Into the Muck


My Country: The World

If those in charge of our society - politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television -
can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power.
They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets.  We will control ourselves.

- Howard Zinn

History is an account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which
are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.

- Ambrose Bierce

O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells;
help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead;
help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain;
help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire;
help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief;
help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes
of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst,
sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter,
broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it.

- Mark Twain

by Howard Zinn

Our government has declared a military victory in Iraq.  As a patriot, I will not celebrate.  I will mourn the dead - the American GIs, and also the Iraqi dead, of which there have been many, many more.  I will mourn the Iraqi children, not just those who are dead, but those who have been be blinded, crippled, disfigured, or traumatised, like the bombed children of Afghanistan who, as reported by American visitors, lost their power of speech.  The American media has not given us a full picture of the human suffering caused by our bombing; for that, we need to read the foreign press.

We will get precise figures for the American dead, but not for the Iraqis.  Recall Colin Powell after the first Gulf War, when he reported the "small" number of US dead, and when asked about the Iraqi dead, Powell replied: "That is really not a matter I am terribly interested in."  As a patriot, contemplating the dead GIs, should I comfort myself (as, understandably, their families do) with the thought: "They died for their country."  If so, I would be lying to myself.  Those who die in this war will not die for their country.  They will die for their government.  They will die for Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld.  And yes, they will die for the greed of the oil cartels, for the expansion of the American empire, for the political ambitions of the President.  They will die to cover up the theft of the nation's wealth to pay for the machines of death.  The distinction between dying for our country and dying for your government is crucial in understanding what I believe to be the definition of patriotism in a democracy.

According to the Declaration of Independence - the fundamental document of democracy - governments are artificial creations, established by the people, "deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed", and charged by the people to ensure the equal right of all to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".  Furthermore, as the Declaration says, "whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it."  When a government recklessly expends the lives of its young for crass motives of profit and power (always claiming that its motives are pure and moral ("Operation Just Cause" was the invasion of Panama and "Operation Iraqi Freedom" in the present instance) it is violating its promise to the country.  It is the country that is primary - the people, the ideals of the sanctity of human life and the promotion of liberty.  War is almost always a breaking of those promises (although one might find rare instances of true self defense).  It does not enable the pursuit of happiness, but brings despair and grief.

With the war in Iraq won, shall we revel in American military power and, against the history of modern empires, insist that the American empire will be beneficent?  The American record does not justify confidence in its boast that it will bring democracy to Iraq.  Should Americans welcome the expansion of the nation's power, with the anger this has generated among so many people in the world?  Should we welcome the huge growth of the military budget at the expense of health, education, the needs of children, one fifth of whom grow up in poverty?  I suggest that a patriotic American who cares for his country might act on behalf of a different vision.  Instead of being feared for our military prowess, we should want to be respected for our dedication to human rights.

Should we not begin to redefine patriotism?  We need to expand it beyond that narrow nationalism which has caused so much death and suffering.  If national boundaries should not be obstacles to trade - we call it globalisation - should they also not be obstacles to compassion and generosity?  Should we not begin to consider all children, everywhere, as our own?  In that case, war, which in our time is always an assault on children, would be unacceptable as a solution to the problems of the world.  Human ingenuity would have to search for other ways.

Tom Paine used the word "patriot" to describe the rebels resisting imperial rule.  He also enlarged the idea of patriotism when he said: "My country is the world.  My countrymen are mankind."

Howard Zinn is an historian and author of A People's History of the United States. photo credit Sean W Hennessy

Homeland Security Self-Examination

by Ray Lesser

Homeland Security is the job of all patriotic Americans.  Although the FBI, CIA and hundreds of other government agencies are spending millions of man-hours and billions of tax dollars trying their best to root out terrorism, Americans are still in danger.  It is impossible for the Homeland Security Department to interrogate every single person in this country (and torture an occasional squealer) to sort out the good citizens from the evildoers.  That's why we've created the following Homeland Security Self-Examination.  There's no longer any need for invasive and expensive government agency procedures to determine whether or not you're a terrorist.  Now, you can do it yourself (as required by sec. 2476, sub-paragraph B, of the USA Patriot Act).

You may have thought all people who get infected by terrorism eventually die, either by blowing themselves up or rotting in a concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay.  But early detection can help prevent terrorism.  By taking this simple Homeland Security Self-Exam, you can find out if you are in danger of becoming a danger to yourself and others around you.  The Homeland Security Department recommends that all Americans over the age of 12 examine their patriotism once a month.  If a change should occur in your patriotism level let your local FBI agent know, so that you can receive free government monitoring.

Homeland Security Self-Exam:

Every American should own, and know how to use, a gun because:

  1. We may be called upon at any moment to fend off a jihad of foreign invaders.
  2. We may need to protect our valuables from millions of newly unemployed slum-dwellers.
  3. It's fun to shoot things.
  4. We may be called upon to overthrow a tyrannical leadership that has stolen an election and usurped our freedoms.

Every American should be fingerprinted because:

  1. After all good Americans are fingerprinted, only the evil ones will be left to round up and lock away.
  2. It will prevent thieves from stealing my identity and using it to rack up charges on my Victoria's Secret credit card.
  3. If you're ever kidnapped by terrorists, it'll help the authorities find and identify your body.
  4. No American should ever be fingerprinted, unless they have been convicted of a felony.

My religion is:

  1. Fundamentalist Christian awaiting the Rapture.
  2. Christian, with a major in business.
  3. Non-Christian, but seriously considering converting.
  4. None of the government's business.

I fly the American flag:

  1. On both sides of my SUV.
  2. In front of company headquarters.
  3. On three-day weekends.
  4. At half-staff to mourn for the death of our democracy.

If I find that my neighbour, a subsidiary of a multi-national corporation, is stockpiling hazardous waste in their backyard I should:

  1. Ask the company to hide the waste by burying it, so that no terrorists can possibly attempt to use it for some evil plot.
  2. Contact the Environmental Protection Agency, which takes care of all environmental problems, so you don't have anything to worry about.
  3. Shut up and mind my own business.
  4. Warn other neighbours and the media about the danger.

I am most afraid of:

  1. Islamic Fundamentalists.
  2. An IRS audit.
  3. Getting SARS, smallpox, or anthrax without health insurance.
  4. The Republican Party.

The Bill of Rights:

  1. Is no substitute for the ten commandments.
  2. Only applies to generous campaign contributors.
  3. Is worth sacrificing to protect my family from terrorists.
  4. Guarantees the rights of the people against the abuses of power by the federal government.

In regard to foreign countries, what should a patriot do?:

  1. Do onto others pre-emptively, before they do onto you.
  2. Through bribery, assassination, and subterfuge, install puppet governments that will allow us to extract all their natural resources.
  3. Bomb 'em if they mess with us.
  4. Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.

Most of my money is:

  1. Spent supporting people who believe in salvation.
  2. In oil and defense stocks.
  3. Spent on rent and groceries.
  4. In a glass jar on my dresser.

When I shop I look to see:

  1. A made-in-the-USA label.
  2. Where the designer section is.
  3. Where the security cameras are.
  4. Whether the goods were made by sweatshop labour.

Every American deserves an equal opportunity to:

  1. Pray for forgiveness for their sins.
  2. Inherit all their family's wealth, free of taxes.
  3. Work hard, and party hearty.
  4. Employment, regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, or national origin.

Have you ever been convicted of a crime?:

  1. No, Daddy arranged things with the judge.
  2. Yes, but I paid a substantial penalty to the SEC, so it's all been cleared up.
  3. Yes, but I didn't do it.
  4. Yes, for protesting in a "non-free-speech" zone.

I would be proud to serve my President:

  1. As a missionary to the heathen hordes.
  2. By accepting multi-billion dollar contracts to rebuild any country he wants to bomb.
  3. By enlisting in the Marines, if it wasn't for my anal cysts.
  4. A subpoena to appear in court.

Now total your points: Each a. = 1 point, b. = 2 points, c. = 3 points, d. = 1000 points.

Your Patriotism Level:

Less than 15:   A Loyal American!  (Report any suspicious activity in your neighbourhood.)
15-30:   A Friend of The President  (Get out your chequebook).
 30-39:   Born in the USA  (Watch more Fox News).
 Over 39:   Terrorist or Terrorist sympathiser  (You're either with us, or you're against us.  Consider this your final warning.)


Protecting Liberty in a Permanent War

by Ted Galen Carpenter

With the detention of Jose Padilla (aka Abdullah al Mujahir), the Bush administration has made an extraordinary assertion of power.  It is sweeping and unnerving.  The administration contends that, by merely designating a person as an "enemy combatant," the government can hold him in prison without according him a trial.  Indeed, the government does not have to charge him with any criminal offense, much less present evidence of an offense.  That is true even if the person in question is an American citizen and is apprehended on American soil.

Civil libertarians are justifiably alarmed at such an ominous shadow over the constitutional rights of all Americans.  But there is another aspect that has received less attention even though it is equally alarming.  It is a truism that civil liberties have suffered in most of America's wars.  But in all of those earlier episodes there was a certainty that the conflict would end someday.  A peace treaty would be signed, or the enemy country would either surrender or be conquered.  In other words, America would someday return to normal and civil liberties would be restored and repaired.

The war against terrorism is different.  Because the struggle is against a shadowy network of adversaries rather than a nation state, it is virtually impossible even to speculate when it might end.  President Bush's initial comment that it might last "a year or two" was long ago consigned to the discard pile.

Indeed, it is not clear how victory itself would be defined.  Even if the war is confined to combating al-Qaeda, there is no way to confirm at any point that the organisation's operatives have been neutralised.  The concept of victory becomes more elusive if the goal is the eradication of all terrorism from the planet, as administration officials have sometimes hinted.  That is a guaranteed blueprint for perpetual war.

Nor would the mere prolonged absence of attacks on American targets be definitive evidence of victory.  How long a period of quiescence would be enough?  A year?  Five years?  Ten years?  The reality is that no president would want to risk proclaiming victory in the war on terrorism only to have another terrorist attack occur on his watch.  The political consequences of such a gaffe would be dire indeed.  (For similar reasons, the color-coded warning system adopted by the Office of Homeland Security will likely never go below yellow).  The safe political course would be always to emphasise the need for continuing struggle and vigilance.

In short, America is now waging a permanent war.  That reality makes civil liberties considerations even more important than in previous conflicts.  Whatever constitutional rights are taken from us (or that we choose to relinquish) will not be restored after a few years.  In all likelihood, they will be gone forever.

We therefore need to ask whether we want to give not only the current president but also his unknown successors in the decades to come the awesome power that President Bush has claimed.  It is chilling to realise that the president is insisting that all he must do is invoke the magical incantation "enemy combatant" and an American citizen can be stripped of his most fundamental constitutional rights without any meaningful scrutiny by the judicial branch.

A place where that is possible is not the America we have known.  It is not an America that we should want to know.

Ted Galen Carpenter is vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute

Source: "Think Tank Wrap-up" 24 June 2002 © United Press International all rights reserved

My Son's Comments:

Hello Ruth,

Overall, I agree.  Pointing out that the "war" won't have a conclusion is good.  So is the fact that you'll never go to the green condition.  It's something I hadn't really thought about, and which explains something which has puzzled me.  Why do people (FBI, mainly) keep issuing warnings about terrorism?  Obvious answers are:

bulletThey actually did foil an attack.  But... if so, then where's the evidence, the captured terrorists, et cetera?
bulletJust a mistake.  Misunderstood something, misled, hoax, et cetera.  Might explain some, but... not ALL.
bulletTrying to quell domestic protest.  Could be, but it presupposes an awfully high conspiracy level.  It always seemed to me like more of a hidden bonus.  Something which made what they were doing work better, but probably not consciously a motive.

But the article indirectly raised a fourth:

bulletCover your ass.  It would likely mean the jobs of all concerned if the US was attacked again and the FBI (and friends) AGAIN didn't warn of it.  If they had said they they didn't think an attack likely, there might even be prosecutions.

Now, ideally, you'd warn of (if not stop) any attack, but since you can't be sure of doing so, you do the next best thing.  Warn of *AN* attack, and if something different happens, say that the terrorists change their plans, due solely to your valiant efforts, and it would have been worse without you.

Really, what else could you do if you were, say, the head of the FBI?  Your job is, I think, hanging by a thread.  Better to "play it safe", not because of some sort of government conspiracy, but because of fear of a public backlash.  It's not like the FBI enjoys a great reputation ANYHOW.  A lot of people would assume the worst about ANYTHING the FBI was involved in (and not entirely without reason).

Best regards

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