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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Monday, May 28, 2012

Revisionist History Day, 2012

Today is Revisionist History Day, what others call Memorial Day. Americans are supposed to remember the country's war dead while being thankful that they protected our freedom and served our country. However, reading revisionist history (see a sampling below) or alternative news sites (start with Antiwar.com and don't forget to listen to Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton) teaches that the fallen were doing no such thing. Rather they were and are today serving cynical politicians and the "private" component of the military-industrial complex in the service of the American Empire.

The state inculcates an unquestioning faith in its war-making by associating it with patriotism, heroism, and the defense of "our freedoms." This strategy builds in its own defense against any criticism of the government's policies. Anyone who questions the morality of a war is automatically suspected of being unpatriotic, unappreciative of the bravery that has "kept us free," and disrespectful of "our troops," in a word, un-American.

To counter this common outlook, which people are indoctrinated in from birth and which is shared by conservatives and Progressives alike, we should do what we can to teach others that the government's version of its wars is always self-serving and threatening to life, liberty, and decency.

In that spirit, I again quote a passage from the great antiwar movie The Americanization of Emily. You'll find a video of the scene below. This AP photo is a perfect illustration of what "Charlie Madison" is talking about.
I don't trust people who make bitter reflections about war, Mrs. Barham. It's always the generals with the bloodiest records who are the first to shout what a Hell it is. And it's always the widows who lead the Memorial Day parades . . . we shall never end wars, Mrs. Barham, by blaming it on ministers and generals or warmongering imperialists or all the other banal bogies. It's the rest of us who build statues to those generals and name boulevards after those ministers; the rest of us who make heroes of our dead and shrines of our battlefields. We wear our widows' weeds like nuns and perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices....

My brother died at Anzio – an everyday soldier’s death, no special heroism involved. They buried what pieces they found of him. But my mother insists he died a brave death and pretends to be very proud. . . . [N]ow my other brother can’t wait to reach enlistment age. That’ll be in September. May be ministers and generals who blunder us into wars, but the least the rest of us can do is to resist honoring the institution. What has my mother got for pretending bravery was admirable? She’s under constant sedation and terrified she may wake up one morning and find her last son has run off to be brave. [Emphasis added.]
Enjoy the day. I'll spend some of it reading revisionist history and watching Emily.

Here's an all-too-incomplete list of books in no particular order (some of which I've read, some of which I intend to read):
  • We Who Dared to Say No to War: American Antiwar Writing from 1812 to Now, edited by Murray Polner and Thomas E. Woods Jr.
  • The Failure of America's Foreign Wars, edited by Richard M. Ebeling and Jacob G. Hornberger
  • Why American History Is Not What They Say: An Introduction to Revisionism, by Jeff Riggenbach
  • War Is a Lie, by David Swanson
  • War Is a Racket, by Smedley D. Butler
  • Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, by Paul Fussell
  • Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War, by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel
  • The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, by William Appleman Williams
  • The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Antimilitarist Tradition, by Arthur Ekirch
  • The Politics of War: The Story of Two Wars which Altered Forever the Political Life of the American Republic, 1890-1920, by Walter Karp
  • The Costs of War, edited by John Denson
  • Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, by Stephen Kinzer
  • All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, by Stephen Kinzer
  • Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, by Chalmers Johnson
  • The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, by Chalmers Johnson
  • War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges
  • A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, by David Fromkin
  • The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East, by David Hirst
  • Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations, 1820-2001, by Ussama Makdisi
  • The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination, by Jeremy R. Hammond
  • The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, by Ilan Pappe
  • The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, by Miko Peled
  • Wilson's War: How Woodrow Wilson's Great Blunder Led to Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and World War II, by Jim Powell
  • American Empire: Before the Fall, by Bruce Fein
  • Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, by Patrick J. Buchanan
  • Endless Enemies: The Making of an Unfriendly World, by Jonathan Kwitny

Sunday, May 27, 2012

This Says It All

Peace, Not War

"We perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices." --Paddy Chayefsky, The Americanization of Emily

On Religion

All elements of religion but the love of universal justice and compassion--as found in the Prophets--constitute idolatry, including worship of “God.”

The Easy Way

No wonder allegiance to a state has replaced love of justice as the core value of Judaism. It's easier.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Penn on Obama's Monstrous Position on Drugs

Obama to the American people: I got away with using drugs. Fuck the rest of you!


Sunday, May 20, 2012

The General's Son

Miko Peled, author of The General's Son, is the son of Matti Peled, the IDF general-turned-peace and justice activist.

On Israel’s “Right to Exist”

When I posted Sharmine Narwani’s provocative article “Excuse Me, But Israel Has No Right to Exist” on Facebook, I got an inappropriate reaction from libertarians. It was summed up by one comment this way:
No territorial State has the right to exist. They are all organisations against individual rights and liberties.
This answer is true but inappropriate. Why?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Israeli "Peace Process" on the Ground

From Rachelle Marshall’s “Israel's Current Demand: Most of the West Bank,” Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March-April 2012
On Jan. 23, 100 Bedouins in Anata, northeast of Jerusalem, were forced into the cold outdoors just before midnight, when army bulldozers arrived without warning and demolished their entire community, including all their personal belongings. Many of the displaced were children and babies. On Jan. 25 near Hebron, Mohammed Abu Qbeita was building a house on his own land when soldiers came and ordered him to stop. When he refused to move, an army officer truck knocked him to the ground and drove a trailers attached to a tractor over his legs, crushing one of them.
 No one is safe from the random cruelty.

Friday, May 18, 2012

TGIF: Individualism, Trade-Unions, and “Self-Governing Combinations”

[I]ndividualists more than anyone will see the merit in any arrangement which minimizes the chance that one will be subjected to the arbitrary will of another—even in consensual relationships.
Read TGIF here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Never, Ever

I am not now , nor have I even been, a member of any diaspora.

Op-Ed: JPMorgan Lesson: End Government Bank Guarantees

It’s widely believed that JPMorgan Chase’s recent $2 billion–plus loss proves we need the comprehensive banking regulation called for by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law.

That belief is wrong.

Read the rest of the op-ed here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Op-ed: When Will Obama Evolve on the Drug War?

Much is made of how President Obama’s position on same-sex marriage has “evolved” to an endorsement of legalization. One hopes his position on the atrocity called the “war on drugs” is evolving.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Roger Waters Sings a Song for Palestine

Nakba Day


Today is Nakba Day, the day set aside to remember the catastrophe that befell the Palestinian Arabs in 1948 in connection with the creation of the “Jewish State” of Israel. Over 700,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes and villages, and many massacred, in an ethnic-cleansing operation that should shock the conscience. The Arabs who remained in the Israeli state that was imposed on them by the UN and Zionist military forces have been second-class citizens from that time.


Since 1967 the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, many of whom were refugees from the 1948 catastrophe, have lived under the boot of the Israeli government. Their day-to-day lives are under the arbitrary control of the Israeli government. Gaza is an open-air blockaded prison camp subject to periodic military onslaughts, while the West Bank is relentlessly gobbled up by Jewish-only settlements and violated by a wall that surrounds Palestinian towns and cuts people’s homes off from their farms.

Again, I note that the best short introduction to the catastrophe is Jeremy Hammond’s The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination: The Struggle for Palestine and the Roots of the Israeli-Arab Conflict.


Additional reading: "Why the Inconvenient Truths of the Nakba Must Be Recognized," by Tom Pessah

Saturday, May 12, 2012

TGIF: For Equality; Against Privilege

This week's TGIF is an encore from 2006: "For Equality; Against Privilege." Enjoy!

Come and See the Danger Inherent in the System

I remain puzzled at the refusal of civil libertarians to see the dangers inherent in government control of medical care.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Screw the Vote

So the people get to vote on who may marry? And this pleases conservatives? I thought they disliked mobocracy.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Scott Horton and Me

Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio interviewed me on May Day about the relationship between libertarianism and workers.

Op-ed: Obama, bin Laden, and Mitt

The partisan squabbling over the killing of Osama bin Laden is a typical election-year distraction, effectively squelching discussion of more important matters one year after the execution of the al-Qaeda chief executive.

Aided by cable-TV talking heads, Americans are spending too much time speculating over whether presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney would have given the order to get bin Laden, and also issuing paeans to President Obama’s “courage.” (We have a strange notion of courage. Did Obama risk his own life? Of course not. He was safe in the White House Situation Room. Perhaps he “risked” his political career, but even that isn’t certain. A failed operation might have won him sympathy for a good try. On the other hand, the men under his command were ordered to risk their lives and the lives of others.)

While the commentators are engaged in trivialities, big foreign-policy questions are ignored.

Read “Obama, bin Laden, and Mitt.”

Sunday, May 06, 2012

“Nice Shirt”

That’s the one and only comment I got today when I wore my “Free Palestine” shirt to Barnes & Noble in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Not at All

I don't like the vestige of tribalism I find in myself.

TGIF: Forgotten Critic of Corporatism

Frank acknowledgments about the Gilded Age from an unexpected source. Read it here.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Blasts Sabre-Rattling American Israel-Firsters

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was booed and taunted with cries of “Neville Chamberlain” when he told an American audience that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “messianic feelings” regarding Iran and that unilateral military action against the Islamic republic would be a mistake.

Speaking at a conference sponsored by the Jerusalem Post, Olmert sarcastically told the hostile crowd:

As a concerned Israeli citizen who lives in the state of Israel with his family and all of his children and grandchildren, I love very much the courage of those who live 10,000 miles away from the state of Israel and are ready that we will make every possible mistake that will cost lives of Israelis.

The New York Times also reported:

But Mr. Olmert went much further. Drawing boos from a largely American audience in New York, he fired off a wide-ranging broadside against Mr. Netanyahu’s foreign policy, saying that the prime minister was unprepared to offer meaningful compromise to Palestinians….

Olmert is just the latest prominent Israeli to express opposition to Netanyahu’s belligerent stand against Iran. “Gabi Ashkenazi, the former chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, and Eliezer Shkedy, the former air force commander, told the conference on Sunday that an international approach to Iran was preferable,” the Times reported.

Several former Israeli intelligence chiefs have stated that Iran has not decided to build a nuclear weapon, echoing the judgment of U.S. intelligence agencies. Israeli Defense Force Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz has described the Iranian regime as “composed of very rational people,” adding that it will not acquire a bomb. “I don't think [Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei] will want to go the extra mile,” Gantz said.