Volume 26, Number 4
Our War Criminals
Edward S. Herman
Bulldozers and More Talks
Catholic Abuse Scandal
Save Our Planet
Skills Gap Myth
The African Union
Compiled by Joel Chaffee
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Our Troops, Our War, and Our War Criminals
The call to “support our troops,” or “our boys,” is really an appeal to support the war in which the troops are engaged. Critics of the war would say that if the war is unjustified, possibly even a criminal enterprise in violation of international law at several levels, as was so clearly true of the Iraq war, supporting the troops and war is to support international criminality. The proper support of our troops and boys therefore is to oppose the war and fight to get our boys (and girls) out before they can kill or be killed while participating in such a criminal enterprise.
Naturally, this critical view of supporting our troops gets little play in the propaganda system and the propaganda design of the formula “support our troops” is probably effective in the environment of patriotic fervor that wars engender. But the hypocrisy here runs deep. Many of the threads of hypocrisy woven into this propaganda fabric stem from the fact that the political and military establishments care very little about the welfare of our boys. The really bad thing about their deaths, injuries, and suffering is the resultant negative publicity and possible increased financial costs of greater attention to their needs, that might limit military budget size and flexibility. There has been a notorious struggle over the damage our boys have suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan from economies in the protective equipment provided to them; from the damaging psychological effects of multiple tours of duty; from the reluctance to recognize the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the seriousness of traumatic brain injury (TBI); and the scandals reflecting lagged and poor care of personnel back home and in need of medical care.
In earlier years, also, it was a long struggle to get recognition of the damage suffered by U.S. troops in Vietnam from the massive chemical warfare used there, where of course the damage to U.S. personnel was only a small fraction of that inflicted on the Vietnamese people, still unacknowledged and unrectified by the “responsible criminal state.” The ironical usage of “MIA” to mean “missing in America”—referring to war veterans in a sad state of indigence and homelessness at home—also goes back at least to the Vietnam and post-Vietnam war days. There are many MIAs in the United States today. A dramatic figure that did get some publicity was that more military personnel committed suicide than were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2012 (349 versus 295).
It is also enlightening that there is an inverse correlation between aggressively supporting U.S. wars and supporting our troops with generous funding of their medical care and post-service education and general welfare. This is plausible.
The bulk of service personnel are drawn from that 47 percent of the population that Mitt Romney derided as government-dependent and not “job creators.” (The heads of Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Ratheon, and Textron are job creators.) Romney, Paul Ryan, George Bush, John Boehner (etc.), and their monied base are fighting a major battle to diminish or terminate the welfare state. Many Democrats, as well as Republicans, are with them, so that containing what amounts to welfare state benefits to our boys with PTSD and otherwise in distress is entirely logical.
Of course, along with “support our troops” there is an implicit “support our torturers and higher level war criminals.” This flows from the overwhelming and increasingly centralized power in the hands of the dominant elite, including the military-industrial complex (MIC), leading politicians, and an associated remarkable level of self-righteousness. Anything we do is tolerable because we are not only strong and the self-appointed global police, but also good, always well-intentioned, and, therefore, not to be questioned when we do abroad precisely what we condemn in target states. We can support Saddam Hussein and even provide him with “weapons of mass destruction,” when he is doing us a service in attacking Iran, even when he is using chemical weapons. With no seeming sense of shame or guilt we can quickly turn him into “another Hitler” when he disobeys orders. We can help the Shah of Iran build a nuclear capability, but threaten war when his successor regime tries to do what was encouraged with the Shah—and again, with utter self-righteousness. It testifies to the greatness of the Western propaganda system that these shifts and mind-boggling double standards can occur without the slightest pause or recog- nition or any need for explanation or apology.
High level war criminals like Bush, Blair, and Obama can get away with anything, not only because they are at the pinnacle of power and can set their own rules, but also because they dominate the external institutions that supposedly make the rule of law international, but fail to do so.
One of the prettiest cases was the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, an act matching Hitler’s 1939 invasion of Poland, and resulting in a million or more Iraqi deaths. Although this was a blatant violation of the most fundamental principle of the UN Charter and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan did point out that the invasion was “illegal,” he didn’t express any great anger or suggest that the invaders be expelled or even reprimanded. He got on board the aggression ship, as did the Western great powers (with the Russians and Chinese essentially sitting there watching).
But the sick comedy of “international law” rode on, with the UN, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and International Criminal Court (ICC) playing their assigned roles by applying it whenever the big aggressor or one of its leading allies felt the application of legal principles to be useful. The Big A and its Little Aggressor client Israel wanted a legal input for Darfur, but not for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, invaded by Rwanda and Uganda, whose leaders were big aggressor clients, and so it was—Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir was indicted by the ICC, while Rwandan and Ugandan leaders were exempt. Big A and allies wanted legal authority for attacking Libya, but not Bahrain, so the ICC and United Nations Security Council (UNSC) obliged with indictments for Gaddafi and sons, silence on Bahrain. The big aggressor wants international law applied to Syria, so Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who, along with her predecessor Louise Arbour, didn’t lift a finger in the case of the Iraq invasion-occupation, which produced a million dead and four million refugees, now repeatedly urges the UNSC to call on the ICC to investigate Bashar al-Assad’s war crimes in Syria. Pillay played the same role in the case of Libya, in collaboration with the ICC, greasing the skids for a NATO military attack on Libya and the ouster and murder of Gaddafi.
The role of the “international community” (in the sense of the leadership of the Western great powers and their clients, not the underlying populations) was dramatically exhibited in giving the newly elected U.S. President Barack Obama the Nobel Peace prize in 2009. He hadn’t done anything whatsoever for peace at that time, but gave the appearance of a leader more moderate than Bush and Cheney. A silly and even outrageous award, but once again a giveaway on the supportive-groveling qualities of Western political/cultural institutions. (Can you imagine the Nobel Committee giving the award to Amira Hass, Malalai Joya, Kathy Kelly, or Richard Falk, people actually making genuine personal sacrifices in the interest of peace?) Honest analysis and morality would have recognized that Obama was going to be a major war criminal by structural necessity, embedded as he was in a permanent war political economy where political survival, let alone success, required the commission of war crimes. Obama soon found that political success demanded killing foreigners; that budget enlargement for killing was easy, but spending for progressive civilian needs was difficult and would anger powerful people. He quickly adapted to being a warrior president, his seemingly most proud accomplishment being the killing of bin-Laden.
Obama has played all the war cards. He has lauded the Vietnam War as a noble enterprise and is pleased to participate in and laud a memorial that celebrates it. Like Bush he loves to speak to military cadres where he can draw resounding applause with patriotic and belligerent rhetoric, although increasing numbers of liberal Democrats have gotten on board his war-oriented ship of state and also find his warrior image and actions agreeable.
He has gone somewhat beyond Bush in institutionalizing government rights to invade privacy, closing down information access, and criminalizing whistleblowing. His drone war policy and claimed right to assassinate even U.S. citizens based on executive decision alone breaks new ground in criminality and in enlarging the scope of acceptable war crimes. He has also refused to prosecute U.S. torturers and high level war criminals, violating earlier promises but, more importantly, violating international law and effectively ending the rule of law. We need change we can believe in, but Obama is giving us compromise and regression that we must vigorously oppose.
Edward S. Herman is an economist, media critic, and author of numerous articles and books. His latest book is The Politics of Genocide (with David Petersen).
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.