Photo credit: Reuters

Sunday, March 31, 2013

An Easter Letter to President Obama

Dear Mr. President, 
Early Saturday morning, a helicopter gunship attacked Taliban insurgents in Ghazni province who had attacked Afghan security forces. There are conflicting reports about the death toll, about whether the helicopter was called in by Afghan forces in violation of Karzai’s ban (the military first said that was the case, then denied it), and whether civilians were killed. As usual, the military claims only terrorists were killed but a Reuters reporter saw the body of a boy, still in his school uniform, and the hand and foot of a toddler nearby. ( In the initial battle between Taliban and Afghan security forces, a woman was killed and 8 civilians wounded. Ahmad Jan, a 15-year-old wounded in the helicopter attack, was in a car and describes what happened: “The Taliban stopped our vehicle and one of them embarked. All of a sudden, there was a strike that left me unconscious.” Of the five passengers in the car, three are missing, presumably dead, collateral damage. ( Today is Easter, Mr. President, a day that’s supposed to be about peace, rebirth, redemption and forgiveness, but there is little of that in the world today; there is only vengeance and violence, death and destruction. In spite of the Nobel Peace Prize, there are no peacemakers in Washington today, only warmongers who spread fear and preach hatred for their own gain, who understand nothing of the reality of war, of the misery and hardship it causes, the enduring hatred it creates and the seeds for future conflict it plants. I often wonder what you feel each Tuesday when you select names to go on your Kill List; whether you’ve ever looked through the eye of a predator drone at those tiny blobs going about their business 8,000 miles away, civilians indistinguishable from terrorists; whether you’ve ever listened to drone operators or helicopter gunship crews exult over the carnage they’ve just created, heard the blood lust and adrenaline rush apparent in their voices, their pure joy of the game. You are responsible for the deaths of thousands and the misery and hardships of many times that number and I wonder if you are ever embarrassed by your Nobel Peace Prize and whether there is even room for peace in your heart. On this Easter day you are perhaps the one most in need of redemption and rebirth,

Friday, March 29, 2013

Monsanto's War on Humanity

Dear Mr. President,
There’s the direct war on children—killing them with bullets bombs and missiles—and the indirect war—degrading the environment and social structure, keeping them poor, undereducated and unhealthy. Some weapons straddle both categories—they kill directly but they keep on killing. Weapons that contain depleted uranium—used in Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya—kill intended targets but also scrambles the DNA of survivors which causes cancers and a host of other problems for them and high rates of birth deformities and early death for their children. The chemical weapons Saddam Hussein used against the Iranians and Kurds and the atomic bombs we dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki also had this effect. Indirect war on children includes embargoes on other countries and here at home, cuts in child health care, food programs and education. But there’s another more subtle way we wage war on children—by genetically modifying and filling their food with a potent stew of additives and chemicals—pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and hormones. One study found more than 150 chemicals in the pollen and wax of beehives. In this morning’s NYT there’s an article on the mass deaths of honeybees and the link to a new pesticide, neonicotinoid, which those clever scientists at Bayer and Monsanto have embedded into their patented seeds so it becomes part of the plant’s structure. Neonicotinoids are now the most widely used pesticide in the world; it’s in everything from soybeans and sunflowers to sugar beets, corn and canola. When neonicotinoids began to be widely used around 2005 the rate of honeybee deaths jumped from 5-10% a year to 30%; it’s now 40-60%. That’s scary. No bees, no pollination, no food. With all the chemicals used on crops today it’s hard to sort out but hundreds of studies point to neonicotinoids. GMOs, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides, the chemical companies are waging all-out war on the food we eat, the food our children eat, and the bees that make it all possible. Some countries have outlawed neonicotinoids, the European Food Safety Authority declared it an unacceptably high risk to bees and this month the EPA was sued for failing to adequately evaluate it but on Tuesday you signed the Monsanto Protection Act (written by Monsanto and added to the spending bill by Sen. Roy Blunt), which allows them to continue to sell, and farmers to plant, GMO crops, immune to lawsuits and regulation by the FDA. The war of self-annihilation rages on.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Moving Up The Ladder: Rewarded for War Crimes

Dear Mr. President,
According to this morning’s NYT, the female undercover CIA agent behind the order to destroy those torture tapes is moving up the ladder, poised to be appointed head of the CIA’s clandestine service, “one of the most coveted jobs in the CIA.” (I love that euphemism, “clandestine service,” like it’s some banal, mundane service agency instead of a killing and torture machine). This female agent “spent years working inside the agency’s Counterterrorism Center and once was in charge of a so-called black site, played a role in developing the CIA’s detention and intervention program…” [the rendition program]. And who will make the decision whether her temporary appointment becomes permanent? None other than Mr. Death-by-Drone himself, John O. Brennan, the guy responsible for Kill Lists who sits at your right hand every Tuesday nodding approval or disapproval of your choices for who dies this week, the architect of drone wars, the guy who institutionalized perpetual war, who claims civilian casualties are in “single digits” when the evidence is right there for everyone to see what a bald-faced lie that is. So here we have two peas in a pod, Brennan and the “female agent,” both guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, rewarded for their “service to the country,” promoted for the evil they have done and continue to do. What an obscenity! The drone wars have killed at least 4,700 (Sen. Lindsey Graham); no one knows how many wounded or how many civilians. I’m sending pictures again showing 6 children we killed in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2011 and 2012, and a 10 year old with his leg blown off by a Hellfire missile—none were insurgent threats to the U.S. Nor were Afghan villagers like Hayat Gul, a school guard wounded in a battle between the Taliban and Afghan and NATO forces, or the aged Ghulam Rasool, who abandon his mountain home in a village in the Hisarak district because of the relentless drones (benghai, they call them—“buzzing flies”) and the constant threat of death by Hellfire. You and Brennan and the CIA and the whole military-industrial complex are conducting a War of Terror, a war that is a crime against humanity, Mr. President. There are many many people who are responsible for these atrocities but no one has ever been held accountable while those who expose them are sent to prison—whistle-blowers like John Kiriakou and Bradley Manning. And that is another obscenity, call it the collateral damage of the obscenity of war.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The War of Self-Annihilation

Dear Mr. President,
The military sanitizes war, hides the ugly reality with euphemisms like “collateral damage” (civilians killed), “enhanced interrogation” (torture) and the latest one, “kinetic event” (dropping a bomb or firing a missile at a target). If an obscenity of war can’t be obscured by euphemisms then lies and denial work for awhile—like denial of the effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam or depleted uranium (DU) in the Gulf War. It took decades for the military to acknowledge the effects of Agent Orange but linkage between DU and an increase in cancers, birth deformities and other medical problems is still denied; they cite studies showing DU is harmless—the U.S. UK, France and Israel have all blocked studies by the UN.) But the physical evidence is overwhelming—wherever DU munitions were used—Kuwait, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan—the rate of childhood leukemia and birth deformities rose significantly over the next decade and health problems of those exposed to DU skyrocketed. I read that in a 3 week period in 2003 we used more than 100 tons of DU munitions in Iraq (oh, there’s the weapons of mass destruction!). Another article had this: in September 2009, there were 170 births in Fallujah General Hospital; 42 died within 7 days and 31 of those who died were deformed. In August 2002, there were 530 births in the same hospital; 6 died within 7 days and only one had a birth defect. Remember the Bunker Busters we used in Baghdad and Tora Bora trying to kill Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden? Each one contains 1.5 tons of DU. In Afghanistan some Bunker Busters were dropped within a half kilometer of villages; everyone watched the planes, watched the bombs drop, the explosions. A fine dust settled over everything and within 24 hours everyone was suffering the symptoms of radiation sickness. The half-life of DU is 4.468 billion years. 4.468 billion years! That’s almost as long as Earth has existed. DU scrambles DNA in people, plants and animals and that gets passed on from generation to generation. “[T]housands upon thousands of Iraqi children will suffer for tens of thousands of years to come. This is what I call terrorism.” Dr. Ahmad Hardan, adviser to WHO, 2003. Our War of Terror is no longer just against children, Mr. President, it’s a war against Mother Earth herself. Forget terrorists, forget global warming, even; DU is making Earth uninhabitable. War is an obscenity but the use of DU takes obscenity to a new level. This is a war of self-annihilation.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The War Against Afghan Children

Dear Mr. President,
On February 8, the U.S. military ‘strongly rejected’ the UN’s report on children killed in Afghanistan, claiming it was “categorically unfounded.” The report documented hundreds of children killed over the past 4 years by the U.S. military due to a “lack of precautionary measures and indiscriminate use of force.” This is your war, Mr. President, and these dead children are your responsibility. You could have ended the killing 4 years ago but expanded it instead. The war has brought nothing but misery, hardship and death to Afghanistan; their infant mortality is 122 per 1,000 (Cuba’s is 4.8 per 1,000), their government spends, on average $46 per person per year on health care; their life expectancy is 49 years; their average schooling is 3.3 years. Every day more children are killed or maimed, more deformed babies born. There are reports of children as young as 9 or 10—both boys and girls—being raped and tortured by Afghan security forces (who we train and to whose atrocities we turn a blind eye). Occasionally, one of our own heroes is guilty of an atrocity, like Robert Bales who massacred 16 Afghan villagers in 2012, or the platoon from 5th Stryker Combat Brigade that randomly shot and killed Afghan civilians for sport in 2010. You were elected to end war, not institutionalize it. You were given a Nobel Peace Prize for furthering the cause of peace and you further only the cause of war. But war never stays ‘over there’—we are a more violent nation, a greater threat to world peace than a decade ago, we have many wounded among us—the 30,000 from Iraq, the 20,000 from Afghanistan—and of those exposed to DU, many have multiple medical problems (and like their predecessors in Vietnam, the VA provides scant help, denies their claims, denies that DU is the cause, even denies they have a medical problem). Children born to these vets have a much higher rate of birth defects as well: like Gerard Darren Matthew’s little girl who was born with only 3 fingers on one hand. There are other ways the war comes home, too: on Friday, Chicago announced the closure of 54 schools for lack of funds; Philadelphia is closing 23; Newark, Detroit and Washington have already closed a number of schools; Head Start eliminated 70,000 slots and other social programs are being cut back. The Pentagon, meanwhile, has requested an additional $200 million to rebuild Guantanamo prison. All wars are against the children and your dumb war, like Bush’s dumb war, is no exception.
Mohammed Salim, 10, rests in a Kabul, Afghanistan, hospital after having a leg amputated and being treated for other injuries. He was reportedly injured by a U.S. bombing. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Boy killed in Kabul by NATO troops, 2008
Afghan children killed in 2011 NATO air strike (Photo: Uruknet)
Children killed in drone attack, Dande Darpa Khel, N. Waziristan, 2012 (SANA Photo)

Friday, March 22, 2013

War Against The Children of Fallujah

Dear Mr. President,
The more I think on it the angrier I get: The American war machine and your betrayal of America and humanity, your pretense of peace and your acts of war. War is the ultimate obscenity and those who promote war—the politicians, the arms merchants, the generals—are especially despicable. War, in the end, is always waged against the children; ultimately they suffer the most, if not in death or physical injury, then in trauma, in poverty and hardship, in displacement, in the loss of parents, family, protection. But there is a special class of obscenity resulting from our use of depleted uranium (DU) in the Iraq war that is never talked about here: birth deformities. In Fallujah where depleted uranium was used extensively, birth defects are 14 times the rates in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the Bomb. There are some types of birth deformities never seen before, some so horrific they have no name. Fallujah women are afraid to bear children and there is no help from either the Iraqi or U.S. government. On April 14, 2003, the BBC reported that the Pentagon had no intention of cleaning up depleted uranium from battlefields: “There are no long-term effects,” a spokesman stated, but high levels of lead, mercury and DU remain in the air, ground and water around Fallujah and cancers and neurological problems have increased to levels 8 times higher than those in the U.S. The use of DU in bullets, bombs, artillery shells and rockets is a violation of the Geneva Conventions; the use of phosphorous is a war crime as well; so is the use of cluster bombs. We used all of them in Iraq and there is no doubt we used them all in Afghanistan as well. Iraq was Bush’s war (and Cheney’s and the other neocons) but you are complicit in their crimes against humanity by refusing to hold anyone accountable. The heavy wall of silence, denial and secrecy that surrounds our War of Terror makes you as guilty as any of them. Not to mention your expansion of the obscenity that is the War in Afghanistan or the Drone Wars or the Kill Lists or the Targeted Assassinations. Who gave you the right to wreak violence and destruction on humanity and the planet like some latter-day Attila the Hun? Who gave you the right to decide who lives and who dies? I found images of deformed babies born to the women of Fallujah that you need to see, Mr. President. Your web site doesn’t accept images so I’m printing them out and mailing them. Take a good long look at the horror of war. Think on it.
Photo Source Dr. Samira Alani / Al Jazeera
Photo Source:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Do Nobel Peace Prizes Blush?

Dear Mr. President,
Washington’s silence on the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq is not unexpected. No one wants to talk about defeat but defeat it was. After 2 trillion U.S. taxpayer dollars and 4,486 U.S. casualties (plus 30,000 wounded), here’s what the war reaped: 190,000 to 600,000 Iraqis killed, their infrastructure, culture and government destroyed, one strongman dictator (Hussein) replaced by another (al-Maliki), millions displaced, widespread poverty, hunger and pain. Contrary to Bush and the neocons’ prediction of easy victory and a peaceful and free Iraq that would “be a model of democracy and stability,” Iraq today is torn by civil strife and sectarian violence (yesterday alone, 17 car bombs, 2 adhesive bombs and a shooting killed 57 and wounded 190); Iraq is an ally of Iran not the U.S.; al-Maliki is arresting Sunni government officials including his own VP on charges of terrorism; Iraqi oil contracts are going to China, not the U.S.; and the entire region has been destabilized. The war was based on lies and deceit; Iraq was not a threat and the invasion was not warranted but 10 years later we have learned nothing from this disaster. Once elected, you betrayed America by refusing to investigate the Bush administration’s war crimes—not a single person has been held responsible for the carnage, the violence, the torture, the crimes against humanity. Your refusal to have a public discussion of the causes of 9/11 or the Iraq war or the war in Afghanistan guarantees that, in our blind arrogance we will repeat the mistakes of the past. Someone asked me today if I still thought you were the worst president ever, even worse than Bush, and I said yes. You could have stopped the war in Afghanistan in 2009 but instead expanded it. You could have changed foreign policy to prevent future 9/11s but didn’t. You could have stopped the erosion of liberty and democracy by vetoing legislation like the NDAA, the Patriot Act, etc. but you signed them all. You could have investigated and held accountable those responsible for torture and war crimes but gave them a free pass while prosecuting whistle-blowers like John Kirakou who revealed the CIA’s use of waterboarding and Bradley Manning who exposed war crimes by the military and duplicity by the government. You could have ended drone strikes and targeted assassinations but instead you expanded and institutionalized them. Throw a shroud over that Nobel Peace Prize, Mr. President, it’s blushing from shame.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Difference Between Johnson, Bush and Obama

Dear Mr. President,
Ironic that the 10-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq war falls on Kill List Tuesday. That war’s over for American politicians but not the soldiers who returned home wounded and traumatized. Nor for their families. It’s not over for the families of those who returned in flag-draped coffins, either, and it isn’t really over for the rest of us. A team of 30 economists, anthropologists, political scientists, legal experts and physicians just released “The Costs of War,” a study that estimates the Iraq war has so far cost us more than $1.7 trillion and will eventually cost between $2.2 and $4 trillion. It reports at least 190,000 people killed in the war, 130,000 of them civilians, probably double that since no one keeps an accurate count. And are Iraqis better off than they were under Saddam Hussein? Hassim al-Shimari: “ [Americans] did all the things possible to ensure that Iraq is going to be ruined.” Abdullah Fadil: “There was nothing accomplished…” Ahssan al-Shimmary: “What was a dream for Iraqis has become a nightmare for Iraqis.” (Today’s NYT, p. A4.) Iraq was a criminal act. It was not about good versus evil, not about self-defense and not about WMD. It was about oil. Dennis Kucinich, Chuck Hagel and General Abizaid all said it early on and were attacked for saying it; even Alan Greenspan admitted it years later in his memoir. David Frum (“the axis of evil”) revealed recently in Time that Cheney spent long hours with Chalabi (remember him?) plotting a Western-oriented Iraq that would be “an additional source of oil, an alternative to U.S. dependency on an unstable-looking Saudi Arabia.” All wars are based on the lies and duplicity of politicians. Thus it has always been and thus it will ever be. The BBC’s March 15 report on newly released recordings of LBJ’s private conversations reveals the scuttling of the Paris Peace talks in 1968 by Nixon to promote his presidential campaign. Johnson considered it an act of treason but never revealed it publicly. Nixon’s sabotaging of peace and his subsequent election prolonged the war by 5 years and resulted in hundreds of thousands of additional deaths, 22,000 of them American. All wars are crimes and all politicians who take us to war are war criminals. Vietnam was Johnson’s war, Iraq was Bush’s, Afghanistan is yours. So are the drone wars in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. Johnson, Bush, Obama, liars one and all. The only difference is that they didn’t win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Monday, March 18, 2013

No Guns, No Bullets, No Bombs, No Wars

Dear Mr. President,
This is a continuation of yesterday’s letter. I wasn’t advocating replacing an all-volunteer army with a return to the draft and a status quo global military empire. Rather, I’m thinking forget the American Empire, forget Pax Americana. I’m thinking a tiny core military that in a real national emergency can be supplemented by a National Guard or, if necessary, a draft. I’m thinking shut down the military juggernaut and the arms merchants like Lockheed, Raytheon and General Dynamics. Let’s put people to work on roads and bridges, on renewable energy and infrastructure. Let’s use the peace dividend for education—free for everyone through college—and healthcare—single-payer for everyone, free, and with better outcomes—and let’s train people in the art of democracy and peace, not the art of war. From outside the bubble it’s pretty obvious where the money comes from. First off, cut Lockheed’s F-35 program, the fighter that couldn’t fly; that’s $400 billion. Then there’s the Littoral Combat Ship—Navy insiders call it the Little Crappy Ship—nothing on it works and it can’t survive a direct hit in combat. (Another Lockheed boondoggle along with an Australian company, Austal.) Cut it. Save another $37 billion. And the C-130? (Lockheed yet again!) Stop buying those suckers at $96 million apiece. Not needed, not wanted and the Air Force is running out of places to park them. Then there’s Afghanistan. That war’s been over for a long time; we just haven’t admitted it yet. We don’t want to be there, they don’t want us there and every day we create new enemies. Pull out, leave them alone. Savings: about $7 billion a month. Next, ground the drones; they’re weapons of terror and crimes against humanity. They create enemies and instability. Forget Mali, forget Syria (you used the old “humanitarian intervention” ploy in Libya and that illegal war didn’t turn out so hot and Syria and Mali are Libya redux). Let’s stop arming the world; top of my list is Israel: $3 billion a year. Shrink the military by 250,000 a year for the next 5 years, shut down all 1,000 foreign bases—and most of the U.S. ones as well—cut Homeland Security and the NSA, eliminate the CIA assassins and Special Forces. Let’s make peace, not war. We’re cutting the wrong things, Mr. President. Focus on the military-industrial complex, not social programs. Invest in diplomacy. No guns, no bullets, no bombs, no wars. And after you’ve done all this, dust off your Nobel Peace Prize and admire it.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Obama, One Lucky Devil

Dear Mr. President,
Not a good week for your War of Terror. A federal appeals court ruled the CIA has to reveal records of drone strikes; the UN ruled the drone war in Pakistan a violation of their sovereignty that disrupts life there; Karzai rails against our refusal to turn over Bagram, our secret talks with the Taliban, our ongoing killing of civilians, our Special Forces thugs still in Wardak despite his order to leave; angry demonstrations by the locals; General Dunford’s alert to U.S. troops… So much for your smart war in Afghanistan, so much for winning hearts and minds, so much for a trillion bucks blown on war instead of peace. But you’re a lucky devil and along with 2 disastrous wars you also inherited an all-volunteer army and a disengaged public. I’ve always thought eliminating the draft was a mistake. A professional army is, in effect, an imperial army divorced from and ignored by the public and this is dangerous for democracy, justice and human rights. With an all-volunteer army, the public loses interest in war. They have no skin in the game. It’s not their sons, husbands and lovers who are sent into harm’s way by politicians. Few families are affected by war; for them life is normal—celebrities, entertainment, career, pursuing all the meaningless trivia of modern life. It’s someone else’s son getting a leg or arm blown off, someone else’s father killed by an IED, someone else’s lover or husband burned in an explosion, someone else’s friend suffering moral injury. It’s why there’s no demonstrations, why Americans by the hundreds of thousands aren’t in the streets demanding an end to the insanity, to the evil of drones and kill lists and targeted assassinations, to the ongoing violence and bloodshed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, why the drumbeat for war in Iran, in Syria, isn’t drowned out by the voice of the people. You get away with murder, Mr. President, literally and figuratively. You say all the right words and do all the wrong deeds and few people pay attention. Unless you’re on the receiving end of our War of Terror. Unless you live in the mountains of Waziristan or Helmand Province or southern Yemen where drones are ever-present, where Hellfires incinerate without warning, where an invisible enemy is everywhere watching and there is no defense. You expand the injustices of your predecessor and few people protest. But history will not treat you kindly in spite of our national blindness. Your luck will eventually run out.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Iron Fist Closes

Dear Mr. President,
“The United States only detains individuals when that detention is lawful, and does not intend to hold any individual longer than necessary.” This whopper delivered by Michael Williams, senior adviser for Guantanamo policy, Office of the Legal Adviser, U.S. State Department, during this week’s hearing of the OAS’s Human Rights commission investigating conditions at Guantanamo. At the same hearing, lawyers for Guantanamo detainees tell a far different story: of the psychic trauma of indefinite detention without charges and of deteriorating conditions at the camp—personal possessions like family photos are now confiscated, Qur’ans desecrated, beatings by guards, a detainee shot in the neck, the first reported incident of gunfire in the camp’s history. A harsher, more punitive attitude has returned to Guantanamo with a recent change in command and prisoners have only one way to protest: refusing to eat. In spite of official statements that just 6 or 7 prisoners are participating, it’s clear there are more than 100 of the 166 prisoners on a 2-month-long hunger strike. Tariq Ba Odah, a Yemeni, has been on an uninterrupted hunger strike since February 2007. He is force-fed liquid supplements daily through his nose, a painful process the UN declared torture. Another inmate wrote his lawyer, “We are in danger…. Please do something.” He told of guards firing rubber bullets at inmates and threatening “to return us to the darkest days under Bush. They said this to us.” You found ways around Congress to wage drone wars, you found ways around the Constitution to murder American citizens without due process; surely, Mr. President, you could find ways to stop this. But you don’t. In December you signed the 2013 NDAA making it impossible to release prisoners from Guantanamo or move them to another facility. You could have vetoed that measure but you didn’t. In January you shut down the office tasked with finding new homes for cleared Guantanamo prisoners (about half of them), and reassigned the Special Envoy in charge, Dan Fried. How can we forget your 2008 campaign pledge to close Guantanamo? Or your betrayal of that promise. Guantanamo, indefinite detention, the power to declare anyone anywhere, a terrorist. Whistle-blowers like Bradley Manning now face the prospect of a death sentence. Suppress information, Suppress protest. Ignore laws and those who protest against injustice and violations of human rights. The iron fist closes. This is your legacy.

Image from Nation of Change

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The War on Women, Infants and Children

Dear Mr. President,
Sequestration will cut $700 million from the Women, Infants and Children food, nutrition and health care program. That will eliminate about 775,000 low-income women and children from the program who qualify and are at risk. It means that 775,000 women and children will go hungry so the American military juggernaut can buy 5 problem-plagued F-35 jet fighters from Lockheed-Martin, or 7 more of their unwanted and unneeded C-130s. It means less health, less nutrition and less food for hungry women and kids to pay the $1,380,000 annual salary (plus bonus) to Lockheed’s new CEO, Marillyn Hewson. We’ve regressed 1,000 years in law to a state where a president can throw anyone he deems an enemy into prison indefinitely without legal recourse; or have anyone he puts on his Kill List (it’s Kill List Tuesday again) assassinated by Hellfire or Special Forces or CIA assassins. And now we’re regressing 1,000 years and letting people starve to death while the war profiteers like Hewson feast on bloated salaries and fat bonuses. For politicians, the beauty of sequestration is that no one and everyone is to blame, an unintentional benefit that obscures behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing corruption and betrayal. Yesterday was a bad day in Afghanistan: a helicopter down in bad weather killed 5 U.S. soldiers out on a night raid; an insider attack killed 5 U.S. and 2 Afghan soldiers in Wardak Province (today is Karzai’s deadline for Americans to leave the province), U.S. troops shot to death 2 Afghan civilians whose truck got too close to a U.S. convoy (turns out they were mechanics who serviced police vehicles). Your zombie war in Afghanistan grinds on, tens of millions a day wasted, every Hellfire $68,500 that should better people’s lives, not take them. Each bullet, each bomb, each drone strike, each night raid, creates more hatred, makes us less safe, sinks us deeper into the evil of war, into the mentality of violence and murder and the loss of our own humanity. War dehumanizes everyone. Drones—$5 million apiece—dehumanize the enemy but also dehumanize us as a society. They eliminate food programs for women and children, they de-fund education and social programs like Head Start, they make us a more callous, barbaric nation. The war comes home in many ways, none of them good, none of them honorable or noble or heroic or beneficial. All wars ultimately are against the children, against the innocent. All wars are dumb wars, Mr. President, even yours.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Did Attila the Hun have Kill List Tuesdays?

Dear Mr. President,
The CIA unleashed! Brennan’s in charge. Bring on the drones! Bring on the assassins! We’re off to the Dark Side! Sunday, Hellfire missiles killed 2 men on horses in the mountains of Waziristan. Or maybe they were on a motorcycle. Or maybe there were 3 men. No one but the assassins know who their victims were; the Hellfires disintegrated them. Or maybe it was a ‘signature strike’ and even the assassins don’t know who they were; they just looked suspicious. But whatever, they were military age (or not) and an imminent threat to the U.S. of A. (or not), but no big deal, the president’s got their back. Then there’s the 29-year-old Kandahar University student, Abdul Qayum, snatched off the campus Saturday morning when 2 pickups filled with armed men rolled up, they grabbed him, tied his hands behind his back, put a hood over his head and drove him to a U.S.-run prison where he was beaten and interrogated for almost 12 hours until Hamid Karzai personally intervened and got him released. The U.S. military denies responsibility, the CIA isn’t talking, but it’s clear that the armed thugs in the trucks were ‘counterterrorism forces’ trained and under the control of the CIA. And it wasn’t the first time students have been snatched off the campus by these guys. But no matter, the president’s got their back even if it was bad timing, another arrow in Karzai’s quiver of complaints. We’re back in the Dark Ages, Mr. President, pre-Magna Carta, pre-habeas corpus, back to when the King’s word was law and there were no checks on power; when he could lock up anyone he chose indefinitely, declare anyone an enemy of the state and order their execution. (Did Attila the Hun have Kill List Tuesdays or was that an unnecessary nicety?) Not that long ago we presumed someone innocent until proven guilty to a jury of their peers, with evidence and legal representation and following certain rules of law; only then could they be imprisoned or executed by the state. How have we gone back a thousand years so quickly? Become modern-day terrorists striking suddenly and without warning from the sky? Except for the technology there is little difference from the lawless times of the 5th century and the lawless times of today. In spite of all those secret memos and twisted interpretations of law, blatant injustice is still blatant injustice and the dead are still the dead, and you, Mr. President are no better, no more moral or enlightened than any of the monsters of history.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Billions for War, Not a Dime's Worth of Peace

Dear Mr. President, 
The Washington Post reports that in November the U.S. Government signed a $63 million contract with Conti Federal Services, an Edison, NJ contractor, to build a blast-proof radiation-proof super-secret 5-level underground, 6-level above-ground complex near Tel Aviv—called Site 911—for the Israeli military; on December 28 another RFP was issued—$100 million to construct Site 81 Phase II—refinish six underground facilities and some currently occupied surface buildings—also for the Israeli military in Israel. Wednesday, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart Bowen, in his final report to Congress, concluded that most of the $60+ billion+ spent for reconstruction in Iraq was wasted ( (My favorite story of the waste in Iraq, however, is the $2.2 million chicken processing plant in the middle of nowhere that sits abandoned—Iraqi farmers have sold their chickens locally for 2,000 years, no one understood how to use the complex machinery, there is no reliable electricity and no grocery stores to ship to: A CBS News report says this could be a forecast of the $90+ billion spent so far for reconstruction in Afghanistan. (Can there be any doubt given the history of graft and corruption there?) And then there’s an article by Jeremiah Goulka on Lockheed’s successful lobbying of Congress to keep buying unwanted, unneeded C-130 Hercules at $94 million apiece: These are only a few drops in the river of money gushing from the U.S. Treasury for war. But what do we hear from Washington? Fiscal Cliff! Austerity! Sequestration! and “Let’s face it, we’re broke!” A $700 billion bailout of Banksters? OK. Mortgage relief for homeowners? No Way! We have to cut Medicare and Social Security to save it, cut Medicaid, cut education, cut school lunches, cut the mail, but don’t touch my drones, don’t touch my Hellfires, don’t touch my guns! National security and national defense has become national insecurity and a national offense. The war is coming home. Not only in flag-draped coffins and traumatized veterans, but in crumbling roads and bridges, a crumbling economy and a crumbling society. Money for war, money to kill, money to terrorize, but not a dime’s worth of peace, not a nickel’s worth of prosperity.

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Filibuster for Democracy

Dear Mr. President, 
I never thought I’d agree with Rand Paul’s Libertarianism or his Tea Party defenders, but his 13-hour filibuster of your nominee for CIA director, Death-by-Drone Brennan, was the first sign of life in the somnolent swamp of Congressional stupor. Senator Paul questioned the ever-expanding powers of the president, questioned the legality of targeted assassinations, the necessity of a global military enterprise, of a national security state. But in spite of Paul’s filibuster, this amoral apparatchik, Brennan, was approved by Senators interested only in staying Senators and not the good of the country. This morning’s lead editorial in the NYT all but called Brennan an outright liar and yet, here he is, our new CIA director, a man who defended torture under Bush and targeted assassinations under Obama, responsible for thousands of deaths by Hellfire that created tens of thousands of new militants vowing death to America. Brennan is a cold-blooded killer and war criminal who has made America less safe but is honored and rewarded, praised by you for his American Values while Bradley Manning, who believes in democracy, transparency and justice, remains locked in a cell, unjustly persecuted by a government determined to make him an example to others and shut him up for life. This is your government, Mr. President, filled with people like John Brennan who do not understand either democracy or justice and no one to speak up for the true patriot among us, no one who will challenge the injustice wrought on this boy. “Aiding and abetting the enemy,” “espionage” and “stealing government property” are all spurious charges, unwarranted and unsupported by evidence. But no matter, for Manning is subject not to a jury of his peers but to the mock-justice of a military tribunal which will follow the orders of their masters. Sen. Paul said, “People are starting to understand that just by calling someone an enemy combatant doesn’t make them an enemy combatant. Someone has to assess their guilt or innocence, and it’s a pretty important question.” Indeed. Your secret memos and invocations of national security do not strengthen our democracy, Mr. President, but destroy it. You and your administration and the dysfunctional Congress that sits in mesmerized stupor, do not seem to get that. But Bradley Manning does. He understands that secrecy and unbridled power are the enemy of democracy. And until we—all of us—learn that lesson, America is in very serious trouble.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Obama or Manning: Who's the Real Criminal?

Dear Mr. President, 
Janet Reitman’s article on Bradley Manning in the March 14 Rolling Stone describes his 3-year ordeal at the hands of the U.S. government: “Though not the standard treatment for U.S. soldiers, even those accused of war crimes,” Reitman notes, “Obama administration officials deemed it ‘appropriate’ for Manning.” As I read the article, I wondered who ordered his harsh treatment, ordered him taken from an air-conditioned tent where other miscreants were held at Camp Arifjan and put in a Guantanamo–like steel cage for 6 weeks, kept in isolation and put on a reverse sleep cycle, allowed to sleep only in the mid-day, mid-summer heat of the Kuwait desert. Why was Manning, a U.S. Army private, transferred to the Marine brig at Quantico rather than an army stockade? Who ordered him put on suicide watch? Ordered he sit on the edge of his bunk all day, back rigid, not permitted to lie down or lean against a wall, a stress position used in torture? Who ordered him kept in solitary confinement with only a 20-minute “sunshine call” each day, taken out of his cell shackled, in restraints so top-heavy, guards had to hold this 5’ 2” 105 pound boy upright to keep him from toppling over? Then, declared non-suicidal by Navy psychiatrists, who let the officer in charge defy regulations and keep Manning on suicide watch for another week before classifying him POI, still subject to isolation, sleep deprivation, lack of exercise and communication, psychologically battered, badgered and humiliated? This 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst exposed war crimes, corruption, lies, and duplicity by his and other governments and was punished for his sins. It doesn’t matter that half of what Manning turned over to WikiLeaks was unclassified or that he selected only those documents that would cause no harm to his country. And it doesn’t matter that the UN’s annual report on human rights abuses declared Manning’s treatment inhumane and a violation of basic human rights. But it does matter that you could have stopped all this long ago and didn’t, that you are complicit in making Manning a warning to other potential whistleblowers and keeping him a political prisoner. You order the assassination of American citizens without due process, you order drone attacks knowing innocent civilians will be killed, why not torture, indefinite detention and mock justice for someone who embarrasses the power elite and shows the true face of war? You are the real criminal, Mr. President.

Monday, March 4, 2013

War and Sequester at Home and Abroad

Dear Mr. President, 
Yesterday I met someone related by marriage to an auditor for the CIA. Recently, she told me, he went to Afghanistan to audit projects funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars. She said he went from one site to another and found in most places nothing: no construction, no new buildings, nothing. Much of the money we pour into Karzai’s coffers goes directly into the pockets of his gang of thieves. Administration officials—off the record—call it a vertically-integrated criminal enterprise. In yesterday’s NYT article about the Marine pullout from Helmand Province, Maj. Gen. Gurganus, the departing commander of NATO forces there, said, “This is Chicago in the 1930s.” The 2010 Kabul Bank scandal, the steady accusations of corruption, the flow of gold and dollars in suitcases, crates and pallets out of the country, the villas and estates purchased by those connected to Karzai in Dubai, Qatar and elsewhere all confirm that Afghanistan is the 3rd most corrupt country in the world. 11+ years after the start of a misguided and unnecessary war against one of the poorest countries on earth and what has been gained? In Afghanistan, government officials and friends with bank accounts bloated by U.S. dollars while the people remain impoverished; a government trusted by no one; a country ruled by gangs not laws; an unbowed and undefeated Taliban waiting for our departure so they can take over again; and tens of thousands of lives lost and destroyed in the wreckage, the aftermath of the American reign of terror that replaced the Taliban reign of terror that replaced the Russian reign of terror. Here at home, banks foreclose on service members deployed to war—thank you for your service—while we build new drone bases in Africa, housing assistance for the poor and disabled is cut while we pledge $450 million to Egypt, social services are sacrificed for a problem-plagued F-35 jet fighter, we train and equip Syrian rebels but not our unemployed, and we deploy more Special Forces assassins while we furlough federal employees providing critical services. America is consumed by fear and impoverished morally, psychically and financially. Austerity and budget cuts pay for senseless wars and protect us from phantom enemies. There is no end to enemies, no end to threats, no end to the madness. So much for the Hope of 2008, the expectation of an end to war. You have learned nothing. Mr. President. Afghanistan is your Vietnam and the War of Terror is your war now, your legacy.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Toor Jan, 11, Abdul Wodood, 12, Victims of Obama's War

Dear Mr. President,
Two more innocent children murdered by your war in Afghaistan. Toor Jan, 11 and Abdul Wodood, 12. Gathering firewood, walking behind their donkeys. Gunned down by a helicopter gunship. Two boys mistaken for insurgents in an area where, according to the head of the district council, there was no insurgent activity, but according to a spokesman for the provincial government there had been insurgent activity and the helicopter had been fired on, and according to a spokesman for the provincial police chief, the helicopter was hunting Taliban by tracking their radio signals: “There wasn’t any engagement with the Taliban …they thought they detected a Taliban radio signal.” There’s little difference between this incident and that one last October where 3 children gathering dung were gunned down by a helicopter gunship. Or the one in March 2011 where 9 were slaughtered. Only the names and numbers of victims change. There’s an article in today’s NYT about the Marines in Helmand Province; part of your surge in 2010. 21,000 of them came; 360 died, 4,700 were wounded, no numbers for how many they killed and wounded. They’re leaving now, packing up, heading off to other places, part of America’s war enterprise. They’re “trying to beat the Army to the exit,” according to the article and have already shipped out 2/3 of their materiel. Their sprawling headquarters, Camp Leatherneck, looks “as desolate as frontier ghost towns.” The war came to Helmand Province with all its violence and carnage and now it’s leaving. In a visit last month, Marine Corps General James Amos declared, “Two years from now, [Camp Leatherneck] is going to be empty.” He’s right. The marines have done the job, created a “security bubble that has allowed governance to shoot up,” according to another general, and yet, even the generals concede that the Afghan Army which will take over when they leave, lacks basic capabilities, there is no loyalty to the government, the poppy fields are flourishing, the region is lawless with corrupt officials, tribal leaders and drug gangs fighting each other, and violence has gone up in the past year. Yes, in 2 years, General Amos, everything will go back to the way it was before we arrived: the Taliban will take over and the people will be worse off than they were before. Was it worth it? No doubt in the generals’ minds. “I think history has proven it was the right thing to do,” General Amos said. Tell that to Toor Jan and his brother Abdul Wodood.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Put Bradley Manning in Charge of Everything

Dear Mr. President,
After nearly 3 years in prison without a trial, Bradley Manning finally got to speak and what he spoke was righteous truth. The data he turned over to WikiLeaks was selected with care, only what he felt would cause no harm even though it might be embarrassing (today’s NYT, p. A1). Motivated by a post-World War I book on “open diplomacy” that argues the world would be a better place if states would not make secret deals with each other, he felt the diplomatic cables documented “back room deals and seemingly criminal activity;” war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan showed a reality different than that presented by the generals; the Guantanmo files revealed that many detainees were innocent, low level foot soldiers or possessed no useful intelligence; and the videos of air strikes—especially the “Permission to Engage” video of a helicopter gunship mowing down innocent civilians and those who came to their rescue, revealed war crimes. Manning is a true patriot with true American Values. He understands democracy and justice and rather than betray the U.S., he shed light on some dark and ugly secrets. He said at his hearing yesterday what he’s said from the beginning: that he “released the information to help enlighten the public about ‘what happens and why it happens’ and to ‘spark a debate about foreign policy.” He downloaded all that classified information onto a tiny SD card, stuck it in his pocket and flew home on leave. (So much for a trillion bucks spent on security.) He tried the Washington Post. Not interested. The New York Times. No one called back. Finally he went to the WikiLeaks web site. No one from WikiLeaks asked for it and no one asked for more, he said. He had no idea who he was contacting and still doesn’t. (So much for your case against Julian Assange.) Manning knows he’ll spend a long time in prison but he listened to his conscience and did what was right for the greater good. He could see the military “was obsessed with capturing or killing people on a list, while ignoring the impact of its operation on ordinary people,” something your generals—and you—still don’t get or don’t care about. He could see the harm our military and our foreign policy was doing. He could see that secrecy is the enemy of democracy and democracy is losing right now. He tried to tip the scales back. Pfc. Bradley Manning is smarter than all your advisers put together. Drop all charges, give him the Medal of Freedom and put him in charge of everything.