Remembering Hiroshima

(Disclaimer: this post solely represents the opinion of the author.)

On August 6, 1945, a B-29 Superfortress named Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, the climax of the gruesome struggle in the Pacific between the US and Japan. Approximately 90,000 people were killed immediately, and another 50,000 died within two years. Added to that was the toll paid by the survivors, and their descendents: radiation sickness, cancer, leukemia, mutation, genetic damage, and birth defects decades later add an incalculable amount of human suffering to the toll. Three days later, this Boschian tragedy was re-enacted, at Nagasaki.

It’s almost cliche, now, to dutifully go through the debate: the Japanese started the war, Pearl Harbor, Bataan, Manila, execution of prisoners, refused to surrender. The Bomb not only saved a million(?) Americans, but actually saved Japanese lives as well, by obviating the need for an invasion of Japan.

And so forth. For every one, there is a riposte, every charge, a justification. These justifications-and that’s what they are-are necessary, because they help obscure what the nuclear attack on Hiroshima was:

A massacre. A slaughter of the innocents. I don’t know what else you can call hitting an undefended city, containing few if any targets of military value, with a nuclear weapon.

You can call it justifiable if you want-I’ve given you the basic outline of the usual main points. Many do. But remember what you are doing: you are justifying the massacre of civilians, on a previously-unimagined scale. If massacres are justifiable, then where does it stop? It doesn’t, until it reaches its logical conclusion: justifiable genocide, as promoted in the Times of Israel last year.

Hitler and Stalin both thought massacres were justifiable, as seen in places like Babi Yar, Katyn Forest, the gulag archipelago, and the German concentration and extermination camp system. “Bomber” Harris was a big fan, as seen at Cologne, Hamburg, Dresden, and a hundred other incinerated cities. So was Curtis LeMay, whose firebombing campaign against Japan-hitting a major Japanese city every other day-made Harris look like a bush-leaguer. And of course, the Japanese officers who ordered the rape of Nanking, created IJA Unit 731, and killed hundreds of thousands in China, Korea, the Philippines, and Okinawa thought they were justified too. And Truman, who promised Japan “a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on the Earth”, went to his grave justifying his decision.

Nobody escapes the truth. Either these acts are universally wrong, or they are not. And if the massacre on a vast scale is justified, then why not genocide? After a while, they start to become indistinguishable from one another. If it is morally acceptable to nuke a city, then what is forbidden? And why? Is there still something worse, where we can draw a line and say “We won’t do that”?

So, amidst the jingoistic chest-pounding and nationalistic roars on one side, and the solemn memorial of the dead divorced from the acts of the leadership who brought this horror upon them on the other, remember Hiroshima, sacrificed on the altar of the justifiable massacre as an offering to the gods of vengeance. A vast, boiling, multi-colored monument to the failure of human beings to rise above their base, brutal, bloodthirsty programming. Remember the dead, the hibakusha, and the downwinders. And remember, even after all this time-it could still be you, your kids, your family.

We are all downwinders now.

Ferguson, Pt. 1

Some links I found interesting about what’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri:

The Covert Action Virus

Twenty or so years ago, I had a conversation with a soil scientist of my acquaintance, who had recently returned from an extended trip through Central America. He had been teaching alternative farming techniques to peasant farmers being squeezed into less and less available land, as part of a private aid group. It sounded to me like an ideal gig for the Peace Corps, so I was surprised when he answered: “Uh-uh. No way. If you’re in Central America with the Peace Corps, everyone just assumes you’re CIA. Nobody will talk to you, and you can’t get anything done.”
I was taken aback, given that, as the Peace Corps itself says:

Persons who have been employed by an intelligence agency, or otherwise have been associated with intelligence activities, are ineligible to serve as volunteers. This exclusionary policy is one aspect of the broader, long-standing policy of maintaining an absolute separation between Peace Corps and intelligence activities conducted by the U.S. government. This absolute separation is necessary to protect volunteers’ safety and to maintain the trust and confidence of the people in the countries in which volunteers serve.

The inverse, however, is also true. Because of this exclusionary policy, the Peace Corps would in fact make an excellent cover for an agent. This goes to the very nature of the deception that is the core of what intelligence agents do: it does not matter what lie is believed, as long as a lie is believed. As long as the target believes something that is not true, he/she can be manipulated. Which means that everything is a potential cover story, a legend, and a potential target for infiltration and exploitation. Every bureau, every commercial outlet, every information source is a potential target. Every cell of the body politic is susceptible to this, either proactively or by being compromised; a virus of deceit, secrecy, and covert action.

The problems with this are obvious, and became apparent to me again this morning, when I opened Firedoglake and saw USAID Fake HIV Center in Cuba Undermines Global Health Efforts. I followed the links; the gist, as reported by the AP, is that “Over at least two years, the U.S. Agency for International Development — best known for overseeing billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid — sent nearly a dozen neophytes from Venezuela, Costa Rica and Peru to gin up opposition in Cuba.” These untrained agents, supplied with encrypted flash drives, and codes for communications, “posed as tourists, visited college campuses, and used…[a]n HIV-prevention workshop one called “the perfect excuse” to recruit political activists.” Perhaps not surprisingly, the operation was set up by the same contractor that dreamed up the failed “Cuban Twitter” project.

This program is being defended by the Obama Administration: according to State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, the program “enabled support for Cuban civil society, while providing a secondary benefit of addressing the desires Cubans express for information and training about HIV prevention.” Note the moment of honesty: the secondary benefit of the HIV awareness program was HIV awareness. The first was covert action.

This type of covert action is not rare, as Peter at FDL goes on to elaborate; nor is it just medical aid being used as cover. The fake NGO that was used to decapitate a FARC unit in Columbia is missing, but he includes the fake hepatitis vaccine program in Pakistan that helped identify Usama bin Laden-since then, the Pakistani Taliban has outlawed polio vaccination and killed 60 vaccination workers, allowing polio to make a robust comeback. Another one Peter could have pointed to was the role of the NED-the National Endowment for Democracy-in Ukraine, where it has spent tens of millions of dollars on a wide variety of programs. As  One of the founders of the NED-“whose purpose is to support foreign organizations sympathetic to US foreign policy goals” explained it in 1991“A lot of what we do was done 25 years ago covertly by the CIA.” And so it is: whether it be Nicaragua, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Albania, Iran, Cuba, Mongolia, or Venezuela, the NED is there. No wonder Putin was pissed about US operations in Ukraine. Every dollar spent there was intended to lessen Russian influence. Every single aspect of the “civil society” NED is supporting there can be considered a covert operation targeted on Russian interests.

And that’s the real issue-the meta-issue. The effect of using everything as a cover for covert operations is the certain destruction of the ability of people to have faith in institutions that, in a democracy, require faith to operate (rampant conspiracy theory-the guaranteed response to pervasive secrecy-has the same effect). You can have democracy-or you can have deceit and covert action. You can have citizen participation-or you can have counterintelligence programs designed to “expose disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize…” You can have journalism-or you can have Operation MOCKINGBIRD, in which the CIA compromised dozens of journalists and fed them CIA propaganda. You can have community policing-or you can have Phoenix Program-style counterinsurgency as law enforcement, in which pervasive surveillance, secret and unconstitutional police methods, and Special Operations teams combine to “neutralize threats.” Radley Balko reports an average of fifty thousand SWAT raids annually in the US…we have come a hell of a long way from “to serve and protect.”

And that’s the point-when everything is a covert action bureau, or cover, that is all it is. It cannot be an institution that operates by deceit and covert violence, AND be a democratically-controlled institution responsive to citizens’ needs. You can have democracy, and freedom, and all the messy processes that democratic institutions require to operate; or you can have the expediency, secrecy, deception, and violence of government-by-secret-police-agency. When your service providers collect and sell your information; when your cell phone is tracked by retailers in the mall; when your movements are tracked via car tracking, facial recognition programs, and ubiquitous cameras; and when your police subvert oversight by deceiving responsible authority, your institutions have become spy agencies, whose tools are secrecy and deception: anathema to self-government in a free society. A paradigm of covert action, or a representative democracy. You cannot have both.

You cannot have both, and there will be no progress until this question is answered, definitively. Subverting change in defense of the status quo, after all, is what intelligence agencies do. Our government is infected with a virus, that has seemingly moved into every cell; healing America will require, first, a robust immune response from a citizenry that will not be able to suspend the necessary weight of disbelief much longer, and second, an intense vaccination course to keep the patient from  relapsing.

 

Who is Barrett Brown? Why you NEED to know.

Read the entire, important article from Rolling Stone here:

“Although he knew some of those involved in high-profile “hacktivism,” he is no hacker. His situation is closer to the runaway prosecution that destroyed Aaron Swartz, the programmer-activist who committed suicide in the face of criminal charges similar to those now being leveled at Brown. But unlike Swartz, who illegally downloaded a large cache of academic articles, Brown never broke into a server; he never even leaked a document. His primary laptop, sought in two armed FBI raids, was a miniature Sony netbook that he used for legal communication, research and an obscene amount of video-game playing. The most serious charges against him relate not to hacking or theft, but to copying and pasting a link to data that had been hacked and released by others.

“What is most concerning about Barrett’s case is the disconnect between his conduct and the charged crime,” says Ghappour. “He copy-pasted a publicly available link containing publicly available data that he was researching in his capacity as a journalist. The charges require twisting the relevant statutes beyond recognition and have serious implications for journalists as well as academics. Who’s allowed to look at document dumps?”

Brown’s case is a bellwether for press freedoms in the new century, where hacks and leaks provide some of our only glimpses into the technologies and policies of an increasingly privatized national security-and-surveillance state. What Brown did through his organization Project PM was attempt to expand these peepholes. He did this by leading group investigations into the world of private intelligence and cybersecurity contracting, a $56 billion industry that consumes 70 percent of the U.S. intelligence budget.”

Assange and Abortion

My high school geometry teacher once told me (paraphrase) “it’s okay to appreciate someone as an artist but not like their personal and political beliefs, etc.”

This kickass advice has helped me while navigating college, grad school, work, and most every aspect of life.  I like some things Obama has done; I disapprove of many other things he’s done while president. Hell, I vaguely remember approving of something G.W. Bush did while in office.  No one very few people are that simple and consistent. I’m the first to admit I’m not.

But enough about vague nuances. Let’s now apply this to a very, oh, divisive person.

Julian Assange.

I have encountered people who believe he’s a hero, with no flaws. In the eyes of some, Assange can do no wrong.
I have also encountered people who think he’s a traitor, he’s terrible, etc.

My own view is that Wikileaks was good. I applaud that.

And . . .  that may be all I applaud or approve of regarding Assange’s life and work.

He currently lives in an embassy, avoiding arrest for more than one rape allegation. I understand why someone would hide from facing trial, even if they aren’t guilty, but at the same time, I do find this quite cowardly.

I find it infuriating that Bradley Manning is serving time and Assange isn’t (okay, living in an embassy for days-months-years can’t be fun); I admit to wondering if Assange took advantage of Pfc. Manning’s low self esteem/mental state. Yes, I realize that it’s not that simple, but at the end of the day . . . Assange isn’t in prison, suffering inhumane solitary confinement.  Whistleblower Pfc B. Manning has been sentencedis in prison, serving up to 35 years. Laila Lalami observes: “That’s 35 years more than the people who started the Iraq War.” Tim Ireland observes it’s “more than 3 times the maximum sentence faced by anyone involved in Abu Ghraib torture.”

I hadn’t thought of any of Assange for a while, and then I stumbled upon this article: “Julian Assange calls Rand Paul the ‘only hope’ for US politics.”  Please do take the time to read it.

Assange also praised Paul and former Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul for their principled positions on the libertarianism, non-violence, drone warfare, extrajudicial killings and abortion.

What? I reread the line several times.

Rand Paul and Ron Paul are against abortion.  I can disagree with the Paul’s (and the majority of the GOP) on this (and other) issue(s)…but I fail to see how this anti-abortion stance could ever be construed as libertarian. Libertarians believe that government should be kept at a minimum and that government shouldn’t interfere with personal life (and liberty, and freedom.)

Restricting or outlawing abortion does just that, however; it interferes with personal life, liberty, and freedom in a cruel and yes, inhumane, torturous way. The criminalization of abortion is the government telling a set of the population what they can and can’t do with their bodies. It’s the government stepping into a doctor’s office and interfering with what may be the best decision for the individual. The criminalization of abortion takes freedom away from a professional (so much for the free market, Doc) and from the person pregnant.

“We trust you to educate children without any assistance. But we don’t trust you to decide whether you want to have a child.”

That, my friends, is not true libertarianism. I call it “GOP-libertarianism.”

So thanks for Wikileaks.

That’s really the only positive thing I can say about you, Mr. Assange.

All Over the Place

Summer is winding down for many families in the South, where school starts before Labor Day.

This is why, I imagine, so many of the writers here are busy.

So here are some links of just some of what we’ve been reading; please let us know what you’ve been reading and writing in the comments!

Southern Style: Tar Heel Turnaround

Friends, it has been a while since our last stop on the Southern Express.  And, honey-chile, this one will be a real treat.  One you surely don’t want to miss.  So, go on, grab your sweet tea, immerse yourself in insect repellant, and…

NC2

North Carolina.  Majestic mountains.  Beautiful beaches.

One of the more progressive southern states prior to the..

Tar Heel Turnaround?

The North Carolina that we are seeing today is at odds with the trajectory the state has been on in recent years.  The southern states may seem as though they are vehemently opposed to ideals like change and progress.  In my view, North Carolina has always been different.

A little history….

Even during our nation’s ugliest time, the Civil War, this state was a bit progressive.  “The second to last (technically the last) state to secede from the Union” did so reluctantly in 1861, and wasn’t as sold on slavery as the rest of the south.  They – along with Virginia, Tennessee, and Arkansas – initially chose to remain with the Union, after Lincoln was elected.  Confederate forces in South Carolina (Boy-oh-boy, our stop there will be fun!) fired on the Union, forcing the hold-out states to fight for the federal government or their neighbors.

The above facts, in no way, justify the actions taken statewide during Reconstruction.  The state did, however, make great strides once it became clear that they couldn’t put skeletons back in the closet.

The eat-ins and sit-ins led to incremental integration.  Education became a priority, and was heavily invested in.  Tobacco was replaced with textiles, then technology.

There was…progress.

North Carolina attempted to rise above the title of “confederate sympathizer”.  Instead, it focused on its memories of the Wright brothers and Kitty Hawk.  Those majestic mountains and beautiful beaches were boons for tourism.  I, myself, thoroughly enjoy time spent at Atlantic Beach each year.

Many have grooved to Thelonious Monk, Pink Floyd, and Roberta Flack. We were touched that James Taylor had Carolina in his mind.  The Andy Griffith show was mandatory viewing in many households.  And everybody wished they could jump like Mike!

North Carolina gave us Duke University, a pioneer in the medical field.  It gave us Shaw University, the first HBC,  as well as Salem College, the first school for young women.  The state’s Research Triangle brought in major industries – such as IBM, GlaxoKlineSmith, and LabCorp – providing jobs and careers for residents.

moral monday

 What a difference a (voting) day makes!

This is not progressive.

North Carolina’s Republicans took simultaneous control of the legislature and governor’s mansion in January for the first time in more than a century. The current session has been marked by sweeping conservative measures in what has long been counted as among the South’s most progressive states.

Arrests?  Of nearly 675 people since these peaceful protests began?  Because they do not approve of your policies, and are exercising their right to protest, they are “morons” who deserve to be arrested?  To further marginalize them, they are called “outsiders”.  Never mind the fact that arrest records show that nearly all are from within the state and the fact that slashing unemployment benefits for over 100,000 residents and decreasing benefits for the rest might be seen as irresponsible.

We can’t call this progressive either.

As legislators enter the final phase of closed-door state budget negotiations, young children could wind up being the biggest losers.

Children with special needs will lose much-needed services, like speech and developmental therapy.  Ten thousand Pre-K slots will be lost over a two-year period.  Prenatal care will be unaffordable for many.  The Child Fatality Task Force will be eliminated, even though child death rate has dropped 46%.  Healthier, more well-adjusted children is a smart investment that residents support.

Need more?

Repealing the Racial Injustice Act?  Not progress.  Because racial discrimination has never been the best option for a state, or the nation.

Quietly imposing “the biggest overhaul of the state’s tax system in more than a decade.”  … not progressive.  Decisions that impact a state should be discussed, no, especially when you’re favoring one segment of the population at the expense of another.  FTA:  Supported by Gov. Pat McCrory, the bill adds a sales tax to numerous exempt services, such as car repairs and appliance installations, to pay for moderate cuts in personal and corporate income taxes. 

The necessity for stealth doesn’t usually indicate progress.  I know we women can be freedom riders, but seriously?  One of the most basic human rights is full and complete dominion over one’s body.  Why not just ban women and be done with it?

Does anyone, especially college students, find this progressive?  I think not.  Because didn’t we already determine this was not the way forward?

In retrospect, perhaps we ALL should have been worried when this hit the news.  Because Church of North Carolina meet the Constitution, already!

So, yeah, I would say the Tar Heels got turned around.  Wouldn’t you?

What to do..what to do..

mm protest

THIS!!!

Protest.  And protest some more.  Transform “Moral Mondays” into “We, the people Week”.. “Month of Marches”.. straight to the voting booth!

Because this is not about conservative and liberal.  It is about right and wrong.

Once you were a progressive state.  You can be again.

What I’ve been reading

I don’t usually get my news from CNN, HLN, MSNBC, Fox, whatever.

So here’s what I’ve been reading about the past few days, while recovering from a minor illness–and these are some stories I think all citizens of this country (should read about too. Agree with the story or not, it’s always good to exercise one’s mind!

Hot Topic Triumverate

Dear Left-Leaning Friends[i],

It is no secret that our friends on the Right have a reputation for denying science—evolution, climate change, etc.

But let’s not be foolish. There are left-leaning folks out there who also deny science. Or rather, conveniently ignore it, misinterpret it—sometimes on purpose.

Yes. I said it.

Some self-identifying liberals deny certain scientific studies and facts.

The gmowhole GMO debacle is a great example. Lefties tend to be wary of GMOs, while agribusinesses and the Right tend to favor/push GMOs.

Now, I’m not a fan of Monsanto, but Lefties have been presenting very weak scientific data on the supposed harm GMOs do.  We misinterpret studies to prove our point, whatever our point is.  We did the same in Portland, Oregon, a liberal bastion, who voted once again to not fluoridate their water.
flouride

It was an ugly smear campaign, and both sides of this debate are partially to blame.

vaccineWe, on the left, pride ourselves for thinking critically and outside the box, for trying to see the whole picture–but there’s a damn good reason we have vaccines[ii].

I understand concerns about the timing and spacing of vaccines, and believe that parents in consultation with their pediatricians should decide on the best vaccination schedule for their kids, although ideally it should be within the guidelines recommended by health authorities like the WHO and CDC.

But rejecting vaccines altogether? For one thing, you’re endangering your child by exposing her to potentially serious illnesses. Let me put it this way: when parents of a pediatrician friend of mine ask her if their children should get vaccinated, she says: ‘oh, NO! I haven’t had a good case of measles in years! It would bring back such memories!’

Whew. I’ve managed to touch on three molten-lava-hot-topics—what do *you*, dear reader, think about one or any of these issues? Of the misinterpretation of science, of the left and science, of GMOs, vaccines, and/or fluoridation?

I’m genuinely interested in your opinion and thoughts.

Thanks in advance–  trust you all to be civil, etc.,

ContraWhit

 


[i] Would “comrade” be more fitting? 🙂

[ii] Note the vaccination debate falls into the Right as well.

In the News…

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.  – U. S. Constitution, First Amendment

The past few weeks have been interesting, to say the least.  For me, they have been thought-provoking.  Not being a professional journalist, I admit to only a cursory knowledge of protocol concerning the media and national security.  Current events have cured me of that.

The Associated Press and Fox News scandals are huge.  This is not like Umbrella-gate, which was ridiculous.  Even the IRS intrusion takes a back seat to this debacle.  The intrusion into the rights of the media to gather and report important information should concern us all.  Not because we finally have some conspiracy to pin on Obama, but because it is a possible infringement of rights.

Whenever there is a clash between an administration and the media, “national security” is at stake.  While national security has no official definition, we believe it to mean the protection and safety of our citizens and our secrets.  This safety is secured through economic, political, diplomatic, and military power.  In essence, each administration is allowed the freedom to determine what places “it” at risk.

So, let’s take on the Fox scandal first.  The national security in this case involved North Korea, and its plan to respond to U.N. sanctions with more nuclear tests.  The CIA, allegedly, learned this information from a source within North Korea.  James Rosen’s (Fox News contributor) story was reported online the same day that the top-secret report was revealed to a small group within the intelligence community.  Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a government advisor, was among that small group.  The FBI used security badge data, phone records, and email exchanges to tie the two men together.  The pair spoke/met on several occasions, even going so far as to use code names.  Kim was charged, in 2010, with disclosing national defense information.  Rosen, while not charged, has been labeled a “co-conspirator”.

This case is disturbing.  While I am no fan of Fox news, the labeling of Rosen as a co-conspirator is unacceptable.   The nature of a reporter’s job is to uncover information (whether a current administration likes it or not) and report it.  Rosen conspired to do nothing, but his job.  My issue here is with the administration.  When a trusted advisor chose to leak top-secret information, the Justice department should have dealt solely with him.  Rosen was well within his rights, as a reporter, to “solicit” information.  The ownership belongs to Kim.  My issue is not so much the investigation, but the attack on Rosen for reporting the news provided to him.

The AP story is a little more complex.  With the help of foreign intelligence agencies, an undercover informant infiltrated the leadership of al-Qaeda. “The spy in question infiltrated AQAP, retrieved its latest non-metalic underwear bomb and delivered it to U.S. authorities”.  Our government had hoped to be led to Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, the bomb’s creator.  Officials claimed that the opportunity was destroyed and the informant was compromised when the story of the foiled plot was reported.  There are reports that AP sat on the story, for days, at the request of the CIA.  Once given clearance, the story ran.

This case disturbs me, as well, but for an entirely different reason.  For me, it is not open and shut.  True, the AP story never revealed the name of the informant, like Cheney’s office outed Valerie Plame.  But, it is possible that an opportunity to locate and/or capture al-Asiri was lost.  It appears as though John Brennan’s (then counter-terrorism advisor) “inside control” comments propelled the story and revealed the more intimate details of the plot.  If security was at risk, an explanation of how should have been provided, and the source of the leak addressed.

I am bothered that the MSM has become a way to turn a profit, making whistleblowers like Julian Assange necessary.  Security leaks are not new, and in fact, have become quite necessary.  Without unofficial accounts, we might be woefully uninformed, as conventional media has become more sensationalism than facts.  However, I am uncomfortable with the surveillance of media, by any administration.  I am equally uncomfortable with the public’s feeling of entitlement where news is concerned.  Around the clock news has encouraged this mentality.

This is a time to question.  Do we have a right to know all?  And, if we do, how soon should we learn it?  What constitutes a national security threat?  And, in cases where applicable, should a member of the press be held accountable for taking what was given?  How far are we willing to go in the name of fighting terrorism?  What is an appropriate balance between security and liberty?

Any administration using national security as justification for surveillance warrants investigation.  In the wake of 9/11, fear introduced us to warrantless wire taps, restrictions of individual rights, and unconstitutional imprisonment.  Rights of the people vs national security is a delicate balance.  We expect our rights to be uncontested.  Yet, we expect our government to keep us as safe.

Keeping our citizens safe is not an implied duty.  Our constitution gives that power to the government.  That being said, our constitution gives us power, as well.  The actions of the last two administrations set a dangerous precedent moving forward.  We have accepted infringement too many times in the past, without question, because we were afraid.   So, we must question.

And, we must DEMAND answers.