January 25, 2013

Natural result of imperial occupations?

Guest: Joshua Phillips, reporter on the Middle East who has written for the Washington Post, Newsweek, The Nation, Salon, and other publications, talks about his book, None of Us Were Like This Before: American Soldiers and Torture.

Our talk covered some familiar ground. We had both attended the Iraq and Afghan vets' Winter Soldier Testimony in DC. Why young military recruits end up torturing and killing civilians is the question future generations will be asking. Of course, now is the time to interview returning vets and gather the necessary testimony.

Joshua gave us many insights. Torture doesn't really provide any meaningful intelligence, so why do it? For US military personnel, the experience of willfully injuring, sexually humiliating, and finally murdering civilians creates such moral trauma that returning vets face a lifetime of depression and anger. Torture is an act that destroys both the victim and the perpetrator. 

There were questions about who was responsible. Those at the top, or naive soldiers brought up to admire military heros and violent games? Is it our leaders, our media, or our society that doesn't value cultures outside the empire? Who is to blame? We know that few if any will ever be held accountable. 

I think we should also consider Jean-Paul Sartre's Colonialism and Neocolonialism. In the book, Sartre states that all occupations (he writes about Algeria) tend towards the same outcome. As occupied people suffer and die, they realize that fighting is the only way to survive. The occupation creates the resistance. And the resistance creates the torture and mass killings that the imperial country must use on the indigenous populations to maintain control. Could the inhuman behavior that we see in young men and women we sent to fight in the Middle East be a natural result of imperial occupations? Perhaps it is a price the elites of the empire are willing to pay for the obscene profits they earn in war.

January 17, 2013

Good Germans

Guest: Larry Siems, Director of Freedom to Write and International Programs of the PEN Center, talks about his latest book, The Torture Report: What the Documents Say About America’s Post-9/11 Torture Program, as well as the "Reckoning With Torture" Film project.

Why do we as a nation torture? Perhaps its the same reason we as a nation killed two million Vietnamese, or a million Iraqis. We try not to pay much attention, like avoiding a wounded dog on the highway. Take notice and you have to stop and try to help. 

Our media helps us drive by, offering rationales for invasions, tortures, and mass murders. Our president helps too, by talking about justice and change while serving the nation's killing machine. 

And perhaps the efficacy of torture isn't the point, despite all the studies that have found that it to be useless for gathering intelligence information. Our guest, Larry Siems, reminded us that torture is illegal, both in the United States and the rest of the world. Our country thus becomes a lawless state, one that uses war crimes to dominate other nations. 

It is no wonder that US citizens don't want to think about torture. We are all "good Germans" until the empire falls.

January 11, 2013

The fate of life on earth

Guests: Maureen Kelly (Etaoqua Mahicanu) and Evan Pritchard, Native American activists, talk about the Two Row Wampum Campaign in the Hudson Valley and the Idle No More movement in Canada.

We had a wide ranging discussion about radical politics, nonviolent resistance, and the awakening of the First World nations.

I didn't know that Henry David Thoreau's tactics were from conversations he had with indigenous people he met during his canoe trip in Main. I would love to get confirmation of that. I will try to find my copy of The Maine Woods. Could it be in there? I read it so long ago. There is some confirmation on the Internet that he hired a local Penobscot as his guide.

Sort of fits with another discussion we had. Are European settlers too bogged down in the minutia of reshaping our world to realize that we are destroying it? Can one get there with logic, or must it be understood from the heart, like the rows of wampum beads in the Two Row Wampum belt?

If we followed the philosophy of First World Nations, would we have a better chance of avoiding the climate catastrophe awaiting us? There is an inexpressible sadness in our failure to comprehend; it will dictate the fate of our children and grandchildren, as well as that of all life on earth.    

January 3, 2013

Permission to oppose war

Guest: Mary Hladky, writer and activist with Military Families Speak Out, talks about the crisis in our Armed Services that nobody wants to notice.

Mary talked about giving Americans permission to oppose the horror and waste of our continuing wars abroad. She has a son in the military, and if she can do it, so can you and I. 

Driving home tonight, I listened to "Fresh Air." Terry was interviewing a NY Times reporter on Mali, and the drift of the conversation was how horrible the Islamists are, and how this country must eventually do something about it. I wondered if Terry would ever do a program exposing one of our allies, like Honduras. We supported the military overthrow of Honduras' elected government, and now send military aid to the army as it murders union leaders and journalists. Somehow, bleeding heart Terry is not going to be interested in exposing murderous governments the US supports. Only in stories about African nations the US is itching to invade. Another Pentagon whore.