Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mark Dowie on 'American Radical: The Life and Times of I.F. Stone'

"Guttenplan's 500-page biography is thorough to a fault, covering not only
the endless stream of controversies that surrounded Stone's own life and
work, but also the intertwined social and political confusions that rocked
an America." (from the depression into the 1980's, and fascinating. -Ed)

Mark Dowie on I.F. Stone
Posted on May 29, 2009

American Radical: The Life and Times of I.F. Stone
By D.D. Guttenplan
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 592 pages

By Mark Dowie

Every writer, of whatever genre, recalls one or two momentous encounters
with a professional hero or mentor that either shaped their career, or gave
them courage to continue. My most memorable such experience occurred in 1986
in Amsterdam, where a small group of leftish European and North American
journalists gathered for dinner after a conference. As the evening unwound,
I.F. Stone, known to almost everyone as "Izzy," whose eyesight was failing,
asked if I would walk him back to his hotel. How could I decline that

Through the narrow streets and over the canals of Amsterdam we walked in
silence, Izzy no doubt pondering Socrates, whose biography he was
completing; I, more nervous than a kid on his first date, trying to think of
a conversation starter.

The week before I had left for Europe, a right-wing database called Western
Goals had made a file on me available to its corporate clients. A detective
friend, able to hack into just about any data anywhere, found and gave me
the file. Among other things, it described me as a "radical." I was upset
about that, fearing that such a characterization might limit, even ruin, my
budding career.

"That's a badge of honor," Izzy growled. "You should wear it with pride."
What followed was a short dissertation on Edmund Burke, a conservative
philosopher who, among other memorable things, said that "for every thousand
people examining the branches of the tree of evil, you'll find one examining
the roots."

"That's radical," said Izzy. "The Latin for root is radix . same derivative
as radical. That's what we do, isn't it? We examine the roots of things . so
we're radicals. Let them call you what you are, and get on with your work."

I have since that moment been comfortable calling myself a radical. So
imagine my delight, as a fading investigative reporter, upon being asked to
review a book about I.F. Stone, who, despite a controversial life and
career, was clearly one of the most influential investigative reporters of
our time . a book entitled "American Radical." I will do my best to be
objective, although I can already hear Izzy advising me to eschew the
charade of objectivity, a worthy idea that in a world of war, injustice and
mendacious government, is simply impossible to attain.

D.D. Guttenplan's vivid and introspective biography contains far more
delightful vignettes and unexpected intersections with true left luminaries
and other global celebrities of the era. "American Radical: The Life and
Times of I.F. Stone" recounts, in amusing detail, the long and productive
life of a shy but clearly brilliant Jewish boy from rural New Jersey who
began his writing career as a cub reporter, worked harder than most of his
peers, penned heated polemics under various pseudonyms and eventually
changed his total identity to I.F. Stone, the name under which, for two
critical postwar decades, he wrote and published his legendary I.F. Stone's
Weekly newsletter, which became a teething ring for a whole generation of
aspiring left-wing journalists, myself among them.

The book arrives at an appropriate moment in history as the current and
apostate left reheat their debate over the worthiness, skills,
accomplishments and patriotism of this complex, still mysterious figure in
American media. Was Izzy Stone a journalist, or a propagandist? Was he a
communist or an anti-Menshevik socialist, a spy, or merely a curious
reporter willing to talk to anyone who could offer some insight into Soviet
policy and the world of espionage? And who paid for those lunches?

Born in Philadelphia in 1907 (same year as my father) to working-class
Russian immigrants, a shy and diminutive Isidor fell head over heels in love
with the written word, dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania,
declared himself a reporter and began working for small-town, blue-collar
New Jersey newspapers, eventually making his way to Philadelphia, then to
the New York Post, at the time a champion of New Deal liberalism, then to
The Nation, a staunchly pro-Soviet journal of opinion, and finally to the
nation's capital, where, under the mantra "all governments lie," he set
about to expose the chronic mendacity of Washington. Along the way he met
and married Esther Roisman and had three children. Esther became his
assistant on The Weekly. As he went about the work of expository journalism,
he seasoned, and as so many aging journalists do, began to ponder the
historical significance of his work and the origins of his deepest beliefs.
He ended his career as an amateur classicist, writing "The Trial of
Socrates," a poignant rumination on the fate of a heretic.

Guttenplan's 500-page biography is thorough to a fault, covering not only
the endless stream of controversies that surrounded Stone's own life and
work, but also the intertwined social and political confusions that rocked
an America The Weekly tried to make sense of. The book grapples with every
issue that confronted serious journalists of the time-civil rights,
federalism, McCarthyism, wars in Korea and Vietnam, sexual freedom and the
American left's gradual transformation from stodgy, pro-Soviet communism
through democratic socialism to a vibrant new left libertarianism to which
neither Stone nor his generation of leftists really never took. Any
biographer would be remiss if he didn't weigh in heavily on the question of
Stone's loyalty to his country and his alleged role as a Soviet spy. And
Guttenplan does so, at some length, in drab detail.

I suppose it's harder for my generation to get too worked up over that
tiresome parlor game, although it is still played ad nauseam by some of my
contemporaries, notably Paul Berman and Ron Radosh. And most of us are less
likely than Izzy's contemporaries to care whether Sacco, Venzetti, Hiss or
the Scottsboro Boys were really guilty as charged, although perhaps we
should care more than we do. Even if, under code-name Blin, Stone did
occasionally meet and share names and phone numbers with KGB agent Oleg
Kalugin, who was, remember, posing as a press attaché, he hardly possessed
or could transmit information damaging to national security, his sole source
of documentation being the Congressional Record and other available
government documents-all public records which any spook could have read
without the assistance of an American reporter.

And as someone who, before Glasnost, frequently dined and exchanged sources
with Tass correspondents, I really can't understand what all the fuss is
about. That was simply part of our work-sharing information with fellow
reporters. So what if it was with people who, as it turned out, weren't
really press attaches? It still wasn't spying. Nor was it in Stone's case,
if there is a case at all. Those innocent lunches, most of them at Harvey's
(J. Edgar Hoover's favorite restaurant, where Hoover was once seated next to
Joe McCarthy in plain sight of Stone and Kalugin), should never have been
considered treasonous, given the fact that Stone's motivations and the
Russians' were, at the time, both anti-fascist, as was the expressed foreign
policy of the U.S. government. A more reasonable conclusion would be that
Izzy Stone was merely tweaking power. Otherwise he would have met Kalugin in
a parking garage.

I had to wonder, as I read this book, what Izzy would have thought of it
and, even more so, what he would be up to were he alive today. He'd be
blogging, of course, hourly not weekly. And he would certainly be arguing
back against his biographers-and his hagiographers. But what would he make
of Barack Obama and the crisis that capitalism faces? Surely he would be as
glad and surprised as most of us that an African-American had reached the
White House, but I imagine he would be after the president for allowing Wall
Street to maintain such close ties to the Treasury, and he would be pushing
the administration to accelerate troop withdrawal from Iraq, legislate a
single-payer health care system, appoint some fellow radicals to the Supreme
Court and, of course, he would still be looking for lies . and finding them.

Would that he were still alive and kicking.

Mark Dowie, a founder of Mother Jones magazine, is an award-winning
journalist and author of several books, including "Losing Ground: American
Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century," "American
Foundations: An Investigative History" and the just-published "Conservation
Refugees: The Hundred-Year Conflict Between Global Conservation and Native
Peoples" (MIT Press).

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Understanding Sonia Sotomayor: Princeton University holds the key

Princeton University holds the key to understanding Sonia Sotomayor

Politico: May 29, 2009

Princeton University, Michelle Obama wrote in her 1985 college thesis, was
"infamous for being racially the most conservative of the Ivy League

But for the second time in the Obama era, the stodgy Ivy League academy has
emerged as a key to understanding the identity of a central player on the
national stage - this time, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who graduated from
Princeton nine years earlier.

The first lady weathered intense storms during the campaign, many of which
focused, directly or indirectly, on her race, before settling into a
traditional and popular public role in the White House. The Sotomayor
nomination is dragging both the judge and the Obama White House - largely
against their will - back onto that charged terrain.

Foes of Michelle Obama (Princeton '85) sought to tie her most pointed recent
comment on race - that her husband's campaign made her proud of her country
"for the first time" - back to that Princeton thesis, where Obama's sense of
aching racial exclusion came through powerfully.

For Sotomayor (Princeton '76), the words in question came from 2001, a
single sentence on the final page of a speech that has emerged as an issue
in her nomination: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman, with the richness
of her experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than
a white male who hasn't lived that life," she said.

Friends, classmates, and Judge Sotomayor herself say that sense of racial
identity as a central political category - and of her own place on the stage
as not just a wise judge, but as a wise Latina - were formed in the unlikely
crucible of Princeton.

It's where she was the moderate leader of a Puerto Rican activist group, and
where she graduated with the school's highest honors based in part on her
activism. One friend from the time, Joe Schubert, dismissed the notion of
Sotomayor as a student radical as "laughable."

"She had too much to lose to be the type of person who was out bombing ROTC
buildings - and that happened at Princeton," Schubert said. " 'Sonia' and
'radical' don't fit in the same sentence."

Sotomayor was among the first women at Princeton, and the first
beneficiaries of a minority recruiting drive that would take in many of the
other Ivy Leaguers now at top levels of the American government, and her
story has riveted other members of that cadre.

"I was struck by how similar her story is to the president's and first
lady's," said Crystal Nix Hines, a classmate of Michelle Obama who was the
first black editor of Princeton's student newspaper, and is now a lawyer and
writer in Los Angeles. "Like Judge Sotomayor, Michelle Obama had to find her
comfort zone in a community of extraordinarily intelligent and privileged
individuals at Princeton, most of whom had little knowledge of the
circumstances from which she had risen."

Though Obama and Sotomayor never crossed paths at Princeton, elements of
their experience are almost eerily parallel.

The school was "an alien land for me," Sotomayor recalled two decades later,
describing how Puerto Rican activism and the hub of minority politics, The
Third World Center, "provided me with an anchor I needed to ground myself in
that new and different world."

Later, Michelle Obama also came to the Third World Center, eventually
serving on its governing board. In her thesis, the future first lady
described a similar alienation.

"My experiences at Princeton have made me far more aware of my 'blackness'
than ever before," the future Mrs. Obama wrote in her thesis introduction.
"I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don't belong."

Both also incorporated their identities deeply into their studies: Obama
wrote her thesis on the relationship of black Princeton graduates to the
African-American community, while Sotomayor wrote hers on the Puerto Rican
struggle for self-determination.

To understand Sotomayor's views on identity and politics, even the judge
herself has said it's necessary to return to the Central New Jersey campus,
when Sotomayor, 18 and the freshly minted valedictorian of Cardinal Spellman
in the Bronx arrived at the Princeton Inn, a dorm on the edge of the
sprawling, gothic campus.

To the outside view, she was instantly impressive. "I remember her as a
bright, high-energy, confident young lady," said Andrew Oser, a student
athlete who was in her dorm freshman year.

But Sotomayor was, in fact, nearly drowning. Her writing skills, she'd
discovered, weren't as polished as those of her prep school classmates. And
few could identify with the daughter of a single mother from one of the
poorest counties in America.

The center of Princeton social life, meanwhile, were its exclusive eating
clubs, which were largely white. Some even barred women at the time.

"Not many students of color belonged to eating clubs," recalled Sergio
Sotolongo, who was a year behind Sotomayor at Spellman and Princeton. "There
were other things that we as a group would turn to in order to fill that

Politics were the natural place to turn.

"This was the middle of the anti-war days. Student activism was rampant
across the campus," recalled Schubert, a Mexican-American two grades older
who got to know Sotomayor well while dating her best friend.

Sotomayor was initially slow to join the Puerto Rican campus group, Accion
Puertorriqueno, classmates recalled; when she did join, she took it over,
and led the filing of a complaint in 1974 with the federal Department of
Health, Education, and Welfare alleging a "lack of commitment" to a
federally mandated minority recruitment goals. She's pictured in that April
22's Princetonian looking soberly at the camera from behind big glasses,
beside her counterpart from the Chicano Organization of Princeton.

But while the lawsuit may look in retrospect like a confrontational tactic,
it was seen at the time as the path of accommodation, recalled Schubert and
another Hispanic student leader, who asked that his name not be used because
of his current position.

"Sonia was a voice of reason," recalled the other student leader. "There
were Hispanics who felt that we shouldn't be in dialogue with the
administration - we ought to be telling them to take a hike."

But the HEW complaint was "a very effective tactic ," said Schubert. "It got
their attention, and they began to intensify their recruitment efforts."

Sotomayor would go on to win Princeton's highest student honor for her
academic performance - she graduated summa cum laude - and her activism. The
explicit attachment to what candidate Barack Obama, among others, would
derisively refer to as "identity politics," never left her.

Sotomayor considered her own identity in a 1998 speech on her induction to
the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which was later reprinted in a Hispanic
education magazine.

"In this time of great debate, we must remember that it is not politics or
its struggles that creates a Latino or Latina identity. I became a Latina by
the way I love and the way I live my life," she said. "Princeton and my life
experiences since have taught me, however, that having a Latina identity
anchors me in this otherwise alien world."

Michelle Obama arrived at Princeton five years after Sotomayor left it, to
find a school that may have been less alien. There were more minority
students. A lawsuit had forced open the doors of eating clubs to women. And
her older brother, Craig, was a big man on campus.

"Talk about the hook-up - your brother is not only there already, but he is
the star basketball player," said a college roommate, Angela Acree. "That
gives you your total entrée, so I don't know whether Michelle would have the
same feeling as another young lady arriving on campus."

But the future first lady evidently did have the same intense sense of
difference that characterized the experience of many at Princeton.

"Regardless of the circumstances under which I interact with whites at
Princeton, it often seems as if, to them, I will always be black first and a
student second," she wrote in her thesis.

She too devoted herself to work at the Third World Center, taking a seat on
the Center's board and running an after-school program for local children.

For a spell during the Democratic primaries in 2008, Michelle Obama appeared
in danger of being cast as a radical, someone whose patriotism was in doubt
after she said that she'd first come to "really love" America during the

Michelle Obama retreated to a more traditional spousal role, but she also
appeared to benefit from the broad judgment that her politics weren't all
that radical, her exploration of her identity wasn't that hard for most
Americans to grasp.

Sotomayor appears headed for the same judgment: Despite the denunciations of
Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh, who have called her a "racist," even other
conservative Republicans have decided that this isn't a battle they can win.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial
Committee, Thursday denounced Gingrich's and Limbaugh's attacks on

Meanwhile, Princeton is wrestling with the mixed blessing of being defined
by two alumnae who were shaped largely in reaction against the school.

"We do suffer from old stereotypes that are no longer true today. Were they
ever true? There's a reason that stereotypes are born, but Princeton has
come a long, long way in a short period of time," said Lauren
Robinson-Brown, a black classmate of Michelle Obama's who is now assistant
vice president for communications at Princeton.

"Not many of us would say it was a wonderful place back then - but did we
have wonderful experiences," she said.

The nominee's sense of racial identity as a central political category
were formed in the unlikely crucible of Princeton. Photo: POLITICO Staff

Friday, May 29, 2009

In Finland, Nuclear Renaissance Runs Into Trouble

From: "Peter Feldmann" <

Hi Ed,

Just a "head's up" on a troubling piece in the NY Times today, re. the
new generation of nuclear reactors, which were to solve mankind's energy
need for the next generation....

In Finland, Nuclear Renaissance Runs Into Trouble

Published: May 28, 2009

OLKILUOTO, Finland - As the Obama administration tries to steer America
toward cleaner sources of energy, it would do well to consider the
cautionary tale of this new-generation nuclear reactor site.

The massive power plant under construction on muddy terrain on this Finnish
island was supposed to be the showpiece of a nuclear renaissance. The most
powerful reactor ever built, its modular design was supposed to make it
faster and cheaper to build. And it was supposed to be safer, too.

But things have not gone as planned.

After four years of construction and thousands of defects and deficiencies,
the reactor's 3 billion euro price tag, about $4.2 billion, has climbed at
least 50 percent. And while the reactor was originally meant to be completed
this summer, Areva, the French company building it, and the utility that
ordered it, are no longer willing to make certain predictions on when it
will go online.

While the American nuclear industry has predicted clear sailing after its
first plants are built, the problems in Europe suggest these obstacles may
be hard to avoid.

A new fleet of reactors would be standardized down to "the carpeting and
wallpaper," as Michael J. Wallace, the chairman of UniStar Nuclear Energy -
a joint venture between EDF Group and Constellation Energy, the
Maryland-based utility - has said repeatedly.

In the end, he says, that standardization will lead to significant savings.

But early experience suggests these new reactors will be no easier or
cheaper to build than the ones of a generation ago, when cost overruns - and
then accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl - ended the last nuclear
construction boom.

In Flamanville, France, a clone of the Finnish reactor now under
construction is also behind schedule and overbudget.

In the United States, Florida and Georgia have changed state laws to raise
electricity rates so that consumers will foot some of the bill for new
nuclear plants in advance, before construction even begins.

"A number of U.S. companies have looked with trepidation on the situation in
Finland and at the magnitude of the investment there," said Paul L. Joskow,
a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a
co-author of an influential report on the future of nuclear power in 2003.
"The rollout of new nuclear reactors will be a good deal slower than a lot
of people were assuming."

For nuclear power to have a high impact on reducing greenhouse gases, an
average of 12 reactors would have to be built worldwide each year until
2030, according to the Nuclear Energy Agency at the Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development. Right now, there are not even enough
reactors under construction to replace those that are reaching the end of
their lives.

And of the 45 reactors being built around the world, 22 have encountered
construction delays, according to an analysis prepared this year for the
German government by Mycle Schneider, an energy analyst and a critic of the
nuclear industry. He added that nine do not have official start-up dates.

Most of the new construction is underway in countries like China and Russia,
where strong central governments have made nuclear energy a national
priority. India also has long seen nuclear as part of a national drive for
self-sufficiency and now is seeking new nuclear technologies to reduce its
reliance on imported uranium.

By comparison, "the state has been all over the place in the United States
and Europe on nuclear power," Mr. Joskow said.

The United States generates about one-fifth of its electricity from a fleet
of 104 reactors, most built in the 1960s and 1970s. Coal still provides
about half the country's power.

To streamline construction, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington
has worked with the industry to approve a handful of designs. Even so, the
schedule to certify the most advanced model from Westinghouse, a unit of
Toshiba, has slipped during an ongoing review of its ability to withstand
the impact of an airliner.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has also not yet approved the so-called
EPR design under construction in Finland for the American market.

This month, the United States Energy Department produced a short list of
four reactor projects eligible for some loan guarantees. In the 2005 energy
bill, Congress provided $18.5 billion, but the industry's hope of winning an
additional $50 billion worth of loan guarantees evaporated when that money
was stripped from President Obama's economic stimulus bill.

The industry has had more success in getting states to help raise money.
This year, authorities permitted Florida Power & Light to start charging
millions of customers several dollars a month to finance four new reactors.
Customers of Georgia Power, a subsidiary of the Southern Co., will pay on
average $1.30 a month more in 2011, rising to $9.10 by 2017, to help pay for
two reactors expected to go online in 2016 or later.

But resistance is mounting. In April, Missouri legislators balked at a
preconstruction rate increase, prompting the state's largest electric
utility, Ameren UE, to suspend plans for a $6 billion copy of Areva's
Finnish reactor.

Areva, a conglomerate largely owned by the French state, is heir to that
nation's experience in building nuclear plants. France gets about 80 percent
of its power from 58 reactors. But even France has not completed a new
reactor since 1999.

After designing an updated plant originally called the European Pressurized
Reactor with German participation during the 1990s, the French had trouble
selling it at home because of a saturated energy market as well as
opposition from Green Party members in the then-coalition government.

So Areva turned to Finland, where utilities and energy-hungry industries
like pulp and paper had been lobbying for 15 years for more nuclear power.
The project was initially budgeted at $4 billion and Teollisuuden Voima, the
Finnish utility, pledged it would be ready in time to help the Finnish
government meet its greenhouse gas targets under the Kyoto climate treaty,
which runs through 2012.

Areva promised electricity from the reactor could be generated more cheaply
than from natural gas plants. Areva also said its model would deliver 1,600
megawatts, or about 10 percent of Finnish power needs.

In 2001, the Finnish parliament narrowly approved construction of a reactor
at Olkiluoto, an island on the Baltic Sea. Construction began four years

Serious problems first arose over the vast concrete base slab for the
foundation of the reactor building, which the country's Radiation and
Nuclear Safety Authority found too porous and prone to corrosion. Since
then, the authority has blamed Areva for allowing inexperienced
subcontractors to drill holes in the wrong places on a vast steel container
that seals the reactor.

In December, the authority warned Anne Lauvergeon, the chief executive of
Areva, that "the attitude or lack of professional knowledge of some persons"
at Areva was holding up work on safety systems.

Today, the site still teems with 4,000 workmen on round-the-clock shifts.
Banners from dozens of subcontractors around Europe flutter in the breeze
above temporary offices and makeshift canteens. Some 10,000 people speaking
at least eight different languages have worked at the site. About 30 percent
of the workforce is Polish, and communication has posed significant

Areva has acknowledged that the cost of a new reactor today would be as much
as 6 billion euros, or $8 billion, double the price offered to the Finns.
But Areva said it was not cutting any corners in Finland. The two sides have
agreed to arbitration, where they are both claiming more than 1 billion
euros in compensation. (Areva blames the Finnish authorities for impeding
construction and increasing costs for work it agreed to complete at a fixed

Areva announced a steep drop in earnings last year, which it blamed mostly
on mounting losses from the project.

In addition, nuclear safety inspectors in France have found cracks in the
concrete base and steel reinforcements in the wrong places at the site in
Flamanville. They also have warned Électricité de France, the utility
building the reactor, that welders working on the steel container were not
properly qualified.

On top of such problems come the recession, weaker energy demand, tight
credit and uncertainty over future policies, said Caren Byrd, an executive
director of the global utility and power group at Morgan Stanley in New

"The warning lights now are flashing more brightly than just a year ago
about the cost of new nuclear," she said.

And Jouni Silvennoinen, the project manager at Olkiluoto, said, "We have had
it easy here." Olkiluoto is at least a geologically stable site. Earthquake
risks in places like China and the United States or even the threat of storm
surges mean building these reactors will be even trickier elsewhere.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Flanders: The President of Paradox, Iraq Redux? 97 killed in raid, Obama Seeks Pakistan Super-Embassy

The President of Paradox

By Laura Flanders May 28,, 2009

It will be an historic occasion when Sonia Sotomayor takes her seat.
Assuming she's confirmed, she'll be the first woman of color and the first
person from the Latino community to become a Supreme Court justice.

Announcing this, his first top court appointment, President Obama put it
clearly enough: "When Sonia Sotomayor ascends those marble steps to assume
her seat on the highest court of the land, America will have taken another
important step towards realizing the ideal that is etched above its
entrance: Equal Justice under the law."

It's pretty simple and kind of stirring stuff. There aren't royals and
non-royals, just human beings. And those two words: Equal and Justice.

Equal. Equality is indivisible. It either is or it isn't. We learned that,
from among others, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

Justice. Those blind, balancing scales -- they either balance or they're
tilted. It's not rocket science.

It's hard not to be moved by Judge Sotomayor's story: from Puerto Rican
parents in the Bronx to the highest court in the land. Just as the
swearing-in of the first African American president inspired millions of
Americans from all walks of life -- to wake up early and stand on a very
frigid National Mall to watch his inauguration. So, people of all sorts feel
good about the nomination of Sotomayor. As Obama said, it feels as if the
nation's making progress.

But what a paradoxical day. At the very same time that one court was moving
(possibly) towards an ideal; in another they were stepping back from it.

While the President was lifting up the nation's professed ideals in
Washington, in California, justices approved discrimination against same
sex -couples under the law, with only one dissent from the lone Democrat.

There aren't a lot of ways of going at this.

Separate isn't equal.

Justice is balanced or tilted.

If Barack Obama doesn't want to be remembered as the President of paradox,
it's time he stood up and provided leadership. If you believe in those words
etched above the Supreme Court entrance, Mr. President, stand up for all
Americans to ascend those marble steps -- to marriage, to the court - Those
words again are Equal Justice.

Laura Flanders is the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on Free
Speech TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415) on cable (8 pm ET on Channel 67 in
Manhattan and other cities) and online daily at and


U.S. raid killed 97 civilians - Afghan rights group

By Sayed Salahuddin
Reuters: May 26, 2009

Kabul - A U.S. air strike in western Afghanistan early this month was a
disproportionate use of force that killed 97 civilians and no more than two
Taliban fighters, an Afghan rights watchdog said in a report on Tuesday.

Afghan officials, including President Hamid Karzai, have put the death toll
as high as 140 and say the strikes hit houses in two villages in western
Farah province in which mostly women and children were hiding.

The U.S. military has acknowledged 20-35 civilians were among 80-95 mostly
Taliban fighters killed in the strikes during a May 3 battle in which U.S.
Marines and Afghan security forces were attacked. It said Taliban used the
villagers as human shields.

Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission is the first group not
tied to the U.S. military or Afghan government to present a report into the

"This was a reaction with extreme use of force to destroy a group of
opponents, and would have been disproportionate even if they were there,"
Nader Nadery, a commissioner for the group, told a news conference in the
Afghan capital.

The group's initial investigation into Farah's bombing showed the 97 dead
included 65 children and 21 women, he said.

Its investigators found no evidence that any of the victims were armed or
that they had been used as human shields, Nadery said, although provincial
officials had told the team that two of the dead were Taliban fighters.

With civilian casualties already a source of great tension, the dispute
between Afghan and U.S. authorities over the number killed in Farah has
stoked popular anger.

Nadery called on the United States to compensate those who lost family
members or their homes in the strikes, and said the deaths would not help
Washington promote security and stability in Afghanistan.

The issue of civilian deaths, particularly from air strikes, has fuelled
resentment towards the almost 80,000 foreign troops in the country fighting
a growing Taliban insurgency.

But Afghanistan's size and difficult terrain means foreign troops must often
rely on air power while hunting militants. (Editing by Emma Graham-Harrison
and Paul Tait)


Iraq Redux? Obama Seeks Funds for Pakistan Super-Embassy

by Saeed Shah and Warren P. Strobel
McClatchy Newspapers: May 27, 2009

Islamabad - The U.S. is embarking on a $1 billion crash program to expand
its diplomatic presence in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan, another
sign that the Obama administration is making a costly, long-term commitment
to war-torn South Asia, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

The White House has asked Congress for, and seems likely to receive,
$736 million to build a new U.S. embassy in Islamabad, along with permanent
housing for U.S. government civilians and new office space in the Pakistani

The scale of the projects rivals the giant U.S. Embassy in Baghdad,
which was completed last year after construction delays at a cost of $740

Senior State Department officials said the expanded diplomatic presence
is needed to replace overcrowded, dilapidated and unsafe facilities and to
support a "surge" of civilian officials into Afghanistan and Pakistan
ordered by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Other major projects are planned for Kabul, Afghanistan; and for the
Pakistani cities of Lahore and Peshawar. In Peshawar, the U.S. government is
negotiating the purchase of a five-star hotel that would house a new U.S.

Funds for the projects are included in a 2009 supplemental spending bill
that the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed in slightly
different forms.

Obama has repeatedly stated that stabilizing Pakistan and Afghanistan,
the countries from which al Qaida and the Taliban operate, is vital to U.S.
national security. He's ordered thousands of additional troops to
Afghanistan and is proposing substantially increased aid to both countries.

In Pakistan, however, large parts of the population are hostile to the
U.S. presence in the region, despite receiving billions of dollars in aid
from Washington since 2001, and anti-American groups and politicians are
likely to seize on the expanded diplomatic presence in Islamabad as evidence
of American "imperial designs."

"This is a replay of Baghdad," said Khurshid Ahmad, a member of
Pakistan's upper house of parliament for Jamaat-e-Islami, one of the
country's two main religious political parties. "This (Islamabad embassy) is
more (space) than they should need. It's for the micro and macro management
of Pakistan, and using Pakistan for pushing the American agenda in Central

In Baghdad and other dangerous locales, U.S. diplomats have sometimes
found themselves cut off from the population in heavily fortified compounds
surrounded by blast walls, concertina wire and armed guards.

"If you're going to have people live in a car bomb-prone place, your are
driven to not have a light footprint," said Ronald Neumann, a former U.S.
ambassador to Afghanistan and the president of the American Academy of
Diplomacy. Neumann called the planned expansions "generally pretty

In Islamabad, according to State Department budget documents, the plan
calls for the rapid construction of a $111 million new office annex to
accommodate 330 workers; $197 million to build 156 permanent and 80
temporary housing units; and a $405 million replacement of the main embassy
building. The existing embassy, in the capital's leafy diplomatic enclave,
was badly damaged in a 1979 assault by Pakistani students.

The U.S. government also plans to revamp its consular buildings in the
eastern city of Lahore and in Peshawar, the regional capital of the
militancy plagued North West Frontier Province. The consulate in the
southern megacity of Karachi has just been relocated into a new
purpose-built accommodation.

A senior State Department official confirmed that the U.S. plan for the
consulate in Peshawar involves the purchase of the luxury Pearl Continental
hotel. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't
authorized to speak publicly.

The Pearl Contintental is the city's only five-star hotel, set in its
own expansive grounds, with a swimming pool. It's owned by Pakistani tycoon
Sadruddin Hashwani.

Peshawar is an important station for gathering intelligence on the
tribal area that surrounds the city on three sides and is a base for al
Qaida and the Taliban. The area also will be a focus for expanded U.S. aid
programs, and the American mission in Peshawar has already expanded from
three U.S. diplomats to several dozen.

In all, the administration requested $806 million for diplomatic
construction and security in Pakistan.

"For the strong commitment the U.S. is making in the country of
Pakistan, we need the necessary platform to fulfill our diplomatic mission,"
said Jonathan Blyth of the State Department's Overseas Buildings Operations
bureau. "The embassy is in need of upgrading and expansion to meet our
future mission requirements."

A senior Pakistani official said the expansion has been under discussion
for three years. "Pakistanis understand the need for having diplomatic
missions expanding and the Americans always have had an enclave in
Islamabad," said the official, who requested anonymity because he wasn't
authorized to discuss the matter publicly. "Will some people exploit it?
They will."

In Kabul, the U.S. government is negotiating an $87 million purchase of
a 30- to 40-acre parcel of land to expand the embassy. The Senate version of
the appropriations bill omits all but $10 million of those funds.


Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent. Jonathan S. Landay
contributed to this article.

Solomon: The March of Folly

From: Sid Shniad

The March of Folly, Continued

By Norman Solomon May 21, 2009

To understand what's up with President Obama as he escalates the war in
Afghanistan, there may be no better place to look than a book published 25
years ago. The March of Folly, by historian Barbara Tuchman, is a chilling
assessment of how very smart people in power can do very stupid things – how
a war effort, ordered from on high, goes from tic to repetition to
compulsion to obsession – and how we, with undue deference and lethal
restraint, pay our respects to the dominant moral torpor to such an extent
that mass slaughter becomes normalized in our names.

What happens among policymakers is a "process of self-hypnosis," Tuchman
writes. After recounting examples from the Trojan War to the British moves
against rebellious American colonists, she devotes the closing chapters of
The March of Folly to the long arc of the U.S. war in Vietnam. The parallels
with the current escalation of the war in Afghanistan are more than uncanny;
they speak of deeply rooted patterns.

With clarity facing backward, President Obama can make many wise comments
about international affairs while proceeding with actual policies largely
unfettered by the wisdom. From the outset of U.S. involvement in Vietnam,
Tuchman observes, vital lessons were "stated" but "not learned."

As with John Kennedy – another young president whose administration "came
into office equipped with brain power" and "more pragmatism than ideology" –
Obama's policy adrenaline is now surging to engorge something called

"Although the doctrine emphasized political measures, counterinsurgency in
practice was military," Tuchman writes, an observation that applies all too
well to the emerging Obama enthusiasm for counterinsurgency. And
"counterinsurgency in operation did not live up to the high-minded zeal of
the theory. All the talk was of 'winning the allegiance' of the people to
their government, but a government for which allegiance had to be won by
outsiders was not a good gamble."

Now, as during the escalation of the Vietnam War – despite all the
front-paged articles and news bulletins emphasizing line items for civic aid
from Washington – the spending for U.S. warfare in Afghanistan is
overwhelmingly military.

Perhaps overeager to assume that the context of bombing campaigns ordered by
President Obama is humanitarian purpose, many Americans of antiwar
inclinations have yet to come to terms with central realities of the war
effort – for instance, the destructive trajectory of the budgeting for the
war, which spends 10 dollars toward destruction for every dollar spent on
humanitarian programs.

From the top of the current administration – as the U.S. troop deployments
in Afghanistan continue to rise along with the American air-strike rates –
there is consistent messaging about the need to "stay the course," even
while bypassing such tainted phrases.

The dynamic that Tuchman describes as operative in the first years of the
1960s, while the Vietnam War gained momentum, is no less relevant today:
"For the ruler it is easier, once he has entered a policy box, to stay
inside. For the lesser official it is better, for the sake of his position,
not to make waves, not to press evidence that the chief will find painful to
accept. Psychologists call the process of screening out discordant
information 'cognitive dissonance,' an academic disguise for 'Don't confuse
me with the facts.'" Along the way, cognitive dissonance "causes
alternatives to be 'deselected since even thinking about them entails

Such a psycho-political process inside the White House has no use for the
report from the Congressional Progressive Caucus that came out of the caucus'
six-part forum on Capitol Hill this spring, "Afghanistan: A Road Map for

Souped up and devouring fuel, the war train cannot slow down for the
Progressive Caucus report's recommendation that "an 80-20 ratio
(political-military) should be the formula for funding our efforts in the
region with oversight by a special inspector general to ensure compliance."
Or that "U.S. troop presence in the region must be oriented toward training
and support roles for Afghan security forces and not for U.S.-led
counterinsurgency efforts."

Or that "the immediate cessation of drone attacks should be required." Or
that "all aid dollars should be required to have a majority percentage of
dollars tied or guaranteed to local Afghan institutions and organizations,
to ensure countrywide job mapping, assessment, and workforce development
process to directly benefit the Afghan people."

The policymakers who are gunning the war train can't be bothered with such
ideas. After all, if the solution is – rhetoric aside – assumed to be
largely military, why dilute the potency of the solution? Especially when,
as we're repeatedly made to understand, there's so much at stake.

During the mid-1960s, while American troops poured into Vietnam, "enormity
of the stakes was the new self-hypnosis," Tuchman comments. She quotes the
wisdom – conventional and self-evident – of New York Times military
correspondent Hanson Baldwin, who wrote in 1966 that U.S. withdrawal from
Vietnam would bring "political, psychological, and military catastrophe,"
signaling that the United States "had decided to abdicate as a great power."

Many Americans are eager to think of our nation as supremely civilized even
in warfare; the conceits of noble self-restraint have been trumpeted by many
a president even while the Pentagon's carnage apparatus kept spinning into
overdrive. "Limited war is not nicer or kinder or more just than all-out
war, as its proponents would have it," Tuchman notes. "It kills with the
same finality."

For a president, with so much military power under his command, frustrations
call for more of the same. The seductive allure of counterinsurgency is apt
to heighten the appeal of "warnography" for the commander in chief; whatever
the earlier resolve to maintain restraint, the ineffectiveness of more
violence invites still more – in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as in Vietnam,
Laos, and Cambodia.

"The American mentality counted on superior might," Tuchman commented, "but
a tank cannot disperse wasps." In Vietnam, the independent journalist
Michael Herr wrote, the U.S. military's violent capacities were awesome:
"Our machine was devastating. And versatile. It could do everything but

And that is true, routinely, of a war-making administration.

The grim and ultimately unhinged process that Barbara Tuchman charts is in
evidence with President Obama and his approach to the Afghan war: "In its
first stage, mental standstill fixes the principles and boundaries governing
a political problem. In the second stage, when dissonances and failing
function begin to appear, the initial principles rigidify. This is the
period when, if wisdom were operative, re-examination and re-thinking and a
change of course are possible, but they are rare as rubies in a backyard.
Rigidifying leads to increase of investment and the need to protect egos;
policy founded upon error multiplies, never retreats. The greater the
investment and the more involved in it the sponsor's ego, the more
unacceptable is disengagement."

A week ago, one out of seven members of the House of Representatives voted
against a supplemental appropriations bill providing $81.3 billion to the
Pentagon, mainly for warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. An opponent of the
funding, Congressman John Conyers, pointed out that "the president has not
challenged our most pervasive and dangerous national hubris: the foolhardy
belief that we can erect the foundations of civil society through the
judicious use of our many high-tech instruments of violence."

Conyers continued:

"That belief, promoted by the previous administration in the wake of the
terrorist attacks of September 11, assumes that the United States possesses
the capacity and also has a duty to determine the fate of nations in the
greater Middle East.

"I oppose this supplemental war funding bill because I believe that we are
not bound by such a duty. In fact, I believe the policies of empire are
counterproductive in our struggle against the forces of radical religious
extremism. For example, U.S. strikes from unmanned Predator Drones and other
aircraft produced 64 percent of all civilian deaths caused by the U.S.,
NATO, and Afghan forces in 2008. Just this week, U.S. air strikes took
another 100 lives, according to Afghan officials on the ground. If it is our
goal to strengthen the average Afghan or Pakistani citizen and to weaken the
radicals that threaten stability in the region, bombing villages is clearly
counterproductive. For every family broken apart by an incident of
'collateral damage,' seeds of hate and enmity are sown against our nation. …

"Should we support this measure, we risk dooming our nation to a fate
similar to Sisyphus and his boulder: to being trapped in a stalemate of
unending frustration and misery, as our mistakes inevitably lead us to the
same failed outcomes. Let us step back; let us remember the mistakes and
heartbreak of our recent misadventures in the streets of Fallujah and
Baghdad. If we honor the ties that bind us to one another, we cannot in good
faith send our fellow citizens on this errand of folly. It is still not too
late to turn away from this path."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Marjorie Cohen: Obama's Guantanamo Plan, Salt of the Earth, Brunch with Klezmer,

Obama's Guantanamo Appeasement Plan

by Marjorie Cohn
Portside: May 25, 2009

Two days after his inauguration, President Obama pledged to close Guantánamo
within one year. The Republicans, led by Senators John McCain, Mitch
McConnell and Pat Roberts, immediately launched a concerted campaign to
assail the new president. They claimed his plan would release dangerous
terrorists into U.S. communities and allow released terrorists to resume
fighting against our troops. Fox News agitator Sean Hannity and Bush team
players like torture-memo lawyer John Yoo filled the airwaves and print
media with paranoia.

The Republican attacks were bogus. A 2008 McClatchy investigation revealed
that the overwhelming majority of Guantánamo detainees taken into custody in
2001 and 2002 in Afghanistan and Pakistan were innocent of wrongdoing or bit
players with little intelligence value. A substantial number of those
prisoners were literally sold to U.S. officials in exchange for bounty
payments offered by the U.S. military. A Seton Hall Law Center report has
debunked Pentagon claims that many released detainees have "returned to the
fight." And no one has ever escaped from one of the U.S. super-max prisons,
which house hundreds of people convicted of terrorist offenses.

The Republicans have continued to oppose the effort to close Guantánamo. In
an attempt to burnish his image and forestall war crimes charges, Dick
Cheney now leads the charge, making ubiquitous attacks on Obama. Keeping
Guantánamo open is "important," Cheney declares. He claims that closing
Guantánamo would endanger Americans, and warns that if detainees are brought
to the United States, they would "acquire all kinds of legal rights." Obama
is also taking heat from the intelligence community. Those officials, like
Cheney, seek to justify what they did under the Bush regime.

And now even the Democrats are piling on the bandwagon. Reacting defensively
to the Republican attack campaign, the Senate voted 90 to 6 to deny Obama
funds to close Guantánamo until he comes up with a "plan" for relocating the
detainees there. "We spent hundreds of millions of dollars building an
appropriate facility with all security precautions on Guantánamo to try
these cases," said Democratic Senator Jim Webb on ABC News. "I do not
believe they should be tried in the United States," he added.

The pressure has caused Obama to buckle. Timed to coincide with a Cheney
speech to the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, Obama announced an
appeasement plan to deal with the 240 remaining Guantánamo detainees. Parts
of his plan would threaten the very foundation of our legal system - that no
one should be held in custody if he has committed no crime. These are
five categories for disposition of detainees once Guantánamo is closed:

1) Those who violated the laws of war will be tried in military commissions.

Obama's plan would backtrack on an early promise to shut down the military
commissions. Obama now claims that such commissions can be fair because they
will no longer permit the use of evidence obtained by cruel, inhuman or
degrading interrogation methods. He fails to mention, however, that the
Pentagon is using "clean teams" to re-interrogate people who were previously
interrogated using the prohibited methods. When they once again give the
same information, it miraculously becomes untainted. Obama also fails to
acknowledge that those tried in the military commissions are forbidden from
seeing all the evidence against them, a violation of the bedrock principle
that the accused must have an opportunity to confront his accusers.

Even the U.S. Supreme Court has disagreed with this part of Obama's proposed
plan of action. In Ex parte Milligan, the Supreme Court declared military
trials of civilians to be unconstitutional if civil courts are available.

Prisoners falling in this category should be tried in the courts of the
United States, because the laws of war are actually part of U.S. law. The
Supremacy Clause of the Constitution says that treaties shall be the supreme
law of the land. The Geneva Conventions and the Hague Convention, which the
United States has ratified, contain the laws of war.

2) Those who have been ordered released from Guantánamo will remain in

Seventeen Uighurs from China were ordered released after they were found not
to be enemy combatants. But they continue to languish in custody because
they would be imperiled if returned to China, which considers them enemies
of the state. Suggestions that they be brought to the United States have
been met with paranoid NIMBY (not in my backyard!) protestations. So, under
Obama's plan they will remain incarcerated in a state of legal limbo.

3) Those who cannot be prosecuted yet "pose a clear danger to the American
people" will remain in custody with no right to legal process of any kind.

These are people who have never been charged with a crime. Obama did not say
why they cannot be prosecuted. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates claims as
many as 100 people may fall into this category. Included in this group are
those who have "expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden." They will
suffer "prolonged detention."

Obama's plan for "prolonged detention" is nothing more than a newly-coined
phrase for "preventive detention," a policy that harks back to the bad old
days of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 and the internment of people of
Japanese extraction in the 1940's. If Obama succeeds in convincing Congress
to legalize "prolonged detention," the United States will continue to be a
pariah state among justice-loving nations. The U.S. Congress, still rendered
catatonic by post-9/11 rhetoric, will probably capitulate along with Obama.

Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, noted
that Obama's new system of preventive detention will just "move Guantánamo
to a new location and give it a new name."

4) Those who can be safely transferred to other countries will be

Obama noted that 50 men fall into this category. It is unclear what will
happen to them when they reach their destinations.

5) Those who violated U.S. criminal laws will be tried in federal courts.

Obama cited the examples of Ramzi Yousef, who tried to blow up the World
Trade Center, and Zacarias Moussaoui, who was identified as the 20th 9/11
hijacker. Both were tried and convicted in U.S. courts and both are serving
life sentences.

This is the only clearly acceptable part of Obama's plan. All detainees
slated to remain in custody should be placed into this category. The federal
courts provide due process as required by the Fifth Amendment to the
Constitution, which does not limit due process rights to U.S. citizens: "No
person . . . shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due
process of law."

The federal courts are well suited to deal with accused terrorists. Indeed,
federal judges who have presided over such cases say that the Classified
Information Procedures Act can effectively protect classified intelligence
in federal court trials.

If Mr. Obama proceeds with the plan he announced this week he will empower
those who point to U.S. hypocrisy on human rights as a justification to do
us harm. Obama's capitulation to the intelligence gurus and the right-wing
attack dogs will not only imperil the rule of law; it will actually make us
more vulnerable to future acts of terrorism.

Marjorie Cohn is president of the National Lawyers
Guild and a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of
Law, where she teaches criminal law and procedure,
evidence, and international human rights law. She
lectures throughout the world on human rights and US
foreign policy.


You are cordially invited to attend the weekly meeting of the


Friday, May 29, 2009
6:30 - 9:30 P.M.
(Film starts at 7:30 P.M)

Unitarian Universalist Church in Anaheim
511 South Harbor Blvd.
Anaheim, California
(Located on the Southwest corner
of Harbor Blvd. and Santa Ana Street)

(714) 758-1050

The "Potluck for Progressives" is organized to bring likeminded
people to break bread and talk about crucial issues affecting the
community and the world.

At weekly meetings, people interested in peace, social justice, labor,
and the environment gather to exchange ideas, talk about successes,
plan actions, or just engage in a friendly discussion with one another.

Bring a dish to share! Enjoy the bounty that others bring as well! The
potluck starts at 6:30 p.m. with a speaker or film to follow at 7:30 p.m.
Please join us even if you can't bring any food!

Featured Film:

7:30 - 9:00 P.M.

"Salt of the Earth," a 1954 film depicting a real strike that took place
at the Empire Zinc Company in New Mexico where miners walked
off the job in protest of poor safety conditions and low wages. Racial
discrimination is evident because the miners, who are mostly Mexican,
are paid less than those at neighboring mines where the miners are
Anglos. As the strike ensues, the company bosses and the Sheriff
resort to illegal and violent tactics in an attempt to break it.

Much of the film focuses primarily on the home life of the miners' families.
The wives are angry that their homes in the company town do not even
have running water, while in the company towns of mines worked by
Anglos, amenities and better sanitation make life significantly easier.
When the strike begins, the wives implore their husbands to make better
sanitation a key demand; but the men refuse fearing it would jeopardize
their efforts at winning higher wages and improved safety conditions.

But after a court order is issued forbidding the miners from striking, the
men begin to change their attitudes. To continue the strike, their wives
volunteer to march the picket line in their places, creating a reversal of
traditional gender roles: the women stage the rallies, maintain the picket
line even while under violent attack from the Sheriff and his deputies, and
spend time in jail; meanwhile, the men stay at home and reluctantly do
domestic chores.

As a result of the unity between the miners, their wives, and their Anglo
co-workers, the company bosses realize they can't break the strike; they
are forced to capitulate to the miners' demands for higher wages,
improved safety conditions, and better sanitation. This film's underlying
theme of racial and sex equality -- not to mention working class
solidarity --
still remains as strong today as it did more than fifty years ago, when it
suppressed by the House Un-American Activities Committee and the FBI.

Open Forum

9:00 - 9:30 P.M.

Open discussion, announcements,
and other news of interest.

"Potluck for Progressives" is endorsed by the Social Concerns Committee
of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Anaheim and is free and open to the
general public. Although a small donation might be requested to help pay for
facility costs, nobody will be turned away due to a lack of funds.


What: Brunch with Extreme Klezmer Makeover!
When: Sunday, May 31 @ 11 am
Where: (Workmen's Circle)
1525 S. Robertson Blvd. LA CA 90035

Enjoy Bagels, lox and all the fixings while listening to the best klezmer
music in LA. Extreme Klezmer Makeover, featuring Joellen Lapides,
is a quartet of musicians playing traditional Eastern European music
as well as contemporary Klezmer infused with Cajun, R&B, Folk, Middle
Eastern and Jazz rhythyms and melodies.

Sunday, May 31 @ 11 am
Join Br. 1016 for Brunch with
Extreme Klezmer Makeover!

Tickets $15 for members, $20 for the public, $2 off per ticket when
purchased by May 28.

E-mail us:
PH: 310.552.2007

Hear Extreme Klezmer Makeover's music at

Rich: La Cage aux Democrats

Hi. Saturday's email led off with a story about Chicago radio host
Erich "Mancow" Muller deciding to get himself waterboarded to prove
the technique wasn't torture. A reader informed me the click-ons
didn't work. I intended to pursue this, for obvious reasons, but got
delayed. Last night, Keith Olbermann had Mancow on Countdown
and showed the video. Muller, an exceptionally fit guy in his thirties
water rafts and swims and is a proud right winger, lasted 8 seconds.
He said the following: "It was absolute torture. "I would have confessed
to anything to make it stop." "It was worse than drowning. Your brain
shuts down." "I suffered for two days afterwards with chest pains and
still don't feel right." and more. Check out MSNBC's Countdown. I
just hope this opens hearts and minds, maybe inspire emulations, and
adds to the pressure for serious investigation and punishment. I also
don't believe for a second that it was limited to three individuals.

La Cage aux Democrats

NY Times Op-Ed: May 23, 2009

THE most potent word in our new president's lexicon - change - has been
heard much less since his inspiring campaign gave way to the hard realities
of governing. But on Tuesday night, the irresistible Obama brand made an
unexpected and pointed cameo appearance on America's most popular television
show, "American Idol." In the talent competition's climactic faceoff, the
song picked for one of the two finalists, Adam Lambert, was Sam Cooke's soul
classic, "A Change Is Gonna Come."

Cooke recorded it in January 1964. Some four months earlier he had been
arrested when trying to check into a whites-only motel in Shreveport, La.
"It's been a long, long time coming," goes the lyric. "But I know a change
is gonna come, oh yes it will." Cooke, who was killed later that same year
in a shooting at another motel, in Los Angeles, didn't live to see his song
turn into a civil rights anthem. He could not have imagined how many changes
were gonna come, including the election of an African-American president who
ran on change some 44 years later.

Cooke might also have been baffled to see his song covered by Lambert, a
27-year-old white guy from San Diego, on Fox last week. But the producers of
"American Idol" knew what they were doing. With his dyed black hair,
eyeliner and black nail polish - and an Internet photographic trail of
same-sex canoodling - Lambert was "widely assumed to be gay" (Entertainment
Weekly), "seemingly gay" (The Times) and "flam-bam-boyantly queeny" (Rolling
Stone). Another civil rights movement was in the house even if Lambert
himself stopped just short of coming out (as of my deadline, anyway) in the
ritualistic Ellen DeGeneres/Clay Aiken show-biz manner.

In the end, Lambert was runner-up to his friendly and blander opponent, Kris
Allen, an evangelical Christian from Arkansas. That verdict, dominated by
the votes of texting tween girls, was in all likelihood a referendum on
musical and cultural habits, not red/blue politics or sexual orientation. As
the pop critic Ann Powers wrote in The Los Angeles Times, the victorious
Allen also has a gay fan base, much as Lambert has vocal Christian admirers.

This is increasingly the live-and-let-live society we inhabit - particularly
younger America. In a Times/CBS News poll in April, 57 percent of those
under 40 supported same-sex marriage. The approval figure for all ages (42
percent) has nearly doubled in just five years. On Tuesday the California
Supreme Court will render its opinion on that state's pox on gay marriage,
Proposition 8. Since Prop 8 passed last fall, four states have legalized gay
marriage and New Hampshire is about to. This rapid change has been greeted
not by a backlash, but by a national shrug - just as a seemingly gay
"American Idol" victory most likely would have been.

And yet the changes aren't coming as fast as many gay Americans would like,
and as our Bill of Rights would demand. Especially in Washington. Despite
Barack Obama's pledges as a candidate and president, there is no discernible
movement on repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy or the
Defense of Marriage Act. Both seem more cruelly discriminatory by the day.

When yet another Arabic translator was thrown out of the Army this month for
being gay, Jon Stewart nailed the self-destructive Catch-22 of "don't ask":
We allow interrogators to waterboard detainees and then banish a soldier who
can tell us what that detainee is saying. The equally egregious Defense of
Marriage Act, a k a DOMA, punishes same-sex spouses by voiding their federal
marital rights even in states that have legalized gay marriage. As The Wall
Street Journal reported, the widower of America's first openly gay
congressman, Gerry Studds of Massachusetts, must mount a long-shot court
battle to try to collect the survivor benefits from his federal pension and
health insurance plans. (Studds died in 2006.) Nothing short of
Congressional repeal of DOMA is likely to rectify that injustice.

The civil rights lawyer Evan Wolfson, who is executive director of the
advocacy group Freedom to Marry, notes that the current stasis in Washington
is a bit reminiscent of early 1963, when major triumphs in the black civil
rights movement (Brown v. Board of Education, the Freedom Riders, the
Montgomery bus boycott) had been followed by stalling, infighting and more
violent setbacks. Victories were on their way but it took the march on
Washington and Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech to galvanize
John Kennedy and ultimately Lyndon Johnson into action. Even after the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, Johnson had to step up big time - and did - to prod
Congressional passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (now under imminent
threat from the Roberts Supreme Court).

It would be easy to blame the Beltway logjam in gay civil rights progress on
the cultural warriors of the religious right and its political host, the
Republican Party. But it would be inaccurate. The right has lost much of its
clout in the capital and, as President Obama's thoughtful performance at
Notre Dame dramatized last weekend, its shrill anti-abortion-rights
extremism now plays badly even in supposedly friendly confines.

Anyone with half a brain in the incredibly shrinking G.O.P. knows that gay
bashing will further dim the party's already remote chance of recruiting
young voters to replenish its aging ranks, much as the right's immigrant
bashing drove away Hispanics. This is why Republican politicians now say
they oppose only gay marriage, not gay people, even when it's blatant that
they're dissembling. Naked homophobia - those campy, fear-mongering National
Organization for Marriage ads, for instance - is increasingly unwelcome in a
party fighting for survival. The wingnuts don't even have Dick Cheney on
their side on this issue.

Most Congressional Republicans will still vote against gay civil rights.
Some may take the politically risky path of demonizing same-sex marriage
during the coming debate over the new Supreme Court nominee. Old prejudices
and defense mechanisms die hard, after all: there are still many gay men in
the party's hierarchy hiding in fear from what remains of the old
religious-right base. In "Outrage," a new documentary addressing precisely
this point, Kirk Fordham, who had been chief of staff to Mark Foley, the
former Republican congressman, says, "If they tried to fire gay staff like
they do booting people out of the military, the legislative process would
screech to a halt." A closet divided against itself cannot stand.

But when Congressional Republicans try to block gay civil rights - last week
one cadre introduced a bill to void the recognition of same-sex marriage in
the District of Columbia - they just don't have the votes to get their way.
The Democrats do have the votes to advance the gay civil rights legislation
Obama has promised to sign. And they have a serious responsibility to do so.
Let's not forget that "don't ask" and DOMA both happened on Bill Clinton's
watch and with his approval. Indeed, in the 2008 campaign, Obama's promise
to repeal DOMA outright was a position meant to outflank Hillary Clinton,
who favored only a partial revision.

So what's stopping the Democrats from rectifying that legacy now? As Wolfson
said to me last week, they lack "a towering national figure to make the
moral case" for full gay civil rights. There's no one of that stature in
Congress now that Ted Kennedy has been sidelined by illness, and the
president shows no signs so far of following the example of L.B.J., who
championed black civil rights even though he knew it would cost his own
party the South. When Obama invoked same-sex marriage in an innocuous joke
at the White House correspondents' dinner two weeks ago - he and his
political partner, David Axelrod, went to Iowa to "make it official" - it
seemed all the odder that he hasn't engaged the issue substantively.

"This is a civil rights moment," Wolfson said, "and Obama has not yet risen
to it." Worse, Obama's opposition to same-sex marriage is now giving cover
to every hard-core opponent of gay rights, from the Miss USA contestant
Carrie Prejean to the former Washington mayor Marion Barry, each of whom can
claim with nominal justification to share the president's views.

In reality, they don't. Obama has long been, as he says, a fierce advocate
for gay equality. The Windy City Times has reported that he initially
endorsed legalizing same-sex marriage when running for the Illinois State
Senate in 1996. The most common rationale for his current passivity is that
his plate is too full. But the president has so far shown an impressive
inclination both to multitask and to argue passionately for bedrock American
principles when he wants to. Relegating fundamental constitutional rights to
the bottom of the pile until some to-be-determined future seems like a shell

As Wolfson reminds us in his book "Why Marriage Matters," Dr. King addressed
such dawdling in 1963. "For years now I have heard the word 'Wait,' " King
wrote. "It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This
'Wait' has almost always meant 'Never.' "

The gay civil rights movement has fewer obstacles in its path than did Dr.
King's Herculean mission to overthrow the singular legacy of slavery. That
makes it all the more shameful that it has fewer courageous allies in
Washington than King did. If "American Idol" can sing out for change on Fox
in prime time, it ill becomes Obama, of all presidents, to remain mute in
the White House.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Krugman: Blue Double Cross, Prop 8 Double Cross, "Steal a Pencil for Me," Code Pink vs Obama

Blue Double Cross

NY Times Op-Ed: May 21, 2009

That didn't take long. Less than two weeks have passed since much of the
medical-industrial complex made a big show of working with President Obama
on health care reform - and the double-crossing is already well under way.
Indeed, it's now clear that even as they met with the president, pretending
to be cooperative, insurers were gearing up to play the same destructive
role they did the last time health reform was on the agenda.

So here's the question: Will Mr. Obama gloss over the reality of what's
happening, and try to preserve the appearance of cooperation? Or will he
honor his own pledge, made back during the campaign, to go on the offensive
against special interests if they stand in the way of reform?

The story so far: on May 11 the White House called a news conference to
announce that major players in health care, including the American Hospital
Association and the lobbying group America's Health Insurance Plans, had
come together to support a national effort to control health care costs.

The fact sheet on the meeting, one has to say, was classic Obama in its
message of post-partisanship and, um, hope. "For too long, politics and
point-scoring have prevented our country from tackling this growing crisis,"
it said, adding, "The American people are eager to put the old Washington
ways behind them."

But just three days later the hospital association insisted that it had not,
in fact, promised what the president said it had promised - that it had made
no commitment to the administration's goal of reducing the rate at which
health care costs are rising by 1.5 percentage points a year. And the head
of the insurance lobby said that the idea was merely to "ramp up" savings,
whatever that means.

Meanwhile, the insurance industry is busily lobbying Congress to block one
crucial element of health care reform, the public option - that is, offering
Americans the right to buy insurance directly from the government as well as
from private insurance companies. And at least some insurers are gearing up
for a major smear campaign.

On Monday, just a week after the White House photo-op, The Washington Post
reported that Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina was preparing to run
a series of ads attacking the public option. The planning for this ad
campaign must have begun quite some time ago.

The Post has the storyboards for the ads, and they read just like the
infamous Harry and Louise ads that helped kill health care reform in 1993.
Troubled Americans are shown being denied their choice of doctor, or forced
to wait months for appointments, by faceless government bureaucrats. It's a
scary image that might make some sense if private health insurance - which
these days comes primarily via HMOs - offered all of us free choice of
doctors, with no wait for medical procedures. But my health plan isn't like
that. Is yours?

"We can do a lot better than a government-run health care system," says a
voice-over in one of the ads. To which the obvious response is, if that's
true, why don't you? Why deny Americans the chance to reject government
insurance if it's really that bad?

For none of the reform proposals currently on the table would force people
into a government-run insurance plan. At most they would offer Americans the
choice of buying into such a plan.

And the goal of the insurers is to deny Americans that choice. They fear
that many people would prefer a government plan to dealing with private
insurance companies that, in the real world as opposed to the world of their
ads, are more bureaucratic than any government agency, routinely deny
clients their choice of doctor, and often refuse to pay for care.

Which brings us back to Mr. Obama.

Back during the Democratic primary campaign, Mr. Obama argued that the
Clintons had failed in their 1993 attempt to reform health care because they
had been insufficiently inclusive. He promised instead to gather all the
stakeholders, including the insurance companies, around a "big table." And
that May 11 event was, of course, intended precisely to show this big-table
strategy in action.

But what if interest groups showed up at the big table, then blocked reform?
Back then, Mr. Obama assured voters that he would get tough: "If those
insurance companies and drug companies start trying to run ads with Harry
and Louise, I'll run my own ads as president. I'll get on television and say
'Harry and Louise are lying.' "

The question now is whether he really meant it.

The medical-industrial complex has called the president's bluff. It polished
its image by showing up at the big table and promising cooperation, then
promptly went back to doing all it can to block real change. The insurers
and the drug companies are, in effect, betting that Mr. Obama will be afraid
to call them out on their duplicity.

It's up to Mr. Obama to prove them wrong.


From: Robert Bernstein


Did you hear that the deeply disappointing news that the California Supreme
Court upheld Prop 8, enshrining discrimination into the state constitution?

In response, the Courage Campaign just released a 60-second TV ad version of
"Fidelity" -- the heartbreaking online video viewed by more than 1.2 million
people, making it the most-watched video ever in the history of California

Check out the new "Fidelity" TV ad and join me in signing the pledge to
repeal Prop 8 by building a marriage equality army one million strong:

If you like the TV ad as much as I did, please tell your friends by
forwarding this message to them ASAP.



"Steal a Pencil for Me,"

Tonight's film describes the lives of a couple who met in a Nazi
concentration camp. Learn more at -Ed

From: Margrit Polack

On PBS Tonight (in So. Cal. KCET Channel 28)

Independent Lens: Steal a Pencil for Me
Tuesday, May 26, 10:00pm
"Steal a Pencil for Me," about a WWII romance.

Public Television Tonight!!!!
Independent Lens, the PBS documentary series, will air STEAL A PENCIL FOR
ME, in most markets, on May 26th. See the link below for your local listing.
The film has been shortened to one hour (from 94 minutes) for PBS but for
those of you that haven't seen it, please take this opportunity to either
set your TEVO or sit and watch. This film has been a completely wonderful
experience for my parents, now 96 and 86. They are enjoying far more than 15
minutes of fame, and my friend. Oscar Nominee Michele Ohayon , who directed
the film, did a truly extraordinary job. Please tell your friends..

If you would like to learn more about the film, check out their website at


----- Original Message -----

President Obama at the Beverly Hilton

Wednesday, May 27th, 3:30--5:30 PM
President Obama will make an appearance in Los Angeles at the Beverly
Hilton Hotel. Join CODEPINK to deliver him our message that we are not
happy about his policies on Afghanistan! Meet us on the corner of Wilshire
and Whittier and bring your signs expressing your concerns about his
policies towards Afghanistan and Pakistan.
For more info and to RSVP, please contact Audrey.

PDLA mailing list

Moyers: Rx and the Single Payer

Rx and the Single Payer

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship
Moyers/ourfuture/blog: May 22, 2009

In 2003, a young Illinois state senator named Barack Obama told a local
AFL-CIO meeting, "I am a proponent of a single-payer universal health care

Single payer. Universal. That's health coverage, like Medicare, but for
everyone who wants it. Single payer eliminates insurance companies as pricey
middlemen. The government pays care providers directly. It's a system that
polls consistently have shown the American people favoring by as much as

There was only one thing standing in the way, Obama said six years ago: "All
of you know we might not get there immediately because first we have to take
back the White House, we have to take back the Senate and we have to take
back the House."

Fast forward six years. President Obama has everything he said was needed -
Democrats in control of the executive branch and both chambers of Congress.
So what's happened to single payer?

A woman at his town hall meeting in New Mexico last week asked him exactly
that. "If I were starting a system from scratch, then I think that the idea
of moving towards a single-payer system could very well make sense," the
President replied. "That's the kind of system that you have in most
industrialized countries around the world.

"The only problem is that we're not starting from scratch. We have
historically a tradition of employer-based health care. And although there
are a lot of people who are not satisfied with their health care, the truth
is, is that the vast majority of people currently get health care from their
employers and you've got this system that's already in place. We don't want
a huge disruption as we go into health care reform where suddenly we're
trying to completely reinvent one-sixth of the economy."

So the banks were too big to fail and now, apparently, health care is too
big to fix, at least the way a majority of people indicate they would like
it to be fixed, with a single payer option. President Obama favors a public
health plan competing with the medical cartel that he hopes will create a
real market that would bring down costs. But single payer has vanished from
his radar.

Nor is single payer getting much coverage in the mainstream media. Barely a
mention was given to the hundreds of doctors, nurses and other health care
professionals who came to Washington last week to protest the absence of
official debate over single payer.

Is it the proverbial tree falling in the forest, making a noise that
journalists can't or won't hear? Could the indifference of the press be
because both the President of the United States and Congress have been
avoiding single payer like, well, like the plague? As we see so often,
government officials set the agenda by what they do and don't talk about.

Instead, President Obama is looking for consensus, seeking peace among all
the parties involved. Except for single payer advocates. At that big White
House powwow in Washington last week, the President asked representatives of
the health care business to reason together with him. "What's brought us all
together today is a recognition that we can't continue down the same
dangerous road we've been traveling for so many years," he said, " that
costs are out of control; and that reform is not a luxury that can be
postponed, but a necessity that cannot wait."

They came, listened, made nice for the photo op. and while they failed to
participate in a hearty chorus of "Kumbaya," they did promise to cut health
care costs voluntarily over the next ten years. The press ate it up - and
Mr. Obama was a happy man.

Meanwhile, some of us looking on - those of us who've been around a long
time - were scratching our heads. Hadn't we heard this before?

Way, way back in the 1970's Americans were riled up over the rising costs of
health care. As a presidential candidate, Jimmy Carter started talking about
the government clamping down. When he got to the White House, drug makers,
insurance companies, hospitals and doctors - the very people who only a
decade earlier had done everything they could to strangle Medicare in the
cradle - seemed uncharacteristically humble and cooperative. "You don't have
to make us cut costs," they promised. "We'll do it voluntarily."

So Uncle Sam backed down, and you guessed it. Pretty soon medical costs were
soaring higher than ever.

By the early '90s, the public was once again hurting in the pocketbook.
Feeling our pain, Bill and Hillary Clinton tried again, coming up with a
plan only slightly more complicated than the schematics for an F-18 fighter

This time the health industry acted more like Tony Soprano than Mother
Teresa. It bludgeoned the Clinton reforms with one of the most expensive and
deceitful public relations and advertising campaigns ever conceived - paid
for, of course, from the industry's swollen profits.

As the drug and insurance companies, hospitals and doctors dumped the
mangled carcass of reform into the Potomac, securely encased in concrete,
once again they said don't worry; they would cut costs voluntarily.

If you believed that, we've got a toll-free bridge to the Mayo Clinic we'd
like to sell you.

So anyone with any memory left could be excused for raising their eyebrows
at the health care industry's latest promises. As if on cue, hardly had
their pledge of volunteerism rung out across the land than Jay Gellert,
chief executive of Health Net Inc. and chair of the lobbying group America's
Health Insurance Plans, assured his pals not to worry abut the voluntary
reductions. "We believe that we can do it without undermining the viability
of companies," he said, "and in effect enhancing the payment to physicians
and hospitals." In other words, their so-called voluntary "reforms" will in
no way interfere with maximizing profits.

Also last week, John Lechleiter, the chief executive of drug giant Eli
Lilly, blasted universal health care in a speech before the U.S. Chamber of
Commerce: "I do not believe that policymakers have yet arrived at a full and
complete diagnosis of what's wrong and what's right with U.S. health care,"
he declared. "And I am very concerned that some of the proposed policies-the
treatments, to continue my metaphor-will have unintended side-effects that
make our situation worse."

So why bother with the charm offensive on Pennsylvania Avenue? Could it be,
as some critics suggest, a Trojan horse, getting the health industry a place
at the table so they can leap up at the right moment and again knife to
death any real reform?

Wheelers and dealers from the health sector aren't waiting for that moment.
According to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, they've spent
more than $134 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2009 alone. And
some already are shelling out big bucks for a publicity blitz and ads
attacking any health care reform that threatens to reduce the profits from
sickness and disease.

The Washington Post's health care reform blog reported Tuesday that Blue
Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina has hired an outside PR firm to put
together a video campaign assaulting Obama's public plan. And this month
alone, the group Conservatives for Patients' Rights is spending more than a
million dollars for attack ads. They've hired a public relations firm called
CRC - Creative Response Concepts. You remember them - the same high-minded
folks who brought you the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the gang who
savaged John Kerry's service record in Vietnam.

The ads feature the chairman of Conservatives for Patients' Rights, Rick
Scott. Who's he? As a former deputy inspector general from the Department of
Health and Human Services told The New York Times, "He hopes people don't
Google his name."

Scott's not a doctor; he just acts like one on TV. He's an entrepreneur who
took two hospitals in Texas and built them into the largest health care
chain in the world, Columbia/HCA. In 1997, he was fired by the board of
directors after Columbia/HCA was caught in a scheme that ripped off the Feds
and state governments for hundreds of millions of dollars in bogus Medicare
and Medicaid payments, the largest such fraud in history. The company had to
cough up $1.7 billion dollars to get out of the mess.

Rick Scott got off, you should excuse the expression, scot-free. Better
than, in fact. According to published reports, he waltzed away with a $10
million severance deal and $300 million worth of stock. So much for
voluntarily lowering overhead.

With medical costs rising six percent per year, that's who's offering
himself as a spokesman for the health care industry. Speaking up for single
payer is Geri Jenkins, a president of the California Nurses Association and
National Nurses Organizing Committee - a registered nurse with literal
hands-on experience.

"We're there around the clock," she told our colleague Jessica Wang. "So we
feel a real sense of obligation to advocate for the best interests of our
patients and the public. Now, you can talk about policy but when you're
staring at a human face it's a whole different story."


Michael Winship co-wrote this article. Bill Moyers is managing editor and
Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program Bill
Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS. Check local airtimes or
comment at The Moyers Blog at

Research provided by editorial producer Rebecca Wharton.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Song to Remember, Immemorial Day

The Band Played Waltzing Matilda


Hi. I thought Memorial Day began much earlier than 1950,
and now learn that it actually started just after the Civil War.
A clear paean to peace, now near a century and a half old..
This listing was done a year ago. Consider the sadness
and carnage that's happened since and what's impending.

For a meaningful Memorial Day, you might start it with the
poignant click-on of 'Waltzing Matilda,' above. 8 minutes.


Immemorial Day - No Peace for Militarized U.S.

By Bill Quigley
CommonDreams: May 26, 2008

Memorial Day is not actually a day to pray for U.S. troops who died in
action but rather a day set aside by Congress to pray for peace. The 1950
Joint Resolution of Congress which created Memorial Day says: "Requesting
the President to issue a proclamation designating May 30, Memorial Day, as a
day for a Nation-wide prayer for peace." (64 Stat.158).

Peace today is a nearly impossible challenge for the United States. The U.S.
is far and away the most militarized country in the world and the most
aggressive. Unless the U.S. dramatically reduces its emphasis on global
military action, there will be many, many more families grieving on future
Memorial days.

The U.S. spends over $600 billion annually on our military, more than the
rest of the world combined. China, our nearest competitor, spends about
one-tenth of what we spend. The U.S. also sells more weapons to other
countries than any other nation in the world.

The U.S. has about 700 military bases in 130 countries world-wide and
another 6000 bases in the US and our territories, according to Chalmers
Johnson in his excellent book NEMESIS: THE LAST DAYS OF THE AMERICAN
REPUBLIC (2007).

The Department of Defense (DOD) reports nearly 1.4 million active duty
military personnel today. Over a quarter of a million are in other countries
from Iraq and Afghanistan to Europe, North Africa, South Asia and the rest
of the Western Hemisphere. The DOD also employs more than 700,000 civilian

The US has used its armed forces abroad over 230 times according to
researchers at the Department of the Navy Historical Center. Their
publications list over 60 military efforts outside the U.S. since World War

While the focus of most of the Memorial Day activities will be on U.S.
military dead, no effort is made to try to identify or remember the military
or civilians of other countries who have died in the same actions. For
example, the U.S. government reports 432 U.S. military dead in Afghanistan
and surrounding areas, but has refused to disclose civilian casualties. "We
don't do body counts," General Tommy Franks said.

Most people know of the deaths in World War I - 116,000 U.S. soldiers
killed. But how many in the U.S. know that over 8 million soldiers from
other countries and perhaps another 8 million civilians also died during
World War II?

By World War II, about 408,000 U.S. soldiers were killed. World-wide, at
least another 20 million soldiers and civilians died.

The U.S. is not only the largest and most expensive military on the planet
but it is also the most active. Since World War II, the U.S. has used U.S.
military force in the following countries:

1947-1949 Greece. Over 500 U.S. armed forces military advisers were sent
into Greece to administer hundreds of millions of dollars in their civil

1947-1949 Turkey. Over 400 U.S. armed forces military advisers sent into

1950-1953 Korea. In the Korean War and other global conflicts 54,246 U.S.
service members died.

1957-1975 Vietnam. Over 58,219 U.S. killed.

1958-1984 Lebanon. Sixth Fleet amphibious Marines and U.S. Army troops
landed in Beirut during their civil war. Over 3000 U.S. military
participated. 268 U.S. military killed in bombing.

1959 Haiti. U.S. troops, Marines and Navy, land in Haiti and joined in
support of military dictator Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier against rebels.

1962 Cuba. Naval and Marine forces blockade island.

1964 Panama. U.S. troops stationed there since 1903. U.S. troops used
gunfire and tear gas to clear US Canal Zone.

1965-1966 Dominican Republic. U.S. troops land in Dominican Republic during
their civil war - eventually 23,000 were stationed in their country.

1969-1975 Cambodia. U.S. and South Vietnam jets dropped more than 539,000
tons of bombs on Cambodia - three times the number dropped on Japan during

1964-1973 Laos. U.S. flew 580,000 bombing runs over country - more than 2
million tons of bombs dropped - double the amount dropped on Nazi Germany.
US dropped more than 80 million cluster bombs on Laos - 10 to 30% did not
explode leaving 8 to 24 million scattered across the country. Since the war
stopped, two or three Laotians are killed every month by leftover bombs -
over 5700 killed since bombing stopped.

1980 Iran. Operation Desert One, 8 U.S. troops die in rescue effort.

1981 Libya. U.S. planes aboard the Nimitz shot down 2 Libyan jets over Gulf
of Sidra.

1983 Grenada. U.S. Army and Marines invade, 19 U.S. killed.

1983 Lebanon. Over 1200 Marines deployed into country during their civil
war. 241 U.S. service members killed in bombing.

1983-1991 El Salvador. Over 150 US soldiers participate in their civil war
as military advisers.

1983 Honduras. Over 1000 troops and National Guard members deployed into
Honduras to help the contra fight against Nicaragua.

1986 Libya. U.S. Naval air strikes hit hundreds of targets - airfields,
barracks, and defense networks.

1986 Bolivia. U.S. Army troops assist in anti-drug raids on cocaine growers.

1987 Iran. Operation Nimble Archer. U.S. warships shelled two Iranian oil
platforms during Iran-Iraq war.

1988 Iran. US naval warship Vincennes in Persian Gulf shoots down Iranian
passenger airliner, Airbus A300, killing all 290 people on board. US said it
thought it was Iranian military jet.

1989 Libya. U.S. Naval jets shoot down 2 Libyan jets over Mediterranean

1989-1990 Panama. U.S. Army, Air Force, and Navy forces invade Panama to
arrest President Manuel Noriega on drug charges. U.N. puts civilian death
toll at 500.

1989 Philippines. U.S. jets provide air cover to Philippine troops during
their civil war.

1991 Gulf War. Over 500,000 U.S. military involved. 700 plus U.S. died.

1992-93 Somalia. Operation Provide Relief, Operation Restore Hope, and
Operation Continue Hope. Over 1300 U.S. Marines and Army Special Forces
landed in 1992. A force of over 10,000 US was ultimately involved. Over 40
U.S. soldiers killed.

1992-96 Yugoslavia. U.S. Navy joins in naval blockade of Yugoslavia in
Adriatic waters.

1993 Bosnia. Operation Deny Flight. U.S. jets patrol no-fly zone, naval
ships launch cruise missiles, attack Bosnian Serbs.

1994 Haiti. Operation Uphold Democracy. U.S. led force of 20,000 troops
invade to restore president.

1995 Saudi Arabia. U.S. soldier killed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia outside US
training facility.

1996 Saudi Arabia. Nineteen U.S. service personnel die in blast at Saudi Air

1998 Sudan. Operation Infinite Reach. U.S. cruise missiles fired at
pharmaceutical plant thought to be terrorist center.

1998 Afghanistan. Operation Infinite Reach. U.S. fires 75 cruise missiles on
four training camps.

1998 Iraq. Operation Desert Fox. U.S. Naval bombing Iraq from striker jets
and cruise missiles after weapons inspectors report Iraqi obstructions.

1999 Yugoslavia. U.S. participates in months of air bombing and cruise
missile strikes in Kosovo war.

2000 Yemen. 17 U.S. sailors killed aboard US Navy guided missile destroyer
USS Cole docked in Aden, Yemen.

2001 Macedonia. U.S. military lands troops during their civil war.

2001 to present Afghanistan. Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) includes
Pakistan and Uzbekistan with Afghanistan. 432 U.S. killed in those
countries. Another 64 killed in other locations of OEF - Guantanamo Bay,
Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Philippines,
Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Yemen. US military does not count
deaths of non- US civilians, but estimates of over 8000 Afghan troops
killed, over 3500 Afghan civilians killed.

2002 Yemen. U.S. predator drone missile attack on Al Qaeda.

2002 Philippines. U.S. sends over 1800 troops and Special Forces in mission
with local military.

2003-2004 Colombia. U.S. sends in 800 military to back up Columbian military
troops in their civil war.

2003 to present Iraq. Operation Iraqi Freedom. 4082 U.S. military killed.
British medical journal Lancet estimates over 655,000 civilian deaths. Iraq
Body Count estimates over 84,000 civilians killed.

2005 Haiti. U.S. troops land in Haiti after elected president forced to

2005 Pakistan. U.S. air strikes inside Pakistan against suspected Al Qaeda,
killing mostly civilians.

2007 Somalia. U.S. Air Force gunship attacked suspected Al Qaeda members,
U.S. Navy joins in blockade against Islamic rebels.

The U.S. has the most powerful and expensive military force in the world.
The U.S. is the biggest arms merchant. And the U.S. has been the most
aggressive in world-wide interventions. If Memorial Day in the U.S. is
supposed to be about praying for peace, the U.S. has a lot of praying (and
changing) to do.

Bill is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New
Orleans. His email is