The question jolted him out of his lethargy as he suddenly sat upright in the soft chair he had slumped into when she came for “her time with Daddy.” It had the ring of a catechism question; “What is God, Daddy?” How does one answer that without a torrent of other questions cascading from this innocent mouth one after another? His first impulse was to ignore it; his second, to discombobulate the response with obfuscation, to deflect the question with words she could not understand; his third, to respond directly to her question, to speak the truth knowing that she would not comprehend the intricacies of the policies that legalize the use of drones.
He remembered the story of Hawthorne’s good Dr. Grim who had to address a similar question when Little Ned asked him, “Whence came I here and why?” Indeed, the good doctor answered honestly, truthfully, bluntly, and, dare we say it, wisely.
“Whence did you come? Whence did any of us come? Out of the darkness and mystery, out of nothingness; out of a kingdom of shadows; out of dust, mud, clay, I think, and to return to it again. Out of a former state of being, whence we have brought a good many shadowy revelations, purporting that it was not a very pleasant one. Out of a former life, of which the present one is hell.
And why are you come? Faith, Ned, he must be a wiser man than Doctor Grim who can tell you why you or any other mortal came hither; only one thing I am well aware of, ---it was not to be happy. To toil and moil and hope and fear; and to love in a shadowy, doubtful sort of way, and to hate in bitter earnest, ---that is what you came for.”
“Daddy, what is a Drone?” she asked again, noticing his sudden reaction and his hesitancy.
The annual VE Day - victory in Europe - celebrations held this month see, as usual, Western governments indulging in self-glory and moral superiority for their supposed defeat of German fascism. However, the official history books do not tell of the secret pact that Western governments and Washington in particular formed with the remnants of the Nazi war machine.
The absorption of Nazi military practice and intelligence into the CIA and other Western organizations at the end of the Second World War had fateful and far-reaching pernicious consequences - consequences that are becoming more and more manifest today, as US-led wars of aggression rage around the world.
If we want to understand why US-led wars of aggression, covert and overt, are plaguing the planet, from Iraq, Afghanistan, to Libya, Syria and Iran, we can gain much insight into today’s problems by going back to events at the end of the Second World War.
Within days of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender to the Allies - 68 years ago this week - the Western powers of the United States and Britain were already drawing the battle lines for their next war - against the Soviet Union.
On 22 May 1945, the Third Reich’s chief of intelligence on the Eastern Front, Major General Reinhard Gehlen, surrendered himself to the American military near his Bavarian hideout. The Americans quickly realized the scoop. Gehlen had been Hitler’s “spy master” during Nazi Germany’s war on the Soviet Union, in charge of running agents, death squads and compiling data on Soviet and Red Army infrastructure.
Outside the United States, the Pentagon controls a collection of military bases unprecedented in history. With U.S. troops gone from Iraq and the withdrawal from Afghanistan underway, it’s easy to forget that we probably still have about 1,000 military bases in other peoples' lands. This giant collection of bases receives remarkably little media attention, costs a fortune, and even when cost cutting is the subject du jour, it still seems to get a free ride.
With so much money pouring into the Pentagon’s base world, the question is: Who’s benefiting?
Some of the money clearly pays for things like salaries, health care, and other benefits for around one million military and Defense Department personnel and their families overseas. But after an extensive examination of government spending data and contracts, I estimate that the Pentagon has dispersed around $385 billion to private companies for work done outside the U.S. since late 2001, mainly in that baseworld.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Palestine, Professor Richard Falk, came to Lebanon last week on an unofficial visit to survey opinion while fact finding the condition in Palestinian refugee’s camps. It was the Professors first visit to Lebanon since the fateful summer of 1982. Back then, en route by sea to Beirut, which was under Israeli siege and blockade, Falk was Vice-Chair of the Sean McBride Commission of Inquiry into Israeli crimes against Lebanon.
Mid-way between Cyprus and Lebanon, the Zionist navy, in a blatant act of piracy on the high seas, intercepted, boarded and commandeered the vessel. Eventually, under reported American pressure via US Envoy Morris Draper’s telephoned profanity to Tel Aviv, the pirates allowed Falk’s delegation to disembark at the port of Jounieh, just north of Beirut. Draper, who like so many US diplomats, claims he finally “saw the light after retiring”, told this observer that “I never swore so much in my life as I did at those SOBS during that summer of 1982 and after I learned the details of Ariel Sharon’s choreography of the Sabra-Shatila massacre!” Ambassador Draper added, “The world will never know the extent of Israeli crimes committed against Lebanon and its refugees until Washington threatens to cut off all aid until Tel Aviv opens up its archives on this period.”
Professor Falk, as he mentioned during several events here, including a first-rate conference on the status of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and their struggle for the most elementary civil rights to work and to own a home, organized by the Institute of Palestine Studies, came to Lebanon not to offer counsel to Lebanon’s sects or even to the Palestinians. (The IPS, (http://www.palestine-studies.org) founded in 1969, is considered by this observer and many others, as the most reliable and authoritative source of information on Palestinian affairs and the Arab-Israel conflict.)
Falk came to listen and to learn. He did both. He listened intently to each speaker, scribing hurried notes regarding the current conditions of Palestinian refugee, including education and health status, in Lebanon’s 12 camps and two dozen “gatherings,” reports that were presented by several academics and NGO’s based here.
The conviction of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt on charges of genocide against Mayan villagers in the 1980s has a special meaning for Americans who idolize Ronald Reagan. It means that their hero was an accessory to one of the most grievous crimes that can be committed against humanity.
The courage of the Guatemalan people and the integrity of their legal system to exact some accountability on a still-influential political figure also put U.S. democracy to shame. For decades now, Americans have tolerated human rights crimes by U.S. presidents who face little or no accountability. Usually, the history isn’t even compiled honestly.
By contrast, a Guatemalan court on Friday found Rios Montt guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced the 86-year-old ex-dictator to 80 years in prison. After the ruling, when Rios Montt rose and tried to walk out of the courtroom, Judge Yasmin Barrios shouted at him to stay put and then had security officers take him into custody.
Yet, while Guatemalans demonstrate the strength to face a dark chapter of their history, the American people remain mostly oblivious to Reagan’s central role in tens of thousands of political murders across Central America in the 1980s, including some 100,000 dead in Guatemala slaughtered by Rios Montt and other military dictators.
Indeed, Ronald Reagan – by aiding, abetting, encouraging and covering up widespread human rights crimes in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua as well as Guatemala – bears greater responsibility for Central America’s horrors than does Rios Montt in his bloody 17-month rule. Reagan supported Guatemala’s brutal repression both before and after Rios Montt held power, as well as during.
Despite that history, more honors have been bestowed on Reagan than any recent president. Americans have allowed the naming of scores of government facilities in Reagan’s honor, including Washington National Airport where Reagan’s name elbowed aside that of George Washington, who led the War of Independence, oversaw the drafting of the U.S. Constitution and served as the nation’s first president.
So, as America’s former reputation as a beacon for human rights becomes a bad joke to the rest of the world, it is unthinkable within the U.S. political/media structure that Reagan would get posthumously criticized for the barbarity that he promoted. No one of importance would dare suggest that his name be stripped from National Airport and his statue removed from near the airport entrance.
But the evidence is overwhelming that the 40th president of the United States was guilty as an accessory to genocide and a wide range of other war crimes, including torture, rape, terrorism and narcotics trafficking. [See Robert Parry's Lost History.]
With BC's provincial election less than 24 hours away, there's one issue that we can cover without fear of trespassing on media elections gag orders. Neither of the two parties likely to lead the next government oppose open-pen fish farming in the province.
Despite mountains of evidence suggesting the folly of concentrated feed lots for fish; the obvious ill effects on the fish bred in cramped captivity; dubious health benefit claims of a human diet including these drugged and unnaturally sustained creatures; proven dangers pathogens from these operations pose to wild fish; the standing on its head of the precautionary principle required to keep this industry afloat, with the many known and suspected negative effects it represents, the BC Liberals and BC New Democratic Party both essentially support business as usual.
It's all so much of more of the same for BC-based scientist and wild salmon crusader Alexandra Morton, who last week, along with Ecojustice filed a best practices law suit against salmon farming giant Marine Harvest and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, (DFO) for the alleged "transfer of diseased farmed Atlantic salmon into waters shared by wild fish."
As disturbing as the ramifications of Marine Harvest's willful, and possibly illegal, endangering of wild salmon in this manner are, (not to mention the apparent lackadaisical policing of its own policies by the Department of Oceans and Fisheries appear to be in this case, and others) more so is what this case reveals about another frightening virus, joining the already devastating and universally feared ISA virus afflicting farmed salmon stock, and its possible release into the wild.
And; this May 15th marks Nakba Day for those within occupied Palestine, and the millions more comprising the Palestinian diaspora. Nakba Day's modern manifestation commemorates the day after Israel's 1948 declaration of independence.
Jon Elmer is a Canadian writer and photojournalist specializing in the Middle East and Canadian foreign and military policy. He has lived in and reported from Occupied Palestine for the better part of the last decade, based primarily in Jenin, Bethlehem and Gaza City. Jon's also reported from more than a dozen countries from the middle east, to Nepal, Western Sahara, the Basque country and right here in Canada. His articles and photographs are featured in the Journal of Palestine Studies, Le Monde diplomatique, The Progressive, Al Jazeera English among others. He is also a contributor, with Anthony Fenton to the book, 'Empire's Ally: Canada in Afghanistan.'
Jon Elmer and marking time passed in Occupied Palestine in the second half.
And, Victoria Street Newz publisher and CFUV Radio broadcaster Janine Bandcroft will join us at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with some of what's good to do in and around our city in the coming week. But first, Alexandra Morton and keeping PRV in its cage.
While the Harper Conservative government has loudly proclaimed its close ties to Israel, most Canadians would be surprised to learn the Tories have decided to make the two countries blood brothers. In the international affairs equivalent of a Mafia initiation ceremony Canada has sworn undying loyalty and to be a faithful soldier in Israel’s cause.
Think that’s an exaggeration? Consider the following:
Washington’s reputation as an “honest broker” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in tatters after four years of indulging Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s intransigence. The Obama administration desperately needs to resurrect a credible peace process.
Faced with a diplomatic impasse between Israel and the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, John Kerry, the US secretary of state, seized his chance last week. He extracted from the Arab League an agreement to dust off a decade-old regional plan, the Arab Peace Initiative, declaring the move “a very big step forward”.
Unveiled by Saudi Arabia in 2002, the plan promises Israel normal relations with the whole of the Arab world in return for its acceptance of a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders, or 22 per cent of historic Palestine.
The new Arab overture, like its antecedent, has raised barely a flicker of interest from Israel. Tzipi Livni, Washington’s sole ally in Netanyahu’s cabinet, predictably lost no time in praising the plan. But the prime minister himself has studiously avoided mentioning it, leaving his aides to dismiss the initiative as a “trick” designed to ensnare Israel in injurious peace talks.
In 1990, thirteen years before President George W. Bush made his fateful decision to order an illegal, immoral war of choice in Iraq, prominent neoconservative columnist Charles Krauthammer had helped to pave the way for such wars by writing an article for Foreign Affairs which urged the United States to “unashamedly” lay “down the rules of world order and … [be] prepared to enforce them.” His views were embraced by many influential neoconservatives.
In 2001, two years before President George W. Bush ordered an illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq, Mr. Krauthammer blithely asserted, “we are not just any hegemon. We run a uniquely benign imperium.”
But, once in Iraq, nearly 4,500 American soldiers died under that so-called “uniquely benign imperium”. And under that “uniquely benign imperium” tens of thousands of American soldiers suffered serious wounds, not including PTSD.
In addition to widespread destruction, Mr. Krauthammer’s “uniquely benign imperium” was directly responsible for the deaths of more than 100,000 innocent Iraqi men, women and children. Beyond provoking outrage and an increase in terrorism around the world, his “uniquely benign imperium” precipitated widespread ethnic cleansing in Iraq and caused millions of Iraqis to vacate their homes to move to other parts of the country or the world.
Moreover, as Ned Parker has written in the March/April 2012 issue of Foreign Affairs, “the country has become something close to a failed state. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki presides over a system rife with corruption and brutality…. The Iraqi state cannot provide basic services, including regular electricity in summer, clean water, and decent health care…” Thus, one could say that Mr. Krauthammer’s “uniquely benign imperium” broke Iraq, but didn’t fix it.
For BC Premier Christy Clark, today's series of gaffes perfectly confirm that theory.
Just when her campaign was gaining ground - with new polls showing a much-narrowed 4-7 point gap between the Liberals and front-running BCNDP - Clark's "Debt Free BC" campaign bus has hit a few nasty speed bumps.
First, there was the leak by her opponents of documents allegedly revealing more evidence of tax dollars being spent on campaign activities, as early as 2011. According to the CBC, who broke the story early this morning, "The NDP says the emails it has leaked show a team of B.C. Liberal insiders — Dave Ritchie, Kim Haakstad, Trevor Halford and others — were having meetings about the by-election in Port Moody and preparations to strengthen the current Liberal campaign during regular business hours at the office of team leader Dave Richie: Room 247 in the main legislature."
If true, these actions would be in violation of the B.C. Public Service Act, which forbids conducting partisan activities with public resources. The story comes on the heels of the "ethnic-gate" scandal, which involved similar dynamics and hamstrung the Liberals heading into the election campaign.
Next, there came news of Christy Clark's bewildering ballot-box mix-up, which saw her allegedly spoil her own vote at a photo-op. The National Post described the situation as follows:
Casting an advance ballot in her hometown of Burnaby in front of a throng of media and campaign staff on Wednesday, a confused Ms. Clark writes her own name on her ballot paper. But Ms. Clark doesn’t live in her own riding, a detail which would have rendered her vote invalid.
Ottawa/San Cristobal de las Casas - Documents released from the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) in response to a request under the access to information act reveal that Canadian authorities put public resources at the service of Calgary-based Blackfire Exploration despite connections with suspects in the murder of a local activist, mine suspension, and widely reported allegations of corruption.
“Our analysis of these documents found that mere days after a damning report about the company was circulated to the highest echelons of the Canadian government, Canadian authorities sought advice for the company about how to sue the state of Chiapas under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for having closed the mine,” observes Rick Arnold, who participated in a 2010 fact-finding delegation to Chiapas.
“It’s as if people’s lives don’t matter to the Canadian Government, only narrow commercial interests.”
On November 27, 2009, Mariano Abarca was murdered in front of the restaurant that he owned and operated in the town of Chicomuselo in Mexico’s most southerly state of Chiapas. Abarca was a father of four and an active citizen who had fought for lower electricity rates. At the time he was murdered, he was leading a fight against Blackfire’s barite mine given concerns over social and environmental impacts.
One week after his murder, Chiapas environmental authorities suspended the mine. Days later, the Globe and Mail reported that Blackfire had been making payments into the personal bank account of the mayor of Chicomuselo. An RCMP investigation into the allegations is ongoing.
“From these records, we learn that even before my father’s death, the Canadian Embassy was closely monitoring the conflict in Chicomuselo,” remarks José Luis Abarca, son of Mariano.
“But they completely disregarded the concerns that my father and others were raising, giving credence only to the company’s version of the story. One has to wonder how things might have been different today, if they had taken us seriously.”