Saturday, August 24, 2013

Martin Luther King || Tears of Time

©2013 Turtle Heart

I was a teenager when Dr. King was murdered. I wept. I cried like a baby. I was a young man in Columbus Ohio. At the time, my mother, a dedicated Southern Baptist, carried me to White Hall Baptist Church every Sunday. That Sunday I stayed up almost all night preparing a speech that the pastor allowed me to give that Sunday. And I did that. My first public speech was a memorial to Martin Luther King to a southern Baptist church filled with white people. It was almost certainly a turning point in my life.

Today, some 50 years later, here we are again. It is not a day of celebration, though it is, it is yet another pivotal moment where the old white men who dominate the GOP politics of 35 US states and who stand in unprecedented obstruction and clueless impotence in the US Government have doubled down on their contempt and fear of people of color.

This morning I watched a 1966 rebroadcast of Dr. King speaking on Meet the Press. In my mind I made the contrast between that Meet the Press and the laughingly inept Meet the Press that is appearing today. The contrast between that moment and this, seen in that show, is astonishing. In 1966 that show was interested in the truth, in the movements of freedom. Today, hosted by a clown whose name is not worth spelling out, it is a propaganda machine spinning the opposition to our first African American United States President

Obama is not a Martin Luther King. He is almost certainly a good and intelligent and honest human being, but he is not a Martin Luther King. King was fearless. He spoke truth to power relentlessly and eloquently. Obama is polite, cautious and reserved. As Doctor King moved through his life, he did not blink, and he never took a backwards step. He was not timid. He was a real leader. King inspired me to make the choice to stand with my American Indian ancestors. My mother was a fair-skinned, slightly red-haired Celtic woman; my father a dark-skinned Ojibwe American Indian hiding out and pretending to be a “white man”. During those times I began to understand that I needed to make a choice about where I wanted to stand. As an adult man I chose to stand with the American Indians. Martin Luther King inspired me to have the courage to do that.

Obama has American Indian ancestors. In 2007 he was even adopted by the great Crow Nation and given the name “Black Eagle”. In American Indian cultures, adoption of a “relative” is a profoundly sacred ceremony, a part of, and contained with the roots of our ancient sacred religious and ceremonial practices, centuries old. So many American Indians were optimistic that at last someone at the Federal level might embrace the many devastating and terrible problems that face American Indians all over this country.

It never happened. It is not going to happen. Everything from education to health care to outright persecution and violence against American Indians is getting worse. The same is true for civil rights for African Americans and Latino Americans, all that progress brought forward on the might shoulders and illuminated soul of Martin Luther King is being diluted, diverted, re-defined and actually turned around, even by the once noble Supreme Court.

The new inspiration is seen in the likes of one time Senator Ted Cruz, who, like Obama is also a one term US Senator, is going to try and be the next US President to jump out from the shadows of inexperience and ego to further lead us towards the New Mediocrity.

I recently heard the flatulent Ted Cruz compared in intellect to the late and truly great conservative William F. Buckley. I commented at the time that comparing Cruz to Buckley as like comparing a deep and ancient river to a puddle of baby pee on the sidewalk.

I voted for Obama in both his elections. If we had voted in John McCain the world would be at war…McCain is clearly the most dangerous and imbalanced candidate to seek the Office in generations. So I voted for Obama when I really wanted to be voting for Hillary Clinton. Then there was the Empty Suit, ugly bag of mostly water with the name of Romney. So it was off to vote for Obama a second time. I am a registered democrat, but I have voted for Republicans from time to time. I voted for Nixon, from the jungle of Vietnam. I did that because he was the one US President who actually did things real and powerful and beautiful for American Indians, he alone among all the others…though these facts are not well known and in spite of all of his other problems and failings. He cracked open the door to China, a mixed but important blessing.

So what has happened to the Great Dream of Martin Luther King? Where has it gone? Obama is an intelligent and principled President…but intelligence is not Leadership- The Republicans have, seemingly, all the real political power, but Power is not Leadership. And look around the eight directions of our world…it is the same bleak picture. Lots of Intelligent People, lots of Powerful People…but not much leadership.

I find I am still waiting for Hilary Clinton.

And today when I looked at Martin Luther King, I wept again.

Monday, August 05, 2013

American Wars, American Gold

Over the summer I read a collection of books, that I put together myself, which encompassed American military history from the Revolution (Bunker Hill) to Afghanistan. At the end of this posting I will list those books.

I have also watched a series of films, from Gettysburg (the despicable defense of slavery) to the Battle Of Haditha (a despicable act of mass murder by American soldiers).

For weeks I have posted nothing. It is difficult to understand what to say about the present direction and comportment of the United States military. My conviction about the available evidence indicates a level of incompetence in leadership and policy that is very troubling and incredibly dangerous. I look at the portfolio of words that populate my mind and more and more am just speechless, unable to express coherently the meaning and the implications of so much failure in leadership, and so much morally and ethically corrupt behavior by America’s young soldiers in general….and in particular the insanely lawless behavior of privately contracted armed killer.

I was a soldier in Vietnam. I love soldiers. I do not want to disparage any soldier. Yet clear evidence exists in multiple media forms of mindless murder of children, women, families. Without a moment’s accountability. The national news media is itself a corporate interest so it never tells us “the other side” of any of these stories, ever. Fearless and perceptive journalists at the edges of the mainstream are our only hopeful sources of honest information on this subject. This is why the reading of courageous, recently published books and intelligently produced films on the subjects of our Middle East adventures.

The government and its corporate partners have organized to effectively make it as close to impossible as it has ever been to find out what is going on. The recent verdicts in the Bradley Manning trial are a clear signal that it will get even harder as the government is criminalizing information release more and more.

Since the first Bush gained national office, there has been a secret alliance between neoconservatives and Christian fundamentalism unprecedented in US history. Former government operatives and highly placed officials have retired to enrich themselves beyond a normal person’s wildest dreams. Kissinger, in particular, but nearly all the high level people around both democrats and republicans are cashing in at unbelievable and totally invisible levels of corruption.

These radical Christian fundamentalists at high levels of power and wealth believe they are the chosen ones. They do not believe in the separation of the so-called church (their church) from government. They have doubled down in secret deals to make themselves richer and richer. By any means necessary.  We have seen recently how once placed in Washington culture, its members never leave. After “serving” they become entrenched in the many schemes to cash in, manipulate behind the scenes and in a multitude of ways enrich themselves and their families. 

This terrible story is balanced out by generations of abysmal leadership in the military and in the government, and in corporations.

The Generals
The present crop of General Officers in the United States military are pampered, cultist, shallow thinkers that are to a man, inept. For all the fame and notoriety of several of them, they have displayed an astonishing lack of both comprehension and leadership. Every choice made by the generals in Iraq and Afghanistan has backfired, failed or been impotent. Generals have never been more isolated from, and in a different culture from the soldiers who look to them for planning and sound decisions. The evidence for this is a matter of public record…a record that is crystal clear in its grim conclusions but kept on the back pages of every press organization in the USA. Invisible.

The Corporations
The redemption, protection and saving grace of our system of government is accountability. Because government officials and military commanders are part of the government, they can be held accountable by a wide variety of checks and balances.

Thanks to possible war criminals like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and a long list of other government operatives, many, many activities, including armed force, have been privatized to corporations. These corporate entities work in secret, with zero accountability and often no oversight. In the Middle East wars privately paid corporate “soldiers” kill, kidnap, assault and destroy with no oversight or authority to contain them from military commanders, from anyone.

Think about that.

Thousands of private warriors, paid huge salaries, operating with impunity and outside of the lawful military chain of command, immune form both local and US prosecution.

The roster of ex congressional, senatorial, military and policy experts cashing in on the privatization of America’s occupations is mind-numbing. The MSM tells us not one word of these stories. The information is there but scattered around. Only in recent years have some great writers organized and brought forward the details of the corporate take over of American foreign policy implementation and enforcement.

 Government: Active and Retired

Since 9-11, the amount of money rolling around, up for grabs, in the many new security related fields is an unbelievable seduction. Washington is crowded out with present and former officials and their staffs riding an unprecedented gravy train….in the billions upon billions of dollars.

The modern age has produced so much money inside the governments of western cultures, it is impossible to resist. Lobbyists, contractors, agents, advisors, consultants and your basic opportunists are in their Golden Age of contracts, sub contracts and fee collection.

Do any of these people have the time or the motivation to think about the US Constitution, about the poor, about civil rights or immigrants?  Follow this selfish, self-worshipping greed to its political roots and you have the present day GOP conservative movement and its leadership…along with their partners in the Christian right.

So, well beyond the nearly speechless condition this collective portfolio of the death of human dignity from corporate quantum trajectories, fueled by religious extremists on all sides, it feels ever more strange for the act of blogging about it and wonder who among us is really paying attention….and how inevitable it all seems at this point.

I was a little starved for reading. I purchased an iPad some months ago. It was a real quantum leap forward for reading. I live in Italy and finding books in English, where I live is not even possible. Reading books on the laptop or desktop I don’t like it. But the iPad works just fine. Finding books is easy. So Below is the list of books I read rather all related to the question of America descending down a dark path, one I find troubling, extremely troubling.

Partial List of the Summer Reading and Viewing:

Battle of Haditha. Film. 2007. 
Marines murder an entire community of inncent people in revenge and outrage over an IED killing several marines. The Marines are shown making cold blooded murder and manipulated by a cold-blooded, poiece of shit so-called Muslim religious leader who set up the community to be murdered to stir up anti-American activity. I do not support the troops any longer. They do not even support themselves. How many have made suicide? Thousands. The US military has lost its honor in these wars.

An intense portrayal of elite soldiers who have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world: disarming bombs in the heat of combat. When a new sergeant, James, takes over a highly trained bomb disposal team amidst violent conflict, he surprises his two subordinates, Sanborn and Eldridge, by recklessly plunging them into a deadly game of urban combat. James behaves as if he's indifferent to death. As the men struggle to control their wild new leader, the city explodes into chaos, and James' true character reveals itself in a way that will change each man forever

A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in May 2011.

ISBN: 089141911X | ISBN-13: 9780891419112
March 23, 2003: U.S. Marines from the Task Force Tarawa are caught up in one of the most unexpected battles of the Iraq War. What started off as a routine maneuver to secure two key bridges in the town of Nasiriyah in southern Iraq degenerated into a nightmarish twenty-four-hour urban clash in which eighteen young Marines lost their lives and more than thirty-five others were wounded. It was the single heaviest loss suffered by the U.S. military during the initial combat phase of the war.

On that fateful day, Marines came across the burned-out remains of a U.S. Army convoy that had been ambushed by Saddam Hussein’s forces outside Nasiriyah. In an attempt to rescue the missing soldiers and seize the bridges before the Iraqis could destroy them, the Marines decided to advance their attack on the city by twenty-four hours. What happened next is a gripping and gruesome tale of military blunders, tragedy, and heroism.

ISBN: 0307744787    ISBN-13: 9780307744784 
From the #1 bestselling author of Fiasco and The Gamble, an epic history of the decline of American military leadership from World War II to Iraq.

History has been kind to the American generals of World War II—Marshall, Eisenhower, Patton, and Bradley—and less kind to the generals of the wars that followed. In The Generals, Thomas E. Ricks sets out to explain why that is. In part it is the story of a widening gulf between performance and accountability. During the Second World War, scores of American generals were relieved of command simply for not being good enough. Today, as one American colonel said bitterly during the Iraq War, “As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.”

ISBN: 0307460991    ISBN-13: 9780307460998 
Written with bracing wit and intelligence, Rachel Maddow's Drift argues that we've drifted away from America's original ideals and become a nation weirdly at peace with perpetual war. To understand how we've arrived at such a dangerous place, Maddow takes us from the Vietnam War to today's war in Afghanistan, along the way exploring Reagan's radical presidency, the disturbing rise of executive authority, the gradual outsourcing of our war-making capabilities to private companies, the plummeting percentage of American families whose children fight our constant wars for us, and even the changing fortunes of G.I. Joe. Ultimately, she shows us just how much we stand to lose by allowing the scope of American military power to overpower our political discourse.

An examination of the Battle of Gettysberg on both the personal and strategic level.
The rise and fall of legendary war hero Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson as he leads the Confederacy to great success against the Union from 1861 to 1863. Prequel to the 1993 classic "Gettysburg".
As the Japanese surrender at the end of WWII, Gen. Fellers is tasked with deciding if Emperor Hirohito will be hanged as a war criminal. Influencing his ruling is his quest to find Aya, an exchange student he met years earlier in the U.S.
In 1937, Japan occupied Nanjing, the Chinese capital. There was a battle and subsequent atrocities against the inhabitants, especially those who took refuge in the International Security Zone.
ISBN: 156858394X    ISBN-13: 9781568583945 
Meet Blackwater USA, the private army that the US government has quietly hired to operate in international war zones and on American soil. Its contacts run from military and intelligence agencies to the upper echelons of the White House; it has a military base, a fleet of aircraft and 20,000 troops, but since September 2007 the firm has been hit by a series of scandals that, far from damaging the company, have led to an unprecedented period of expansion.This revised and updated edition includes Scahill's continued investigative work into one of the outrages of our time: the privatisation of war.

ISBN: 0553381482    ISBN-13: 9780553381481 
“This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can.”

With these words, Lieutenant Commander Robert W. Copeland addressed the crew of the destroyer escort USS Samuel B. Roberts on the morning of October 25, 1944, off the Philippine Island of Samar. On the horizon loomed the mightiest ships of the Japanese navy, a massive fleet that represented the last hope of a staggering empire. All that stood between it and Douglas MacArthur’ s vulnerable invasion force were the Roberts and the other small ships of a tiny American flotilla poised to charge into history.

In the tradition of the #1 New York Times bestseller Flags of Our Fathers, James D. Hornfischer paints an unprecedented portrait of the Battle of Samar, a naval engagement unlike any other in U.S. history—and captures with unforgettable intensity the men, the strategies, and the sacrifices that turned certain defeat into a legendary victory.

ISBN: 1451617526    ISBN-13: 9781451617528 
AT THE HEIGHT OF WORLD WAR II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was home to 75,000 residents, consuming more electricity than New York City. But to most of the world, the town did not exist. Thousands of civilians--many of them young women from small towns across the South--were recruited to this secret city, enticed by solid wages and the promise of war-ending work. Kept very much in the dark, few would ever guess the true nature of the tasks they performed each day in the hulking factories in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains. That is, until the end of the war--when Oak Ridge's secret was revealed. 

Drawing on the voices of the women who lived it--women who are now in their eighties and nineties-- The Girls of Atomic City rescues a remarkable, forgotten chapter of American history from obscurity. Denise Kiernan captures the spirit of the times through these women: their pluck, their desire to contribute, and their enduring courage. Combining the grand-scale human drama of The Worst Hard Time with the intimate biography and often troubling science of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Girls of Atomic City is a lasting and important addition to our country's history.

ISBN: 0670025445    ISBN-13: 9780670025442 
Boston in 1775 is an island city occupied by British troops after a series of incendiary incidents by patriots who range from sober citizens to thuggish vigilantes. After the Boston Tea Party, British and American soldiers and Massachusetts residents  have warily maneuvered around each other until April 19, when violence finally erupts at Lexington and Concord.  In June, however, with the city cut off from supplies by a British blockade and Patriot militia poised in siege, skirmishes give way to outright war in the Battle of Bunker Hill. It would be the bloodiest battle of the Revolution to come, and the point of no return for the rebellious colonists.

As the Civil War continues to rage, America's president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield and as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.

ISBN: 0802714714    ISBN-13: 9780802714718 
When Nuremberg was scouted in 1945 as a possible site for the Nazi war crime trials, an American damage survey of Germany described it as being "among the dead cities" of that country, for it was 90% destroyed, its population decimated, its facilities lost. As a place to put Nazis on trial, it symbolized the devastation Nazism brought upon Germany, while providing evidence of the destruction the Allies wrought on the country in the course of the war.

In Among the Dead Cities, the acclaimed philosopher A. C. Grayling asks the provocative question, how would the Allies have fared if judged by the standards of the Nuremberg Trials? Arguing persuasively that the victor nations have never had to consider the morality of their policies during World War II, he offers a powerful, moral re-examination of the Allied bombing campaigns against civilians in Germany and Japan, in the light of principles enshrined in the post-war conventions on human rights and the laws of war. 

Intended to weaken those countries' ability and will to make war, the bombings nonetheless destroyed centuries of culture and killed some 800,000 non-combatants, injuring and traumatizing hundreds of thousands more in Hamburg, Dresden, and scores of other German cities, in Tokyo, and finally in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "Was this bombing offensive justified by the necessities of war," Grayling writes, "or was it a crime against humanity? These questions mark one of the great remaining controversies of the Second World War." Their resolution is especially relevant in this time of terrorist threat, as governments debate how far to go in the name of security.

Grayling begins by narrating the Royal Air Force's and U. S. Army Air Force's dramatic and dangerous missions over Germany and Japan between 1942 and 1945. Through the eyes of survivors, he describes the terrifying experience on the ground as bombs created inferno and devastation among often-unprepared men, women, and children. He examines the mindset and thought-process of those who planned the campaigns in the heat and pressure of war, and faced with a ruthless enemy. Grayling chronicles the voices that, though in the minority, loudly opposed attacks on civilians, exploring in detail whether the bombings ever achieved their goal of denting the will to wage war. Based on the facts and evidence, he makes a meticulous case for, and one against, civilian bombing, and only then offers his own judgment. Acknowledging that they in no way equated to the death and destruction for which Nazi and Japanese aggression was responsible, he nonetheless concludes that the bombing campaigns were morally indefensible, and more, that accepting responsibility, even six decades later, is both a historical necessity and a moral imperative.

Rarely is the victor's history re-examined, and A. C. Grayling does so with deep respect and with a sense of urgency "to get a proper understanding for how peoples and states can and should behave in times of conflict." Addressing one of today's key moral issues, Among the Dead Cities is both a dramatic retelling of the World War II saga, and vitally important reading for our time.

ISBN: 0307342026    ISBN-13: 9780307342027 
George Weller was a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter who covered World War II across Europe, Africa, and Asia. At the war’s end in September 1945, under General MacArthur’s media blackout, correspondents were forbidden to enter both Nagasaki and Hiroshima. But instead of obediently staying with the press corps in northern Japan, Weller broke away. The intrepid newspaperman reached Nagasaki just weeks after the atomic bomb hit the city. Boldly presenting himself as a U.S. colonel to the Japanese military, Weller set out to explore the devastation.

As Nagasaki’s first outside observer, long before any American medical aid arrived, Weller witnessed the bomb’s effects and wrote “the anatomy of radiated man.” He interviewed doctors trying to cure those dying mysteriously from “Disease X.” He typed far into every night, sending his forbidden dispatches back to MacArthur’s censors, assuming their importance would make them unstoppable. He was wrong: the U.S. government censored every word, and the dispatches vanished from history.

Weller also became the first to enter the nearby Allied POW camps. From hundreds of prisoners he gathered accounts of watching the atomic explosions bring an end to years of torture and merciless labor in Japanese mines. Their dramatic testimonies sum up one of the least-known chapters of the war—but those stories, too, were silenced.

It is a powerful experience, more than 60 years later, to walk with Weller through the smoldering ruins of Nagasaki, or hear the sagas of prisoners who have just learned that their torment is over, and watch one of the era’s most battle-experienced reporters trying to accurately and unsentimentally convey to the American people scenes unlike anything he—or anyone else—knew. 

Weller died in 2002, believing it all lost forever. Months later, his son found a fragile copy in a crate of moldy papers. This historic body of work has never been published.

Along with reports from the brutal POW camps, a stirring saga of the worst of the Japanese “hellships” which carried U.S. prisoners into murder and even cannibalism, and a trove of Weller’s unseen photos, First into Nagasaki provides a moving, unparalleled look at the bomb that killed more than 70,000 people and ended WWII. Amid current disputes over the controlled embedding of journalists in war zones and a government’s right to keep secrets, it reminds us how such courageous rogue reporting is still essential to learning the truth.

ISBN: 1402210876    ISBN-13: 9781402210877 
"In this stunningly written book, a Western trained Muslim doctor brings alive what it means for a woman to live in the Saudi Kingdom. I've rarely experienced so vividly the shunning and shaming, racism and anti-Semitism, but the surprise is how Dr. Ahmed also finds tenderness at the tattered edges of extremism, and a life-changing pilgrimage back to her Muslim faith." - Gail Sheehy

The decisions that change your life are often the most impulsive ones.

Unexpectedly denied a visa to remain in the United States, Qanta Ahmed, a young British Muslim doctor, becomes an outcast in motion. On a whim, she accepts an exciting position in Saudi Arabia. This is not just a new job; this is a chance at adventure in an exotic land she thinks she understands, a place she hopes she will belong. 

What she discovers is vastly different. The Kingdom is a world apart, a land of unparalleled contrast. She finds rejection and scorn in the places she believed would most embrace her, but also humor, honesty, loyalty and love. 

Thank you George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

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