Truthout Stories Fri, 29 May 2015 10:31:30 -0400 en-gb Powers of Reason ]]> (Lauren Walker) Art Fri, 29 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400 Okinawans Want Their Land Back. Is That So Hard to Understand?

Tiny, peace-loving Okinawa, which hosts 75 percent of US military bases in Japan, is finally putting its foot down on construction of yet another base, with 35,000 turning out to protest the plan. It's time Americans paid attention to Okinawa's fierce, but peaceful struggle, not only for them, but for us too.


Chosuke Yara, the head of the Ryuku Independence Party, speaks in Naha, Okinawa, Japan, June 21, 2013. (Ko Sasaki/The New York Times) Chosuke Yara, the head of the Ryuku Independence Party, speaks in Naha, Okinawa, Japan, June 21, 2013. (Ko Sasaki/The New York Times)

Living in a country where people learn world geography through frequently fought overseas wars, Americans are accustomed to reading about places where we've fought wars - Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. But one formerly war-ravaged part of the world most Americans don't think much about is Okinawa.

Once the independent kingdom of Ryukyu, Okinawa, was annexed by Japan in 1872. At the end of World War II, exactly 70 years ago, Okinawa was the site of one of the war's most ferocious battles. Caught between the armies of Japan and the United States, Okinawans suffered unspeakable horrors during the "typhoon of steel." Viewed as expendable under imperial Japan, many Okinawans were killed outright by Japanese soldiers or forced to commit mass suicide. An estimated 120,000 Okinawans - between one-third and one-quarter of the population - died between March and June 1945.

The pain inflicted during the war and its aftermath underscored the Okinawan core value nuchi du takara ("life is precious") and left many Okinawans highly adverse to warfare and militarism. Despite this, Okinawa has remained one of the most militarized places in the world for more than 70 years, first under direct US military occupation and continuing after Okinawa's "reversion" to Japan in 1972.

Okinawa is by far the smallest of Japan's 47 prefectures, and although it accounts for less than one percent of Japanese territory, it is home to around 24,000 US military personnel, almost half of Japan's total, and is burdened with nearly 75 percent of US bases in Japan.

Consider what it's like to have 20 percent of your small, crowded island home occupied by more than 32 foreign military bases and some 50 restricted air and marine military training sites. The island of Okinawa, which has a population of 1.4 million, is 20 percent smaller than the Hawaiian island of Kauai, which has around 70,000 people. Given these numbers, it isn't hard to imagine why Okinawans are fed up with being (again) sacrificed by the central government in Tokyo to serve as Japan's primary military staging grounds (and, many point out, a potential target should a major war break out).

More war? No Thanks

Although it receives scant coverage in US media, the history of noise, crowding, toxic pollution, environmental harm, crime, sexual violence and serious military accidents in Okinawa has been well-documented.

Now, as a more assertive Japan reconsiders its commitment to pacifism, or at least nonmilitarism, as defined by its Constitution, Tokyo and the US are pushing hard for a new military base they say will "replace" Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which sprawls across crowded Ginowan City on Okinawa.

Plans to "relocate" (or build an entirely new base depending who you ask) from the crowded South to the more sparsely populated and biologically diverse marine environment of Henoko Point and Oura Bay, have been evolving over the two decades since the gang rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan girl by three US servicemen unleashed new outrage. But the idea of a new and expanded base in the relatively pristine north has never been as unpopular as now.

Okinawa's Governor Takeshi Onaga, who was overwhelmingly elected on his promise to stop construction of the Henoko base, has been trying to get Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other top officials to back off the base and find an alternative location outside of Okinawa prefecture.

After months of Abe seeming to avoid Onaga, the two finally met face-to-face two weeks before the prime minister embarked on a high-profile US visit that was crowned with a rare address to a joint session of Congress.

Sore Spot

The Abe-Onaga meeting demonstrated nothing more than the depth of the rift between the two men. Moreover, Abe's address before Congress in April must have surely rubbed Okinawans sorely, as Abe spoke of the Japan-US alliance's "respect for human rights and freedom," while calling the partnership an "Alliance of Hope."

Two weeks after Abe's US visit, some 35,000 Okinawans rallied against the Henoko base plan. The very next day, an MV-22 Osprey - a hybrid aircraft widely unpopular in Okinawa over noise and safety concerns - crashed at a military air base in Hawaii, further igniting Okinawans determination to roll back the US presence.

All this occurred just as Gov. Onaga was preparing to take Okinawa's appeal against the Henoko plan to the United States, where he arrived on May 27. After meeting members of Hawaii's congressional delegation, Governor David Ige (who is himself of Okinawan ancestry) and members of the local Okinawan community, Onaga now brings his "no new base" message to Washington DC.

It's not clear how high up the pole the governor will get in Washington or how much sway, if any, his message will have with policy makers who are supposed to have oversight of overseas base construction. But if anyone is going to express solidarity with the people of Okinawa on the issue of bases, it should be American citizens. After all, the US military stands at the core of Okinawa's long struggle.

Not in My Backyard

Americans, when they are aware (not always easy when the US media willfully ignores issues relating to the impact of overseas US bases), can certainly understand why people wouldn't want a foreign military occupying their land.

Like Okinawans, Americans have demonstrated opposition to disruptive, destructive and dangerous military training and testing. Recent examples from Vermont and Alaska, to Washington State, Hawaii and elsewhere, show Americans share similar concerns to people in Okinawa. In consequence, at a minimum, we have a moral responsibility to be better informed and more engaged with how our military affects people around the world.

If the human rights, freedom and democracy that we so often speak of as American ideals and values mean anything at all, we owe it not just to people in Okinawa, but to ourselves, to live up to our own ideals. We must recognize that one more base on an island already overburdened by our military is not going to make us or them safer, and, in the long run, it may very well produce the opposite result.

And if that is too much to consider, ask yourself: How many foreign military bases would you accept in your hometown? How many foreign soldiers should the US allow to occupy its soil? If that number is zero, why should it be any different in Okinawa?

Opinion Fri, 29 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Keywords in Black Protest: A(n Anti-)Vocabulary

Baltimore is a narrative project. The terminology used to describe the current protests has a seductive power, and repetition gives it a certain unshakable truth. In recognition of the material impact of discourse, we want to initiate a challenge to the words written and spoken of Baltimore and other sites of Black political action by privileged, mainstream media outlets and pundits.

6 December, 2014: Protesters march in solidarity with Ferguson in Seattle, Washington. (Photo: Scottlum)Protesters march in solidarity with Ferguson protesters in Seattle, Washington, December 6, 2014. (Photo: Scottlum)

"How do [Black writers] write in a world dominated by and informed by their relationship to a white culture? - Toni Morrison

"By trying to alter language, simply to free it up, not to repress it or confine it, but to open it up. Tease it. Blast its racist straitjacket." - Paris Review

"Power is the ability to define phenomena and make it act in a desired manner." - Huey P. Newton

Baltimore is a narrative project. In addition to the massive material loses and vulnerabilities faced by those who take to the streets for justice, hashtags, speeches, interviews and indictments organize that place in the national imaginary.

The terminology used to describe the current protests has a seductive power, and repetition gives it a certain unshakable truth. In recognition of the material impact of discourse, we want to initiate a challenge to the words written and spoken of Baltimore and other sites of Black political action by privileged, mainstream media outlets and pundits.

Our goal is to destabilize the contextualized veracity of four of these words, which are keywords at the core of conversations pertaining to the events of the past few months. Framing our discussion around language, we look at Baltimore, Ferguson, Cleveland, Los Angeles and Black spaces of unrest across the United States as discursive creations. It is a keywords experiment that is meant to be built upon and expanded in order to collectively (re)create a new vocabulary - and practice - of Black protest.

Thug: The so-called "criminals and thugs" described by President Barack Obama in his response to the events of 2015 Baltimore are, in the century of the US prison, a racialized group. Despite arguments to the contrary, "thug" is not a universally or equally applied term, making it the reserve of a select few. As Seattle Seahawks Cornerback Richard Sherman and Baltimore City Councilman Carl Stokes separately argued, "thug" is now a proxy for "nigger," exhibiting a kinder, gentler racism that is no less consequential for its target.

When delivered by the nation's first Black president or the Black female mayor of Baltimore, the word thug is not divorced from this racial code but rather fortified by its incorporation into the US "multiculturalist white supremacy," in which people of color - like the president and Baltimore mayor - become spokespeople and executors for further dispossession and violence. Our task is to refashion the reception and use of the thug through adoption of its fugitive qualities in order to refuse, as Dylan Rodríguez argues, contemporary labors "to domesticate, discipline and contain a politics of radical opposition to a US nation-building project that now insists on the diversity of the American "we," while leaving so many for dead." Instead of running from the thug, we might imagine them instead as the model we've been searching for.

Leader: We've been trained to believe that we need "leaders" to save us. Leaders are the iconic figures who stand-in for collective struggle, who receive the shine for the sacrifices and suffering of others, who speak for the rest of us when the media or state come calling. They are advertised to inspire movement participation even as they also become the singular fall person punished for the actions of the collective. At the center of the leader's profile is charisma, which Erica Edwards describes as "an animating fiction of contemporary black politics" that carries with it "three forms of violence":

1. The historical or historiographical violence of reducing a heterogeneous Black freedom struggle to a top-down narrative of Great Man leadership;

2. The social violence of performing social change in the form of a fundamentally undemocratic form of authority;

3. The epistemological violence of structuring knowledge of Black political subjectivity and movement within a gendered hierarchy of political value that grants uninterrogated power to normative masculinity.

Cisgender, heterosexual, singularly divine men remain at the forefront of our understandings and representations of Black struggle. That Martin Luther King, Jr. is regularly reanimated to debate Black political struggle - as we've seen in Ferguson and Baltimore alike - is but one indication of this. The respectability politics and gendered dimensions of contemporary political struggle are also evident in the recurrent disappearance of Black cis* and trans* women in (inter)national "I am…" campaigns and uprisings, as well as the elision of those same bodies and perspectives in/on "authenticating" and instructional fora, including magazine covers, television media, town halls, rally daises and classrooms.

As Hazel Carby argues, the "conceptual and political failure of imagination" by our generation's race men will compromise our liberation futures, making it necessary to labor for leaderless, improvisational Black rebellion.

Riot: We say "rebellion"; they say "riot." We say "uprising"; they say, yet again, "riot." The narrative power of this difference is steeped in historical precedent. A wave of uprisings in the 1960s that erupted in response to Jim Crow segregation, expanding war and Black assassination are logged in historical memory and scholarship as riots; the 1992 Los Angeles rebellion is more than 20 years old now, but the language of "riot" remains indelibly attached to that event and location, encouraging even the most attentive of us to sometimes slip. This is evidence of the media monopoly on language, but also a reflection of a deep desire and need to construct and enforce a common sense that defines publicly defiant Black collectives as criminal.

The long history of assault to Black assemblage dates back centuries and includes South Carolina's 1740 Negro Act, which was a response to the Stono Rebellion and made it "illegal for slaves to move abroad, assemble in groups, raise food, earn money, and learn to read English. Owners are permitted to kill rebellious slaves if necessary."

Black assembly is here punishable by death, a consequence not far from the thoughts of contemporary Black activists. Since the turn of the 20th century, "rebellion" has been disarticulated from popular discussion of Black dissent, undoubtedly in part due to its pairing with the institution of slavery - an institution from which this country still labors to maintain distance. The structure that produced this inhuman condition is, however, not past/passed; as Saidiya Hartman has theorized, the "afterlife of slavery" against which we now rebel includes "skewed life chances, limited access to health and education, premature death, incarceration, and impoverishment." These are the conditions to which protestors in Baltimore, Ferguson, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Los Angele, and numerous other cities are responding.

These historical scenes are related - one an extension of the other - and our vocabulary should reflect this relation, must reflect this relation. The juridico-structural turn to riot post-Emancipation has entrapped Black dissent inside of state and federal punishment taxonomies, such that a riot conviction in Baltimore now carries a possible life sentence. Adjusting this language not only adjusts the terms of the debate, but also the terms one serves.

Gang: Since the late 20th century, the term "gang" has come to connote a manufactured fear of rogue Black collectives representative of all that is wrong with the United States of America. Born from a treacherous coalition of public policy and visual media propaganda, the current invocation of gang is a loaded slur weighted by the erasure of lived experience. The invocation of "gang" is easily found in the archives of gentrification policies that have become all too prevalent in cities across the country. For example, the Gang Enhancement Law in California, which defines a gang as "three or more persons," has been used to sweep city streets from East Palo Alto to Downtown Los Angeles in preparation for the glorious coming of a technocrat managerial class and designer lofts.

Buttressed by an ever-inhabitable need to reinforce the racial villain, the popular imagination of gangs has been informed by a litany of asinine television programming and more decrepit renderings via online platforms. The ease with which gangs are equated with the US military, police, or corporate executives elides the much more insidious impact of gang terminology and rhetoric, which is an erasure of Black communal organizing in the face of racial terror. So-called gang members are living in conditions that were wiped clean via removal of social infrastructure (i.e. the elimination of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act in the 1980s), the targets of the largest dispossession of wealth during the subprime crises of 2008 and the residents of communities that endured the evisceration of health care from the mid 1990s through the current time period. Yet, we've developed and implemented coded language that places the burden of poverty back onto the very population who were forced into destitute conditions. The reality of the situation is much more complex than that popularly rendered.

Though many argue that gangs embody an evil to be stamped out, the reality of the situation is that despite multiple forms of state violence enacted against Black communities, Black people organized themselves through a profound sense of love and community. Such an act in the face of extreme hate was then met with even more disdain that was reinforced with the overuse of the racially charged moniker of "gang." Such organizing strategies are embedded within a politics of resistance and renewal that consistently make radical demands upon the state.

As Joao Costa Vargas beautifully described, the 1992 truce in Los Angeles was about much more than violence; there also was a written manifesto presented to the civic leaders with a list of demands in the wake of the '92 Rebellion. Such simple characterizations (i.e. the labeling of gangs) of highly complex organizations are dismissive of the truths that reveal the wretched conditions of police violence, housing discrimination and elimination of basic forms of health care that Black people have been forced to endure as well as the brilliance of Black organizing that has developed in its wake.

Words have power, but we have the power to define and (re)imagine how to deploy words that will ensure the transition to a radically democratic society. This struggle requires vigilance on every level. Our narratives and practices of protest and justice will always be multiplicitous - as they should be - but the construction and adoption of a common tongue allows for alternative communication strategies and new agency over the ways our histories, presents and futures are told and experienced.

Opinion Fri, 29 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Economic Update: The New Deal Lives

This episode provides updates on Larry Summers and other signs of a broken economic system, the economics of Nebraska ending the death penalty and vast sports corruption. We also respond to questions regarding on reorganizing universities and household class structures. Finally, we interview Professor Richard Walker and Dr. Gray Brechin on rediscovering the New Deal.

To see more stories like this, visit Economic Update: Your Weekly Dose of Revolutionary Economics

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News Fri, 29 May 2015 09:42:21 -0400
Getting the Money Out of Prison Reform

The MacArthur Foundation has donated $75 million to criminal legal system professionals for jail reform - but they are the same professionals who designed the failed system.


(Photo: Handcuffs and money via Shutterstock)(Photo: Handcuffs and Money via Shutterstock)

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Much has been made about the bipartisan nature of contemporary efforts to end mass incarceration, as everyone from Newt Gingrich and the Koch Brothers to Van Jones and the American Civil Liberties Union, and now even Hillary Clinton, says that the United States needs to reduce the number of people it incarcerates in its own gulag archipelago. If all these people agree, the conventional wisdom goes, surely we can get something done. Are prisons the only thing that can end Washington gridlock?

The most recent entrance in this debate came from the MacArthur Foundation, which announced on May 26 that it would be awarding grants of $150,000 each to 20 municipalities around the country to develop plans "that will lead to fairer, more effective local justice systems." These grants are part of a $75 million initiative that the foundation has embarked on to reduce mass incarceration.

The MacArthur plan specifically focuses on local jails, and the 20 awardees account for 11 percent of the country's jail population. The attention to jails is urgently needed: American jails largely house people too poor to make bail for minor offenses such as traffic violations or drug possession. Jails such as those at Rikers Island and Philadelphia - two of the jurisdictions awarded funds - have been the subject of public scrutiny following reports of physical and sexual abuse of inmates. The list of grantees also includes Saint Louis County, Missouri, and Charleston County, South Carolina, two areas where police have killed unarmed black men in the last year.

Part of the foundation's Safety and Justice Challenge, this plan is certainly ambitious. "At the end of the day, what we're talking about is systemic change," MacArthur's president Julia Stasch told the Associated Press. To achieve such change, the foundation has "asked the selected jail systems to work with experts, judges, prosecutors, court administrators, police and corrections officials."

And therein lies the problem. Like efforts by other philanthropic organizations, the MacArthur Foundation has made jail reform something for criminal justice professionals and experts to solve. However, the people who maintain the current system are not those best poised to fix it. You don't pay a corporation to downsize itself.

What makes municipal jails - and the judges, prosecutors, court officials and law enforcement agencies who filled them - qualified to best shrink the number of people being jailed? These are, after all, the very people who have designed and pursued the failed policies we are now hoping to eradicate.

Meanwhile, the voices of the more than 12 million people who annually pass through one (or more) of the nation's 3,000 jails seem absent from this process. So too are the voices of their loved ones and most dedicated advocates.

Furthermore, we know why people go to jail, and it has little to do with the jail itself. Jails do not decide who they incarcerate or why. People go to jail because they are poor and can't afford bail, or because they are poor and suffering from untreated mental illness, or because they are poor and self-medicating, or because they are poor and behave in a way police deem inappropriate. In fact, police power is a core issue here. The police killings of black women, men and children that have gotten such attention in recent months is bolstered by the everyday violence that sees Black, Latino, and Indigenous people pass in and out of American jails at such disparate rates.

There is much to reform about how jails run, but if we want to reduce the number of people inside of them, we need to begin by reducing the scope of police power and increasing the scale of social welfare and health-care protections. MacArthur money, like that of Koch Brothers and others, might be better spent on supporting universal health care, public housing, full employment, and other provisions known to preserve genuine safety. As Marie Gottschalk notes in her excellent new book Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics, "prison reform" is a largely symbolic gesture outside of substantive social policy to ameliorate inequality.

In the meantime, abolishing bail and pretrial detention would go a long way toward reducing the number of people in prison. So too would an immediate cessation of the various "quality of life" policing practices that have criminalized poverty, sex work, drug possession and mental illness. Such reforms, backed by a more significant realignment of funding priorities, are the only things that will mark steps toward a genuine, lasting decarceration.

Mass incarceration is a complicated system, of course, and it will take many institutions to correct more than four decades of failed policies. It is a significant development to have a philanthropic entity with the resources and prestige of the MacArthur Foundation wanting to help end the devastation of human life called the American prison system. However, how much can philanthropy accomplish? Money can be a powerful motivator, at least when the faucets are flowing. But even the largesse of the MacArthur Foundation has its limits, and the policies enacted or revised now may be with us for a long time to come. We simply cannot afford to leave prison reform to the "experts" who gave us mass incarceration.

Progressives often lament the need to "get money out of politics." As prison reform makes its way to the center stage of American politics, we will need to ensure that the social change agenda is not determined by financiers, however sincerely motivated they may be. Otherwise, we may find ourselves having to battle prominent foundations as an expression of the larger prison crisis that has long characterized the United States. To paraphrase the poet Gil Scott-Heron, "decarceration will not be incentivized," decarceration will not be incentivized, decarceration will not be incentivized. Decarceration will not be incentivized.

Opinion Thu, 28 May 2015 15:22:40 -0400
Forgetting in Real Time

Chicago Police Officers Jerome Finnigan, left, and Timothy McDermott with an unidentified Black man Finnigan claims to have arrested for marijuana possession (there is no record of any arrest).Chicago Police Officers Jerome Finnigan, left, and Timothy McDermott with an unidentified Black man Finnigan claims to have arrested for marijuana possession (there is no record of any arrest).Anytime someone sends me a message that reads, "Have you seen this yet?" with a link to a news story about the Chicago police attached, I hold my breath a little before I tap my screen. That's what I woke up to this morning - one of those messages, and this photo. In the coverage of the newly released image, much was made about the fact that former officer, Timothy McDermott, is still appealing the police board's decision to fire him for posing in this picture. After all, four out of nine police board members didn't see this photo as a fireable offense, and thought a mere suspension would have sufficed.

I'll say that again: this very literal expression of the reality of American policing - a Black man dehumanized and brought to the ground by heavily armed white cops - was not sufficient cause, in the minds of four police board members, to remove McDermott from his position.

While I don't wish to give this white police officer more attention that he's already received - with some actually lamenting that he now has to drive a truck to support his family - I do feel the need to point out the irony of his punishment. McDermott was fired for creating a caricature of the violence police perpetrate on our streets on a regular basis. While he certainly deserves his punishment, the conversation his actions should provoke, however, is not about the two fired cops in the picture (one of whom was fired long before the photo's release for leading unlawful raids and robbing area residents), but the culture of policing that it depicts. But that's a conversation that many of us have attempted to have many times, and I must admit, I'm tired.

I'm tired of snuff films of police killing people of color. I'm tired of photos and text messages that reveal the racism of police being dismissed with a chorus of "not all cops" nonsense. I'm tired of hearing how they "risk their lives every day." Do the people who repeat that tired refrain realize that policing doesn't even rank in the top ten most dangerous jobs in this country? Do they realize that plenty of people work in high risk situations, in actual helping professions, without the option of killing people if things get scary? Are they aware of the actual death toll, or the demographics in play?

I'm tired of worrying, every day, that people I care about will come across cops like officers Finnigan and McDermott, and I am tired of people being told they're "lucky" when the only damage done by such brutes is psychological.

Abolitionists often refer to the fact that modern policing stems from Indian Constables and slave patrols, but photos like this one very clearly connect the dots. I won't delve into the arguments of McDermott's attorney, who actually suggested the Black man in the photo may have been a willing participant in this horrid display ("What's to say this individual wasn't performing at a Christmas pageant in the district and was dressed as a reindeer and had taken the reindeer suit off?"), and that the rifles might have been wooden props (not that they "were," but that they "could have been") because his words don't even deserve space here. What I want to address is forgetting.

The privileged have a way of forgetting the past, and distancing themselves from it. You hear it in the voices of those who defend the likes of Darren Wilson, saying things like, "It's 2015, not 1915," just as the white racists of the 1960's would point out that they weren't living in the 1860's. We now live apart from that history, they insist, and need to get over it (read: forget it) and move on. But in a world where we are constantly bombarded by images of police murdering people of color, with text messages and emails that are slathered with anti-blackness, and where we hear daily stories of harassment, dehumanization, and abuse, our inability to fully isolate ourselves from this barrage of very real harm means that separation requires something more than historical distance. It requires the ability to forget history as it unfolds, in real time.

I'm not talking about those who quietly smirk over photos like this one. They are the same types who would have purchased lynching photos at the local gas station during the last century. There is no arguing with someone who understands exactly what all of this means, and delights in it. But there are many white people whose skin probably does crawl upon seeing images like this one. There are many who wish to separate themselves, and their willingness to play along with the oppressions of this system, from the reality of what this photo depicts. And in order to separate themselves, successfully, they need to push away the thought of horrors like this one. No matter how steadily they manifest themselves, each case must be some kind of aberration. Most police are good, they tell themselves. They insist that these are just the cases that get sensationalized, when in reality, these are just the stories that happened to get noticed.

Those who feel protected by police generally hail from more privileged classes, so when we attempt to raise the awareness of such people, we are in fact asking them to act against their own interest. Police enforce social norms that benefit their way of life. Martin Luther King Jr. relied on the shock value of state sanctioned brutality against peaceful Black protestors to provoke white people to question the structures that benefited them at the expense of others. The sight of fire hoses, batons, and dogs being turned on everyday Black people, dressed in their Sunday best, was enough to challenge the complacency of white America. But we live in a different time, when examples of police brutality and state sanctioned inhumanity rain down on us daily. It's all at our fingertips.

It was literally the first thing I saw when I woke up this morning.

So how do you shock the conscience of people who have learned to forget in real time? How do you provoke a different reaction? Because Black and Brown people are tired of waiting for white people to acknowledge that the available evidence is sufficient to indict this system. We are tired of waiting for you to question your own comfort. We are tired of waiting for you to admit that the legacy of slavery and the shadow of genocide still color our efforts to survive on this stolen land. We are tired, and we will not continue to beg you to recognize our humanity. As Saidiya Hartman wrote in, "Lose Your Mother":

"The apologetic density of the plea for recognition is staggering. It assumes both the ignorance and the innocence of the white world. If only they knew the truth, they would act otherwise. I am reminded of the letter that James Baldwin wrote his nephew on the centennial anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. 'The crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen,' he wrote, 'and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundred of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it…It is not permissible that the authors of devastation should also be innocent. It is the innocence which constitutes the crime.'"

Black Lives Matter has demonstrated that there is a widespread rejection of the notion that we need to play by the rules and hope for the best, while appealing to the consciences of those who benefit from white supremacy. At a recent protest in Chicago, where attendees expressed solidarity with the uprising in Baltimore, I was particularly moved by the words of Damon Williams, of the #LetUsBreathe collective, who said, "You will no longer use the names of our martyrs to shame us into pacifism." I felt the earth move with those words as he spoke. As a direct action trainer, I find community conversations about violence and nonviolence very important to my work, so I followed up with Damon to ask if he might expound upon his words at the event.

"As I was preparing for the rally," he explained, "I looked to see what the major criticisms of the uprising in Baltimore were." In addition to the usual, hypocritical hand wringing that such moments provoke, Damon noted that, "You see the establishment repeatedly trying to manipulate our sympathy for those most affected while exclaiming, 'there is no excuse for such behavior'. And I disagree. Shattered spines and skulls without consequence are plenty excuse to fight back in various ways. It is the desire of the system to continue operating as it is, and for Black people to passively accept their oppression. But we have reached a point of collective resistance and will no longer tolerate our systemic destruction."

Black and Brown communities are tired of being admonished for pushing back. They are tired of videos, words, and photos that emphasize and re-emphasize whose lives matter, and whose lives do not. But most importantly, they are tired of waiting for you to believe your own eyes. If you choose to disregard the reality that others are forced to live, do not expect your rules or preferences to govern their actions. As Saidiya Hartman said, freedom is "a glimpse of possibility, an opening, a solicitation without any guarantee of duration before it flickers and then is extinguished." The Black and Brown youth, activists, and organizers of this country have seen a glimpse of possibility. It has come from within, and in spite of the rules, norms, and history of these United States. We are ready to build forward in a way that honors our debt to those we've lost and that embodies all that we might become. I invite you to stand with us, but we are done begging for your belief.

Opinion Thu, 28 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Mark Crispin Miller: Neoliberalism and Its Impacts on Free Speech, Education and Democracy

Mark Crispin Miller. (Photo: The LAMP)Mark Crispin Miller. (Photo: The LAMP)Mark Crispin Miller is a professor of media, culture, and communication at New York University and the author of several books, including Boxed In: The Culture of TV, Cruel and Unusual: Bush and Cheney's New World Order, and Fooled Again: The Real Case for Electoral Reform. He is also the editor of the newly-launched "Forbidden Bookshelf" series of e-books.

In this interview with Truthout, Miller discusses the global impact of neoliberal doctrine on democratic governance, electoral systems, freedom of speech and the press, and on education. He also discusses his new "Forbidden Bookshelf" series, which is bringing back books as e-books volumes that were killed at birth.

Mark Crispin Miller. (Photo: The LAMP)Mark Crispin Miller. (Photo: The LAMP)Mark Crispin Miller is a professor of media, culture, and communication at New York University and the author of several books, including Boxed In: The Culture of TV, Cruel and Unusual: Bush and Cheney's New World Order, and Fooled Again: The Real Case for Electoral Reform. He is also the editor of the newly-launched "Forbidden Bookshelf" series of e-books.

Michael Nevradakis: On a global level, how are the media furthering and promoting neoliberal policies and the politics of economic austerity, and how is freedom of the press being threatened?

Mark Crispin Miller: The corporate media worldwide has done an excellent job promoting neoliberal policies in every sector of society and culture. American media, which rank very low in the integrity of their news broadcasts, daily media coverage and commentary, are a kind of endless propaganda drive on behalf of austerity economics. For example, the US press is uncritically promoting a huge attack on public education and public schools, extolling the virtues of charter schools, attacking the teachers' unions and so on. I would say that the press is in the hands of the plutocracy, the 1%, and it has a profound effect on press freedom and freedom of expression.

I'll talk primarily about the effect that this trend has had on book publishing. We are the land of the First Amendment and therefore tend to congratulate ourselves on the state of freedom of expression in the United States. It's hard, though not impossible, to find examples of journalists who are obviously targeted for violence, as journalists in Russia have been, for example, and in other countries where the attack on a free press is marked by brutal and explicit violence. That kind of thing has actually been happening in the US, something that doesn't get much press attention. For example, the Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings met his end in an inexplicable car accident in the middle of the night, and this is someone who had taken down a very important general in the US military with a highly critical article that damaged this officer's career. He was said to be working on something even more controversial and was quite nervous about his well-being when his car inexplicably sped up and crashed in the wee hours of the night.

One of the purposes of "Forbidden Bookshelf" is to get people to reclaim the skepticism that I believe is essential to the survival of democracy, a willingness to believe that elites are up to no good, are indeed capable of conspiring against our freedoms and our economic well-being.

Here in the United States, we tend to talk a lot about certain kinds of books that are marked for censorship by Christian groups or by highly conservative school boards in the South. They're usually erotic masterpieces, almost exclusively novels, books like The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison or erotic classics like Allen Ginsberg's Howl. We make much of books that offend a certain kind of taste and are therefore subject to local, highly parochial acts of censorship. A particular group will try to have a book removed from the library shelves or they will forbid teachers to assign particular books in school because they're just too "dirty" or not Christian enough. That kind of thing is deplorable, and I think it's good that there are organized groups that fight such censorship, but that is not actually the most dangerous kind of suppression that we face in the US.

We face a much subtler kind of suppression in the form of inexplicit tactics used to make sure that books threatening powerful interests either don't see the light of day or quickly disappear. I'm talking about threats of litigation by powerful corporations or rich families, books whose own publishers have sometimes been complicit in failing to market or to print enough copies so that the book can succeed; books that reviewers shun; books whose existence you never hear about; or more often, books that are dismissed as "conspiracy theory."

That's why I've started this new series called "Forbidden Bookshelf." What we're doing with this series is bringing back as e-books volumes that were killed at birth in the ways that I've discussed. Publishing them means not simply making them available as objects; it also means telling the world about them, soliciting reviews, advertising them. We're publishing them with new introductions, either by the authors themselves; or in the cases where they're dead, we have noted experts writing new introductions. Our aim is to bring back books on important subjects, books that deal with abuses of power or high crimes by the government itself, books that deal critically with extremely powerful interests like the DuPont family or the NFL.

We want to bring these individual books back because they're important works of scholarship and journalism, and they deserve and require a second life. But we're also doing it to make the larger point that we have become too ready, certainly in the US, to believe those voices that laugh off uncomfortable works as "lunatic fantasy," as "conspiracy theory." This is a fairly recent tactic that's been used by the state and others to dissuade people from reading these important works. One of the purposes of "Forbidden Bookshelf" is to get people to reclaim the skepticism that I believe is essential to the survival of democracy, a willingness to believe that elites are up to no good, are indeed capable of conspiring against our freedoms and our economic well-being.

Since I've taken to championing important works that need to see the light of day, I've discovered that even many of my ostensible allies on the left are also reluctant to discuss many of these issues. So I no longer see this in left-right terms, to tell you the truth; I think that the problem of free speech and free expression and so on transcends that division, because I think many of the outlets and individuals on the left have been co-opted in various ways, often through their funding sources. They get money from particular foundations that make clear they don't want certain subjects discussed.

We've seen numerous high-profile cases involving whistleblowers in recent years, and the government crackdowns which have followed, in many instances. Where do you see this going in the next few years?

The fact is that this kind of revelation is easier than ever, thanks to the internet, and is precisely the reason why governments the world over have stepped up their efforts to wipe out this kind of unauthorized public information. The easier it is to tell the world what's going on, the less control states have over the means of information, the more extreme measures governments have to use in order to keep the faucet shut. Barack Obama has actually been a more aggressive antagonist and persecutor of whistleblowers than any president in American history. They have used the Espionage Act, an unfortunate relic of World War I, to go after more whistleblowers than all of our previous presidents combined. I think the number is seven Espionage Act cases by now. This is an extreme step and indicates a rising uneasiness over the possibilities that people may hear what they're not supposed to hear, in this culture of extreme secrecy that now passes for a government.

I also want to add that it's under Obama that the state has committed itself explicitly to a policy of covert subversion of certain kinds of public discussions. There's a famous First Amendment lawyer, Cass Sunstein, who went to work for Obama. He actually coauthored an essay for a journal published by Harvard University on the need for what he called "cognitive infiltration." He was talking specifically about 9/11 and the fact that there are more and more people questioning the official explanation and really unprecedented numbers of reputable experts, architects, engineers, and so on, who are calling the official account of 9/11 into question on purely scientific grounds.

Since 2000, our presidential elections and many of our congressional elections have been rigged through electronic means.

According to Sunstein, this kind of public discussion is extremely dangerous. He believes that it poses a mortal threat to the survival of American democracy. I think what he actually believes is that it poses a threat to the American government, to its reputation. The solution that he explicitly advanced in his article was the use of "trolls" to find ways to disrupt these discussions by sowing discord among the discussants or counterattacking with propaganda shots that would distract people from the issue at hand.

That kind of extreme subversive activity is completely continuous with the recent statements by British prime minister David Cameron, who actually said that 9/11 skepticism is as dangerous as ISIS, and Francois Hollande of France recently made a similar statement, that this kind of public discussion is dangerous. I can't think of better examples of extreme overreaction of states around the world when it comes to the danger of being confronted with free conversation of "forbidden" subjects, and it has everything to do with the universal availability of taboo information on the internet.

Do you see, in any of the candidates who have declared or who are likely to declare for the presidency of the United States, any hope for a change of direction on issues pertaining to freedom of the press, freedom of speech, or freedom of information?

I can think of a few possible candidates whose policies would take us in the right direction. But such a discussion of these particular candidates is unfortunately besides the point, because, as I myself have demonstrated extensively in a book that was blacked out in exactly the way that I've been describing, America's election system is among the worst in the so-called "free world," and in fact, since 2000, our presidential elections and many of our congressional elections have been rigged through electronic means. This is the thesis of my book, Fooled Again, which came out in 2005 and was an exhaustive demonstration of how the Republican right stole the election of 2004 for Bush and Cheney.

The theft of the 2000 election by Bush and Cheney is fairly widely accepted, because the Supreme Court stepped in at the last minute and halted the vote count in the state of Florida. That's something that the press has been willing to discuss and acknowledge. But the theft of the 2004 election, primarily through electronic means, is one of those forbidden subjects, and discussion thereof has been stigmatized as "conspiracy theory."

As long as the Republican party, with Democratic complicity, has a hammerlock on the voting system so that they can install politicians despite the will of the electorate and pursue agendas that are completely detested by a majority of the population, we're in big trouble.

The fact is that we now have a computerized voting and vote-counting system in the United States, a system that was a bipartisan achievement, although it was primarily the Bush Republicans who drove it home. And not only do we have a system that is very easily hacked, the counting easily rigged, the electronic voting lists easily purged, imperceptibly changed, but the companies that manage the election process are all private companies, owned and managed by right-wing Republicans, rabid Christianists, theocrats, people with an anti-democratic agenda.

One of the things I've been trying to do for years is promote a broader understanding of the fundamental threat that this development has posed to the survival of American democracy. The right in the US is vastly overrepresented in terms of its representation in Congress, in terms of those presidents who seemingly have been elected by right-wing voters. There is no evidence that Bush-Cheney won the 2004 election other than the official claim that he won. All the solid evidence actually suggests that John Kerry won that election, just as all the evidence makes clear that Al Gore actually did win the 2000 election.

The fact is that we're not going to make any progress until we have a legitimate election system. I say this as one who is thoroughly disgusted with both major political parties in the US: I'm not naive about the fact that the major parties are all too similar on economic issues, on war issues and many other issues. However, in a country like the US, the possibility of some kind of alternative means of changing the direction of the country through an actual revolution in the streets is remote to the point of non-existence.

You must have a viable election in order to get anything meaningful accomplished, and as long as the Republican party, with Democratic complicity, has a hammerlock on the voting system so that they can install politicians despite the will of the electorate and pursue agendas that are completely detested by a majority of the population, we're in big trouble.

So-called socialist parties have, since the 70s, been betraying their supporters. … What we're witnessing is the imposition of a neoliberal order against the will of the electorate.

Let me add that there are three states that have governors who are pushing radical neoliberal agendas: Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan. Three governors representing the so-called "Tea Party," backed by the Koch family. They are dismantling the public workers' unions; attacking public education; promoting extreme agendas despite the fact that in all three states, there is evidence that these governors and many other officers who have taken over those governments simply were not elected. Yet, this is something that almost no one talks about. Every time we have an election in the US, everybody talks about the candidates and their chances and strategies and the demographics of the electorate. All of this is fundamentally beside the point as long as our elections system is corrupt.

What could social movements and citizens do to hold their governments and to hold the system as a whole more accountable? For instance, in Greece we've seen the election of a left-wing government which has gone back on many of the pre-election promises which likely got it elected in the first place.

Greece is in its precarious situation precisely because it's been practically the only country whose people have resisted vigorously. There are some others who have done so, but Greece stands out for the intensity of its resistance. A seemingly alternative government was elected, and yet we now see that government backtracking. Similar things have happened before throughout Europe. So-called socialist parties have, since the 70s, been betraying their supporters. It's happened in France, in Britain, in Germany, and it's happened with the active assistance of the USA. and the covert arms of its government. What we're witnessing is the imposition of a neoliberal order against the will of the electorate.

Two things have to happen. There has to be a reassertion of the necessity of legitimate electoral democracy. In the Netherlands, in Ireland and in Germany, they tried to use computerized voting, and in all three countries they went back to hand-counted paper ballots, which is the only way to go. However, beyond this discussion of electoral integrity, social movements are essential.

Social movements are just another word for democracy. We have to have an aroused plurality of voters who will not accept the failure of their governments to honor the agendas that they promised and that got them elected in the first place. Something sort of like that happened in the US when a clear majority of voters were actively led to believe that Barack Obama would offer - I don't know if I would say "radical" - but a marked difference from the policies promoted by Bush-Cheney. I didn't believe it, I'm from Illinois, where Barack Obama was a senator, so I knew enough about him not even to vote for him, because I knew it wasn't true, but the fact is that he got elected overwhelmingly, primarily because his team advertised him as a bold departure from the status quo. Despite that, we have seen this administration outstrip Bush-Cheney at all the worst policies that people objected to and that led them to vote for a Democratic alternative.

They don't want a faculty that's expensive, that has the kind of job security that permits them to resist.

I believe that there should be a larger and more vigorous social movement in this country to fix the election system and otherwise work against those entrenched interests that are pushing us all towards extreme income inequality and a kind of serf-like existence for the majority of Americans, and I think that such social movements in other countries have to continue to fight and to intensify the fight, and I think ultimately, align themselves one with another, to comprise a global movement. I think that our only hope lies in that direction.

How would you gauge the impact of neoliberalism on education, especially in terms of issues such as cost and accessibility and privatization, and also on the quality of education, and the de-emphasizing of the liberal arts?

We have universities increasingly dominated by hedge fund managers, corporate lawyers, real estate developers, building contractors and Wall Street bank presidents. No university in the world is more perfectly dominated by that element than New York University, whose board is unique for the fact that there's not a single professor on that board. They are all financiers, neoliberal players, and this has had a shattering effect on NYU, which is now the most expensive university in the US. It has the worst financial aid.

The aim of the system is not to educate, it is to extract as much cash as possible from the paying customers and to create a generation of people who don't know enough about what's going on to question it.

Our student body carries a debt load 40 percent heavier than the national average. Seventy percent of our courses are now taught by non-tenured faculty, by adjuncts, by contract faculty who are full time but have no union and are crushed by a huge teaching load, tons of committee work, and still an expectation of publishing scholarship and who are paid much less than the tenured faculty, whose numbers are also dwindling because the board and its hand-picked administration don't want a tenured faculty. They don't want a faculty that's expensive, that has the kind of job security that permits them to resist. Students are increasingly squeezed and shortchanged and offered courses that have less and less of a critical component, that serve more and more as credentials for finding work in the neoliberal machine.

What can academics do about this? What we need is for students and faculty to work together and say no to this huge trend, and one of the biggest incentives for such organization and resistance is the scourge of student debt, which under this neoliberal regime has risen to become the most common form of debt in the US. It has surpassed consumer spending debt; it's over a trillion dollars, and in the US, students are essentially legally prevented from declaring bankruptcy when they go broke because of this crushing debt.

We have students who are basically embarking on lives of peonage until their dying day because the debt that they carry for their education is so heavy. There are groups that have been formed in the US, specifically around the issue of student debt, but I believe that education is now at a point of unprecedented crisis, not only here but worldwide, and it's because of these high rollers who have taken over the institution to the point that education as we've always known it is almost impossible.

The aim of the system is not to educate, it is to extract as much cash as possible from the paying customers and to create a generation of people who don't know enough about what's going on to question it; to make the content of education apolitical, uncritical to teach people to think that this is all conspiracy theory and insanity.

I believe that we have to return to something like the spirit that obtained in this country in the '60s and '70s, and in other countries, France, Greece, when there was a broader critical movement by the student masses in favor of a more humanistic and engaged education. It's difficult to do that today, precisely because of the crushing debt burden borne by so many students, so many of whom tell me that because of their debt, they are paradoxically afraid to do anything to resist or protest it. They're afraid they'll lose a scholarship, that their chances for finding work, which are already pretty slim, will shrink even further.

When we're talking about social movements and possible mass responses to the situation prevailing today, we have to take into account the peculiarly inhibiting effect of debt, which aside from its material destructiveness also has a kind of psychological effect that can be incapacitating. I think the more we talk about this, the more we organize to show that it is possible to fight back, to demand debt forgiveness, the better off we'll be. That's where our salvation lies, and I think it's possible to do it.

News Fri, 29 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
The US Militarization of Africa Is Well Underway and Nothing Good Will Come of It

As I walk down the main thoroughfare of this camp for internal exiles, I suddenly see his smiling face, the one I'd know anywhere. Here, in Juba, the capital of South Sudan amid tens of thousands of people crammed into a fetid encampment visibly thrown together in haste out of fear and necessity, Barack Obama is smiling his familiar smile amid the results of a decades-long American project in Africa.

(Image: Haymarket Books)(Image: Haymarket Books)The reach of the United States military has expanded into nearly every corner of the world, but it is Africa that US officers describe behind closed doors as "the battlefield of tomorrow, today." In his essential new book, Nick Turse tenaciously details the growth of the Pentagon's secretive mission in Africa and the resulting harmful impact on the continent, its countries and its people. Order your copy of Tomorrow's Battlefield now by making a donation to Truthout!

The following is an excerpt, "Finding Barack Obama in South Sudan," from the book Tomorrow's Battlefield: US Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa:

Juba, South Sudan. The camp is a mess of orange muck and open earthen sewers. A single wood plank provides passage over a roughhewn trench. Children peek out from tarp-tents. Older men and women sit in homes of mud-speckled plastic sheeting that become saunas in the midday heat. Young women pick their way through refuse, some with large yellow jerry cans of water balanced atop their heads, others carry their homes in similar fashion - a mess of wooden poles and a folded tarp - as they set out for another camp hoping for better to come.

As I walk down the main thoroughfare of this camp for internal exiles, I suddenly see his smiling face, the one I'd know anywhere. Here, in Juba, the capital of South Sudan amid tens of thousands of people crammed into a fetid encampment visibly thrown together in haste, out of fear and necessity; here, as huge water tanker trucks rumble past and men in camouflage fatigues, toting automatic weapons, stride by; here, in the unlikeliest of places in the heat and swirling dust and charcoal smoke, the air heavy with the scent of squalor, is a face I've seen a thousand, or ten thousand, or a million times before. Here in a camp where hopelessness is endemic and despair reigns, is a face that, for so many, was once synonymous with hope itself. It's a sight that stops me in my tracks. Here, 7,000 miles from my home, Barack Obama is smiling his familiar smile amid the results of a decades-long American project in Africa.

"It was George Bush and the Christian fundamentalists who heard the cry of South Sudan," Taban Lo Liyong, a South Sudanese writer and literature professor at the University of Juba, told the Los Angeles Times a day after his country's independence in 2011. "Today is Barack Obama's day. We don't know what he is going to do."

Only three years ago, the future seemed wide open and hope was the operative word. In fact, all the nation could do then was hope - and dream of better to come.

Dreams and Nightmares

"My dream," Giel says when I ask about his red T-shirt, which sports a picture of President Obama's smiling face in front of an American flag. Indeed, the shirt reads: "Obama: My Dream."

Just what that dream is, however, couldn't, at this point, be murkier.

When I run into Giel in this squalid United Nations camp, he's already been living here for more than six months. After fighting broke out in December 2013, he tells me, Dinka soldiers from South Sudan's army killed his uncle. Neighbors died, too. Indeed, hundreds of men from his tribe, the Nuers, were killed in his Juba neighborhood, while Dinka civilians suffered the price of payback elsewhere in the country. "It's not safe to go home," says the fourteen-year-old. "I fear we will be killed." And so he sits, day after day, for eight to ten hours, at a little stand - a white plastic table under a blue umbrella - on the camp's main drag, selling bags of bread.

Home for the nine members of Giel's family sheltering in this camp is a plastic tent. There's never enough food, he tells me, there are hardly any jobs, and it's stiflingly hot. When it rains, the camp turns into a sea of mud, you can't sleep, you can't do much at all. It's a metaphor for his country - not that South Sudan needs any metaphors, given the reality at hand. It's been paralyzed for a year by simmering conflict. "South Sudan has very big problems because of the war," he says matter of factly.

Deeper into the camp, making my way through a warren of makeshift shanties, tents, and other kinds of homes constructed from tarps and blankets, I call upon Nyadoang. Her cheeks are sunken and her long legs are rail thin. She might be in her twenties, but appears older, weary, world-worn. She doesn't know her own age. Her twins are four years old. The naked baby boy that she's alternately breast-feeding and gently jiggling in her hands as if he were a hot potato, was born just a few months before in the dirt floor hovel that is now their home, a tangle of hanging fabric and wooden support poles encased in plastic tarps.

Nyadoang wears a blouse of radiant pink and orange that catches the eye in this bleak setting, but she looks defeated. And with good reason. She fled to the camp when the fighting started and has been stranded here ever since, separated from her husband. Her fractured family seems emblematic of so much in this fractured "nation." Her twins were born in Sudan in 2010, became South Sudanese the next year, and now find themselves trapped in a camp for internal exiles in a country trapped in a civil war limbo. Her newborn son has never known any other life. A local woman, an employee of the International Rescue Committee, a nongovernmental organization working in the camp, caught the mood of the moment perfectly when she told me, "We were born refugees.

Some of our children are now born refugees. It's really traumatizing. We need a permanent solution."

But solutions to even basic problems here seem to be in short supply. Nyadoang says she can't get baby formula and her new- born has a cough, fever, and diarrhea. There are no jobs in the camp and even if there were, who would watch the baby? There's no money to be had and no end in sight. Trust between the Nuer and Dinka has broken down. Even personal friendships have snapped under the weight of the crisis, she tells me. "How can we live a normal life while the war goes on?"

What does she want for her children, what type of future does she hope for in South Sudan? "We can't go back home if there's no peace," she tells me. "Maybe there is no future."

This is the legacy of America's nation-building project in Africa, and of the policies of a president born of an African father, a president whose name was once synonymous with hope for the future.

Over the course of the Obama presidency, American efforts on the continent have become ever more militarized in terms of troops and bases, missions and money. And yet from Libya to the Gulf of Guinea, Mali to this camp in South Sudan, the results have been dismal. Countless military exercises, counterterrorism operations, humanitarian projects, and training missions, backed by billions of dollars of taxpayer money, have all evaporated in the face of coups, civil wars, human rights abuses, terror attacks, and poorly coordinated aid efforts. The human toll is incalculable. And there appears to be no end in sight.

A Calendar with No Tomorrows

Inside a United Nations office elsewhere in South Sudan, I see a box of almost untouched 2014 calendars. I pick one up and casually flip through it. January offers a photo of two statuesque women modeling locally made clothing and jewelry. February showcases the "first batch of South Sudan National Police Service immigration officers." There's a photo of a woman with a big, warm smile at the Jebel Market in Juba (April) and men working on building a new passenger boat in Malakal (August). The photo for December 2014 shows a young girl skipping rope. The caption reads: "Child enjoying peace in Nyeel, Unity State."

It's quickly clear why the calendars were never put into circulation. In fact, the front cover has this caption: "Building on Peace," while the next page has a grimly farcical quality to it. "Peace and stability in South Sudan," it says, "have allowed Africa's newest nation to turn its attention to development." In the same light, here in South Sudan and across significant parts of the continent, AFRICOM's mission statement reads like satire from the Onion. The command, it says in part, promotes "regional security, stability, and prosperity."

Certainly, there's precious little security, stability, or prosperity in Giel's life. Nor does there appear to be any on the horizon for Nyadoang's newborn. The same could be said for so many youths in Ebola-ravaged neighborhoods of Sierra Leone or Liberia, the war-torn Central African Republic, militia-ridden Libya, fragile Somalia, increasingly unstable Kenya, insurgency-racked Mali, or Boko Haram–terrorized Nigeria to name a few of the nations that have received abundant US military attention over the past decade.

As a species, we do a horrible job of predicting the future. But if the past is any guide, US operations will increase in Africa in the years ahead alongside increased insecurity, instability, and strife. Odds are, much of the former will occur below the radar and much of the latter will go unnoticed by most Americans. But make no mistake, for America in the years ahead, Africa will continue to be tomorrow's battlefield.

Copyright (2015) by Nick Turse. Not to be reposted without permission of the publisher, Haymarket Books.

Progressive Picks Fri, 29 May 2015 09:20:27 -0400
Julian Assange on Europe's Secret Plan for Military Force on Refugee Boats From Libya

WikiLeaks has just revealed secret details of a European Union plan to use military force to curb the influx of migrants from Libya. "The documents lay out a military operation against cross-Mediterranean refugee transport networks and infrastructure," WikiLeaks says. "It details plans to conduct military operations to destroy boats used for transporting migrants and refugees in Libyan territory, thereby preventing them from reaching Europe." WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange discusses the EU's plan from his place of refuge inside Ecuador's London embassy.


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

AMY GOODMAN: We return to our exclusive interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. I went to London and spoke to him inside the Ecuadorean Embassy there on Memorial Day.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the documents you have released around Libya and the immigrants that are trying to escape?

JULIAN ASSANGE: A secret plan was constructed by the defense ministers of Europe, the defense ministers from the various countries. The plan was led by the UK and Italy. And that plan, authored on the 13th of May, is what we have released. Now, it calls for a military intervention in Libya to destroy refugee boats before they leave port, from Libya coming to Europe, and also for other attacks on the people who provide the services of conducting the boats, called, of course, in that plan, "people smugglers," and they're necessary to stop their network.

AMY GOODMAN: You said destroy the boats. What do you mean?

JULIAN ASSANGE: That's right. Before the refugees get into the boats, destroy the boats. And so, of course, this involves potential infringements of Libyan sovereignty, destroying boats in port.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, "destroying"? Blowing them up?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Blowing them up, sabotaging them. Destroying them through military means is what is specified in the document.

AMY GOODMAN: How would they know if there are people in them?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, they may not. They may conduct surveillance operations to detect people. They may be unconcerned with people. The way that they're talking about the people smugglers in the document is such that you have the impression that the people smugglers themselves would be a military target. The infrastructure, and specifically boats, but their broad infrastructure, also appears to be a military target. So, for example, the systems that repair boats or who are involved in collecting together the refugees, these seem like they would also be military targets.

AMY GOODMAN: And whose documents are these?

JULIAN ASSANGE: This is a classified document from the European Union, from the EU Military Committee. And the EU Military Committee is the defense ministers of the European Union. The document was led by the United Kingdom and Italy. And it will be Italy who is leading the on-the-ground - it will be Italy who is militarily coordinating the on-the-ground efforts.

AMY GOODMAN: And in the documents, the concerns about what this will look like, the so-called optics of the situation?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Yes, there's a layout for a media information operations at the same time, very significant concern about the optics, about where there's media scrutiny of the EU for killing people, or false reports of killing people. They say, you know, where the EU has actually killed people in this operation, so they are intending to at least risk killing people in blowing up these boats.

I guess from a - if we now pull back a bit, where is this coming from? Well, it's no surprise that the UK was involved in the draft. Since the 7th, with the new Conservative government here having a majority, we have seen a very strong push along a Conservative agenda against migrants, against pulling out of some parts of the EU, against a retardation of the European Court of Human Rights. From the Italian perspective, they have to deal with the migrants that come across.

Now, this will be the first time that the EU, as a military force - not NATO, but the EU - is engaged in hostilities. So it's quite - it's quite significant from the perspective of what the EU is going to look like as a military force. And if you think of Libya, there's the question of what do these EU nations want with Libya. Well, remember, Libya was largely Hillary's war. That's came out, that in fact the Pentagon was pushing against it, Hillary was pushing for it. From the American side, there wasn't unity in pursuing the prosecution of Libya, because the Pentagon was worried about the post-Gaddafi environment, had that been set up enough, for exactly the same reasons - the exact same lessons we learned in Iraq. Now, there was considerable European push for war in Libya, as well, from Italy, from France and from the United Kingdom, to get at Libyan oil. Deals were done in terms of splits with the Libyan rebels, the splits that Italy would have, the splits that France would have. So, we may also be looking at an excuse to get on to the shoreline of Libya. They will have established a breach of Libyan sovereignty. They will be engaging in destruction of these boats and the people-smuggling operations on Libyan soil.

AMY GOODMAN: And the documents address the Western-backed groups within Libya and what they feel about this?

JULIAN ASSANGE: It has come out publicly, when some versions of this plan have been spoken about in the media. The plan hasn't come out, but versions of it have been spoken about, and that the groups that the West says is the government of Libya, if you like, they're those factions around Benghazi. The Libyan foreign minister says that this should not be tolerated, of course. Libyans could not accept the prevention of Libyans seeking refuge being pursued by jihadists. It's really a very new situation. It's new in terms of the EU acting as a force in this manner, acting as a force against refugees, against refugee boats, acting as a force, in effect, to assist ISIS. These are people that are being driven out of Libya by jihadists of various factions, including ISIS. So, I find it quite, you know, quite a dangerous precedent. Now, having once established themselves on the northern shore of Libya, there's a question about then what happens. Presumably, EU troops or EU agents or EU warships on the shore of Libya are going to receive some kind of resistance occasionally, and they will meet that resistance. And that could then well snowball into an invasion of Libya. And that may - I must speculate that that may be part of the vision.

News Thu, 28 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
More Than 300,000 Celebrate Archbishop Oscar Romero, 35 Years After US-Backed Murder

Thirty-five years ago, Archbishop Óscar Romero was murdered by members of a US-backed death squad while delivering mass in San Salvador, El Salvador. On Saturday, over 300,000 people gathered in the same city to see him beatified, bringing him a step closer to sainthood in the Catholic Church. The recognition has long been opposed by right-wing clerics and politicians. During the ceremony, eight deacons carried Romero's blood-stained shirt to the altar in a glass case. Archbishop Romero was shot through the heart while delivering mass at a hospital chapel on March 24, 1980. He was reportedly assassinated on the orders of US-backed death squad leader Roberto D'Aubuisson, a graduate of the US-run School of the Americas who went on to form the right-wing ARENA party. We go to San Salvador to speak with Roberto Lovato, a writer and a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley's Center for Latino Policy Research.


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

AARON MATÉ: Thirty-five years ago, Archbishop Óscar Romero was murdered by members of a US-backed death squad while delivering mass in San Salvador, El Salvador. On Saturday, over 300,000 people gathered in the same city to see him beatified. The recognition has long been opposed by right-wing clerics and politicians. During the ceremony, eight deacons carried Romero's blood-stained shirt to the altar in a glass case. An envoy of Pope Francis lead the event in honor of a man known as a "voice for the voiceless."

JESÚS DELGADO: [translated] We authorize that the venerable servant of God, Óscar Arnulfo Romero Galdámez, bishop and martyr, pastor, according to the heart of Christ, evangelizer and father to the poor, heroic witness of the reign of God, reign of justice, fraternity and peace, hereon shall be called beatified.

AARON MATÉ: President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, a former member of the left-wing rebel movement FMLN, spoke at the ceremony. The presidents of Panama and Ecuador also attended. President Obama sent a statement hailing the church's new direction under Pope Francis, writing, quote, "I am grateful to Pope Francis for his leadership in reminding us of our obligation to help those most in need, and for his decision to beatify Blessed Oscar [Arnulfo] Romero."

AMY GOODMAN: Archbishop Óscar Romero was shot through the heart while delivering mass at a hospital chapel March 24th, 1980. He was reportedly assassinated on the orders of US-backed death squad leader Roberto D'Aubuisson, a graduate of the US-run School of the Americas who went on to form the right wing ARENA party. This is an excerpt from the film Romero starring Raúl Juliá, who played Archbishop Romero.

ARCHBISHOP ÓSCAR ROMERO: [played by Raúl Juliá] I'd like to make an appeal in a special way to the men in the army. Brothers, each one of you is one of us. We are the same people. The farmers and peasants that you kill are your own brothers and sisters. When you hear the words of a man telling you to kill, think instead in the words of God: "Thou shalt not kill!" No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. In his name and in the name of our tormented people who have suffered so much and whose laments cry out to heaven, I implore you, I beg you, I order you, stop the repression!

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt from the film Romero, played by Raúl Juliá playing Óscar Romero, in one of those last addresses that Archbishop Romero would give before being gunned down.

Well, for more, we go to El Salvador to San Salvador, the capital, where we're joined by Roberto Lovato. His family is from El Salvador. He's a writer and visiting scholar at UC Berkeley's Center for Latino Policy Research. He's been reporting on Archbishop Romero's beatification for The Guardian and Latino Rebels.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Roberto. Talk about what happened this weekend.

ROBERTO LOVATO: What happened, Amy, was basically a realization of what Monseñor Romero himself said before he died, where he said - because he knew they were going to kill him. That's pretty clear from talking to people who knew him. He said that "If I am killed, I will rise again in the Salvadoran people." And what happened on Saturday was precisely that, in a formal way, because people here will tell you that Romero was a saint for us here long before the church kind of caught up and did the beatification, which was held up by politics that included, for example, the - Zbigniew Brzezinski and the Carter administration kind of trying to get Romero to shut up in the 1980s. And then, from there on, the US has not played a very kind of positive role here.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about exactly what happened on that day when he was assassinated? Give us the politics of what took place. Who murdered Óscar Romero as he was giving his chapel sermon?

ROBERTO LOVATO: He was giving a chapel sermon in what's known as El Hospitalito, a small chapel near a hospital here in San Salvador behind me. And he was, you know, doing what he always does: ministering to the poor. I mean, Romero was nothing if not somebody whose alpha and omega began with God and the poor. And he interpreted the gospel in those terms. And so, he was talking, and there had already been a plan hatched, Plan Piña, by Roberto D'Aubuisson and others, because - you know, one of the things that happens is people lose the story in thinking that Roberto D'Aubuisson was the only killer of Monseñor, when in fact there were people in Miami, there were people in different parts of the country, who are still around and still - people here want to bring them to justice, who were plotting his murder. And so, a car drove by, and an assassin fired a bullet straight into his heart. And he was killed, and he died, you know, not long after.

And he was tended to by Carmelite nuns. I mean, one of the most touching moments for me here, Amy, during the ceremony on Saturday was to see a Carmelite nun singing a song called "Sombrero Azul," which was the kind of anthem of the revolutionary left in El Salvador. And the song says, you know, "And let the happiness come and wash away the suffering." And at the end of the song - in the middle of the song, there's a part that says, "Dale Salvadoreño," "Go Salvadoran." And this four-foot-five Carmelite nun raises her fist and just had some of us in tears at that point.

So, Romero - Romero challenged the state to stop repressing people. But he went beyond that. I've been reading his homilies, listening to interviews and other things, and he actually - his gospel, his message, went far beyond simply stopping the repression. He called for - for example, he supported the nationalization of banks. He talked about los imperialistas, which was pretty much code for the United States. And so, we have someone now who in this country is - that's now arguably the most violent country on Earth, in terms of homicides, becoming this massive symbol of peace. It couldn't have come at a better time for El Salvador.

AARON MATÉ: And, Roberto, can you talk more about the politics behind this decision taking so long for this honor to happen and what this now means for El Salvador?

ROBERTO LOVATO: Well, you have basically the tale of two churches. I was in - on the weekend before the beatification, I was at a church, at the cathedral. And if you go to the cathedral, you see the tale of two churches playing out. On the top, you had a traditional mass that barely even mentioned Romero, being led by the archbishop of San Salvador, the current archbishop. Below, in the crypt of Romero, you had hundreds of people crammed up into this humid room, basically with - carrying pictures of their martyrs, carrying pictures of Romero, celebrating, singing and talking about justice and God in one voice. And so, that's kind of the tale of two churches here.

And so, you have the conservative church hierarchy and the elites. You know, those that have continued the oligarchy from the 1980s, and been expanded into the financial sector, have joined forces to pressure the Vatican to not beatify Romero. They sent letters. They did what the US has been doing while Romero was alive. Fortunately, that didn't work. And as my friend Carlos Dada, a prominent journalist who wrote a good piece in The New Yorker, said, he said that, you know, this is a moral victory for El Salvador. So in terms of what it means for El Salvador, it means - it's a moral victory. It's a validation that - you know, your dead were there with Romero. There were people - they had read the names of the martyrs that have died, church people, non-church people, you know, 80,000 dead, 95 percent of whom were killed by the US-backed government, according to the United Nations Truth Commission, 95 percent killed by -

AMY GOODMAN: Roberto Lovato, we have to leave it there, but I want to thank you for being with us, writer and visiting scholar at UC Berkeley's Center for Latino Policy Research. We'll link to his reports at, speaking to us from San Salvador.

News Thu, 28 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400