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In This Edition

Tom Engelhardt Joins, "The American Exceptionalism Sweepstakes."

Uri Avnery considers, "Stolen Wars."

Glen Ford discovers, "Black America More Pro-War Than Ever."

Norman Solomon finds, "Obama's Justice Department: Trumpeting A New Victory In War On Freedom Of the Press."

Jim Hightower reminds us that, "Fracking Adds An Extra Danger To Flooding."

David Swanson orates a must read, "Ending One War, Ending All Wars."

James Donahue remembers, "When Women Ruled."

John Nichols warns of hosers in high places, "Ted Cruz Has A Plan To Get the America He Wants: Minority Rule."

Chris Hedges examines, "The Act Of Killing."

Glenn Greenwald joins the panel on, "The War On Whistleblowers And Journalism."

Paul Krugman says the GOP wants you to be, "Free To Be Hungry."

David Sirota is, "Learning From A Thousand-Year Flood."

William Rivers Pitt sings, "Send In The Clowns."

Congressman Kevin Cramer R/ND wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich wonders, "Why Won't Bill O'Reilly Debate Me?"

Adam Keller explores, "Succot In Sderot And Hebron And A Temporary Reversed Destruction."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "Obama Meets With Nation's Schizophrenic Voices To Urge Less Violence" but first, Uncle Ernie asks, "Will It Hit The Fan Come Tuesday?"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Jack Ohman, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, Kay Ness, Tea Party Cat, Paul Rockower, Tim Rasmussen, J. Scott Applewhite, Keith Coffman, Stephen Crowley, AP, The Denver Post, The New York Times, Reuters, Alter Net, Black Agenda Report, 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."

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Will It Hit The Fan Come Tuesday?
By Ernest Stewart

"It's pretty clear that the President was reelected; Obamacare is the law of the land." ~~~ John Boehner

"The arguments that the illegal interception of information and data aims at protecting nations against terrorism cannot be sustained. Brazil, Mr President, knows how to protect itself. We reject, fight and do not harbor terrorist groups." ~~~ Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff

"Innocent people in New York have airplanes flown into their places of work, and marathoners in Boston are victims of bombs, yet Christianity is singled out as bigotry in our public institutions because politicians and academics lack the courage to speak truth. We've normalized perversion and perverted God's natural law to the point where the only thing not tolerated anymore is a stand for truth." ~~~ Kevin Cramer R/ND

"The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others." ~~~ Albert Schweitzer

Boner's big idea is about to hit the fan come Tuesday; or it won't. There's no chance the Senate will take Obamacare out of the spending bill; and shutting down the government isn't really going to happen -- at least not in the way the Rethuglicans want you to believe it will. You may recall that we've been here and done this before (they tried it in 1995 & 1996 & 2011); and, after the people made it clear that if they didn't get back to doing our business; their political careers would be over come the next elections, they suddenly changed their tiny, little minds.

Sure, some government offices will be closed or understaffed; but everything that needs to be open will be open. What actually will close will hurt the 1% more than the rest of us. The hungry will still get their food stamps; the retirees will still get their social security; Medicare will still pay for the sick; the borders will still be guarded; soliders will still get paid, etc.. Even brain-deads like Boner and Cantor know this to be true; and Obamacare will still be the law of the land.

This is really about grandstanding by a group of losers who had their chance last November to get rid of Obamacare by electing Willard; and, even though they tried their damnest to steal the election by various acts of treason and sedition, Barry's still in the White House; and Willard is back busily sending his money overseas, so he won't have to pay the taxes that everyone but the 1% has to pay; and, who knows, lining up a couple of new wives as the old one is looking kinda old. They know full well that their 1% masters are big fans of Obamacare as it will transfer even more trillions out of the wallets and purses of Americans and into their off-shore bank accounts, even if their puppets try to get rid of it another 42 times. The fix is in; and all this is just smoke and mirrors to hide that fact.

Then comes the Debt Limit, which has even less chance than the spending bill. We owe the world tens of trillions of dollars that everyone from England to China has bought up. And why would they buy it, I hear you ask. Because we pay those bill on time, never missed an interest payment yet, ever. If it isn't passed and we begin to miss payments that's the end of this country; then we go from number one to a third world country overnight. Those tens of trillions will suddenly flow out of here and be spent in other countries and as dumb as the Rethuglicans are, they're not that dumb; so again just a matter of the losers, whining and pouting and twisting their panties in a bunch for the cameras -- and the few morons that are still voting for them. They've lost all the Reagan Demoncrats and most of the real Conservatives, leaving a tiny minority of Tea Baggers. None of this would have happened to begin with if we hadn't closed all the funny farms and pushed the lunatics out into the streets! So, I'm not worried about it, and neither should you. You might want to call your Representative and Senators and tell it like it is, you know I will!

In Other News

Barry, our nation embarrassment, was out and on the loose in New York City. As you know, Barry really likes to hear himself speak, given 15 minutes to say his piece, he took 45; but after following Brazil's President, Dilma Rousseff, I can understand why. Dilma tore him a new one in front of this august body about his NSA spying on Brazil's people and businesses. You go, girl!

Dilma launched a blistering attack on US espionage in front of the General Assembly, accusing the NSA of violating international law by its indiscriminate collection of personal information of Brazilian citizens and economic espionage, targeting her country's strategic industries. Here's a couple of things she said in her speech, in a global rallying cry against what she portrayed as the overwhelming power of the US security apparatus.

"Personal data of citizens was intercepted indiscriminately. Corporate information - often of high economic and even strategic value - was at the centre of espionage activity.

"Also, Brazilian diplomatic missions, among them the permanent mission to the UN and the office of the president of the republic itself, had their communications intercepted.

"Tampering in such a manner in the affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and is an affront of the principles that must guide the relations among them, especially among friendly nations. A sovereign nation can never establish itself to the detriment of another sovereign nation. The right to safety of citizens of one country can never be guaranteed by violating fundamental human rights of citizens of another country.

"Friendly governments and societies that seek to build a true strategic partnership, as in our case, cannot allow recurring illegal actions to take place as if they were normal. They are unacceptable."

And those were the nice things. Of course, Barry didn't address this; in fact, he ignored it completely as he feels he's too "exceptional" to be bothered by lowly Brazil! Nor could he be bothered to take the few seconds to meet Iran's new President for just a smile and a hand shake. It doesn't matter that this would have been the perfect occasion to start a dialogue. Barry doesn't want a dialogue; he wants to start WWIII and dialogues would get in his way. Here's a couple of things he said from his speech, how many outright lies can you spot in these two little paragraphs?

The danger for the world is not an America that is too eager to immerse itself in the affairs of other countries, or to take on every problem in the region as its own. The danger for the world is that the United States, after a decade of war, rightly concerned about issues back home, aware of the hostility that our engagement in the region has engendered throughout the Muslim world, may disengage -- creating a vacuum of leadership that no other nation is ready to fill.

I believe such disengagement would be a mistake. I believe America must remain engaged for our own security; but I also believe the world is better for it. Some may disagree. But I believe America is exceptional. In part, because we have shown a willingness through the sacrifice of blood and treasure to stand up not only for our own narrow self interest, but for the interest of all.

How many did you count? I got nine. Nine whoopers in seven sentences. Does he really think that anyone at the UN is buying that BS? Sure, most of America might buy into that; but the good news is that even the Obamabots are finally beginning to see the light. Not just the ones who said last November that they were voting for Barry as the lesser of two evils, but the hard core, armband wearing types have finally gone beyond the rhetoric and will admit that they were bamboozled, hornswaggled and were fools for Barry and that in itself is a tough thing to admit; but once they admit they were fools, they're some very pissed off people, as well they should be, and so should you, America!

And Finally

If you ever wondered if the separation of church and state was a wise move by the Founding Fathers, I've an excellent example of why it is. North Dakota's national embarrassment, Kevin Cramer, wants to get rid of food stamps for children, poor folks, and the elderly, suggesting if you don't get a job, you don't eat; and, of course, not only wraps himself in the flag, but the Bible too. He uses a verse taken out of context to prove his point and transferring the blame not on him and the Rethuglicans, but on mythology. Kevin says while quoting...

"2 Thessalonians 3:10 English Standard Version (ESV) "For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat," Congressman Kevin posted this reply Friday afternoon to an inquiry from Kevin Tengesdal, a Bismark-based actor and activist.

You'll recall that House Rethuglicans narrowly passed deep cuts to the food stamp program Thursday, despite opposition from the Senate and a veto threat from Barry. In a op-ed published on his office webpage Friday, Cramer railed against exemptions to the work requirement for food stamps, arguing that "We can generate $20 billion in savings by ending these waivers while encouraging able-bodied people to work ... When did America become a country where working for benefits is no longer noble?" The quote Cramer used in reply to Tengesdal is an admonition against Christians failing to plant seed and harvest food because anticipation of the imminent return of Christ might seemingly make that toil unnecessary.

Ironically, Cramer's North Dakota district received $10.4 billion in agricultural subsidies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 2005 to 2012 - the single largest recipient of farm subsidies in the nation. So you know what I did right? I left this note on his Facebook page...

Yo, shit for brains, not much of a Christian are you? I seem to recall something from the Bible. You should read the Bible some day, you ignorant, Nazi, asshole! I have read it cover to cover twice; and I'm an Atheist! You remember what old Matt said in 25: 35 - 37?

"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. "For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me."

Do you remember what he said to those who don't, Kevin? You're just another enemy of the people, a corpo-rat owned puppet! But that's ok; you and a whole lot more of your tea bagger pals will be leaving the House & Senate next year. Perhaps you can get a job saying, "Would you like fries with that sir?" Oh, and did I mention that you just won this week's Vidkun Quisling Award? It's our weekly award for the biggest traitor in the country. Congratulations, I bet your mama's proud!

Keepin' On

I'm beginning to get the feeling that I'm going to be working on a few things on my "bucket list" before too long. Those four books I was writing when the 12-12-2000 coup d'etat went down. I did manage to finish, "Uncle Ernie's Hollywood Daze;" but Uncle Ernie's Hippie Daze, Uncle Ernie's Radio Daze, Uncle Ernie's Road Trips and The Red King's Horror which I put down in order to do the magazine are waiting for my return. I have been working on my sci-fi/fantasy/horror collection of short stories, "He Never Came Back" and have it almost finished. I could probably finish the other four in about a year's time as all the research on them has been done; and all I need to do is to put quill to paper.

Writing my editorials, researching and putting together the magazine take pretty much all of my free time every week. In the beginning, I had hope to wake the Sheeple up to reality by simply telling them the truth -- my naive ass. No, believing in the corpo-rat lie is so much easier and comfortable thing to do. If nothing else, the Matrix is warm and confortable; while the truth is scary, and requires you do something about it. Sure, I've reached a few hundred; but 99.99% of the folks who read me are already hip; and all I'm doing is turning them onto the latest news -- just preaching to the already saved. While it's convenient for them, I'm hardly helping the ones who need my help the most.

So, for the last few years I've been begging to pay our bills to continue to do this. If you send in enough for us to break even, I feel I must give you your money's worth and keep the magazine going, with just two exceptions; it's always come down to the wire as it is this year. If we can raise that last $1000, I'll continue; if not, I'll go back to the books, and get them finished. I could really use a couple of nice checks from the publishers, making my life a whole lot easier; but, by the same token, what we do here is very important to not only you and yours, but to all of us on the planet. Ergo, it's up to you and, you alone. If you think we're worth it, please send us as much as you can as often as you can; and I'll put off my four unfinished symphony's until later!


03-07-1926 ~ 09-22-2013
Thanks for the screen plays!


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) 2013 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 12 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Facebook. Visit the Magazine's page on Facebook and like us when you do. Follow me on Twitter.

The American Exceptionalism Sweepstakes
Bragging Rights: Eight exceptional(ly dumb) American achievements of the 21st Century
By Tom Engelhardt

And there's more we're good at, too... "But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That's what makes America different. That's what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth." -- Barack Obama, address to the nation on Syria, September 10, 2013 Let's be Americans, which means being exceptional, which also means being honest in ways inconceivable to the rest of humanity. So here's the truth of it: the American exceptionalism sweepstakes really do matter. Here. A lot.

Barack Obama is only the latest in a jostling crowd of presidential candidates, presidential wannabes, major politicians, and minor figures of every sort, not to speak of a raging horde of neocons and pundits galore, who have felt compelled in recent years to tell us and the world just how exceptional the last superpower really is. They tend to emphasize our ability to use this country's overwhelming power, especially the military variety, for the global good -- to save children and other deserving innocents. This particularly American aptitude for doing good forcibly, by killing others, is considered an incontestable fact of earthly life needing no proof. It is well known, especially among our leading politicians, that Washington has the ability to wield its military strength in ways that are unimaginably superior to any other power on the planet.

The well-deserved bragging rights to American exceptionalism are no small matter in this country. It should hardly be surprising, then, how visceral is the distaste when any foreigner -- say, Russian President Vladimir Putin -- decides to appropriate the term and use it to criticize us. How visceral? Well, the sort of visceral that, as Democratic Senator Bob Menendez put it recently, leaves us barely repressing the urge to "vomit."

Now, it's not that we can't take a little self-criticism. If you imagine an over-muscled, over-armed guy walking into a room and promptly telling you and anyone else in earshot how exceptionally good he is when it comes to targeting his weapons, and you notice a certain threatening quality about him, and maybe a hectoring, lecturing tone in his voice, it's just possible that you might be intimidated or irritated by him. You might think: narcissist, braggart, or blowhard. If you were the president of Russia, you might say, "It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation."

Yes, if you're a foreigner, this country is easy enough to misunderstand, make fun of, or belittle. Still, that didn't stop the president from proudly bringing up our exceptionalism two weeks ago in his address on the Syrian crisis. In that speech, he plugged the need for a U.S. military response to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian military. He recommended launching a "limited strike," assumedly Tomahawk missiles heading Damascus-wards, to save Syria's children, and he made sure the world knew that such an attack would be no passing thing. ("Let me make something clear: the United States military doesn't do pinpricks.")

Then, in mid-speech, in a fashion that was nothing short of exceptional (if you were considering the internal logic of the address), he suddenly cast that option aside for another approach entirely. But just because of that, don't let first impressions or foreign criticism blind you to the power of the president's imagery. In this century, as he suggested then and in an address to the U.N. two weeks later, American exceptionalism has always had to do with Washington's ability to use its power for the greater planetary good. Since, in the last decade-plus, power and military power have come to be essentially synonymous in Washington, the pure goodness of firing missiles or dropping bombs has been deified.

On that basis, it's indisputable that the bragging rights to American exceptionalism are Washington's. For those who need proof, what follows are just eight ways (among so many more) that you can proudly make the case for our exceptional status, should you happen to stumble across, say, President Putin, still blathering on about how unexceptional we are.

1. What other country could have invaded Iraq, hardly knowing the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite, and still managed to successfully set off a brutal sectarian civil war and ethnic cleansing campaigns between the two sects that would subsequently go regional, whose casualty counts have tipped into the hundreds of thousands, and which is now bouncing back on Iraq? What other great power would have launched its invasion with plans to garrison that country for decades and with the larger goal of subduing neighboring Iran ("Everyone wants to go to Baghdad; real men want to go to Tehran"), only to slink away eight years later leaving behind a Shiite government in Baghdad that was a firm ally of Iran? And in what other country, could leaders, viewing these events, and knowing our part in them, have been so imbued with goodness as to draw further "red lines" and contemplate sending in the missiles and bombers again, this time on Syria and possibly Iran? Who in the world would dare claim that this isn't an unmatchable record?

2. What other country could magnanimously spend $4-6 trillion on two "good wars" in Afghanistan and Iraq against lightly armed minority insurgencies without winning or accomplishing a thing? And that's not even counting the funds sunk into the Global War on Terror and sideshows in places like Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, or the staggering sums that, since 9/11, have been poured directly into the national security state. How many countries, possessing "the finest fighting force in the history of the world," could have engaged in endless armed conflicts and interventions from the 1960s on and, except in unresisting Panama and tiny Grenada, never managed to definitively win anything?

3. And talking about exceptional records, what other military could have brought an estimated 3.1 million pieces of equipment -- ranging from tanks and Humvees to porta-potties, coffee makers, and computers -- with it into Iraq, and then transported most of them out again (while destroying the rest or turning them over to the Iraqis)? Similarly, in an Afghanistan where the U.S. military is now drawing down its forces and has already destroyed "more than 170 million pounds worth of vehicles and other military equipment," what other force would have decided ahead of time to shred, dismantle, or simply discard $7 billion worth of equipment (about 20% of what it had brought into the country)? The general in charge proudly calls this "the largest retrograde mission in history." To put that in context: What other military would be capable of carrying a total consumer society right down to PXs, massage parlors, boardwalks, Internet cafes, and food courts to war? Let's give credit where it's due: we're not just talking retrograde here, we're talking exceptionally retrograde!

4. What other military could, in a bare few years in Iraq, have built a staggering 505 bases, ranging from combat outposts to ones the size of small American towns with their own electricity generators, water purifiers, fire departments, fast-food restaurants, and even miniature golf courses at a cost of unknown billions of dollars and then, only a few years later, abandoned all of them, dismantling some, turning others over to the Iraqi military or into ghost towns, and leaving yet others to be looted and stripped? And what other military, in the same time period thousands of miles away in Afghanistan, could have built more than 450 bases, sometimes even hauling in the building materials, and now be dismantling them in the same fashion? If those aren't exceptional feats, what are?

5. In a world where it's hard to get anyone to agree on anything, the covert campaign of drone strikes that George W. Bush launched and Barack Obama escalated in Pakistan's tribal areas stands out. Those hundreds of strikes not only caused significant numbers of civilian casualties (including children), while helping to destabilize a sometime ally, but almost miraculously created public opinion unanimity. Opinion polls there indicate that a Ripley's-Believe-It-or-Not-style 97% of Pakistanis consider such strikes "a bad thing." Is there another country on the planet capable of mobilizing such loathing? Stand proud, America!

6. And what other power could have secretly and illegally kidnapped at least 136 suspected terrorists -- some, in fact, innocent of any such acts or associations -- off the streets of global cities as well as from the backlands of the planet? What other nation could have mustered a coalition-of-the-willing of 54 countries to lend a hand in its "rendition" operations? We're talking about more than a quarter of the nations on Planet Earth! And that isn't all. Oh, no, that isn't all. Can you imagine another country capable of setting up a genuinely global network of "black sites" and borrowed prisons (with local torturers on hand), places to stash and abuse those kidnappees (and other prisoners) in locations ranging from Poland to Thailand, Romania to Afghanistan, Egypt and Uzbekistan to U.S. Navy ships on the high seas, not to speak of that jewel in the crown of offshore prisons, Guantanamo? Such illegality on such a global scale simply can't be matched! And don't even get me started on torture. (It's fine for us to take pride in our exceptionalist tradition, but you don't want to pour it on, do you?)

7. Or how about the way the State Department, to the tune of $750 million, constructed in Baghdad the largest, most expensive embassy compound on the planet -- a 104-acre, Vatican-sized citadel with 27 blast-resistant buildings, an indoor pool, basketball courts, and a fire station, which was to operate as a command-and-control center for our ongoing garrisoning of the country and the region? Now, the garrisons are gone, and the embassy, its staff cut, is a global white elephant. But what an exceptional elephant! Think of it as a modern American pyramid, a tomb in which lie buried the dreams of establishing a Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East. Honestly, what other country could hope to match that sort of memorial thousands of miles from home?

8. Or what about this? Between 2002 and 2011, the U.S. poured at least $51 billion into building up a vast Afghan military. Another $11 billion was dedicated to the task in 2012, with almost $6 billion more planned for 2013. Washington has also sent in a legion of trainers tasked with turning that force into an American-style fighting outfit. At the time Washington began building it up, the Afghan army was reportedly a heavily illiterate, drug-taking, corrupt, and ineffective force that lost one-third to one-half of its personnel to casualties, non-reenlistment, and desertion in any year. In 2012, the latest date for which we have figures, the Afghan security forces were still a heavily illiterate, drug-taking, corrupt, and inefficient outfit that was losing about one-third of its personnel annually (a figure that may even be on the rise). The U.S. and its NATO allies are committed to spending $4.1 billion annually on the same project after the withdrawal of their combat forces in 2014. Tell me that isn't exceptional!

No one, of course, loves a braggart; so, easy as it might be to multiply these eight examples by others, the winner of the American exceptionalism sweepstakes is already obvious. In other words, this is a moment for exceptional modesty, which means that only one caveat needs to be added to the above record.

I'm talking about actual property rights to "American exceptionalism." It's a phrase often credited to a friendly nineteenth century foreigner, the French traveler Alexis de Tocqueville. As it happens, however, the man who seems to have first used the full phrase was Russian dictator Joseph Stalin. In 1929, when the U.S. was showing few signs of a proletarian uprising or fulfilling Karl Marx's predictions and American Communists were claiming that the country had unique characteristics that left it unready for revolution, Stalin began denouncing "the heresy of American exceptionalism." Outside the U.S. Communist Party, the phrase only gained popular traction here in the Reagan years. Now, it has become as American as sea salt potato chips. If, for instance, the phrase had never before been used in a presidential debate, in 2012 the candidates couldn't stop wielding it.

Still, history does give Vladimir Putin a claim to use of the phrase, however stomach-turning that may be for various members of Congress. But maybe, in its own way, its origins only attest to... well, American exceptionalism. Somehow, through pureness of motive and the shining radiance of the way we exercise power, Washington's politicians have taken words wielded negatively by one of the great monsters of history and made them the signature phrase of American greatness. How exceptional!
(c) 2013 Tom Engelhardt is co-founder of the American Empire Project. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. His most recent book is The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's (Haymarket Books).

Stolen Wars
By Uri Avnery

IF SOMEBODY steals something precious from you, say a diamond, you may be angry.

Even God himself said so. When He sent a worm to kill the gourd which provided shade for the prophet Jonah in the desert, He asked him maliciously: "Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?" (Jonah 4:9)

And now somebody has stolen from us something much more precious than a diamond or a gourd.

A war. Perhaps even two wars.

So we have every right to be furious.

WAR NO. 1 was to have taken place in Syria. The US was to attack the regime of Bashar al-Assad. A medical operation: short, clean, surgical.

When Congress hesitated, the hounds of hell were let loose. AIPAC sent its parliamentary rottweilers to Capitol Hill to tear to pieces any senator or congressman who objected. In Israel it was said that Binyamin Netanyahu unleashed them on the express request of Barack Obama.

But the whole exercise was cockeyed right from the beginning. The Americans said that they were not aiming to overthrow the Assad regime, God forbid. On the contrary, Assad was supposed to stay on. It was not only a case of preferring the devil you know to the devil you don’t - it was clear that the second devil was much worse.

When I said that the US, Russia, Iran and Israel had a common interest in propping up Assad, I noticed a few raised eyebrows. But it was simple logic. None of these unseemly bedfellows had an interest in bringing to power in Syria a motley crew of violent Islamists, who seemed to be the only alternative if the fighting went on.

So, attack somebody you really want to stay in power? Doesn’t make much sense. Ergo, no war.

THE ISRAELI fury at a good war brazenly stolen was even stronger.

If the Americans were mixed up, we were practically schizophrenic.

Assad is an Arab. A bad Arab. Worse, he is an ally of the big, bad wolf - Iran. He provides the corridor for the transfer of arms from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Verily, the center of the Axis of Evil.

All true, but the Assads - father and son and their unholy spirit - have kept the peace on their border with Israel. Not a single bullet in decades. If he falls and his place is taken by crazy Islamists - what will happen?

So the Israeli gut says: Hit him, hit him hard. But the Israeli brain- yes there is one, somewhere - says: keep him where he is. A real dilemma.

But there is another consideration, a much more serious one for Netanyahu and Co. - Iran.

IT IS one thing to be deprived of a little surgical strike. But quite another matter to be robbed of a real big operation.

A recent Israeli cartoon showed the President of Iran sitting before the television screen eating his popcorn and watching with relish how Obama is being beaten in Syria.

How can Obama pressure Iran, Israeli commentators and politicians ask, if he has given up on pressuring Syria? After he has let Assad cross the thin red line unpunished, how will he prevent the Iranians from crossing the much thicker red line he has drawn there?

Where is American deterrence? Where is the awe inspired by the mighty world power? Why would the ayatollahs abstain from building their nuclear bomb after the American president has fallen into the primitive trap laid by the Russians, as Israelis see it?

TO BE honest, I cannot restrain a touch of schadenfreude at the plight of our commentators.

When I stated categorically that there would be no American military strike against Iran, and no Israeli one either, some of my acquaintances thought that I had gone of off my rocker.

No war? After Netanyahu had promised one? After Obama has followed suit?

There must be a war!

But lo and behold, the war is receding into the distance.

In Israeli eyes, Iran is ruled by a crazy gang of religious fanatics, whose main aim in life is to annihilate Israel. They are hell bent on producing The Bomb, which will enable them to do so. They don’t care that the Israeli second strike is assured, and Iran will be destroyed for ever. That's the kind of people they are. So the production of the bomb must be prevented at all costs. Including the collapse of the world economy, as a result of the closure of the Strait of Hormuz.

That is a clear picture, consistent in every detail. Fortunately for us, it has no connection with reality.

RECENT EVENTS have painted a different picture altogether.

It started with the elections in Iran. The slightly deranged Ahmadinejad, the pathological holocaust denier, has disappeared. Instead, a modest-looking moderate, Hassan Rouhani, was elected.

Such a choice would have been impossible without the approval of the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. He has to approve all candidates. It is obvious that Rouhani was his personal choice.

What does that mean? To Israeli commentators, it is quite clear: the sly, devious Persians are cheating the whole world again. They will continue, of course, to build their bomb. But the naïve Americans will believe their lies, precious time will be lost, and one day the Iranians will say: Now we have got the bomb! From now on, we can do what we want! Especially, destroy the Zionist Entity!

All this is built on complete fantasy. The Iranians are far removed from being a primitive, self-destructive people. They are very conscious of being the heirs of a glorious civilization, at least as ancient and as rich as the Jewish past. The idea of exchanging queens - we destroy you, you destroy us - is ridiculous, especially since chess is a Persian game. (the very word "Chess" is believed to derive from the Persian Shah, king.)

Actually, the Iranian leaders are a very cautious, thoughtful lot. They have never attacked their neighbors. The terrible, eight-year long war with Iraq was started by the reckless Saddam Hussein.

The impetus for building the bomb came when the power-drunk neo-conservatives in Washington, most of them Zionist Jews, spoke quite openly about attacking Iran next, right after the short, little war they expected in neighboring Iraq.

It seems that the Iranian leadership has decided that it is now far more important to upgrade the economy than play with the bomb. Being natural traders - bazaar is a Persian world - they may give up the bomb in return for the lifting of sanctions, and use the riches of their country for the good of their citizens, who aspire to become an advanced modern society. That’s why Khamenei and the people elected someone like Rouhani.

THIS WEEK Israeli TV screened a documentary film about the life of the Israelis in the Shah’s Iran. It was sheer paradise ("paradise" is also a Persian word). The Israelis lived off the fat of the land. They built the Shah’s dreaded secret police (the Savak, not to be confused with Shabak, its Israeli model). They befriended his generals, most of whom were trained in Israel. They built his industries and started to construct his nuclear installations. Sheer nostalgia.

Persian oil was exported to Europe through Israel, by way of a pipeline laid between Eilat and Ashkelon financed by the Shah. The American-Israeli-Iranian deal known as Irangate was concocted in the early days of the Ayatollahs (literally: signs of Allah).

Those who want to go back in history will be reminded of the fact that it was the great Persian emperor, Cyrus, who let the Jews return from Babylonian captivity to Jerusalem, as duly recorded in the Bible (the books of Ezra and Nehemiah).

The modern alliance between Israel and Iran was built on the joint enmity towards the Arabs, and could easily come to the fore again. Politics, like pornography, is a matter of geography.

THE WAR-WEARY American population seems to be inclined to accept the Iranian peace challenge. Businessmen will meet Bazaar traders, and hopefully work out a deal. No war.

At the same time, a positive development is also possible in Syria. Now that the US and Russia have discovered that they can work together in this critical area, the two sides in the civil war may get tired of massacring each other and agree to a political solution (such as the one I outlined last week).

That would make two stolen wars - stolen from those who hold on to the primitive belief that the only solution for any problem is the use of naked force.

A quite different view of life is presented by these words of Bertrand Russell, sent me by a lady in Pakistan:

"I have a very simple creed: that life and joy and beauty are better than dusty death, and I think when we listen to [music] we must all of us feel that the capacity to produce such music, and the capacity to hear such music, is a thing worth preserving and should not be thrown away in foolish squabbles. You may say it's a simple creed, but I think everything important is very simple indeed."
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Black America More Pro-War Than Ever
By Glen Ford

Barack Obama has proven to be a warmongering thug for global capital, many times over. The question is: Have African Americans, his most loyal supporters, joined the bi-partisan War Party, rejecting the historical Black consensus on social justice and peace (or, at least, the "peace" part)?

Ever since national pollsters began tracking African American public opinion, surveys have shown Blacks to be consistently clustered at the left side of the national political spectrum. More than any other ethnicity, African Americans have opposed U.S. military adventures abroad, by wide margins. Indeed, the sheer size of the "blood lust" gap between the races indicates that the Black international worldview differs quite radically from white Americans and, to a lesser but marked degree, from Hispanics.

That is, until the advent of Obama.

A Washington Post/ABC poll conducted between August 28 and September 1 showed 40 percent of African Americans supported President Obama's threats of airstrikes against Syria - two points more than whites and nine percent more than Hispanics. Majorities of all three groups opposed bombing Syria - 56 percent of Blacks, 58 percent of whites and 63 percent of Hispanics - but African Americans were, for the first time in polling history, the most bellicose major ethnicity in the United States.

A Pew Research poll from the same period showed Blacks somewhat less supportive of airstrikes, with only 22 percent of African Americans and 29 percent of whites in favor. Fifty-three percent of Blacks and 47 percent of whites were opposed (Hispanic data were not made available.) However, about one-quarter of both Blacks and whites were allowed to choose "undecided" in the Pew survey, without which option the results would likely have been more in line with the Washington Post/ABC poll, with large numbers of Blacks aligning themselves with Obama.

There is no doubt that this apparent decline in Black aversion to U.S. foreign aggressions has everything to do with the color (and party) of the commander-in-chief. For all the right historical reasons, African Americans have always been highly skeptical of U.S. motives abroad. With Obama nominally in charge, such righteous Black skepticism of "American" (meaning, white) motives is less operative.

Only ten years ago, a Zogby poll revealed the vast chasm that existed between Blacks and the two other major ethnic groups on issues of war and peace. The Black Commentator for February 13, 2003, reported:

"An Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Zogby America poll released this past weekend shows that less than a quarter of Blacks (23 percent) support Bush's war against Iraq, versus 62 percent of the white public. 64 percent of Blacks surveyed 'somewhat or strongly oppose" the planned attack, while 13 percent 'aren't sure' what to think.

"The bloodthirstiness of white American males is astounding: 68 percent of men surveyed are gung ho, indicating that the white male pro-war cohort soars somewhere in the high seventies. Less than half of all women favor war.

"Hispanics polled nearly as warlike as whites. When asked the general question on war, 60 percent support it.

"The lack of empathy with Iraqis as human beings marks white American males as a collective danger to the species. Zogby pollsters asked: Would you support or oppose a war against Iraq if it meant thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties? A solid majority of white men answered in the affirmative, as did more than a third of white women. Only seven percent of African Americans favored a war that would kill thousands.

"Hispanics lost some of their bloodlust when confronted with the prospect of mass Iraqi civilian casualties; only 16 percent are willing to support such an outcome."

The fact that only a marginal proportion of Blacks (7 percent) favored an invasion in which thousands of Iraqi civilians would die - less than half the proportion of Hispanics and a small fraction of white belligerents of both sexes - speaks to African Americans' relatively deep empathy for other peoples as well as their disdain for U.S. militarism. It is central to the African American political-cultural legacy.

In the decade since the Iraq invasion, the general American populace has grown more wary of Washington's wars in the Mideast. Why, then, would the least militaristic ethnic group suddenly become relatively more warlike than whites? Have Black Americans undergone some accelerated ideological mutation in the intervening years?

Of course not, but Blacks have for almost six years been in the grip of a fundamentally unsettling experience for which African American history provides no defenses: the presence of a Black man at the helm of the Empire. The progressive, peace-seeking African American worldview is out of sync with the deep imperative to support the First Black President. Black skepticism of U.S. government motives is short-circuited by the fervent desire for Obama to succeed - since his success or failure is seen as Black America's collective legacy. Black politics crumbles under the weight of this massive contradiction - which is why Black America is in its deepest political crisis since Emancipation, unable to defend Black domestic interests or to be a force for peace in the world.

Black elected officials, overwhelmingly Democrats, act as role models of impotence, eunuchs in Obama's harem and, when required, cheerleaders in his wars. Had Obama not "postponed" his attack on Syria, there is every reason to believe that he would have gotten the support of about half the Congressional Black Caucus - just as when his war against Libya was challenged, in June of 2011. Even after Obama is gone, the great task of Black progressives will be to sever the chains that bind Blacks to the Wall Street-run Democratic Party, the incubator of future Obamas and, therefore, unending Black political crises.

It is true that Black folks have lost their political bearings, if not their minds, in the Age of Obama, but that doesn't mean they can't recover their sanity and humanity, once the maddening presence in the White House is gone. Mental breakdowns are not irreversible; otherwise, all the world's peoples would be permanently brain-damaged.

Perhaps the most curious and, in a sense, encouraging aspect of Obama-whipped Black political behavior is that most of those afflicted pay little attention to the First Black President's actual policies. The topic of Black conversation is usually not "What is Obama doing," but, rather, "How is Obama doing?" His fans aren't concerned about his legislative agenda, and are often shocked when informed that their icon engineered preventive detention laws and wants to cut Social Security. You are liable to be called a lying bastard, or even attacked, simply for citing his political record in Black settings where, typically, it is never debated or scrutinized. Instead, the subject of constant discussion is: Who is making trouble for Obama? What are they doing now to smear the man? In short, Black people aren't expressing their political convictions when giving tacit or active support to Obama, on the foreign or domestic fronts. They are, in fact, ignoring their own convictions in favor of upholding the icon.

As a result, what Cornel West calls the "Black prophetic tradition" slips into a coma. We know it will awake, but not without damage.
(c) 2013 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

American hero Donald Sachtleben

Obama's Justice Department: Trumpeting A New Victory In War On Freedom Of the Press
By Norman Solomon

There's something profoundly despicable about a Justice Department that would brazenly violate the First and Fourth Amendments while spying on journalists, then claim to be reassessing such policies after an avalanche of criticism-and then proceed, as it did this week, to gloat that those policies made possible a long prison sentence for a journalistic source.

Welcome to the Obama Justice Department.

While mouthing platitudes about respecting press freedom, the president has overseen methodical actions to undermine it. We should retire understated phrases like "chilling effect." With the announcement from Obama's Justice Department on Monday, the thermometer has dropped below freezing.

You could almost hear the slushy flow of public information turning to ice in the triumphant words of the U.S. attorney who led the investigation after being handpicked by Attorney General Eric Holder: "This prosecution demonstrates our deep resolve to hold accountable anyone who would violate their solemn duty to protect our nation's secrets and to prevent future, potentially devastating leaks by those who would wantonly ignore their obligations to safeguard classified information."

Translation: This prosecution shows the depth of our contempt for civil liberties. Let this be a lesson to journalists and would-be leakers alike.

Audibly on the chopping block are provisions in the Bill of Rights such as "freedom ... of the press" and "no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

The Obama administration's pernicious goal is to normalize circumstances where journalists can't credibly promise confidentiality, and potential leakers don't believe they can have it. The broader purpose is to destroy independent journalism-which is to say, actual journalism -- which is to say, freedom of the press.

Impacts are crystal clear to just about any journalist who has done reporting that's much more than stenographic services for official government and corporate sources. When unofficial sources are choked off, not much is left other than the Official Story.

The Official Story is routinely somewhere between very selective and mendacious. A case in point, ironically enough, is the Justice Department's righteous announcement that the prison term for the leaker of information to The Associated Press reflected the Department's "deep resolve to hold accountable anyone who would violate their solemn duty to protect our nation's secrets."

"Hold accountable anyone?" (Laugh, scream or cry; take your pick.)

Like others before it, the Obama administration has made a frequent practice of leaking classified "secrets" to media outlets-when its calculus is that revealing those secrets will make the administration look good. Of course in those cases the Justice Department doesn't bother to track down the leakers.

Such extreme hypocrisy in high places has become so normalized that major media outlets often seem completely inured to it.

Hours after the Justice Department's announcement on Monday that its surveillance of AP phone records had resulted in a lengthy prison sentence, the PBS "NewsHour" did not devote a word to it. Perhaps the program could not find a few seconds to shave off the lengthy beach-ball interview that Judy Woodruff conducted with former President Clinton.

To the top echelons of quasi-journalistic enterprises that are bankrolled by corporate advertisers and underwriters, the disappearance of confidentiality-along with routine violations of the First and Fourth Amendments-might hardly matter. Official sources flood the media zone.

But the New York Times coverage should have given attentive readers indigestion over breakfast Tuesday: "A former F.B.I. agent has agreed to plead guilty to leaking classified information to The Associated Press about a foiled bomb plot in Yemen last year ... Federal investigators said they were able to identify the man, Donald Sachtleben, a former bomb technician, as a suspect in the leak case only after secretly obtaining AP reporters' phone logs, a move that set off an uproar among journalists and members of Congress of both parties when it was disclosed in May."

The Times added: "Sachtleben ... has agreed to serve 43 months in prison for the leak, the Justice Department said. His case is the eighth leak-related prosecution under the Obama administration. Only three such cases were prosecuted under all previous presidents." How did the Justice Department catch Sachtleben in the first place? By seizing records of calls on more than 20 phone lines used by Associated Press reporters over a two-month period.
(c) 2013 Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."

Fracking Adds An Extra Danger To Flooding

By Jim Hightower

As the people of Colorado are presently learning, it's horrendous enough to suffer the ravages of a natural disaster, but it's doubly horrific to then be faced with a more devastating unnatural disaster.

First came the epic floods that recently ripped through the front range, tearing up towns, roads, waterways, mountain homes and businesses, farms, and lives. Just awful. But now comes the added horror of unknown levels of poisonous contaminants pouring out of many of the thousands of fracking sites that pock this area.

Big oil frackers were already notorious in Boulder and Weld Counties for the environmental, health, and economic damage being done by this ravaging method of forcing gas out of rock deep under Earth's surface. Now, though, the corporate wells, tanks, ponds, and all other parts of their fracking infrastructure have been swamped by a tsunami of floodwater and destructive debris.

Even in the chaos of people scrambling to get out of the flood's way and to secure their property, many residents were so alarmed by seeing this mess of flooded wells, overturned tanks of highly-toxic chemicals and wastewater, and ruptured lines that they paused to take pictures and videos. They then posted these on websites and Facebook pages to document this unexpected threat of widespread, long-term damage from fracking contaminants, and to alert neighbors to the dangers.

This is Jim Hightower saying... After all, the frackers themselves were not telling the public about this unfolding disaster, the big media outlets were curiously incurious about it, and regulators were also silent. So, like the pamphleteers of old, the people formed their own network of communication - and they've now turned it into a citizens' action network. To see some of their photos, videos, and actions, go to.
(c) 2013 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.

Ending One War, Ending All Wars
By David Swanson

Remarks on September 21, 2013, at the Nashville Festival for Peace, Prosperity, and Planet.

Thank you to Elizabeth Barger and the Nashville Peace and Justice Center and to all of you, and happy International Day of Peace!

From a certain angle it doesn't look like a happy day of peace. The U.S. government is engaged in a major war in Afghanistan, dramatically escalated by the current U.S. president, who has been bizarrely given credit for ending it for so long now that a lot of people imagine it is ended. The same president goes through a list of men, women, and children on Tuesdays, picks which ones to have murdered, and has them murdered, often with missiles shot out of unmanned drones, drones that circle people's villages endlessly threatening immediate annihilation moment after moment for weeks on end, missiles that often miss their targets and often kill random people too close to their targets. The CIA with war powers. Secret military operations in dozens of nations. Expansion of U.S. troop presence in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Some 90 percent of the world's nations with U.S. troops in them. Prisoners force-fed in Guantanamo. Black sites. Iraq ruined without reparations. Libya thrown into anarchy without apology. Activists treated as enemies. Journalists treated as spies. Whistleblowers locked up in cages. Our Constitutional rights treated as dispensable. The United Nations used, abused, and circumvented. U.S. weapons provided to dictatorships and democracies around the globe. Tennessee's U.S. Senator Bob Corker going on television repeatedly for weeks to tell us that the United States is covertly aiding one side of a war in Syria. Does he not know what "covertly" means, or does he not know how television works?

But I believe that, despite all of that and much more, there is huge reason to celebrate a happy international day of peace. At most events where I speak there is a time for questions, and almost always there is someone whose question is really more of a speech to the effect that war opposition is delusional and hopeless; if the government wants a war, it gets a war -- so this person always tell us. Well, no more. From this day forward, that person's comments should be no match for the laughter that greets them, because we just prevented a war.

Congress members heard from many thousands of us, and what they heard was over 100-to-1 against attacking Syria. When it became clear that not even the Senate would authorize such an attack, talk shifted immediately from the inevitability of war to the desirability of avoiding war.

Secretary of State John Kerry said that President Bashar al-Assad could avoid a war by handing over all the chemical weapons his government possessed. Russia quickly called that bluff and Syria agreed to it. Syria had tried in the past to negotiate a Middle East free of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, but the United States had been opposed, not wanting to stop arming Egypt and Israel.

Secretary Kerry, apparently panicked by the possible delay or prevention of missile strikes, put out a statement that he had only been making a "rhetorical argument," not a real proposal. But when the White House saw the writing on the wall in Congress, Kerry claimed to have meant his comment seriously after all. He was for his own idea after he'd been against it.

Of all the many ways in which John Kerry has tied himself in knots before, this is the first time he's had to do so because the people of this country and the world rejected a war. Remember when Kerry asked how you could ask someone to be the last man to die in the war on Vietnam? We have it in our power to reject the next war and the next war and the next war and make John Kerry the last man to have tried to sell us a dead idea.

War is a dead idea, an idea whose time has gone. The abolition of war is an idea whose time has come. But the government isn't ready to announce that for us. That's why we need to celebrate this victory. And not just us at this festival. This was everybody. This was the people of Syria who spoke against an attack on their nation. This was the people of Iraq and Afghanistan who said don't do to others what you've already done to us. This was the people of the world and of Russia and of China who said you won't paint this crime as legal with our help. This was the people of Britain who moved their House of Commons to reject a prime minister's request for war for the first time since the surrender to the French and Americans at Yorktown. This was low and high ranking members of the U.S. military saying "We didn't sign up to fight for al Qaeda." This was government experts risking their careers and their freedom to say "If President Obama's excuse for a war happened, he's guessed it right, because the evidence doesn't establish it." This was the majority of the U.S. public telling pollsters, yes, we care about suffering children; send them food and medicine, don't make it worse by sending in missiles. This was the victory not of a moment but of a decade of cultural enlightenment. When you've got the Pope and Rush Limbaugh on your side you've built something very broad. Remember when they called resistance to war "The Vietnam Syndrome" as if it were a disease? What we've got now is the War on Terror Inoculation. This is health, not sickness. War is the health of the state, said a World War I resister. But war resistance is the health of the people. The people are the world's other super power.

So, yes, I say celebrate! Start seeing successes. Drone attacks are down dramatically. Environmental groups are beginning to oppose military base constructions. States are beginning to work on conversion of war industries to peaceful industries. Larry Summers has been denied a chance to do more economic damage.

Imagine the euphoria -- or don't imagine it, just remember it -- when this country elects a new president whose main redeeming feature is that he isn't the previous president. For personality fanatics that's big stuff. And there are big parties. For policy fanatics -- for those of us interested in seeing policies change rather than personalities -- that kind of moment is right now. The first step in overcoming an addiction, whether to war or alcohol, is recognizing that you have a problem. The second step is believing that you can shake it if you try. We've just taken the first two steps! The war addicts said Syria needed an intervention. We gave the war junkies an intervention instead. We pointed them toward the path of recovery and showed them a preview of what it will look like.

Now, if you don't want to celebrate because there's too much work to do, because Syria is in greater danger without its weapons (look what happened to Iraq and Libya), and because the pressure for war is still on, I can respect that. I'll be with you starting tomorrow. But it's hard to imagine we'll find the most effective strategy, much less motivate all the doom and gloomers to work their hardest, if we refuse to recognize when we've actually made progress, no matter how limited.

If you don't want to celebrate because you don't think public pressure made any impact and don't think it ever can, I've looked at enough of the recent history and distant history to say, with all due respect: I don't believe you. And if you believed yourself you wouldn't be here today.

Now, there is endless work to be done when we get back to it in the morning. Congressman Cooper was pretty noncommittal, I understand, as quite a few Congress members were. He kept an open mind. Maybe, just maybe, he must have thought, it makes sense to deescalate a war by escalating it, maybe these magic missiles with Raytheon pixie dust on them will kill only the people who really need killing while empowering fanatic heart-and-liver eaters who execute their prisoners to establish a secular democracy, and perhaps we really can uphold the norm against chemical weapons that our own nation violates with some regularity by blatantly violating the norm against attacking other countries with missiles, and maybe we'll enforce the Chemical Weapons Convention against a nation that never signed it by shredding the UN Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact as long as we call ourselves "The International Community" and if we can't get France to help maybe Puerto Rico would count as a Coalition of the Willing, and perhaps, perhaps just maybe Assad really is out to get us and just might be a threat to Nashville, Tennessee, and if not isn't the only thing that really matters President Obama's manhood and the respect he can only maintain if he behaves like a sociopath? Some part of this must be roughly how undecided members of Congress looked at this thing. Senator Harry Reid said Syria was the return of the Nazis, and he himself looked just like Elmer Fudd warning of a dangerous wabbit, but maybe he was right, think our elected representatives. There is work to be done.

Republicans in Congress turned against war more than they might have with a Republican president. And some Democrats, including a co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, cheered for war. The Black Caucus told its members to shut their mouths and not speak about Syria. But they didn't all listen. The leadership of the two parties pushed for war, and most members of both parties said No Way. That's something to build on. Anything that has happened is automatically acceptable and respectable, and in that category now is war rejection, regardless of who is president in the future.

Senator Corker thinks the United States has lost credibility. I think it's gained it. The United States claims to use war as a last resort. When an occasion finally arrives in which it doesn't use war as a first resort, that boosts the credibility of its claim. The U.S. justifies its wars with the word "democracy." When it listens to its people for once, it demonstrates democracy by example rather than by dropping cluster bombs or napalm or using those depleted uranium weapons giving the workers who make them cancer over in eastern Tennessee. The world was skeptical of the U.S. case for war because of past U.S. lies, not because of past U.S. failures to bomb people.

The threat to attack Syria is still on the table. If you listen to these people enough you really come to hate tables, by the way. The White House claims Syria has signed the Chemical Weapons Convention under threat of attack, even though any signing of any treaty under threat of attack is illegal and invalid. Meanwhile, if we wanted to find a stockpile of chemical weapons, there's 524 tons of poison gas at the Blue Grass Army Depot, just up the road toward Lexington, Kentucky, from here. The United States wants 10 more years to destroy that, although maybe it can go a little faster since John Kerry seems to think a week is more than enough time for Syria to destroy its stockpile. The Army spokesman in Kentucky says the delays there are a sign of democracy and public input. Our leading spreaders of democracy to the rest of the world, on the other hand, believe the most important consideration is that nothing ever be credited to diplomacy if it can be credited to violence. The U.S. has a stash five times the size of Kentucky's out in Colorado, where climate-induced floods and fires pose a danger of combining with the madness of militarism if we don't switch soon from preparing for wars to preparing for a sustainable existence -- If we don't start paying attention to Fukushima and global warming and keep laughing, as we have been, at the idea that Assad is going to kill us.

But, our government also has peculiar views about different types of weapons that I don't claim to understand. Chemical weapons are good, apparently, when the U.S. uses them on Iraqis, or Iraq uses them on Iranians, or Israel uses them on Palestinians, but they're bad if Iraq uses them on Iraqis or the Syrian government uses them on anyone -- although they aren't so bad if it is Syrian rebels using them. In cases of bad chemical weapons use, missiles could fix the problem. But with missiles you have to ask Congress. So, instead, you can fix the problem of people getting killed with chemicals by making sure that more of them get killed with guns. With guns, for some reason, you don't have to ask Congress. Senators can even chat on TV about what they're doing "covertly," and we're supposed to say "Oh, well that's OK then, as long as it's covertly."

Only ... when people bleed and scream in agony and turn cold do they do it covertly? Because I think the entire operation needs to be done covertly, not just parts of it.

Maybe the problem is that we just don't think guns are weapons of mass destruction. Guns must be weapons of minimal destruction, I guess. Guns only kill 30,000 people in the United States each year, ten times the number of people killed on September 11, 2001. Imagine the size of the war we'd have started if someone had killed 30,000 people with airplanes. Would we have had to kill 10 million Iraqis instead of 1 million? But with guns, deaths are OK, and 60% of them don't really count because they're suicides.

Only ... why are people desperate enough to kill themselves in the wealthiest nation on earth when we have a bigger military and more billionaires than any other society in the history of the world? Shouldn't that satisfy us? Anyone too dense to appreciate that great good fortune, well, at least we've made sure there's always a gun or two within easy reach.

I'm being sarcastic, but I'm not joking. We have a serious problem with acceptance of violence. This past Sunday night on "60 Minutes" John Miller of CBS News said, "I've spoken with intelligence analysts who have said an uncomfortable thing that has a ring of truth, which is: the longer this war in Syria goes on, in some sense the better off we are."

Now, why would that be uncomfortable, do you suppose? Could it be because encouraging huge numbers of violent deaths of human beings seems sociopathic?

The discomfort that Miller at least claims to feel is the gauge of our moral progress, I suppose, since June 23, 1941, when Harry Truman said, "If we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible." On Monday, Time *magazine's Aryn Baker published an article under the headline "Syria's Rebels Turn on One Another, and That's Not a Bad Thing." Baker's point wasn't that more would die this way, but that this would allow the U.S. to escalate the war (which of course would mean more dying).

Remember that President Obama's reasonfor wanting to attack Syria is to "confront actions that are violating our common humanity." How is it that support for mass killing rarely seems to violate our common humanity if it's that other 96 percent of humanity getting killed, and especially if it's this 4 percent doing it? Why is the excuse to kill more people always that people are being killed, while we never starve people to prevent them from starving or rape people to protect them from rape?

The uncomfortable "60 Minutes" interviewer addressed his remarks to a former CIA officer who replied by disagreeing. He claimed to want the war to end. But how would he end it? By arming and aiding one side, just enough and not too much -- which would supposedly result in peace negotiations, albeit with a risk of major escalation. While nobody ever extends peace in order to generate war, people are constantly investing in war in the name of peace.

As this man may be very well aware, arming one side in this war will encourage that side's viciousness and encourage the other side to arm itself further as well. But suppose it were actually true that you could deescalate a war by escalating a war. Why are the large number of people who would be killed in the process unworthy of consideration?

We've seen lawyers tell Congressional committees that killing people with drones is either murder or perfectly fine, depending on whether Obama's secret memos say the killings are part of a war. But why is killing people acceptable in a war? We've just watched public pressure deny Obama missile strikes on Syria. Those strikes were optional. Had they happened that would have been a choice, not an inevitability. What of the immorality involved?

The best news is that we're beginning to feel uncomfortable. We're even feeling uncomfortable enough to doubt the tales we're told about justifications for wars. The fact is that, were the White House telling the truth about the need for an attack on Syria, it would be a first in history. Every other case for war has always been dishonest.

The United States sought out war with Mexico, not the reverse. There was never any evidence that Spain sank the Maine. The Philippines didn't benefit from U.S. occupation. The Lusitania* was known to be carrying troops and arms. The Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened. Iraq didn't take any babies out of incubators. The Taliban was willing to turn bin Laden over to be tried in a neutral court. Libya wasn't about to kill everyone in Benghazi. And so on.

Even wars that people like to imagine as justified, such as World War II, were nonetheless packaged in lies; FDR's tales about the *Greer* and the Kearney and supposed secret Nazi maps and plans were a step on the steady trajectory from Woodrow Wilson to Karl Rove.

The idea that Syria used chemical weapons is more plausible than the idea that Iraq had vast stockpiles of chemical, biological, and (in some versions) nuclear weapons and was working with al Qaeda. But the evidence offered in the case of Syria was no stronger than that for Iraq. It was harder to disprove merely because there was nothing to it: no documentation, no sources, and until the UN report came out, no science. Congress members who have seen the classified version of the White House case say it's no better than the declassified. Experts within the government and reporters in Syria who have seen more than that say they don't believe the White House's claims.

The assertions masquerading as a case come packaged in dishonest claims about the make-up of the rebels, and how quickly Syria gave access to inspectors. And the claims are written in a manner to suggest far greater knowledge and certainty than they actually assert on careful examination. The latest claims follow a series of failed claims over a period of months and stand to benefit a Syrian opposition that has been found repeatedly to be manufacturing false propaganda aimed at bringing the United States into the war. It seems, at this point, unlikely that the Assad government used chemical weapons (as opposed to the rebels or someone in the Syrian military defying Assad by using them), but it seems certain that if Assad did it, Obama and Kerry don't know that -- they've only guessed it at best. It also seems certain that escalating the war makes everyone worse off regardless of who used chemical weapons. Attacking Iraq would have been immoral, illegal, and catastrophic (and probably more so) if all the weapons stories had been true.

Then there are the depictions of Assad as a threat to the United States, at which moments President Obama has almost begun to sound like his predecessor. But, as he came on stage second, nobody believed him. Assad is guilty of horrible crimes, but he's not yet-another new Hitler. There's a cute story about Assad from 11 years ago this week that some of us may have forgotten. A Canadian man named Maher Arar had been born in Syria. U.S. officials nabbed him for the crime of switching planes in New York City. They interrogated him for weeks, denying him access to a lawyer or to the Canadian government. They asked Arar to go to Syria, and he refused. So they stuck him on a CIA plane, flew him to Jordan, beat him for 8 hours, and then delivered him to the Syrian government of Bashar al Assad. President Assad's government beat and whipped Arar for 18 hours a day for weeks, asking him similar questions to those the Americans had asked. For 10 months he was kept in a 3 by 6 by 7 foot underground cell, then released with no charges. Four years later, the Canadian government, which had done nothing, apologized to and compensated Arar. Former CIA case officer Bob Baer said, "If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear-never to see them again-you send them to Egypt."

The Syrian government is, like any government the United States wants to attack, a brutal government that the United States worked with until recently, situated in a region full of brutal governments the United States still supports. In this case, the brutal governments still armed and supported by the U.S. government include Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Yemen. If the US. government wanted to reduce violence, it could end its 2001-begun war on Afghanistan, it could end its drone strikes, and it could stop supplying Saudi Arabia with cluster bombs and Egypt with tear gas and Bahrain with ex-police chiefs. Wars are not driven by generosity, despite what you'll often -- and increasingly -- hear.

Syria needs humanitarian aid, not weapons that threaten the good aid work being done by Americans among others. The Iraqi Student Project was bringing Iraqis to study in U.S. colleges. Its office was in Syria, where many Iraqi refugees had fled from the U.S. liberation. Now that office is closed, and Syria has its own refugee crisis to rival Iraq's. Our government should be urging both sides to stop providing arms, to agree to a ceasefire, and to open negotiations without preconditions. Syria has needed help for years, but our government tends to wait until missiles look like a proper solution to get serious about solving a problem.

Syria's crisis was brought on in part by climate induced drought and water shortage. The solution of sending in missiles (blocked for now) or of sending in guns (underway as we speak) misses that source of the problem and in fact exacerbates it. The U.S. military is our greatest consumer of petroleum, which it consumes in the course of fighting wars and occupying countries to control petroleum. The roughly $1 trillion spent by the United States and roughly $1 trillion spent by the rest of the world on militarism every year could coat the planet with sustainable green energy sources beyond the wildest imaginings of those sources' proponents.

As long as we continue to view war as an acceptable institution, serious reductions in the military will be impeded by the desire to win wars when they happen. Instead of reduced war making, we need war abolition. 180 million people died in wars in the 20th century. Enough is enough. War has not brought security. War endangers us rather than protecting us. War has failed as a tool for ending war. War is draining our economies, eroding our civil liberties, devastating our natural environment, and stealing resources away from critical human and environmental needs. Nonviolent tools have proven themselves more effective and less costly than war. War's unpredictability and existing weaponry including nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction threaten our very existence, while the reallocation of resources away from war promises a world whose advantages are beyond easy imagination. We could even stop paying farmers not to farm and start paying weapons makers not to make weapons while they convert their factories to begin making something useful. Cutting $40 billion from food stamps will kill more people than spending it for a few months of occupying Afghanistan will kill.

Anti-war sentiment, at least in some key parts of the world, is at a high point now, relative to other moments in recent decades. We need to direct that sentiment into a movement for abolition. Resisting each new war is not enough. We must be for peace and by peace we must mean, first and foremost, the elimination of the institution of war. We're all fond of saying that peace is more than just the absence of war. True enough. And freedom is more than just the absence of chains. But first you had to abolish slavery. Then new possibilities opened up. So, today I'm not going to say, "No Justice, No Peace." Today I say, "With No Peace, There Is No Justice." Stop the wars. End the slaughter. Dismantle the weapons. Abolish the military. Build a sustainable peaceful prosperous world. Make this point in time a turning point. Thank you for being here. Happy International Day of Peace!
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

When Women Ruled
By James Donahue

Archaeological evidence exists everywhere that proves the world and the human race is much older than modern historians, feeding on Biblical and Hebrew writings, are allowing us to believe. The great stone megaliths found on mountains, at the bottom of the sea, and in places where humans lack any historical memory, are like an elephant in the room.

Also the bones of humanoids with odd shaped skulls and giant bone structures, found where they should not be, help build a case for very ancient ancestry. Then there are the artifacts like steel bits, cut jewelry and golden images of very modern things found buried deep in the earth and even chipped from coal.

Finally there is a cellular memory in us all, as descendants of those very ancient civilizations. There are the dreams and the mythology of the aboriginal people who talk about the giants who once walked the planet, and the stories of a time when women ruled and there was peace all over our green plush world.

The Bible refers to that as the Garden of Eden. We suspect that it is a reference to a very long period of time, perhaps some 7,000 years, when women ruled, possibly in local kingdoms or in small villages. This is reflected in much of the very old cut stone images that show women, obviously appearing in the role as queens, but often with their arms around a man at their side. This is a strong message ... that when the women ruled, the men were treated as equals and given important roles in the community.

Something happened at the end of that 7,000-year era that shifted everything, and men were suddenly in charge. And the world has been at war ever since. In our studies of the ruins of the lost civilization of Dilmun, recently found at the bottom of the Persian Gulf, a revelation came to us. This great civilization existed between 4,000 and 7,000 years ago, and was mentioned in the oldest known text, the Epic of Gilgamesh. Thus the story was at least known among the ancient people of Mesopotamia, long believed to be part of the Cradle of Civilization.

That the ruins exist at the bottom of the gulf suggest that Dilmun may have flourished during the ice age, and that the gulf flooded because of the melting ice that raised sea levels an estimated 300 feet.

Also there was the strange story of the attempts to build the Tower of Babel at Dilmun, printed in a strange publication issued by the Urantia Foundation of Chicago in 1955. The Urantia Book tells of the Nodite people, who mixed with the Andonite and Sangik tribes, then attempted to erect a giant tower to clarify the racial differences between the tribes. But the people fought over how it was to be done, and ended up in full-scale warfare. The tower was started but never finished. Its ruins may still lie at the bottom of the gulf.

Where could such a story come from? We suggest cellular memory and dreams by the author, a man identified as Dr. William S. Sadler.

Suggesting that all of this may be factual, the revelation that came to us was this: Suppose that the civilization of Dilmun was the heart of the advanced humanoid communities in existence during those ancient times. The warfare that broke out over the reasoning and philosophy behind the construction of the great Tower of Babel perhaps marked the shift that pushed the women off their thrones and put men in power.

It was the first known war to have ever occurred. Many more have been fought in the thousands of years since. Notice the estimated time-line of that event. Some believe it happened about 7,000 years ago.

Today humanity is struggling in a strange conflict between women’s rights, male dominance in the home and office and homosexuality. Could it not be that we are experiencing another dramatic shift from a male dominated world to something quite different. Imagine what this new world might be like.

The philosopher, author and magician Aleister Crowley described the new age of Horus in 1904 when he penned the following:

"Everywhere his government is taking root. Observe for yourselves the decay in the sense of sin, the growth of innocence and irresponsibility, the strange modifications of the reproductive instinct with a tendency to become bi-sexual or epicene, the childlike confidence in progress combined with a nightmare fear of catastrophe, against which we are yet half unwilling to take precautions.

"Consider the outcrop of dictatorships, only possible when moral growth is in its earliest stages, and the prevalence of infantile cults like Communism, Fascism, Pacifism, health crazes, occultism in nearly all its forms, religious sentimentalized to a point of practical extinction.

"Consider the popularity of the cinema, the wireless, the football pools and guessing competitions, all devices for soothing fractious infants, no seed of purpose in them. Consider sport, the babyish enthusiasms and rages which it excites, whole nations disturbed by disputes between boys. Consider war, the atrocities which occur daily and leave us unmoved and hardly worried. We are children."

Just offering some food for thought as we attempt to explain away the insanity of contemporary times.
(c) 2013 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.

Ted Cruz Has A Plan To Get the America He Wants: Minority Rule
By John Nichols

Ted Cruz has figured out how to get the America he wants: he wants to impose minority rule.

No, not majority rule, minority rule.

The senator from Texas hatched a "plan" to "defund Obamacare" by threatening to shut down the federal government. He got a lot of true-believer conservatives-especially in the Republican-controlled US House-to buy into the scheme. But the Texan never rounded up significant support for his approach in the upper chamber.

So the whole defunding scheme-which was never grounded in budgetary reality-has begun to look more and more like the sort of mess that costs political parties seats. House Republicans are furious.

After Cruz waged a national campaign to get the House to follow his strategy, and after they did indeed vote as he said they must, the Texan acknowledged that Senate Democrats could simply strip the House's defunding language from the continuing resolution, pass a measure that would avert a shutdown and call the House's bluff.

Even as Cruz was abdicating responsibility his own strategy, he was telling House Republicans to "stand firm."

They were incredulous.

Congressman Sean Duffy, a Wisconsin Republican who voted for the House version of the plan, said on The Laura Ingraham Show, "I think the strategy that Ted Cruz has been advocating for-it's really hard to win when you can't get the Senate on board and he's proving that by the very nature of his surrender."

But Duffy wasn't finished.

"You can't talk to the American people, you can't talk to our bases on this strategy, and then completely roll over," he said of Cruz. "Thank God he wasn't there fighting at the Alamo!"


That's not the kind of talk that Canada's favorite son in the 2016 Republican presidential race likes to hear.

So Cruz is thinking fast.

And he's got a new strategy.

End majority rule.

We're not talking the back-door strategy of filibuster gamesmanship. Cruz wants Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, to save him from the slings and arrows of his fellow partisans.

Reid plans to have the Senate vote on removing the Obamacare language from the continuing resolution. To do that, a simple majority is required. But Cruz is asking Reid set a sixty-vote threshold for addressing the defunding issue.

"The Senate, generally on controversial votes, we work out an agreement for it to be subject to a sixty-vote threshold," Cruz declared on Fox News Sunday. Otherwise, "the majority is going to run the minority over with a train."

Cruz is wrong on principle: the majority should rule.,P. And he is wrong on the facts of how the Senate operates when dealing with controversial legislation, amendments and nominations.,p. During the gun-safety debate that played out earlier this year with regard to the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013, a stack of amendments passed or failed on votes of 52-48, 54-46, 57-43 and 58-42. And the history of the Senate is filled with instances where major legislation advanced by relatively narrow majorities.

Justice Samuel Alito sits on the US Supreme Court based on a 58-42 vote.

Justice Clarence Thomas was confirmed by a 52-48 vote.

Senate Democrats (and at least a few Republicans) might have been quite pleased to operate under Cruz's sixty-vote threshold for those controversial confirmations. But no such standard applied in 2006, when Alito was up for confirmation; nor did it apply in 1991, when the Thomas nomination was being considered.

The Cruz model for minority rule exists in the head of Ted Cruz.

But it cannot be found in the Senate rules.

Reid says he plans to follow "basic Senate procedure" when it comes to the continuing resolution.

The majority leader does not appear to be getting substantial pushback on that position from Senate Republicans. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Senate Republican whip John Cornyn, the senior senator from Cruz's homestate of Texas, have distanced themselves from Cruz's latest gambit. And one of the most serious conservatives in the Senate, Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn, says Cruz is "not realistic" and of the Texan's overall strategy, "It's not a tactic that we can actually carry out and be successful."

A high-ranking Democratic aide says of Cruz, "No one is taking him seriously on this."

No one should.

The Senate ought to be a deliberative body.

It ought to have thoughtful debates, extended debates.

But, ultimately, the Senate is a legislative chamber in the federal government.

It must legislate and govern.

And it cannot be the plaything of petty partisans who seek to rewrite the rules in order to avoid accountability within their own party caucuses.

This is not about Democrats and Republicans. This is not about liberals and conservatives. It is not even about Obamacare.

It's about Cruz.

And a plutocratic fantasy that says the United States should be governed not by the majority of citizens or senators but by a minority. Perhaps even a minority of one Tea Party cowboy from Calgary.
(c) 2013 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

The Act Of Killing
By Chris Hedges

I have spent time with mass killers, warlords and death squad leaders as a reporter in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. Some are psychopaths who relish acts of sadism, torture and murder. But others, maybe most, see killing as a job, a profession, good for their careers and status. They enjoy playing God. They revel in the hypermasculine world of force where theft and rape are perks. They proudly refine the techniques of murder to snuff out one life after another, largely numb to the terror and cruelty they inflict. And, when they are not killing, they can sometimes be disarmingly charming and gracious. Some are decent fathers and sentimental with their wives and mistresses. Some dote on their pets.

It is not the demonized, easily digestible caricature of a mass murderer that most disturbs us. It is the human being.

Joshua Oppenheimer's documentary "The Act of Killing," which took eight years to make, is an important exploration of the complex psychology of mass murderers. The film has the profundity of Gitta Sereny's book "Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience," for which she carried out extensive interviews with Franz Stangl, the commandant of Treblinka, one of the Nazi extermination camps. Oppenheimer, too, presents candid confessions, interviewing some of the most ruthless murderers in Indonesia. One of these is responsible for perhaps 1,000 killings, a man named Anwar Congo, who was a death squad leader in Medan, the capital of the Indonesian province North Sumatra.

The documentary also shows the killers performing bizarre re-enactments of murders.

Indonesia's military, with U.S. support, launched in 1965 a yearlong campaign to ostensibly exterminate communist leaders, functionaries, party members and sympathizers in that country. By its end, the bloodbath-much of it carried out by rogue death squads and paramilitary gangs-had decimated the labor union movement along with the intellectual and artistic class, opposition parties, university student leaders, journalists, ethnic Chinese and many who just happened to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time. By some estimates, more than a million people were slaughtered. Many of the bodies were dumped into rivers, hastily buried or left on roadsides.

This campaign of mass murder is still mythologized in Indonesia as an epic battle against the forces of evil and barbarity, much as U.S. popular culture for many decades mythologized our genocide of Native Americans and held up our own killers, gunmen, outlaws and murderous cavalry units of the Old West as heroes. The onetime killers in the Indonesian war against communism are cheered at rallies today as having saved the country. They are interviewed on television about the "heroic" battles they fought five decades ago. The 3-million-strong Pancasila Youth-Indonesia's equivalent of the Brown Shirts or the Hitler Youth-in 1965 joined in the genocidal mayhem, and now its members, like the death squad leaders, are lionized as pillars of the nation. It is as if the Nazis had won World War II. It is as if Stangl, instead of dying in the Duesseldorf remand prison as a convicted war criminal, came to be a venerated elder statesman as has Henry Kissinger.

There is a scene in the Oppenheimer film where Congo-who parades across the screen like a prima donna, his outsized vanity and love of fine clothing on display-is interviewed on "Special Dialogue," a program of a state-owned television station with national coverage. I have substituted the word "Jew" for "communist" to put the moral bankruptcy of the Indonesian regime into a cultural context better understood by Americans.

"We had to kill them," Congo, wearing a black cowboy hat adorned with a gold sheriff's star, tells the female host.

"And was your method of killing inspired by gangster films?" she asks.

"Sometimes!" Congo says. "It's like. ... "

"Amazing!" she says. "He was inspired by films!" The audience, mostly made up of members of the Pancasila Youth in their distinctive orange and black shirts, applauds. At the start of the show, Ibrahim Sinik, a leader of the paramilitary group, lauded the Pancasila Youth as having been "at the core of the extermination."

"Each genre had its own method," Congo says. "Like in Mafia movies, they strangle the guy in the car, and dump the body. So we did that too."

"Which means Anwar and his friends developed a new, more efficient system for exterminating Jews," the woman says enthusiastically, "a system more humane, less sadistic, and without excessive force."

"Young people must remember their history," Ali Usman, a Pancasila Youth leader, interjects. "The future musn't forget the past! What's more, God must be against Jews."

"Yes," the talk show host says. "God hates Jews!"

There is more applause.

Oppenheimer, in the film's strangest but most psychologically astute device, persuades the killers to re-enact some of the mass murders they carried out. They don costumes-they fancy themselves to be the stars of their own life movies-and what comes out in the costumed scenes of torture and killing is the vast disconnect between the image they have of themselves, much of it inspired by Hollywood gangster films, and the tawdry, savage and appalling crimes they committed. These scenes include one of the old killers named Herman Koto-Koto and the other murderers refer approvingly to themselves as gangsters-done up to look like the drag queen Divine. And in these moments Oppenheimer captures the playfulness, the black humor and the comradeship that create bonds among killers. The killers stage a scene at the end of the film in which actors playing their murdered victims hang a medal around the neck of Congo-who is dressed in a long, black robe and standing in front of a waterfall-and thank him for saving the country and "killing me and sending me to heaven." This bizarre fantasy's background music, specified by Congo, is the theme from the movie "Born Free."

These same human bonds, along with the same schizophrenic self-delusion, can be glimpsed in photographs of off-duty Nazis in the book "Nein, Onkel: Snapshots From Another Front 1938-1945," or in the photographs of off-duty SS camp guards at Auschwitz. One of the pictures in the Auschwitz album shows the SS leadership, including the commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Hoess, and Dr. Joseph Mengele, who carried out inhuman medical experiments on children, in a raucous "sing-along" on a wooden bridge with an accordion player at Solahutte, an SS resort about 20 miles south of Auschwitz on the Sola River. Mothers and children not far away were being gassed to death, some of the 1 million people murdered at Auschwitz. And it is this disquieting moral fragmentation, this ability to commit mass murder and yet to see oneself as a normal, caring human being, that Oppenheimer astutely captures. The bifurcation between work and life-a bifurcation that many in the U.S. military, today's fossil fuel or health insurance industry or Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs also must make-allows human beings who exploit, destroy and kill other human beings to blot out much of their daily existence.

"I killed every Chinese I saw," Congo remembers as he tours the Chinese area of Medan in a car. "I stabbed them all! I don't remember how many, but it was dozens of Chinese. If I met them, I stabbed them. All the way to Asia Street, where I met my girlfriend's dad. Remember, I had two motives: crush the Chinese and crush my girlfriend's father, so I stabbed him, too! Because he was Chinese too! He fell into a ditch. I hit him with a brick. He sank."

"Killing is the worst crime you can do," says one of Congo's former associates. "So the key is to find a way not to feel guilty. It's all about finding the right excuse. For example, if I'm asked to kill somebody, if the compensation is right, then of course I'll do it, and from one perspective it's not wrong. That's the perspective we must make ourselves believe. After all, morality is relative."

Congo patiently explains to Oppenheimer his technique of garroting his victims with a piece of wood, a pole and wire, a technique he adopted to avoid the mess of excessive bleeding.

"There's probably many ghosts here, because many people were killed here," he tells Oppenheimer as they stand on a rooftop at one of his former murder spots. "They died unnatural deaths-unnatural deaths. They arrived here perfectly healthy. When they got here they were beaten up. ..."

Congo crouches and puts his hands over his white, curly hair to imitate the last moment of his victims.

" ... And died," he goes on. "Dragged around. Dumped. In the early days we beat them to death. But when we did that blood spurted everywhere. It smelled awful. To avoid having blood everywhere, I used this system."

He holds a piece of wood, about two feet long, and long wire.

"Can I demonstrate it?" he asks.

He secures the wire by wrapping one of it around a mounted pole. A friend, whose hands are behind his back, sits on the floor near the pole. Congo loops the wire around his friend's throat. Standing several feet away, Congo pulls lightly on the wood, attached to the other end of the wire, to show how the victim was killed.

"I've tried to forget all this by listening to good music," Congo says when he finishes his demonstration. "Dancing. I can be happy. A little alcohol. A little marijuana. A little-what do you call it?-Ecstasy. Once I'd get drunk, I'd 'fly' and feel happy. Cha cha."

He begins to dance on the rooftop in his white pants and white shoes.

"He's a happy man," his friend says.

"We shoved wood in their anus until they died," Adi Zulkadry, a death squad leader, says later in the film as he is shown shopping in a mall in the capital Jakarta with his wife and daughter. "We crushed their necks with wood. We hung them. We strangled them with wire. We cut off their heads. We ran them over with cars. We were allowed to do it. And the proof is, we murdered people and were never punished. The people we killed, there's nothing to be done about it. They have to accept it. Maybe I'm just trying to make myself feel better, but it works. I've never felt guilty, never been depressed, never had nightmares."

In one scene a film crew member, his raw emotion broken by nervous laughter, says his family was on the receiving end of the terror.

" ... If you want a true story, I have one," the crew member volunteers. "Tell us," Congo responds, "because everything in this film should be true."

"Well, there was a grocery store owner," the man begins hesitantly. "He was the only Chinese person in the region. To be honest, he was my stepfather. But even though he was my stepfather, I lived with him since I was a baby. At 3 a.m., someone knocked on our door. They called my dad. Mom said, 'It's dangerous! Don't go out.' But he went out. We heard him shout, 'Help!' And then, silence. They took him away. We couldn't sleep until morning."

"How old were you?" he is asked.

"Eleven or 12," he answers. "I remember it well. And it's impossible to forget something like this. We found his corpse under an oil drum. The drum was cut in half and the body was under it, like this," he says as he doubles over a piece of paper to illustrate. "His head and feet were covered by sacks. But one foot poked out like this." The crew member raises one foot off the ground. "So the same morning, nobody dared help us," he says.

"We buried him like a goat next to the main road," he says with a forced smile as if the burial story should be amusing. "Just me and my grandfather, dragging the body, digging the grave. No one helped us. I was so young. Then, all the communist families were exiled. We were dumped in a shantytown at the edge of the jungle. That's why, to be honest, I've never been to school. I had to teach myself to read and write."

"Why should I hide this from you?" he says to the former death squad leaders, who listen with wry smiles. "This way, we can know each other better. Right? I promise I'm not trying to undermine what we've done. This isn't a criticism. It's only input for the film. I promise, I'm not criticizing you."

Congo and the other killers dismiss his story as inappropriate for the film because, as Herman Koto tells the crew member, "everything's already been planned."

"We can't include every story or the film will never end," another death squad veteran says.

"And your story is too complicated," Congo adds. "It would take days to shoot."

The killers in the film no longer wield the power that comes with indiscriminate terror, although they periodically wander through local markets to extort money from shopkeepers, a practice Oppenheimer captures on film.

When they carry out murder re-enactments, however, it triggers memories of a time when they were more than petty criminals, when they had license to do anything they wanted to anyone they chose in the name of the war against communism.

"If they're pretty, I'd rape them all, especially back then when we were the law," one of the killers remembers. "Fuck 'em! Fuck the shit out of everyone I meet."

"Especially if you get one who's only 14 years old," he adds after he and some other death squad veterans pantomime molesting a girl and holding a knife to her throat. "Delicious! I'd say, it's gonna be hell for you but heaven on earth for me."

There are moments, usually years after their crimes, when even the most savage killers have brief flashes of self-recognition, although they usually do not reflect upon or examine these revelations. They are often, however, haunted by specific moments of murder. Oppenheimer closes his film with a re-enactment scene where Congo begins by placidly describing the murders he committed at that spot and ends by retching and vomiting.

"I remember I said, 'Get out of the car,'" Congo says of one killing. "He asked, 'Where are you taking me?' Soon, he refused to keep walking, so I kicked him as hard as I could in the stomach. I saw Roshiman bringing me a machete. Spontaneously, I walked over to him and cut his head off. My friends didn't want to look. They ran back to the car. And I heard this sound. His body had fallen down. And the eyes in his head were still. ..."

He trails off.

"On the way home," he finishes, "I kept wondering, why didn't I close his eyes? And that is the source of all my nightmares. I'm always gazed at by those eyes that didn't close."
(c) 2013 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."

The War On Whistleblowers And Journalism
Discussing press freedoms with Julian Assange, David Coombs, Alexa O'Brien and others
ByGlenn Greenwald

I'm working on several stories, so posting this week will be difficult. Until then, below is the video of the 90-minute event I did this week at the Sydney Opera House on the war on whistleblowers and journalism, along with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning's lawyer David Coombs, the intrepid independent journalist Alexa O'Brien, and the Australian commentator Robert Manne, hosted by the Australian writer Bernard Keane. It was a great discussion and really covered in a broad way many of the issues discussed here over the last year, especially the last several months (I dropped out for roughly 25 minutes after I first spoke due to some technical difficulties with the video feed but returned to participate actively in the rest of the discussion).

Two related notes: 1) John Cusack has an excellent Op-Ed in the Guardian from yesterday on many of these same topics; 2) Mark Weisbrot has a helpful analysis of the fallout from the extraordinary cancellation by Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff of the state dinner planned at the White House for October due to NSA surveillance, and McClatchy has good background on what happened there and why.
(c) 2013 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. 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. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

Free To Be Hungry
By Paul Krugman

The word "freedom" looms large in modern conservative rhetoric. Lobbying groups are given names like FreedomWorks; health reform is denounced not just for its cost but as an assault on, yes, freedom. Oh, and remember when we were supposed to refer to pommes frites as "freedom fries"?

The right's definition of freedom, however, isn't one that, say, F.D.R. would recognize. In particular, the third of his famous Four Freedoms - freedom from want - seems to have been turned on its head. Conservatives seem, in particular, to believe that freedom's just another word for not enough to eat.

Hence the war on food stamps, which House Republicans have just voted to cut sharply even while voting to increase farm subsidies.

In a way, you can see why the food stamp program - or, to use its proper name, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) - has become a target. Conservatives are deeply committed to the view that the size of government has exploded under President Obama but face the awkward fact that public employment is down sharply, while overall spending has been falling fast as a share of G.D.P. SNAP, however, really has grown a lot, with enrollment rising from 26 million Americans in 2007 to almost 48 million now.

Conservatives look at this and see what, to their great disappointment, they can't find elsewhere in the data: runaway, explosive growth in a government program. The rest of us, however, see a safety-net program doing exactly what it's supposed to do: help more people in a time of widespread economic distress.

The recent growth of SNAP has indeed been unusual, but then so have the times, in the worst possible way. The Great Recession of 2007-9 was the worst slump since the Great Depression, and the recovery that followed has been very weak. Multiple careful economic studies have shown that the economic downturn explains the great bulk of the increase in food stamp use. And while the economic news has been generally bad, one piece of good news is that food stamps have at least mitigated the hardship, keeping millions of Americans out of poverty.

Nor is that the program's only benefit. The evidence is now overwhelming that spending cuts in a depressed economy deepen the slump, yet government spending has been falling anyway. SNAP, however, is one program that has been expanding, and as such it has indirectly helped save hundreds of thousands of jobs.

But, say the usual suspects, the recession ended in 2009. Why hasn't recovery brought the SNAP rolls down? The answer is, while the recession did indeed officially end in 2009, what we've had since then is a recovery of, by and for a small number of people at the top of the income distribution, with none of the gains trickling down to the less fortunate. Adjusted for inflation, the income of the top 1 percent rose 31 percent from 2009 to 2012, but the real income of the bottom 40 percent actually fell 6 percent. Why should food stamp usage have gone down?

Still, is SNAP in general a good idea? Or is it, as Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, puts it, an example of turning the safety net into "a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency."

One answer is, some hammock: last year, average food stamp benefits were $4.45 a day. Also, about those "able-bodied people": almost two-thirds of SNAP beneficiaries are children, the elderly or the disabled, and most of the rest are adults with children.

Beyond that, however, you might think that ensuring adequate nutrition for children, which is a large part of what SNAP does, actually makes it less, not more likely that those children will be poor and need public assistance when they grow up. And that's what the evidence shows. The economists Hilary Hoynes and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach have studied the impact of the food stamp program in the 1960s and 1970s, when it was gradually rolled out across the country. They found that children who received early assistance grew up, on average, to be healthier and more productive adults than those who didn't - and they were also, it turns out, less likely to turn to the safety net for help.

SNAP, in short, is public policy at its best. It not only helps those in need; it helps them help themselves. And it has done yeoman work in the economic crisis, mitigating suffering and protecting jobs at a time when all too many policy makers seem determined to do the opposite. So it tells you something that conservatives have singled out this of all programs for special ire.

Even some conservative pundits worry that the war on food stamps, especially combined with the vote to increase farm subsidies, is bad for the G.O.P., because it makes Republicans look like meanspirited class warriors. Indeed it does. And that's because they are.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Without an unfettered press, without liberty of speech, all of the outward forms and structures of free institutions are a sham, a pretense -- the sheerest mockery. If the press is not free; if speech is not independent and untrammeled; if the mind is shackled or made impotent through fear, it makes no difference under what form of government you live, you are a subject and not a citizen."
~~~ William E. Borah

Learning From A Thousand-Year Flood
By David Sirota

Two months before my Colorado community was overwhelmed this week by epic rains, our state's chief oil and gas regulator, Matt Lepore, berated citizens concerned about the ecological impact of hydraulic fracturing and unbridled drilling. During his speech, Lepore insinuated that those advocating a first-do-no-harm posture toward fossil fuel development are mostly affluent and are therefore unconcerned with the economic impact of their environmental advocacy. Coming from an industry lawyer-turned-regulator, it was a deceptive attempt to pretend environmental stewardship is merely a rich person's luxury.

After this week's flood, of course, "thousands of oil and gas wells and associated condensate tanks and ponds" are underwater in Colorado, according to the Boulder Daily Camera. Already, there is at least one confirmed oil pipeline leak. At the same time, the Denver Post reports that "oil drums, tanks and other industrial debris mixed into the swollen (South Platte) river."

In short, there's a serious possibility of an environmental disaster that should concern both rich and poor.

In retrospect, the deluge illustrates the problem with officials pretending that environmental stewardship and the precautionary principle are just aristocratic priorities. They are quite the opposite - they are priorities for everyone.

That, though, is only one of the big takeaways from this thousand-year flood. Another is the lesson that in the age of climate change and severe weather, the old "out of sight, out of mind" defense mechanism should no longer provide comfort to anyone. Consider my family's own microcosmic experience.

Living in southeast Denver, we were worried about Cherry Creek overflowing into our neighborhood, Thankfully, that didn't happen. So in "out of sight, out of mind" fashion, we could have just ignored the damage just a few miles away.

But, then, inconvenient truths inevitably started creeping in.

For example, Climate Central's Andrew Freedman reported that data suggest the flood was exacerbated by human-intensified climate change, and Colorado should therefore expect these deadly floods in the future. So while we initially felt we could breathe a little easy this time around, we know that there will probably be a next time when we may not be so fortunate. Meanwhile, we may not emerge unscathed from this flood after all.

Why? Because regulators permitted oil and gas rigs on a flood plain. That means the entire region faces the prospect of chemical spills and all their attendant health and environmental consequences.

All of this leads to a conclusion best summed up by an old cliche: When it comes to something as monumental as climate change, you can run, but you can't hide. That conclusion consequently leads to another cliche: We here on Spaceship Earth are all in this together.

Now here's the good news: There are simple things we can do to protect ourselves.

When it comes to energy development, environmental regulators can stop behaving like de facto corporate lobbyists; legislators can pass tighten oil and gas regulations; and siting authorities can employ the first-do-no-harm mentality before permitting more fracking and drilling.

Most important, all of these officials can begin factoring in meteorological reality when making energy development decisions. Incredibly, that's not happening in many places right now, according to the Government Accountability Office. In its recent report, the GAO found that officials still "have not systematically considered climate change in infrastructure planning." That can - and must - be fixed.

Now, sure, you can oppose these steps by convincing yourself that you personally have nothing to worry about. But when these kinds of solutions are so straightforward and the consequences of inaction are so severe, is that really prudent? There are thousands of flooded oil and gas rigs here in Colorado that prove it isn't.
(c) 2013 David Sirota is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and the best-selling author of "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. Follow him on Twitter @davidsirota .

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), flanked by Tea Party activists, presses Congress to defund the
Affordable Care Act during a news conference in Washington, Aug. 1, 2013.
From left: Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah).

Send In The Clowns
By William Rivers Pitt

Don't you love farce?
My fault, I fear
I thought that you'd want what I want
Sorry, my dear
And where are the clowns
Send in the clowns
Don't bother, they're here...
~~~ Stephen Sondheim ~~~

When I was young, a certain segment of my summer would be carved out and set aside for visiting my father and family in Alabama. I would board a plane all by myself like a big boy and wing my way south, where I would spend a joyously eccentric slice of time in Montgomery, Mobile, Birmingham and Decatur with my Dad, my Memaw and my Grandad.

The thing is, I loved my Grandad, but hated the room I had to sleep in whenever I visited him, because of the clown picture. It hung right over the bed, but was somehow completely visible no matter where you were in the room. Even when you closed your eyes, you knew it was there: the image of a boy, wearing a dotted and pointed clown hat, with white facepaint and rogued cheeks, mouth open in what was obviously a cry of mortal terror...or at least, that's how it seemed to me. The thing was utterly harmless in the daylight, but took on a demonic life of its own once darkness fell, and is, without doubt, the reason I hate and despise clowns to this day.

So when the Koch Brothers decided to fund and air this anti-Obamacare TV ad aimed at convincing young adults that having health care will get you raped by a giant speculum-wielding Uncle Sam clown beast, needless to say, it gave me a nasty turn...and I don't have a vagina, so I can only guess how women who see the image of Rapey Uncle Sam walking into an OBGYN exam room to greet a woman with legs high in the stirrups feel about it.

You have to see the ad to believe it.

Friends of mine who saw the thing were appalled that a GOP front group could be so brazenly hypocritical as to air an ad that showed Uncle Sam with a speculum, preparing to plunder the private parts of an innocent woman. After all, these are the old white men who are working overtime to make it mandatory in states all across the nation for women seeking abortions to get transvaginal ultrasounds, what Jezebel writer Erin Gloria Ryan brilliantly referred to as a "penalty dick."

You don't understand, I tell them. The single greatest strength of the modern Republican Party, the source of all their power, what gives them their ability to confuse and derange any national conversation, is their utter and complete lack of shame. They will say anything - literally anything, no matter how contradictory or antithetical to what they said just yesterday - if it gives them the upper hand in a TV debate, allows them to play the victim or the victor at turns, and gives them the chance to keep genuine debate at arm's length. Genuine debate is not their purpose in Washington DC. They know full well how full of it they are. They simply do not care.

It is just another clown show.

Which brings me, quite parenthetically, to my point: by all reports, Ted Cruz and John Boehner and President Obama and all the other gibbering DC nitwits are tying themselves in knots over Obamacare, a looming government shutdown, and a potential debt default, the latter two of which run the risk of causing the Earth to crash into the sun. That is what every "mainstream" news outlet would have us all believe, anyway. Their coverage of it is utterly captivating; try to imagine a nightly newscast about a street fight between 536 clowns to decide the fate of the world, multiply it fourscore, and you'll have a sense of how our sainted scribes are dealing with the matter.

Two things:

First, they'll work it out one way or another before doom strikes us all, even if they just kick the can down the road a ways. If one party or the other looks bad nationally, that is just the price of doing business. Most of the Republicans behind this whole thing are doing it for the sole purpose of fundraising in their far-right gerrymandered districts, and that's a fact. Most of the Democrats sitting on the sidelines are perfectly happy to let the GOP make perfect fools of themselves for their own fundraising purposes. Almost none of them have a real taste for Armageddon. Trust me: this whole kerfuffle will get settled with a few ticks left on the clock, and the "mainstream" news coverage will be breathless, and the gears will grind on.

Second, and by orders of magnitude more importantly, the Trans Pacific Partnership is approaching fast-track approval, the Keystone XL pipeline continues to grind towards its own approval, and you don't hear a word about either, because they are what is really important to the people putting on the clown show. It's not a conspiracy, for a wink is as good as a nod to a blind man, and blind men are what we are.

So go right ahead and get all worked up over the dismal spoon-fed press clown show that is this mess over Obamacare, the shutdown and the debt ceiling. In the meantime, a deal that forever enshrines corporate power over you and your country, and a pipeline that will ooze poison into the aquifer you drink from, slide into existence with bi-partisan lubrication.

Ignore the clowns. As my grandfather used to say, keep your eye on the main tent.
(c) 2013 William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation." He lives and works in Boston.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Cramer,

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 John (the enforcer) Roberts.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your demanding we get rid of food stamps and hence the access population, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iran 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 The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 11-30-2013. We salute you Herr Cramer, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Bill gives the corpo-rat salute

Why Won't Bill O'Reilly Debate Me?
By Robert Reich

Bill O'Reilly slammed me on his Fox News show last night for mentioning, in a New York Times op-ed last weekend, that he has called me a Communist. In that op-ed I referred to his Communist name-calling as an example of the kind of ad hominem incivility that now passes for political debate in America - of which O'Reilly is a part.

O'Reilly took umbrage that I would even bring it up. Apparently he thinks it's perfectly fine to call me names but offensive for me to criticize him for doing so.

Yet O'Reilly refuses to have me on his show to debate any of this - either his initial charge I'm a Communist, or his indignation that I mentioned it in last weekend's op-ed. When he first claimed I was a Communist I challenged him to a debate - a civil debate. He refused. He still refuses. He won't even debate the topic of my op-ed - the increasing shrillness and divisiveness of Fox News and other media outlets, which are only adding to the vitriol of American politics.

Why won't O'Reilly debate me? What's he afraid of?

Please email him and tell him that instead of talking about me he should have the courage and decency to talk with me directly. His email address is:
(c) 2013 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, "Beyond Outrage," is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His new film, "Inequality for All," will be out September 27.

Marion Castaing, Cultural Attache at the French consulate in East Jerusalem,
lying on the ground with a soldier pointing his gun at her.

Succot In Sderot And Hebron And A Temporary Reversed Destruction
By Adam Keller

Yesterday morning there was an unusual event in the town of Sderot on the Gaza Strip border. Fifteen activists of Masad, the Social Democratic Coalition, celebrated the holiday of Sukkot. They set up in the town center a Peace Tabernacle with the declared goal of "Expressing support for the Peace Talks," as only peace can bring an end to bloodshed. And they also came to express support for the factory workers of Sderot's "Negev Textiles," who stand to lose their jobs.

Workers of the threatened factory arrived, headed by the Arab woman engineer Rodina Milsah who became the leader of their struggle, and held aloft the placard: "Give grants to factories, not to settlers." Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who boasts of the huge budgets he procured for settlements in the Occupied Territories and for Yeshiva seminaries, refuses to transfer the comparatively minute grant of three million shekels required to save the plant.

Still, a public action to Support the Peace Talks is far from a simple thing to undertake in Israeli society as of now (or for that matter, in the Palestinian society today). Only a very optimistic and tireless person would undertake it, such as the veteran activist Naftali Raz, the driving force of Masad, who always reiterates the words of the Song of Peace from the 1970's: "Do not say 'A day will come' - bring the day!"

Meanwhile, the ongoing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians do not get much media coverage, and what occasionally leaks out does not exactly arouse a thrill. The talks are conducted quietly and deliberately kept low profile, while the center stage is taken by events that do not really conduct to the spirit of peace.

In the weeks since Secretary of State Kerry managed to let negotiations resume, there are often heard bitter voices on the Palestinian side. "What peace talks are these, when at the same time the Israelis go on building and expanding settlements, when every night their soldiers raid towns and villages and refugee camps, arrest people, shoot and injure and kill?" These kind of voices were heard also this week from Palestinians, but on the Israeli side there were heard parallel bitter voices: "What peace talks are these when they go and kill two of our soldiers?" Within forty-eight hours two Israeli soldiers killed. The Israeli media tended to lump the two cases together, but in fact they were quite different from each other.

Sergeant Tomer Chazan died very far from his place of service and his military capacity. When working as a dishwasher in a restaurant while on leave, a Palestinian fellow worker lured him to come to a Palestinian village in the West Bank and there killed him. A despicable act by any standard, which seems almost deliberately designed to spoil whatever good collegial relations between Israelis and Palestinians there are.

Sergeant Gal ( Gabriel ) Kobi was killed in the line of his duty in the army of occupation. He was sent by his superiors to guard the enclave of Israeli settlers in Hebron, an especially heavy task during Sukkot. On that occasion the settlers every year invite hordes of supporters from across the country, to take part in the aggressive dancing intended to show that Hebron belongs to the Jews and to them only. Sergeant Kobi was conscripted two years ago and had a high motivation for service in the Israel Defense Forces. A few day before he was killed by a sniper shot he wrote on his Facebook page: "Once again I find myself at night in the villages of the Arabs. What will be the end?"

"Is this a new wave? Is this going to be the new Palestinian modus operandi?" wondered the media commentators. "There is no indication of any coordinated planning. This is a tragic coincidence" stated Chief of Staff Ganz. Did he manage to reassure all the soldiers' parents? For his part, Netanyahu promised to hasten the transfer of another house in Hebron to the settlers, and generally stated that "With one hand we are fighting terrorism and with the other we strengthen the settlement of our land." Negotiations with the Palestinians are apparently dealt with by the Prime Minister's feet.

Is there a connection between the fact that some Palestinians kill Israeli soldiers and the fact that Israeli soldiers sometimes destroy Palestinian villages? It is likely that the average Israeli, if asked such a question, will outright and angrily reject any such connection. Indeed, there does not seem any reason to assume a direct causal connection between the killing of two soldiers within 48 hours at the beginning of this week and the destruction of the village of Khirbet Makhoul at the beginning of the previous week. Apart from the fact that it is all connected with the same occupation.

Even very few activists had heard of this village until last week; there was even a debate about how its name should be spelled. A small place, home to about one hundred and twenty adults and children, living the poor life of shepherds. Like with other villages in the Jordan Valley, the occupation authorities consider Khirbet Makhoul an annoyance to be gotten rid of - especially when negotiations are taking place in which Israel demands to hold on to the Jordan Valley. Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court issued an unenlightened ruling which did not get much attention, approving the demolition of the village. Within a few days, soldiers and bulldozers arrived and wiped it off the face of the earth.

It was Gideon Levy, who specializes in casting light on dark places, who arrived on the scene first and met the people who were left homeless and destitute. Levy wrote an extensive report for the Sukkot holiday issue of "Haaretz." The Red Cross arrived and gave tents - but the army returned two days later and confiscated the tents, too. No big news.

Then occurred the incident which made headlines - diplomats from the European Union and France, the UK, Ireland, Spain and Australia all got directly involved, more directly than was the habit on similar cases in the past. They went to Khirbet Makhoul with a new shipment of tents and emergency supplies, and the troops received them with volleys of concussion grenades - which is the long-established army reaction to foreign busybodies from Human Rights organizations. The tents were confiscated by the soldiers, and Reuters flashed worldwide the image of Marion Castaing, Cultural Attache at the French consulate in East Jerusalem, lying on the ground with a soldier pointing his gun at her.

Probably the soldiers did not know that this was an official representative of the government of France and that they were violating the Vienna Convention which requires states to respect the diplomatic immunity of foreign representatives. The French government filed a protest, as did the European Union. Israeli government officials were far from ready to apologize, but rather threatened to expel Castaing: "The role of diplomats is to build bridges and not to make provocations." However, the French Consulate in East Jerusalem is not accredited to Israel, and serves essentially as the de-facto French Embassy to the future State of Palestine. It could be said that Ms. Castaing did fulfill quite effectively the role of building bridges with the Palestinians.

This morning there was going to be a major show of solidarity by Israeli peace activists, a convoy of buses going to Khirbet Makhoul by the same route where the diplomats were blocked. Ilana Hammerman published in "Haaretz" an article about this, under the title "There are laws which must be broken." But yesterday afternoon the news came that Adv. Tawfiq Jabbarin got the same Supreme Court now to issue a temporary injunction, for the time being forbidding the military from destroying houses or expelling inhabitants. The sword was removed from the throat - at least until pending further judicial proceedings.
(c) 2013 Adam Keller is an Israeli peace activist who was among the founders of Gush Shalom.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Jack Ohman ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

The president meets with the nation's 2.5 million displaced schizophrenic voices.

Obama Meets With Nation's Schizophrenic Voices To Urge Less Violence

WASHINGTON-With the nation still reeling from Monday's mass shooting inside the Washington Navy Yard, President Barack Obama held a bilateral meeting with the country's schizophrenic voices earlier today, urging the disembodied auditory hallucinations to join him in helping to reduce violence.

The special summit, which was open to reporters, began at 9 a.m. in the White House's East Room, where the president and over 2.5 million schizophrenic voices of various degrees of intensity from all across America engaged in an open dialogue covering issues as varied as violence in America, mental health care, the incessant wriggling of worms, gun control, the tearing of the flesh, and the passage of meaningful legislation.

"With the continued impact of senseless acts of bloodshed on all citizens throughout the country, it is absolutely crucial that we all gather today to propose a rational, level-headed solution that might stem your need for harmful behavior," Obama said, addressing the millions of disturbed phantom voices brought on by the pervasive mental disorder known as paranoid schizophrenia. "I know you all sometimes feel fearful, angry, traumatized, and even physically threatened, but I ask you to remain calm, and please understand that no one is watching you, that there is nothing you need to avenge or correct, that demons do not exist, and that violence is not the answer."

"Also, it is not your role to try to 'punish' anybody, or to 'set things right,' as you see them," Obama added. "In fact, there is never, ever a reason to hurt innocent people, so let's agree to take that option off the table."

Throughout the course of the meeting, which mostly involved the president struggling to maintain order among the harried, screaming voices in his company, Obama constantly reiterated his pleas for America's schizophrenic voices to be wary of any delusions related to feelings of paranoia, rage, sorrow, or "any other emotion that may lead to an onslaught of violence."

Obama also strongly recommended that all of the voices focus their efforts not on seeking vengeance, making the world pay, or scratching an unscratchable itch, but instead on urging mentally ill people to check themselves into health care centers.

"Under ideal circumstances, I would ask you all to remain silent and not say anything at all," Obama said while struggling to talk over the millions of voices quickly growing louder and louder. "But since I know this is not, at the moment, a realistic possibility, I would ask that you please not drive anyone to run into a public area and kill innocent people. Also, anything you can do to dissuade people from purchasing or otherwise procuring a gun, knife, explosive, or other deadly weapon would be greatly appreciated. I think we can all agree that is a fair and sensible thing to do, right?"

"Right?" the president asked again. "Folks, c'mon now. Let's settle down and have a conversation here."

In the hours since the meeting, political experts have called the White House's efforts to reach an agreement with the schizophrenic voices "an unequivocal failure," with many suggesting the president never managed to adequately appease the concerns of the irrational and angry voices and may have even driven them closer to the brink of violence.

"Every time it seemed like the president was making some headway on, say, gun control or a call for peace, the voices would quickly introduce a new, largely unrelated issue such as God's desire for blood or the need to let the darkness seep out," said Washington Post political analyst Mark Copeland, adding that at one point the voices all simply shrieked for a full 15 minutes. "It's clear that most of the voices never trusted Obama or the government. By the end of it, some of them were even shouting for Obama's death. Needless to say, this was not a political victory for the president."

At press time, a representative for the nation's displaced schizophrenic voices told reporters that the time for action is now, something must be done, and there can be no more delaying.
(c) 2013 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 37 (c) 09/27/2013

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