US Army unit to be deployed for domestic operations

From Democracy Now!:

Beginning in October, the Army plans to station an active unit inside the United States for the first time to serve as an on-call federal response in times of emergency. The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent thirty-five of the last sixty months in Iraq, but now the unit is training for domestic operations. The unit will soon be under the day-to-day control of US Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command. The Army Times reports this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to Northern Command. The paper says the Army unit may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control. The soldiers are learning to use so-called nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals and crowds.

Any more questions about whether the US is becoming a police state?

Journalists arrested at RNC include Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman

We all expected the cops to use excessive force and utilize the tactic of questionable mass arrests in St. Paul. That’s no surprise, that has been a tactic for squelching public dissent since time immemorial. What is perhaps even more alarming about the tactics used in St. Paul is the arrest of several journalists who stepped outside “official” bounds to cover not just the staged convention proceedings or to follow the party line on the “violent” demonstrators (the vast majority of whom have been peaceful, and the only “violence” reported so far has been property damage, which is only questionably defined as “violence”).

Among those arrested include Democracy Now! host and producer Amy Goodman, who left the convention floor in the middle of an interview with delegates from Minnesota and Alaska to respond to the news that her producers were being arrested (Goodman grills St. Paul Police Chief about the Arrests). Not only were they arrested, but it is possible that producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar may be charged with felony rioting.

Not only that, but the convention hq for I-Witness Video was apparently raided. The police surrounded the house before a warrant was obtained, informed people they would be detained if they left the house, and then got their warrant (with one problem – it was for the WRONG ADDRESS) and raided the house, taking would-be police watchdogs into custody and confiscating equipment. I-Witness was extremely effective in exposing police violence during the 2004 RNC in New York, and it appears the St. Paul authorities did not want this to happen to them. Glenn Greenwald writes on the arrests, with substantial comment on the I-Witness raid. Eileen Clancy of I-Witness, wrote an emergency press release from inside the house while it was surrounded on the I-Witness blog.

Apparently if reporters aren’t “embedded” within the police corps or only covering subjects the authorities want them to see, they’re subject to arrest. So much for freedom of the press and the neutrality of journalists, and the supposedly basic assumption that journalists should be shielded from harm in conflict zones, or at least that every attempt should be made to do so. The same seems to be the case for other independent observers – in other words, if you’re not with the powers-that-be, you’re subject to arrest, to classification as a “criminal”.

In addition, student journalists from the University of Kentucky were also arrested. The cynical part of me wants to say at least they’re getting a true look at what they will be in for if they seek to pursue their chosen vocations with integrity and the desire to report more than just the “official story”.

Cynicism aside, the sad truth is that if the integrity and independence of journalism is not respected and actively supported, there can be no meaningful public discourse. Officials have said again and again that people are welcome to voice their opinions, that demonstrators have the right to air their griefs publicly, but the actions of those in power mitigate against the possibility of any real public dialogue that could lead to an actual accounting on the part of the leaders who are supposedly the servants of the people. There is no space for the vox populi to be heard, unless, apparently, the voice of the people comes through particular channels, in triplicate, bound and tied in red tape. Amy Goodman wrote an op-ed piece about how government crackdowns on journalists threaten democracy. I suggest you read it.

The voice of the people in colonial America took the form of the Boston Tea Party in 1773, though the lead-up to the Party was of course the Boston Massacre of 1770. Will people realize the things they’ve given up and seek to take back for themselves the power that is rightfully theirs? Or will we meekly accept our position as consumers, passively “choosing” between those products that are shown to us in storefront windows, on television screens, on our computer monitors? Will we take a stand and fight for the ability to truly govern ourselves and manage our own affairs, or will we continue to march to the beat of flags and pledges and patriotic songs, allowing our own identities to be submerged within the totality of the 21st century United Jingoistic Police State of American Empire?

In other news, eight members of the RNC Welcoming Committee have officially been charged under terrorism laws. I have more to say about this, but it will wait until tomorrow when I’ve had more time to reflect and process.

Video of Nicole Salazar’s arrest:

Video of Amy Goodman’s arrest:

Support our troops?

This morning, my grandfather sent me an email “action alert” from the American Family Association urging protest of the recent Berkeley, California City Council resolution that declared the downtown Marine recruiting office “unwanted” and urged the recruiters to leave town. This article does not respond to that issue, but rather to the subject line of the email he forwarded from the AFA, which was “Support our troops”.

I have to admit being somewhat perplexed by the exhortation to “support our troops”. Whose troops are they? They certainly aren’t mine – I’m not sending them anywhere, and they don’t represent me or my thoughts. It seems to me that the designation “our troops” implies a kind of kinship between us and the troops that does not really exist. Certainly it is true that my (step)brother is among those who are being sent over there, but it is not on my behalf that he is being sent, just as it is not on my behalf that any of them has been sent.

This entire enterprise of war in foreign lands has very little to do with the protection and preservation of American values, but it has everything to do with protecting and preserving business interests that profit heavily from maintaining a forced subordinate status in certain nations around the world. The United States has done the same thing for over a century now in Latin America, and has long maintained an official policy that essentially says “if you have something we want, a resource we ‘need’, then as far as we’re concerned it belongs rightfully to us, not to you”. This is the only rational explanation for the military interventions in Hawai’i for pineapples; in Guatemala for bananas; in Iran for oil (with the deposition of a popular government in order to reinstate the Shah, a move on our part whose eventual consequence was the Islamic Revolution of 1979); in Iraq not only for oil but also to create a living experiment in extreme neoliberal free trade as an example (and warning) to the rest of the world that consumer corporate “democracies” will have what they want from the “developing nations”, and we can get it the easy way or the hard way.

This critique stands regardless of one’s religious persuasion, but it is much more pertinent for me as a follower of Jesus, the prince of peace and king of all creation who urged his followers not to retaliate when evil was done to them, but rather to turn the other cheek. The unanimous response of the early church to persecution was not to respond by fighting back for their own gain, even in defense of their own personal liberties, but rather to witness to those who tormented them by showing the same attitude of Christ – loving and forgiving their attackers in the hope that they would be transformed. They believed the cross of Christ is the hope for the transformation of all doers of violence and opponents of God. To suggest that the idea of premeditated war for the economic gain of certain sectors of society (the corporate management classes first, and then to a lesser extent the consuming classes – which is to say that yes, you and I likely are beneficiaries of the violence), which was sold as a preemptive (or preventative, depending on who you ask) war to ostensibly “protect our way of life against the terrorists” would never have even occurred to them as a valid option for Christians.

Even three centuries after Christ when the church went from being a persecuted minority to the triumphant majority with the imperial sanction they did not develop a theology of warfare that went so far – instead, Augustine’s formulation of Just War doctrine carried the day. It is important to note that even Just War doctrine does not actually justify war for self-defense, to say nothing of preemptive warfare. Therefore, even on the less-strict Christian stance on war than that of Jesus himself, the type of activities in which the U.S. military has engaged in Iraq cannot in any way be construed as representative either of me or of my Lord.

They are not “our” troops, they are troops under the command of people in the thrall of the American political/business system which “make[s] unjust laws. . . deprive[s] the poor of their rights, withhold[s] justice from the oppressed. . . [makes] widows their prey, and [robs] the fatherless” (see Isaiah 10:1-2 in the NIV). They are being asked to die for a cause that, in the words of Alisdair McIntyre, is rather like being asked to die for the telephone company. They are not my troops, they are my fellow-human-beings being manipulated and exploited in more ways than they realize, and rather than praying for success in their mission I simply pray for an end to war and for the desire of men and women to make war. I pray that guns would jam and bombs would fail to explode, and that soldiers on all sides would simply lay down their weapons and refuse to engage any longer in this silly business of war. I support people, not troops, and I support them as potential brothers and sisters in the new world that God is creating even in the midst of this world of bloodshed and hatred, a new world of people from every tribe, language, people, and nation who walk in the ways of God’s shalom.

Guest article: America the Fascist

My friend Steven Kippel wrote this post, and I requested permission to reproduce it here. Just so no one who has a loved one involved with the military will hear this the wrong way, my brother is in the last stages of mission training before going to Iraq – so this is quite a personal issue for me. — Jason

This is originally a discussion on Facebook:

I’ve got an idea though, instead of being insulted because a statement might include your family, how about we think in the abstract for a while.

Just because someone you love and respect is doing something they feel is honorable, does it automatically mean it can’t be put under a critical microscope? Can we not address this issue and tease out certain moral issues?

First we should define fascism, and then we can see how it applies to the USA: Fascism, according to the American Heritage Dictionary (1983) is “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.” Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile’s entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana read: Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power. No less an authority on fascism than Mussolini was so pleased with that definition that he later claimed credit for it.

Paxton defines Fascism as “a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond reach of traditional solutions; 2. belief one’s group is the victim, justifying any action without legal or moral limits; 3. need for authority by a natural leader above the law, relying on the superiority of his instincts; 4. right of the chosen people to dominate others without legal or moral restraint; 5. fear of foreign `contamination.”

  1. Overwhelming crisis: Communism, terrorism
  2. Playing the victim: “Attacking our way of life” “attacking freedom”
  3. Natural leader: Bush has a “unitary” legal outlook placing himself above the law, and he’s frequently talked about how his judgment should be trusted as he is the decider
  4. Dominate others: Nation-building in South America and Asia, et al
  5. Foreign contamination: Currently the big thing in politics is the immigration issue.

Now that we have defined Fascism and started to place it into our context of the modern USA, let’s further explore this:

The US leaders – who have placed dictators in power in Chile, Velezuela, Columbia, El Salvador, Vietnam, and all the other places we have crushed public, democratic movements in other countries to sustain our “way of life” in America – will tell you that our nation-building efforts were to maintain US industry and US dominance over world markets. Our military has been used all over the world to support US corporate expansion in the global market. This is nothing our government hides from us, they tell us it is good to have military in place in certain places as it benefits our economy. This is a merger of government and corporations: corporatism, also known as fascism.

Corporations can’t use military force to push their goals, so they have a relationship with the government to do this for them.

If your family is in the military it doesn’t mean they’re bad people. They can have pure motives, but when you look at the macro situation, the US has been using military force for the last 60 years to promote US business in the global economy to “preserve the US way of life.” This means we need to have cheap coffee because the American way of life is to drink coffee, so we go into countries and set up unjust wage systems so the foreigners can’t succeed against our business and we can have cheap coffee at the expense of their wellbeing.

Originally posted by Steven Kippel at Glocks Out.

New article at Catapult

This morning the new issue of Catapult Magazine went live today, including my article “(In)Security and the Fall“.

I briefly re-viewed Eve Ensler’s excellent book Insecure at Last, casting her concern about security and the strange phenomenon of how cultures that focus strongly on security tend to be fundamentally insecure in light of the Biblical story of the fall in Genesis 3. Check it out, and also check out the other excellent articles.

Bush, Pakistan and the Bomb

This article from today’s International Herald Tribune gives an excellent example of what Chalmers Johnson calls “blowback”, from the title of his 2000 book (revised ed. 2004) Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, in which he essentially predicted a 9/11-like attack as one of the “unintended consequences” of American policy towards so-called “developing nations” in the 20th century.

Johnathan Schell, author of a recent book on current nuclear dangers, argues that Pakistan was effectively all those things claimed of Iraq (ruled by a dictator, albeit one less cruel than Saddam Hussein al-Majid al-Tikriti; supported and harbored terrorists; possessed nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons programs and facilitated proliferation) but because “they were on our side” Bush overlooked both the possession and attempted proliferation of nukes. He sketches a disturbing picture of the possibility of proliferation run amok should Pakistan’s current internal turmoil reach a critical state. Anyone who cares about anything pertaining to the issues of terrorism, nuclear weapons, and Bush’s “you’re for us or you’re against us” and pre-emptive war doctrine should read this article.

In a related article, Gary Sick compares the current situation in Pakistan to the breakdown of the Shah of Iran’s regime and the Islamic Revolution that placed the Ayatollah in power.

We have constantly supported regimes whose methods and actions contradict our stated ideals of democracy and freedom while spreading so-called “free markets” all over the world, conveniently ignoring the fact that our economic development not only utilized but even depended on (and still depends on) the kinds of internal protections we deny other nations through agencies such as the IMF and WTO. The situation in Pakistan is another chapter in this long history of American imperialism, and I fear people in America and all over the world will continue to suffer the consequences through terrorism, domestic unrest, repressive government and police actions, and other effects.

Chalmers Johnson, “Blowback”, from The Nation, Sept. 27, 2001
Summery of Blowback from Third World Traveller

Orwell Rolls in His Grave

A documentary exploration into how the Media is anti-democratic.