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In This Edition

Sam Harris starts a few arguments in, "Why I’d Rather Not Speak About Torture."

Uri Avnery has but, "One Word."

David Sirota concludes, ""USA! USA!" Is The Wrong Response."

Randall Amster wonders, "Obama Bags Osama -- So Now What?"

Jim Hightower reports, "Trump Shows What He's Made Of."

Helen Thomas explores, "The Sin Of Silence."

James Donahue reminds us that, "Our Founding Fathers Never Wanted A Democracy."

Glenn Greenwald returnes with, "The Illogic Of The Torture Debate."

Chris Floyd reviews, "Annals of a Golden Age."

Cindy Sheehan with her, "Interview With Hugo Chavez."

Paul Krugman sings, "Springtime For Bankers."

Chris Hedges orates, "On Osama bin Laden’s Death."

Amy Goodman demands that we, "Accomplish The Mission."

Norwalk, Connecticut Mayor Richard Moccia wins the coveted "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Sheila Samples sees, "Politics -- Spinning Out Of Control."

Matthew Rothschild examines, "Bin Laden’s Crimes, And Ours."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion discovers, "Obama's Deficit-Reduction Plan Includes Spending Cuts, Robbing Fort Knox, Tax Reform" but first, Uncle Ernie sez, "All Join Hands And Habeas Corpus!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Bruce Plante, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Life Magazine, Bill Day, Tom Toles, J. Lavery, Pat Bagley, The Soapbox, Rethink Afghanistan.Com, A.P., Reuters, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

The Quotable Quote...
The Dead Letter Office...
The Cartoon Corner...
To End On A Happy Note...
Have You Seen This...
Parting Shots...

Welcome one and all to "Uncle Ernie's Issues & Alibis."

All Join Hands And Habeas Corpus!
By Ernest Stewart

"The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated!" ~~~ Mark Twain

"I am not alone in thinking that there are potential circumstances in which the use of torture would be ethically justifiable." ~~~ Sam Harris

“This is not a poor, picked-upon homeless person. This is an ex-con, and somehow the city of Norwalk is made into the ogre in this. She has a checkered past at best.” ~~~ Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia

It's always something
There's always something going wrong
That's the only guarantee,
That's what this is all about
Life Is A Lemon ~~~ Meatloaf

Well, it wasn't exactly VE Day, or even VJ Day, which, by the way, was the last war that we won, but celebrate we did coast to coast for VO Day! So we finally killed Osama, or did we? Yes, I know, Obamahood went on television and said we did, so we can all roll over and go back to sleep as everything is fine. The boogie man is dead, long live the next boogie man. The CIA certainly got their money's worth out of Agent bin Laden, huh? First he destroyed the USSR and then he destroyed these United Snakes; what a guy!

Whenever needed by our elected plutarchy, Osama was paraded out to strike fear and take our eyes off the various acts of treason and sedition that was going down, a very handy tool, and yet we finally killed him? Why do I doubt this latest revelation? Perhaps it's because that no President since Teddy Roosevelt has told us the truth about anything! JFK came close to Teddy and was no doubt the best president in my life span! Whether or not Osama was behind 9/11 (he was never charged with it) or it was a PNAC project, Osama was behind several acts of murder and mayhem after our sponsor of him against the USSR, so he no doubt deserved death. So, yippee, I guess?

I'm curious about several things, first, as the Chad Mitchell Trio once sang in "Lizzie Borden:" "Jump like a fish. Jump like a porpoise. All join hands and habeas corpus!" Ergo, where's the body? Oh, we threw it overboard because he was Muslim, and since we really respect their religion, blah, blah, blah... You know, like bombing mosques and other holy places and murdering at least one million Muslims. Bull sh*t! Why wasn't he taken alive? A couple of stun guns in the weaponry and we'd have a fount of information about al Qaeda and after a few hundred or so waterboardings, all the info we'd need to round up the rest. Of course, to do that you'd soon run out of reasons to be over there stealing all that oil and spending all that money, huh? Not to mention, it's hard to torture someone that's been dead for over nine years! Not to mention, if someone's been on ice for nine years, that'll be obvious in a post-mortem examination. Still, they claim that they found him alone and unarmed in a room, so why murder him? It's simple really; dead men tell no tales; they don't spill the beans about the CIA and the Crime Family Bush's™ involvement in 9/11. Wrapped that cover-up rather neatly by one in the chest and one in the forehead!

Well, wasn't that convenient; no body, no proof, oh, we have his DNA, or maybe it's his brother's or dead sister's DNA? We might even have photographs, but don't expect to see them any time soon, like Obama's "birth certificate." Or promises to end the wars or closing Gitmo or bringing the Crime Family Bush to justice. We talk a great game; but when it comes down to actually doing something, well, then it's time to look forward, not backward, or you might see their treason and crimes against humanity gaining on ya!

Besides, as most of the world already knows, Osama died from lung cancer in Tora Bora back in December of 2001, and his threat has been kept alive by the various juntas ever since to scare silly Americans with. So the question arises: who will be the next public enemy #1 and why was it convenient to kill Osama off now? Perhaps it was because with the birth certificate and now this Obamahood gets a popularity surge when his presidency was suffering a rating only slightly better than Bush's at the end of his dictatorship. A lucky thing, eh? What are the odds?

Are we actually going to pull out of Afghanistan now that all of our money is gone? Is this just an excuse to do so? If so, I'm all for it, but I rather doubt that our masters would do anything that might benefit us without a scary alternative motive! I wonder what that motive is, and how it will screw us over more so than a war in Afghanistan did, don't you? Stay tuned, America!

In Other News

As it says at the bottom of the magazine, amongst other things: "All views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of Issues & Alibis.Org." As is the case of Sam Harris' essay "Why I’d Rather Not Speak About Torture" that leads off this edition. While I pretty much agree with everything Sam says about religion, we are both of the species Leftistamericanus; and, therefore, we'll argue about minutia just for the sake of a good argument; it's just the nature of the beast. So, after reading and writing up the code, I sent Sam an email which produced this continuing discussion, as to why Sam would rather not speak about torture:


Would it be because you're defending something that is indefensible and that it speaks volumes about who you are?

You also left out that it seldom works; and what do you say to the innocent man or women who you've scared for life, if they're even still alive? And afterward, how do you look yourself in the mirror without wanting to cut your own throat? There are no gray areas in torture; it's either right or wrong, I say it's wrong, and you say it's right.

Also, I'm guessing you'd have someone else do the torture, and not yourself? Would you at least stand in the room and watch the blood spurt, the body parts cut off, and hear the screams? If not, why not? Then you have to make up these bizarre sets of circumstances to justify your thesis.

Would you understand and would it be all right if they mistakenly did it to you? If not, why not? Remember that they've tortured innocent folks for years down in Gitmo before letting them go, around 95% of every one taken to Gitmo was eventually let go. I'm sure that Dr. Mengele thought that he was doing necessary, defensible, scientific experiments on the children of Auschwitz, too--which makes his theory a little better than yours, as he didn't set out to torture, and you did!

Finally, I'm curious why you wrote this column, when you must have known the response would be 99% negative. Are you a masochist? Do you enjoy negativity? Do you enjoy being tortured?

I will give you the benefit of the doubt and believe that you didn't actually read my blog post with any attention, as every one of your concerns is addressed there.


Have no doubts, Sam, that I read every word; actually, I read it twice, you are wrong about torture. As you said, "our daily acceptance of collateral damage" perhaps you have an acceptance of collateral damage or as I prefer to call it "murder," but I don't, and I'm against torture, too; imagine that! Also, be careful about calling folks "terrorists," but I do believe your call on al Qaeda was correct, as they're a CIA black ops outfit, so you might start the torture in Langley or almost anywhere down in "Foggy Bottom." We are the largest, evilest, meanest, nastiest, terror group in the history of the planet, these good ole United Snakes, and we've been at it for 400 years, so we're very good at it!

One other thing I write to you, because I care about you, as you are a clever and articulate spokesman for things I really care about. Up until now, I would say I agreed with about 99% of what you've had to say. I also know you're a very smart fellow, and therein lies the quandary. Yes, we are the spawn of the killer ape, but isn't it time to evolve into a better creature than we are? As any professional interrogator will tell you, it's easier to get info by treating them as human beings. A lot of folks will quickly spill their guts to someone who will treat them fair and try to understand their point of view. It worked against the Germans at Nuremberg! Even Donald Rumsfeld says it doesn't work!

Think what you want, I, like you, am a leftist; ergo, we are going to argue this point and that point into minutia and beyond. That's the nature of the beast! As a radical, Atheist, columnist, I have some knowledge of this!


As always if I get another reply, you'll be the first to know!

And Finally

Last week, I spotlighted the cruelty of a group of sports bureaucrats in Ontario, Canada keeping an autistic child from running with the track team--a therapy that proved successful in his academic studies, as well as in sports. As sick as that was, it really pales by comparison to this week's Vidkun Quisling Award winner from Norwalk, Connecticut: Mayor, Richard Moccia! As the great 'Yogi say,' "This is like deja vu all over again."

Richard, who is a little to the right of Darth Vader, decided to balance his city's budget on the backs of... can you guess who? No, let's not see the same hands all the time... that's right, the poorest of the poor, a homeless lady and her 5-year-old son. That's Republican compassionate conservativism for you! Richard had the state of Connecticut prosecute Tanya McDowell for "stealing" $15,600 from the good folks of Norwalk by enrolling her child in a kindergarten class; not only that, but she is facing 20 years in jail on first-degree larceny and conspiracy for this "outrage." The case was continued until May 11. Oh, did I mention that Norwalk is required by federal law to educate the child? No if's and's or but's about it; it's the law! (At $15,600 a child, that's half a million dollars a year for a single class of kids. As that seems a bit much, I wonder how much can you spend on edible paste and graham crackers?) Oh, and one other thing, did I mention that Tanya's black? That was almost redundant, wasn't it? And you'd guessed that already, hadn't you?

So how do you like those Tea Baggers so far, America? As we've seen in every state that was taken over by them, they give huge unneeded tax breaks to the uber-wealthy, and then take it out of the poor, the sick, the elderly and the powerless! They bust the unions in their quest to eliminate Democratic voters and destroy the middle class. The class wars are over, America, and we lost! The very ones they should be helping, they are instead trying to destroy, filling up the prisons and the graveyards with them. Anyone remember a place called Nazi Germany, or America in the 1950's? We've seen these war crimes before. Now, since the fix is in, they're not bothering to hide these acts of treason behind close doors like they used to! Now-a-daze, they do it out in the open, in your face, and then dare you to do anything about it! Trouble is, you won't do anything about it. Well, not until they come for you and yours, when it'll be far too late to do anything about it but ride off to a "Happy Camp!"

Keepin' On

Curiouser and curiouser, just when you thought it couldn't get any curiouser, huh? Another week another emergency, it's always something! "There's always something going wrong" and ain't that the truth! This week Osama, next week Godzilla? Who knows, and whatever it is, you'd better be prepared for it!

We've spent a decade trying to keep you abreast of the important news--keep you up-to-date on what can be done about it, and how it affects you personally. How to prepare for the day that it hits the fan and America as we once knew it is no more. How to survive in a post digital/electrical/oil-based world! We presumed that you knew nothing about how to live in a world where you have to supply the food, the clean water, the secure housing, et cetera in a post-apocalyptic America. If you missed out on those hundreds of articles and how-to photos and essays, they're still in the archives and will be until the Internet and the´power grid goes bye-bye!

We do this 24/7/365 for you and yours. We do those 80-hour weeks at no pay, because what we do is that important. Fortunately, there are some of our readers that understand and appreciate what we are and what we're about. Dr. Phil (No, not that Dr. Phil--a much better one!) is one such person who has time and time again stood up and helped us keep the truth going out in these trying times; thank you so much, Phil, you're a life saver!

Trouble is, Dr. Phil is one of the usual suspects--those who carry the burden of keeping Issues & Alibis on the air. They are few in number, but they are a determined bunch and they could use your help to share the burden for all our brothers and sisters, even the ones that are confused and need someone other than Rush, or Billo or Glenn as a news source, viz., someone who won't lie to them! If you can help, please do so by going here and following the instructions. The whole world thanks you!


03-10-1957 – 12-18-2001 - 05-02-2011
Dead at last?

09-15-1922 - 05-03-2011
Thanks for the films


We get by with a little help from our friends!
So please help us if you can...?


So how do you like Bush Lite so far?
And more importantly, what are you planning on doing about it?

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2011 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 10 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Face Book. Follow me on Twitter.

Why I’d Rather Not Speak About Torture
By Sam Harris

I have long maintained a page on my website where I address various distortions, misunderstandings, and criticisms of my work. I take it to be either a sign of carelessness or masochism on my part that this page is the #1 Google search result for the phrase “response to controversy.” Surely, I need not have courted quite so much controversy. But there it is.

While most of my work has been devoted to controversial topics, I have taken very few positions that I later regret. There is one, however, and I regret it more with each passing hour: it is my “collateral damage argument” for the use of torture in extreme circumstances. This argument first appeared in The End of Faith (pp. 192-199), in a section where I compare the ethics of “collateral damage” to the ethics of torture in times of war. I argued then, and I believe today, that collateral damage is worse than torture across the board.

However, rather than appreciate just how bad I think collateral damage is in ethical terms, many readers mistakenly conclude that I take a cavalier attitude toward the practice of torture. I do not. Nevertheless, I believe that there are extreme situations in which practices like “water-boarding” may not only be ethically justifiable, but ethically necessary—especially where getting information from a known terrorist seems likely to save the lives of thousands (or even millions) of innocent people. To argue that torture may sometimes be ethically justified is not to argue that it should ever be legal (crimes like trespassing or theft may sometimes be ethical, while we all have interest in keeping them illegal).

I sincerely regret making this argument. Rational discussion about the ethics of torture has proved impossible in almost every case, and my published views have been the gift to my critics and detractors that just keeps on giving: It seems that every few weeks, someone discovers the relevant pages in The End of Faith, or notices what others have said about them, and publicly attacks me for being “pro-torture.” Journalists regularly steer interviews on any subject in this direction—not so that they can understand my position, or coherently argue against it, but so that readers can be shocked by whatever misleading gloss appears in their final copy. The spectacle of someone not being reflexively and categorically “against torture” seems just too good to pass up.

And so, I am now a bit wiser and can offer a piece of advice to others: not everything worth saying is worth saying oneself. I am sure that the world needs someone to think out loud about the ethics of torture, and to point out the discrepancies in how we weight various harms for which we hold one another morally culpable, but that someone did not need to be me. The subject has done nothing but distract and sicken readers who might have otherwise found my work useful.

The topic of torture surfaced recently in a profile of me published in The New Statesman. The author, Jonathan Derbyshire, concluded his piece with a misleading summary of my views (among other things, he neglected to say that I think torture should be illegal). He later published the raw transcript of our interview, presumably so that I could speak for myself on so inflammatory a topic. Nevertheless, even my unedited remarks proved difficult for many people to understand, as witnessed by the fact that even one of my friends, Andrew Sullivan, felt the need to publicly repudiate them. Thus, I have been goaded to clarify my view on torture once again. I certainly hope it is for the last time.

[What follows is a revised section of the article “Response to Controversy,” referenced above.]

I am not alone in thinking that there are potential circumstances in which the use of torture would be ethically justifiable. Liberal Senator Charles Schumer has publicly stated that most U.S. senators would support torture to find out the location of a ticking time bomb. Such “ticking-bomb” scenarios have been widely criticized as unrealistic. But realism is not the point of such thought experiments. The point is that unless you have an argument that rules out torture in idealized cases, you don’t have a categorical argument against the use of torture. As nuclear and biological terrorism become increasingly possible, it is in everyone’s interest for men and women of goodwill to determine what should be done if a person appears to have operational knowledge of an imminent atrocity (and may even claim to possess such knowledge), but won’t otherwise talk about it.

My argument for the limited use of coercive interrogation (“torture” by another name) is essentially this: if you think it is ever justifiable to drop bombs in an attempt to kill a man like Osama bin Laden (and thereby risk killing and maiming innocent men, women, and children), you should think it may sometimes be justifiable to “water-board” a man like Osama bin Laden (and risk abusing someone who just happens to look like Osama bin Laden). It seems to me that however one compares the practices of “water-boarding” high-level terrorists and dropping bombs, dropping bombs always comes out looking worse in ethical terms. And yet, most people tacitly accept the practice of modern warfare, while considering it taboo to even speak about the possibility of practicing torture. It is important to point out that my argument for the restricted use of torture does not make travesties like Abu Ghraib look any less sadistic or stupid. I considered our mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib to be patently unethical. I also think it was one of the most damaging blunders to occur in the last century of U.S. foreign policy. Nor have I ever seen the wisdom or necessity of denying proper legal counsel (and access to evidence) to prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. Indeed, I consider much of what occurred under Bush and Cheney—the routine abuse of ordinary prisoners, the practice of “extraordinary rendition,” etc.—to be a terrible stain upon the conscience of our nation.

Some people believe that, while collateral damage may be worse than torture, these are independent evils, and one problem does not shed any light upon the other. However, they are not independent, in principle. In fact, it is easy to see how information gained through torture might mitigate the risk of collateral damage. If one found oneself in such a situation, with an apparent choice between torturing a known terrorist and bombing civilians, torturing the terrorist should seem like the more ethical option. And yet, most people’s intuitions seem to run the other way. In fact, very few critics of the collateral damage argument even acknowledge how strangely asymmetrical our worries about torture and collateral damage are. A conversation about the ethics of torture can scarcely be had, and yet collateral damage is often reported in the context of a “successful” military operation as though it posed no ethical problem whatsoever. The case of Baitullah Mehsud, killed along with 12 others (including his wife and mother in law), is a recent example: had his wife been water-boarded in order to obtain the relevant intelligence, rather than merely annihilated by a missile, we can be sure that the event would have been met by torrents of outrage. It is widely claimed that torture “does not work”—that it produces unreliable information, implicates innocent people, etc. As I argue in The End of Faith, this line of defense does not resolve the underlying ethical dilemma. Clearly, the claim that torture never works, or that it always produces bad information, is false. There are cases in which the mere threat of torture has worked. As I argue in The End of Faith, one can easily imagine situations in which even a very low probability of getting useful information through torture would seem to justify it—the looming threat of nuclear terrorism being the most obvious case. It is decidedly unhelpful that those who claim to know that torture is “always wrong” never seem to envision the circumstances in which good people would be tempted to use it. Critics of my collateral damage argument always ignore the hard case: where the person in custody is known to be involved in terrible acts of violence and where the threat of further atrocities is imminent. If you think such situations never arise, consider what it might be like to capture a high-ranking member of al Qaeda along with several accomplices and their computers. The possibility that such a person might really be “innocent” or that he could “just say anything” to mislead his interrogators begins to seem less of a concern. Such captures bring us closer to a “ticking bomb” scenario than many people are willing to admit.

While I think that torture should remain illegal, it is not clear that having a torture provision in our laws would create as slippery a slope as many people imagine. We have a capital punishment provision, for instance, but this has not led to our killing prisoners at random because we can’t control ourselves. While I am strongly opposed to capital punishment, I can readily concede that we are not suffering a total moral chaos in our society because we execute about five people every month. It is not immediately obvious that a rule about torture could not be applied with equal restraint.

It seems probable, however, that any legal use of torture would have unacceptable consequences. In light of this concern, the best strategy I have heard comes from Mark Bowden in his Atlantic Monthly article, “The Dark Art of Interrogation.” Bowden recommends that we keep torture illegal, and maintain a policy of not torturing anybody for any reason. But our interrogators should know that there are certain circumstances in which it will be ethical to break the law. Indeed, there are circumstances in which you would have to be a monster not to break the law. If an interrogator finds himself in such a circumstance, and he breaks the law, there will not be much of a will to prosecute him (and interrogators will know this). If he breaks the law Abu Ghraib-style, he will go to jail for a very long time (and interrogators will know this too). At the moment, this seems like the most reasonable policy to me, given the realities of our world.

The best case against “ticking-bomb” arguments appears in David Luban’s article, “Liberalism, Torture, and the Ticking Bomb,” published in the Virginia Law Review. (I have posted a PDF here.) Luban relies on a few questionable assumptions, however. And he does not actually provide an ethical argument against torture in the ticking bomb case; he offers a pragmatic argument against our instituting a policy allowing torture in such cases. There is absolutely nothing in Luban’s argument that rules out the following law:

We will not torture anyone under any circumstances unless we are certain, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the person in our custody has operational knowledge of an imminent act of nuclear terrorism.

It seems to me that unless one can produce an ethical argument against torturing such a person, one does not have an argument against the use of torture in principle. Of course, my discussion of torture in The End of Faith (and on this page) only addresses the ethics of torture, not the practical difficulties of implementing a policy based on the ethics.

While my remarks on torture span only a few pages in a book devoted to reducing the causes of religious violence, many readers have found my views deeply unsettling. (For what it’s worth, I do too. It would be much easier to simply be “against torture” across the board and end the discussion.) I have invited readers, both publicly and privately, to produce an ethical argument that takes into account the realities of our world—our daily acceptance of collateral damage, the real possibility of nuclear terrorism, etc.—and yet rules out a practice like “water-boarding” in all conceivable circumstances. No one, to my knowledge, has done this. And yet, most people continue to speak and write as though a knock-down argument against torture in all circumstances is readily available. I consider it to be one of the more dangerous ironies of liberal discourse that merely discussing the possibility of torturing a man like Osama bin Laden provokes more outrage than the maiming and murder of children ever does. Until someone actually points out what is wrong with the “collateral damage argument” presented in The End of Faith. I will continue to believe that its critics are just not thinking clearly about the reality of human suffering.
(c) 2011 Sam Harris is the author of "The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation" and is the co-founder of The Reason Project, which promotes scientific knowledge and secular values. Follow Sam Harris on Twitter.

One Word
By Uri Avnery

IN ONE word: Bravo!

The news about the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas is good for peace. If the final difficulties are ironed out and a full agreement is signed by the two leaders, it will be a huge step forward for the Palestinians – and for us.

There is no sense in making peace with half a people. Making peace with the entire Palestinian people may be more difficult, but will be infinitely more fruitful.

Therefore: Bravo!

Binyamin Netanyahu also says Bravo. Since the government of Israel has declared Hamas a terrorist organization with whom there will be no dealings whatsoever, Netanyahu can now put an end to any talk about peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. What, peace with a Palestinian government that includes terrorists? Never! End of discussion.

Two bravos, but such a difference.

THE ISRAELI debate about Arab unity goes back a long way. It already started in the early fifties, when the idea of pan-Arab unity raised its head. Gamal Abd-al-Nasser hoisted this banner in Egypt, and the pan-Arab Baath movement became a force in several countries (long before it degenerated into local Mafias in Iraq and Syria).

Nahum Goldman, President of the World Zionist Organization, argued that pan-Arab unity was good for Israel. He believed that peace was necessary for the existence of Israel, and that it would take all the Arab countries together to have the courage to make it.

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s Prime Minister, thought that peace was bad for Israel, at least until Zionism had achieved all its (publicly undefined) goals. In a state of war, unity among Arabs was a danger that had to be prevented at all costs.

Goldman, the most brilliant coward I ever knew, did not have the courage of his convictions. Ben-Gurion was far less brilliant, but much more determined.

He won.

NOW WE have the same problem all over again.

Netanyahu and his band of peace saboteurs want to prevent Palestinian unity at all costs. They do not want peace, because peace would prevent Israel from achieving the Zionist goals, as they conceive them: a Jewish state in all of historical Palestine, from the sea to the Jordan River (at least). The conflict is going to last for a long, long time to come, and the more divided the enemy, the better.

As a matter of fact, the very emergence of Hamas was influenced by this calculation. The Israeli occupation authorities deliberately encouraged the Islamic movement, which later became Hamas, as a counterweight to the secular nationalist Fatah, which was then conceived as the main enemy.

Later, the Israeli government deliberately fostered the division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by violating the Oslo agreement and refusing to open the four “safe passages” between the two territories provided for in the agreement. Not one was open for a single day. The geographical separation brought about the political one.

When Hamas won the January 2006 Palestinian elections, surprising everybody including itself, the Israeli government declared that it would have no dealings with any Palestinian government in which Hamas was represented. It ordered – there is no other word - the US and EU governments to follow suit. Thus the Palestinian Unity Government was brought down.

The next step was an Israeli-American effort to install a strongman of their choosing as dictator of the Gaza Strip, the bulwark of Hamas. The chosen hero was Muhammad Dahlan, a local chieftain. It was not a very good choice – the Israeli security chief recently disclosed that Dahlan had collapsed sobbing into his arms. After a short battle, Hamas took direct control of the Gaza Strip.

A FRATRICIDAL split in a liberation movement is not an exception. It is almost the rule.

The Irish revolutionary movement was an outstanding example. In this country we had the fight between the Hagana and the Irgun, which at times became violent and very ugly. It was Menachem Begin, then the Irgun commander, who prevented a full-fledged civil war.

The Palestinian people, with all the odds against them, can hardly afford such a disaster. The split has generated intense mutual hatred between comrades who spent time in Israeli prison together. Hamas accused the Palestinian Authority – with some justification – of cooperating with the Israeli government against them, urging the Israelis and the Egyptians to tighten the brutal blockade against the Gaza Strip, even preventing a deal for the release of the Israeli prisoner-of-war, Gilad Shalit, in order to block the release of Hamas activists and their return to the West Bank. Many Hamas activists suffer in Palestinian prisons, and the lot of Fatah activists in the Gaza Strip is no more joyous.

Yet both Fatah and Hamas are minorities in Palestine. The great mass of the Palestinian people desperately want unity and a joint struggle to end the occupation. If the final reconciliation agreement is signed by Mahmoud Abbas and Khalid Meshaal, Palestinians everywhere will be jubilant.

BINYAMIN NETANYAHU is jubilant already. The ink was not yet dry on the preliminary agreement initialed in Cairo, when Netanyahu made a solemn speech on TV, something like an address to the nation after an historic event.

“You have to choose between us and Hamas,” he told the Palestinian Authority. That would not be too difficult – one the one side a brutal occupation regime, on the other Palestinian brothers with a different ideology.

But this stupid threat was not the main point of the statement. What Netanyahu told us was that there would be no dealings with a Palestinian Authority connected in any way with the “terrorist Hamas”.

The whole thing is a huge relief for Netanyahu. He has been invited by the new Republican masters to address the US Congress next month and had nothing to say. Nor had he anything to offer the UN, which is about to recognize the State of Palestine this coming September. Now he has: peace is impossible, all Palestinians are terrorists who want to throw us into the sea. Ergo: no peace, no negotiations, no nothing.

IF ONE really wants peace, the message should of course be quite different.

Hamas is a part of Palestinian reality. Sure, it is extremist, but as the British have taught us many times, it is better to make peace with extremists than with moderates. Make peace with the moderates, and you must still deal with the extremists. Make peace with the extremists, and the business is finished.

Actually, Hamas is not quite as extreme as it likes to present itself. It has declared many times that it will accept a peace agreement based on the 1967 lines and signed by Mahmoud Abbas if it is ratified by the people in a referendum or a vote in parliament. Accepting the Palestinian Authority means accepting the Oslo agreement, on which the PA is based – including the mutual recognition of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. In Islam, as in all other religions, God’s word is definitely final, but it can be “interpreted” any way needed. Don’t we Jews know.

What made both sides more flexible? Both have lost their patrons – Fatah its Egyptian protector, Hosny Mubarak, and Hamas its Syrian protector, Bashar al-Assad, who cannot be relied upon anymore. That has brought both sides to face reality: Palestinians stand alone, so they had better unite.

For peace-oriented Israelis, it will be a great relief to deal with a united Palestinian people and with a united Palestinian territory. Israel can do a lot to help this along: open at long last an exterritorial free passage between the West Bank and Gaza, put an end to the stupid and cruel blockade of the Gaza Strip (which has become even more idiotic with the elimination of the Egyptian collaborator), let the Gazans open their port, airport and borders. Israel must accept the fact that religious elements are now a part of the political scene all over the Arab world. They will become institutionalized and, probably, far more “moderate”. That is part of the new reality in the Arab world.

The emergence of Palestinian unity should be welcomed by Israel, as well as by the European nations and the United States. They should get ready to recognize the State of Palestine within the 1967 borders. They should encourage the holding of free and democratic Palestinian elections and accept their results, whatever they may be.

The wind of the Arab Spring is blowing in Palestine too. Bravo!
(c) 2011 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

A driver and passengers celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden
in the streets of Lawrence, Kansas, on Sunday May 1st.

"USA! USA!" Is The Wrong Response
Bin Laden's death is a great relief, but by cheering it we're mimicking our worst enemies
By David Sirota

There is ample reason to feel relief that Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to the world, and I say that not just because I was among the many congressional staffers told to flee the U.S. Capitol on 9/11. I say that because he was clearly an evil person who celebrated violence against all who he deemed "enemies" -- and the world needs less of such zealotry, not more.

However, somber relief was not the dominant emotion presented to America when bin Laden’s death was announced. Instead, the Washington press corps -- helped by a wild-eyed throng outside the White House -- insisted that unbridled euphoria is the appropriate response. And in this we see bin Laden’s more enduring victory -- a victory that will unfortunately last far beyond his passing.

For decades, we have held in contempt those who actively celebrate death. When we’ve seen video footage of foreigners cheering terrorist attacks against America, we have ignored their insistence that they are celebrating merely because we have occupied their nations and killed their people. Instead, we have been rightly disgusted -- not only because they are lauding the death of our innocents, but because, more fundamentally, they are celebrating death itself. That latter part had been anathema to a nation built on the presumption that life is an "unalienable right."

But in the years since 9/11, we have begun vaguely mimicking those we say we despise, sometimes celebrating bloodshed against those we see as Bad Guys just as vigorously as our enemies celebrate bloodshed against innocent Americans they (wrongly) deem as Bad Guys. Indeed, an America that once carefully refrained from flaunting gruesome pictures of our victims for fear of engaging in ugly death euphoria now ogles pictures of Uday and Qusay’s corpses, rejoices over images of Saddam Hussein’s hanging and throws a party at news that bin Laden was shot in the head.

This is bin Laden’s lamentable victory -- he has changed America’s psyche from one that saw violence as a regrettable-if-sometimes-necessary act into one that finds orgasmic euphoria in news of bloodshed. In other words, he’s helped drag us down into his sick nihilism by making us like too many other bellicose societies in history -- the ones that aggressively cheer on killing, as long as it is the Bad Guy that is being killed.

Again, this isn’t in any way to equate Americans who cheer on bin Laden’s death with, say, those who cheered after 9/11. Bin Laden was a mass murderer who had punishment coming to him, while the 9/11 victims were innocent civilians whose deaths are an unspeakable tragedy. Likewise, this isn’t to say hat we should feel nothing at bin Laden’s neutralization, or that the announcement last night isn't cause for any positive feeling at all -- it most certainly is.

But it is to say that our reaction to the news last night should be the kind often exhibited by victims’ families at a perpetrator’s lethal injection -- a reaction typically marked by both muted relief but also by sadness over the fact that the perpetrators’ innocent victims are gone forever, the fact that the perpetrator's death cannot change the past, and the fact that our world continues to produce such monstrous perpetrators in the first place.

When we lose the sadness part -- when all we do is happily scream "USA! USA! USA!” at news of yet more killing in a now unending back-and-forth war -- it’s a sign we may be inadvertently letting the monsters win.
(c) 2010 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee.

Obama Bags Osama -- So Now What?
By Randall Amster

President Obama’s shocking May Day announcement that Osama bin Laden has been killed and his body captured promises to usher in a new era of U.S. foreign and domestic policies alike. But what will this portend in actual practice? The implications for the future are potentially staggering in their full import, and they turn initially on how this seminal event will undoubtedly be used to justify U.S. policies that have defined the recent past.

In his announcement, President Obama demonstrated how different he is in temperament (if not policy making) from his predecessor, George W. Bush. Coming eight years to the day after the infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech -- and, coincidentally, falling on the 66th anniversary of the announcement of Hitler’s death -- Obama’s rendering contained none of the misplaced bravado (“Bring It On”) or glorification of misery (“We Got Him!”) that defined the previous administration. Instead, the President spoke in measured terms about justice, courage, and American resolve in the face of grave challenges.

Still, despite his deliberate tone, Obama’s words are especially notable for their explicit vindication of the military operations of the past decade. Overtly citing the war in Afghanistan and the practices of the global intelligence apparatus as primary drivers of this potential closure event, the President has put his stamp of approval on the circuitous post-9/11 course of action that brought us here. Taking this further, the post-speech media spin implicitly extends his logic to validate tactics such as drone strikes and undeclared military incursions that have placed the U.S. in ethically murky waters while waging the War on Terror around the world.

Wearing his flag pin, President Obama invoked the legacy of Bush-era initiatives aimed at “winning” the war, and perhaps most poignantly, drew our focus back to the events of 9/11 as the impetus for this decade-long struggle that has now at least partly been brought to fruition. Yet Obama was equally clear that this is not the end of the conflict and that “the cause of securing our country is not complete,” reminding us that we must “remain vigilant at home and abroad” since “there’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us.”

Make no mistake, this announcement signals a clear intention to vindicate the decisions of the past decade and continue on a similar course going forward. As if to affirm this historical eventuality, the media’s immediate focus on the spontaneous demonstrations of patriotic fervor that have sprung up with echoes of “USA, USA” brings us right back to those fateful September days in 2001. The tenor of these public celebratory gatherings, and the content of the President’s announcement, convey a strong sentiment that the last decade’s wars have been worth it, and likewise that the extraordinary security measures here at home have been equally successful.

On some level, the death of a single individual is essentially being heralded as a justification for the deaths of at least hundreds of thousands (a figure largely comprised of civilians) in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. It remedies all legal and moral defects attendant to the use of “enhanced interrogations” and “extraordinary renditions.” It clears the ledgers on the trillions of dollars spent to undertake these efforts for nearly ten years. It squelches dissent on Patriot Act policies and the Homeland Security apparatus. And, most appreciably, it retroactively validates the Bush Administration’s open-ended waging of global warfare.

The reality of this retrospective confirmation will have serious implications for the near future. Undoubtedly, debates about the wisdom of military operations (wherever we are deploying them) will be tamped down, and attempts to rein in military spending will likewise be muted. Security at home will be amped up for a while in an abundance of caution over potential retaliatory attacks by al Qaeda, and (assuming none are forthcoming) soon after will slip back to the “new normal” we’ve been experiencing -- with nary a complaint in the public discourse.

Significantly, President Obama will appear eminently presidential, and even his most ardent critics will deem him praiseworthy. Americans will unite in a renewed spirit, and the stalled economic recovery will receive a shot in the arm from this moment of national buoyancy. Just as the First Gulf War was said to have dispelled the military malaise of Vietnam, this episode will go a long way toward abating the war-weariness of the post-9/11 era. American exceptionalism will be reinvigorated both as a political mandate and a psychological phenomenon, as the world is reminded that the U.S. makes good on its threats and, in the end, keeps its promises.

People will celebrate this moment in many quarters, perhaps as they did to an extent on VE Day and VJ Day (yes, Americans cheered the use of atomic weapons on civilians in Japan and the carpet-bombing of Dresden as tools of “winning” World War II). In this case, we are not likely to be offered such a strong sense of closure; rather, this will be a boost to a flagging effort and a likely enabler of its aggressive continuance. Where will the next front be in this generational war? Who will be the next bogeyman, the “face of evil” that galvanizes American fears and determination alike? With all that is at stake -- politically, economically, ideologically -- the one thing we can be reasonably assured of is that the present paradigm will continue in full force.

I would very much like to report the opposite. By cutting off the head of al Qaeda, and with due regard to the pro-democracy surge of the Arab Spring, the era of perpetual warfare could be supplanted by a period of unprecedented peace. America might slowly draw down its military operations, and redirect vast resources to education and opportunity for oppressed peoples in the Middle East and here at home alike. President Obama may finally earn his Nobel Peace Prize, and concomitantly help move the country from the near-ruination of a war economy to the stable prosperity of a long-awaited peace dividend. Renewed American pride could obviate the need for ever-expanding security schemes and incursions into liberty, as people are again seen as “good.”

It could still happen this way, but it will take more than the death of one individual -- no matter his iconic stature as evil incarnate -- to somehow countermand the events and roll back the ethos of recent years. However it breaks in the days ahead, one thing is paradoxically certain: we will continue to find ourselves living in decidedly uncertain times.
(c) 2011 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Trump Shows What He's Made Of

Who says America lacks innovations to create new industries these days? Why, in just the past few months, a huge growth industry sprang up from nothing but a novel theory, and it quickly swept across the country. It was a truly simple idea, namely that Barack Obama was not born in the U.S.A. and, therefore, is disqualified to be president.

This humble theory gave birth to the "birther movement," whose diehards refuse to accept anything (such as facts) that might discredit their theory. Originally the work of beyond -the- fringe goofballs, it rapidly metastasized into a "truth" propounded daily by right-wing radio yakkers and internet-connected conspiracists. Then it moved inside the GOP – in an orchestrated political stunt, Republicans in at least 13 state legislatures are pushing bills to require presidential candidates to produce their birth certificates. And most recently the birther theory emerged as the Number One national issue fueling Donnie Trump's cockamamie presidential campaign.

How absurd is The Donald? When a fed-up Obama finally shoved his Hawaiian birth certificate in the face of Trump and the whole birther circus, Donnie saw it as validation of his seriousness as a presidential contender. "Today I'm very proud of myself," exclaimed the strangely-coiffed ego who takes pride in being proud of himself every day, no matter how big a jerk he's been. Yessiree, you've got your George Washingtons, Thomas Jeffersons, Abe Lincolns, and both Teddy and Franklin Roosevelts, but who could (or would) touch Donnie Trump for true presidential greatness?

The Donald says he's still not convinced that Obama's birth certificate is legit. "I want to look at it," he sniffs, thus showing all of America what he's made of: silly putty. Not quite the stuff for the White House, much less Mount Rushmore.
(c) 2011 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

The Sin Of Silence
By Helen Thomas

Hats off to Richard Forer, who courageously and truthfully examines an alternate viewpoint in his book, Breakthrough: Transforming Fear Into Compassion - A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict.

Forer, who grew up in a secular, unaffiliated Jewish home, is the identical twin of a prominent member of an ultra-Orthodox sect of Judaism, and was himself a member of AIPAC, America's pro-Israel lobby. He knew where his allegiances used to lie - anything Israel did was justifiable in his mind.

During summer 2006, Forer visited the Middle East and underwent a profound spiritual transformation. He saw destroyed villages, displacement, land confiscation, imprisonment without trial, torture, and other inhuman treatment of the Palestinians, and knew he needed to share his truth.

So many Americans of Hebrew heritage cannot face the truth of the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians in the land they conquered and now occupy. Forer emerged from the struggle to realize that he could have been wrong. It takes brave people who are willing to abandon long-held beliefs that the Israelis could do no wrong. Somehow their victimhood justified their ruthless behavior toward the Palestinians.

The trouble is the Israeli military have taken their revenge out on those who are only defending their land and rights. Revenge has been inflicted on the helpless and the innocent. The power of the Israeli government is one-sided because no American President has dared to speak out against their inhuman tyranny, except for former President Jimmy Carter. For this he has been demonized and called anti-Semitic by supporters of Israel.

Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, posted a book review of Carter's Palestine Peace Not Apartheid on the ADL website, shortly after it was published.

Forer meticulously discusses Foxman's review, saying "The review illustrates how unexamined fear and prejudice occlude natural intelligence. It also illustrates how insensitive to the suffering of others a man can become when faced with an issue that directly challenges his identity, even when that man has been an undeniable champion of human rights in other areas of his life."

Forer isn't afraid to speak out in his book. Forer recounts the story of 10-year-old Palestinian Ahmed Musa, who asked after drawing a picture of two flags, one Israeli the other Palestinian, "Why can't we live together in peace?" His fellow students all cheered. "On July, 29, 2008, at a peaceful demonstration against the separation wall, Ahmed was playing with a camera. An Israeli border police officer shot him in the head. He died a few days later," Forer writes. The Israelis did indict the officer for negligent manslaughter. But only a small fraction of violence toward Palestinians is ever investigated. The Israeli record of brutality is overwhelming.

Forer comments, "The condemnation of Israel is not a product of anti-Semitism. Rather, the behavior that elicited the condemnation fans the flames of anti-Semitism worldwide. Israel has been maintaining an illegal occupation, replete with land seizure, collective punishment and settler-instigated and military-enabled violence for over forty years. Yet, it continues to deny that it has violated international humanitarian law. By persisting in 'acts of madness' Israel will alienate itself more and more from the global community."

People need to be informed so we can make good decisions regarding our involvement in the Middle East, and ultimately support the right governments. Forer offers a viewpoint that is not available in the mainstream.

I personally have experienced the backlash of publicly speak out against Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. The president of Wayne State University in Detroit took my name off of a scholarship fund because I denounced Israel's brutality against Palestinians. The Society of Professional Journalists, headed by an Israeli-born president, has retired a lifetime achievement award given in my name, because of my pro-Palestinian views. The White House Correspondents Association "firmly dissociated itself' from comments I made last May to a rabbi at the White House - these were my opinions, I wasn't asking anyone to endorse my statements. All of these organizations have bowed to pro-Israeli lobbyists such as Ari Fleischer, and Foxman, who have displayed incredible influence against our right to speak freely.

A rabbi who spoke at the Martin Luther King March on Washington said the greatest sin during the Nazi era was "silence." He had been in a German concentration camp.

I admire Forer's courage to not being silent. He openly shares his personal transformation, and encourages the reader to be willing to "assess one's beliefs with honesty and to follow wherever the facts lead." For all of that, we are witnessing great courage in the Middle East and North Africa these days. The truth cannot be silenced.
(c) 2011 Helen Thomas is a columnist for the Falls Church News-Press. Among other books she is the author of Front Row At The White House: My Life and Times.

Our Founding Fathers Never Wanted A Democracy
By James Donahue

Early in my career as a journalist I had the privilege to work for a most remarkable managing editor that had a lot to do with preparing me for all of the pitfalls that journalism has faced in these, the declining years of the free American system.

Bert Lindenfeld, a former World War II submarine commander, ran his newspaper office in Benton Harbor, Michigan, with the iron fist that one might expect from such a man. There was no democracy there. Lindenfeld was a wise man however; he knew how to bring out the best in his writers. He devoted his time training us to be as good as he expected us to be.

He was a hard taskmaster. You either loved and worked with Lindenfeld or you fled that office. I stuck it out and because of his direction established a standard in reporting and writing that stuck with me all of my life. He was, in my recollection, the finest editor any newcomer to the field of journalism could have. What was remarkable about Bert was that he shared a concept expressed by the founding fathers of our nation. He did not trust democracies.

I distinctly recall having lunch one winter afternoon with some of the writers and Lindenfeld joined us. The conversation that day involved politics, and for some reason it swung over to the way our government was swinging from its original formation as a republic, into a democracy. Bert said he thought this was a very bad sign. ,P> As a young college graduate and struggling writer, with very green grass still growing around my ears, I was shocked to hear someone as highly regarded as this editor make such a rash statement. But then Lindenfeld clarified what he meant. He said that if all Americans who were receiving government support of any kind would also agree to give up their right to vote, he thought the democratic system might still work.

What Lindenfelt was saying was what French observer Alexis Tocqueville argued . . . that the conflict between the impulse for private gain and the impulse for community and the common good would eventually tear America apart. ,P> Indeed, what is occurring in the United States today is the very worst scenario of the disaster perceived by Lindenfeld and Tocqueville. The conflict that Tocqueville warned about is happening before our eyes. And with corruption now implanted so deeply within all three branches of our government, finding a cure without a second revolution might be next to impossible.

An essay by Rose Wilder Lane noted that the very men involved in designing our form of government, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, James Madison and James Monroe, all feared democracy. They were wise and educated men who knew their history, and understood the flaws within a democratic system that would bring about its downfall.

Our founding fathers went to great lengths to create a republic . . . a system of government in which the people elected representatives to go to two separate houses of Congress and the Senate, and executive and judicial branches for checks and balances. Alas, we have slowly allowed this magnificent system to erode and turn itself into a twisted form of a democracy. In fact, we no longer consider the United States a republic anymore. We openly flaunt ourselves as a democracy, and are attempting to convince other nations of the world to become democracies too.

For those who need a brief government lesson, a democracy basically means mob rule. The court order that called for a one-man, one-vote mandate, and divided voting districts into even numbers for balance, rushed the country into the democratic concept. We have been on a down-hill slide ever since.

The shift was subtle. It probably really had its start with the Civil War, when America struggled over the issue of state vs. central government control. The Union won that war and state governments have been eroding ever since.

Smaller versions of this great system included county governments, within each state, and city and township governments within each county. There was recently a bill working its way through the legislative branch of government that would have stripped townships of their rights to collect taxes, hold elections or do any more than merely exist as a non-functional form of local government. The bill was defeated, but we thought at the time that the mere fact that someone in Washington was thinking along these lines was troublesome.

Now Michigan’s newly elected Governor Rick Snyder and his Republican legislators have pushed through an Emergency Management bill that gives the state the power to appoint emergency managers to take control of towns and school districts that are in financial trouble. These corporate managers and their boards will have the near-dictatorial power to disband elected boards, dissolve contracts and sell off assets. In current bad economic times, most communities and schools in Michigan are fighting deficit budgets.

Just as Tocqueville warned, our government has eroded from within. It began with lobbyists representing special interest groups, minorities, and big business that began buying votes on issues that did not necessarily represent the best interest of constituents. Soon there was graft and corruption as more and more special interest groups wormed their way into the affairs of our nation.

Today big business buys the power in America. It controls elections, pays for the slick television advertising designed to convince the masses to elect the chosen people to office. And if there is any doubt, it also has found ways to manipulate elections. Its infiltration into the U.S. Supreme Court, and the fateful 2010 decision that corporations must be considered individuals and therefore qualify for making secret money contributions to candidates of their choice, was the final blow.

Only the very wealthy can win presidential office. Either the candidate must possess great personal wealth, or be well financed by special interests willing to buy the office. We will never have another Abe Lincoln rise up from common stock to hold that high office unless he is sold out to the highest bidder.

Americans may stand up on the Fourth of July and proclaim their patriotism and freedom in the United States, and in a sense, they still enjoy many of the freedoms they treasure. But when you think about it, a lot of the things Americans have cherished, and still like to think they have, are gone.

We no longer have the privacy we once enjoyed. Our e-mails are watched, our visits on the Internet are tagged, everything we buy with our credit card is electronically recorded, and video cameras are mounted everywhere, carefully documenting our every movement.

We no longer have the opportunities to gain promotion and good paying jobs on the corporate ladder because most of the big corporations have moved overseas in search of cheap labor. Thus the best a college grad today might do is become the manager of a fast food restaurant, or the head janitor of a wholesale cleaning business.

Those health care benefits our parents and grandparents enjoyed while working at Ford Motor Company, Chrysler or General Motors are all but gone now. Now we are lucky to have a job that offers any health care insurance at all. More than half of the American people today are living without health insurance, and because of the high cost of medical care, they also are avoiding visits to the doctor until it is sometimes too late.

The Union forces won the civil war. They said that war was against slavery but that was never the truth. What happened was that the blacks were freed from ownership by plantation operators, but over the years the majority of Americans of all color and creed have become slaves of big corporations. We all work long hours for stipends, barely enough to cover the rent, food, and the clothes we need to go back to the job.

This is life in a democracy, folks. It was not what our founding fathers had in mind when they put this government together, but it is what we have ended up with.

Now we need to worry about remaining intact as a nation before it all falls to ruin, as Tocqueville warned.

Madison also issued a severe warning when he wrote the following:

"A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party. Hence it is, that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths."

(c) 2011 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

The Illogic Of The Torture Debate
By Glenn Greenwald

The killing of Osama bin Laden has, as he New York Times notes, reignited the debate over "brutal interrogations" -- by which it's meant that Republicans are now attempting to exploit the emotions generated by the killing to retroactively justify the torture regime they implemented. The factual assertions on which this attempt is based -- that waterboarding and other "harsh interrogation methods" produced evidence crucial to locating bin Laden -- are dubious in the extreme, for reasons Andrew Sullivan and Marcy Wheeler document. So fictitious are these claims that even Donald Rumsfeld has repudiated them.

But even if it were the case that valuable information were obtained during or after the use of torture, what would it prove? Nobody has ever argued that brutality will never produce truthful answers. It is sometimes the case that if you torture someone long and mercilessly enough, they will tell you something you want to know. Nobody has ever denied that. In terms of the tactical aspect of the torture debate, the point has always been -- as a consensus of interrogations professionals has repeatedly said -- that there are far more effective ways to extract the truth from someone than by torturing it out of them. The fact that one can point to an instance where torture produced the desired answer proves nothing about whether there were more effective ways of obtaining it.

This highlights what has long been a glaring fallacy in many debates over War on Terror policies: that Information X was obtained after using Policy A does not prove that Policy A was necessary or effective. That's just basic logic. This fallacy asserted itself constantly in the debate over warrantless surveillance. Proponents of the Bush NSA program would point to some piece of intelligence allegedly obtained during warrantless eavesdropping as proof that the illegal program was necessary and effective; obviously, though, that fact said nothing about whether the same information would also have been discovered through legal eavesdropping, i.e., eavesdropping approved in advance by the FISA court (and indeed, legal eavesdropping [like legal interrogation tactics] is typically more effective than the illegal version because, by necessity, it is far more focused on actual suspected Terrorism plots; warrantless eavesdropping entails the unconstrained power to listen in on any communications the Government wants without having to establish its connection to Terrorism). But in all cases, the fact that some piece of intelligence was obtained by some lawless Bush/Cheney War on Terror policy (whether it be torture or warrantless eavesdropping) proves nothing about whether that policy was effective or necessary.

And those causal issues are, of course, entirely independent of the legal and moral questions shunted to the side by this reignited "debate." There are many actions that the U.S. could take that would advance its interests that are nonetheless obviously wrong on moral and legal grounds. When Donald Trump recently suggested that we should simply take Libya's oil and that of any other country which we successfully invade and occupy, that suggestion prompted widespread mockery. That was the reaction despite the fact that stealing other countries' oil would in fact produce substantial benefits for the U.S. and advance our interests: it would help to lower gas prices, reduce our dependence on hostile oil-producing nations, and avoid having to degrade our own environment in order to drill domestically. Trump's proposal is morally reprehensible and flagrantly lawless despite how many benefits it would produce; therefore, no person of even minimal decency would embrace it no matter how many benefits it produces.

Exactly the same is true for the torture techniques used by the Bush administration and once again being heralded by its followers (and implicitly glorified by media stars who keep suggesting that they enabled bin Laden's detection). It makes no difference whether it extracted usable intelligence. Criminal, morally depraved acts don't become retroactively justified by pointing to the bounty they produced.

* * * * *

It was striking to note in yesterday's New York Times he obituary of Moshe Landau, the Israeli judge who presided over the 1961 war crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann. It's a reminder that when even the most heinous Nazi war criminals were hunted down by the Israelis, they weren't shot in the head and then dumped into the ocean, but rather were apprehended, tried in a court of law, confronted with the evidence against them for all the world to see, and then punished in accordance with due process. The same was done to leading Nazis found by Allied powers and tried at Nuremberg. It's true that those trials took place after the war was over, but whether Al Qaeda should be treated as active warriors or mere criminals was once one of the few ostensible differences between the two parties on the question of Terrorism.

Speaking of which: I know that very few people have even a slight interest in the unexciting, party-pooping question of whether our glorious killing comported with legal principles, but for those who do, both The Guardian and Der Spiegel have good discussions of that issue.
(c) 2011 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.

Annals of a Golden Age
Peace Laureate Surpasses Reagan in Killing Gadafy Kin
By Chris Floyd

O how wonderful it is to live in such an enlightened age! Just think: not long ago, the U.S. government was seen as little more than a vast war machine -- brutal, murderous, inhumane, bent on global domination. Yet now, by some marvelous, miraculous twist of fate, that same government is being led by a Nobel Peace Prize laureate! It's as if Lyndon Johnson had been turfed out of office back in the day and replaced by Martin Luther King Jr.!

So what the modern-day MLK up to today? In what way was the Laureate in the White House advancing the vision and practice of peace? Why, he was murdering children in a "targeted assassination," of course! He was escalating an increasingly savage "regime change" operation in blatant contradiction to the UN mandate supposedly governing the latest of his escalations and surges around the world.

Yes, on Saturday -- just days after the Peace Laureate's administration announced it was sending unmanned drone bombers into the Libyan civil war, the residence of Libyan leader Moamar Gadafy was torn apart by a precision missile attack. The attack on a residential area of Tripoli missed Gadafy, but killed his youngest son, Saif al-Arab, and three of the leader's grandchildren.

With this great act of peace, Obama surpassed one of his favorite presidents, Ronald Reagan, who only managed to kill a single infant adopted daughter of Gadafy back when he was bombing Libya. The Laureate now has four Gadafy family members -- and blood members, too! -- notched on his gun belt.

This is surely an achievement in which all progressive lovers of peace can take enormous pride.
(c) 2011 Chris Floyd

Interview With Hugo Chavez
By Cindy Sheehan

Cindy Sheehan: Welcome to this video and audio audition of Cindy Sheehan’s SoapBox.

Presidente Chavez, thank you for being on the show, thank you for this interview and thank you for allowing me to bring the truth about Venezuela and about you and about your revolution to the people of the United States. <> Before the revolution, Venezuela was a nation that was ruled and used up by the oligarchy, the elite. How did your revolution begin, how did it manage to remain relatively peaceful?

Hugo Chavez: Thank you Cindy, for this interview, for your efforts, that are so honorable and notable, to try to find out our truth and to contribute to its diffusion. And we wish you much luck in your struggles, which are ours as well, against war, for peace, for freedom and equality and against imperialism. We accompany you in your struggles. You and the people of the United States. We love them the same. The bourgeoisie of Venezuela has always dominated the country, for more than a hundred years. And they dominated it with force, using violence, persecution, assassination and disappearances.

Unfortunately, the Venezuelan history is a history full of a lot of violence, violence from the strong against the weak. In the 20th century, Venezuela, which was dominated by the oligarchy and the bourgeois state, the rich, the wealthy, produced a reversed type of miracle, we could say. Venezuela was the first exporter of oil from the beginning of the 1920s until the 1970s. One of the largest producers of petroleum in the world throughout all the 20th century. And when the 20th century ended, with the domination of the bourgeoisie, despite all the wealth, Venezuela had more than 70% poverty and 40% extreme poverty, misery, misery, misery. So that generated an explosion, a violent one. All explosions are violent. An explosion of the poor, to liberate themselves. We were remembering just 2 days ago in Caracas. You were there with us, with our people. 21 years ago, the people woke, arose in a big explosion. And as military we were used by the bourgeoisie to massacre the people, children, women, and older people. And then that awoke something in the young military folks, a consciousness of pain and then we joined with the people. We had two rebellions, military rebellions, popular (inaudible ). A revolution isn’t exactly peaceful. As you said it was relatively peaceful.

Cindy Sheehan: Yes, relatively, yeah.

Hugo Chavez: Just like all true revolutions.

Cindy Sheehan: But doesn’t the violence of revolutions sometimes come from the counter-revolution? And the Bolivarian revolution that has transferred power and wealth to the people is an inspiration and has remained relatively peaceful.

Hugo Chavez: Yes, we got the power in a peaceful way.

Cindy Sheehan: Right.

Hugo Chavez: Exactly, and we have been able to maintain it relatively peaceful. We’ve never used violence. They’ve used it against us. The counter-revolution. So the central strategy of our peaceful and socialist revolution is to transfer the power to the people. I’m sure you have been able to see some of it with your own eyes, in the neighborhoods of Caracas.

Cindy Sheehan: Yes I have.

Hugo Chavez: We have made efforts were to help the people to be sovereign. When we talk about power, what are we talking about, Cindy? The first power that we all have is knowledge. So we’ve made efforts first in education, against illiteracy, for the development of thinking, studying, analysis. In a way, that has never happened before. Today, Venezuela is a giant school, it’s all a school. From children of one year old until old age, all of us are studying and learning.

And then political power, the capacity to make decisions, the community councils, communes, the people’s power, the popular assemblies.

And then there is the economic power. Transferring economic power to the people, the wealth of the people distributed throughout the nation. I believe that is the principal force that precisely guarantees that the Bolivarian revolution continues to be peaceful.

Cindy Sheehan: Wonderful. In a speech the other day, you said that the United States demonizes you, demonizes Venezuela and the revolution. I of course have seen it with my own eyes and have been a defender of you and Venezuela and the revolution. Why do you think the Empire makes such a concerted effort to demonize you?

Hugo Chavez: I think for different reasons. But I came to the conclusion there is one particular strong reason, a big reason. They are afraid, the Empire is afraid. The Empire is afraid that the people of the United States might find out about the truth, they are afraid that something like that could erupt on their own territory. A Bolivarian movement. Or a Lincoln movement. A movement of citizens, conscious citizens with the goal to transform the system. Imperial fear killed Martin Luther King. The only way to stop him was to kill him and repressing the people of the United States. So, why do they demonize us? They know - those who direct the Empire – they know the truth. But they fear the truth. They fear the contagious effect. They fear a revolution in the United States. They fear an awakening of the people in the United States. And so that’s why they do everything they can. And they achieve it, relatively, that a lot of sectors in the United States see us as devils. No one wants to copy the devil.

Cindy Sheehan: Right.

Hugo Chavez: Unless they are devils too. And the people aren’t devils. The people are the voice of God.

Cindy Sheehan: Well, one of the biggest names they call you in the United States is dictator. Can you explain to my listeners and the people, for the benefit of this documentary why you are not a dictator?

Hugo Chavez: In the first place, personally, I am against dictatorships. I’m an anti-dictator. We are here in Uruguay, in Montevideo. You know how many dictatorships were in this country. The Guerilla army. I’m an anti-Guerilla. In addition to that, from a political point of view, I’ve been elected one, two, three, four times, by popular vote. In Venezuela, we have elections all the time. Every year, we have elections in Venezuela. One time, Lula, the president of Brazil… when he was in Europe, someone asked him “Why are you friends with that dictator Chavez?” And Lula said a big truth: “In Venezuela, there is an excess of democracy. Every year there are elections. And if there aren’t any, Chavez invents them. Referendums, popular consultations, elections for governors, mayors. Right now, soon we are starting national assembly elections, this year. In 2012 there is going to be a presidential election again. What dictator is elected so many times? What dictator convenes referendums? I’m an anti-dictator. I am a revolutionary. A democratic revolutionary."

Cindy Sheehan: Well, I have witnessed this revolution. I’ve witnessed the empowerment of the people of Venezuela, which is very inspiring, because the people in the United States don’t feel this empowerment. I even rode the Metrocable, and I’m afraid of heights. But I went out to San Augustin and then walked down the steps and saw how that so-called dictatorship has made the life of the people much better here in Venezuela. Also in the commemoration of the Caracazo you announced that you will again going to run for president in 2012. You’ve come a long way, but there is still a long way to go. What do you still think needs to be accomplished as far as infrastructure and the needs of the people in Venezuela?

Hugo Chavez: To tell you in a mathematical way, despite everything we’ve done in education, healthcare, infrastructure, housing, employment, social security, etc., mathematically, I believe, of everything we’ve done and we have to achieve for the people, we have achieved about 10%. It’s been 200 years of abandonment. The people have been abandoned. All the wealth of the country was in the hands of the elite. We talk about the bicentennial cycle, 2010 to 2030, we have to work really hard. In every aspect, infrastructure etc. I hope that you, in a few years, won’t just go up in the metrocable in San Augustin, but all of Caracas is going to have metrocables, and everywhere, every place, housing, reconstruction in poor neighborhoods, the construction of new cities for the people and dignified housing, there is still a lot to do, to achieve what Simon Bolivar said. Bolivar taught us...

(Pres. Evo Morales comes in)

Hugo Chavez: Oh look! Evo is here. Evo, come and sit down! Bolivar taught us that the best government is the one that gives the people the best amount of happiness. That’s our goal. The best, the largest amount of happiness.

My friend Evo, the president of Bolivia, who just got here, he is an indigenous leader! Brother how are you?

Evo Morales: Good, good.

Cindy Sheehan: Presidente Morales. Mucho gusto. So nice to meet you.

Hugo Chavez (introduces Cindy): Cindy Sheehan. She is a fighter for peace, against the war. She is a US citizen. One of her sons died in Iraq. So, she’s interviewing us. And maybe you want to answer a question.

Evo Morales: (gives Indian blessing)

Hugo Chavez: To live well. It’s a Mala Indian philosophy. To live well, a good life. To live well, spiritually, intellectually, physically, that’s what it’s about.

Cindy Sheehan: Thank you, that’s what it should be about. I have one final question.

Thank you for your generosity. This has been really wonderful. Maybe Presidente Morales could have some input about this too. We see your rise to power in Venezuela as kind of a grassroots movement that has been spreading and has helped President Morales in Bolivia, and we see people all over South America taking back the power. Because the power belongs in the hands of the people. A couple of weeks ago in the United States, a man flew his airplane into the tax building in Austin, Texas. Did you hear about that?

Evo Morales/ Hugo Chavez: Yes.

Cindy Sheehan: There is much frustration with the system. And there is a lot of that frustration in the United States. But instead of flying planes into buildings we should find each other and organize. In the United States of course, we are now a system that is also for the elite, ruled by the elite, it’s a “corporatocracy”, it’s for the corporate elite. Of course, in my opinion, I believe the United States need the same grassroots revolution, power back to the people, that you’ve all had here in South America. Can you give us some words of inspiration to encourage us, to give us the courage and heart for a true revolutionary change?

Hugo Chavez: We were the same, dominated, persecuted, and also there was a lot of desperation, just like that man who flew the plane into the building. There is a lot of that, of lot of those impulses, suicidal tendencies. Now, that’s NOT the path. The path is consciousness, a conscious awakening. Evo was persecuted, from very young, I met him when he was an Assembly member, and they threw him out of Congress, and they persecuted him, they jailed him, a lot of his fellow strugglers died. And us too, we had our own experiences. A lot of our brothers died as well, a lot of us went to prison. But consciousness. That’s why you’re doing the right thing. The path is not to fly a plane into a building. It’s to create consciousness. And then the rest will come on its own. I’d like to take this moment to say hello to people of the United States. And us here in the South, we have a lot of faith. And the people in the North are going to wake up. Just like you have woken. Just like many have had an awakening. You can do great changes in the United States, and in a peaceful way, I hope. Because, what happens in the United States, those changes in the United States depend a lot...the future of the world depends on that a lot.

(Pres. Chavez addresses Pres. Morales) Evo, would you like to say something?

Cindy Sheehan: Please!

Evo Morales: I just finished a meeting with Eduardo Galliano.

Cindy Sheehan: Oh, I know him.

Evo Morales: He’s so inspirational with the people, about nature. Galliano is also going to the inauguration of Pepe Mujica. (Pres. Morales and Pres. Chavez talk to each other.) And he’s going to bring some strategies, proposals, and we’re going to have a meeting with Galliano and the cocoa workers ...

Cindy Sheehan: Oh. Very wonderful.

Evo Morales: To talk about equality and our experiences. The difficult things, how to unite us and to raise our consciousness. What you’re talking about. The power resides with the people. I was just with Commandante Borhez, Thomas Borhez from Nicaragua. We were talking about issues of consciousness in Peru, in Colombia, on how to build a big political movement. But the issue is unity. In my experience, first the (inaudible), the marginalized, we united first, the farmers and the indigenous. And from that it went on. Just like that unity, we need to do that with the political parties on the left and then the workers unite. Those are the forces that we have, the power that the people have. To get there is hard, you have to raise consciousness.

Cindy Sheehan: My documentary is called “We are all Americans.” It comes from when I was being interviewed on Fox News and Sean Hannity told me how could I meet with the anti-American dictator Hugo Chavez. And I said: ”But Sean, he is an American”. We are all Americans and that’s where the consciousness has to be raised and the unity has to come from in realizing that.

And so, it’s been my highest honor to sit with you, Presidente, thank you for your hospitality and that of Venezuela and to finally meet you. I was invited to Bolivia to help to support you for your recall, but I was running for Congress against Nazi policy in the United States. It was a bad time. I lost. (laughs) I didn’t win.

Hugo Chavez: But we will prevail.

Cindy Sheehan: We will be victorious. Thank you so much.

Hugo Chavez: We have to end, but I want to say something to you. Just about 5 days ago, we were in Cancun. We were on our way out from the hotel and the press was there, and there were some tourists - from California. So I went up to them and I said hi to a woman and her child and another woman. A lot of affection. It was spontaneous. And then I told my friends. I found tourists. I found US tourists. Older adults, young women, men, adolescents. I’ve met with them in Japan, Moscow, Beijing, in the Caribbean, everywhere in the world, in Buenos Aires. I’ve never felt one look of hate, but rather affection, so I think that despite everything, I believe the people of the United States in the depths of their hearts, they know how to appreciate where lies are and where the truth is. That’s why we have such hope. And here is my heart for those people of the United States. They call us anti-US-leaders, anti-American leaders, but we are not. We are anti-imperialist. But we love the people of the United States. We love humanity.

Cindy Sheehan: Muchas Gracias!
© 2011 Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Specialist Casey A. Sheehan, who was killed in Iraq on April 4, 2004. Since then, she has been an activist for peace and human rights. She has published five books, has her own Internet radio show, Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox, and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. You can learn more about Cindy at Peace of the Action.

Springtime For Bankers
By Paul Krugman

Last year the G.O.P. pulled off two spectacular examples of bait-and-switch campaigning. Medicare, where the same people who screamed about death panels are now trying to dismantle the whole program, was the most obvious. But the same thing happened with regard to financial reform.

As you may recall, Republicans ran hard against bank bailouts. Among other things, they managed to convince a plurality of voters that the deeply unpopular bailout legislation proposed and passed by the Bush administration was enacted on President Obama’s watch.

And now they’re doing everything they can to ensure that there will be even bigger bailouts in years to come.

What does it take to limit future bailouts? Declaring that we’ll never do it again is no answer: when financial turmoil strikes, standing aside while banks fall like dominoes isn’t an option. After all, that’s what policy makers did in 1931, and the resulting banking crisis turned a mere recession into the Great Depression.

And let’s not forget that markets went into free fall when the Bush administration let Lehman Brothers go into liquidation. Only quick action — including passage of the much-hated bailout — prevented a full replay of 1931.

So what’s the solution? The answer is regulation that limits the frequency and size of financial crises, combined with rules that let the government strike a good deal when bailouts become necessary.

Remember, from the 1930s until the 1980s the United States managed to avoid large bailouts of financial institutions. The modern era of bailouts only began in the Reagan years, when politicians started dismantling 1930s-vintage regulation.

Moreover, regulation wasn’t updated as the financial system evolved. The institutions that were rescued in 2008-9 weren’t old-fashioned banks; they were complex financial empires, many of whose activities were effectively unregulated — and it was these unregulated activities that brought the U.S. economy to its knees.

Worse yet, officials lacked clear authority to seize these failing empires the way the F.D.I.C. can seize a conventional bank when it goes bust. That’s one reason the bailout looked so much like a giveaway: officials felt they lacked the legal tools to save the financial system without letting the people who created the crisis off the hook.

Last year Congressional Democrats enacted a financial reform bill that sought to close these gaps. The bill extended regulation in a number of ways: consumer protection, higher capital standards for major institutions, greater transparency for complex financial instruments. And it created new powers — “resolution authority” — to help officials drive a harder bargain in future crises.

There are many criticisms one can make of this legislation, which is arguably much too weak. And the Obama administration has frustrated many people with its too-lenient attitude toward Wall Street — exemplified by last week’s decision to exempt foreign-exchange swaps, a major source of dislocation in 2008, from regulation.

But Republicans are trying to undermine the whole thing.

Back in February G.O.P. legislators admitted frankly that they were trying to cripple financial reform by cutting off funding. And the recent House budget proposal, which calls for privatizing and voucherizing Medicare, also calls for eliminating resolution authority, in effect setting things up so that the bankers will get as good a deal in the next crisis as they got in 2008.

Of course, that’s not how Republicans put it. They claim that their goal is to “end the cycle of future bailouts,” under the general rubric of “ending corporate welfare.”

But as we’ve already seen, future bailouts will happen whatever today’s politicians say — and they’ll be bigger, more frequent and more expensive without effective regulation.

To see what’s really going on, follow the money. Wall Street used to favor Democrats, perhaps because financiers tend to be liberal on social issues. But greed trumps gay rights, and financial industry contributions swung sharply toward the Republicans in the 2010 elections. Apparently Wall Street, unlike the voters, had no trouble divining the party’s real intentions.

And one more thing: by standing in the way of regulations that would limit future financial crises, Republicans are giving further evidence that they don’t really care about budget deficits.

For our current deficit is overwhelmingly the result of the 2008 financial crisis, which devastated revenue and increased the cost of programs like unemployment insurance. And while we managed to avoid large direct bailout costs (a fact not appreciated in public debate), we might not be lucky next time.

More and bigger crises; more and bigger bailouts; more and bigger deficits. If you like that prospect, you should love what the G.O.P. is doing to financial reform.
(c) 2011 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined, and imprisoned, yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites."
~~~ Thomas Jefferson

On Osama bin Laden’s Death
By Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges, speaking at a Truthdig fundraising event in Los Angeles on Sunday evening, made these remarks about Osama bin Laden’s death.

I know that because of this announcement, that reportedly Osama bin Laden was killed, Bob [Truthdig Editor Robert Scheer] wanted me to say a few words about it … about al-Qaida. I spent a year of my life covering al-Qaida for The New York Times. It was the work in which I, and other investigative reporters, won the Pulitzer Prize. And I spent seven years of my life in the Middle East. I was the Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times. I’m an Arabic speaker. And when someone came over and told ... me the news, my stomach sank. I’m not in any way naive about what al-Qaida is. It’s an organization that terrifies me. I know it intimately.

But I’m also intimately familiar with the collective humiliation that we have imposed on the Muslim world. The expansion of military occupation that took place throughout, in particular the Arab world, following 9/11—and that this presence of American imperial bases, dotted, not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Doha—is one that has done more to engender hatred and acts of terror than anything ever orchestrated by Osama bin Laden.

And the killing of bin Laden, who has absolutely no operational role in al-Qaida—that’s clear—he’s kind of a spiritual mentor, a kind of guide … he functions in many of the ways that Hitler functioned for the Nazi Party. We were just talking with Warren [Beatty] about [Ian] Kershaw’s great biography of Hitler, which I read a few months ago, where you hold up a particular ideological ideal and strive for it. That was bin Laden’s role. But all actual acts of terror, which he may have signed off on, he no way planned.

I think that one of the most interesting aspects of the whole rise of al-Qaida is that when Saddam Hussein … I covered the first Gulf War, went into Kuwait with the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, was in Basra during the Shiite uprising until I was captured and taken prisoner by the Iraqi Republican Guard. I like to say I was embedded with the Iraqi Republican Guard. Within that initial assault and occupation of Kuwait, bin Laden appealed to the Saudi government to come back and help organize the defense of his country. And he was turned down. And American troops came in and implanted themselves on Muslim soil.

When I was in New York, as some of you were, on 9/11, I was in Times Square when the second plane hit. I walked into The New York Times, I stuffed notebooks in my pocket and walked down the West Side Highway and was at Ground Zero four hours later. I was there when Building 7 collapsed. And I watched as a nation drank deep from that very dark elixir of American nationalism … the flip side of nationalism is always racism, it’s about self-exaltation and the denigration of the other.

And it’s about forgetting that terrorism is a tactic. You can’t make war on terror. Terrorism has been with us since Sallust wrote about it in the Jugurthine wars. And the only way to successfully fight terrorist groups is to isolate [them], isolate those groups, within their own societies. And I was in the immediate days after 9/11 assigned to go out to Jersey City and the places where the hijackers had lived and begin to piece together their lives. I was then very soon transferred to Paris, where I covered all of al-Qaida’s operations in the Middle East and Europe.

So I was in the Middle East in the days after 9/11. And we had garnered the empathy of not only most of the world, but the Muslim world who were appalled at what had been done in the name of their religion. And we had major religious figures like Sheikh Tantawi, the head of al-Azhar—who died recently—who after the attacks of 9/11 not only denounced them as a crime against humanity, which they were, but denounced Osama bin Laden as a fraud … someone who had no right to issue fatwas or religious edicts, no religious legitimacy, no religious training. And the tragedy was that if we had the courage to be vulnerable, if we had built on that empathy, we would be far safer and more secure today than we are.

We responded exactly as these terrorist organizations wanted us to respond. They wanted us to speak the language of violence. What were the explosions that hit the World Trade Center, huge explosions and death above a city skyline? It was straight out of Hollywood. When Robert McNamara in 1965 began the massive bombing campaign of North Vietnam, he did it because he said he wanted to “send a message” to the North Vietnamese—a message that left hundreds of thousands of civilians dead.

These groups learned to speak the language we taught them. And our response was to speak in kind. The language of violence, the language of occupation—the occupation of the Middle East, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—has been the best recruiting tool al-Qaida has been handed. If it is correct that Osama bin Laden is dead, then it will spiral upwards with acts of suicidal vengeance. And I expect most probably on American soil. The tragedy of the Middle East is one where we proved incapable of communicating in any other language than the brute and brutal force of empire.

And empire finally, as Thucydides understood, is a disease. As Thucydides wrote, the tyranny that the Athenian empire imposed on others it finally imposed on itself. The disease of empire, according to Thucydides, would finally kill Athenian democracy. And the disease of empire, the disease of nationalism … these of course are mirrored in the anarchic violence of these groups, but one that locks us in a kind of frightening death spiral. So while I certainly fear al-Qaida, I know its intentions. I know how it works. I spent months of my life reconstructing every step Mohamed Atta took. While I don’t in any way minimize their danger, I despair. I despair that we as a country, as Nietzsche understood, have become the monster that we are attempting to fight.

Thank you.
(c) 2011 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, "“Death Of The Liberal Class.”

Accomplish The Mission
Bring the Troops Home
By Amy Goodman

On May 1, the U.S. president addressed the nation, announcing a military victory. May 1, 2003, that is, when President George W. Bush, in his form-fitting flight suit, strode onto the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln. Under the banner announcing “Mission Accomplished,” he declared that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.”

That was eight years to the day before President Barack Obama, without flight suit or swagger, made the surprise announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a U.S. military operation (in a wealthy suburb of Pakistan, notably, not Afghanistan).

The U.S. war in Afghanistan has become the longest war in U.S. history. News outlets now summarily report that “The Taliban have begun their annual spring offensive,” as if it were the release of a spring line of clothes. The fact is, this season has all the markings of the most violent of the war, or as the brave reporter Anand Gopal told me Tuesday from Kabul: “Every year has been more violent than the year before that, so it’s just continuing that trend. And I suspect the same to be said for the summer. It will likely be the most violent summer since 2001.”

Let’s go back to that fateful year. Just after the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress voted to grant President Bush war authorization. The resolution passed the Senate 98-0, and passed the House 420-1. The sole vote against the invasion of Afghanistan was cast by California Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Her floor speech in opposition to House Joint Resolution 64 that Sept. 14 should be required reading:

“I rise today with a heavy heart, one that is filled with sorrow for the families and loved ones who were killed and injured in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. ... Sept. 11 changed the world. Our deepest fears now haunt us. Yet I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States. ... We must not rush to judgment. Far too many innocent people have already died. Our country is in mourning. If we rush to launch a counterattack, we run too great a risk that women, children and other noncombatants will be caught in the crossfire. ... As a member of the clergy so eloquently said, ‘As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore.’ ”

Ten years after her courageous speech, Lee, whose anti-war stance is increasingly becoming the new normal, wants a repeal of that war resolution:

“That resolution was a blank check. ... It was not targeted toward al-Qaida or any country. It said the president is authorized to use force against any nation, organization or individual he or she deems responsible or connected to 9/11. It wasn’t a declaration of war, yet we’ve been in the longest war in American history now, 10 years, and it’s open-ended.”

Lee acknowledges that Obama “did commit to begin a significant withdrawal in July.” But what does troop withdrawal mean with the presence of military contractors in war? Right now, the 100,000 contractors (called “mercenaries” by many) outnumber U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan.

Gopal says, “The U.S. is really a fundamental force for instability in Afghanistan ... allying with local actors — warlords, commanders, government officials — who’ve really been creating a nightmare for Afghans, especially in the countryside, [and with] the night raids, breaking into people’s homes, airstrikes, just the daily life under occupation.”

Filmmaker Robert Greenwald has partnered with anti-war veterans to produce “Rethink Afghanistan,” a series of films about the war, online at In response to bin Laden’s death, they have launched a new petition to press the White House to bring the troops home. Lee supports it: “I can’t overstate how important this is for our democracy—every poll has shown that over 65, 70 percent of the public now is war-weary. And they understand that we need to bring our young men and women out of harm’s way. They’ve performed valiantly and well. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do, and now it’s time to bring them home.”

(c) 2011 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Burgermeister Moccia,

Congratulations, you have just been awarded the "Vidkun Quisling Award!" Your name will now live throughout history with such past award winners as Marcus Junius Brutus, Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, George Stephanopoulos, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Sam Bush, Fredo Bush, Kate Bush, Kyle Busch, Anheuser-Busch, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge Elena (Butch) Kagan.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, your demanding a homeless woman be sent to prison for twenty years for sending her 6 year old to school, Pakistan and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross 1st class with diamond clusters, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 07-04-2011. We salute you Herr Moccia, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Politics -- Spinning Out Of Control
By Sheila Samples

"The two parties have combined against us to nullify our power by a 'gentleman's agreement' of non-recognition, no matter how we vote ... May God write us down as asses if ever again we are found putting our trust in either the Republican or the Democratic Parties."~~W.E.B. DuBois (1922)

In January, after the mid-term election blowout dumped the House of Representatives into the corporate lap, the Reverend Daniel P. Coughlin opened the 112th Congress with the standard prayer, asking the Lord's Spirit to "descend upon this Chamber; that from here may come forth good news for the poor and healing for the broken-hearted of this nation."

The good Reverend then demanded of the Lord -- "Let there go forth a proclamation to the people that captivity is ended. And the action of true politics will set this nation free."(emphasis added)

There was immediate news for the poor and broken-hearted, but it was hardly good. House Speaker John Boehner, awash in tears and incoherently mumbling over and over "the American people...the American people," set about blocking all Democratic legislation. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the "single most important" issue for the Republicans is to make "President Obama a one-term president."

And then there's House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who is arguably the most frightening Republican -- and that's saying a lot -- for "the American people." Cantor is adamantly opposed to anything that does not inflict further pain and sacrifice on the already suffering poor and middle classes, and struggled to shut down the government and blame it on President Obama.

Not only would Cantor and his Republican cohorts privatize Social Security and eliminate Medicare and Medicaid, but they are against all facets of health-care reform, Planned Parenthood, and any initiative that would ease the suffering of children, the elderly or those struggling in poverty.

One need go no further than the Table of Contents of Rep. Paul Ryan's grotesque Path To Prosperity budget resolution for 2012 to see the stark Republican agenda, and to realize that in no way are "the American people" on that prosperity path. Listed under:

Efficient, Effective and Responsible Government -- Restraining the Growth of Government by Repealing the Health Care Law

Strengthening the Social Safety Net -- Stopping the Abuse of Medicaid by Repealing the Health Care Law

Fulfilling the Mission of Health and Retirement Security for All Americans -- Stopping the Raid on Medicare by Repealing the Health Care Law

Pro-Growth Tax Reform -- Stopping Job-Destroying Tax Hikes by Repealing the Health Care Law

Once in power, most politicians can be depended upon to do whatever it takes to remain in power, regardless of the destruction they leave in their wake. In his penetrating Drifting Too Far From Shore: The Unresisted Rise of the Elite, Chris Floyd writes:

"Politicians are, with the rarest of exceptions, venal, preening, shallow-minded third-raters. Many of them are psychologically damaged, which is what draws them into the pursuit of power -- of dominating other people -- in the first place. Mostly, they like the perks (material and emotional) of power. They are not figures of deep character and solid principles. Strong political resistance -- or even a great lot of noise -- can scare them out of whatever 'principles' they find expedient to hold at any given moment. The Right has triumphed because no one has resisted it. Big Money has bought off and/or subsumed almost all of the institutional forces that once offered some resistance to its iron-fisted rule."

I have a real problem with Democrats who refuse to get off their knees long enough to stand up for what they believe in. What do they believe in? Community organizing? Democrats are not evil; they really really want to do what is right, but with few exceptions, they are timid, hypocritical little cave-inskis when it comes to walking their talk. They take the money and call it bipartisanship. I call it betrayal. However, Republicans, for the most part, are sociopaths -- morally and politically corrupt. In her Editor's Preface to Andrew M. Lobaczewski's critically important Political Ponerology, Laura Knight-Jadczyk quotes Martha Stout, who appears to be eerily describing modern Republicans, in her book, The Sociopath Next Door:

"Imagine -- if you can -- not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members. Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken.


"If you are born at the right time, with some access to family fortune, and you have a special talent for whipping up other people's hatred and sense of deprivation, you can arrange to kill large numbers of unsuspecting people. With enough money, you can accomplish this from far away, and you can sit back safely and watch in satisfaction . . . Crazy and frightening -- and real, in about 4 percent of the population.

"The high incidence of sociopathy in human society has a profound effect on the rest of us who must live on this planet, too, even those of us who have not been clinically traumatized. The individuals who constitute this 4 percent drain our relationships, our bank accounts, our accomplishments, our self-esteem, our very peace on earth."

Keenly aware that fair elections are beyond their grasp, Republicans rely on entities such as the Supreme Court (Election 2000 and the recent Citizens United decision), corporate billionaires such as the Koch Brothers (who organized and funded the Tea Party movement as well as the campaigns of neoconservative governors), and a myriad of fawning, right-wing media.

And, as added insurance, "the American people" most likely to vote Democratic need to be kicked to the curb. According to Think Progress:

"Since taking office in January, conservative legislators in state houses across the country have raised the specter of voter fraud to quietly -- and quickly -- push through a series of bills that would make it significantly more difficult for large swaths of the population to vote, including college students, rural voters, senior citizens, the disabled, and the homeless. Proposed legislation would dramatically change how the country votes ahead of the 2012 elections, requiring Americans in some states to present their birth certificates before registering to vote and show a DMV-issued photo identification at the polls.

"These voter ID bills would not only dampen voter turnout -- depressing Hispanic turnout by as much as 10 percent -- but also cost cash-strapped statehouses (and taxpayers) millions of dollars. Yet in dozens of states, Republicans have made bills restricting voting a central part of their legislative agenda -- passing voter ID bills before they even begin to work on budgets. Conservatives have claimed their assault on voting rights is necessary to combat the threat of mass voter fraud. Yet the Brennan Center for Justice notes that voters are more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter fraud, and the Bush Justice Department's five-year "War on Voter Fraud" resulted in only 86 convictions out of 196 million votes cast. As The Progress Report's Alex Seitz-Wald notes, 'The only fraud in voter fraud is the allegation of fraud.' Instead, like their assaults on unions, Planned Parenthood, and AARP, conservatives' anti-voter agenda is aimed at silencing the voices of those who disagree with them."

North Carolina is targeting its elderly, disabled and college students. South Carolina said too many blacks voted for Obama in 2008 and they didn't want that to happen again. Kansas is working to require a "two-fer" -- proof of citizenship upon registering to vote and photo identification at the polls.

Well, alrighty then. That pretty much knocks a hole in the Democratic voting base, but when you consider the roster of Republicans straining at the bit to storm the Oval Office, it's difficult to imagine "the American people" turning out to vote for any of them either.

Think about it. Our world -- our political world -- has been knocked off its axis and is spinning out of control. Neither party can be trusted to do anything that is not totally self-serving.

When we see these selfish, immoral, corporate-owned money changers -- both Democrats and Republicans -- being hurled out of House windows and doors, it's possible that the Lord responded to the good Reverend Coughlin, and His Spirit -- at long last -- will have descended upon the Chamber.

Then -- and only then -- will our captivity be ended, and we can get about the business of true politics which, hopefully, will set this nation free.
(c) 2011 Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is an OEN editor, and a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact her at:

Bin Laden’s Crimes, And Ours
By Matthew Rothschild

I always rejoice at the death of a mass murderer, and Osama bin Laden was definitely a mass murderer. He killed 3,000 people here on 9/11, and he killed more than 300 in August 1998 in the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

So I understand the sense of relief or closure or even triumph that many Americans feel today.

But it’s worth grappling with precisely what it is that bin Laden did, and why it is that Americans are chanting “USA, USA”.

What bin Laden did was to use violence as a ready tool to advance his purposes.

What bin Laden did was to wantonly sacrifice the lives of innocent people in service of those purposes.

In this regard, bin Laden is no different a mass murderer than William McKinley was in the Philippines.

In this regard, bin Laden is no different a mass murderer than Harry Truman was when he dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In this regard, bin Laden is no different a mass murderer than Ronald Reagan was when he funded and trained the contras against Nicaragua or backed the Salvadoran military against the rebels there.

In this regard, bin Laden is no different a mass murderer than Lyndon Johnson was in Vietnam.

In this regard, bin Laden is no different a mass murderer than George W. Bush was in Iraq.

Oh, there is one big difference: bin Laden killed far fewer innocent people than any of those U.S. Presidents.

So, when you examine the righteous triumphalism than many Americans are feeling today, it comes down to this: We’re not against using violence as a ready tool to serve our purposes; we’re not against wantonly sacrificing innocent lives; we’re not even against mass murder.

We’re only against it when violence is used against us.

We’re only against it when ours are the innocent lives being sacrificed.

We’re only against it when we’re not the ones committing the mass murder but are the victims of the mass murder.

This understanding puts a creepy edge on the rah-rahs of today.

Until we renounce violence as a convenient tool, until we stop sacrificing innocent lives, until we no longer excuse the mass murder that our own government commits, we’re not in much of a position to celebrate.

And spare me Obama’s talk of “justice” being done. That’s exactly the same phrase Bush used after U.S. forces gunned down Saddam Hussein’s sadistic sons, Uday and Qusay.

It’s not “justice,” as we’ve come to revere it in this country: a system that upholds due process and habeas corpus and assumes the innocence of the accused and allows for trial by jury.

No, what Obama and Bush were talking about was rough justice or frontier justice.

The word “justice” should not adorn an assassination.
(c)2011 Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

The Cartoon Corner...

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To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

The president said responsible spending, forging bank-vault guard IDs are steps that must be taken.

Obama's Deficit-Reduction Plan Includes Spending Cuts, Robbing Fort Knox, Tax Reform

WASHINGTON—Saying the nation must face the "grave realities" of its mounting debt, President Barack Obama unveiled a deficit-reduction plan Wednesday that included far-reaching spending cuts, pulling off a daring robbery of the heavily fortified Fort Knox bullion deposi-tory, and repealing Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

In a televised address, Obama outlined his proposal to eliminate $4 trillion from the federal deficit over the next 12 years, and expressed his vision for a future in which the government was leaner, more efficient, and had billions and billions of dollars worth of stolen gold stashed in D.C.-area safe-deposit boxes.

"We cannot continue to live beyond our means," the president said. "Unless we want to cripple our grandchildren with this debt burden, we must act now by eliminating tax loopholes and pulling off what all Americans—Republicans and Democrats alike—can agree is the greatest heist of all time."

"It's time to stop kicking the can down the road to future generations," Obama added. "We must empty that vault and ensure our country's full economic recovery." According to a fact sheet issued by the White House, the proposed measures include slashing farm subsidies, cutting federal pension insurance, tricking Fort Knox security personnel into thinking that the president and five others are ordinary elevator repairmen, capping Medicaid's outlays on equipment, shaping C4 charges to blast 21-inch-thick vault doors off their hinges, and curbing discretionary spending.

In spite of the admittedly "formidable" challenges that his plan faced, Obama insisted that "the time for action is now," noting that last week the price of gold rose above $1,500 an ounce for the first time ever.

"Reining in the runaway growth of entitlement programs and the defense budget will not be easy," Obama said. "And neither will silently ferrying 5,000 tons of bullion through a network of ventilation ducts. But just trust me on this; I've got the blueprints and I think I found a way out through a drainage pipe."

According to Obama's senior adviser David Plouffe, the president's plan will assure the nation's long-term solvency while also producing immediate tangible benefits, including, but not limited to, a gigantic pile of gold.

"The president looked at every conceivable option," said Plouffe, who is expected to externally coordinate the six-man Fort Knox team from a van outfitted with multiple video screens. "He considered trimming the federal workforce, scaling back welfare payments, taking out a $4 trillion fire insurance policy on the Pentagon and burning it to the ground, even raising the retirement age—everything was on the table."

"Ultimately, the president selected measures that will have a minimal impact on the middle class," Plouffe continued. "Indeed, his plan places an added burden only on those who either earn more than $250,000 annually or house 368,000 bars of pure gold. Most Americans won't be affected at all."

Republican leaders were quick to unleash a barrage of criticism, blasting the administration's proposal for its "unacceptable" reliance on tax increases and grand larceny, and accusing Obama of offering few concrete details in his speech.

"The president conveniently avoided any specifics on his Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board and his getaway plan," House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) said. "And his speech contained not one mention of those laser-beam motion detectors that you can't even see unless you have an aerosol spray that makes them visible. What about those, Mr. President?"

In a party-line vote earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed Rep. Ryan's rival plan, which includes across-the-board tax cuts, tunneling under the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, sending an electrical surge through its security system, and stealing the engraving plates so that "we can print off as much money as we want."
© 2011 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 11 # 18 (c) 05/06/2011

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