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Executive Branch leaders have killed, wounded and made homeless over 20 million human beings in the last 50 years


Introduction: America’s Secret Shame 

America has a secret. It is not discussed in polite company or at the dinner tables of the powerful, rich and famous.

Parents do not teach it to their children. Best-selling authors do not write about it. Politicians and government officials ignore it. Intellectuals avoid it. High school and college textbooks do not refer to it. TV pundits do not comment on it. Teachers do not teach it. Journalists from the nation’s most highly regarded TV news shows, newspapers and magazines, do not report it. Columnists do not opine about it. Editorial writers do not editorialize about it. Religious leaders do not sermonize about it. Think tanks and professors do not study it. Lawyers do not litigate it and judges do not rule on it.

The  few who do not keep this secret, who try to break through to their fellow citizens about it, are marginalized and ignored by society at large.

To begin to understand the magnitude of this secret, imagine that you get into your car in New York City, and set out for a drive south, staying overnight in Washington DC, a four-hour drive. As you leave, you look out your window to the left and see a row of bodies, laid end to end, running alongside you all the way to DC.

You spend the night there, and set out early the next morning for Charleston, South Carolina, an 11-hour drive. Again, looking out your window, you see the line of bodies continues, hour after hour. You are struck that most are middle-aged or older men and women, younger women, or children. You arrive in Charleston, check into your hotel, have a good meal, and get up early the next morning to drive to Miami, another 12-hour drive. And once again, hour after hour, the line of bodies continues, all the way to your destination.

If you can imagine such a drive, or these bodies piled one on top of each other reaching 120 miles into the sky,  you can begin to get a feeling for former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara‘s mid-range estimate of 1.2 million civilians killed by U.S. firepower in Vietnam. (1) (The U.S. Senate Refugee Committee estimated 430,000 civilian dead at the end of the war. (2) Later estimates as more information has become available, e.g. by Nick Turse, author of Kill Anything That Moves, put the number as high as 2 million.)

And the secret that is never discussed is far larger. To the 430,000 to 2 million civilians killed in Vietnam must be added those killed in Laos, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Iraq and many other nations (see below), all those wounded and maimed for life, and the many millions more forced to leave villages in which their families had lived for centuries to become penniless refugees. All told, U.S. Executive Branch leaders — Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals – have killed wounded and made homeless well over 20 million human beings in the last 50 years, mostly civilians.

by Robert Benner Sr.

U.S. leaders have never acknowledged their responsibility for ruining so many lives, let alone apologized or made proper amends to the survivors. Those responsible have not been punished, but rewarded. The memory of it has been erased from national consciousness, as U.S. leaders endlessly declare their nation’s, and their own, goodness. Millions of civilian lives swept under the rug, forgotten, as if this mass murder and maiming, the destruction of countless homes and villages, this epic violation of basic human decency–and laws protecting civilians in time of war which U.S. leaders have promised to observe–never happened.

Over a million innocent human lives in Vietnam alone. Grandparents, parents and children. Decent, hard-working people, each with a name, a face, and loved ones; people with dreams and hopes, and as much of a right to life as you or I. Forgotten. Over one million civilians dead, over 10 million wounded and made homeless in Vietnam alone, forgotten. And particularly remarkable is how this has happened. Totalitarian regimes go to great lengths–strict censorship, prison for those violating it–to cover up their leaders’ crimes. But in America, the information is available. All that is needed to keep America’s secret is to simply ignore it.

Americans keep this secret because facing it openly would upend our most basic understandings about our nation and its leaders. A serious public discussion of it would reveal, for example, that we cannot trust Executive Branch leaders’ human decency, words, or judgment no matter who is President. And more troubling, acknowledging it would mean admitting to ourselves that we have been misleading our own children, that our silence has robbed them of the truth of their history and made it more likely that future leaders will continue to commit acts that stain the very soul of America.

It is a matter of indisputable fact that the U.S. Executive Branch has over the past 50 years been responsible for bombing, shooting, burning alive with napalm, blowing up with cluster bombs, burying alive with 500 pound bombs, torturing, assassinating,  and incarcerating without evidence, and destroying the homes and villages of,  more innocent civilians in more nations over a longer period of time than any other government on earth today.

It is also undeniable that it has committed countless acts, as no less an authority than U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted in regard to Vietnam, which have been:

“contrary to the laws of the Geneva Convention, and… ordered as established policies from the top down,” and that “the men who ordered this are war criminals.”

And its crimes against humanity have continued since Vietnam. Thirty years later, a Nuremberg prosecutor speaking of the U.S. invasion of Iraq stated that a

“prima facie case can be made that the United States is guilty of the supreme crime against humanity, that being an illegal war of aggression against a sovereign nation.”

And as you read these words the U.S. Executive Branch is adding to its crimes, as it conducts secret drone and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) ground assassinations of individuals without due process.

The rationalizations by which even decent human beings allow themselves to ignore their leaders’ mass murder, e.g. that “these things always happen in war,” or “it’s the other side’s fault,” are just that: rationalizations that allow us to avoid our secret shame. Human civilization, through its body of international law, has defined which acts are both immoral and illegal even in times of war. And a citizen’s first responsibility is to oppose his or her own government’s crimes, not those of others.

Although America’s media, intellectual, political and economic elites “turn their heads pretending they just don’t see’ U.S. leaders’ responsibility for mass murder, dozens of dedicated and honorable scholars and activists led by Noam Chomsky have spent years of their lives meticulously documenting it.

Readers wishing to flesh out the overview below are directed to five important recent books: Kill Anything That Moves, by Nick Turse, about Vietnam; Dirty Wars (and a film), by Jeremy Scahill, about Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia; The Deaths of Others, by John Tirman, covering Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan The Untold History of the U.S. by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick (and a 10-part Showtime documentary) discussing U.S. policy from World War II to the present; and Drone Warfare by Medea Benjamin.  FLYBOYS, by James Bradley, also offers invaluable information on U.S. aerial mass murder of civilians in World War II, as does The Korean War: A History by Bruce Cumings on U.S. Executive massacres of civilians in Korea. Such careful work has been supplemented by numerous reports from such organizations as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Until now, the issue of U.S. Executive Branch leaders’ disregard for innocent human life has mainly concerned their treatment of “non-people” abroad. But as the sinews of a surveillance state and police-state infrastructure have been steadily strengthened at home since 9/11, an Executive Branch mentality that has been so indifferent to innocent human life abroad will threaten increasing numbers of Americans in coming years.

No honest human being can deny what the facts below reveal about the U.S. Executive’s institutional evil and lawlessness. The only serious question is what we are willing to do about it.

Can Americans Trust the U.S. Executive Branch?

Columnist George Will recently summarized the fundamental issue underlying not only Edward Snowden’s recent whistleblowing, but all controversies about U.S. Executive Branch behavior:

“The problem is we’re using technologies of information-gathering that didn’t exist 20 years ago… and they require reposing extraordinary trust in the Executive Branch of government.”

Former Bush aide Matthew Dowd chimed in on the same talk show, saying “what they’re saying is trust us, trust us.” Trust is indeed the only basis for supporting a U.S. Executive which hides its activities from its own citizens.

But can we trust the Executive’s Branch’s commitment to truth, law and democracy, or even basic human decency? Judging its actions, not words, over the past 50 years is the key to deciding this issue. And we might begin with some basic questions:

How would you regard the leaders of a foreign power who sent machines of war that suddenly appeared over your home, dropped bombs which killed dozens of your neighbors and your infant daughter, wounded your teenage son, destroyed your home, and then forced you into a refugee camp where your older daughter had to prostitute herself to those foreigners in order to support you, your wife and legless son? (U.S. Executive Branch officials created over 10 million refugees in South Vietnam.)

What would you think of foreign leaders who occupied your country, disbanded the military and police, and you found yourself at the mercy of marauding gangs who one day kidnapped your uncle and cousin, tortured them with drills, and then left their mangled bodies in a garbage dump? (U.S. Executive Branch officials occupied Iraq, disbanded the police, and failed to provide law and order as legally required of Occupying Powers.)

How would you view a foreign power which bombed you for five and a half years, forced you and your family to live in caves and holes like animals, burned and buried alive countless of your neighbors, and then one day blinded you in a bombing raid that leveled your ancestral village, where you had honored your ancestors and had hoped after your death to be remembered by your offspring? (U.S. Executive Branch leaders massively bombed civilian targets in Laos for nine years, Cambodia for four years.)

 

What would you think of foreign assassins who, as Jeremy Scahill reports in Dirty Wars, broke into your house at 3:30am as a dance was coming to an end, shot your brother and his 15-year old son, then shot another of your brothers and three women relatives (the mothers of 16 children) denied medical help to your brother and 18-year-old daughter so that they slowly bled to death before your eyes, then dug the bullets out of the women’s bodies to cover up their crimes, hauled you off to prison, and for months thereafter claimed they were acting in self-defense? And how would you feel toward the leaders of the nation that had fielded not only these JSOC assassins but thousands more, who were conducting similar secret and lawless assassinations of unarmed suspects while covering up their crimes in many other countries around the world? (3)

How would you view the foreign leaders responsible right now for drone attacks against you if you lived in northwest Pakistan where, a Stanford/NYU study reported after a visit there:

“hovering drones have traumatized millions living in these areas. Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves.”

These are not rhetorical questions. Every one of these acts, and countless more, have been committed by the U.S. Executive Branch over the past 50 years, and will continue indefinitely until it is transformed. If we judge them by their actions, not words, we must face the following facts:

— The U.S. Executive Branch killed in Vietnam from a U.S. Senate Refugee Subcommittee-estimated 430,000 civilians to the 1.2 million civilians later estimated by Robert McNamara, to the two million civilians estimated by Nick Turse. And it wounded at least 1,050,000 civilians and refugeed at least 11,368,000, according to the Refugee subcommittee (3); assassinated through its Phoenix Program an officially estimated 26,000 civilians, and imprisoned and tortured 34,000 more, on unproven grounds that they were “Vietcong cadre”; created an estimated 800,000-1.3 million war orphans and 1 million war widows; and after the war ended left behind Agent Orange poisons, unexploded cluster bombs, and landmines, creating an estimated 150,000 deformed Vietnamese children; and killing and maiming 42,000 peacetime victims.

— The U.S. Executive has, in Laos, conducted nine years of bombing which has been estimated by Laos’ National Regulatory Authority to have killed and wounded a minimum of 30,000 civilians by bombing from 1964-’73, and another 20,000 since then from the unexploded cluster bombs it left behind. It also created over 50,000 refugees after it had leveled the 700-year-old civilization on the Plain of Jars.

— The U.S. Executive has, in Cambodia, killed and wounded tens of thousands of civilians by carpet-bombing villages from 1969-’75. All told, after Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger secretly bombed and invaded Cambodia, waging a war that made the U.S. Executive responsible for casualties on all sides, the U.S. Senate Refugee Subcommittee estimated that 450,000 persons had been killed and wounded, and 3,990,000 made refugees. (4) Historian Michael Clodfelter has estimated that, all told, 600,000 Cambodian civilians died. (5)

— The U.S. Executive under Bill Clinton in Iraq, John Tirman reports in The Deaths of Others, imposed an embargo so severe that “UNICEF estimated that 500,000 children under five years of age had died as a result of the war and sanctions from malnutrition, diseases for which cures were available but medicine in Iraq was not, and poor health at birth due to prenatal effects on mothers.” (6)

Dennis Halliday, Assistant UN Secretary General, declared that

“I had been instructed to implement a (sanctions) policy that has effectively killed over a million individuals.”

— And after invading Iraq in 2003, the Executive under George W. Bush, as the Occupying Power, was legally responsible for maintaining law and order. Its war was also an aggressive war as outlawed at Nuremberg. It thus bears both the moral and legal responsibility for the deaths of more than 130,000 Iraqis (Iraq Body Count) to 654,965 (Lancet Scientific Journal) to 1,220,580 (Opinion Research Business), hundreds of thousands more wounded, and more than officially estimated 5 million refugees. (Please also see footnote 15)

— The Executive has, in Afghanistan, conducted thousands of night raids familiar to viewers of World War II Gestapo movies — killing over 1500 civilians in 6282 raids in 10 months from 2010 to early 2011 alone, as  revealed  by investigative reporter Gareth Porter. They have also conducted numerous bombing strikes and supported a corrupt regime which has stolen billions of dollars while their fellow citizens died for lack of healthcare and food.

–The Executive has, in Pakistan and Yemen, killed an estimated 2,800-4,000 persons from drone strikes, only 73 of whom it has named. Most were killed in “signature strikes” in which the victims’ names were unknown, and who in no way threatened the United States.

— Also, over the past 50 years, the U.S. Executive Branch bears a major responsibility for massive death and torture throughout Central and Latin America, Africa and Asia. Church, human rights and others estimate that U.S.-installed, trained, equipped and advised death squads in El Salvador and Contras in Nicaragua killed well over  35,000  and 30,000 persons respectively. The U.S.-supported Rios Montt regime in Guatemala killed an estimated 200,000. The U.S.-supported coup in Chile brought to power a regime that killed an estimated 3,200-15,000 political opponents and tortured another 30,000. U.S. support for Indonesian government genocide in East Timor helped kill over 200,000 persons. U.S. support for terrorists led by Jonas Savimbi in Angola helped kill an estimated 1.2 million persons and displaced another 1.5 million. (7)

And how much can you trust the decency of a US. Executive that treats these millions of human beings as mere nameless, faceless “collateral damage” at best, direct targets at worst, as human garbage barely worthy of mention, as “non-people” as Noam Chomsky has observed?

 

Seth Globepainter – street art


Seth Globepainter

Beijing, China 2011
Photo by Keisuke Torikai

Lviv, Ukraine, 2012 w/ Teck

‘Miaow’ Ho-Chi-Minh, Vietnam 2010

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With Saner (Mexico)

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Seth(Bethlehem, Palestine)

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(Bethlehem)

Globepainter – unurth | street art.

MONSANTOPOLY Part 1: Sowing dependence


“…business is business!  And business must grow, regardless of crummies in tummies, you know.”– Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

In India, a cotton farmer drinks a liter of pesticide, killing himself to escape the ruinous combination of his debts and a poor yield.  In America, a pediatrician observes improvement in the symptoms of autistic children when they stick to a purely organic diet.   In France, farmers burn fields of genetically modified crops.  In Paraguay, a politician tells the media that Monsanto was behind the ouster of a democratically elected president.  On May 25, 2013, the mainstream media generally ignores millions of protesters in hundreds of cities across the globe rallying against Monsanto and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).  All of these seemingly disparate events flow from a single source: the business model of one of the wealthiest, most powerful, and most aggressive corporations on the planet.

Monsanto is a virtual monopoly that exploits various business, legal, communications and political techniques to control its business environment and to force dependency on its main products, Roundup herbicide and Roundup Ready GMOs.  I will analyze this Monsantopoly over the course of this five part series.  In Part 1: Sowing Dependence, I will demonstrate how the company’s strategy is evidenced by its development and history.  Part 2: Corrupt to the Core will show that Monsanto shuts down normal oversight, regulation and criticism by cultivating vast influence over every branch of the government, academia and the media.  In Part 3: Seeds of Destruction, I will explore the effects of Monsanto’s products on the environment.  Part 4: Harvesting Disease, will display scientific evidence of the threats posed by Monsanto’s products to various species up and down the food chain, particularly humans.  In Part 5: Rounding Up Globalism, Democracy and You, I will discuss Monsanto’s influence around the world, how various countries have responded to Monsanto and GMOs, and what you can do as a citizen and a consumer.

The story of Monsanto begins in the auto industry.  In the early 20th Century, Henry Ford defined contemporary industrialism.  In the business model of Fordism, the company automates production, mass-produces a reliable, standardized product and pays its workers a living wage, enough that they can afford to buy the product.  Beginning in the 1920s, this model was challenged and eventually eclipsed by a different business model developed by General Motors Corporation (GM).  GM President Alfred P. Sloan believed that the corporation’s goal should not be a cycle of production-wage-consumption, as Ford had built.  The corporation’s goal should be very simple: profit.  The business model of Sloanism relied on planned obsolescence, evolving fashion, and a product line for “every purse and purpose.”  GM hooked the consumer to regularly purchasing an ever-changing product.

As documented by Peter Drucker in his 1973 book Management: Tasks,

Responsibilities, Practices, GM built on this strategy by teaming up with Standard Oil of New Jersey to launch a joint venture: Ethyl Corporation, which produced leaded gasoline to cure the ‘knocking sound’ made by GM cars.  In this way, although GM was not a chemical company, it made money on both its cars and the gas that consumers poured into them.  Drucker notes that “GM, in effect, made money on almost every gallon of gasoline sold anyplace by anyone.”

Here in Washington, D.C., I sat down with business historian Alan Loeb, who told me, “Professor Drucker pointed out that GM’s strategy for marketing tetra ethyl lead – the lead additive GM developed for use in gasoline – set the product up so its consumer would be dependent on it, and that by doing this GM and its partners made money not only on the sale of cars GM built but on the sale of leaded gasoline to every car on the road.  In the end, between this strategic innovation and the chemical discovery, it was the strategy that was the more valuable.  Charles Thomas and Carroll Hochwalt, two chemists at GM who worked on developing the lead additive, left to set up their own lab and ultimately ended up as President and Vice-President of Monsanto, respectively, where the same strategy then appeared in its agriculture business.  In a sense, Monsanto inherited the strategic innovation developed first at GM.”

People who were instrumental in developing the business model of Sloanism, and the strategy of locking the consumer into dependency on products that require each other, migrated from GM to the top of Monsanto.  One can easily see similarity between the GM cars and leaded gasoline of nearly a century ago and Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide and Roundup Ready GMOs of today. Throughout its history, Monsanto has developed chemical products which have eventually become controversial or been banned, including DDT, Agent Orange, Bovine Growth Hormone, and PCBs.  DDT was used for decades as an insecticide even though its effect on humans was not well understood.  Monsanto insisted it was safe, but it was revealed to be highly toxic and was banned.  Agent Orange is a highly destructive defoliant, most famous for being used extensively in Vietnam.  Decades later, it continues to cause health problems, birth defects and ongoing soil damage.  Bovine Growth Hormone was designed to spur cows’ milk production.  It caused painful udder inflammations and infections which got into milk.  PCBs are a highly toxic chemical used as a coolant.  Documents demonstrate that Monsanto knew of the threat posed by PCBs for many years and sought to cover up the danger it posed, while continuing to expose people and the environment to the chemical.  Many people have had serious health problems in the town of Anniston, Alabama, where Monsanto dumped PCB waste.

Recently, Monsanto has formed a partnership with a pharmaceutical company.  If Monsanto’s history and the GM model are any indication, could it be that Monsanto’s business strategy going forward is to profit from creating reliance on products that make people sick and reliance on the drugs used to treat their illnesses?

Apart from aggressive marketing of shady chemicals, its government relations have played an enormous role in its development.  Monsanto President Charles Thomas was tapped to run the Dayton Project, part of the Manhattan Project, which designed the triggering mechanism for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.  This project, along with Monsanto’s marketing of DDT during WWII and Agent Orange during Vietnam, reveal another facet of Monsanto’s business strategy: develop government dependency on Monsanto in wartime.  This also creates the norm that the government clears red tape for Monsanto’s business.  Even during peacetime, this norm sticks.

Monsanto has demonstrated an interest in avoiding regulation since its founding, when, in 1926, it incorporated its own town, Monsanto, Illinois.  Monsanto set up shop in its eponymous town at a time when businesses were largely regulated locally.

And it was through deregulation that Monsanto entered a new phase of its history in the 1980s.  The Reagan Administration sought to clear away regulations like health and environmental safety testing that they claimed hindered big business’ growth.  In one telling vignette, Vice President George H. W. Bush visited a Monsanto laboratory in 1987.  Footage of the visit shows someone from Monsanto pointing at a GMO crop and saying the USDA was testing the crop.  He said he wasn’t complaining about the USDA, but he then joked that if they had to wait until September for approval, he might say something different.  He then laughs with Bush Sr., who replies, “call me, we’re in the ‘de-reg’ business.”

Part 2 tomorrow

– See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/news-features/item/18667-monsantopoly-part-1-sowing-dependence.html#sthash.xrkOEqGU.dpuf

via nation.lk ::: – MONSANTOPOLY Part 1: Sowing dependence.

If Truth is Treason: Bradley Manning


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Bradley Manning by Julian Assange

If truth is treason, then those that claim the treason are criminals. I understand that Bradley Manning betrayed the trust that he was given by his country. I have been thinking about this for a long time. Let me tell you a story;

When I was in the Army in 1969, I was against the Vietnam War. I was a thorn in the side of my commander, a captain of a battery of Nike-Hercules unit. We were about 200 soldiers isolated some 50 miles from our headquarters on a mountaintop in rural Korea.

I wrote a letter to a mother from my hometown that had lost a son in Vietnam. The letter was given to the newspapers. I received mail back from that mother and from others that supported my stance against the war. I talked to other people in my unit and gradually became a focal point for dissent against the war in my unit. Needless to say, I was singled out for harassment.

I was busted from E-4 to E-3 a month after going to a promotion board for E-5. The charge was that I had left my duty station on top of the mountain to attend a party in the Administration Area at the bottom of the mountain (I was guilty). I accepted the demotion.

The next Friday at Reveille (the lowering of the colors), I was told to attend the formation. I was on duty at the top of the mountain cleaning space-heaters and was covered in soot. I protested, but was sent down to formation, looking like a chimney sweep.

At the formation, the First Sergeant bellowed, “Persons to be promoted, front and center!” The section chief of the other crew pushed me and said “Get up there Gatto!” I went up front hesitantly. I was wondering if the Captain was going to publically bust me in front of the unit.

To my surprise, he walked up to me as I was standing at attention, covered in soot, and pinned Sergeant Stripes on my collar. I was, needless to say, astonished. When this was done, he whispered in my ear, “I’ll get those Stripes back, Gatto,” Then I realized that I really WAS getting promoted.

After the Colors were lowered and the formation was over, I was told to go to the Orderly Room. I went over and was told to report to the Commander. I walked into the Commanders office and saw the Battalion Commander sitting at the Captains desk. I reported, saluting and standing at attention, black faced in soot. He told me to take a seat.

The Colonel explained that I was promoted to Sergeant the day before I was busted to E-3. Since a Captain can’t bust a Sergeant, the Article 15 was thrown out. The Army is a stickler for regulations.

He then went on to tell me that he knew about my activities against the Vietnam War. He then told me that there was a difference between living in a democratic society and being in the Army. In the Army he told me, I no longer had constitutional rights. I was under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He said there was a difference between a democratic government and a democratic army. He told me about the Soviet army in the 1930’s that tried to establish a democratic army.

They elected their leaders on a regular basis. The experiment was a disaster. He told me that the Soviet Army was so disorganized that Finland kicked their ass. He also told me that he didn’t really support the war in Vietnam either, but that as an officer in the Army he was expected to be apolitical. He said that the people of the United States should dictate what the Army does and that right now they are saying we should fight in Vietnam. When the will of the people changes, we will stop the war. Still he said, we took an oath and that means as long as we wear the uniform, we do as we are told. He also told me that I shouldn’t stop thinking; I should just stop talking in uniform.

I told him that I understood. It made sense. I knew about how the Japanese Army dictated policy to the government that led to war with the United States. I thought long and hard about the military and its role. From that point on, I decided that I would only do my protesting when off-duty and out of uniform, and that’s what I did. (Except when I went to the Stop the War Rally in Washington DC in my fatigues and John Kerry and his boys picked up my firebird and got me out minutes before the Federal Marshalls on horseback arrived, but that’s another story).

Which leads me to Bradley Manning., he was a PFC in the Army with a security clearance. He too had taken an oath. This is the Oath that we took:

“I, XXXXXXXXXX, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

So in reality, Bradley Manning violated his oath. Remember, this is coming from someone that also violated his oath, and not only that, I fully support what Bradley manning did. I expect that PFC Manning knew exactly what he was doing, and exactly what the consequences would be. This does not mean that I believe he should be exonerated.  In fact, I believe he should be charged for leaking classified information because that is exactly what he did. The facts are the facts.

I don’t think that the information that was leaked was harmful to our national security. In fact, I think that the information that Manning leaked actually enhanced our national security. The truth is something that needs to be told. Manning, I believe, is ready to accept whatever punishment is doled out, but I believe that the punishment should be measured. The truth is that Manning put his personal security at risk to tell the public what the truth really was. This is an exceptional person. I don’t believe he is a traitor, rather I think of him as a patriot.

via OpEdNews – Article: If Truth is Treason: Bradley Manning.

Why is Monsanto bad for humanity


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Monsanto is bad because their chemicals cause long-term damage to life on this planet – despite the short-term benefits such as higher yields. Would you eat a plant that cannot be killed by Round-Up – a weedkiller which kills or damages all natural plants? They have engineered plants that can be sprayed with huge doses of Round-Up and live (for us to eat) while the weeds around them die.

Monsanto is bad for humanity for several reasons:

1. They use genetically modified seeds with something called terminator technology. When a harvest happens, the seeds produced by the new crops are rendered useless. Although in 1999, Monsanto agreed to not commercialize terminator technology. This means farmers have to repeatedly purchase these seeds.

2. Most crops Monsanto grows are heavily fertilized. In essence your eating pesticides, fertilizer, antibiotics etc.

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3. They have uprooted countless agricultural traditions in places like India, Mongolia, Vietnam. For example in India sesame seed oil was once the way people made their money and cooked their food cheaper. Monsanto lobbied the Indian government to use soy bean oil (soy is their main product). This destroyed the economic stability of India’s subsistence farmers. It is awful for their economy, but also for their health. Immediate heavy intakes of soy can be extremely harmful for the body..I don’t know why, don’t ask. just Google it.

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4. Monsanto because of its recent growth by buying out its competitors is imposing a monopoly on the world grain trade…this largest agricultural market in the world. The grain trade feeds cows, pigs, chickens, us, everything we eat comes from grain food. Monsanto by having a monopoly kills smaller businesses, makes us unhealthy, uproots local agriculture etc.

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If you want to read more about where your food comes from, its economic effects, and the harmfulness of Monsanto read an AWESOME book called: Stolen Harvest .

via Why is Monsanto bad for humanity.

via Why is Monsanto bad for humanity.

Iconic Photos From the Vietnam War


Iconic Photos From the Vietnam War

via Iconic Photos From the Vietnam War (23 pics).

via Iconic Photos From the Vietnam War (23 pics).

Monsanto’s crimes unpunished!


The many crimes of the rapacious global corporation Monsanto were exposed at a public forum in Sydney November 23, organised by Agent Orange Justice — Australia Vietnam Solidarity Network.

AOJ’s Rosanna Barbero presented a very educational talk interspersed with excerpts from videos that thoroughly demonstrated that this capitalist company puts its profits way ahead of the health of individuals and even the health and safety of humanity as a whole. It prompted a very useful and inclusive discussion.

Genetically modified food

Monsanto’s corporate crimes have so far gone unpunished, and its profits have soared, while it continues to destroy our food supply, our health and the planet. Monsanto is well known as the promoter of genetically modified food, which locks farmers into a dead-end dependence on the company, and the world into a dangerous course of patented and hazardous food crops that ultimately threaten the safety of the world’s food production.

The company is also the major financial beneficiary of Agent Orange, the herbicide used to defoliate the jungles of Vietnam for a decade from 1961 to 1971 and destroy the health of millions of Vietnamese and their offspring. Monsanto knew well beforehand, certainly by 1949, after an accident in its plant in Nitro, Virginia, that dioxin, the deadly by-product of Agent Orange production, had terrible health effects, including creating genetic malformations. But it suppressed the knowledge of these results and continued production.

The US military were also well aware of the toxic effects of Agent Orange: “[We] were aware of the potential for damage due to dioxin contamination in the herbicide. We were even aware that the ‘military’ formulation had a higher dioxin concentration than the ‘civilian’ version, due to the lower cost and speed of manufacture. However, because the material was to be used on the ‘enemy’, none of us were overly concerned”, wrote James Clary, a US Air Force scientist in Vietnam.

Monsanto’s profits have been enormous, rising to $6 billion in 2010-11. Aware of the dangerous game it plays with the health of people and the world, and the likelihood of political and legal challenges by its victims, it has set aside a fund of $256 million to fight court battles. Few individuals will be able to match it. It owns many of the capitalist politicians. Indeed, the George Bush administration became known as “the Monsanto administration”. The United Nations had initially taken a position against genetically modified food, but after Monsanto pressure and lobbying, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation eventually came out with the Monsanto line.

Monsanto also spends a chunk of its fabulous profits on PR. It has set up a foundation, with the stated goal of “contributing to food security”, and claims it is “a human rights organisation”.

Monsanto is now the world’s top seed company, controlling a scary 23% of the world’s seeds. (Monsanto plus the next four global seed companies control 85%!) Its genetically modified seed has to be bought each season from Monsanto, and is dependent on using Monsanto’s “GMO ready” Roundup weed killer. It profits both ways. Once in, there’s no escape for the farmers. Monsanto has a special legal department of enforcers, to make sure no one reproduces seeds the natural way, but has to continue getting the patented seed from Monsanto.

As an indicator of how it operates, after the disastrous earthquake in Haiti, Monsanto donated food and seed. The GMO seed spread. People in Haiti have opposed this, with no success so far. Monsanto threatens to dominate Haitian agriculture.

In Malawi, through the World Bank and USAID, Monsanto donated seed, fertiliser and pesticide. Now Malawi is almost totally dependent on Monsanto, giving it a base from which to subvert African agriculture.

Rosanna Barbero explained how Monsanto works with aid agencies, for example World Vision, under the banner of providing livelihood support and “food security”, but actually enforcing dependence. Unfortunately, Monsanto has also targeted Vietnam, the major victim of its Agent Orange production. In 2000 it set up a plant in Vietnam. There has been opposition; farmers opposed the introduction of genetically modified seed, but their voices were not heard. Many Vietnamese are still insisting, however, that they can’t forget the past, the war and Monsanto’s terrible legacy through Agent Orange production.

We can’t ignore Monsanto’s role in the manufacture of Agent Orange and its refusal to accept responsibility for its crimes, and the threat it poses to agriculture on the planet.

Agent Orange Justice

Since its launch six months ago, Agent Orange Justice has had modest but encouraging success. It’s held forums and campaigned at political events. It’s set up a very informative website and a Facebook page Facebook page. Four AOJ members participated in the second international conference organised by the Vietnamese Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin in Hanoi in August. AOJ member Senator Lee Rhiannon presented a speech to parliament on the issue on November 8 . Trade unions and other organisations have affiliated.

AOJ has ambitious plans to develop the campaign in 2012. Further outreach forums will be held, including speaking at events and meetings of other organisations. In June a major four-day event is being organised, an art exhibition focussing on the issue of Agent Orange. Paintings and cartoons from prominent artists have already been promised. During the exhibition there will be seminars, film showings and photographic and poster displays. Contact AOJ to build or contribute to our events, or to join or affiliate <info@agentorangejustice.org.au>.

via Monsanto’s crimes unpunished! | Direct Action.

via Monsanto’s crimes unpunished! | Direct Action.

Do Gooders and Guilt Tours in Luang Prabang


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Sheila lives in Luang Prabang, Laos. She runs a shop, and has a little dog that is fiercely protective when strangers come around. But the little dog has nothing on Sheila. “Don’t get me started,” Sheila warns. Then she starts.

“The government organizations; the UN organizations; the NGOs — they come to Laos, piss millions of dollars against a wall. They bring their families, they have their four-wheel drive vehicles, and they drive around visiting Vietnam and Cambodia and Thailand and have a wonderful time. Then they go home. And they’re useless.

Countries are starting to tell them to stay away. These organizations are now paying countries to let them in so they can do their great work. Now they’re all leaving Laos for Myanmar — that’s their next big project.

“NGOs send kids over here, lots of good intentions, but without any of the skills or talents that might be of some use. My friend Jane calls them ‘blancmanges.’ They’re just bland, ordinary kids with none of the abilities they require to make a difference — especially in a country like this one that has essentially jumped from the 16th century to the 21st. And the kids don’t last — they’re gone in a hurry.”

Sheila is a 50-ish Australian ex-pat who has lived in Luang Prabang for 15 years. Upon learning that she was conversing with a Canadian writer, she asks not to be identified. “I have to live here,” she says. And she has plenty to say about some of her imported neighbours. “All of these businesses started up by ex-pats that promise to ‘give back’ to the community,” she snorts. “Please. Almost nobody gives back. There are perhaps a couple of good organizations here and the rest are lining their pockets. Like those ‘Western guilt‘ tours, where people pay money to come and paint an orphanage. Does the orphanage get the money? No. The tour company pockets the money. And I talk to the orphanage workers — they say, ‘How many new coats of paint do we need?’ They ask for money to feed the kids instead. But no. They get more fresh paint. And the tour company gets paid.”

Penciled in progress

Ryan Young is not quite so dyspeptic. Young manages Joma Bakery Cafe, one of the few Luang Prabang joints that offers travelers a real espresso and an English language newspaper. The cafe, co-owned by former Vancouver residents Michael Harder and Jonathan Blair, is active in supporting a local charity called Pencils of Promise. And he says they do give back. “One per cent of our sales goes to Pencils of Promise and one per cent goes to Hagar International, which helps women escape from sexual slavery. We also hire those women. And we participate in a lot of projects with Pencils of Promise. This week our staff members, who are from the local community, were out helping kids find healthier ways to prepare some favourite local dishes.”

Young, who came to Luang Prabang from Portland, Oregon, about 18 months ago, does not discount Sheila’s points. “If there’s no commitment after the project,” he says, “if it’s just about having a picture of yourself posing with a brown kid to put on the fridge at home, well, that’s always a red flag.”

“When Pencils of Promise goes into a community to build a school we ask for 25 per cent contribution from the community, whether that’s labour or cement or whatever. We make sure the building is one that they want and one that fits into the community, whether it looks good in a photo or not. We make sure there is a teacher in place and ongoing program support, or we don’t do it. Since the ‘Three Cups of Tea’ controversy there’s more awareness and more scrutiny — you need to make sure there’s going to be a school functioning after the builders leave.”

That contrasts with Sheila’s description of one international aid project. “We asked the EU people to come and build a new three-room high school at the orphanage so kids wouldn’t have to leave at age 14 or so. The orphanage people told me, ‘Sheila, come see our new school.’ So I did. I asked, ‘Where’s the furniture? Where’s the electricity? Where are the blackboards?’ Well, the EU people didn’t do that. They get kudos for four walls and a ceiling and that’s the end of it. The orphanage had to raise another $8,000 to get equipment. Same thing when the hospital got built — no equipment. They don’t care. They do their little bit and take off.”

Read closely

Sheila does mention an organization that she believes does good work in Luang Prabang — Lao Kids, a group that raises money for local schools, orphanages, and hospitals, with all members working for free.

Not every local do-gooder group is volunteer run. Big Brother Mouse is a self-described non-profit that publishes children’s books and promotes reading parties at local schools to help Laotian kids develop reading skills. They sell their books directly to the public, and also ask for donations to fund the reading parties at a cost of $300-$400. They’ve received plenty of great publicity. But when hearing about their work it’s easy to miss the fact that they are not a charity.

“To be fair,” Young says, “Big Brother Mouse never claims to be a charity. And really, the responsibility is on the giver. If you’re not just trying to make yourself feel good — if you want your money to be used effectively — it’s up to you to check out the financial statements of an organization.”

Young is also more forgiving of big NGOs in Laos. Groups like Save the Children and World Vision have to deal with the Laotian government. “I’m told there are 16 different government departments and they don’t recognize each other,” Young says. “There are turf wars — they all want to sign off on the project. They send government representatives out to supervise, and they all have to be paid per diems by the NGO. After a school gets built I’m told that sometimes the costs of hosting government officials is greater than the cost of building the school.”

One of Sheila’s stories seems certain to inspire a mix of anger and pride in a Canadian listener. “There was a Canadian government operation back in the early part of this century — maybe 24 or 28 young Canadians came over here. They were going to promote waste reduction and recycling in Laotian schools. The kids spent the first few months learning the language, and then they were sent off to the provinces. It was supposed to be a two-year program. By the end of, I think, a year, there were only three of the Canadians left in Laos. The others had all run home.

“But those three were wonderful. They had each of them figured out that this program was never going to work. So they decided to figure out what they could do to actually help. One guy asked the locals, ‘What do you need?’ And they said, ‘Water supply systems.’ So he put together a program that not only helped the village water supply but eventually had them making money by selling water systems to other villages. It was great. But all the while he was sending these bullshit emails back to the Canadian government people, saying, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m executing the program, it’s going great.’ And meanwhile he was doing something completely different, but useful.”

Sheila can’t remember the name of the Canadian woman who had been assigned to Luang Prabang. But this young Canadian too figured out that the plan wasn’t working. “She was supposed to be teaching the kids to gather paper waste,” Sheila says. “But then what? There was no place for it. They actually ended up burning the stuff because they didn’t know what else to do.”

‘Can I just vent?’

The Canadian realized that recycling facilities were needed and began lobbying the government. Eventually a plant was built and contracts signed with China and Vietnam, so that today there is some recycling going on, with local women being paid to collect plastic containers.

Little credit for that goes to our government. “At one point they sent over a bunch of consultants to speak to the Laotians,” Sheila recalls. “The Canadian girl told me, ‘Sheila, I have a master’s degree in this stuff. But I couldn’t understand what these people were saying. And they were talking to the Laotians this way — nobody understood a word.’ Then the consultants got back on their plane — probably had a nice vacation as well — and they went home. The Canadian government must have spent a lot of money to send them — more money pissed against a wall. If I was a Canadian taxpayer I’d be pretty angry.

“That young woman used to get so mad at the Canadian government. She would come in here and say, ‘Can I just stand here and vent?’

“That’s the kind of person you need to get something done here,” Sheila says. “Not these wimpy kids they keep sending.”

If the mysterious Canadian ever does return she’ll be pleased about one thing — Joma Cafe has Nanaimo bars.

via The Tyee – Do Gooders and Guilt Tours in Luang Prabang.

via The Tyee – Do Gooders and Guilt Tours in Luang Prabang.

After 35 years, wounds of Vietnamese napalm girl Kim Phuc still hurt


From Belgian daily Het Laatste Nieuws:

The scars of the napalm girl of Vietnam still hurt

Kim Phuc, who, during the Vietnam war, became known as the “napalm girl”, still hurts at the scars she got from the US American air attack with napalm bombs on 8 June 1972.

“It hurts especially when the weather changes”, Kim, today a 43-year-old woman, says.

via After 35 years, wounds of Vietnamese napalm girl Kim Phuc still hurt | Dear Kitty. Some blog.

via After 35 years, wounds of Vietnamese napalm girl Kim Phuc still hurt | Dear Kitty. Some blog.

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