New outlooks on Memorial Day
The end of school! Summer job outside and maybe in the mountains. The fruits and nuts and grapes have set. Rivers high and canals still chilled by snow water. Maybe up the Clarks Fork before work starts if its not too high to fish it and too cold and wet to camp.
It's was weekend all the mountain resorts and campgrounds and snowed in stores and taverns open for the Season, when the roads were all two-lane and not all were plowed. Not many lived year round in the mountains the way they do now, except a few light-eating, heavy drinking caretakers who stayed by the fire except to fetch wood and toss out empty bottles and relieve themselves. A couple of those boys caretaking Vikingsholm on Emerald Bay observed the great slide that took out the highway and much more but reported the following summer that they weren't quite sure what they'd seen at the time but they quit drinking for three days.
Memorial Day weekend was when those fortunate enough to have cabins in the mountains opened them, took the shutters off, shooed the mice out, rigged up the electricity if they had any, swept porches, attached awnings, put the beds out, lit the first fire of the season, and if they had one, launched the boat.
And everybody flew the flag.
Beautiful rituals that had nothing to do with the First World War. There were parades of course, but World War II seemed to have obliterated the memory of the War to End All Wars that had preceded it. It was the Beautiful Fifties, when America had the highest standard of living in the world and you were loyal to it or else.
That all ended with the coming of the Vietnam War. Not immediately, but gradually Memorial Day, like many such celebrations providing structure to the American year, was devoured by the killing machine of Vietnam. It couldn't be avoided even by the most fortunate and avid avoiders and at a certain point, the issue was simply how one was going to survive the Vietnam War, or in how many psychic pieces, and with what left over for a faith of any kind.
One day during the later years of the Vietnam War, two men who had hiked together as teenagers, happened to me. They hadn't seen each other for years. One man said he was just back from Vietnam and that what had maintained his spirit was that when he was able to sleep, he often dreamed of the trails in the mountains where they had hiked, "but they were like freeways -- you just flew along them at 60 miles an hour!," he said.
The other man hadn't gone to Vietnam but also dreamed of those mountains, but they were nightmares of pursuit by predators.
In any event, after Vietnam, Memorial Day wasn't a celebration of peace anymore. It became a stage for pontificating chicken hawks blowing warm smoke everywhere to conceal the cadavers, the wounded and severely traumatized still fed into the military-industrial complex. And one looked at the lights of the serene summer homes dancing on the ripples of the lake, mingling with the trail of moonlight from above the shoulder of the mountain, and could even hear the voices of the war profiteers and their technical/academic support teams from the imperial campus, rising as the excellent wines were poured, skipping across the lake's surface like a flat, nearly weightless stone.
But these days the mood is changing as fast as a forest fire in a prolonged drought. -- blj
TOM HAYDEN: I want to start off by saying how many of you I love very much and known for such a long time, and I only hope that there’s enough minutes and occasions here for us to get to know each other again, because we have really been through a lifetime. Today, we’ll have plenty of time for discussion, for panels, for observations. And at 4:00, we’ll gather to march to the King Memorial. And I want to just say a word about that. I know that Ron Dellums is going to speak to this.
But why was that—why was that chosen? It’s because, in keeping with trying to make sure our history is told accurately, we have to tell it ourselves. And we have to recognize that Dr. King became a martyr because of his stand on Vietnam, not only because of his stand on race, justice, economic poverty. And there’s been a tendency over the many decades to make Dr. King a monument to nonviolence alone, and we need to remember that he was attacked by The New York Times and by The Wall Street Journal and by The Washington Post for being out of place. They wanted to put him back in his place and say nothing about Vietnam, take no stand on Vietnam. There were threats that he would lose funding. There were threats of all sorts. And to distort that, to forget that, to ignore that, his monument would be shaped in a certain way to serve certain interests, but not others, is a disservice to truth. And we have to march there and vigil there and commemorate him as a leader and a martyr for all of us, for peace, justice and civil rights, not only in the United States, but around the world, and persist in making sure that his whole story, including the campaign to end poverty in the United States, is told each and every year and in all of our schools and curriculum. So that’s the purpose.
This is a way of saying that the struggle for memory and for history is a living thing. It’s ongoing. It does not end. Even today, people are debating and reassessing the history of abolition of slavery, the role of slave resistance, the role of the Underground Railroad, the role of the abolitionist direct action movement, the role of the radical Republican politicians, the role of international politics in what came about, and the role—how it was derailed by the assassination of President Lincoln, the ending of the possibilities of Reconstruction, which were not taken up again until 1960, and the coming of Jim Crow. Each generation has to wrestle with the history of what came before, and ask: Whose interest does this history serve? How does it advance a legacy of social movements? How does it deny that legacy? We don’t know.
But we do know that we are here for the very first time as such a broad gathering of the movement against the Vietnam War. It’s been 50 years since Selma, 50 years since the first SDS march. So, it was a time that changed our lives, nearing a second Reconstruction before the murders of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy. Then came the budget cuts, the end of the war on poverty. Then came the Watergate repression. And we became a generation of might-have-beens. Like Sisyphus, our rock lay at the bottom of the hill.
We gather here to remember the power that we had at one point, the power of the peace movement, and to challenge the Pentagon now on the battlefield of memory. We have to resist their military occupation of our minds and the minds of future generations. Memory—memory is very much like rock climbing, the recovery of memory. Each niche towards the summit is graphed inch by bleeding inch and has to be carefully carved with tools that are precise in order to take the next step. Falling back is always possible. But as Dr. King himself said on his last night, there is something in humans that makes us aspire to climb mountains, to reach that majesty, if only for a moment. We are mountain climbers.
President Obama has reminded us to remember, he said, Selma, Seneca Falls and Stonewall. But not Saigon, not Chicago, not Vietnam. We have to ask ourselves collectively why that omission exists, and realize that only we can restore a place in the proper history of those times. We suspect that there was a reason, that it has to do with the programming of amnesia, that there are very powerful forces in our country who stand for denial, not just climate denial, but generational denial, Vietnam denial. There are forces that stand for ethnic cleansing, but not just ethnic cleansing, but also for historic cleansing. And that is what has happened. It serves their purpose because they have no interest in the true history of a war in which they sent thousands to their deaths and, almost before the blood had dried, were moving up the national security ladder and showing up for television interviews to advertise what they called the next cakewalks. Only the blood was caked.
There came a generation of career politicians who were afraid of association with the peace movement, who were afraid of being seen as soft, who saw that the inside track was the track of war. Our national forgetting is basically pathological. Our systems—politics, media, culture—are totally out of balance today because of our collective refusal to admit that the Vietnam War was wrong and that the peace movement was right. In the absence—in the absence of an established voice for peace in all the institutions, the neoconservatives will fill the foreign policy vacuum. Am I right? Will it not? Will it not advise both parties? I think, though, that American public opinion has shifted to a much more skeptical state of mind than earlier generations, but the spectrum of American politics and media has not.
So we can never forget that, of course, it was the Vietnamese resistance and their sacrifice that led to our awakening, along with the civil rights movement at home. It began with handfuls of young people, black students who led Freedom Rides, sit-ins. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was the first to resist the war. Julian Bond, who’s sitting here, was rejected after being elected to the Georgia Legislature. Muhammad Ali was stripped of his boxing titles. It also began with the Vietnam Day Committee in Berkeley, growing out of teach-ins, out of SDS, that called the first march, the draft resistance. There had never been a peace movement like the one in 1965 that arose out of the civil rights movement and came just weeks after Selma. At least 29 would die at the hands of police while demonstrating for peace.
I’d like here to introduce Luis Rodriguez and Rosalio Muñoz and Jorge Mariscal from the Chicano Moratorium, where four died, including Gustav [Montag], Lyn Ward, José Diaz and Rubén Salazar. Rubén Salazar was an early Juan González. Rubén Salazar was a great reporter for the Los Angeles Times who served as a journalist in Vietnam before he started critical reporting on the streets of Los Angeles. And he was shot by the sheriff’s deputies. I don’t know if he’s here, but is Alan Canfora here? Alan, please stand. Alan was wounded at Kent State. Four died at Kent State, two at Jackson State two weeks later. And every year, these two groups of people have observed memorials, have fought for their place in history, are coming up on their 50th anniversary commemorations and are here today to learn from us, as we’ve learned from them, the importance of organizing, organizing, organizing around the politics of memory. So, thank you for being here, and we will remember. We will not forget.
We will not forget the eight who sacrificed their lives by self-immolation. We will not forget the students who helped end the war by shutting down so many campuses. We will not forget the veterans who took the risk of standing up to their commanding officers and resisted from within the military. We will not forget this because this was something like a Du Bois characterization of the general strike by slaves who, through noncooperation, walked off plantations across the South when they saw the futility of any other alternative and chose to simply walk away and join the Union army. What happened at the end of the Vietnam War is that people walked away. The campuses shut down. Four million students walked away. The military was described by Marine colonels in military histories as being on the verge of collapse. They walked away. The counterculture walked away. We all walked away.
It might have been otherwise, if King and Robert Kennedy had not been assassinated. We might have been united, at least for a moment, at least for a moment. We might have elected a president. We might have ended a war. But instead, we were relegated to wondering what might have been. We lost any basis for our unity, and thus we have not come together since that time. The question for us is whether today we can unify, when we never could unify before. Can we do that for the memory of our movement and for the meaning that it holds for future generations? I hope so. I pray so. Thank you.
Our Mania for Hope Is a Curse
By Chris Hedges
The naive belief that history is linear, that moral progress accompanies technical progress, is a form of collective self-delusion. It cripples our capacity for radical action and lulls us into a false sense of security. Those who cling to the myth of human progress, who believe that the world inevitably moves toward a higher material and moral state, are held captive by power. Only those who accept the very real possibility of dystopia, of the rise of a ruthless corporate totalitarianism, buttressed by the most terrifying security and surveillance apparatus in human history, are likely to carry out the self-sacrifice necessary for revolt.
The yearning for positivism that pervades our corporate culture ignores human nature and human history. But to challenge it, to state the obvious fact that things are getting worse, and may soon get much worse, is to be tossed out of the circle of magical thinking that defines American and much of Western culture. The left is as infected with this mania for hope as the right. It is a mania that obscures reality even as global capitalism disintegrates and the ecosystem unravels, potentially dooming us all.
The 19th century theorist Louis-Auguste Blanqui, unlike nearly all of his contemporaries, dismissed the belief, central to Karl Marx, that human history is a linear progression toward equality and greater morality. He warned that this absurd positivism is the lie perpetrated by oppressors: “All atrocities of the victor, the long series of his attacks are coldly transformed into constant, inevitable evolution, like that of nature. ... But the sequence of human things is not inevitable like that of the universe. It can be changed at any moment.” He foresaw that scientific and technological advancement, rather than being a harbinger of progress, could be “a terrible weapon in the hands of Capital against Work and Thought.” And in a day when few others did so, he decried the despoiling of the natural world. “The axe fells, nobody replants. There is no concern for the future’s ill health.”
“Humanity,” Blanqui wrote, “is never stationary. It advances or goes backwards. Its progressive march leads it to equality. Its regressive march goes back through every stage of privilege to human slavery, the final word of the right to property.” Further, he wrote, “I am not amongst those who claim that progress can be taken for granted, that humanity cannot go backwards.”
Blanqui understood that history has long periods of cultural barrenness and brutal repression. The fall of the Roman Empire, for example, led to misery throughout Europe during the Dark Ages, roughly from the sixth through the 13th centuries. There was a loss of technical knowledge (one prominent example being how to build and maintain aqueducts), and a cultural and intellectual impoverishment led to a vast historical amnesia that blotted out the greatest thinkers and artists of the classical world. None of this loss was regained until the 14th century when Europe saw the beginning of the Renaissance, a development made possible largely by the cultural flourishing of Islam, which through translating Aristotle into Arabic and other intellectual accomplishments kept alive the knowledge and wisdom of the past. The Dark Ages were marked by arbitrary rule, incessant wars, insecurity, anarchy and terror. And I see nothing to prevent the rise of a new Dark Age if we do not abolish the corporate state. Indeed, the longer the corporate state holds power the more likely a new Dark Age becomes. To trust in some mythical force called progress to save us is to become passive before corporate power. The people alone can defy these forces. And fate and history do not ensure our victory.
Blanqui tasted history’s tragic reverses. He took part in a series of French revolts, including an attempted armed insurrection in May 1839, the 1848 uprising and the Paris Commune—a socialist uprising that controlled France’s capital from March 18 until May 28 in 1871. Workers in cities such as Marseilles and Lyon attempted but failed to organize similar communes before the Paris Commune was militarily crushed.
The blundering history of the human race is always given coherence by power elites and their courtiers in the press and academia who endow it with a meaning and coherence it lacks. They need to manufacture national myths to hide the greed, violence and stupidity that characterize the march of most human societies. For the United States, refusal to confront the crisis of climate change and our endless and costly wars in the Middle East are but two examples of the follies that propel us toward catastrophe.
Wisdom is not knowledge. Knowledge deals with the particular and the actual. Knowledge is the domain of science and technology. Wisdom is about transcendence. Wisdom allows us to see and accept reality, no matter how bleak that reality may be. It is only through wisdom that we are able to cope with the messiness and absurdity of life. Wisdom is about detachment. Once wisdom is achieved, the idea of moral progress is obliterated. Wisdom throughout the ages is a constant. Did Shakespeare supersede Sophocles? Is Homer inferior to Dante? Does the Book of Ecclesiastes not have the same deep powers of observation about life that Samuel Beckett offers? Systems of power fear and seek to silence those who achieve wisdom, which is what the war by corporate forces against the humanities and art is about. Wisdom, because it sees through the facade, is a threat to power. It exposes the lies and ideologies that power uses to maintain its privilege and its warped ideology of progress.
Knowledge does not lead to wisdom. Knowledge is more often a tool for repression. Knowledge, through the careful selection and manipulation of facts, gives a false unity to reality. It creates a fictitious collective memory and narrative. It manufactures abstract concepts of honor, glory, heroism, duty and destiny that buttress the power of the state, feed the disease of nationalism and call for blind obedience in the name of patriotism. It allows human beings to explain the advances and reverses in human achievement and morality, as well as the process of birth and decay in the natural world, as parts of a vast movement forward in time. The collective enthusiasm for manufactured national and personal narratives, which is a form of self-exaltation, blots out reality. The myths we create that foster a fictitious hope and false sense of superiority are celebrations of ourselves. They mock wisdom. And they keep us passive.
Wisdom connects us with forces that cannot be measured empirically and that are outside the confines of the rational world. To be wise is to pay homage to beauty, truth, grief, the brevity of life, our own mortality, love and the absurdity and mystery of existence. It is, in short, to honor the sacred. Those who remain trapped in the dogmas perpetuated by technology and knowledge, who believe in the inevitability of human progress, are idiot savants.
“Self-awareness is as much a disability as a power,” the philosopher John Gray writes. “The most accomplished pianist is not the one who is most aware of her movements when she plays. The best craftsman may not know how he works. Very often we are at our most skillful when we are least self-aware. That may be why many cultures have sought to disrupt or diminish self-conscious awareness. In Japan, archers are taught that they will hit the target only when they no longer think of it—or themselves.”
Artists and philosophers, who expose the mercurial undercurrents of the subconscious, allow us to face an unvarnished truth. Works of art and philosophy informed by the intuitive, unarticulated meanderings of the human psyche transcend those constructed by the plodding conscious mind. The freeing potency of visceral memories does not arrive through the intellect. These memories are impervious to rational control. And they alone lead to wisdom.
Those with power have always manipulated reality and created ideologies defined as progress to justify systems of exploitation. Monarchs and religious authorities did this in the Middle Ages. Today this is done by the high priests of modernity—the technocrats, scholars, scientists, politicians, journalists and economists. They deform reality. They foster the myth of preordained inevitability and pure rationality. But such knowledge—which dominates our universities—is anti-thought. It precludes all alternatives. It is used to end discussion. It is designed to give to the forces of science or the free market or globalization a veneer of rational discourse, to persuade us to place our faith in these forces and trust our fate to them. These forces, the experts assure us, are as unalterable as nature. They will lead us forward. To question them is heresy.
The Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, in his 1942 novella “Chess Story,” chronicles the arcane specializations that have created technocrats unable to question the systems they serve, as well as a society that foolishly reveres them. Mirko Czentovic, the world chess champion, represents the technocrat. His mental energy is invested solely in the 64 squares of the chessboard. Apart from the game, he is a dolt, a monomaniac like all monomaniacs, who “burrow like termites into their own particular material to construct, in miniature, a strange and utterly individual image of the world.” When Czentovic “senses an educated person he crawls into his shell. That way no one will ever be able to boast of having heard him say something stupid or of having plumbed the depths of his seemingly boundless ignorance.”
An Austrian lawyer known as Dr. B, whom the Gestapo had held for many months in solitary confinement, challenges Czentovic to a game of chess. During his confinement, the lawyer’s only reading material was a chess manual, which he memorized. He reconstructed games in his head. Forced by his captivity to replicate the single-minded obsession of the technocrat Czentovic, Dr. B too became trapped inside a specialized world, and, unlike Czentovic, he became insane temporarily as he focused on a tiny, specialized piece of human activity. When he challenges the chess champion, his insanity returns.
Zweig, who mourned for the broad liberal culture of educated Europe swallowed up by fascism and modern bureaucracy, warns of the absurdity and danger of a planet run by technocrats. For him, the rise of the Industrial Age and the industrial man and woman is a terrifying metamorphosis in the relationship of human beings to the world. As specialists and bureaucrats, human beings become tools, able to make systems of exploitation and even terror function efficiently without the slightest sense of personal responsibility or understanding. They retreat into the arcane language of all specialists, to mask what they are doing and give to their work a sanitized, clinical veneer.
This is Hannah Arendt’s central point in “Eichmann in Jerusalem.” Technocratic human beings are spiritually dead. They are capable of anything, no matter how heinous, because they do not reflect upon or question the ultimate goal. “The longer one listened to him,” Arendt writes of the Nazi Adolf Eichmann on trial, “the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of somebody else. No communication was possible with him, not because he lied but because he was surrounded by the most reliable of all safeguards against the words and presence of others, and hence against reality as such.”
Zweig, horrified by a world run by technocrats, committed suicide with his wife in 1942. He knew that from then on, the Czentovics would be exalted in the service of state and corporate monstrosities.
Resistance, as Alexander Berkmanpoints out, is first about learning to speak differently and abandoning the vocabulary of the “rational” technocrats who rule. Once we discover new words and ideas through which to perceive and explain reality, we free ourselves from neoliberal capitalism, which functions, as Walter Benjamin knew, like a state religion. Resistance will take place outside the boundaries of popular culture and academia, where the deadening weight of the dominant ideology curtails creativity and independent thought.
As global capitalism disintegrates, the heresy our corporate masters fear is gaining currency. But that heresy will not be effective until it is divorced from the mania for hope that is an essential part of corporate indoctrination. The ridiculous positivism, the belief that we are headed toward some glorious future, defies reality. Hope, in this sense, is a form of disempowerment.
There is nothing inevitable about human existence except birth and death. There are no forces, whether divine or technical, that will guarantee us a better future. When we give up false hopes, when we see human nature and history for what they are, when we accept that progress is not preordained, then we can act with an urgency and passion that comprehends the grim possibilities ahead.
Reflections on the Vietnam War: The Things a Warrior Knows
By Ron Kovic
This Memorial Day weekend, Truthdig republishes one of Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic’s reflections on the need to share the awful truth about war. This piece was originally posted on Truthdig on Jan 19, 2013.
There is nothing in the lives of human beings more brutal and terrifying than war, and nothing more important than for those of us who have experienced it to share its awful truth.
As the 45th anniversary of my being shot and paralyzed in the Vietnam War approaches, I cannot help but reflect upon those years and the many lessons I have learned. Nearly half a century has passed since I left my house in Massapequa, N.Y., to join the United States Marine Corp and begin an extraordinary journey that led me into a disastrous war that changed my life and others of my generation profoundly and forever.
The nightmares and anxiety attacks for the most part have disappeared, but I still do not sleep well at night. I toss and turn in increasing physical pain. But I remain positive and optimistic. I am still determined to rise above all of this. I know, like so many of my fellow veterans, that my pain and the horrors of my past will always be with me, but perhaps not with the same force and fury of those early years after the war. I have learned to forgive my enemies and myself.
It has been difficult to heal from the war, and I have often dreamed of moving to neutral ground—another country. Yet I have somehow made a certain peace, even in a nation that so often still believes in war and the use of violence as a solution to its problems. There has been a reckoning, a renewal. The scar will always be there, a living reminder of that war, but it has also become something beautiful now, something of faith and hope and love.
I have been given the opportunity to move through that dark night of the soul to a new shore, to gain an understanding, a knowledge, an entirely different vision. I now believe I have suffered for a reason and in many ways I have found that reason to be my commitment to peace and nonviolence.
My life has been a blessing in disguise, even with the pain and great difficulty my physical disability continues to bring. It is a blessing to speak on behalf of peace, to be able to reach such a great number of people. The one gift I was given in that war was an awakening. I endured; I survived and understood. I became a messenger, a living symbol, an example, a man who learned that love and forgiveness are more powerful than hatred, a man who has learned to embrace all men and women as my brothers and sisters.
No one will ever again be my enemy—no matter how hard he or she tries to frighten and intimidate me. No government will ever teach me to hate another human being. I have been given the task of lighting a lantern, ringing a bell and shouting from the highest rooftops, warning the American people and citizens everywhere of the deep immorality and utter wrongness of this violent approach to solving our problems, pleading for an alternative to this chaos and madness, this insanity and brutality. We who have taken our wounds and our sorrows and chosen to make them stand for something better have an obligation to rise above our pain and anguish, to turn the tragedy of our generation into a triumph and learn from the errors of our fathers and ourselves.
No one knows peace or the preciousness of life better than the soldiers who fought in war, or those who have been affected by it directly—the mother of a son who has died, a wife who will never see her husband again, a child who will never have a father, a father who will never hold his son—for it is we who have lived with the physical and emotional scars of war, we who have lived with these wounds every day and felt every morning their weight and pain. It is we who have walked and wheeled through the streets of our country and watched children stare at us and wonder why. And it is we who cry out now for the future, for a world without war. We are the reminders of what war can do, of how it can wound and hurt, and diminish all that is good and human.
We struggle every day to believe in a life that was almost taken away from us. We know that even though we have lost, though parts of our bodies may be missing, though we might not be able to see or feel, we are important men and women with important lessons to teach.
I know war very well. I know it at night when I am sleeping and nightmares still come or in the morning when I wake up and transfer into my wheelchair to start my day. I am happy to be alive, and recently bought a piano and hope to learn to play it someday. I love to play the high notes; they are gentle and soothing to me, almost like the sound of raindrops on my window when I was a boy. Just to touch the keys from time to time helps me to forget the war. The music of the piano fills the air with healing. The past recedes. And sometimes even the nightmares disappear for a while. The sound of a single note gives hope. Somehow we must begin to find the courage to create a better world even if it is with one note or one step.
How to Honor Memorial Day
Exclusive: Of all the world’s holidays commemorating wars, Memorial Day should be one of sober reflection on war’s horrible costs, surely not a moment to glorify warfare or lust for more wars. But many pols and pundits can’t resist the opportunity, as ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern describes.
By Ray McGovern
How best to show respect for the U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and for their families on Memorial Day? Simple: Avoid euphemisms like “the fallen” and expose the lies about what a great idea it was to start those wars and then to “surge” tens of thousands of more troops into those fools’ errands.
First, let’s be clear on at least this much: the 4,500 U.S. troops killed in Iraq – so far – and the 2,350 killed in Afghanistan – so far – did not “fall.” They were wasted on no-win battlefields by politicians and generals – cheered on by neocon pundits and mainstream “journalists” – almost none of whom gave a rat’s patootie about the real-life-and-death troops. They were throwaway soldiers.
And, as for the “successful surges,” they were just P.R. devices to buy some “decent intervals” for the architects of these wars and their boosters to get space between themselves and the disastrous endings while pretending that those defeats were really “victories squandered” – all at the “acceptable” price of about 1,000 dead U.S. soldiers each and many times that in dead Iraqis and Afghans.
Memorial Day should be a time for honesty about what enabled the killing and maiming of so many U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and the senior military brass simply took full advantage of a poverty draft that gives upper-class sons and daughters the equivalent of exemptions, vaccinating them against the disease of war.
What drives me up the wall is the oft-heard, dismissive comment about troop casualties from well-heeled Americans: “Well, they volunteered, didn’t they?” Under the universal draft in effect during Vietnam, far fewer were immune from service, even though the well-connected could still game the system to avoid serving. Vice Presidents Dick Cheney and Joe Biden, for example, each managed to pile up five exemptions. This means, of course, that they brought zero military experience to the job; and this, in turn, may explain a whole lot — particularly given their bosses’ own lack of military experience.
The grim truth is that many of the crème de la crème of today’s Official Washington don’t know many military grunts, at least not intimately as close family or friends. They may bump into some on the campaign trail or in an airport and mumble something like, “thank you for your service.” But these sons and daughters of working-class communities from America’s cities and heartland are mostly abstractions to the powerful, exclamation points at the end of some ideological debate demonstrating which speaker is “tougher,” who’s more ready to use military force, who will come out on top during a talk show appearance or at a think-tank conference or on the floor of Congress.
Sharing the Burden?
We should be honest about this reality, especially on Memorial Day. Pretending that the burden of war has been equitably shared, and – worse still – that those killed died for a “noble cause,” as President George W. Bush likes to claim, does no honor to the thousands of U.S. troops killed and the tens of thousands maimed. It dishonors them. Worse, it all too often succeeds in infantilizing bereaved family members who cannot bring themselves to believe their government lied.
Who can blame parents for preferring to live the fiction that their sons and daughters were heroes who wittingly and willingly made the “ultimate sacrifice,” dying for a “noble cause,” especially when this fiction is frequently foisted on them by well-meaning but naïve clergy at funerals. For many it is impossible to live with the reality that a son or daughter died in vain. Far easier to buy into the official story and to leave clergy unchallenged as they gild the lilies around coffins and gravesites.
Not so for some courageous parents – Cindy Sheehan, for example, whose son Casey Sheehan was killed on April 4, 2004, in the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City. Cindy demonstrated uncommon grit when she led hundreds of friends to Crawford to lay siege to the Texas White House during the summer of 2005 trying to get President Bush to explain what “noble cause” Casey died for. She never got an answer. There is none.
But there are very few, like Cindy Sheehan, able to overcome a natural human resistance to the thought that their sons and daughters died for a lie – and then to challenge that lie. These few stalwarts make themselves face this harsh reality, the knowledge that the children whom they raised and sacrificed so much for were, in turn, sacrificed on the altar of political expediency, that their precious children were bit players in some ideological fantasy or pawns in a game of career maneuvering.
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is said to have described the military disdainfully as “just dumb stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.” Whether or not those were his exact words, his policies and behavior certainly betrayed that attitude. It certainly seems to have prevailed among top American-flag-on-lapel-wearing officials of the Bush and Obama administrations, including armchair and field-chair generals whose sense of decency is blinded by the prospect of a shiny new star on their shoulders, if they just follow orders and send young soldiers into battle.
This bitter truth should raise its ugly head on Memorial Day but rarely does. It can be gleaned only with great difficulty from the mainstream media, since the media honchos continue to play an indispensable role in the smoke-and-mirrors dishonesty that hides their own guilt in helping Establishment Washington push “the fallen” from life to death.
We must judge the actions of our political and military leaders not by the pious words they will utter Monday in mourning those who “fell” far from the generals’ cushy safe seats in the Pentagon or somewhat closer to the comfy beds in air-conditioned field headquarters where a lucky general might be comforted in the arms of an admiring and enterprising biographer.
Many of the high-and-mighty delivering the approved speeches on Monday will glibly refer to and mourn “the fallen.” None are likely to mention the culpable policymakers and complicit generals who added to the fresh graves at Arlington National Cemetery and around the country.
Words, after all, are cheap; words about “the fallen” are dirt cheap – especially from the lips of politicians and pundits with no personal experience of war. The families of those sacrificed in Iraq and Afghanistan should not have to bear that indignity.
The so-called “surges” of troops into Iraq and Afghanistan were particularly gross examples of the way our soldiers have been played as pawns. Since the usual suspects are again coming out the woodwork of neocon think tanks to press for yet another “surge” in Iraq, some historical perspective should help.
Take, for example, the well-known – and speciously glorified – first “surge;” the one Bush resorted to in sending over 30,000 additional troops into Iraq in early 2007; and the not-to-be-outdone Obama “surge” of 30,000 into Afghanistan in early 2010. These marches of folly were the direct result of decisions by George W. Bush and Barack Obama to prioritize political expediency over the lives of U.S. troops.
Taking cynical advantage of the poverty draft, they let foot soldiers pay the “ultimate” price. That price was 1,000 U.S. troops killed in each of the two “surges.”
And the results? The returns are in. The bloody chaos these days in Iraq and the faltering war in Afghanistan were entirely predictable. They were indeed predicted by those of us able to spread some truth around via the Internet, while being mostly blacklisted by the fawning corporate media.
Yet, because the “successful surge” myth was so beloved in Official Washington, saving some face for the politicians and pundits who embraced and spread the lies that justified and sustained especially the Iraq War, the myth has become something of a touchstone for everyone aspiring to higher office or seeking a higher-paying gig in the mainstream media.
Campaigning Wednesday in New Hampshire, presidential aspirant Jeb Bush gave a short history lesson about his big brother’s attack on Iraq. Referring to the so-called Islamic State, Bush said, “ISIS didn’t exist when my brother was president. Al-Qaeda in Iraq was wiped out … the surge created a fragile but stable Iraq. …”
We’ve dealt with the details of the Iraq “surge” myth before – both before and after it was carried out. [See, for instance, Consortiumnews.com’s “Reviving the Successful Surge Myth”; “Gen. Keane on Iran Attack”; “Robert Gates: As Bad as Rumsfeld?”; and “Troop Surge Seen as Another Mistake.”]
But suffice it to say that Jeb Bush is distorting the history and should be ashamed. The truth is that al-Qaeda did not exist in Iraq before his brother launched an unprovoked invasion in 2003. “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” arose as a direct result of Bush’s war and occupation. Amid the bloody chaos, AQI’s leader, a Jordanian named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, pioneered a particularly brutal form of terrorism, relishing videotaped decapitation of prisoners.
Zarqawi was eventually hunted down and killed not during the celebrated “surge” but in June 2006, months before Bush’s “surge” began. The so-called Sunni Awakening, essentially the buying off of many Sunni tribal leaders, also predated the “surge.” And the relative reduction in the Iraq War’s slaughter after the 2007 “surge” was mostly the result of the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad from a predominantly Sunni to a Shia city, tearing the fabric of Baghdad in two, and creating physical space that made it more difficult for the two bitter enemies to attack each other. In addition, Iran used its influence with the Shia to rein in their extremely violent militias.
Though weakened by Zarqawi’s death and the Sunni Awakening, AQI did not disappear, as Jeb Bush would like you to believe. It remained active and – when Saudi Arabia and the Sunni gulf states took aim at the secular regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria – AQI joined with other al-Qaeda affiliates, such as the Nusra Front, to spread their horrors across Syria. AQI rebranded itself “the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” or simply “the Islamic State.”
The Islamic State split off from al-Qaeda over strategy but the various jihadist armies, including al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, have now seized wide swaths of territory in Syria — and the Islamic State has returned with a vengeance to Iraq, grabbing major cities such as Mosul and Ramadi.
Jeb Bush doesn’t like to unspool all this history. He and other Iraq War backers prefer to pretend that the “surge” in Iraq had won the war and Obama threw the “victory” away by following through on George W. Bush’s withdrawal agreement with Maliki.
But the current crisis in Syria and Iraq is among the fateful consequences of the U.S./UK attack 12 years ago and particularly of the “surge” of 2007, which contributed greatly to Sunni-Shia violence, the opposite of what George W. Bush professed was the objective of the “surge,” to enable Iraq’s religious sects to reconcile.
Reconciliation, however, always took a back seat to the real purpose of the “surge” – buying time so Bush and Cheney could slip out of Washington in 2009 without having an obvious military defeat hanging around their necks and putting a huge stain on their legacies.
The political manipulation of the Iraq “surge” allowed Bush, Cheney and their allies to reframe the historical debate and shift the blame for the defeat onto Obama, recognizing that 1,000 more dead U.S. soldiers was a small price to pay for protecting the “Bush brand.” Now, Bush’s younger brother can cheerily march off to the campaign trail for 2016 pointing to the carcass of the Iraqi albatross hung around Obama’s shoulders.
Rout at Ramadi
Last weekend, less than a year after U.S.-trained and -equipped Iraqi forces ran away from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, leaving the area and lots of U.S. arms and equipment to ISIS, something similar happened at Ramadi, the capital of the western province of Anbar. Despite heavy U.S. air strikes on ISIS, American-backed Iraqi security forces fled Ramadi, which is only 70 miles west of Baghdad, after a lightning assault by ISIS forces.
The ability of ISIS to strike just about everywhere in the area is reminiscent of the Tet offensive of January-February 1968 in Vietnam, which persuaded President Lyndon Johnson that that particular war was unwinnable. If there are materials left over in Saigon for reinforcing helicopter landing pads on the tops of buildings, it is not too early to bring them to Baghdad’s Green Zone, on the chance that U.S. embassy buildings may have a call for such materials in the not-too-distant future.
The headlong Iraqi government retreat from Ramadi had scarcely ended on Sunday when Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, described the fall of the city as “terribly significant” – which is correct – adding that more U.S. troops may be needed – which is insane. His appeal for more troops neatly fits one proverbial definition of insanity (attributed or misattributed to Albert Einstein): “doing the same thing over and over again [like every eight years?] but expecting different results.”
By Wednesday, as Jeb Bush was singing the praises of his brother’s “surge” in Iraq, McCain and his Senate colleague Lindsey Graham were publicly calling for a new “surge” of U.S. troops into Iraq. The senators urged President Obama to do what George W. Bush did in 2007 – replace the U.S. military leadership and dispatch additional troops to Iraq.
But Washington Post pundit David Ignatius, even though a fan of the earlier two surges, is not yet on board for this one. In a column published also on Wednesday, Ignatius warned that Washington should not abandon its current strategy:
“This is still Iraq’s war, not America’s. But President Barack Obama must reassure Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that the U.S. has his back — and at the same time give him a reality check: If al-Abadi and his Shiite allies don’t do more to empower Sunnis, his country will splinter. Ramadi is a precursor — of either a turnaround by al-Abadi’s forces, or an Iraqi defeat.”
Ignatius’s urgent tone is warranted. But what he suggests is precisely what the U.S. made a lame attempt to do with then-Prime Minister Maliki in early 2007. Yet, President Bush squandered U.S. leverage by sending 30,000 troops to show he “had Maliki’s back,” freeing Maliki to accelerate his attempts to marginalize, rather than accommodate, Sunni interests.
Perhaps Ignatius now remembers how the “surge” he championed in 2007 greatly exacerbated tensions between Shia and Sunni contributing to the chaos now prevailing in Iraq and spreading across Syria and elsewhere. But Ignatius is well connected and a bellwether; if he ends up advocating another “surge,” take shelter.
Keane and Kagan Ask For a Mulligan
The architects of Bush’s 2007 “surge” of 30,000 troops into Iraq, former Army General Jack Keane and American Enterprise Institute neocon strategist Frederick Kagan, in testimony Thursday to the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned strongly that, without a “surge” of some 15,000 to 20,000 U.S. troops, ISIS will win in Iraq.
“We are losing this war,” warned Keane, who previously served as Vice Chief of Staff of the Army. “ISIS is on the offense, with the ability to attack at will, anyplace, anytime. … Air power will not defeat ISIS.” Keane stressed that the U.S. and its allies have “no ground force, which is the defeat mechanism.”
Not given to understatement, Kagan called ISIS “one of the most evil organizations that has ever existed. … This is not a group that maybe we can negotiate with down the road someday. This is a group that is committed to the destruction of everything decent in the world.” He called for “15-20,000 U.S. troops on the ground to provide the necessary enablers, advisers and so forth,” and added: “Anything less than that is simply unserious.”
(By the way, Frederick Kagan is the brother of neocon-star Robert Kagan, whose Project for the New American Century began pushing for the invasion of Iraq in 1998 and finally got its way in 2003. Robert Kagan is the husband of Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who oversaw the 2014 coup that brought “regime change” and bloody chaos to Ukraine. The Ukraine crisis also prompted Robert Kagan to urge a major increase in U.S. military spending. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “A Family Business of Perpetual War.”] )
What is perhaps most striking, however, is the casualness with which the likes of Frederick Kagan, Jack Keane, and other Iraq War enthusiasts advocate dispatching tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers to fight and die in what would almost certainly be another futile undertaking. You might even wonder why people like Kagan are invited to testify before Congress given their abysmal records.
But that would miss the true charm of the Iraq “surge” in 2007 and its significance in salvaging the reputations of folks like Kagan, not to mention George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. From their perspective, the “surge” was a great success. Bush and Cheney could swagger from the West Wing into the western sunset on Jan. 20, 2009.
As author Steve Coll has put it, “The decision [to surge] at a minimum guaranteed that his [Bush’s] presidency would not end with a defeat in history’s eyes. By committing to the surge [the President] was certain to at least achieve a stalemate.”
According to Bob Woodward, Bush told key Republicans in late 2005 that he would not withdraw from Iraq, “even if Laura and [first-dog] Barney are the only ones supporting me.” Woodward made it clear that Bush was well aware in fall 2006 that the U.S. was losing. Suddenly, with some fancy footwork, it became Laura, Barney – and new Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen. David Petraeus along with 30,000 more U.S. soldiers making sure that the short-term fix was in.
The fact that about 1,000 U.S. soldiers returned in caskets was the principal price paid for that short-term “surge” fix. Their “ultimate sacrifice” will be mourned by their friends, families and countrymen on Memorial Day even as many of the same politicians and pundits will be casually pontificating about dispatching more young men and women as cannon fodder into the same misguided war.
It has been difficult drafting this downer, this historical counter-narrative, on the eve of Memorial Day. It seems to me necessary, though, to expose the dramatis personae who played such key roles in getting more and more people killed. Sad to say, none of the high officials mentioned here, as well as those on the relevant Congressional committees, are affected in any immediate way by the carnage in Ramadi, Tikrit or outside the gate to the Green Zone in Baghdad.
And perhaps that’s one of the key points here. It is not most of us, but rather our soldiers and the soldiers and civilians of Iraq, Afghanistan and God knows where else who are Lazarus at the gate. And, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He served 30 years as an Army infantry/intelligence officer and CIA analyst and is now a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
New Eastern Outlook
Why I Wept at the Russian Parade
F. William Engdahl
Something extraordinary just took place in Russia and it may have moved our disturbed world one major step nearer to peace and away from a looming new world war. Of all unlikely things, what took place was a nationwide remembrance by Russians of the estimated 27 to perhaps 30 million Soviet citizens who never returned alive from World War II. Yet in what can only be described in a spiritual manner, the events of May 9, Victory Day over Nazism, that took place across all Russia, transcended the specific day of memory on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in 1945. It was possible to see a spirit emerge from the moving events unlike anything this author has ever witnessed in his life.
The event was extraordinary in every respect. There was a sense in all participants that they were shaping history in some ineffable way. It was no usual May 9 annual show of Russia’s military force. Yes, it featured a parade of Russia’s most advanced military hardware, including the awesome new T-14 Armata tanks, S-400 anti-missile systems and advanced Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets. It was indeed impressive to watch.
The military part of the events also featured for the first time ever elite soldiers from China’s Peoples’ Liberation Army marching in formation along with Russian soldiers. That in itself should shivers down the spines of the neoconservative warhawks in the EU and Washington, had they any spines to shiver. The alliance between the two great Eurasian powers—Russia and China—is evolving with stunning speed into a new that will change the economic dynamic of our world from one of debt, depression, and wars to one of rising general prosperity and development if we are good enough to help make it happen.
During his visit, China’s President XI, in addition to his quite visible honoring of the Russian Victory event and its significance for China, met separately with Vladimir Putin and agreed that China’s emerging New Silk Road high-speed railway infrastructure great project will be integrated in planning and other respects with Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union which now consists of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia with several prospective candidates waiting to join. While it may seem an obvious step, it was not at all certain until now.
The two great Eurasian countries have now cemented the huge oil and gas deals between them, the trade deals and the military cooperation agreements with a commitment to fully integrate their economic infrastructure. Following his meeting with Xi, Putin told the press, “The integration of the Eurasian Economic Union and Silk Road projects means reaching a new level of partnership and actually implies a common economic space on the continent.”
It’s Zbigniew Brzezinski’s worst geopolitical nightmare come to fruition. And that, thanks to the stupid, short-sighted geopolitical strategy of Brzezinski and the Washington war faction that made it clear to Beijing and to Moscow their only hope for sovereign development and to be free of the dictates of a Washington-Wall Street Sole Superpower was to build an entire monetary and economic space independent of the dollar world.
The Parade of the Good
Yet the most extraordinary part of the day-long events was not the show of military hardware at a time when NATO is not only rattling sabres at Russia, but even intervening militarily in Ukraine to provoke Russia into some form of war.
What was extraordinary about the May 9 Victory Day Parade was the citizens’ remembrance march, a symbolic parade known as the March of the Immortal Regiment, a procession through the streets of Moscow into the famous and quite beautiful Red Square. The square, contrary to belief of many in the West was not named so by the “Red” Bolsheviks. It took its name from Czar Alexei Mikhailovich in the mid-17th Century from a Russian word which now means red. Similar Immortal Regiment parades involving an estimated twelve million Russians took place all over Russia at the same time, from Vladivostock to St. Petersburg to Stevastopol in what is now Russian Crimea.
In an atmosphere of reverence and quiet, some three hundred thousand Russians, most carrying photos or portraits of family members who never returned from the war, walked on the beautiful, sunny spring day through downtown Moscow into Red Square where the President’s residence, the famous Kremlin, is also located.
To see the faces of thousands and thousands of ordinary Russians walking, optimism about their future beaming from their faces, young and the very old, including surviving veterans of the Great Patriotic War as it is known to Russians, moved this writer to quietly weep. What was conveyed in the smiles and eyes of the thousands of marchers was not a looking back in the sense of sorrow at the horrors of that war. Rather what came across so clearly was that the parade was a gesture of loving respect and gratitude to those who gave their lives that today’s Russia might be born, a new, future-looking Russia that is at the heart of building the only viable alternative to a one-world dictatorship under a Pentagon Full Spectrum Dominance and a dollar system choking on debt and fraud. The entire Russian nation exuded a feeling of being good and of being victorious. Few peoples have that in today’s world.
When the television cameras zoomed in on President Vladimir Putin who was also marching, he was walking freely and open amid the thousands of citizens, holding a picture of his deceased father who had served in the war and was severely wounded in 1942. Putin was surrounded not by bulletproof limousines that any US President since the assassination of Kennedy in 1963 would have, were he even to dare to get close to a crowd. There were three or four presidential security people near Putin, but there were thousands of ordinary Russians within arm’s length of one of the most influential world leaders of the present time. There was no climate of fear visible anywhere.
My tears at seeing the silent marchers and at seeing Putin amid them was an unconscious reaction to what, on reflection, I realized was my very personal sense of recognition how remote from anything comparable in my own country, the United States of America, such a memorial march in peace and serenity would be today. There were no “victory” marches after US troops destroyed Iraq; no victory marches after Afghanistan; no victory marches after Libya. Americans today have nothing other than wars of death and destruction to commemorate and veterans coming home with traumas and radiation poisonings that are ignored by their own government.
That transformation in America has come about in those same 7o years since the end of the war, a war when we–Americans and Russians, then the Soviet Union of course—had fought side-by-side to defeat Hitler and the Third Reich. Today the Government of the United States is siding with and backing neo-nazis in Ukraine to provoke Russia.
I reflected how much my countrymen have changed over those few decades. From the world’s most prosperous nation, the center of invention, innovation, technology, prosperity, in the space of seven decades we have managed to let our country be ruined by a gaggle of stupid and very rich oligarchs with names like Rockefeller, Gates, Buffett and their acolytes in the Bush dynasty. Those narcissistic oligarchs cared not a whit for the greatness of the American people, but saw us as a mere platform to realize their sick dream of world dominion.
We let that happen.
I’ll let you in on a secret that I recently discovered. The American oligarchs ain’t all-powerful; they ain’t some new Illuminati or gods as some try to convince us. They ain’t omniscient. They get away with murder because we allow them. We are hypnotized by their aura of power.
Yet were we to stand tall and clear in the open and say, “These silly would-be Emperors have no clothes!,” their power would evaporate like cotton candy in hot water.
That’s what they’re terrified of. That’s why they are deploying the US Armed Forces into Texas to stage war games aimed at US citizens; that’s why they have torn up the Constitution and Bill of Rights after 911. That’s why the Created a Department of Homeland Security. It’s why they try to terrify our citizens to vaccinate with untested Ebola or other vaccines. It’s why they are desperate to control free expression of political ideas in the Internet.
Now, when I reflect on the true state of America today compared with Russia, it brings tears. Today the economy of the USA is in ruins. It has been “globalized” by its Fortune 500 global companies and the banks of Wall Street. Its industrial jobs have been outsourced to China, Mexico, even Russia over the past 25 or so years. Investment in the education of our youth has become a politically-correct sick joke. College students must go deep into debt to private banks, some $1 trillion worth today, to get a piece of paper called a degree in order to look for non-existent jobs.
Our Washington government has become serial liars who have lied to us about the true state of the economy ever since Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam War ordered the Commerce and Labor departments to find ways to fake the numbers to hide the developing internal economic rot. The consequence, followed by every president since, is that we live in a fairy tale world where the mainstream media tells us we are in the “sixth year of economic recovery” and have a mere 5.4% unemployment. The reality is that more than 23% of Americans today are unemployed but through clever tricks have been defined out of thestatistics. Some 93 million Americans are unable to get full time work. It isn’t the fault of Obama or Bush before him or Clinton, Bush, Reagan or Jimmy Carter. It’s our own fault because we were passive; we gave them the power because we did not believe in ourselves enough. We let billionaires decide for us who will be our President and Congress because we no longer believed that we were good.
By the same token, Russians today, amid brutal Western economic and financial warfare sanctions; amid a NATO war in Ukraine that has led more than one million Russian-speaking Ukrainians to flee to Russia for safety, despite the demonization in the western media of their country, exude a new optimism about their future. What makes Vladimir Putin so extraordinarily popular, with over 83% approval, is that he acts out that growing sense of representing that Russian soul, the people who are good, being just, being right, the sense that the vast majority of Russians today have.
That was overwhelmingly visible in the faces of the May 9 marchers. You could feel that Putin on the speaker’s podium felt it when he looked into the vast crowd. It was clear when Defense Minister Shoigu, a Russian-Mongolian Tuvan-born Buddhist, respectfully and humbly made the Orthodox sign of the cross with bowed head as he passed through the Kremlin’s Saviour Tower to take his place aside Putin. As Victor Baranets, a noted Russian journalist put it: ”At that moment I felt that with his simple gesture Shoigu brought all of Russia to his feet. There was so much kindness, so much hope, so much of our Russian sense of the sacred in this gesture.“ The legendary Russian Soul was manifest on May 9 and its alive and very well, thank you.
And that’s why I shed the tears on May 9, watching hundreds of thousands of peaceful Russians walk through their capital city, the city that saw the defeat of Napoleon’s army and of Hitler’s. I was moved deeply watching them slowly and deliberately walking into the Red Square next to their President’s residence at a time when Washington’s White House is surrounded by concrete barriers, barbed wire and armed guards.
You could see it in the eyes of the Russians on the street: they knew that they were good. They were good not because their fathers or grandfathers had died defeating Nazism. They were god because they could be proud Russians, proud of their country after all the ravages of recent decades, most recently the US-backed looting during the 1990’s Harvard Shock Therapy in the Yeltsin era.
I shed tears being deeply moved by what I saw in those ordinary Russians and tears for what I felt had been destroyed in my country. We Americans have lost our sense that we are good or even perhaps again could be. We have accepted that we are bad, that we kill all around the world, that we hate ourselves and our neighbors, that we fear, that we live in a climate of race war, that we are despised for all this around the world.
We feel ourselves to be anything but good because we are in a kind of hypnosis induced by those narcissistic oligarchs to be so. Hypnosis, however, can be broken under the right circumstances. We only have to will it so.
The last time I wept at a public event was in November 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down and Germans—east and west—danced together on the symbol of the Cold War division between East and West, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy rang out. The German Chancellor made a speech to the Bundestag proposing the vision of a high-speed rail linking Berlin to Moscow. Then, Germany was not strong enough, not free enough from guilt feelings from the war, to reject the pressure that came from Washington. The architect of that vision, Alfred Herrhausen, was assassinated by the ‘Red Army Fraction’ of Langley, Virginia. Russia was deliberately thrown into chaos by IMF shock therapy and the criminal Yeltsin family. Today the world has a new, far more beautiful possibility to realize Herrhausen’s dream—this time with Russia, China and all Eurasia. This is what was so beautiful about the May 9 parade.
F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook