Monthly Archives: May 2011

Lest We Forget: Memorials on Memorial Day

John F Kennedy:

…I have, therefore, chosen this time and place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth too rarely perceived. And that is the most important topic on earth: peace. What kind of peace do I mean and what kind of a peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, and the kind that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and build a better life for their children — not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women, not merely peace in our time but peace in all time.

I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age where great powers can maintain large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces…. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn….

I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary, rational end of rational men. I realize the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war, and frequently the words of the pursuers fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task….

First examine our attitude towards peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it is unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again. I am not referring to the absolute, infinite concept of universal peace and good will of which some fantasies and fanatics dream. I do not deny the value of hopes and dreams but we merely invite discouragement and incredulity by making that our only and immediate goal.

Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions — on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single, simple key to this peace; no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process — a way of solving problems.

With such a peace, there will still be quarrels and conflicting interests, as there are within families and nations. World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor, it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement….

And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal….

No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue…. And is not peace, in the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights: the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation; the right to breathe air as nature provided it; the right of future generations to a healthy existence?…

The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war. … This generation of Americans has already had enough — more than enough — of war and hate and oppression…

But we shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just. We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success. Confident and unafraid, we must labor on–not towards a strategy of annihilation but towards a strategy of peace.


-John F. Kennedy, excerpts from the American University Commencement Address, 10 June ’63



Martin Luther King, jr.:

…I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia. Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they must play in the successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reasons to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the National Liberation Front, but rather to my fellow Americans….

 A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps a more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population…. And so we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools… I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor….

But they ask — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent…

If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be — are — are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land….

This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers…They must see Americans as strange liberators….

The only change came from America, as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received the regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move on or be destroyed by our bombs.

So they go, primarily women and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees…So far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children…

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing — in the crushing of the nation’s only non-Communist revolutionary political force, the unified Buddhist Church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men….

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition….

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called “enemy,” I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now… I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote:

Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism (unquote).

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam…. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people….

We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest….

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality…and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing “clergy and laymen concerned” committees for the next generation… We will be marching … and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy….

It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments….we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered….

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just….

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death….

We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

-Martin Luther King, jr., Sermon at Riverside Church, NYC, 4 April, ’67

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Posted by on May 30, 2011 in peace


America in hyper-drive.

A fracturing of the time/space continuum.

Once upon a time, long ago, in a newly formed republic, men of good intentions would argue over what policies and laws should be put into place in the land; or having decided on a law, how to improve it once it was discovered the law wasn’t working out quite as they intended.  They would write long letters to each other, full of what they hoped was sound reasoning and moral imperative.  Some issues were trivial, but most were deemed important enough that public news bills would be distributed around the towns, and literate white men (let’s be honest; women were discouraged from “unseemly” political talk and non-whites were not allowed to engage in policy opinion) would gather in taverns or dining rooms to have discourse about the matter.  During election cycles, political opponents would have debates where each side was granted at least an hour to orate on his position and the debate would be rehashed for weeks by the listeners.

Now we simply install new policies with the only debate coming after the fact.  Part of this phenomenon is due to our sped up culture (there’s an app for that) and the pressures of having to work more hours to stay afloat, but part of it is deliberate manipulation from our politicians.  Torture?  We can debate the policy, but only after it comes to light our politicians have been allowing it for some time.  The “debate” is preempted by the fact that it’s already being done.  And, in any case, the decision to consider any niceties about legality are taken away from the people: Congress (under Pelosi) and the current administration (Obama) have long since declared that, illegal or not, no-one will be held to account for secretly installing these new policies.  It just doesn’t matter what conclusion “the people” come to about torture or invading foreign countries or assassinating anyone or giving all the money in the US to a few bankers.  And now the new policies are coming at lightening speed.  Even if we wanted to talk about the wisdom of a certain action, it’s too late.  It’s done.

Quite a number of issues are handled by business interests acting through the bought votes of Congress (see health care reform, invasion of Iraq, deregulation of financial industries, BP oil spill) and some are not even brought to Congress at all before the policy goes into effect (see Libya, extra-judicial assassinations, waivers for insurance companies who don’t like certain parts of the health care reform, the Fed handing out 14.2 trillion bucks to a few bankers, everything else the Fed does, everything the CIA does).

The average American, assuming he learns about a certain thing, couldn’t keep up with the myriad other things that are going on at warp speed.  One barely has time to form an opinion before something else warrants attention – and that is how America runs now.  Fast. And immune to the potential input of American citizens.   Sure, Americans are fairly well dumbed down and vicious, but now there is no chance that we will have time to caution each other about new policies or hope to influence the viewpoints of those who haven’t thought things through.  The rewriting of who we are is happening right now and we can’t keep up with it.  This is deliberate.

“…You have been on the frontlines of this fight for nearly 10 years. You were there in those early days, driving the Taliban from power, pushing al Qaeda out of its safe havens. Over time, as the insurgency grew, you went back for, in some cases, a second time, a third time, a fourth time.

“When the decision was made to go into Iraq, you were there, too, making the longest air assault in history, defeating a vicious insurgency, ultimately giving Iraqis the chance to secure their democracy. And you’ve been at the forefront of our new strategy in Afghanistan….

“And most of all, we’re making progress in our major goal, our central goal in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that is disrupting and dismantling — and we are going to ultimately defeat al Qaeda. We have cut off their head and we will ultimately defeat them…. But the essence of America — the values that have defined us for more than 200 years — they don’t just endure; they are stronger than ever.” – Obama’s speech at Fort Campbell, Ky.  May 6,’11

The Taliban was one of our original “foes”?  The ” vicious insurgency” in Iraq – that would be the one that arose because we invaded?   The Iraqis have “secured their democracy”?  Our central goal in Pakistan –  we are at war with Pakistan?  Assassinating bin Laden “defines our values”?

Rewriting.  It’s enough to make your eyes pop.  And new policies:

“Salman Bashir, the country’s foreign secretary, said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that a repeat of Monday’s raid could lead to ‘terrible consequences.’ Pakistani and U.S. officials have said Pakistan was not told about the attack that killed bin Laden until after the fact, which has led to Pakistani protests that their sovereignty was violated…

” ‘No self-respecting nation would compromise or allow others to compromise its sovereignty,’ Mr. Bashir said. ‘We want to make it absolutely clear to everyone—do not underestimate Pakistan’s capabilities and capacity to do what is necessary for national security.’

“In response to the suggestion that terrible consequence would greet any future raid, a U.S. official said: ‘They need to spend less time lashing out at the U.S. and more time rooting out militants on Pakistani territory.’

“For now, Pakistan is refusing to allow U.S. officials to interrogate women and children left behind in the compound where bin Laden was killed, depriving American officials of potentially valuable intelligence. Pakistan is instead conducting its own questioning of the detainees, which include bin Laden’s 12-year-olddaughter….”

Actually, the day after Pakistan complained about the US compromising its sovereignty, we launched a drone attack there, killing 15 people.  That’s what we think about their fucking sovereignty and the idea that Pakistan should deprive US officials of the “right” to hold and interrogate a couple of (non-American) women and little girls.  And assassinations: less than 5 days after dumping bin Laden’s corpse in the ocean, we used drones to attack and kill a few people in Yemen, in the hopes of getting al Awlaki, an American citizen living there.  He was named by the media as the new “head of the snake” less than 24 hours after the announcement of bin Laden’s death; this is one badass snake, with such magical powers of cranial recuperation that we will now have to monitor every train station and bus depot (not to mention shopping mall) in the US for new heads constantly.

“For the record, we think targeting Mr. Gaddafi and his sons — if that is what is really going on — is as legitimate as striking al-Qaeda.” – from Washington Post editorial, Wed., May 4, ’11

US domestic policy: profits of the Fortune 500 are up 81%, while corporate tax revenue as a percentage of GDP is at its lowest in years, but Timmeh Geithner suggests we need to lower corporate tax rates.  The House Committee responsible for instigating any financial reform outlined in the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill just decided to delay writing any regulations on financial speculation (including in food and oil markets) for 18 months.  Obama has decided the federal government needs to sell off 14,000 pieces of “outdated” federal property in an effort to save 15 billion over the next 3 years.  We have just witnessed the biggest drop in property values in history, there is a glut on the real estate market, and the only entities with disposable cash to buy are the big banks.  Buy high, sell low: it’s a plan.  So the taxpayers pay for something for years and when it goes low enough in value, we sell it in a sweetheart deal to some guy with connections to Congress.  Any questions?   Too late.  We are not taking questions.  Goldman, Sachs just made a 34 billion dollar profit.  More than 20 B of that came from the positive arbitrage created by borrowing a trillion dollars from the Fed window at 0% and investing it in newly created US Treasuries at 2.3%.   20 billion dollars in profit will be realized every year that this window is open.  I.e., 100% and then some of the 16 B in bonuses that Goldman, Sachs paid out last year to its management came from the US taxpayers.  (Al Capone must be petitioning the heavenly court about now.  “Look, God, Padrone Most High.  You can’t keep me down here any more.  All this stuff is legal now!”)  The House just passed a bill which would require that women who have abortions and claim the expense under medical deductions be audited by the IRS regarding details of that abortion.  Any business which covers employees under insurance plans that offer abortion coverage will no longer be able to claim the plan as a business expense.  The bill now goes to the Senate.   Your input is not welcome on these items either.