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the problem is a culture which assigns to itself the right to decide what is right for the world and

 concedes no limit on its power to enforce its will. . . . a culture based on the same religious

intolerance which armed the Conquistadors and allowed them to exterminate entire civilisations



 Book by John Maxwell

How to Make Our Own News: A Primer for Environmentalist and Journalists

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In the Name of God and Freedom™ 

By John Maxwell


The principle is known to every boy who has ever attended one of the  thousands of ersatz English public schools scattered about the former Empire. It was only later that you may have come to realise that someone had codified it: ”Beware of those in whom the urge to punish is powerful.”

It was this principle that provoked my initial distaste for George W. Bush – watching his career as the executioner Governor of Texas and his campaign for the presidency of the United States. The campaign failed, but he became President anyway. As one of his admirers, Lt. Gen. William Boykin explained, “The majority of Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there? [in the White House] … I tell you this morning that he's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this" (New York Times, October 17,  2003)

The Super-Americans

General Boykin is now a very important official in the Pentagon, one of those with serious authority over the course of the war in Iraq, an aide and adviser to Generalissimo von Rumsfeld. 

The people round Bush with the exception of Rumsfeld and Powell, know nothing of war. They have probably never seen a dead body except on television. And, if Rush Limbaugh is right, the dark deeds in Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad are to them, nothing more than sophomoric japes, the stuff of fraternity initiations. Some people die in those juvenile romps, as do some in the US marine training camp at Parris Island, in military camps like Deepcut, in England and in prisons all over the world.

But none of this is new. I am indebted to the editor of the Information Clearing House  (ICH) for the following - hundred year old – quote:

“Our men . . . have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of 10 up.... Our soldiers have pumped salt water into men to "make them talk," and have taken prisoners people who held up their hands and peacefully surrendered, and an hour later. . . stood them on a bridge and shot them down one by one, to drop into the water below and float down, as examples to those who found their bullet-loaded corpses."

That was written in the  Philadelphia Ledger newspaper in 1901, by  its Manila correspondent during the Spanish-American War.

A century later, the Abu Ghraib scapegoats are being prepared for sacrifice: the enlisted men, some officers above them, even Donald Rumsfeld, the Generalissimo, himself.

But, as I said last week, the reason for the problem is a culture which assigns to itself the right to decide what is right for the world and concedes no limit on its power to enforce its will. It is a culture based on the same religious intolerance which armed the Conquistadors and allowed them to exterminate entire civilisations in the sixteenth century. It is a culture which gave Rumsfeld licence to allow the pillage of 8,000 years of cultural history after the fall of Baghdad.

Another quotation supplied by the ICH makes my point a little clearer: "I went down on my knees and prayed to Almighty God for light and guidance … and one night late it came to me this way.… We could not leave (the Philippines) to themselves—they were unfit for self-government—and they would soon have anarchy and misrule over there worse than Spain's  … There was nothing left for us to do but take them all and educate the Filipinos, and uplift and Christianize them" (President William McKinley in 1901).

It is the same impulse which has transformed Cuba into a private torture chamber for the delectation of ten American presidents and which allows George Bush to announce, three days ago, a new, more aggressive policy towards Cuba which he hopes will achieve the overthrow of the Cuban government.

Nowhere in the anti-Cuba document is it acknowledged that most of the latest proposals are, like the 45-year embargo and the Helms Burton Act, illegal, acts of war and brutal transgressions of international norms

Which is not to be wondered at. Having suckered Saddam Hussein, their erstwhile ally, into providing them a casus belli by invading Kuwait, the United States then launched   a brutal war to reduce Iraq to what the US and Israel considered its proper station. And, not satisfied with that, the US launched with the help of its major allies in the Security Council, Britain and France, a ten year campaign of sanctions and bombing which almost completed the destruction of the Iraqi infrastructure and left more than a million people dead, among them, half a million children. Then came Mr Bush’s anti-terrorism war.

Accomplices of the Press

In most of this, the American people have lived in blissful ignorance, an ignorance promoted and managed by the organs of the Western Press, which have largely concealed from public view, the continuing atrocities in Iraq and in other ‘dark corners of the world’ to use Mr Bush’s felicitous phrase.

It is this silence and this conspiracy which made it impossible for Americans to understand why President Bill Clinton apologised  in 1999 to the people of Guatemala  for American complicity in the Guatemalan military’s campaign of genocide.

Andrew Reding of Djinn magazine describes what happened:

Guatemala was an American Rwanda. The army and its paramilitary allies carried out at least 626 massacres, many of entire villages. Security forces slaughtered civilians without regard for age or sex. They impaled and shot children. They raped women, and slashed open the wombs of pregnant women. They skinned, amputated, and burned victims alive. They forced townsfolk to watch as they disemboweled still-living relatives and neighbors. At gunpoint, they forced Mayans to kill fellow-villagers or even their own kin. 

All told, the government and its allies killed about 200,000 men, women and children, more than four-fifths of them Mayan. One fourth of the victims were women. Depopulated villages were completely destroyed, their buildings torn or burned down, their wells poisoned. In the larger cities, death squads killed teachers, university professors, trade union leaders, politicians, and anyone else who questioned the killings or military rule. Most of the slayings, including the bulk of the massacres, occurred between 1981 and 1983.

The Reagan administration reversed President Carter’s human rights-based foreign policy under UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick’s rubric that authoritarian [i.e. fascist] states are preferable to totalitarian [i.e. Communist] states. That doctrine led to all sorts of atrocities across Central America, directed by people like the recently resigned US Special Ambassador to Latin America, Otto Reich. Reich is a notorious fraudster, identified by the US General Accounting Office as having unlawfully used US taxpayer dollars to propagandize Americans. 

In the 1980s Reich used taxpayer dollars, as head of the Reagan Office of Public Diplomacy, to scare Americans into believing that Soviet MIG fighters based in Nicaragua were being prepared to attack California! He was also implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal and missed prison by the skin of his teeth. Since then he has been implicated in the abortive coup against President Chavez of Venezuela and the coup against Aristide in Haiti. One of the people he has protected is the man who blew up a plane-load of people over Barbados in 1976 – Luis Posada Carriles.

In Port au Prince, Haiti, at midnight on Mothers' Day last week, US troops blew in the front door of a house, decapitated the family dog, arrested and handcuffed Sister Anne Auguste, Haiti's equivalent of Louise Bennett – a 69 year old folklorist, grandmother and her four young grandchildren and other relatives and friends and dragged them all off to jail.

Deeply Embedded Hypocrites

The American people are almost entirely unaware that it is rascals like Reich who are representing them to the world. When Americans ask, plaintively, “Why do they Hate us so?” they need to check out people like Reich and Noriega and they need to demand explanations from their Press.

In the Washington Post yesterday, Jefferson Morley reports that around the world, the Press which had supported the pro-war initiatives of Bush and Rumsfeld is now drawing away, trying to maintain a respectable distance from their former allies and surrogates. The taint of the torture in Iraq is too much for them. But the Press itself was deeply implicated in recommending torture as a means of combating the terrorists,  or as it were, fighting fire with fire.

In Newsweek magazine, (Nov. 5, 2001) I was dumbfounded to read "It's a new world, and survival may well require old techniques that seemed out of the question," liberal columnist Jonathan Alter wrote. "In this autumn of anger, even a liberal can find his thoughts turning to . . . torture. . . . Couldn't we at least subject [al-Qaida suspects] to psychological torture? . . . How about truth serum, administered with a mandatory IV? Or deportation to Saudi Arabia, land of beheadings?" 

If I was dumbfounded by Alter I was bowled over by Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law Professor and an icon of the liberal Human Rights establishment, who, in an Op Ed piece in the Los Angeles Times (Nov. 8, 2001) asked:

Is it justified to resort to unconventional techniques such as truth serum, moderate physical pressure and outright torture?

Dershowitz came to the conclusion that torture was not outlawed by the US Constitution and the only problem was that evidence so obtained could not be used in court.

The important thing, for both Alter and Dershowitz, was to get information, an objective shared by the inquisitors at Abu Ghraib. If one could discover by torture, details of an impending terrorist outrage, would not that justify torture?

In Vietnam in the 1960s the CIA used crude as well as sophisticated torture. Alexander Cockburn, in the Nation in November 2001, wrote about one bizarre episode: 

. . . the CIA in 1968 got frustrated by its inability to break suspected leaders of Vietnam's National Liberation Front . . . So the agency began more advanced experiments, in one of which it anesthetized three prisoners, opened their skulls and planted electrodes in their brains. They were revived, put in a room and given knives. The CIA psychologists then activated the electrodes, hoping the prisoners would attack one another. They didn't. The electrodes were removed, the prisoners shot and the bodies burned. [You] can read about it in Gordon Thomas's book Journey into Madness.

Cockburn reminded his audience about Dan Mitrione, an American kidnapped and murdered by the Tupamaru guerillas at about the same time. 

. . . Mitrione was among the US advisers teaching Brazilian police how much electric shock to apply to prisoners without killing them. In Uruguay, according to the former chief of police intelligence, Mitrione helped "professionalize" torture as a routine measure and advised on psychological techniques such as playing tapes of women and children screaming that the prisoner's family was being tortured.

And, of course, no one involved in Latin American politics can forget the School of the Americas, operated by the US Army at Fort Benning, Georgia, at which more than 60,000 soldiers and policemen from Latin America (including Jamaica) were trained from the 60s onward.

U.S. Army intelligence manuals advocating torture techniques and how to circumvent laws on due process, arrest and detention were used for at least a decade to train Latin American soldiers at the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas, (SOA)  renamed in 2001 the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation or WHINSEC.

Most of this information will be news to 99% of Americans. Many of them will simply not believe it. Between their authoritarian Administration and their compliant, cowardly press, they have been protected from the truth and inoculated against reality.

Getting rid of Rumsfeld will solve nothing and make no difference to a culture of fundamentalist intolerance and racist impunity.

Copyright©2004 John Maxwell

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All

By Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock  market. True wealth has more to do with what's in your heart than what's in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America's shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, "Happy can make you money, but money can't make you happy."

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 16 December 2011




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