My Lai Over & Over

At The Nation, Nick Turse has an important piece of investigative journalism that ought to turn a few stomachs and prompt us all to commit to exposing the George W. Bush crimes before more of them are committed.  Here’s a bit:

In late 1969 Seymour Hersh broke the story of the 1968 My Lai massacre, during which US troops slaughtered more than 500 civilians in Quang Ngai Province, far north of the Delta. Some months later, in May 1970, a self-described “grunt” who participated in Speedy Express wrote a confidential letter to William Westmoreland, then Army chief of staff, saying that the Ninth Division’s atrocities amounted to “a My Lay each month for over a year.” In his 1976 memoir A Soldier Reports, Westmoreland insisted, “The Army investigated every case [of possible war crimes], no matter who made the allegation,” and claimed that “none of the crimes even remotely approached the magnitude and horror of My Lai.” Yet he personally took action to quash an investigation into the large-scale atrocities described in the soldier’s letter.

I uncovered that letter and two others, each unsigned or signed only “Concerned Sergeant,” in the National Archives in 2002, in a collection of files about the sergeant’s case that had been declassified but forgotten, launching what became a years-long investigation. Records show that his allegations–of helicopter gunships mowing down noncombatants, of airstrikes on villages, of farmers gunned down in their fields while commanders pressed relentlessly for high body counts–were a source of high-level concern. A review of the letter by a Pentagon expert found his claims to be extremely plausible, and military officials tentatively identified the letter writer as George Lewis, a Purple Heart recipient who served with the Ninth Division in the Delta from June 1968 through May 1969. Yet there is no record that investigators ever contacted him. Now, through my own investigation–using material from four major collections of archival and personal papers, including confidential letters, accounts of secret Pentagon briefings, unpublished interviews with Vietnamese survivors and military officials conducted in the 1970s by Newsweek reporters, as well as fresh interviews with Ninth Division officers and enlisted personnel–I have been able to corroborate the sergeant’s horrific claims. The investigation paints a disturbing picture of civilian slaughter on a scale that indeed dwarfs My Lai, and of a cover-up at the Army’s highest levels. The killings were no accident or aberration. They were instead the result of command policies that turned wide swaths of the Mekong Delta into “free-fire zones” in a relentless effort to achieve a high body count. While the carnage in the Delta did not begin or end with Speedy Express, the operation provides a harsh new snapshot of the abject slaughter that typified US actions during the Vietnam War.

Please do read the rest here

Luck & the Presidency

Was sayin’ to a dear friend tonight, well, Obama could be a good President.  Depending on what happens.  He may have an economic crisis on his hands in the first term of his Presidency that rivals the Great Depression faced by FDR.  In all likelihood, FDR was no more liberal a politician than Obama when he started out.  But faced with that crisis (and later, WW II), and given social pressures as well, Franklin rose to the occasion.  So hell, who knows, maybe Obama will get the same kind of “opportunity” and maybe he’ll be up to it.  We won’t know that for awhile.

What we do know is that the war Obama has on his hands isn’t WW II.  It’s nothing that, sorry to say this, easy.  More like LBJ’s war.  Obama shows no signs at all that he’s going to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan nor stay out of Pakistan.  That should do him in.

Whaddya know, I spent the evening catching up on some blog reading and found someone who said all this much better than I.  Occasionally it gets lonely in my isolated tree house and I think I’ve lost my marbles.  Makes it nice, so nice, to be able to say – what Falstaff said

Can a crisis mold raw clay into something great? Would Lincoln have come to be regarded as our greatest president without the Civil War? Would Franklin Delano Roosevelt have been great without an eponymous Depression – or, even with it, without the Second World War?

 

Clearly, LBJ, who self-consciously sought greatness, believed that victory over some large challenge was part of the entrance exam. He wanted to be the second coming of his political idol, FDR, and did a fair job of tracing that picture on the domestic front – including his embrace of racial justice in a way that ran counter to everything for which his life had previously stood. But to be FDR II, he had to win a just war — and not over an abstraction (poverty), but over a physical enemy (the march of communism). And the war that history provided for him was neither just nor winnable. As a result, nobody will ever place Lyndon Johnson in the top rung of the American Pantheon.

 

And the same, in all likelihood, applies to our next president, Barack Obama, despite his central-casting role as the emblem of America’s journey toward healing of its original sin. I suppose it’s hypothetically possible that radical jihadism will present an opportunity for an actually winnable war on his watch – but I doubt it.

 

On the economy, though, perhaps an LBJ-level opportunity is in the cards – but probably taking a very different form. Not that Obama has evidenced much thoughtfulness or originality on the subject of economics – nor the kind of strength and toughness needed to drive something controversial to completion, as Johnson did with the Civil Rights Act. Obama simply isn’t a leader.

 

But perhaps, on both policy grounds and leadership grounds, not much will actually be needed? Perhaps this looming Depression II is so significant, and our self-consciousness of it is so vivid (in large part because we went through the first one), that there’s a politically meaningful consensus that something serious has to be done. And perhaps — and this is the big “perhaps” — a concomitant consensus will emerge about what that something must be.

 

He’s definitely got one thing going for him: The world will be pulling for him. His tabula rasa-dom, his ability to serve as a universal-recipient-cum-focus-object for people’s fantasies, will stand him in good stead during a universally perceived emergency – in a way it wouldn’t have in palmier times. Even a lot of us who resent this person benefiting from the misogyny and fraud he rode to the nomination want the next President of the United States to succeed. The crapper we’ve fallen into is too dire to wish for anything else. The soul-repair of the Democratic Party will just have to wait on this. The tsunami has deferred that dream, too.

 

So I’m now hoping Obama serves as the stone soup for the collective, wisdom-of-crowds birthing of a new era. I don’t think he has the capacity to imagine it or deliver it himself. I don’t believe he has greatness in him, just waiting to be catalyzed by this crisis. In fact, I think he’s got certain aspects of narcissistic personality disorder, and that that cripples him as a decision-maker and even, long-term, as an inspirer.

But he might be a Luck Child, dropped by fate into our midst at the moment we need one… the moment when we most require a catalyst (or pretext) for a very different kind of greatness to emerge in us and among us.

 

And as the saying goes, it’s often better to be lucky than good.

Hope springs eternal because we look for it, and good for us.

The ’60s Were GOOD!

Gary Leupp at Counterpunch:

Three years after McCain was shot down over Hanoi while on that bombing mission, [Bill] Ayers by his own admission participated in a bombing of a New York City police station, and went on to bomb the Capitol and Pentagon in the next two years. Each action came in response to a specific escalation of the Vietnam War. There were no casualties, and Ayers was never convicted of a crime. He denies that the bombings were acts of terrorism and points out instead that the war in Vietnam was a war of terror. (During this time, by the way, the 11 to 13 year old Obama was living in Indonesia and Hawai’i.)

Bill Ayers like many of his generation was a follower of Martin Luther King before joining the SDS then some of its spin-offs which (like many in the New Left) parted company with the doctrinaire non-violence they perceived as ineffectual. But consider his background. While studying at the University of Michigan in 1965, he joined a picket line protesting an Ann Arbor pizzeria’s policy of refusing service to African-Americans. (18 years later, when I studied at UM, such racist exclusion was unimaginable. How the world had changed because of people like Ayers!) He participated in a draft board sit-in, punished by 10 days in jail. He worked in progressive childhood education. These are the kind of rebellious activities that enraged the white supremicists (then far more respectable and mainstream than now), the kneejerk anticommunists, the reactionaries terrified by rock ‘n roll and the youth counterculture. But what’s there to damn here, for those who aren’t misled by a washed-up generation of racist uptight bigots?

People over 50 remember that period very well, and many much younger people view it with envy and fascination. After all, today’s youth listen to the Beatles, Stones, Doors, Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead, considering them their own. (We in the ’60s rarely listened to the music of the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s.) College students flock to courses on the ’60s, viewing that decade as one of turmoil, excitement, and progressive change. The verdict’s in: the war was wrong, segregation and all racism was wrong, sexism and homophobia were wrong—and the limited social progress as we’ve seen since the ’60s is largely rooted in the tireless efforts of the activists of that decade.  The ’60s were good!

Read the whole thing here

h/t wood s lot

Conserving Violence

From Edward S. Herman at Z Magazine:

It is interesting and depressing to see that as Obama calls for some kind of withdrawal or at least substantial cutbacks of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, at the same time he calls for escalation in Afghanistan. By doing this he hopes to ease the threat of vulnerability to accusations of weakness on “national security” and an un- or anti-American “cut and run” perspective. This has long been a problem for the Democrats, who have a mass populist constituency that would like some transfer of government resources to their pressing civilian needs.

The establishment, including the mainstream media, therefore, keeps the pressure on to assure that the Democrats stay in line and the Democrats often compensate, even overcompensate, to demonstrate their integration into an imperialist worldview and weapons culture. Both Gore and Bush wanted a bigger military budget in 2000 (Nader, who wanted cuts, was marginalized). Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the campaign trail called for a larger army to meet U.S. “defense” needs. Now Obama wants us to take on a bigger commitment to violence. This will keep the arms cargo ships and planes busy and the bomb factories and plane and missile factories working at full capacity. Of course, those wanting infrastructure improvements and resources will have to wait and “hope” for a better future after our enemies are defeated and full hegemony and stability are established. They need a good dollop of “vision.”

The law of conservation of the level of violence thus rests on the structure of power and its reflection in politics. If you want to compete in politics in the militarized America of today you can’t scrimp on money for “national security” and you need to display a readiness to exercise a “muscular” foreign policy. If you call for reduced forces in one country, you must urge their increase in another. Keep those muscles in shape and bombs dropping.

One of my favorite quotations from the Vietnam War era was: “I think maybe today we create many Vietcong,” spoken by a Vietnamese collaborator and helicopter pilot when answering a question by Master Sergeant Donald Duncan while both were on a plane that had just dropped bombs on a Vietnamese target. The Vietnam War was a murderous capital-intensive war, with millions of tons of bombs dropped on villages deemed supportive of the indigenous enemy, along with napalm, phosphorus, and crop-destroying chemicals. (Napalm and rice-killing chemicals were used exclusively in the South, which we were allegedly “saving” from the North’s “aggression.”) In any case, this murderous behavior killed vast numbers, but also made any Vietnamese previously harboring doubts about the ongoing struggle extremely hostile to the United States and its local puppets. We had mastered the art of creating enemies.

Read the rest here

Shall We Overcome?

Joan Baez sings We Shall Overcome at Woodstock

Singer for the ages Joan Baez’s new album, Day After Tomorrow, produced by Steve Earle, will be released in Canada on September 9th.  Will Hodgkinson met with her in London.  Here, in part, is his report:

These days, the warbling falsetto that Baez brought to We Shall Overcome and Babe I’m Gonna Leave You in the Sixties has been deepened by age, but she’s still using the songs to get across her core messages of pacifism, social responsibility and, for the first time, party allegiance, saying of her endorsement of Barack Obama: “For years I chose not to engage in party politics. At this time, however, changing that posture feels like the responsible thing to do.”

Her strident sincerity is something that doesn’t always sit well with audiences as radical politics fall in and out of fashion. “After 9/11 nobody wanted to hear anything bad about America,” says Baez, growing animated as she enters into political territory. “Nobody loves a war better than the President, and a few years ago it got to the point where if I said anything I truly believed about the Iraq war or global warming during a concert, people would get up and leave. That’s fine with me. Actually, it’s a badge of honour.”

Baez is used to hostility. One senses that she thrives on it. At school in California she upset teachers by refusing to leave class during a bomb drill, reasoning that if the school was to be nuked, running outside would hardly do anyone much good. Later, as a teenage folk singer she would stop singing and glower at anyone who dared to talk during one of her performances. She and her first husband, David Harris, served jail sentences for their resistance to the Vietnam War (he refused the draft; she refused to pay a portion of her taxes to the war effort). It’s no surprise that the rebirth of her career coincided with an increasing dissatisfaction with the Bush presidency and its foreign policy.

“Little by little it became clear that Bush was bizarre — and dangerous,” she says. “I would do concerts where I would see people in the audience sitting with their arms crossed, looking angry as I said: ‘I was right 40 years ago and I am right now!’ and throw my fist in the air. Now they’re listening. Bush’s great trick is to suggest that to go against him is to be unpatriotic. Slowly people realised that.”

Baez acknowledges that, to her generation at least, she eternally represents the Sixties protest movement. “I’m a part of history,” she says with calm resignation. “I represent so much before I’ve even opened my mouth. But I was more active when I was young, and it’s only now that I’m spending time with my family.”

Like so many of her contemporaries, Baez put bringing her message of peace to the world before raising kids. When she was divorced from Harris in 1972 their son Gabe went to live with his father, and it’s only recently that she has become close to him. “I live with my mother, who is 95, I have a four-year-old grandchild, and it’s a turning for me. It’s confusing, too — am I really allowed to hang around the home and look after my mom?

“I don’t regret what I did in the Sixties, but you can’t stay on the biting edge of radicalism all your life. My core beliefs of non-violence haven’t changed, but my lifestyle has.”

Baez accepts that the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement gave her a purpose, and that when they came to an end she was left floundering. “It’s natural,” she says with a shrug. “The Vietnamese developed all sorts of neuroses and phobias after the war ended because they were no longer spending every day in the heightened state that comes with not knowing if you’re going to be killed or not. When the war ended a lot of us lost direction. I certainly did.”

It’s also taken Baez a long time to relax and actually enjoy herself. She was, by her own admission, “far too neurotic” to appreciate early fame, and her image as an overly earnest Virgin Mary figure worked against her as the concerned citizenship of the counterculture gave way to hippy experimentation in the late Sixties. “I had this great fear of going commercial. As a result of becoming well-known at such a young age I was afraid of the wider world. But I did also have deeply held beliefs that I clung on to tenaciously. The big event was meeting Martin Luther King in 1956 at a Quaker seminar. That pretty much shaped the direction my life took.”

In 1963 Baez was given the job of driving King and Jesse Jackson from an airport to a march. “They laughed all the time and told racist jokes about themselves, and I realised that nobody could see that side of them. They had to be seen as serious, and I related to that. We got to a restaurant and I asked them: ‘Don’t you have a big march to organise?’ They said: ‘We just have.’ You get a public image that you have to live up to but your private reality is often very different.”

After years of being written off as an unsmiling anachronism, Joan Baez is relevant once more. She thrives on political and economic tension — such as now. “At times of great uncertainty music and politics are fused,” she says. “I would never have sung We Shall Overcome to an American audience during the Eighties because it would have been a nostalgia trip. Now it’s appropriate again because it’s relevant. I’m happiest when that happens.”

Read the whole thing here

Power of the Picture

I posted some weeks ago about the work of photojournalist Zoriah Miller in Iraq and his invitation to leave after he posted pics of a bomb scene on his blog.  Apparently Maj Gen John Kelly of the US Marine Corps is now trying to have Miller banned from US military facilities throughout the world.

In the Saturday NYT, Michael Kamber and Kim Arango direct readers to its slide show of Miller’s photos, while publishing the same photo I chose for my post for its print and online page.  When I chose the photo, I was quite aware of choosing what is, perhaps, the “least disturbing” of the pics – it’s in black and white, so you can’t see the blood and the image is really pretty smudgy so no individuals can be identified.  I also chose pictures of American dead quite consciously, because not many have been seen and because so much less care is taken when it comes to publications of pictures of dead or wounded Iraqis and Afghanis and etc.

At the same time, I was thinking of the “feelings” of my readers, not wanting to assault them with a brutal picture.  I don’t use the “below the fold” technique, so anyone who comes upon my blog is pretty much forced to see whatever pops up, no choice about it.  I linked to Miller’s photos though, with a warning.  I believe there are some people who don’t need to see the photos to be aware of the brutality of war.  At the same time, I think “we” have a responsibility to get those pictures out there, perhaps most especially in this case where the war is being waged so far from those of us who live outside the Middle East.  I’m thinking this is the most sanitized war ever fought.

I’m not exactly bewildered by the delicacy being shown by the mainstream media when it comes to printing these pictures and I can’t say that I’m convinced that the US military is looking out for my “feelings” or anyone else’s when it comes to suppressing them.  Here’s what NYT has to say about the “debate” over the issue:

It is a complex issue, with competing claims often difficult to weigh in an age of instant communication around the globe via the Internet, in which such images can add to the immediate grief of families and the anger of comrades still in the field.

While the Bush administration faced criticism for overt political manipulation in not permitting photos of flag-draped coffins, the issue is more emotional on the battlefield: local military commanders worry about security in publishing images of the American dead as well as an affront to the dignity of fallen comrades. Most newspapers refuse to publish such pictures as a matter of policy.

Oh come on.  It’s not a complex issue!  Security concerns are easily dealt with – some delay in presenting the photos would certainly be acceptable, as long as it wasn’t being used to suppress them altogether.  As well, I would expect that few newspapers and other media would want to risk the wrath of the patriotic American public by publishing pictures that would be an affront to the dignity of dead or wounded military personnel.  But make no mistake, it would be due to this fear of being accused of lack of patriotism and not out of any real concern for the dignity of the human being, a value the mainstream media has long since forsaken.

It’s clear enough why the Bush administration doesn’t want the American public to see graphic pictures of their war dead.  But what’s up with the nerve of the MSM?  What’s up with that much vaunted freedom of the press?  What’s up with the democratic responsibility to inform people who need to know?  What’s up with  showing  the picture of a dead model, bleeding on a New York, street but not pictures of events that have historical and international implications?

If there was ever any debate about this it was won long ago and there’s no doubt who won.  Let’s not forget that what seemed like the never ending parade of dead and wounded soldiers in Vietnam and just a few horrible photographs of the brutal results of the war for Vietnamese civilians, children and prisoners of war galvanized America and the world to act to put an end to it all.  America is, by and large, infantilized and sleeping and it’s not difficult to see how that’s happened.

Daniel Ellsberg

For Salon’s debut of its new radio programme, Glenn Greenwald interviews Nixon era hero, Daniel Ellsberg:

… I spoke with Daniel Ellsberg, one of the very few people in America who really merits the term “political hero.” During the Vietnam War, Ellsberg — a Harvard graduate, former U.S. Marine, top aide to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, and State Department official in Vietnam — had a Top Secret security clearance as a result of his high-level work on the Vietnam War with the Nixon administration and the Rand Corporation, when he obtained the now-famous “Pentagon Papers,” which revealed that the U.S. Government, throughout the 1960s, knew that the Vietnam War could not be won, yet continued to deceive the American public as it escalated the war.

Knowing that he was risking life imprisonment, Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in an attempt to alert the public to what the Government was doing (he did so only after numerous members of Congress refused his pleas to make those documents public). The NYT then waged an epic battle with the Nixon administration for the right to publish those papers, resulting in one of the most important First Amendment victories in Supreme Court history. For his efforts, Ellsberg was subjected to extensive warrantless eavesdropping by the Nixon White House, had his psychoanalyst’s office invaded and searched at Nixon’s behest in an attempt to obtain incriminating information about him, and was arrested and then brought to trial where he faced life imprisonment for having leaked the report (though the charges were ultimately dropped as a result of the Nixon administration’s misconduct towards him).

In countless ways, Ellsberg embodies exactly what our political system has been so conspicuously and tragically lacking, and he has become one of the most insightful analysts of our current political crisis.

Listen to the interview here

Kent State & Orangeburg

You know, you see these bums, you know, blowin’ up the campuses. Listen, the boys that are on the college campuses today are the luckiest people in the world, going to the greatest universities, and here they are, burnin’ up the books, I mean, stormin’ around about this issue, I mean, you name it – get rid of the war, there’ll be another one.

Richard Nixon, New York Times, May 2, 1970

Robert “Robby” Stamps, one of nine students wounded during the May 4, 1970 shootings at Kent State University, died in Tallahassee, Fla. Wednesday night, according to a fellow survivor.

Alan Canfora, also wounded that day, said Stamps, 57, was suffering from the effects of Lyme disease and had come down with pneumonia.  I spoke with him last month, in May,” Canfora said Thursday night. “He sounded like he felt stronger than in the last year or two.”
Canfora said Stamps always suspected he was bitten by a deer tick at Mohican State Forest in Ohio during a retreat for the May 4 Task Force, which he and Canfora helped found in 1975.
Taken to Robinson Memorial Hospital in Ravenna following the shootings, Canfora said the first time he met Stamps was when the two shared a hospital room ” Canfora sitting with a gunshot wound to his wrist and Stamps laying facedown with a hip wound.
Canfora said the last time Stamps attended May 4 events was at the invitation of KSU President Emeritus Carol Cartwright in 2000. He said Stamps was “talking about coming up and visiting Ohio” as late as last month.
Stamps graduated magna cum laude from KSU in 1972, later earning master’s degrees in both sociology and journalism. However, he had trouble finding a job, and told the Record-Courier it was because of the notoriety he earned because of the events of May 4.
Stamps sued Cuyahoga Community College in February 1978, alleging the school gave him a verbal agreement for a counseling job, but later withdrew it because of his role in the shootings.
In an April 1980 interview with the Record-Courier from his new home in San Diego, he said he loved Northeastern Ohio but had to leave because he couldn’t find a job. At the time, he was working as a counselor for a law firm specializing in immigrant affairs.
“Everyone thought I was going to organize the employees. There is still a lot of resentment toward me and the others (former wounded) in Ohio. Nobody knows who I am out here. It’s really nice,” he said at the time.
A Cleveland native, Stamps also was a published author and writer and ran a Web site called AuthorsWanted.com, which offered help to “aspiring and established authors with every aspect of the writing and publishing process.” He also was a musician and wrote a song called “If Only You Were Mine.”
“The first time I ever talked to Robby, he was very concerned about the other students” who were shot, Canfora said. “He was a beautiful guy.”
Stamps is survived by his wife, Teresa Sumrall, Canfora said.

On May 4, 1970, Ohio National Guard troops fired on a crowd of demonstrators and bystanders on the campus of Kent State University. Four Kent State students were killed and nine injured. For Dean Kahler, a twenty-year old Kent State undergraduate in 1970, that day in May would change his life forever, he was shot in the lower back and left paralyzed. Kahler is photographed outside his home in East Canton, Ohio. David Alan Foster | Daily Kent Stater

 

Kent State University May 4, 1970

Two years before the deadly Kent State shootings, state troopers opened fire on a student protest on the campus of South Carolina State College. Three people died, and 28 were wounded.

The incident, which became known as “the Orangeburg Massacre,” never pierced the nation’s collective memory of the 1960s, and academics and survivors say that one reason was shoddy, racially biased press coverage: those killed were black.

A student is loaded onto gurney next to the bonfire, after highway patrolmen opened fire into a crowd of protesters on the S.C. State College campus in Orangeburg, S.C. on 02-08-1968

ObamaCON

Gee, how did I miss Obama’s patriotism speech?  If I’d heard it, I know for sure that I would have stopped giving him credit for being an intelligent human being.  Here’s some of what he said, as noted by Larry E.:

Still, what is striking about today’s patriotism debate is the degree towhich it remains rooted in the culture wars of the 1960s – in arguments that go back forty years or more. In the early years of the civil rights movement and opposition to theVietnam War, defenders of the status quo often accused anybody who questioned thewisdom of government policies of being unpatriotic. Meanwhile, some of those in theso-called counter-culture of the Sixties reacted not merely by criticizing particular government policies, but by attacking the symbols, and in extreme cases, the very idea, of America itself – by burning flags; by blaming America for all that was wrong with the world; and perhaps most tragically, by failing to honor those veterans coming home from Vietnam, something that remains a national shame to this day.

Most Americans never bought into these simplistic world-views – these caricatures of left and right. Most Americans understood that dissent does not make one unpatriotic, and that there is nothing smart or sophisticated about a cynical disregard for America’s traditions and institutions. And yet the anger and turmoil of that period never entirely drained away. All too often our politics still seems trapped in these old, threadbare arguments – a fact most evident during our recent debates about the war in Iraq, when those who opposed administration policy were tagged by some as unpatriotic, and a general providing his best counsel on how to move forward in Iraq was accused of betrayal.   download here [pdf]

The betrayal is Obama’s.  “… a general providing his best counsel …”  Hah!  I see nothing unpatriotic about a critique of Gen Petraeus that notes that it appeared that he had been bought by Bush and Cheney.  I would agree with that analysis and I think it’s a betrayal.  If some Americans feel betrayed and are agitating for a military man who is able to sustain his own opinion without selling out to the political goals of the Commander in Chief, I’d say they are patriotic by comparison.  I kinda hate the whole “patriotism” game, but it is an American trope that appears to be unavoidable.  This is America, love it or shut the feck up ya bunch ‘a poopie traitors.

Holy hells bells am I ever sick of the ahistorical, ignorant asses who characterize the movements of the ’60s the way Obama does here.  He wouldn’t bloody well BE WHERE HE IS without the movements of the ’60s, which included the CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT led by Martin Luther King, the PEACE MOVEMENT, which made it impossible for the Viet Nam war to continue, the FEMINIST MOVEMENT, from which Obama’s accomplished wife, Michelle, has benefitted and from which his daughters will benefit I sincerely hope. Jeeeebus Michelle Obama was educated at an Ivy League School and worked for a corporate law firm – THAT didn’t happen in the early ’60s –  people may have loved Jackie Kennedy but she was no feminist – it actually wasn’t until HILLARY CLINTON that the stoopid role broke half-way open.

If not for the Black Panthers, the community work that Obama likes to play up (even though he only did it for three years) might not YET have been invented, to say nothing of school breakfast and lunch programmes, head start programmes, community health programmes, hostels and beds for the homeless and transient, food banks, rape crisis centres, shelters for abused women, Roe v. Wade  ETC AD INFINITUM.

And US veterans of the Viet Nam war, very many of whom were involved in the peace movement when they came home, often received the ONLY attention they EVER got from student activists who gave them the models for self-help groups and welcomed them into their midst.  Remember, PTSD wasn’t accepted then -those vets didn’t just get poor treatment, they got NO treatment.  Dick Nixon never threw a SINGLE VICTORY PARADE for Viet Nam vets.  I’m sure some of them were confused about the anti-war environment when they returned to the US – after all, who wants to risk your life or sustain permanent injury in a war that most of the citizens of your country think is useless in addition to immoral.  For many, I’m sure it was damaging and alienating.  Who advocated for the vets?

… the claim that antiwar activists “failed to honor the veterans” of Vietnam. That is bullshit. It was the antiwar movement (usually in cooperation with Vietnam vets), not the American Legion, not the VFW, not the bloodlust war hawks, who established the coffeehouses, the counseling centers, the job centers. It was the antiwar movement, not the American Legion, not the VFW, who condemned the VA for refusing to consider PTSD a real condition. Indeed, for several years the Legion and the VFW weren’t interested in reaching out to or even dealing with the “pot-smoking” Vietnam vets “who lost a war for the first time in US history.” Buying into the concocted rightwing meme that “the antiwar movement hated the troops” has had a real political cost over the years and it is a disgrace to see Obama embracing it.

The actions of some activists eventually ended the draft.  A couple of priests, a Catholic nun and five other activists sparked that movement when they were jailed for defacing draft cards with their OWN BLOOD.

Flag burning can also be understood as an act of patriotism:

Flag desecration is recognized as an “epiphenomenon” that accompanies wars and other events that promote dissent by some citizens and “compulsory patriotism” by the state.

[emphasis mine]

Sure there were fringe elements of the ’60s movements that fell into the very violence they demonstrated against.  And yes, there were some kids who fell into the “counterculture” for the fun and the drugs and little else.  But it is the height of anti-patriotism to fail to acknowledge the hundreds and hundreds of kids, black and white and Native American, who did more than write blogs about their beliefs.  There were the  freedom rides through the South:

… an interracial group would board buses destined for the South. The whites would sit in the back and the blacks in the front. At rest stops, the whites would go into blacks-only areas and vice versa. “This was not civil disobedience, really,” explained CORE director James Farmer, “because we [were] merely doing what the Supreme Court said we had a right to do.” But the Freedom Riders expected to meet resistance. “We felt we could count on the racists of the South to create a crisis so that the federal government would be compelled to enforce the law,” said Farmer. “When we began the ride I think all of us were prepared for as much violence as could be thrown at us. We were prepared for the possibility of death.” [28]

[…]

The Freedom Riders never made it to New Orleans. Many spent their summer in jail. Some were scarred for life from the beatings they received. But their efforts were not in vain. They forced the Kennedy administration to take a stand on civil rights, which was the intent of the Freedom Ride in the first place. In addition, the Interstate Commerce Commission, at the request of Robert Kennedy, outlawed segregation in interstate bus travel in a ruling, more specific than the original Supreme Court mandate, that took effect in September, 1961. The Freedom Riders may not have finished their trip, but they made an important and lasting contribution to the civil rights movement.

Kids were murdered at South Carolina State University after a demonstration demanding the integration of a bowling alley in Orangeburg.  Kids were murdered by the National Guard while demonstrating against the Viet Nam war at Kent State University in Ohio.  Native Americans died at the siege at Wounded Knee Pine Ridge Reservation:

There was a time in 1973 when the possibility of change presented itself. People seized that moment. And those moments can happen at any time. I hope I’m part of more moments like that.”

These were not patriots?

These committed individuals, these collective actions, have been criminally forgotten or stereotyped out of existence.  In those days, there was a politics of hope and change for which millions of people put their bodies and their lives right out there ON THE LINE.  We ought to be PROUD of that heritage.  Barack Obama does all those people a huge disservice in co-opting their words without one iota of their intelligence and commitment.

I no longer see the difference between John McCain and Barack Obama except that Obama has managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the millenial generation of so-called Progressives.  I think it will actually do more harm to America if it elects Barack Obama.  It will take that much longer for them to figure out that they’ve voted for a wolf in sheep’s clothing and that much longer for the people to take decisive action against the Emperor and for the American Empire to fall.  He’s actually a dangerous man.  At least with McCain, you know what you’re going to get.  BARACK OBAMA’S NOT WEARING ANY CLOTHES, guys.  He’s parading around like the next emperor apparent and he’s completely neckid.  He’s sounding an awful lot like Newt Gingrich:

“From 1965 to 1994, we did strange and weird things as a country. Now we’re done with that and we have to recover. The counterculture is a momentary aberration in American history that will be looked back upon as a quaint period of Bohemianism brought to the national elite”—the notorious “counterculture McGoverniks,” an elite who “taught self-indulgent, aristocratic values without realizing that if an entire society engaged in the indulgences of an elite few, you could tear the society to shreds.”

That is, I’m sorry, I can’t resist, an abominable lie.  If people believe it without questioning, perhaps the result will be deserved, though that sounds more vengeful than I’d like.

Here’s a critique of Obama’s patriotism rant that I can’t beat:  Lotus.  Glenn Greenwald’s also has a few comments, here

Before I leave off, I’ll share with you a description of the 1960s that I think actually makes some sense, just so ya know:

A generation that, as I wrote to a friend some years ago, lived with

the sense that you could make a difference, that your dreams could be lived out, that they really could come true. For all the sexism we came to acknowledge in the counterculture and the peace movement, people were trying to live more egalitarian lives. For all the undercurrents of racism we dug out of white activist’s relations with black groups, people were trying to work it out and live more justly. For all the awareness of our umbilical cord connections to the consumer society, people were trying to live more simply, with greater ecological awareness. There was a sense that you could make it better both in yourself and in others by both your social example and your political actions.

A Sorry Independence Day

From an article in Counterpunch by Lawrence Velvel on October 5, 2006:

Iraq is by far not the first time this country has suffered a moral meltdown. Other examples are, unhappily, legion. This country approved of slavery for nearly 90 years and reviled abolitionists for decades. Southerners murdered black prisoners of war during the Civil War. The country allowed Jim Crow to be imposed by a brutal South for 90 years (and allowed the South defacto to run Congress and therefore the country, as it still does). The country allowed the South to lynch blacks by the thousands. The country has railroaded, and hung or electrocuted, so-called radicals who likely were innocent of, or at least some of whom were innocent of, the charges against them. (E.g., the Haymarket socialists, and maybe Sacco and Vanzetti too, though opinions differ about the latter two.) This country acted unspeakably in the Philippines Insurrection, when it tortured people, burned down villages and engaged in mass murder — all of which our historians cavalierly ignored, reprehensibly ignored, for 65 or 70 years, until Viet Nam was well advanced. The country acted unspeakably in Viet Nam, which is too close in time for American actions to need detailing.

Moral breakdowns are, it appears, a regular phenomenon of American national life. And, without getting into it very deeply, they are always accompanied, as today, by false protestations that what is being done is in the name of a higher civilization, is in the name of an asserted moral imperative: slavery was claimed to be a positive good; Jim Crow was claimed to be a desirable and necessary separation of the races; socialists had to be eliminated lest they destroy the nation; we were civilizing the benighted in the Philippines; we were stopping the march of worldwide Communism in Viet Nam; today it is claimed we fight in Iraq to stop the march of worldwide jihadism, worldwide Islamofascism, etc., etc.

As said, this country’s moral derelictions are not looked at as, or described in terms of being, moral delicts. They are looked at and described in other ways, and by the use of other terms. Why the country shies from using the word immoral does not seem hard to guess — who, after all, wants to describe his or her own conduct as immoral, or the conduct of those he/she votes for and supports as immoral, or his or her own country as immoral. What American historian wants to say, and does not fear the consequences to himself of saying, that the actions of this country have been or are immoral?   [more]

And from May 5, 2007:

 But are we going to stop, any time soon, the American participation which opened the door to this disaster, to this creation of killing fields, and which remains so much a driver of the disaster? No, we almost certainly are not going to stop it any time soon. The incompetent fools at the top of the Administration desire to continue it — indefinitely, no less, and they desire this even though to accomplish their aims would be likely to take 10 years and at least a quarter million more American soldiers. Meanwhile the Democrats don’t have the guts to do what is necessary to stop it — which could easily be done by merely refusing all further funding of any type for the military (or, more limitedly, for Iraq) except for funds needed to finance the protection of troops during a withdrawal. Washington and the media also are filled with pundits and advisers who invent one reason after another why it would be bad to stop our participation even though to begin our participation was a terrible mistake. (In business such excuse mongering is called throwing good money after bad.) Out in the country, among Republican at least, and probably more heavily in the militaristic states of the old Confederacy than elsewhere, there are still people who think we should fight, no doubt to the last Iraqi. The lessons from Britain’s war in Iraq in the 1920’s are still a secret to most Americans. And one of the perhaps two or three greatest lessons of Viet Nam is still no less a secret to most Americans — such lesson being that as was easily discernible, to those with eyes to see and wit to understand, as early as the final four or five years of that misbegotten military adventure, America would do better (as occurred), both at home and in the world, when it ceased participating in its Indo China debacle.   [more]