Summons WWII while The Easy Drowns

By Jack Random

While all eyes were on the unfolding disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, our president was comparing the Iraq war to World War II and the Marines were dropping two 500-pound bombs on suspected insurgents on the Iraqi-Syrian border. Iraqis claimed they hit civilians.

Is this what they call “precision bombing”?

If Iraq is World War II, then this was another chapter in the bombing of Dresden.

If you believe in spiritual forces – whether it is karma, the life force, a supreme goddess or an almighty god – then it is not difficult to perceive these events as mother earth’s revenge.

The overhead camera reveals a wide path of destruction, shattered homes, decimated lives, terrified people, rising waters, looting and price gouging, fear and lawlessness.

For a moment, it seemed that the war had come home. Gulfport and Biloxi were reduced to rubble and New Orleans was under siege.

Where was the National Guard as New Orleans was transformed into a third world country, reminiscent of Baghdad after the American liberation? I recalled Donald Rumsfeld’s pronouncement that you had to expect a little looting in a free society.

Meantime, President George W. Bush was in California, addressing yet another subdued military audience, instructing the brave and the dutiful that their cause was noble and supreme – not another Vietnam but another World War II march against fascist imperialism.

Meantime, the National Guard was at the wrong Gulf – the Persian Gulf – when it was needed at home.

The president graciously conceded to cut his vacation short. He would return to Washington with a little detour in the war zone of Louisiana. The Republican governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, went on record asking him to stay away. We need the Guard to protect the nation in a time of need. We do not need a presidential photo op. The president’s job is to reassure the nation, not to interfere in an ongoing rescue mission.

Go back to Crawford, Mr. President. No one still believes that you are anything but a front man, a grade B actor, who refuses to confront a grieving mother before the eyes of the world because the people will perceive what we already know: Cindy Sheehan is more eloquent, more knowledgeable, more compassionate and infinitely more sincere than the supreme commander of the greatest power on earth.

So George the diminutive wishes to invite a comparison of Iraq to World War II. Whom does he think he is kidding? There are parallels but they are not favorable to the current American president. Dubya is no FDR and Saddam Hussein is no Adolph Hitler. He was lured into attacking Kuwait (by cross-drilling, Kuwaiti belligerence and America’s implied consent) and subsequently hammered by the most powerful military force on earth. At the time of war’s inception, he was a threat to no one.

It is time to stop the pretense, the imperial charade. We need our troops at home now. We need the hundreds of billions of dollars we have squandered and continue to squander in a war can never “win” regardless of its resolution. The Iraqis will never yield the oil and they will never accept our military presence. We can only extend the misery, the needless dying and destruction. We have destroyed their nation and we can never make amends.

Bring the soldiers home now when we need them. Accept that the Iraqis must decide the shape and form of their own government. Accept that we cannot possess Iraqi oil and we cannot establish Iraq as an American fortress.

Too many lives have already been lost to the horrors of a failed ideology of conquest. We need the Guard and our resources to provide for our own citizens. We need to join the community of nations not as master but as partner. We need the world to be as one in the coming days of tragedy.

In many horrifying and disturbing ways, Hurricane Katrina has brought the war home. Let us finally be wise enough to recognize the signs.

There are far greater enemies we must confront than petty dictators like Saddam Hussein. We are now confronted with the angry forces of nature. We have pumped the earth, air and water so full of toxic poisons that now we must face the inevitable consequences. We cannot confront them alone.

There is no more time for war and occupations.

It is time for the reckoning.

The sooner we accept the challenge, the better.



Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Bear Butte: Sacred Ground

From: Carter Camp []
Sent: Wednesday, August 24, 2005 11:29 PM
To: Sovereign Nations
Subject: Protect Bear Butte!

It has taken me several days to get over some of the outrage and shock I felt when I read the letter from a Sturgis bar owner saying he planned to open a giant, biker bar and "Buffalo Chip" style entertainment venue beside our sacred mountain Bear Butte. Now my outrage has turned to anger and a determination to do something to fight this desecration.

Often native people in this state need to educate their white neighbors when they offend or insult us without malicious intent to do so. We recognize that it is hard for some people to understand that in our beliefs "places" can be sacred and not to be defiled or that Bear Butte is foremost amongst them.

But this is not so with the developer in question, as a local man he knows very well that Indian people from around the country pilgrimage to pray at Bear Butte yearly. Over thirty of our Nations hold Bear Butte sacred and inviolate. By choosing the name "Sacred Ground" for his planned scene of noise and debauchery, Mr. Allen has personally slapped the face of every warrior of every Nation that holds Bear Butte sacred. I am sure there will be a response. I wonder if Mr. Allen knows how many Tribes have purchased property near the sacred mountain and will be his neighbors. Indians have bought land and pay taxes on it without fanfare just to have a quiet place and access to the sacred places.

Some have said in your newspaper that building and noise around the sacred mountain is "inevitable". I beg to differ, it may be rare but I believe sometimes the will of a minority will be heard in America and greed can be subverted. It may be that cooler heads and patient explanations by traditional Indian people can persuade him to withdraw the proposal. I hope so because if they can not it is my considered opinion that Mr. Allen and the State of South Dakota will witness the largest clash of cultures since 1973.

There are many places in America where sacred and/or historical places are preserved by a green zone or buffer zone against unwanted developments interfering with the nature of the place or experience. Only greed can deny Bear Butte the same respect and care. It is long past time that all further development be put on hold until the preservation of all aspects of maintaining Bear Butte can be considered (including tolerable noise and traffic levels) to preserve what is left of a sacred environment.

I call on the State and County to close Highway 79 between SD Hwys 34 and 212 during the Sturgis Bike Rally and that alternate routes be found or constructed. I further call on the State to limit public access to the mountain during June so ceremonies can take place on the sacred mountain.

Over the last few years a grassroots organization called the "Defenders of the Black Hills" led the struggle to stop the illegal placement of an unacceptably noisy shooting range a few miles from the sacred mountain.

Although I cannot speak for them, as a founding member I intend to ask that stopping this development be placed very high on our agenda at the next meeting. It may take lawsuits, or national boycotts of "Broken Spoke Saloons", it may take protests and letter writing, it may once more take much sacrifice on the part of our people but it is a struggle we must take on if we are to survive as whole people and Nations.

The good thing out of this bad news is that Mr. Allen's plan has offended every Indian person in South Dakota and the entire Great Plains area. We must unite as never before to crush this proposal and stop any future attacks on our real "Sacred Grounds", our beloved mountain. In this fight, Teton Lakota and Cheyenne warriors can struggle alongside Crow, Shoshoni and Mandan, Blackfoot, Ojibway and Arikara. Ponca like me can join with Pawnee, Otoe, Kaw, Osage, Kiowa, Southern Cheyenne and Arapahoe who journey here from exile in Oklahoma to maintain our ties to the sacred mountain. We must call on our Tribal Governments for support and the whole world for assistance in this effort. We must enlist the many resources of Indian Country to beat back this obscene development proposal and enact protective laws to protect her. On this we must stake our sashes to the ground. On this we cannot fail!

Carter Camp, Ponca Nation

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Chavez Exchange, Final Entry

(3rd & final entry in an exchange regarding Hugo Chavez & The Slug)

Good points, Jack. You can't necessarily be guilty by association. However, there is a disconnect here between what Chavez says about America -- "the most savage empire that has ever existed" and praise for Castro and Mao. It doesn't compute. Chavez sinks waist-deep in a bed of hypocritical quicksand. While America did get in bed with unsavory characters, no American President ever held their society up as a model we should follow. Not so Chavez with Cuba or Maoist China. It's clear he believes Cuba is a great society and model for the Latin American world. The fact that Fidel has never been elected by the Cuban people to do anything is a non-issue for Chavez. That's deeply troubling.

I'm also reading troubling stories about new legislation that prohibits "insulting a government official". Who is going to decide what is criticism and what is an insult? That's censorship, and it's a law that can be used to intimidate anyone who writes something Chavez doesn't like. There is also evidence Cuban intelligence officers are now working in the country, helping identify potential enemies of Chavez. He also seems to have complete autonomy to spend the country's oil wealth (or give it away) as he sees fit, without so much as a vote in parliament. Others have pointed to Chavez savaging of property rights. Such a move would trigger a revolt in our democracy. If land reform was necessary, it seems to me Chavez could have chosen a path that respected the rights of existing owners. The Brazilian President has commented privately that Chavez is an "unconscious authoritarian" -- I think that's probably a good way to define him, but it's also ominous.

Hitler analogies are vastly overused, and I wouldn't presume to compare Chavez to Hitler, but the conditions of a very popular President who turned a country around at the expense of their civil liberties has happened before.

The country has had a majority of poor -- long neglected. Chavez is the first President to put their interests first. If I were living in the barrios, I wouldn't care either if free speech and property rights were trampled on -- in the short run. In the long run, I might want to be one of those property owners myself. I'd wake up someday with an authoritarian government I might be sick of, but no way to get rid of.

As you say, we'll see. If Chavez busied himself running his country without trying to ruin mine, I wouldn't be so militant in pointing out his obvious flaws. America is not Chavez enemy, but he has made it clear that he is ours, and that means I'm going to watch every move he makes.


[Editor’s Note: This was posted to complete an exchange regarding Hugo Chavez and Pat Robertson’s call for his assassination. The writer’s point of view is his own. For those who require refutation, see the original commentary on Dissident Voice 8/27/05 or a new article posted on Common Dreams 8/29/05, “Hugo Chavez: A Walk in the Footsteps of Arbenz & Allende” by Dr. Rosa Maria Pegueros: Viva Chavez!]

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Chavez Exchange, Continued

(A Response to a Commentary posted on Dissident Voice 8/27/05)


You didn't keep up with the news during Chavez recent visit to China. His praise of Mao was well documented. Here's a link to the news report that many services picked up.

This statement, coupled with Chavez recent "revolutionary democracy" Cuban rant, should worry every Venezuelan citizen. Mao was one of the worst leaders of the 20th Century responsible for the deaths of millions of his own people from starvation and the brutal occupation and rape of Tibet -- a peaceful Buddhist country -- still illegally occupied today, while the world turns a blind eye. Chavez is running around the world talking about things he doesn't even know about.

What it demonstrates is that Chavez favors his ideology above democracy and civil liberties. When you're fawning over authoritarian dictators and never utter a single word of criticism or call for greater civil liberties in their nations what other conclusion can you come to? He's also now jumping in bed with Iran, which is not only brutally repressive, they are viciously anti-socialist. They rounded all the socialist/Marxists up and shot them after their revolution.

Look, the bottom line here is that it doesn't matter what we do, until we achieve a sustainable birth rate on this planet, we're always going to have desperately poor people. This is the elephant in the room nobody wants to talk about. Yemen, the poorest Arab nation has an average 6 children per household. Latin American birth rates are not far behind. These are people who can't even feed one child having 6 or 7. Unless your economy is growing at greater than 10% a year, there's no way you'll ever keep up. While the Chinese model is certainly Draconian, it's estimated their one-child policy has reduced their population by 250 million people in the past 15 years. That's a staggering statistic. This is where I'm placing my emphasis. I want social justice too, but we need to talk about social responsibility at the same time. Otherwise, we're whistling in the wind.



I concede the point. According to Reuters (a very reputable source), Chavez “declared himself to have been a Maoist from the time he was a child.”

I confess I find that declaration troubling. I can only surmise that Chavez either does not believe the history of brutal repression under Mao or he has distinguished between the words of Mao (quite pleasing) and his actions (quite disturbing).

Nevertheless, sympathy for Mao on the matter of socialism does not support the notion that Chavez is anti-democratic. Do not confuse economic and political theories. Chavez is, after all, an avowed Bolivarian – and that is definitive democracy.

On this matter, I must offer something of a retraction: I am to some extent a defender of socialism in that I believe that economies function best when a balance is struck between the dynamics of capitalism and the ideals of socialism. As an objective observer, you will concede that the American system is such a hybrid. Unbridled American capitalism led to repeated collapse until FDR struck a balance with the New Deal. That balance has been under constant attack since the Reagan administration – including the policy initiative of Bill Clinton.

While it appears we have wandered from the topic at hand, your attacks on Hugo Chavez do not support the conclusion that he favors an ideology “above democracy and civil liberties.” (If he moves against either, I will be among the first to challenge him.) Your case is built on guilt by association. If you apply the same logic to American foreign policy, your attack would be vicious indeed. What you do not discuss is the overwhelming support of the Venezuelan people for their elected leader and his determined efforts to lift the masses from dire poverty in an oil-rich nation.

Time and an unbiased reading of history will reveal who is right and who is wrong. For now, I will remain a defender of Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian revolution.

The key to understanding American engagement in Latin America and throughout the world is that it is guided not by an ideology of freedom, justice or democracy, but by an overriding economics of exploitation.

I have enjoyed this exchange but I think it is time to post it and move on. There is a war going on. If you would like the final word, I will post that as well (within the bounds of decency).

I agree with your bottom line concern about a sustainable birthrate. Perhaps we have found common ground.


P.S. I would welcome your opinion on the war.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Response to Chavez & The Slug

("Hugo Chavez & the American Slug," Dissident Voice 8/27/05)

C'mon Jack, your facts about Hugo Chavez were far too biased to be taken seriously.

I condemn Pat Roberts[on’s] comments, but I am equally offended by Chavez DAILY insults, taunts, and offensive comments about America. This man runs around the world inciting hatred towards us, and he is a head of state -- not a private citizen. A recent sampling of his rants:

"America is the most savage empire that has ever existed"
"We have to destroy American imperialism, before it destroys the world"

These aren't the words of a mild-mannered, peace-lover, Jack. He also called Cuba a "revolutionary democracy", which makes a mockery of Constitutional democracy everywhere. Fidel Castro has one of the worst human rights records in the Western Hemisphere the past 50 years. Hugo Chavez values his ideology above his democratic principles. His allegiance to Castro proves that.

Chavez WANTS confrontation with the US, because it increases his status as a bold, "anti-imperialist" whatever that means. Bush's relative silence towards Chavez is the correct path. He is taking Venezuela down the well-worn, Bolshevik Revolutionary path to destruction. We don't have to do anything to Chavez. He's self-destructing just fine on his own.

Meanwhile, China, India, and a host of other nations aren't sitting around whining about the evils of free trade. They're building strong, robust economies and growing huge middle classes. Hmmmm... maybe there's a lesson there -- if Chavez was smart enough to see it.

Brook D.


So, you’re a globalist. Let me guess: Brookings Institute.

I wish to thank you for taking the time to convey your thoughts. Here are a few of mine.

I have grown weary of the game of rhetorical opposites. You go to war in the name of peace. You oppress classes and whole societies in the name of justice. You inflict mass poverty in the name of global prosperity and you commit genocide in the name of God.

One of us is badly misinformed.

First, it is Pat Robertson (not Kansas Senator Pat Roberts) who called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez. Let us assume that was a typographical error.

Second, Chavez joins a distinguished list of dissident leaders opposing American imperialism, including Nelson Mandela, Arundhati Roy, Jimmy Carter, Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky.

Third, outside of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, no one has greater cause to oppose the actions of the American government than Hugo Chavez does. In the context of two American sponsored coups – political and military – his rhetoric is a model of moderation.

Fourth, while Castro’s Cuba is certainly not a democracy, he has at least provided for the education and health care of his people. One hopes that true democracy will come to Cuba (one hopes the same for America – witness Ohio 2004 and Florida 2000) but it will not come at the barrel of an American gun. It will come when Cubans are convinced that democracies like Haiti and Venezuela can thrive without the interference of powerful foreign governments and their corporate proxies.

I have denounced Castro’s crackdown on Cuban dissidents but to compare him with Pinochet, Somoza, Noriega, Duarte and Borja of El Salvador, and Rios Montt of Guatemala, is nothing short of absurd. Given that all of these strongmen were once allied with their American masters, one could reasonably place Nixon and Reagan on the short list of human rights violators – unless the citizens of other nations are discounted.

You suggest that Chavez wants a confrontation with the US; I suggest he has no choice. If you do not accept that the American government twice sponsored and coordinated coups against Chavez, your naivety is almost charming.

Finally, your offering of China and India as the models for third world economic growth is equally revealing. China and Japan hold the markers on America’s unfathomable debt, but that does not translate to a burgeoning, western-style middle class. The last I checked, you rose above poverty in China with an income of one hundred American dollars per year – not exactly the kind of income that buys Nike footwear.

The story is similar in India: An economy built on cheap labor (the prescription of the global “free” economy) simply cannot build a consumer society. It is a snake swallowing its own tail. A consumer society by definition must offer greater than living wages but when wages rise, the foundation of the economy crumbles.