Truthout Stories Sun, 29 Nov 2015 10:59:21 -0500 en-gb Global Warming's Unacknowledged Threat: The Pentagon

Unidentified USA soldiers stands guard in a check point on January 26, 2007 in Maxmur, Iraq. (Photo via Shutterstock)Unidentified USA soldiers stands guard in a check point on January 26, 2007 in Maxmur, Iraq. Despite being the planet's single greatest institutional consumer of fossil fuels, the Pentagon has been granted a unique exemption from reducing - or even reporting - its pollution. (Photo: Sadik Gulec /

During the November 15 Democratic Presidential Debate, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders sounded an alarm that "climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism." Citing a CIA study, Sanders warned that countries around the world are "going to be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops and you're going to see all kinds of international conflict."

On November 8, the World Bank predicted that climate change is on track to drive 100 million people into poverty by 2030. And, in March, a National Geographic study linked climate change to the conflict in Syria: "A severe drought, worsened by a warming climate, drove Syrian farmers to abandon their crops and flock to cities, helping trigger a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people."

The sobering insight that climate change can accelerate violence should weigh heavily on the minds of delegates to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change set to begin November 30 in Paris - a city that, on November 13, suffered grievously from the blowback of the Syrian conflict. But there is another looming threat that needs to be addressed.

Put simply: War and militarism also fuel climate change.

From November 30 to December 11, delegates from more than 190 nations will convene in Paris to address the increasingly visible threats of climate disruption. The 21st Conference of the Parties (aka COP21) is expected to draw 25,000 official delegates intent on crafting a legally binding pact to keep global warming below 2°C.

But it is difficult to imagine the delegates reaching this goal when one of the largest contributors to global-warming has no intention of agreeing to reduce its pollution. The problem in this case is neither China nor the United States. Instead, the culprit is the Pentagon.

The Pentagon's Carbon Bootprint

The Pentagon occupies 6,000 bases in the US and more than 1,000 bases (the exact number is disputed) in 60-plus foreign countries. According to its FY 2010 Base Structure Report, the Pentagon's global empire includes more than 539,000 facilities at 5,000 sites covering more than 28 million acres.

The Pentagon has admitted to burning 350,000 barrels of oil a day (only 35 countries in the world consume more) but that doesn't include oil burned by contractors and weapons suppliers. It does, however, include providing fuel for more than 28,000 armored vehicles, thousands of helicopters, hundreds of jet fighters and bombers and vast fleets of Navy vessels. The Air Force accounts for about half of the Pentagon’s operational energy consumption, followed by the Navy (33%) and Army (15%). In 2012, oil accounted for nearly 80% of the Pentagon's energy consumption, followed by electricity, natural gas and coal.

Ironically, most of the Pentagon's oil is consumed in operations directed at protecting America's access to foreign oil and maritime shipping lanes. In short, the consumption of oil relies on consuming more oil. This is not a sustainable energy model.

The amount of oil burned - and the burden of smoke released - increases whenever the Pentagon goes to war. (Indeed, human history's most combustible mix may well prove to be oil and testosterone.) Oil Change International estimates the Pentagon's 2003-2007 $2 trillion Iraq War generated more than three million metric tons of CO2 pollution per month.

The Pentagon: A Privileged Polluter

Yet, despite being the planet's single greatest institutional consumer of fossil fuels, the Pentagon has been granted a unique exemption from reducing - or even reporting - its pollution. The US won this prize during the 1998 Kyoto Protocol negotiations (COP4) after the Pentagon insisted on a "national security provision" that would place its operations beyond global scrutiny or control. As Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat recalled: "Every requirement the Defense Department and uniformed military who were at Kyoto by my side said they wanted, they got." (Also exempted from pollution regulation: all Pentagon weapons testing, military exercises, NATO operations and "peacekeeping" missions.)

After winning this concession, however, the US Senate refused to ratify the Kyoto Accord, the House amended the Pentagon budget to ban any "restriction of armed forces under the Kyoto Protocol," and George W. Bush rejected the entire climate treaty because it "would cause serious harm to the US economy" (by which he clearly meant the U.S. oil and gas industries).

Today, the Pentagon consumes one percent of all the country's oil and around 80 percent of all the oil burned by federal government. President Barack Obama recently received praise for his Executive Order requiring federal agencies to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, but Obama's EO specifically exempted the Pentagon from having to report its contribution to climate chaos. (As a practical matter, the Pentagon has been forced to act. With battlefield gas costing $400 a gallon and naval bases at risk of flooding from rising seas, the Pentagon managed to trim its domestic greenhouse-gas emissions by 9 percent between 2008-2012 and hopes to achieve a 34 percent reduction by 2020.)

Climate Chaos: Deception and Denial

According to recent exposés, Exxon executives knew the company's products were stoking global temperatures but they opted to put "profits before planet" and conspired to secretly finance three decades of deception. Similarly, the Pentagon has been well aware that its operations were wrecking our planetary habitat. In 2014, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel identified climate change as a "threat multiplier" that will endanger national security by increasing "global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict." As far back as 2001, Pentagon strategists have been preparing to capitalize on the problem by planning for "ice-free" operations in the Arctic - in anticipation of US-Russian conflicts over access to polar oil.

In 2014, Tom Ridge, George W. Bush's Homeland Security chief, stated flat-out that climate change posed "a real serious problem" that "would bring destruction and economic damage." But climate deniers in Congress continue to prevail. Ignoring Ridge's warnings, a majority of House Republicans hammered an amendment onto the National Defense Authorization bill that banned the Pentagon from spending any funds on researching climate change or sustainable development. "The climate . . . has always been changing," Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va) said dismissively. "[W]hy should Congress divert funds from the mission of our military and national security to support a political ideology?"

Since 1980, the US has experienced 178 "billion dollar" weather events that have caused more than $1 trillion in damages. In 2014 alone, there were eight "billion dollar" weather calamities.

In September 2015, the World Health Organization warned climate change would claim 250,000 million lives between 2030 and 2050 at a cost of $2-4 billion a year and a study in Nature Climate Change estimated the economic damage from greenhouse emissions could top $326 trillion. (If the global warming causes the permafrost to melt and release its trapped carbon dioxide and methane gases, the economic damage could exceed $492 trillion.)

In October 2015 (the hottest October in recorded weather history), BloombergBusiness expressed alarm over a joint study by scientists at Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley that predicted global warning "could cause 10 times as much damage to the global economy as previously estimated, slashing output as much as 23 percent by the end of the century."

This is more than a matter of "political ideology."

The Pentagon's role in weather disruption needs to become part of the climate discussion. Oil barrels and gun barrels both pose a threat to our survival. If we hope to stabilize our climate, we will need to start spending less money on war.

Opinion Sun, 29 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
When Surgeons Multitask: The Little-Known Practice of Concurrent Surgeries

(Photo: Operating Room via Shutterstock)"Concurrent surgery" is an open secret in hospitals, but patients rarely hear about it. (Photo: Operating Room via Shutterstock)

When you go to the hospital for an operation, did you know your surgeon might also be performing a procedure on another patient, in a different operating room, over the same scheduled time period? This practice - "two patients, two operating rooms, moving back and forth from one to the other" while relying on assistance from general surgeons or trainees - is called concurrent surgery. It's an open secret in hospitals, but patients rarely hear about it.

The Boston Globe recently investigated concurrent surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), as well as the broader conflict in the medical community over the ethics and safety of double-booking operations. On this week's podcast, two of the Globe reporters who investigated the story, Jenn Abelson and Liz Kowalczyk, talk with ProPublica reporter Marshall Allen about how they got tipped off to this issue, clashing opinions in the medical community, and what they think patients should have a right to know.

Highlights from their conversation:

Hospitals that allow concurrent surgery argue that it saves time.
Abelson: The No. 1 reason that's given by hospitals is around efficiency and access to care, so that there's no wasted time in the operating room.... It not only allows more cases in one day, but the hospitals also said, for some of these star surgeons who might have long wait lists, you can get greater access to them because they are doing more surgeries.

But some doctors question its ethics.
Abelson: [Dr. Dennis Burke, who fought a multiyear battle against double-booking at MGH] had two major concerns. One is that there were concerns and complaints raised to him by anesthesiologists over the issues of what they considered were patient safety, and concerns around whether patients were getting the best medical care possible. And then the separate issue of patient consent - that this practice was just known by the doctors and the nurses and the anesthesiologists and the billing clerks and everyone else. The only one who didn't know about it was the patient.

It's hard to tell how common it is because there's scant data and hospitals aren't talking.
Abelson: The whole industry is reluctant to talk about it. We have had a hard time placing … how MGH practice and policy compares to other hospitals. … We approached a number of hospitals and tried to figure out the policies and practices, and most have not been willing to share with us or speak in detail about it.

Listen to this podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher. For more, read the Boston Globe investigation Clash in the Name of Care and ProPublica's Making the Cut: Why Choosing the Right Surgeon Matters Even More Than You Know.

News Sun, 29 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
The United States Believes That It Has an Inalienable Right to Raw Materials in Developing Nations

"The lessons of 1954 and 1973 are very clear, and the victims of US violence will ignore them at their peril," writes Noam Chomsky in this excerpt from On Power and Ideology: The Managua Lectures.

Oil well fires rage outside Kuwait City in the aftermath of the First Gulf War on  March 21, 1991. Retreating Iraqi troops set fire to Kuwait's oil fields. (Photo via Shutterstock)Oil well fires rage outside Kuwait City in the aftermath of the first Gulf War on March 21, 1991. Retreating Iraqi troops set fire to Kuwait's oil fields. The US asserts its foreign and military policy as if it owns the rights to natural resources in developing nations, according to Noam Chomsky. (Photo via Shutterstock)

Just one Chomsky book contains a wealth of insight and information - so imagine how much knowledge can be found in a dozen books! The Noam Chomsky Collection is made up of 12 volumes by one of the world's most prolific and influential critics of US policy, including Fateful Triangle, Rogue States, Year 501 and Propaganda and the Public Mind. To order this amazing set of books, click here to make a donation to Truthout!

The following is a lecture, "Containing Internal Aggression," included in Noam Chomsky's On Power and Ideology: The Managua Lectures (originally published in 1987 and included in the 12-volume Noam Chomsky collection available from Truthout):

In the last lecture, I reviewed some of the documentary record of high level U.S. planning. From this record, we see that there is indeed a spectrum of opinion, but a very narrow one. Disagreements are mainly over tactical issues, over how best to achieve goals that are accepted with few questions and little need for discussion, since they are so widely shared among the elite groups that take an active part in the political system, that staff the executive branch of the government, and that provide the extragovernmental framework that sets the conditions within which state policy is formulated and executed.

The central concern, with regard to the Third World, is to defend the right to rob and to exploit, to protect "our" raw materials. More generally, the concern is to maintain the Grand Area subordinated to the needs of U.S. elites and to ensure that other powers are limited to their "regional interests" within the "overall framework of order" maintained and controlled by the United States. In the words of George Kennan, the leading dove among early postwar planners, we must put aside "vague and ... unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization," and be prepared to use violence if necessary to achieve our objectives, not "hampered by idealistic slogans."

The main enemy is the indigenous population who attempt to steal our resources that happen to be in their countries, who are concerned with vague and idealistic objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization, and who, in their backwardness and folly, find it difficult to understand that their "function" is to "complement the industrial economies of the West" (including Japan) and to serve the needs of the privileged groups that dominate these societies. The major danger posed by these indigenous enemies is that unless they are stopped in time, they may spread the virus of independence, freedom, and concern for human welfare, infecting regions beyond; they must be prevented from turning their societies into rotten apples, which may infect the barrel, threatening the stability of the Grand Area. As other planners put it, the United States must "prevent the rot from spreading." It must prevent what is sometimes - on different assumptions as to what is right and just - called "the threat of a good example." The threat of rot and infection is a serious one, which requires serious measures, violence if necessary, always presented as the defense of the highest values, in the classic manner.

The main lines of thinking are expressed clearly in Top Secret documents and planning studies, and sometimes in public statements as well, but it is missing from political analysis, journalism, or even most of scholarship, in accordance with the second major principle of policy: the ideological system too must serve its "function," namely, to ensure the required level of ignorance and apathy on the part of the general population as well as among politically active elites, except, of course, for those engaged not just in ideological control but also in serious planning and execution of policy.

I then began to discuss the world system that has developed since World War II, concentrating on the U.S. role, as I will do throughout these lectures. I ended the last lecture with a few remarks on the Third World and on post-World War II Europe and the problems it posed for Grand Area planning: not the threat of Soviet aggression, but the threat of economic collapse and democratic politics, which might lead to forms of social and economic
development outside of the U.S.-dominated framework of world order.

To overcome these threats, the U.S. undertook the Marshall Plan and similar programs, which, as noted earlier, also served as critically important subsidies to U.S. exporters of raw materials and manufactured goods. Meanwhile, the threat of democratic politics was met in the natural way, by undertaking a program, worldwide in scope, to destroy the anti-fascist resistance and the popular organizations associated with it, often in favor of fascists or fascist collaborators. This is, in fact, one of the major themes of early postwar history.

The pattern was set in the first area liberated, North Africa, where President Roosevelt installed in power Admiral Jean Darlan, a leading Nazi collaborator and the author of the Vichy regime's anti-Semitic laws. As U.S. forces advanced through Italy, they restored the essential structure of the fascist regime while dispersing the resistance, which had fought courageously against six Nazi divisions. In Greece, British troops entered after the
Nazis had withdrawn, imposing a harsh and corrupt regime that evoked renewed resistance which Britain was unable to control in its postwar decline. The U.S. entered, replacing Britain, under the guise of Truman Doctrine rhetoric about defending "free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures." Meanwhile, Presidential adviser Clark Clifford happily commented in private that the Doctrine would serve as "the opening gun in a campaign to bring people up to realization that the war isn't over by any means"; and indeed, it helped set off a new era of domestic militarism and intervention abroad in the context of Cold War confrontation, Greece being only the first target. There, the U.S. launched a murderous war of counterinsurgency, complete with torture, political exile for tens of thousands, reeducation camps, destruction of unions and any independent politics, and the full panoply of means later used in similar exercises throughout the world, placing the society firmly in the hands of U.S. investors and local business elites, while much of the population had to emigrate to survive. The beneficiaries again included Nazi collaborators, while the primary victims were the workers and peasants of the Communist-led anti-Nazi resistance.

The successful counterinsurgency operation in Greece served as the model for the escalation of the U.S. war against South Vietnam in the early 1960s, as Adlai Stevenson proclaimed at the United Nations in 1964 while explaining that in South Vietnam, the United States was engaged in defense against "internal aggression." That is, the U.S. was undertaking the defense of South Vietnam against the "internal aggression" of its own population; essentially the rhetoric of the Truman Doctrine. The Greek model was also invoked by Reagan's Central America advisor Roger Fontaine as the Reagan Administration prepared to escalate Carter's "defense" of El Salvador against "internal aggression" there.

It might be noted that Stevenson's reputation as an outstanding spokesman for enlightened values and a leading figure of modern liberalism is unsullied by such rhetoric as this. The doctrine that the U.S. has been engaged in defense of one or another country against "internal aggression" is quite blandly accepted by the educated classes in the United States, as in Europe quite generally, a fact that provides a certain insight into the moral and intellectual level of what passes as civilized discourse.

2015.11.29.Chomsky.bookOn Power and Ideology: The Managua Lectures is one of the books in the 12-volume Noam Chomsky collection available from Truthout. (Photo: Haymarket Books)

I will return to the Truman Doctrine in a moment, but first it should be stressed that the pattern just described was indeed worldwide. In Korea, the U.S. forces dispersed the local popular government and inaugurated a brutal repression, using Japanese police and collaborators. Some 100,000 people were killed prior to what is called in the West "the Korean war," including 30-40,000 killed in the suppression of a peasant insurgency on Cheju island. Similarly in the Philippines, the anti-Japanese peasant resistance was crushed in a long and bitter war of counterinsurgency, while Japanese collaborators were restored to power.

In Thailand, the U.S. vigorously supported a series of military coups that finally installed Phibun Songkhram, "the first pro-Axis dictator to regain power after the war," in the words of former CIA Thai specialist Frank Darling in his study of the United States and Thailand. The leader of the Free Thai movement that had cooperated with the United States during the war, Thailand's most prominent liberal democratic figure, was deposed by a U.S.-backed coup and ended up in Communist China. In 1954, in the secret planning to subvert the Geneva Accords that established a framework for peace in Indochina, the National Security Council proposed that Thailand be established "as the focal point of U.S. covert and psychological operations in Southeast Asia." This goal was achieved. Thailand later became the base for U.S. attacks in Indochina and a Free World bastion, complete with child slavery, horrifying exploitation of women, massive corruption, starvation and misery, and ample profits for Western investors and their Thai clients. As the Indochina war wound down, the U.S. continued to support the brutal Thai military in its successful defense against democratizing elements, as it did in the Philippines in the same period.

In Indochina, the U.S. supported France in its efforts to "defend" its former colony against the "internal aggression" of the Vietnamese nationalist movement, which had also cooperated with the U.S. during the war.

Turning to Latin America, a fascist coup in Colombia inspired by Franco's Spain aroused no more concern than a military coup in Venezuela or the restoration of an admirer of fascism in Panama. But the first democratic government in the history of Guatemala, modeling itself on Roosevelt's New Deal, elicited bitter U.S. antagonism and a CIA coup that turned Guatemala into a literal hell-on-earth, kept that way since with regular U.S. intervention and support, particularly under Kennedy and Johnson. The story continues through the Carter years when, contrary to what is commonly alleged, official U.S. military aid to a series of Guatemalan Himmlers never ceased and was barely below the norm, while military aid also was sent through other channels, including U.S. client regimes. Under Reagan, support for neargenocide became positively ecstatic.

The postwar pattern of marginalizing or if necessary destroying the antifascist resistance, often in favor of fascist sympathizers and collaborators, was quite a general and pervasive one. But predictably, sanitized history does not include a chapter devoted to this worldwide campaign, though one can discover the details in specialized studies dealing with one or another country. Where the facts are noted in connection with some particular country, the policy is generally described as a mistake, resulting from the ignorance or naivete of the well-meaning U.S. leadership or the confusions of the postwar era.

One aspect of this postwar project was the recruitment of Nazi war criminals such as Reinhard Gehlen, who had headed Nazi military intelligence on the Eastern Front and was given the same duties under the new West German state with close CIA supervision, or Klaus Barbie, responsible for many crimes in France and duly placed in charge of spying on the French for U.S. intelligence. The reasons were cogently explained by Barbie's superior, Col. Eugene Kolb, who noted that his "skills were badly needed"; "To our knowledge, his activities had been directed against the underground French Communist Party and Resistance, just as we in the postwar era were concerned with the German Communist Party and activities inimical to American policies in Germany." Kolb's comment is apt. The U.S. was picking up where the Nazis had left off, and it was therefore entirely natural that they should employ specialists in anti-resistance activity.

Later, when it became impossible to protect them from retribution in Europe, many of these useful folk were spirited to the United States or to Latin America, with the help of the Vatican and fascist priests. Many of them have since been engaged in terrorism, coups, the drug and armaments trade, training the apparatus of the U.S.-backed National Security States in methods of torture devised by the Gestapo, and so on. Some of their students have found their way to Central America, establishing a direct link between the Death Camps and the Death Squads, via the U.S.-SS postwar alliance.

As I've mentioned, the reasoning behind these activities was essentially that sketched out by Dean Acheson, later to become Secretary of State, in his advocacy of the Truman Doctrine before Congress. His contribution, and the general conceptions involved, merit a closer look, since they are quite central to U.S. policy planning worldwide, as a corollary to the primary principle of defense of the Fifth Freedom. The context, as described in Acheson's memoirs, was the difficulty that the Administration faced in overcoming the reluctance of Congress, reflecting the public mood, to engage in new military adventures in 1947. Acheson describes his success in overcoming this reluctance in words that merit full quotation:

In the past eighteen months, I said, Soviet pressure on the Straits, on Iran, and on northern Greece had brought the Balkans to the point where a highly possible Soviet breakthrough might open three continents to Soviet penetration. Like apples in a barrel infected by one rotten one, the corruption of Greece would infect Iran and all to the east. It would also carry infection to Africa through Asia Minor and Egypt, and to Europe through Italy and France, already threatened by the strongest domestic Communist parties in Western Europe.

Apart from the concern over the "threat" of democratic politics in Europe, two points merit particular notice in connection with Acheson's remarks: (1) the invocation of the Russian threat; (2) the rotten apple theory. Let us consider them in turn.

Acheson cites three examples of a "highly possible Soviet breakthrough": the Straits of the Dardanelles, Iran, and Greece. He surely knew that each of these examples was fraudulent. He was surely aware that the Soviet Union had already been rebuffed in its efforts to take part in management of the Straits, and had agreed to leave control over its only warm water access entirely in Western hands. He could also hardly have been unaware of the fact that long before, the Soviet Union had abandoned its efforts to gain a share in the exploitation of Iranian oil, on its border, leaving these riches entirely in the hands of the West. As for Greece, it is difficult to imagine that State Department intelligence had been unable to learn that Stalin was urging restraint on the Greek guerrillas (recognizing that Greece was in the U.S. sphere of influence, regarded as essentially part of the U.S.-dominated Middle East region), just as Acheson surely knew that Stalin had been instructing the Communist parties of the West to join in the reconstruction of capitalism.

Nevertheless, Acheson takes great pride in this successful exercise in deception, a fact that is as worthy of note as his concern over the dangers of democratic politics in the West. As I mentioned in the first lecture, similar concerns impelled the U.S., under prodding by Kennan and others, to reverse early steps towards democratization in Japan and place the country firmly and, it was hoped, irreversibly, under conservative business control with labor seriously weakened and few opportunities available for serious popular engagement in politics.

Acheson's success in this deception taught an important lesson for propagandists, applied many times since: when the U.S. political leadership wants to drum up support for intervention and aggression, it need only shout that the Russians are coming. Whatever the facts, this is bound to achieve the desired results. The tactic worked unfailingly until the popular movements in the 1960s somewhat improved the intellectual and moral level of U.S. society, and despite this setback, this tactic remains highly effective.

Acheson's success had further implications for policy-makers: if it is deemed necessary to arrack another country, it will be highly useful to be able to portray it as a Soviet client to reinforce the cry that the Russians are again on the march. Therefore it is useful to drive the target of aggression into the hands of the Soviet Union by embargo, threat, subversion and other measures, including pressure on allies and international agencies to withdraw assistance, so as to provide the required doctrinal basis for the planned aggression. If this goal can be achieved, it will also provide a retrospective
justification for the hostile actions that were undertaken to achieve it, assuming, of course, that the media and articulate intelligentsia can be relied upon to play their assigned part in the charade - a well-founded assumption. If the goal cannot be achieved, the desired consequence can be proclaimed as fact nevertheless, with media complicity. This lesson has also been applied frequently: during the successful overthrow of capitalist democracy in Guatemala in 1954, in the case of Cuba, and with regard to Nicaragua today, among many other cases.

Liberal critics of U.S. policy, willfully blind to its obvious motives and the rich historical record, deplore the fact that the U.S. embargo will compel Nicaragua to rely on the Soviet bloc, failing to comprehend that that is precisely its aim, as in many earlier cases, for the reasons just indicated. This astonishing inability to perceive what is unfolding before their eyes is explained in part by the fact that critics within the mainstream ideological consensus take seriously the claim that Nicaragua poses a "security threat" to the United States. On this assumption, the Reagan Administration must be making a foolish and inexplicable error by acting to increase the dependence of Nicaragua on the USSR by hostile measures and pressure on U.S. allies. No rational person should have any difficulty in discerning the motive behind these quite systematic and familiar efforts: those outlined a moment ago.

We might observe in passing that the claim that Nicaragua might endanger U.S. security makes Hitler sound sane in comparison, with his ravings about Czechoslovakia as "a dagger pointed at the heart of Germany" and about the threat posed to Germany by the "aggressiveness" of the Poles. If the USSR were to warn about the threat posed by Denmark or Luxembourg to Soviet security and the need to "contain" this dire threat, perhaps even declaring a national emergency in the face of this grave danger, Western opinion would be rightly enraged. But when the mainstream U.S. press and a liberal Congress, echoing the Administration, warn ominously of the need to "contain" Nicaragua, the same thinkers nod their heads in sage assent or offer mild criticism that the threat is perhaps exaggerated. And when in May 1985, Ronald Reagan declared a "national emergency" to deal with the "unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States" posed by "the policies and actions of the Government of Nicaragua," the reaction in Congress and the media - and in much of Europe - was not ridicule, but rather praise for these principled and statesmanlike steps. All of this provides yet another indication of the level of Western intellectual culture.

So much for the first point: Acheson's success in invoking a fraudulent Russian threat, which became virtually a reflex in the subsequent period, not surprisingly. Let us consider the second point: the rotten apple theory that he expressed with such elegance. This too became a staple among planners, who repeatedly express their concern that some errant country or political movement or leadership will be a "contagious example" that will "infect" others, Kissinger's terms with reference to Allende's example of democratic socialism, which he feared would "infect" not only Latin America but also southern Europe; or that "the rot will spread" throughout Southeast Asia, perhaps engulfing Japan, the fear expressed by U.S. planners with regard to the Communist-led Vietnamese national movement.

The conventional name for the rotten apple theory is "the domino theory." This theory has two variants. One, regularly invoked to frighten the domestic population, is that Ho Chi Minh (or whoever the current sinner may be) will climb into a canoe, conquer Indonesia, land in San Francisco, and rape your grandmother. While it may be difficult to believe that these tales are presented seriously by the political leadership, one should not be too sure. Leaders of the calibre of Ronald Reagan may well believe what they say. The same may be true of more serious political figures, for example, Lyndon Johnson, probably the most liberal President in American history and in many ways "a man of the people," who was undoubtedly speaking honestly when he warned in 1948 that unless the U.S. maintained overwhelming military superiority, it would be "a bound and throttled giant; impotent and easy prey to any yellow dwarf with a pocket knife"; or when he said in a speech in Alaska in 1966, at the height of U.S. aggression in Vietnam, that "If we are going to have visits from any aggressors or any enemies, I would rather have that aggression take place out 10,000 miles from here than take place here in Anchorage," referring to the "internal aggression" of the Vietnamese against U.S. military forces in Vietnam:

There are 3 billion people in the world [Johnson continued] and we have only 200 million of them. We are outnumbered 15 to one. If might did make right they would sweep over the United States and take what we have. We have what they want.

Difficult as it may be to believe, such sentiments are widely shared among the richest and most privileged people in the world. We need not tarry on the psychological mechanisms; what is important is that this is a fact, and one that allows much of the population to be easily aroused by jingoist rhetoric appealing to deep-seated fears.

But saner minds dismiss this version of the domino theory, and indeed it is regularly derided when some program of intervention and aggression goes awry. Nevertheless, the internal documentary record reveals that the domino theory itself is never questioned by planners; no serious question is raised about the rotten apple theory, the concern that the "virus" may be contagious. But Kissinger surely did not think that Allende was going to conquer Italy, nor did U.S. planners expect that Ho Chi Minh would conquer Japan, the "superdomino." What, then, are the mechanisms by which "the rot will spread"?

There is only one sensible answer to this question. The rot that concerns planners is the threat of successful social and economic development outside the framework of U.S. control, development of a sort that may be meaningful to poor and oppressed people elsewhere. The "virus" that may spread contagion is the "demonstration effect," which may indeed cause "the rot to spread" as others seek to emulate successes that they observe. It is "the threat of a good example."

In the 1950s, U.S. planners were deeply concerned over the possibility of successful social and economic development in North Vietnam and China, and in South Vietnam under the NLF if the "internal aggression" should succeed. This might lead to efforts to emulate their achievements elsewhere, so that Southeast Asia would no longer "fulfill its function" as a dependency of Japan and the West, serving their needs rather than its own. It was feared that ultimately Japan, an industrial power dependent on foreign markets and resources, would "accommodate" to a new emerging system in Asia, becoming the industrial heartland of a region to which the U.S. would not have privileged access. The U.S. had fought World War II in the Pacific to prevent Japan from creating a "co-prosperity sphere" of this sort, and was not inclined to lose World War II in the early postwar period. U.S. policymakers were therefore committed to ensure that the rot would not spread. In this context, Vietnam attained a significance far beyond its own meager importance in the world system.

In the 1950s, U.S. planners recommended that measures should be taken to impede economic development in China and North Vietnam, a proposal that is remarkable in its cruelty. They fought a vicious war to ensure that no successes in Indochina would "infect the region" - a war that succeeded in its major aims, a matter to which I will return.

Similarly, Kissinger was concerned that Allende's democratic socialism might send the "wrong message" to voters in European democracies. Therefore it was necessary to prevent the "virus" from "spreading contagion," in a manner that is well-known. The same was true of the efforts of Arévalo and Arbenz to establish independent democratic capitalism geared to the needs of the domestic population in Guatemala. Similarly, the CIA warned in 1964 that Cuba "is being watched closely by other nations in the hemisphere and any appearance of success there would have an extensive impact on the statist trend elsewhere in the area," endangering the Fifth Freedom. It was therefore necessary to persist in the terrorist war launched by Kennedy against Cuba after the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, while maintaining a hostile posture designed to ensure that Cuba would remain dependent on the USSR and would not achieve "an appearance of success."

Much the same has been true in many other cases, including Nicaragua today. The early successes of the Sandinistas quite rightly caused fear, indeed virtual hysteria among U.S. elites, as we see from the fact that the government can declare a "national emergency" in the face of this grave threat to the existence of the United States without evoking ridicule, indeed, with the expressed support of respectable opinion. If peasants starving to death in Honduras can look across the borders and see health clinics, land reform, literacy programs, improvement in subsistence agriculture and the like in a country no better endowed than their own, the rot may spread; and it may spread still farther, perhaps even to the United States, where the many people suffering from malnutrition or the homeless in the streets in the world's richest country may begin to ask some questions. It is necessary to destroy the rotten apple before the rot spreads through the barrel. The same fears were evoked by the growth of popular organizations in El Salvador in the 1970s, which threatened to lead to meaningful democracy in which resources would be directed to domestic needs, an intolerable attack on the Fifth Freedom. There are numerous other cases.

That planners understand these matters is evident not only from the consistent invocation of the rotten apple theory and the regular resort to violence and other measures to prevent the rot from spreading, but also from the deceitful manner in which state propaganda is presented. The most recent State Department effort to prove Nicaraguan aggressiveness, published in September 1985 in obvious response to the World Court proceedings after the U.S. refusal to accept lawful means to settle the Central American conflicts it had created, is entitled Revolution Beyond Our Borders. The title is allegedly drawn from a speech by Tomás Borge, and the cover features a mistranslation of a passage from this 1981 speech. In the original, Borge says that "this revolution transcends national boundaries," making it clear that he means ideological transcendence and adding: "this does not mean we export our revolution. It is enough - and we couldn't do otherwise - for us to export our example . . . we know that it is the people themselves of these countries who must make their revolutions." This is the statement that was deformed and then exploited by the U.S. disinformation system - including the media, as we shall see - as proof that Nicaragua actually boasts of its planned "aggression."

Here we see a clear example of the switch between the two variants of the domino theory: the real concern of privileged elites over the demonstration effect of successful development becomes transmuted, for the public, into a pretended concern that the U.S. will once again be at the mercy of yellow dwarves with pocket knives, who will conquer everything in their path, finally stealing all we have, while the "bound and throttled giant" is unable to prevent this aggression. The deceit is so transparent and so contrived that it is surely an instance of conscious manipulation by unscrupulous propagandists - who are protected from exposure in the mainstream media, a fact from which we can draw further consequences.

I should add that deception of this kind is quite common, including what is called "scholarship." Elsewhere, I have documented the fact that during the Vietnam years, the government and respected American commentators grossly misrepresented the contents of "captured documents" in exactly the same way, continuing to do so even after the deception was exposed, secure in the knowledge that the exposure, outside of the mainstream, would remain essentially irrelevant among the educated classes whom they address (University of Massachusetts historian Guenter Lewy, in the latter case, in a highly regarded work of "scholarship" justifying the U.S. "defense" of South Vietnam).

In the case of Nicaragua, U.S. officials state openly that while they doubt that the contras can depose the present government, "they are content to see the contras debilitate the Sandinistas by forcing them to divert scarce resources toward the war and away from social programs" (Boston Globe correspondent Julia Preston, citing "Administration officials"). The suffering and economic chaos that result from the attacks by the U.S. proxy
armies are then exploited, in the usual manner, to justify the aggression in terms of "the failures of the revolution," with the mass media regularly parroting the government line, again as usual. The ultimate display of moral cowardice is the allegation that the Sandinistas actually welcome the contra attacks, which provide them with an excuse to conceal their failures and repression, a common refrain of liberal critics of the Reagan Administration.

It is interesting that the cynical and horrifying statements of the Administration officials cited by Julia Preston, and others like them, are blandly reported, evoking no comment, quickly forgotten. In cultivated Western circles, it is considered the prerogative of the United States to use violence to prevent reform measures that might benefit poor and deprived people, so that the statement of such an intent arouses no special interest or
concern. The U.S. will permit no constructive programs in its own domains, so it must ensure that they are destroyed elsewhere, to undermine "the threat of a good example."

The latter phrase is used as the title of a pamphlet on Nicaragua by the charitable development agency Oxfam, which observes that "from Oxfam's experience of working in seventy-six developing countries, Nicaragua was to prove exceptional in the strength of that Government's commitment. . .to improving the condition of the people and encouraging their active participation in the development process," providing numerous examples. The title of the pamphlet is well-chosen. It is precisely these features of the Sandinista revolution that sent chills up the spines of U.S. planners, and privileged elites elsewhere as well. Their pretended concern over repression in Nicaragua, and various real or alleged Sandinista crimes, cannot be taken seriously by any
sane person; even if the harshest charges with a shred of credibility are accepted, the Sandinista leadership is positively saintly in comparison with the gangsters that the U.S. has supported throughout Central America and beyond, not to speak of Washington itself. The real crime of the Sandinistas is the one identified by the Oxfam report and affirmed by many others, including the international lending institutions. The crime is to have posed the threat of a good example, which may "infect" the region, and even beyond.

The rotten apple theory explains another wise curious feature of U.S. foreign policy: the profound concern evoked by developments in the tiniest and most marginal countries, such as Laos or Grenada, for example. In the 1960s, northern Laos was subjected to the heaviest bombing in history (soon to be exceeded in Cambodia), what is called a "secret bombing"; this is another technical term, referring to bombing that was well-known to the media but suppressed in service to the state, and later used as evidence of government deceit when it became necessary to remove a political leader who had made the unconscionable error of attacking powerful domestic enemies, people quite capable of defending themselves (the Watergate farce, to which I will return in lecture 5). As the U.S. Administration conceded in Congressional hearings, the bombing was unrelated to the war in Vietnam. Rather, it was directed against the Pathet Lao guerrillas, who were attempting to carry out mild social reforms and to introduce a sense of national identity in the scattered villages of northern Laos, where few people even knew they were in Laos. Or consider Grenada, a tiny speck in the Caribbean of no interest to the United States, where the Maurice Bishop government at once elicited U.S. hostility and rage, including economic measures and threatening military maneuvers and finally, after the regime cracked, outright invasion.

Why should such tiny and marginal countries evoke such concern, indeed near hysteria, among U.S. planners? Surely their resources are of no significance. And while indeed leading U.S. military and political figures solemnly discussed the military threat posed by Grenada, one must assume that these ravings - for that is what they are - were simply a cover for something else. An explanation for this superficially quite irrational behavior is provided by the rotten apple theory, in its internal rather than public form; in these terms, the hysteria makes perfect sense. If a tiny and impoverished country with minuscule resources can begin to do something for its own population, others may ask: "Why not us?" The weaker and more insignificant a country, the more limited its means and resources, the greater is the threat of a good example. The rot may spread, threatening regions of real concern to the rulers of much of the world.

The rotten apple theory, as noted, follows from the basic principle of policy: the defense of the Fifth Freedom. It quite naturally has two variants: the public variant designed to frighten the population at large, and the internal variant that consistently guides planning. This typical duality is a consequence of the second principle of policy: the need to ensure public ignorance and conformity. The public plainly cannot be informed of the true motives of policy, and the educated classes have the task, which they perform with diligence and success, of protecting the general public from any understanding of such critical matters. It should be noted that they also protect themselves from any dangerous understanding of reality, as the political leadership also does to an extent, at least the less intelligent among them. In public as in personal life, it is extremely easy to deceive oneself about the motives for one's actions, placing a favorable construction on actions taken for quite different ends. Hitler may well have believed that he was defending Germany from the "aggression" of the Poles and excising the "cancer" of the Jews, and George Shultz may believe that he is defending the United
States from the "aggression" of Grenada and excising the Sandinista "cancer," as he and other Administration officials regularly declaim. We have no difficulty in detecting the real motives and plans in the first case, though sophisticated German intellectuals pretended - to themselves and others - to be unable to do so during the Hitler years. And those who can extricate themselves from the Western doctrinal system should have no greater difficulty in detecting the real motives in the second case, and numerous others like it.

I might mention again that there is little that is new in the various formulations of the rotten apple theory. In the early 19th century, conservative European statesmen (Metternich, the Czar and his diplomats) spoke in similar terms of the "pernicious doctrines of republicanism and popular self-rule," "evil doctrines and pernicious examples" that might spread from the United States "over the whole of America" and even to Europe, undermining the conservative moral and political order that was the foundation of civilization. It is not surprising that the contemporary inheritors of the role of the Czar and Metternich should think along similar lines, even using similar rhetoric, and with similar moralistic pretensions, which they take quite seriously, as do the conformist intellectuals quite generally in the media, journals of opinion, and respectable scholarship.

So far, I have discussed several related elements of the international system that emerged from the wreckage of World War II, still largely focusing on the dominant U.S. role: some of the costs of great power intervention, primarily Western, in the Third World; the problem of incorporating Western and Southern Europe within the Grand Area while Eastern Europe was subordinated to Soviet power; the postwar campaign to destroy the anti-fascist resistance; the rotten apple theory and its applications. Let us turn now to a few remarks on what is commonly regarded as the central feature of the modern global system: the superpower rivalry, the Cold War.

In the early postwar period, the U.S. hoped to incorporate the Soviet Union within the Grand Area: the "roll-back strategy" of NSC-68 was motivated by that goal. It soon became evident that this was hopeless, and the superpowers settled into an uneasy form of coexistence that we call the Cold War. The real meaning of the Cold War is elucidated by a look at its typical events: Soviet tanks in East Berlin in 1953, in Budapest in 1956, in Prague in 1968, the invasion of Afghanistan; U.S. intervention in Greece, Iran, Guatemala, Indochina, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Chile, El Salvador and Nicaragua, and a host of other examples, including U.S.-backed aggression by client states, as in East Timor and Lebanon, among other instances. In each case, when one of the superpowers resorts to subversion or aggression, the act is presented to the domestic population and the allies as "self-defense," defense against the superpower enemy or its agents. In fact, the actions are taken to ensure control over a certain sphere of influence; for the U.S., much of the world.

The actual events of the Cold War illustrate the fact that the Cold War is in effect a system of joint global management, a system with a certain functional utility for the superpowers, one reason why it persists. Intervention and subversion are conducted in the interest of elite groups, what is called in political theology "the national interest," meaning the special interest of groups with sufficient domestic power to shape affairs of state. But, these exercises of state violence are often quite costly to the general population in both material and moral terms - and the latter should not be discounted, as is often done in a display of pretended sophistication that is hardly more than an expression of self-righteous elite contempt for ordinary people, contempt that is as unwarranted as it is uninformed. Domestic policies too are conducted in the interest of dominant elites, but are often quite costly for the general population: militarization of the society, for example. To mobilize the population and recalcitrant allies in support of costly domestic programs and foreign adventures, it is necessary to appeal to the fear of some Great Satan, to adopt the Ayatollah Khomeini's useful contribution to political rhetoric.

The Cold War confrontation provides a useful means. Of course, it is necessary to avoid direct confrontation with the Great Satan himself, this being far too dangerous. It is preferable to confront weak and defenseless powers designated as proxies of the Great Satan. The Reagan Administration has regularly used Libya for this purpose, arranging regular confrontations timed to domestic needs, for example, the need to gain support for the Rapid Deployment Force or for contra aid. The system is a hazardous one, and may sooner or later break down, leading to a terminal global war, something that has come close to happening more than once and will again. But this is the kind of long-term consideration that does not enter into planning. I will return to closer consideration of this matter in the fourth lecture.

This all-too-brief review of the postwar global system is partial and hence somewhat misleading; thus, I have said nothing about U.S. policies in the Middle East, which are crucial for an understanding of the current world, or about developing conflicts among the industrial capitalist states, among other topics. Before turning to Central America, in the next lecture, I will conclude this general review with a few remarks on the U.S. engagement in Indochina, a major event of modern history and one from which we can learn a great deal about U.S. policy planning, with significant implications for Central America today. In this case, we have an extremely rich documentary record, which is very revealing although (or perhaps more accurately: therefore) generally ignored in the extensive public discussion on the topic.

By 1948, the U.S. recognized that the Viet Minh led by Ho Chi Minh was in effect the Vietnamese nationalist movement and that it would be difficult to achieve any solution excluding it. Nonetheless, the U.S. committed itself to exactly that goal, supporting the French effort to reconquer their former colony. The central reasons for this decision I have already discussed: they follow from the rotten apple theory and the concern that Southeast Asia "fulfill its function" in the U.S.-dominated global order. Naturally, matters could not be presented in these terms.

Once the U.S. had committed itself to supporting the French attack, it became a necessary truth that France was defending Indochina from the "internal aggression" of the Viet Minh, and that Ho was simply a puppet of Moscow (or China; either would do). U.S. Intelligence was assigned the task of demonstrating this necessary truth, and made noble efforts to do so. It failed. Intelligence reported that it was able to find evidence of "Kremlin-directed
conspiracy . . . in virtually all countries except Vietnam." The task, then, was to use this discovery to establish the required conclusion, a step that was simple enough: "it may be assumed," U.S. officials concluded, "that Moscow feels that Ho and his lieutenants have had sufficient training and experience and are sufficiently loyal to be trusted to determine their day-to-day policy without supervision." Thus the lack of contact between Ho and his masters in the Kremlin establishes that he is a loyal slave of Moscow, as required.

One of the most startling revelations in the Pentagon Papers is that in a review of U.S. intelligence covering 25 years, the Pentagon analysts were able to discover only one staff paper that even raised the question whether Hanoi was pursuing its own interests instead of just acting as an agent of the "Kremlin-directed conspiracy." Even U.S. intelligence, which is paid to discover the facts and not to rave about Soviet plans to conquer the world, was unable to escape the grips of the propaganda system, a most revealing fact. Whatever one thinks of Ho Chi Minh and his associates, the fact that they were pursuing Vietnamese national interests as they perceived them rather than merely following Soviet orders is utterly transparent and not in doubt among sane people, but it was beyond the comprehension of U.S. intelligence, an intriguing reflection of the prevailing cultural climate.

In this record we see dramatically revealed one of the central features of U.S. foreign policy. A popular movement or a state does not become an enemy because it is controlled by Moscow; rather, given that it is an enemy (for other reasons) and therefore must be undermined and destroyed, it must be that it is controlled by Moscow, whatever the facts, so that the U.S. attack against it is just and necessary. The "other reasons" are those already
discussed. The U.S. may indeed succeed in driving the enemy into the hands of the Russians by its hostile actions, a most welcome result, or if it fails, it will pretend that this is the case, trusting the media to go along, as in the case of Guatemala in 1954, for example. Naturally, none of this can be expressed within the doctrinal system, and indeed it is not.

From 1950 to 1954 the U .S. sought to impose French rule over Indochina, but failed. In 1954, France withdrew, and the Geneva Agreements established a basis for peace. The United States devoted itself at once to undermining them, and succeeded. Thanks to U.S. subversion and its dominance of the international system, the provisional demarcation line at the 17th parallel became an "international boundary" - though the U.S.-imposed client regime in the South never accepted it, regarding itself as the government of all Vietnam. Its official name, throughout, was the Government of Vietnam (GVN), and this pretension was reiterated in an unamendable article of its Constitution, produced under U.S. auspices.

In the South, the U.S. imposed a terrorist regime on the familiar Latin American model. From 1954 to 1960, this client state had massacred perhaps some 75,000 people. Its terrorism and repression evoked renewed resistance - naturally called "Communist aggression," "internal aggression" in Adlai Stevenson's phrase - at which point the regime virtually collapsed and the U.S. was compelled to intervene directly. In 1962, the U.S. began extensive bombing and defoliation of South Vietnam as part of an effort to drive several million people into concentration camps where they would be surrounded by barbed wire and "protected" from the South Vietnamese guerrillas (the NLF; in U.S. terminology, "Viet Cong") whom they were willingly supporting, as the U.S. conceded. For the next few years, the U.S. desperately sought to block a political settlement, including the neutralization of South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia proposed by the NLF. Unable to find suitable clients in the South, the U.S. replaced government after government and finally, in 1964, decided to escalate the attack against South Vietnam with a direct land invasion accompanied by bombing of North Vietnam, a program initiated in early 1965. Throughout all of this period, no North Vietnamese regulars were detected in South Vietnam, though they had every right to be there after the U.S. subversion of the Geneva Agreements and the terror launched in the South. By April 1965, when the U.S. invaded South Vietnam outright, deaths there probably amounted to close to 200,000. While it was the bombing of North Vietnam that attracted international attention, the main U.S. attack, including bombing, was always directed against South Vietnam. Once again, U.S. hegemony in the international system is reflected by the fact that there is no such event in recorded history as the U.S. attack against South Vietnam (rather sanitized history records only a U.S. "defense" of South Vietnam, which was unwise, the official doves later maintained), and the attack was never recognized as such nor condemned by the United Nations.

These facts merit serious consideration for those interested in Western intellectual culture and the dominance of U.S. power in the global system. The U.S. attack against South Vietnam from 1962, escalated and expanded in scope in 1965, plainly took place, just as much as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan did in 1979; furthermore, South Vietnam was the main target of the U.S. attack. In both cases, the aggressors claimed to have been "invited in" by a legal government that they were defending against "bandits" and "terrorists" supported from abroad. Soviet claims in this regard, on their border, are no less credible than those of the U.S. for its aggression 10,000 miles away; that is, the credibility is zero in both cases. Nevertheless, the U.S., the West, and indeed most of the world, do not recognize the existence of such an event as the U.S. attack against South Vietnam, though few are unable to perceive that the USSR invaded Afghanistan, and indeed this invasion is regularly condemned not only by Western governments but also by the United Nations. Even in peace movement circles, as activists will recall, it was virtually impossible to discuss U.S. operations in South Vietnam honestly: as aggression against the South under the cover of a farcical government established (and regularly replaced, until willing elements could be created) to serve to legitimate the aggression. Neither the media, nor mainstream scholarship, record any such event as the U.S. aggression against South Vietnam. Furthermore, this denial of plain reality extends over most of the world. These are remarkable and highly instructive facts. It is also worthy of note that it is now becoming somewhat easier to speak of these events honestly in public, though rarely in educated circles, a mark of the increased sophistication and understanding of much of the public during the years when it is falsely alleged that a "conservative revival" has taken place, a matter to which I will return in the last lecture.

From 1965 the U.S. expanded its war against South Vietnam, sending an invading army that reached over half a million men by 1968. It also accelerated the attack against the northern half of the artificially divided country, began the murderous bombing of Laos, and extended its violations of Cambodian neutrality, finally initiating another "secret bombing" in 1969 and invading Cambodia outright in 1970 after a U.S.-backed military coup. This was followed by civil war and bombardment at an incredible scale, with hundreds of thousands killed and the country virtually destroyed.

Meanwhile, a popular movement against the Indochina wars began to develop at home, reaching significant proportions by 1967. The major achievement of the peace movement was to prevent the government from carrying out a full-scale national mobilization. It was forced to fight a "guns-and-butter war," with deficit financing, harming the U.S. economy and laying the basis for the crisis of following years. As a result, U.S. power declined relative to its real rivals, Europe and Japan, the latter now becoming a serious competitor thanks to the costs of the Vietnam war, harmful to the United States but highly beneficial to Japan, which enriched itself by its participation in the destruction of Indochina, as did Canada and other U.S. allies. In January 1968, the Tet offensive caused virtual panic in Washington, and led American business elites to conclude that the investment should be liquidated. A corporate-based delegation of "wise men" was dispatched to Washington to inform Lyndon Johnson that he was finished, and that the government must turn to "Vietnamization," that is, withdrawal of U.S. troops and a more capital-intensive war.

The war continued for seven more years, reaching its peak of savagery in South Vietnam with the 1969-1970 Post-Tet "accelerated pacification campaign," a mass murder operation to which the My Lai massacre was one minor footnote, trivial in context.

In January 1973, the U.S. was compelled to sign the Peace Treaty it had rejected the preceding November. What happened next was a virtual replay of 1954, which should be observed carefully by those who enter into negotiations involving the United States. On the day of the signing of the Paris Treaty, Washington announced, quite publicly, that it would reject every major element of the treaty that it signed. The central article of the Paris accords stated that there are two parallel and equivalent "parties" in South Vietnam (the U.S.-backed GVN and the PRG, formerly the NLF); these two parties were to come to an agreement without the interference of any foreign power (meaning: the U.S.), and were then to move towards settlement and integration with the northern half of the country, again without U.S. interference. Washington signed the agreement, but announced that in violation of it, the U.S. would continue to support the GVN as the "sole legitimate government in South Vietnam," "its constitutional structure and leadership intact and unchanged." This "constitutional structure" outlawed the second of the two parallel and equivalent parties in the South, and explicitly nullified the articles of the treaty that laid the basis for reconciliation and peaceful settlement. Similarly, every other major element of the treaty would be violated, the U.S. announced.

The mass media, in an illuminating exercise of servility to the state, adopted the Washington version of the Paris accords as the operative one, thus guaranteeing that as the U.S. continued to violate the treaty, the PRG and North Vietnam would appear to be in violation of it and could then be condemned as unconscionable aggressors. That is precisely what happened, exactly as was predicted at the time by the tiny group of dissidents in the U.S. among the articulate intelligentsia, who were carefully excluded from any forum where they might reach a substantial audience. The U.S.-GVN moved at once to extend their control over South Vietnam by force, in violation of the scrap of paper they had signed in Paris. When the inevitable PRG-North Vietnam reaction took place, it was bitterly condemned as yet another example of unprovoked "Communist aggression," and so official doctrine now records. The true story is missing from sanitized history, though one can find the facts in the marginalized dissident literature, which is easily ignored.

The lessons of 1954 and 1973 are very clear, and the victims of U.S. violence will ignore them at their peril. Though the U.S. government tactic succeeded brilliantly in the United States and the West in general, it failed in Vietnam.

Despite enormous U.S. military support, the GVN collapsed. By April 1975, the U.S. client regimes had been defeated. Most of Indochina, or what was left of it, was under effective North Vietnamese control since apart from Cambodia, the resistance movements - particularly, the NLF in South Vietnam - had been unable to survive the savage U.S. assault, again, exactly as had been predicted years earlier by marginalized dissidents. This predictable (and predicted) consequence of U.S. aggression was, of course, at once used in justification of the aggression that created these conditions, exactly as one would expect of a properly disciplined intellectual community.

Note that all of this took place at the moment when the media had reached their peak of dissidence, priding themselves on their "independence" from the state with the Watergate exposures and the controversy over Vietnam. It is worthy of note that the two examples regularly adduced as proof of the courage and independence of the media - Vietnam and Watergate - in fact provide dramatic evidence of their subordination to state power, along with the educated classes generally.

In the reconstruction of history that has since become approved doctrine, the media are depicted as having adopted an "adversarial stance" with regard to the state during this period, perhaps so much so as to undermine democratic institutions. This is alleged not only by the rightwing, but also by liberal opinion. The charge is made, for example, in an important study called The Crisis of Democracy published by the Trilateral Commission, an elite group of generally liberal persuasion (the group that supported Jimmy Carter and filled virtually every top executive position during his Administration), organized by David Rockefeller in 1973 with representatives from the three centers of industrial capitalist democracy: the U.S., Europe and Japan. The "crisis of democracy" that they deplore arose during the 1960s, when normally passive and apathetic elements of the population began to enter the political arena, threatening what is called "democracy" in the West: the unchallenged rule by privileged elites. The alleged "adversarial stance" of the media towards the state was one of the most dangerous features of this "crisis of democracy," the Commission study maintains, a danger that must be overcome. The true nature of this "media dissidence" is exhibited by the remarkable story of the Paris Peace Treaty along with much else, as one can learn, once again, from the marginalized dissident literature, though the "crisis of democracy" was real enough among the general population, and has not yet been overcome, despite dedicated efforts in the post-Vietnam years.

It is commonly held that the U.S. lost the war and that North Vietnam was victorious. This is taken for granted as an unquestionable truth in mainstream U.S. and European opinion, as well as in the U.S. peace movement and the left in Europe. The conclusion, however, is incorrect, and it is important to understand why. The U.S. government won a partial victory in Indochina, though it suffered a major defeat at home, where the domestic effects of the war were very significant, accelerating the growth of popular movements that entirely changed the cultural climate over a large range and for a time threatened elite dominance of the political system, bringing about "the crisis of democracy." Much of the population - though not educated elites, with rare exceptions - was afflicted with a dread disease called "the Vietnam syndrome," which persists until today and I hope is incurable: namely, opposition to aggression and massacre and a sense of solidarity and sympathy with the victims. I will turn to this matter, which is of great importance, in the last lecture. Much of the political history of the 1970s has been an elite counterattack to overcome the "crisis of democracy" and the "Vietnam syndrome."

But what about Indochina itself? Here, the United States had a maximum objective and a minimum objective. The maxi-mum objective was to turn Vietnam into another earthly paradise such as Chile or Guatemala or the Philippines. The minimum objective was to prevent the rot from spreading, possibly with major consequences extending as far as Japan, as I discussed earlier. The U.S. failed to achieve its maximal objective: Vietnam has not been incorporated into the U.S. global system. But despite much inflated rhetoric by Eisenhower and others about the rubber, tin and rice of Indochina, and later talk about oil, it was never of much importance to extend the Fifth Freedom to Indochina itself. The major concern was to excise the "cancer," in George Shultz's current phrase, to kill the "virus" and prevent it from "infecting" regions beyond. This objective was attained. Indochina was largely destroyed, and crucially, the dangerous popular movement in South Vietnam was virtually eradicated by U.S. terror. Indochina will be lucky to survive, and postwar U.S. policy has been designed to maximize suffering and repression there - including refusal of promised reparations, barriers to aid and trade, support for Pol Pot, and similar measures familiar enough here in Managua. The cruelty of these postwar measures reveals the significance assigned to ensuring that there will be no recovery from the devastation of the U.S. assault. To mention a few examples, the U.S. government attempted to prevent India from sending 100 buffalos (for an underdeveloped peasant society, that means fertilizer, the equivalent of tractors, etc.) to replenish the herds destroyed by U.S. aggression, and even tried to prevent shipment of pencils to Cambodia after Vietnam had overthrown the murderous Democratic Kampuchea government, a government that the U.S. now supports because of its "continuity" with the Pol Pot regime, the State Department has explained. It is of critical importance to ensure that there will be no recovery for a long, long rime to come, and that the ruined lands will be firmly in the Soviet bloc to justify further hostile actions.

Meanwhile the U.S. strengthened what was called "the second line of defense." The attack on the "virus" was two-pronged: it was necessary to destroy it at the source, and to "inoculate" the region to prevent the "infection" from spreading "contagion" beyond. The U.S. established and supported murderous and repressive regimes in Indonesia in 1965, in the Philippines in 1972, in Thailand in the 1970s, to ensure that "the second line of defense" would not be breached. As I mentioned earlier, the 1965 Suharto military coup in Indonesia with its murderous consequences - the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of landless peasants - was lauded in the West, by liberal opinion as well, and was offered as justification for the "defense" of South Vietnam, which provided a "shield" behind which the Indonesian generals were encouraged to purge their society of the mass-based Communist Party and open it up to Western plunder, impeded only by the rapacity of the generals and their cohorts.

There is no "threat of a good example" in Indochina, and surrounding regions, the ones that were really important, are firmly incorporated within the Grand Area. The current problems have more to do with rivalries within the First World of industrial capitalism than with the threat of "infection" that might lead to independent development geared to domestic needs. All of this counts as a substantial success for the U.S. crusade in Indochina, a fact of which business circles, at least, have long been well aware.

The doctrinal system regards the war as a U.S. defeat: for those of unlimited ambition, a failure to achieve maximal aims is always a tragedy, and it is true, and important, that elite groups suffered a defeat at home, with the eruption of the "crisis of democracy" and the growth of the "Vietnam syndrome." The fact that others accept this conclusion may in part be a result of the remarkable hegemony of the U.S. propaganda system, and in part a reflection of the understandable desire to record a "victory" for popular protest, which was often undertaken at quite considerable personal cost, particularly among the young, who spearheaded the anti-war movement. But there should be no illusions about what actually happened. The popular movements did achieve a great deal. Indochina at least survives; the U.S. did not resort to nuclear weapons as it might well have done had the population remained docile and quiescent, as it was during the terror of the U.S.-imposed regime in the South, or when Kennedy launched the direct U.S. attack against the South in 1962. But the "lesson of Vietnam," which was taught with extreme brutality and sadism, is that those who try to defend their independence from the Global Enforcer may pay a fearful cost. Many others have been subjected to similar lessons, in Central America as well.

I will turn to this topic in the next lecture.

Copyright © 1987 by Noam Chomsky. Re-published in 2015 by Haymarket Books. Not to be reposted without permission of the publisher.

Progressive Picks Sun, 29 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
Ta-Nehisi Coates on Police Brutality: "The Violence Is Not New, It's the Cameras That Are New"

Today we spend the hour with Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of the explosive book about white supremacy and being black in America. Titled "Between the World and Me," it is written as a letter to his teenage son, Samori. In July, Ta-Nehisi Coates launched the book in his hometown of Baltimore. He spoke at the historic Union Baptist Church. "It seems like there's a kind of national conversation going on right now about those who are paid to protect us, who sometimes end up inflicting lethal harm upon us," Coates said. "But for me, this conversation is old, and I'm sure for many of you the conversation is quite old. It's the cameras that are new. It's not the violence that's new."


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Today, we spend the hour with Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of an explosive new book about white supremacy and being black in America. It's called Between the World and Me, written as a letter to his teenage son, Samori. Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics and social issues. He received the George Polk Award for his Atlantic cover story, "The Case for Reparations." His book, Between the World and Me, is called "required reading" by Toni Morrison. She writes, quote, "I've been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died. Clearly it is Ta-Nehisi Coates."

Well, in July, Ta-Nehisi Coates launched his book in his hometown of Baltimore. He spoke at the historic Union Baptist Church.

TA-NEHISI COATES: This book proceeded from a notion, and there are a couple of main notions that are really at work here. And one of the dominant ideas in the book, Between the World and Me, which is, you know, effectively an extended essay told in a letter form to my son, is the notion of fear, because I think like when people think about African-American communities, there are a lot of things that come to mind, but one of the things that does not come to mind, I think, enough in the mainstream conversation is simply how afraid we are of our bodies, how afraid we are for our children, how afraid we are for our loved ones, on a daily basis. And, you know, I understood this as a very, very young person, as I talk about it in the book. You know, from my earliest memories, I was talking to Dad about this a little while ago, and I think about my first memories, my first memories of going - my first coherent memories of going with my mother and father to see Marshall "Eddie" Conway in prison, and understanding that there are black men - you know, are in prison. That was like my first memory. He had done something, or somebody accused him of something. Something had happened where he did not have the full freedom and control of his body, and that was something that happened to people who look like me, even though I didn't quite understand how and why that happened.

And then, as you grow up in the community, and you have to go out into the world and navigate - you know, I've said this several times in many places - you know, I have my memories of going to middle school here in Baltimore, and I think about how much of my mental space was possessed with keeping my body safe, how much of it dealt with how I was dressed, who I was walking with, what neighborhood I was walking through, once I got to school how I conducted myself in the school, and not so much in such a way that would be obedient to my teachers, but in a way that would keep me safe from the amount of violence. I mean, I was talking in this interview the other day; I was saying that any sort of policy that you think about in this country that has to do with race ultimately comes back, for black folks, to securing our bodies, the physical safety of our body. And so we have these kind of high and abstract debates about, you know, affirmative action. And in the minds of certain people, we think those conversations are literally just about "Is my kid going to get into Harvard or not?" But behind that, for us, as black people, is a conversation of "Is my kid going to be able to have the means to live in a neighborhood where he or she walks outside the house and they're not looking over their shoulder, and they're not watching their back, and they're not - they don't have to do the sort of things that I have to do, the threat of violence is always there?"

Now, one of the horrifying things - and this is what, you know, I'm going to read about tonight - even for those of us who escape those neighborhoods, even for those of us who make it somewhere and are able to do something and live in better places, the threat never quite leaves us, because once we're no longer afraid of the neighborhood, it turns out we actually have to have some fear for the very people we pay taxes to protect us. And that's what we've been hearing about for the past year over this country. We've been seeing a lot of that. And it seems like there's a kind of national conversation going on right now about those who are paid to protect us, who sometimes end up inflicting lethal harm upon us. But for me, this conversation is old, and I'm sure for many of you the conversation is quite old. It's the cameras that are new. It's not the violence that's new. We are not in the midst of a new wave of anything. We're, you know, in a new technological wave, you know? And this is not unprecedented. You know, the sort of violence that folks saw in the 1960s, in Selma, for instance, or on Bloody Sunday, that sort of violence was not, in fact, actually new. That's what white supremacy, what racism is. It is an act of violence. What was new was the cameras. There was certain technology that was able to take that into the living rooms of America. And we're going through a similar thing right now, but the violence is not new.

When I think about the first time I really, really became aware of this, beyond theory, it was in the instance of the killing of a good friend of mine - a friend of mine, I should say to clarify our relationship, a friend of mine by the name of Prince Jones, who I went to Howard University with.

As a brief aside, when you write things, they're forced to become abstract, or when you interview people, they become abstract. And then, whenever you're forced to talk about them, they immediately become real, and all the emotions that you feel about those people come back. I'm going to try to control myself here.

Prince Jones was a fellow student of mine at Howard University. He was a tall, beautiful young man. He hailed from a prosperous family, a family that had not always been prosperous. His mother, you know, was the child of sharecroppers, had worked her way up through life out of poverty in Louisiana and had risen to become a prominent radiologist.

Prince was in Prince George's County, Maryland, driving. It was late at night. He had just dropped off his young daughter. He was going to see his fiancée. And he was in a jeep, an SUV. The SUV he was in was being followed, as it turned out, by the police, the Prince George's County police. And I'm in Baltimore, so you guys know about the reputation of the Prince George's County police; I don't need to give any sort of lectures on that. The gentleman who was following him had come to work that night as an undercover police officer and had dressed up as a drug dealer, so he was, you know, literally dressed as a criminal, to appear as a criminal. He was in an unmarked car. He thought Prince Jones was someone else who he was supposed to be doing surveillance on. He tracked Prince Jones from Prince George's County, Maryland, through Washington, D.C., and into Fairfax, Virginia, where, as far as I'm concerned, he effectively executed him. In the story he tells, because he's the only witness - and, you know, he's the only person whose version of events we actually have - the story he tells is that once they got to Fairfax, they got into a dark cul-de-sac, and Prince rammed his car. And he said before Prince rammed his car, he got out of the car, and he pulled a gun on Prince, and he identified himself as a police officer, but he didn't produce his badge. By his own admission, he didn't produce his badge. By his testimony, Prince got back in the car, into his truck, and rammed the guy, the police officer's car, and the police officer shot and killed him.

This happened in 2000. I believe my son was about a month old at that point. You know, you talk about fears for, like, bringing a black child into the world, like it was immediately real. You know, it was just suddenly like so visceral, like right there. And the most terrifying thing for me was when I thought about, like, myself. Like, I couldn't distance myself from what Prince had done, even in the version of events as given by the officer, whether they're true or not. Even in, you know, the most sympathetic version of events given by the officer, I could not distance myself from whatever actions Prince Jones had taken in that case. I had to imagine myself followed through three jurisdictions by somebody who did not identify themself as a police officer, who was literally dressed to appear as a criminal. And I had to think about all the fears that I had to have, you know, as I was going through the neighborhood here in Baltimore and all the fears that Prince must have had, going to visit my fiancée and worrying about her, and seeing this dude pull a gun out on me and claim to be a police. Well, I don't know if you're a police officer. And once I got into his shoes, it was very, very easy for me to see myself how I could have been killed in much the same way. And this was horrifying. And so, for normal Americans, you know, once they rise up and get out of certain neighborhoods or go certain places, you know, they feel a kind of safety that black people never feel. Fear is one of the dominant emotions of the black experience. Fear. And it does - no amount of money you can earn can ever take you away from that. You can be president of the United States, and you can be afraid for your body. You can be the first lady of the United States, and you can be afraid for your body. You can be afraid for the bodies of your two little girls. It does not go away. There's no escape from that.

Well, Prince's story stayed with me for a number of years, and I wrote about it in little places, but I couldn't get like his mom out of my head. I kept wondering, because I knew this woman had done all this, and I couldn't get her out of my head, and I wondered, like, how she lived. I wondered how she carried that. And I reached out, and I made contact with her, and I was able to go see her. And so the portion of the book I'm going to read tonight tells the story about our conversation. As I said, Between the World and Me is written as a letter to my son, so all of the yous and all of the sort of, you know, things, it's me addressing him, who is not here right now. He's somewhere in the middle of Vermont right now. This story, you know, goes a lot of places. It goes to Howard University, goes to Paris, France. It moves quite a bit. But at this point, we're at the end, and we're trying to get some sort of resolution or some sort of conclusion on everything we've seen. So I'll go ahead and read.

"In the years after Prince Jones died, I thought often of those who were left to make their lives in the shadow of his death. I thought of his fiancée and wondered what it meant to see the future upended with no explanation. I wondered what she would tell his daughter, and I wondered how his daughter would imagine her father, when she would miss him, how she would detail the loss. But mostly I wondered about Prince's mother, and the question I mostly asked myself was always the same: How did she live? I searched for her phone number online. I emailed her. She responded. Then I called and made an appointment to visit. And living she was, just outside of Philadelphia in a small gated community of affluent homes. It was a rainy Tuesday when I arrived. I had taken the train in from New York and then picked up a rental car. I was thinking of Prince a lot in those months before. You, your mother, and I had gone to Homecoming at The Mecca, and so many of my friends were there, and Prince was not.

"Dr. Jones greeted me at the door. She was lovely, polite, brown. She appeared to be somewhere in that range between forty and seventy years, when it is difficult to precisely ascertain a black person's precise age. She was" - whenever I read that in front of white people, nobody laughs. "She was well composed, given the subject of our conversation, and for most of the visit I struggled to separate how she actually felt from what I felt she must be feeling. What I felt, right then, was that she was smiling through pained eyes, that the reason for my visit spread sadness like a dark quilt over the whole house. I seem to recall music - jazz or gospel - playing in the back, but conflicting with that I also remember a deep quiet overcoming everything. I thought that perhaps she had been crying. I could not tell for sure. She led me into her large living room. There was no one else in the house. It was early January. Her Christmas tree was still standing at the end of the room, and there were stockings bearing the name of her daughter and her lost son, and there was a framed picture of him - Prince Jones - on a display table. She brought me water in a heavy glass. She drank tea. She told me that she was born and raised outside Opelousas, Louisiana, that her ancestors had been enslaved in that very same region, and that as a consequence of that enslavement, a great fear echoed down through the ages. 'It first became clear when I was four,' she told me.

My mother and I were going into the city. We got on the Greyhound bus. I was behind my mother. She wasn't holding my hand at the time and I plopped down in the first seat I found. A few minutes later my mother was looking for me and she took me to the back of the bus and explained why I couldn't sit there. We were very poor, and most of the black people around us, who I knew were poor also, and the images I had of white America were from going into the city and seeing who was behind the counter in the stores and seeing who my mother worked for. It became clear that there was a distance.

"This chasm makes itself known to us in all kinds of ways. A little girl wanders home, at age seven, after being teased in school and asks her parents, 'Are we niggers and what does this mean?' Sometimes it is subtle - the simple observation of who lives where and works what jobs and who does not. Sometimes it is all at once. I have never asked you how you became personally aware of the distance. Was it Michael Brown? I don't think I want to know. But I know that it has happened to you already, that you have deduced that you are privileged and yet still different from other privileged children, because you are the bearer of a body more fragile than any other in this country. What I want you to know is that it is not your fault, even if it is ultimately your responsibility. It is your responsibility because you are surrounded by the Dreamers. It has nothing to do with how you wear your pants or how you style your hair. The breach is as intentional as policy, as intentional as the forgetting that follows. The breach allows for the efficient sorting of the plundered from the plunderers, the enslaved from the enslavers, sharecroppers from landholders, cannibals from food.

"Dr. Jones was reserved. She was what people once referred to as 'a lady,' and in that sense reminded me of my grandmother, who was a single mother in the projects but always spoke as though she had nice things. And when Dr. Jones described her motive for escaping the dearth that marked the sharecropper life of her father and all the others around her, when she remembered herself saying, 'I'm not going to live like this,' I saw the iron in her eyes, and I remembered the iron in my grandmother's eyes. You must barely remember her by now - you were six when she died. I remember her, of course, but by the time I knew her, her exploits - how, for instance, she scrubbed white people's floors during the day and went to school at night - were legend. But I still could feel the power and the rectitude that propelled her out of the projects and into homeownership.

"It was the same power I felt in the presence of Dr. Jones. When she was in second grade, she and another child made a pact that they would both become doctors, and she held up her end of the bargain. But first she integrated the high school in her town. At the beginning she fought the white children who insulted her. At the end they voted her class president. She ran track. It was 'a great entrée,' she told me, but it only brought her so far into their world. At football games the other students would cheer the star black running back, and then when a black player on the other team got the ball, they'd yell, 'Kill that nigger! Kill that nigger!' They would yell this sitting right next to her, as though she really were not there. She gave Bible recitations as a child and she told me the story of her recruitment into this business. Her mother took her to audition for the junior choir. Afterward the choir director said, 'Honey, I think you should talk.' She was laughing lightly now, not uproariously, still in control of her body. I felt that she was warming up. As she talked of the church, I thought of your grandfather, the one you know, and how his first intellectual adventures were found in the recitation of Bible passages. I thought of your mother, who did the same. And I thought of my own distance from an institution that has, so often, been the only support for our people. I often wonder if in that distance I've missed something, some notions of cosmic hope, some wisdom beyond my mean physical perception of the world, something beyond the body, that I might have transmitted to you. I wondered this, at that particular moment, because something beyond anything I have ever understood drove Mable Jones to an exceptional life.

"She went to college on full scholarship. She went to med school at Louisiana State University. She served in the Navy. She took up radiology. She did not then know any other black radiologists. I assumed that this would have been hard on her, but she was insulted by the assumption. She could not acknowledge any discomfort, and she did not speak of herself as remarkable, because it conceded too much, because it sanctified tribal expectation when the only expectation that mattered should be rooted in an assessment of Mable Jones. And by those lights, there was nothing surprising in her success, because Mable Jones was always pedal to the floor, not over or around, but through, and if she was going to do it, it must be done to death. Her disposition toward life was that of an elite athlete who knows the opponent is dirty and the refs are on the take, but also knows that the championship is one game away.

"She called her son - Prince Jones - 'Rocky' in honor of her grandfather, who went by 'Rock.' I asked about his childhood, because the fact is that I had not known Prince all that well. He was among the people I would be happy to see at a party, whom I would describe [to] a friend as 'a good brother,' though I could not really account for his comings and goings. So she sketched him for me so that I might better understand. She said that he once hammered a nail into an electrical socket and shorted out the entire house. She said that he once dressed himself in a suit and tie, got down on one knee, and sang 'Three Times a Lady' to her. She said that he'd gone to private school his entire life - schools filled with Dreamers - but he made friends wherever he went, in Louisiana and later in Texas. I asked her how his friends' parents treated her. 'By then I was the chief of radiology at the local hospital,' she said. 'And so they treated me with respect.' She said this with no love in her eye, coldly, as though she were explaining a mathematical function.

"Like his mother, Prince was smart. In high school he was admitted to a Texas magnet school for math and science, where students acquire college credit. Despite the school drawing from a state with roughly the population of Angola, Australia, or Afghanistan, Prince was the only black child. I asked Dr. Jones if she had wanted him to go to Howard. She smiled and said, 'No.' And then she added, 'It's so nice to be able to talk about this.' This relaxed me a little, because I could think of myself as something more than an intrusion. I asked where she had wanted him to go for college. She said, 'Harvard. And if not Harvard, Princeton. And if not Princeton, Yale. And if not Yale, Columbia. And if not Columbia, Stanford. He was that caliber of student.' But like at least one third of all the students who I knew who came to Howard, Prince was tired of having to represent to other people. These Howard students were not like me. They were the children of the Jackie Robinson elite, whose parents rose up out of the ghettos, and the sharecropping fields, went out into the suburbs, only to find that they carried the mark with them and they could not escape. Even when they succeeded, as so many of them did, they were singled out, made examples of, transfigured into parables of diversity. They were symbols and markers, never children or young adults. And so they come to Howard to be normal - and even more, to see how broad the black normal really is.

"Prince did not apply to Harvard, nor Princeton, nor Yale, nor Columbia, nor Stanford. He only wanted The Mecca. I asked Dr. Jones if she regretted Prince choosing Howard. She gasped. It was as though I had pushed too hard on a bruise. 'No,' she said. 'I regret that he is dead.'

"She said this with great composure and greater pain. She said this with all of the odd poise and direction that the great American injury demands of you. Have you ever taken a hard look at those pictures from the sit-ins in the '60s, a hard, serious look? Have you ever looked at the faces? The faces are neither angry, nor sad, nor joyous. They betray almost no emotion. They look out past their tormentors, past us, and focus on something way beyond anything ever known to me. I think they are fastened to their god, a god whom I cannot know. But, god or not, the armor is all over them, and it is real. Or perhaps it is not armor at all. Perhaps it is life extension, a kind of loan allowing you to take the assaults heaped upon you now and pay down the debt later. Whatever it is, that same look I see in those pictures, noble and vacuous, that was the look I saw in Mable Jones. It was in her sharp brown eyes, which welled but did not break. She held so much under her control, and I was sure the days since her Rocky was plundered, since her lineage was robbed, had demanded nothing less.

"And she could not lean on her country for help. When it came to her son, Dr. Jones's country did what it does best - it forgot him. The forgetting is habit, it is yet another necessary component of the Dream. They have forgotten the scale of theft that enriched them in slavery; the terror that allowed them, for a century, to pilfer the vote; the segregationist policy that gave them their suburbs. They have forgotten, because to remember would tumble them out of the beautiful Dream and force them to live down here with us, down here in the world. I am convinced that the Dreamers, at least the Dreamers of today, would rather live white than live free. In the Dream they are Buck Rogers, Prince Aragorn, an entire race of Skywalkers. To awaken them is to reveal that they are an empire of humans and, like all empires of humans, are built on the destruction of the body. It is to stain their nobility, to make them vulnerable, fallible, breakable humans."

AMY GOODMAN: Ta-Nehisi Coates, speaking at the Union Baptist Church in Baltimore on the launch of his new best-seller, Between the World and Me, a book that's based on a letter to his teenage son. We come back to the speech in a moment.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, as we go back to the speech of Ta-Nehisi Coates, the best-selling author whose new book is called Between the World and Me, based on a letter to his teenage son. He was speaking at the Union Baptist Church in Baltimore.

TA-NEHISI COATES: "Dr. Jones was asleep when the phone rang. It was 5 A.M. and on the phone was a detective telling her she should drive to Washington. Rocky was in the hospital. Rocky had been shot. She drove with her daughter. She was sure he was still alive. She paused several times as she explained this to me. She went directly to the ICU. Rocky was not there. A group of men with authority - doctors, lawyers, detectives, perhaps - took her into a room and told her he was gone. She paused again. She did not cry. Composure was too important now.

"'It was unlike anything I had felt before,' she told me. 'It was extremely physically painful. So much so that whenever a thought of him would come to mind, all I could do was pray and ask for mercy. I thought I was going to lose my mind and go crazy. I felt sick. I felt like I was dying.'

"I asked if she expected that the police officer who had shot Prince would be charged. She said, 'Yes.' Her voice was a cocktail of emotions. She spoke like an American, with the same expectations of fairness, even fairness belated and begrudged, that she took into medical school all those years ago. And she spoke like a black woman, with all the pain that undercuts those exact feelings.

"I now wondered about her daughter, who'd been recently married. There was a picture on display of this daughter and her new husband. Dr. Jones was not optimistic. She was intensely worried about her daughter bringing a son into America, because she could not save him, she could not secure his body from the ritual violence that claimed her son. She compared America to Rome. She said she thought the glory days of this country had long ago passed, and even those glory days were sullied, because they had been built on the bodies of others. 'And we can't get the message,' she said. 'We don't understand that we are embracing our deaths.'

"I asked Dr. Jones if her mother was still alive. She told me her mother passed away in 2002, at the age of eighty-nine. I asked Dr. Jones how her mother had taken Prince's death, and her voice retreated into an almost-whisper, and Dr. Jones said, 'I don't know that she did.'

"She alluded to 12 Years a Slave. 'There he was,' she said, speaking of Solomon Northup. 'He had means. He had a family. He was living like a human being. And one racist act took him back. And the same is true of me. I spent years developing a career, acquiring assets, engaging responsibilities. And one racist act. It's all it takes.' And then she talked again of all that she had, through great industry, through unceasing labor, acquired in the long journey from grinding poverty. She spoke of how her children had been raised in the lap of luxury - annual ski trips, jaunts off to Europe. She said that when her daughter was studying Shakespeare in high school, she took her daughter to England. And when her daughter got her license at sixteen, a Mazda 626 was waiting out front. I sensed some connection to this, some desire to give and the raw poverty of her youth. I sensed that it was all as much for her as it was for her children. She said that Prince had never taken to material things. He loved to read. He loved to travel. But when he turned twenty-three, she bought him a jeep. She had a huge purple bow put on it. She told me that she still could see him there, looking at the jeep and simply saying, Thank you. Without interruption she added, 'And that was the jeep he was killed in.'

"After I left, I sat in the car for a few minutes. I thought of all that Prince's mother had invested in him, and all that was lost. I thought of the loneliness that sent him to The Mecca, and how The Mecca, how we, could not save him, how we ultimately cannot save ourselves. I thought back on the sit-ins, the protestors with their stoic faces, the ones I'd once scorned for hurling their bodies at the worst things in life. Perhaps they had known something terrible about the world. Perhaps they so willingly parted with the security and sanctity of the black body because neither security nor sanctity existed in the first place. And all those old photographs from the 1960s, all those films I beheld of black people prostrate before clubs and dogs, were not shameful, indeed were not shameful at all - they were just true. We are captured, brother, surrounded by the majoritarian bandits of America. And this has happened here, in our only home, and the terrible truth is that we cannot will ourselves to an escape on our own. Perhaps that was, is, the hope of the movement: to awaken the Dreamers, to rouse them to the facts of what their need to be white, to talk like they are white, to think that they are white, which is to think that they are beyond the design flaws of humanity, has done to the world.

"You, Samori, you cannot arrange your life around them and the small chance of them coming into consciousness. Our moment is too brief. Our bodies are too precious. And you are here now, and you must live - and there is so much out there to live for, not just in someone else's country, but in your own home. The warmth of dark energies that drew me to The Mecca, that drew out Prince Jones, the warmth of our particular world, is beautiful, no matter how brief and breakable.

"I think back to our trip to Homecoming. I think back to the warm blasts rolling over us. We were at the football game. We were sitting in the bleachers with old friends and their children, caring for neither fumbles nor first downs. I remember looking toward the goalposts and watching a pack of alumni cheerleaders so enamored with Howard University that they donned their old colors and took out their old uniforms just a little bit so they'd fit. I remember them dancing. They'd shake, freeze, shake again, and when the crowd yelled 'Do it! Do it! Dooo it!' a black woman two rows in front of me, in her tightest jeans, stood and shook as though she was not somebody's momma and the past twenty years had barely been a week. I remember walking down to the tailgate party without you. I could not bring you, but I have no problem telling you what I saw - the entire diaspora around me - hustlers, lawyers, Kappas, busters, doctors, barbers, Deltas, drunkards, geeks, and nerds. The DJ hollered into the mic. The young folks pushed toward him. A young man pulled out a bottle of cognac and twisted the cap. A girl with him smiled, tilted her head back, imbibed, laughed. And I felt myself disappearing into all of their bodies. The birthmark of damnation faded, and I could feel the weight of my arms and I could feel the heave in my breath and I was not talking then, because there was no point.

"That was a moment, a joyous moment, beyond their Dream - a moment imbued by a power more gorgeous than any voting rights bill. This power, this black power, originates in a view of the American galaxy taken from a dark and essential planet. Black power is the dungeon-side view of Monticello - which is to say, the view taken in struggle. And black power births a kind of understanding that illuminates all the galaxies in their truest colors. Even the Dreamers - lost in their great reverie - feel it, for it is Billie that they reach for in sadness, and Mobb Deep is what they holler in boldness, and Isley is what they hum in love, and Dre is what they yell in revelry, and Aretha is the last sound they hear before dying. We have made something down here. We have taken the one-drop rule of Dreamers and flipped them. They made us into a race. But we made ourselves into a people. Here at The Mecca, under the pain of selection, we have made a home. As do black people on summer blocks marked with needles, vials, and hopscotch squares. As do black people dancing it out at rent parties, as do black people at their family reunions where we are regarded like the survivors of catastrophe. As do black people toasting their cognac and German beers, passing their blunts and debating MCs. As do all of us who have voyaged through death, to life upon these shores.

"That was the love power that drew Prince Jones. The power is not just divinity but a deep knowledge of how fragile everything - even the Dream, especially the Dream - really is. Sitting in that car I thought of Dr. Jones's predictions of national doom. I had heard such predictions all my life from Malcolm and all his posthumous followers who hollered that the Dreamers must reap what they sow. I saw the same prediction in the words of Marcus Garvey who promised to return in a whirlwind of vengeful ancestors, an army of Middle Passage undead. No. When I left The Mecca, I knew that that was all too pat, and knowing that the Dreamers should reap what they had sown, we would reap it right along with them. Plunder has matured into habit, and habit into addiction; and the people who could author the mechanized death of our ghettos, the mass rape of private prisons, and then engineer their own forgetting, must inevitably plunder much more. This is not a belief in prophecy, it is a belief in the seductiveness of cheap gasoline.

"Once, the Dream's parameters were caged by technology and by the limits of horsepower and wind. But the Dreamers have improved themselves, and the damming of seas for voltage, the extraction of coal, the transmuting of oil into food, have enabled an expansion, a plunder with no known precedent. And this revolution has freed the Dreamers to plunder not just the body of black humans but the body of the Earth itself. The Earth is not our creation. It has no respect for us. It has no use for us. And its vengeance is not the fire in the cities but the fire in the sky. Something more fierce than Marcus Garvey is riding on the whirlwind. Something more awful than all of our African ancestors is rising with the seas. The two phenomena are known to each other. It was the cotton that passed through our chained hands that inaugurated this age. It is the flight from us that sent them sprawling into their subdivided woods. And the methods of transport through these new subdivisions, across the sprawl, is the automobile, the noose around the neck of the earth, and ultimately, the Dreamers themselves.

"I drove away from the house of Mable Jones thinking of all of this. I drove away, as always, thinking of you. I do not believe we can stop them, Samori, because they must ultimately stop themselves. And still I urge you to struggle. Struggle for the memory of your ancestors. Struggle for wisdom. Struggle for the warmth of The Mecca. Struggle for your grandmother and grandfather, struggle for your name. But do not struggle for the Dreamers. Hope for them. Pray for them, if you are so moved. But do not pin your struggle on their conversion. The Dreamers will have to learn to struggle themselves, to understand that the field for their Dream, the stage where they have painted themselves white, is the deathbed of us all. The Dream is the same habit that endangers the planet, the same habit that sees our bodies stowed away in prisons and ghettos. I saw these ghettos driving from Dr. Jones's home. They were the same ghettos I had seen in Chicago all those years ago, the same ghettos where my mother was raised, where my father was raised. Through the windshield I saw the mark of these ghettos - the abundance of beauty shops, churches, liquor stores, and crumbling housing - and I felt the old fear. Through the windshield I saw the rain coming down in sheets."

Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me, based on a letter to his teenage son. He was speaking on the launch of the book at the Union Baptist Church in Baltimore. If you'd like to get a copy of today's show, you can go to our website at When we come back, a conversation with Ta-Nehisi Coates.

News Fri, 27 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
From Paris to Raqqa

This podcast discusses the Paris terror attacks prompting lawmakers on Capitol Hill to take aim at refugees and encryption; the latest development on criminal legal reform; Bernie Sanders on Democratic Socialism; and, prize-winning author and reporter Chris Woods of is on to talk about the ongoing air campaign against the Islamic State.

News Fri, 27 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
People Tied Up "Like Animals" on UK Deportation Flights

A woman being deported from the UK to Pakistan was compliant and cooperative throughout the process. Still, the commercial contractor Tascor, working for the UK Home Office, strapped the woman into a waist restraint belt until after the plane had taken off.

One man on suicide watch was strapped into a waist restraint belt even though there was no evidence that he posed a risk to others. Another man, who refused to board a deportation flight, was belted continuously for eight long hours. His wrists swelled. He was examined by a paramedic.

These cases have come to light in two new reports by HM Inspectorate of Prisons. The inspectors also found that waist restraint belts were used six times on three flights to Pakistan, and that approaches to security were "unduly indiscriminate in some respects."

Government advisers have described the waist belt as "a custom-designed piece of restraint equipment, manufactured from manmade fibres and using plastic snap-locks and Velcro fasteners, designed to be worn around the subject's waist. Soft cuffs, with plastic snap-lock and Velcro fasteners, are attached to the belt by retractable cords."

They said: "In the 'free' position, although still connected to the belt, the cords are long enough to allow the subject relatively free movement of his arms and hands (for example, for eating). In the 'retracted' position, the subject's hands are pulled in to the front of the belt, where they can be further secured by a snap-lock fastened mesh."

Inspectors described the waist belt as "almost equivalent … to the most extreme and very rarely used" restraint equipment in prisons.

The belts were introduced by the Home Office as part of a new training program for deportation staff, that was prompted by the unlawful killing of Angolan deportee Jimmy Mubenga by G4S guards in 2010.

The independent panel that advised on the use of the new equipment warned last year that "indiscriminate use of the restraint belt was not justifiable ethically or legally." It said ministers would have to approve its introduction and it should only be used as "an exceptional measure."

The coroner who presided over the inquest into Mubenga's death wrote in a Prevention of Future Deaths Report in July 2013: "It goes without saying that the use of a body-cuff would constitute a significant interference in the bodily integrity of any person to whom it is applied. Dignity and bodily integrity are matters in which close regard must be had in determining what new techniques are to be introduced."

Yet HM Inspectorate of Prisons has found that the waist restraint belts "were now embedded in practice" and that they risked "being overused." On three flights to Nigeria and Ghana, the belts were used ten times. Inspectors said that "the justification for several of these uses was not explicit in the records" which they examined. On another flight, the belt was used on eight passengers, even though five of them did not resist being put on the flight. Inspectors said: "while risk factors were used to justify each case, the evidence was sometimes minimal."

Some authorisation forms for using restraints "did not indicate what specific risk factors might have existed," and lacked sufficient detail, the inspectors noted. This appears to falls short of the Home Office's own guidance on the use of these belts, which requires a senior manager to record "whether the restraint was reasonable, proportionate and necessary."

Two detainees arrived at the airport "in a small van that had been contaminated with their urine." The men were then kept in the van for several hours, which, according to the inspectors, was "unacceptable treatment."

The inspectors noted that one man, who was on suicide watch, had lived in Britain for 15 years and was being taken away from his mother who was very ill in hospital here. Another man who was placed in one of the waist restraint belts had been on suicide watch for the previous six months in a series of detention centres.

The investigative organisation Corporate Watch tracked down one detainee who was on the same deportation flight as the man on suicide watch mentioned in the inspectors' report.

Speaking under the condition of anonymity, the witness described the scene on board: "A lot of people were tied up, in like a vest on your tummy and arms," he said. "They tightened up the back so you cannot move and you have pain in your back. You cannot move your hands. They put people on that plane like animals."

Corporate Watch spoke to one former detainee who claims he was recently restrained by guards in a device which sounds similar to the new belts. He says it blocked his airflow and caused him to pass out. He spoke anonymously, fearing reprisals from the Home Office:

"The guards tried to pin me down with their legs and their knees. After some time they put a belt from under my my armpit down to my abdomen. They started tightening it and I was screaming and screaming 'This is too tight for me!'"

He went on: "After some time I passed out - there was no air. Someone shouted that they should put me in the recovery position. I was in panic and hyperventilating. They held my head and tried to force a tablet into my mouth. I was choking and gagging for 30 minutes."

Despite his passing out, the guards continued trying to deport him, the man claimed. "They put me in a wheelchair and moved me into the deportation van. On the way to the airport my condition deteriorated and they called an ambulance on the motorway and I went to hospital for some hours."

He says he was taken to hospital in handcuffs, despite the new Home Office policy. "I was still handcuffed on the way to hospital. The handcuffs cut the bone of my wrist and I'm having pain in the scrotum and lower back from the assault," he said.

In the days before one of the deportation flights featured in the inspection reports, volunteers at the Unity Centre in Glasgow spoke to many of the men facing deportation. Among them were fathers leaving behind their partners and young children. The sense of fear and desperation was strong.

One young man, Fred (not his real name), scaled the fence at Harmondsworth detention centre. The inspectors said this caused "considerable delay" in taking people to the airport. Whenever Home Office officials tried to come near him, Fred threatened to jump. A mattress was placed underneath him. The flight left without him, and at  the end of the night he came down from the fence.

One week later Corporate Watch visited Fred in detention. He said he was born in Sierra Leone, where his father, an aid worker with the British Red Cross, was killed during the civil war. He had lived in the UK since he was 11 years old with his surviving family. He said all the detainees were talking about not wanting to go on the flight, "but no one was doing anything. So I got up the fence and they couldn't touch me." 

At 24, he had spent the past two years of his life in detention, apart from one brief spell when he was released on tag, and required to walk miles each day to report to the Home Office.

His face was vacant and expressionless. Detention was sucking the life out of him. He was being deported on the basis of police 'intelligence,' not evidence or convictions, of association with a London gang. Operation Nexus allows the Met Police to bar people from the UK if officers believe someone is not conducive to the public good. Despite Fred's desperate resistance, he was later deported to Sierra Leone.

Another deportation flight for dozens of Nigerians from London to Lagos, is scheduled for Tuesday 24th November. Campaigners from Movement for Justice rallied outside the Nigerian High Commissioner on Wednesday 18th, and women in Yarl's Wood detention centre published a statement opposing the flight, saying "we refused to be slaves to the British government."

News Fri, 27 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory Campaign Cashes in on Anti-Refugee Animus

Since the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris by Islamic State operatives, at least 31 governors across the US have said they don't want to allow any more refugees fleeing the war in the Syria into their states, including most governors in the South.

These state leaders, almost all of them Republicans, claim the Obama administration's plan to accept at least 10,000 refugees from the Islamic State stronghold of Syria over the next year presents an unacceptable security risk for their citizens - despite the fact that there is an intensive vetting process for refugees, that no refugees who've come to the US since 9/11 have been arrested on domestic terrorism charges, and that governors don't have the authority to block refugees from their states.

Gov. Pat McCrory (R) of North Carolina joined their ranks on Monday afternoon, when he held a press conference where he said he was "requesting that the president and the federal government cease sending refugees from Syria to North Carolina" and until he is "satisfied" with the effectiveness of federal vetting of refugees coming to the United States.

"My primary duty as governor is to protect the citizens of North Carolina, which is why I am taking the steps I have outlined today," McCrory said.

McCrory apparently also believes the issue makes for winning politics. The same day the governor called for a halt to Syrian refugees being resettled in his state, his re-election committee posted an appeal to its Facebook page calling for "NO SYRIAN REFUGEES IN NC" and linking to the campaign's contribution page:

Lagging in polls and fundraising against his leading Democratic challenger, Attorney General Roy Cooper, the McCrory campaign appears eager to tap what the head of Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) called an "increased xenophobic streak" among the US public.

A recent survey by the group found that 46 percent of Americans say immigrants are a burden on the country while 56 percent believe the values of Islam are at odds with American values. Republicans in particular have issues with the foreign-born, PRRI found, with 66 percent of GOP respondents saying immigrants are a burden.

The PRRI poll also found that Americans' perceptions of Islam have grown more negative over the past few years - and it was conducted before the Paris attacks, which have sparked an outpouring of anti-refugee sentiment.

In Florida, for example, two mosques received bomb threats over the weekend and a Muslim family found bullet holes in their garage door, while in Texas someone splattered feces in front of a mosque along with pages torn from the Quran. In North Carolina, an Uber driver reports being beaten and threatened by a passenger who used anti-Muslim slurs. The driver is an Ethiopian immigrant and a Christian.

Of the estimated 3.8 million Syrians who have fled their country's civil war, 1,854 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the US since 2012. Of those, 59 have settled in North Carolina. They include people like the Al Haj Kasem family, who fled Syria after the bakery where Hussein, the father, worked was ransacked in the fighting. The family settled in Greensboro, and Hussein got a job in a nearby Ralph Lauren packaging plant.

McCrory may think that closing his state to people like the Al Haj Kasems will help him win an election, but it's drawing condemnation from human rights advocates. The NC Justice Center said McCrory's move "sends all the wrong signals - both to refugees here, and to people overseas who may perceive this move as hostility toward helping Muslims, even those in the most desperate of situations."

The Southeast Immigrant Rights Network said that, given that only the federal government has the power to admit refugees, "it is clear that these governors are exploiting the horrible tragedy in Paris to instill fear and hatred at a time when we most need to welcome and reach out to our sisters and brothers from Syria who are seeking refuge and risking everything in order to save their loved ones."

Human Rights Watch also issued a statement condemning the governors' anti-refugee reaction. "Resettled refugees from Syria have fled persecution and violence, and undergone rigorous security screening by the US government," said Alison Parker, co-director of the group's US Program. "The governors' announcements amount to fear-mongering attempts to block Syrians from joining the generous religious groups and communities who step forward to welcome them."

Another voice speaking out against the governors' anti-refugee reactions is that of Farris Barakat, whose brother Deah was shot to death in Chapel Hill earlier this year in what appeared to be an anti-Muslim hate crime. Barakat is the son of Syrian immigrants who came to the US in the 1980s, and his family is currently helping relatives who are refugees settle in Europe.

"I think it's really important that they understand that the reason these people are seeking refuge in this country is because ISIS destroyed theirs," Farris Barakat told Buzzfeed. "We're fighting the same enemy."

France, meanwhile, has announced that it would honor its commitment to take in more refugees, with President Francois Hollande saying it is his country's "humanitarian duty."

News Fri, 27 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
Pentagon Faces More Scrutiny Over $766 Million Task Force

(Photo: Pentagon via Shutterstock)(Photo: Pentagon via Shutterstock)

The Pentagon is scrambling to justify its actions in restricting the government watchdog investigating a $766-million task force in Afghanistan - with more controversy seemingly erupting by the day. Now there are allegations that Defense Department officials retaliated against a whistleblower and news of several ongoing criminal investigations.

Earlier this month, we reported that the Pentagon was making it difficult for the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction to investigate reports of gross waste and mismanagement by the now-defunct, five-year Task Force for Business Stability Operations. One of its projects, a gas station, cost 140 times what it should have.

Since then, several members of Congress have demanded that the Pentagon cooperate fully with SIGAR.

The Defense Department has been unable to provide a reasonable explanation for why it only restricted SIGAR when the inspector general turned his attention to the troubled task force and how the department will work with SIGAR in the future. The DOD has been legally required to provide free access to the inspector general since SIGAR'S inception in 2010.

Here's the background: After receiving numerous complaints about the task force, called TFBSO, SIGAR launched an investigation. As it typically does, the inspector general requested task force documents. But the Pentagon refused to comply, telling SIGAR that it was placing new rules and restrictions on access. The Pentagon told SIGAR that it must review the documents in a DOD-controlled "reading room" in Washington and any documents SIGAR wanted to take must first have names redacted. The DOD said it believed SIGAR had inappropriately released documents with names of service members in response to an unrelated Freedom of Information Act request from ProPublica.

In response to questions from ProPublica, Lt. Col. Joseph Sowers, a DOD spokesman, insisted this wasn't a new policy, but a "common sense safeguard."

That safeguard, however, has only applied to task force documents - not any other material requested by SIGAR that contained names. That contradiction prompted SIGAR to call DOD's explanation a "red herring."

When ProPublica asked the Pentagon why the restrictions weren't applied across the board, the agency fumbled to find an answer.

First DOD officials said that "the same ground rules" would apply to all future SIGAR requests. But when asked how this would work in Afghanistan, where SIGAR has 35 people and there is no reading room, officials backpedaled. They couldn't answer questions about where SIGAR staff would read the documents, who would redact the sometimes thousands of pages in a SIGAR request, or even whether Army Gen. John Campbell, who oversees the military in Afghanistan, was involved in the decision.

The Pentagon then said the restrictions would not, after all, apply to every future SIGAR request. Instead the Pentagon would decide on a "case by case basis." DOD officials wouldn't say what criteria would be used to decide whether the documents would be restricted or who would make the decision.

Sowers said that regardless of the reading room requirements, SIGAR has "unfettered access" to do its job and evaluate the TFBSO. SIGAR, however, called the restrictions borderline obstructive and said at the very least they violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the inspector general act and the law that established SIGAR.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and several other senators have said they are concerned not just with the Pentagon's policy for SIGAR, but also with the wasteful spending of the task force. That includes building the gas station, which cost $43 million when it should have cost between $200,000 and $500,000. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, has called a hearing next month on the gas station. Grassley has demanded the Pentagon turn over all the task force documents to his office, and has asked the DOD inspector general to launch its own investigation into the task force.

In addition to auditing the task force, SIGAR's criminal division is also conducting several investigations into the task force, but cannot comment on specifics, according to Grassley.

"I expect the Pentagon to cooperate fully with the inspector general and with my office in all inquiries involving the task force," he said in a statement. "With the poor track record reported on the auditing side, there's reason to be skeptical on the level of cooperation with the inspector general on the criminal side."

Grassley is also seeking answers about the allegations of Army Col. John C. Hope, the former director of operations of the task force. Hope said he is being retaliated against for "speaking the truth" about a lack of accountability with the task force in an official Army report, according to a letter Grassley wrote to Defense Secretary Ash Carter this week. Hope claims his evaluation is being purposefully withheld, which jeopardizes his next assignment and affects possible promotion.

Brian McKeon, the deputy under secretary of defense who made the decision to restrict SIGAR's access to the documents, is Hope's senior evaluator. McKeon, as well as the former task force director, Joseph Catalino, are responsible for completing Hope's evaluation.

"Neither has reportedly signed [the evaluation]," Grassley wrote to Carter, and "both would have received Hope's highly critical [report] about a total 'lack of accountability' at TFBSO."

The Pentagon said it was agency policy not to speak about individual officer evaluations. "We welcome continued review by SIGAR in their effort to ensure the TFBSO activities are properly assessed and analyzed," Sowers said.

Grassley has asked Carter to step in personally.

"If the Pentagon is retaliating against someone for speaking out on poor accountability and wasteful spending, that's unacceptable," Grassley said in a statement. "It's detrimental to the individual and to the taxpayers."

News Fri, 27 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
FDA's Approval of Genetically Engineered Salmon Based on Bad Science, Say Consumer Advocates

(Photo: Salmon via Shutterstock)(Photo: Salmon via Shutterstock)

More than 20 years after the first genetically engineered plant hit American grocery stores, the FDA has approved the first transgenic animal for human consumption: a salmon.

The AquaBounty Salmon, as it is known, is an Atlantic salmon genetically engineered to grow more rapidly than its non-GE counterpart, allowing it to reach market size in just 18 to 20 months, compared to the standard 28 to 36 months. 

The FDA's announcement last week was met with frustration, if not surprise, by environmental and consumer groups, who point to inadequate information regarding the potential impacts of GE salmon on both the environment and human health.

"We were very disappointed in the FDA for this approval," says Michael Hansen, senior scientist with the Consumers Union, a nonprofit that works for a fair and safe marketplace for consumers. "We think it's based on bad science."

The GE fish was approved based on FDA findings that it is safe to eat, that the introduced gene is safe for the fish itself, and that the engineered salmon meets claims that it is faster growing than non-GE salmon. The approval pertains to two land-based salmon facilities: one in Prince Edward Island, Canada, where eggs will be produced, and one in Panama, where fish will be raised. The salmon raised in Panama will then be shipped back to the US for sale.

Hansen and other advocates have pointed to several areas in which the research relied upon by the FDA was severely wanting, including the impact of genetic engineering on human health, the impact of genetic engineering on the health of the fish, and the potential implications for wild fish populations. 

Take, for example, the AquaAdvantage salmon's potential impact on wild fish. In its environmental assessment, the FDA found that the GE salmon would not have a significant environmental impact because they could not escape the Panama or Prince Edward Island facilities. Even if they did somehow escape, the FDA concluded the fish couldn't survive in the surrounding environments due to water temperatures. 

However, the FDA did not conduct an analysis of the environmental impacts should the fish actually escape and survive in the wild. According to Hansen, that was a big oversight. The Prince Edward Island salmon facility is located near a stream, and there is a risk that fish could escape into nearby water bodies. 

"They didn't do a failure mode analysis," Hansen says. "Normally you say, 'what happens if the safeguards fail?'"

JayDee Hanson, senior policy analyst with the Center for Food Safety, agrees that this was a major shortcoming of the FDA's analysis, especially given the proximity of the Prince Edward Island facility to endangered Atlantic salmon populations.

"Prince Edward Island does still have wild Atlantic salmon - not too many, they are hanging on," he says. "But they don't need really hungry genetically engineered fish eating up the food that they should be eating… We would be worried about [the GE salmon] literally decimating what is a barely hanging on wild population right now."

There is also a risk of cross-breeding. Although fish at the Panama facility will be sterilized, the Consumers Union asserts that up to five percent of the salmon could remain fertile. And, as Hansen points out, the fish producing eggs at the Canadian facility will not be sterile. If GE fish somehow escape the facilities, that could present an issue: A 2013 study found that genetically modified Atlantic salmon can hybridize with wild brown trout, a species that is common in areas surrounding the two approved AquaBounty facilities.

The health of wild salmon populations isn't the only thing at stake. Food advocates are also worried that, because GE salmon are engineered to grow more quickly, they will have higher levels of the growth hormone known as IGF-1, which has been linked to an increased risk of several cancers, including prostate, breast, colorectal, and lung. AquaBounty Technologies, the company that developed the fish, conducted a study comparing the IGF-1 levels between non-GE salmon and GE salmon - submitted to the FDA as part of the approval process - which concluded that "no biologically relevant differences were detected" in the levels of the growth hormone. 

However, according to Hansen, the results of AquaBounty's test were troubling, due to insufficiently sensitive testing methods: "Here is an animal you engineer with a trait, a growth hormone, and you can't detect the trait in the animal at all," he says. The Consumers Union, in its September 2010 comments on genetically engineered salmon, contended that this result was "like the police using a radar gun that cannot detect speeds below 120 mph and concluding there is no 'relevant difference' in the speed of cars versus bicycles."

Consumer advocates are also concerned about the allergenic risks associated with GE salmon, and again point to insufficient and inadequate research on the part of AquaBounty. JayDee Hanson, senior policy analyst with the Center for Food Safety, says that AquaBounty was required to do two allergy-related tests: one for general allergenic reaction, and a second for salmon allergens. However, the sample sizes were "abysmally small," he says. They tested only six fertile fish for the general allergenic reaction study.  "Six fish - that's below high school level statistics," he adds.

On top of the hormone and allergy concerns, the AquaAdvantage salmon may not have the same nutritional value as wild salmon. Specifically, studies indicate that it has significantly lower levels of healthy Omega 3 fatty acids.

The health of the GE salmon themselves could also be an issue. The fish in Panama will be triploid - which means they have three sets of chromosomes, instead of two - making them sterile. JayDee Hanson, of the Center for Food Safety, notes that triploid fish frequently have genetic defects, and that when they are engineered to grow more quickly, "the problems with triploid fish seem to be magnified." Specifically, they are more likely to have gill deformations, skeletal deformation, and focal inflammation of tissues.

"What bothers me about this is that this is a more sickly fish," Hanson adds. "To keep production up, the company might be tempted to add more antibiotics to the feed."

The FDA did not review the GE salmon under the regulatory framework for foods. Instead, in what Hanson calls a "bizarre fiction," the FDA regulates GE animals as new animal drugs, under the reasoning that, as the FDA puts it, the "recombinant DNA (rDNA) construct introduced into the animals meets the definition of a drug."

Adding insult to injury for anti-GE activists is the FDA's decision to adopt a voluntary labeling scheme, rather than requiring AquaBounty to label genetically engineered fish as such.

"Consumers have a right to know what they are eating," says the Consumers Union's Hansen. "This is information that is important to consumers."

Both decisions - to approve the fish and to adopt a voluntary labeling scheme - were made despite the fact that the FDA received roughly 2 million public comments in opposition to the approval of GE salmon, the largest number the agency has ever received on an action.

Environmental and consumer rights groups are concerned about the precedent the approval will have for other GE animals. AquaBounty has expressed interest in building a salmon hatchery in the United States, and is already developing GE trout and tilapia in addition to salmon, though it is unclear whether the company has submitted these fish to the FDA for approval yet. 

"This sets a precedent for every engineered animal that comes after it," Hansen says. "It sets the bar for how stringent the approval [process] is going to be. And they just set the bar basically on the floor."

The Center for Food Safety has announced that it will sue the FDA over its approval of AquaBounty salmon. Environmental groups in Canada are also suing the Canadian government for approving the use of the Prince Edward Island facility for GE salmon egg production. And in the meantime, 59 retailers running 4,663 grocery stores in the US have said they will not sell genetically engineered seafood. 

GE salmon won't be hitting the shelves tomorrow - it will likely be about two years before the fish even reach the market, if consumer advocates don't stop AquaBounty first. However, if the FDA's recent approval is any indication of how it will review GE animals in the future, these salmon could be the first of many GE animals that Americans may soon find on their dinner plates.

News Fri, 27 Nov 2015 10:27:14 -0500
These Kids Can't Vote, but They Can Sue

In between middle school, tae kwon do and saxophone lessons, 13-year-old Gabe Mandell, along with seven other young environmental activists, sued the government of Washington State. By legally challenging a state agency's approach to carbon emission regulation, they hoped to protect the planet for future generations. Here's what they gained.

(Photo: Climate Change via Shutterstock)(Photo: Climate Change via Shutterstock)

Gabe Mandell speaks fast and with excitement, his sentences peppered with phrases like "constitutional duty," "ocean acidification," and "we're here to get a job done."

"The best available science says we need to reduce annual carbon emissions to an atmospheric concentration of 350 parts per million," he told me over the phone while sitting at the kitchen table with his mom.

He's definitely not your typical eighth-grader.

In between middle school, tae kwon do, and saxophone lessons, the 13-year-old, along with seven other young environmental activists, sued the government of Washington state. By legally challenging a state agency's approach to carbon emission regulation, they hoped to protect the planet for future generations.

"We're the ones who have to deal with it: the rising tides, dying crops, and acid in the oceans," he says. "This is our future. It's our right to protect it."

Yesterday, after a year-and-a-half of legal proceedings, Judge Hollis Hill denied the eight kids' petition to the Washington Department of Ecology (commonly known as "Ecology"). In it, they had demanded that Ecology use more current science when regulating carbon emissions. (The activists initially filed the petition in June of 2014; they sued the state after it was denied). 

"They can't vote, they can't influence policy that way," said Andrea Rodgers, a lawyer for Western Environmental Law Center representing the kids. "This is how they make their voices heard."

Earlier this month, both sides presented oral arguments before the King County appeals court in Seattle. The kids' argument rested on the right to a "healthful and pleasant environment" guaranteed by the state of Washington—a guarantee, Rodgers said, that Ecology has a duty to fulfill.

But Ecology argued it had no duty to enforce the measures called for by the plaintiffs. Representatives said the agency is already taking steps to reduce climate change per an executive order issued by Governor Jay Inslee. Though Inslee's order, inspired by a meeting with the young environmentalists in July, mandated Ecology to create a carbon emissions cap, it was based on  targets set in 2008—using science that Rodgers, Mandell, and even Ecology's own December 2014 report all consider outdated.

For Mandell, who says he's been advocating for the environment since "Day 1," the science is all that matters. "I'm surprised whenever they say [capping carbon] will hurt the economy," he said. "If we don't change, there won't be an economy!"

The kids don't consider yesterday's ruling a total loss. Although Hill denied the petition (on the grounds that Ecology is already undertaking other carbon regulations and that the court lacks the authority to tell Ecology what to consider when developing air quality standards), she affirmed something else: Ecology has the authority and duty to protect air and land quality for future generations, and the kids are constitutionally entitled to a healthy environment. "[The youths'] very survival depends upon the will of their elders to act now, decisively and unequivocally, to stem the tide of global warming," Hill wrote in her ruling.

"The ball is in Ecology's court now" says Rodgers, who is happy that Hill's ruling reinforced the legal arguments Rodgers made to the state. If Ecology's future rules do not take the well-being of future generations into account, Rodgers said the kids can appeal.

Advocates hope the public visibility and precedent set by the ruling may help similar lawsuits pending throughout the country: There are six suits being brought by kids against states and the federal government right now, all centered on future generations' rights to a healthy environment.

"You look at the civil rights movement, gay marriage, often times there was one court decision that set them off," says Rodgers. "This might be a decision that does that."

News Fri, 27 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500