em·pire
ˈemˌpī(ə)r/
noun
an extensive operation or sphere of activity controlled by one person or group

One group today has more foreign military bases than any other in world history, spends more on violence and domination than the rest of the world combined, and has overthrown or attempted to overthrow some 60 governments, most of them democracies.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

May the #LoveWins Victory Spur Us On to Increased Political Involvement

#LoveWins is a tremendous, hard won victory of popular persistence and pressure, a new and vibrant illustration that cultural change can be made when a population cares deeply and applies unrelenting, ever-increasing pressure until the job is done, the non-negotiable goal achieved.

This invigorating moment should act as renewed proof that we can make our society whatever we want it to be. And it should not and will not end here. The victory should inspire not only further “domestic” efforts, but spur those of us who tend to limit ourselves to awareness of domestic issues to become more involved in what is commonly called “foreign policy” – our official interactions with almost 100% of the world’s people (the US consists of about 4%).

In fact, foreign policy is a domestic issue. The policies are conceived, approved, ordered, and implemented by US citizens. But when US citizens as a whole pay too little attention or fail to push until we reach our goals, we leave our relations with the rest of the world up to people with major conflicts of interest, who get what they want largely through cronyism and bribery, a practice so common in our society that, to avoid embarrassment, we replaced the word “bribery” with “lobbying”, and then declared it legal (though we still consider it illegal in the private sector, as the US reminded when it recently raided FIFA, though we allow our own biggest offenders to continue their operations).

Whether we take charge of our “foreign policy” or leave it up to a few interested elites, it reflects on us. Thus, at the end of 2013/beginning of 2014, in a Swiss-conducted poll of over 65 countries scattered around the world, with an equal number of people polled in each, the US was voted as the greatest obstacle standing in the way of world peace, receiving 24% of the vote. The runner-up, US-ally Pakistan, received three times fewer votes at 8%, and Russia, several slots further down, received 12 times fewer votes than the US. (The polling agency decided not to ask that question again the next year.)

The illegal invasion of Iraq, the dire consequences of which we see every day, was a US domestic choice, and the invaders came from the US, with some followers from allied countries, though no population in the world other than ours supported the invasion. People operating and coming from the US destabilized Iraq, and killed or caused the death or disablement of millions of people, including gay people who have since been executed by non-state groups that arose after the invasion, inspired and empowered by the cauldron of violence and chaos it created.  Aggressively invading another country is illegal. Many decades ago it was declared the highest international crime and was decided that the aggressive party is responsible for “all the evil that follows.”

A recent comprehensive study by Nobel-winning group Physicians for Social Responsibility has found that ten years of US attacks on Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone have directly and indirectly, by creating deadly conditions, caused the deaths of 1.3 million people – and that is their conservative figure. They say the true figure may be higher than two million.

Even as he supports gay rights, Barack Obama has, for example, also given massive support to longtime US ally, the wicked Saudi dictatorship, which persecutes and executes homosexuals and has become increasingly more repressive over the last several years, publicly beheading and then crucifying the headless bodies of hundreds of people, and even lashing raped women and journalists, just since the beginning of 2015.

The United States is the world’s biggest arms trafficker, and in 2010, Obama approved the biggest weapons sale in US history – 60 billion dollars worth of lethal hardware – to none other than the Saudi dictator. In addition, in 2013 he sold the despot almost a billion dollars of internationally banned cluster bombs, which his successor, the current dictator, Salman Abdulaziz, later used in a war of aggression against Yemen, assisted by the US. While rescuing downed Saudi pilots, the US refuses to rescue the thousands of US citizens trapped in the Yemen war zone, while eight other countries, including India, Russia, and China, have all carried out risky missions to rescue their own citizens and even foreign nationals.

In addition to these and many other “foreign policy” issues, there are also many “domestic” issues that remain to be solved.

Every member of the United Nations is a party to the UN Convention on the Rights of Children (effective 1990), “except Somalia and the United States”, and “Somalia’s domestic ratification has finished”, it just hasn’t “deposited the instrument of ratification with the United Nations.”

rights of child
Shocking numbers of US citizens are killed by state forces, averaging about a thousand people per year (a federally determined statistic acknowledged to probably represent less than half of the total) while police in commonly compared countries often kill no one or only a few people.

The US, which even under slavery constantly touted itself as uniquely free, has the highest prison population in history, higher than the numbers of people kept in Stalin’s gulags. And to quote the US’s leading human rights group, Amnesty International, the US “stands virtually alone in the world in incarcerating thousands of prisoners in longterm or indefinite solitary confinement, a form of torture” that causes “psychological harm”; psychological torture is deemed “as bad as physical torture” by scientific studies and worse than physical torture by Sen. John McCain, who has endured both. And of course, this is all largely focused on the poor and minorities traditionally repressed and exploited in the US: “There is no other country on the planet that locks up a racial minority group at remotely near the rate the United States does with African Americans. Even under the notorious racism of the apartheid regime in South Africa, blacks were not imprisoned nearly as much as in the United States”, while Native peoples remain the group killed most often per capita by US forces. As a Native person commented:

There are no white or black faces rallying around us, marching with us, protesting with us over this injustice. Why? Because we are a forgotten people.”

As we celebrate the advent of marriage equality in the US, we should be invigorated and galvanized not only to redouble our efforts on what we typically call “domestic” issues, but to deepen our dedication and involvement to “foreign policy”, which is really just another branch of domestic policy, especially when we think of ourselves as an “international community”. People outside the US are every bit as important as people inside. There is no value difference, and we should study and respect actual world opinion.

The nationalization of marriage equality is just the latest illustration that, when enough pressure is applied and hard work put in, we can change as a culture and achieve our goals. In the case of marriage equality, the issues noted above, and many others, partial victory or negotiated settlement is unacceptable. As a great scholar of social change, Gene Sharp, notes (ch. 2), “On some basic issues there should be no compromise.”

Author is an independent researcher focusing on force dynamics, national and global. On Twitter @_DirtyTruths.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pentagon Admits for First Time to Testing Mustard Gas, Other Lethal Chem Weapons on 60,000 Troops Circa WWII

As brutal treatment of African Americans and other minorities in the US makes world headlines and is condemned at the UN, NPR reports:

When officers led him and a dozen others into a wooden gas chamber and locked the door, he didn’t complain. None of them did. Then, a mixture of mustard gas and a similar agent called lewisite was piped inside.

“It felt like you were on fire,” recalls Edwards, now 93 years old. “Guys started screaming and hollering and trying to break out. And then some of the guys fainted. And finally they opened the door and let us out, and the guys were just, they were in bad shape.”

The US now officially admits to conducting human experiments with mustard gas and other chemical weapons on 60,000 troops separated by race.  This is in addition to other human experiments the US carried out on African Americans, Guatemalans, Marshall Islanders, whom mainstream US culture referred to as “savages“, and others.

The types of experiments with “lethal chemical agents” the US government carried out on the troops were:

[1] Patch tests, where liquid mustard gas was applied directly onto test subjects’ skin; [2] field tests, where subjects were exposed to gas outdoors in simulated combat settings; and [3] chamber tests, where men were locked inside gas chambers while mustard gas was piped inside.

NPR quotes a 95 year old man who recounts being sent into the jungle and then bombarded with mustard gas from US military planes, as well as forced to crawl through fields saturated with the chemical.  “It took all the skin off your hands. Your hands just rotted,” he says.  He still suffers from debilitating skin conditions.

“You had no choice.  You did not know where you were going. They didn’t tell you anything,” said a subject.

Read the full report.

The US is still experimenting on people in various ways and protecting human-experimenters today.

@_DirtyTruths

6/27/15 Update:

A reader on Washington's Blog points out that NPR notes that whites were also used in this experiment, and groups were separated by race to see if there were any differences in reactions to chemical weapons agents.  The NPR report only discusses gas and chemical experiments carried out on minority troops, hence my error.  The report notes research suggesting that Puerto Ricans, for one, were tested to see if they "could be used on the front lines while white soldiers stayed back, protected from the gas."

I have changed the title and the wording of a sentence in the report to reflect that the number of 60,000 troops involved in this human experimentation operation were not all non-whites.  The breakdown is not specified, though it is noted and well known that minorities were considered inferior and were thus often given the worst assignments; that the military was segregated and Jim Crow laws in place in civilian life; that Japanese-Americans but not German-Americans were put in concentration camps; that the US performed other human experiments exclusively on minorities, and that US culture, as noted, considered people like the Marshall Islanders, on whom the US experimented with nuclear radiation, to be "savages" inferior to people of European descent.  And though they were and are certainly treated better, reflecting US/Euro ideas on racial hierarchy, poor whites have also been victimized on many occasions and should be recognized. 

Firsthand Accounts of Israeli Massacre in Gaza

The UN has now released its investigation into Israel’s 2014 massacre in Gaza.  While the report covers crimes committed by both Israel and the comparatively defenseless resistance bands in the Gaza refugee ghetto, international law experts remind that this does not mean there is any equivalence between the “sides” or the gravity of their violations:

“George Bisharat, a professor at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law who has an expertise in law and politics in the Middle East, said that it is ‘sheer nonsense‘ to equate the crimes allegedly committed on both sides.”

It is important to keep in mind, Bisharat continues, that “the gravity of Israel’s violations of international law are far greater than those of the Palestinians.”

“Katherine Gallagher, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights agreed, saying, ‘certainly the commission sought to present a holistic picture but just because it’s holistic doesn’t mean it’s an equal picture.’

‘The number of civilians killed in Gaza was simply unprecedented — this is a traumatized society facing its third military assault in five years and living under blockade,‘ Gallagher said.”

The UN finds that the Israeli massacre killed 1,462 Palestinian civilians, including over 500 children, and 2,100 Palestinians total, while 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians, including 1 child, were killed.  Thus the ratio of Palestinian to Israeli children killed in what Western media, to disguise the reality of the situation, calls a “war”, was about 530 to 1.

The report offers firsthand accounts (see link for more) of people effected by the massacre:

“I was sitting with my family at the table, ready to break the fast. Suddenly we were sucked into the ground. Later that evening, I woke up in the hospital and was told my wife and children had died,” Tawfik Abu Jama told the inquiry.

On 20 July the father of eight lost 26 family members, including all of his children and his wife, in a single bomb attack.

Another account:

“I saw my family all ripped to pieces…”

Another:

“I am 52 years old and I have lost everything I cared for. In only a few minutes, they killed everyone and everything that was dear to me. They killed my dream, and my daughter’s dream who wanted to be a doctor.”

The UN reports that the explosive devices Israel illegally plants and detonates in Gaza can “tear off limbs hundreds of meters from the blast site.”

“The shock waves create thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch”, while “the injury threshold is 15 pounds per square inch.”

The US is the world’s biggest arms trafficker and provides most of those weapons.  Israel is the biggest recipient of US aid, and the amount has been increased by Obama after each of Israel’s massacres against Gaza since Obama has taken office, which include Cast Lead, Pillar of Cloud, and 2014’s Solid Cliff.

Georgetown University international law expert Dr. Noura Erakat reminds that the responsibility “to preserve protection for civilians rests upon the shoulders of citizens, organizations, and mass movements who can influence their governments enforce international law. There is no alternative to political mobilization to shape state behavior.

The US has a long and shameful history, extending to its origins and beyond and continuing today, of carrying out and supporting countless massacres.  We cannot undo these crimes, but we can easily choose to stop allowing them today by, for one, following Erakat’s advice and mobilizing to cut off support for Israel until it decolonizes and stops occupying Palestine, ends its illegal blockade of Gaza, and stops carrying out aggression and massacres.  Ceasing to enable these crimes is both legally required of us and would be helpful for the health of Israeli society.

@_DirtyTruths

Author focuses on force dynamics, national and global.