Pledge Week

I went ahead and made a contribution to your site today. I consider myself a sort of libertarian democrat, typical of many people here in Silicon Valley, and there are times I don’t agree with with all the points of view on your site, but I do appreciate the work you all do. I’m glad your site is around because it really is an oasis of truth in the vast desert of propaganda we seem to be in these days. You guys are doing a great job. I’m glad there are patriots out there willing to ask the tough questions, and it reminds a lot of us that it is indeed extremely patriotic to question whenever our government fails to live up to its ideals and its Constitution. Keep up the good work, and thanks for making a lot of us think.

~ Erick Alvarado

Abu Ghraib

Regarding the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, the “I was just following orders” BS does NOT cut it at all. This is the “excuse” used by the defendants in the Nuremburg trials. It was also used by Ollie North. We did not allow the Nazis to use it, but we did let Ollie off. That was a HUGE mistake. When I was in USMC boot camp in the summer of 1968 we were given many lectures regarding military law. One MUST obey orders, BUT, we were told one MUST disobey “unlawful” orders. This was in the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice). Why were we told we must disobey unlawful orders? Because the Marine Corp did not want to create the totally mindlessness of the Nazi mind set. Yes, one CAN be charged with murder in a war zone. Any order which violates the UCMJ and/or US law is an “unlawful” order.

I have no compassion for those who follow unlawful orders then claim they “were just following orders.” Break the law, get punished. What is more important, following orders to make the higher-ups happy, or keeping your own ethical and moral values by disobeying unlawful orders?

~ Charlie Ehlen, former US Marine, Vietnam vet

I am an American Servicemenber currently serving my country in Iraq. I support the right to freedom of speech, and do not write this letter to in any way strike out against your point of view, only to bring to light some of the good news of what is going on over here. I have taken every opportunity to talk to as many Iraqi people as I possibly can, and thus far I have yet to find one person who is not happy with the American involvement in their country. I would first like to point out that I in no way condone or agree with some of the bad news stories that have come out like what recently happened at Abu Ghraib Prison, and those soldiers certainly do not represent the majority of the United States Armed Forces.

Some comments that I have received by Iraqi citizens are: “there was a time when Iraq used to think that today is better than tomorrow will be, but now with the Americans help we are starting to realize that tomorrow will be better than today,” and “we used to believe that if Allah himself came down and pulled Saddam’s soul from his body he would still rule this country with his brutal ways – thank you so much for our freedom.”

Again, I am not writing this letter to say that I disagree with your website, defending America’s right to freedom of speech is one of the reasons I am a soldier. I just wanted to let your readers know that there is some good coming of this war.

Thank you for your consideration and time in listening to my opinions. I would like to request that my name not be used if this letter finds its way onto your website, which I hope you do publish it. I am proud of my Military Service and would like to maintain an untarnished record.

~ KP, US Army

Sam Koritz replies:

KP, you might want to take a look at what Iraqis have been saying to people who aren’t members of an occupying army: “Poll: Iraqis out of patience.”

For our government to profess that these are isolated cases, is probably very far from the truth.

During Vietnam, my husband was in the U.S. Navy stationed at Jacksonville Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida. My husband was on aircraft carriers, not in any combat zones. I overheard many conversations from Marines of the atrocities against the Viet Cong and others during those war years. The cutting off of ears and other body parts. Taking Viet Cong prisoners up in helicopters and pushing them out; for fun. The movie; “Apocalypse Now,” was all too true.

One night in a Marine barracks in Jacksonville, Florida a Marine was beaten to death by his comrades because they thought he was gay (1967). This was all explained away to this family as being some type of training accident. I was told by an officer that this had happened before on other occasions. Nothing was ever done about these incidents, the military always covered them up.

I was an antiwar activist then, but even more so after hearing of these horrific acts, during 1967-1971.

Why should anything have changed?

~ Diana Stewart

We Are the Bandwagon

Robert B: You should be ashamed of your site and yourself. You have no right to call yourself patriotic while you bash your president and your own troops.

Mike Ewens: What if we (indeed we do) think that the President is acting incorrectly, outside the bounds of the Constitution and thus threatening our liberty. Further, what if – unlike you – we see nothing in Iraq that is “protection our freedom”? Are we still supposed to be silent and uncritical? Are we to ignore the wrongs of our government, or do you, like most liberals, naively believe in and support everything the government says and does?

RB: I can’t understand why you must be so childish as to bash your president and yet benefit from all he has done and is doing to help protect our country and etc.

ME: What has he done to protect our country?

– increase the size of government?
– invade a nation that didn’t threaten our security?
– piss the hell out of a lot of people?
– take valuable resources away from fighting
real threat like bin Laden?
– sign the Patriot Act?
– burden future generations with a prolonged and violent military occupation thousands of miles away.

You rejoin: “But Saddam was BAD!” True, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the US has to thus invade a country, kill innocents, remove a leader, reconstruct a nation (i.e. introduce quasi-socialism) and occupy that nation indefinitely. Our military’s duty is to protect America from external THREATS. Saddam wasn’t one.

RB: I have a question for you. Did you take the new tax breaks that were offered this year? I mean the increased amounts of the deductions on various areas of the taxes. Why didn’t you send them back to the IRS if you hate all that Bush is doing so much? That was his doing.

ME: I hate taxes and believe that they all should be banned. Also, I paid a ton of taxes this year despite all of Bush’s cuts (which are temporary and coupled with enormous deficit spending that 20-somethings like me will be paying for in 30 years).

RB: I could go on all day but people like you don’t listen to reason anyway.

ME: Really? How am I doing now?

RB: All you do is jump on the latest bandwagon and try to either make money or get famous.

ME: has opposed military interventions since 1995. From the evil Bill Clinton’s interventions in Kosovo and Haiti to the first and second Gulf War. We are the bandwagon.

RB: I truly hope that you realize the damage being done in this country is being done by you and people like you. Do you suggest that we wait and be attacked again and again before we take any action. (Looking forward to your response.)

ME: What damage are we doing? We demand small government and a return to the lost Republic. Is that not an improvement over a nation that is overtaxed and threatened because of its own military interventions abroad?

And no, we don’t suggest we wait. Instead, we suggest that America think and question why we would be attacked by individuals like those on 9/11. A little inspection of history reveals that most if not all current threats – like those of terrorism – are best solved with a return to a noninterventionist foreign policy: no troops abroad, no foreign aid and no entangling alliances!

A Lack of Alternative Perspectives?

I have given money to alternative media, Democracy Now, Kucinich, I use almost every day. I hope you make it. I will do my part.

~ Toni C.

Matthew Barganier replies:

Thanks so much, Toni. We appreciate it.

The Mystery of Abu Ghraib

Justin, please, keep up the great job you are doing.

I am a big fan of your articles, I look foreword to reading every article you write. I am extremely frightened by our current government, Mr. Bush and his gang’s actions remind me of the previous Syrian President Assad’s actions with his dictatorial, oppressive regime. I was raised in Syria/ Damascus, but I could not stand it there any more, therefore I came to the USA and adopted this country as mine, and now I feel that with the current President the USA is shifting to a DICTATORSHIP. I am very saddened by this shift and hoping that the American people start to realize that Bush and his fanatic government are more dangerous than Al-Qaeda.

Thanks again for your COURAGE and honesty.

~ Y. Kanawati, MD

Danilo Stojanovic’s backtalk

Mr. Stojanovic is obviously a very angry man. Apart from being provoked by that “shameless Serbian hard-line propagandist” Nebojsa Malic, and those naive and misled people at, who let that “wolf in sheep’s clothing” persuade them with “his peace-loving disguise,” Mr. Stojanovic is, unfortunately, in much deeper problems with that incorrigible, hopelessly “politically incorrect” history of his own people and country.

Yes, Mr. Stojanovic, like it or not, Montenegro IS a major part of Serbian culture and history. The whole your “historical” overview of Montenegro is based on a secession-supporting bias, invented by a group of bizarre”Montenegrin intellectuals” (“Dukljanska akademija” & Co.) and embraced as an official ideology of the ruling kleptocracy in that state. Denying the Montenegrin people’s REAL history, language, tradition and, most of all, faith (by creating something called “The Montenegrin Orthodox Church,” registered in A POLICE STATION in Cetinje and held by an excommunicated priest as a “Bishop” and a few dozen “believers”), awoke many people in Montenegro from a state of semicentennial communist “nation-building” lethargy. The official Montenegrin census, held in 2003, proved a Serbian-speaking majority as well as undoubted loyalty of Orthodox Christians of Montenegro to the Serbian Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral. The local rulers don’t like it, so they keep ignoring it.

At the end, I’d like to refresh Mr. Stojanovic’s memory. The very same “historical facts” he offered (“occupation of Montenegro” by Montenegro-originated Nemanjic dynasty etc.) was used by the ideological predecessors of his beloved regime. Montenegrin quislings at service of Croatian fascists (infamous Ustashes and their Nazi-puppet “Independent State of Croatia”) used the same kind of “arguments” in attempt to justify the goals of their masters. In order to achieve them, Ustashes brutally murdered (even Nazis were shocked by their monstrous “techniques” of killing and torturing) about a million Serbs and tens of thousands of Jews and Romas. Some Montenegrin traitors helped them, by killing their own countrymen, Montenegrin resistance fighters and, of course, civilians. I hope that Mr. Stojanovic, despite using their arguments, is not trying to pay the service to their infamous memory.

Just one more thing: the best English-written guide through the history of Montenegro as it is, can be found at Also recommend Thomas Fleming’s brilliant short history, “Montenegro: The Divided Land.”

~ B. Kozich

I am in a general agreement with N. Malic’s comments regarding the events in the Balkans.

It seems that whenever the Serbian national interest is attacked, it is done under the scarecrow label of “greater Serbia.” There is no similar and countervailing attack on the interest of other groups as acting for “greater Albania,” “greater USA,” “greater EU,” “greater Israel,” etc. even while these groups are more aggressively pursuing their own agenda against others in the region or the world.

~ Bud Damnjanovic

Commander of Torture Prison Blames Army

Find it astounding that the U.S. even considered maintaining Abu Ghraib as a functioning prison. It is a monument to torture and the excesses of the Saddam regime, which should be demolished immediately.

Those responsible for making this decision should be identified, and held in part to blame for the atrocities going on there currently.

It must be the worst of nightmares for the Iraqis to have this place still standing, and be threatened with internment there.

Please, please, please, petition to have this blemish on the face of humanity removed once and for all.

~ Simon Knight, Bangkok, Thailand

US May be Fighting on Two Fronts Too Many

I do not understand what all the crying is all about over the fallen soldiers. The first rule of soldiering is: If you come to kill, be prepared to die if that is your fate. Shed no tears for the fallen soldier. Save your tears for the innocents killed by the brutality of war.

~ Rockriver (USMC 1968-1971)

Neoconservatives Are Anti-American

What planet has Paul Craig Roberts been living on all these years? While his expressions of outrage at current US misbehavior in Iraq are welcome, and hopefully useful, his characterization of pre-Dubya America is a real knee-slapper:

“When Bush says that torture is not indicative of American values, he is speaking of the old America, the America of restraint, the America that did not believe that the ends justify the means, a classically educated America that understood that hubris brings nemesis.”

The “old America?” The America that overthrew Mossadegh in Iran, and then reinstalled the Shah? The America that overthrew Arbenz in Guatemala? That installed the generals in Brazil? That killed off Allende in Chile. The America of Vietnam? The America that paid Somoza’s ex guardsmen to torture and mutilate poor Nicaraguan peasants because they supported the Sandinistas? Give me a break! (Please don’t insult my intelligence by saying that the US had to play footsie with brutal dictators to prevent the evil Russkies from taking over the world. The evil Russkies were the best thing that ever happened to America.)

Roberts’s “new aggressive spirit of America” is different from the old aggressive spirit only in that the neocons and Bush are sending Americans into harm’s way rather than paying denationalized thugs to ensure US dominance of the global economy. Nor is there anything new about America’s imperialistic spirit. The US is first and foremost an imperialist nation. Get real, Paul!

We veterans of the peace movement are glad to have allies in the effort to stop the current insanity, but if you want to be taken seriously, you need to do much better than Roberts has done here. But then, he is a former editor of the Wall Street Journal, so I guess we can’t expect much from him.

~ Bill Becker

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

Bill Becker is a fool. People and societies often fail to live up to their acknowledged standards, just as do Christians and members of other religions. I am comparing the standards of the old America with the standards of neo-Jacobin America. Perhaps Becker should learn to read.

I enjoy your perspectives on the war in Iraq and I agree with them wholeheartedly. In the run-up to the war I sent a couple letters to the editors of Investors Business Daily. As I am sure you know IBD has been an extremely zealous (and hence myopic) supporter of the war. They still use you in advertisements for the paper. In any event, I have a few comments about this article. I hope you have the time to read them all. If you want additional background on the items I discuss I can provide them – including references from sources.

Minor point – the song “Deutschland uber Alles” was actually written during the mid-19th century by a German schoolteacher. The sentiments of the song were not associated with conquest but for the various German free states, principalities, duchies etc. – to put aside their individual interests for the sake of a united Germany. Today the German national anthem is the “Deutschlandlied,” but I think the music is identical to “Deutschland uber Alles.”

I understand your contention that the neo-cons are Jacobins in disguise and I do not disagree with the historical analogy. That said, I think a more meaningful historical parallel can be drawn from the British and their colonial history. In particular, I think it is high time that Churchill’s record be given a more balanced review. Just the other day during a opening of a Churchill exhibit in D.C. President Bush listed as an accomplishment of Churchill’s that he drew up the borders of the Middle East! Was this really an accomplishment to be celebrated or the source of one aspect of a larger story about the genesis of two world wars and a host of problems in what had been the British Empire? The fact that President Bush thinks this was a great achievement of Churchill’s makes it pretty unremarkable that his policy in Iraq has been such an unmitigated disaster.

In my reading I have come across a couple of quotations that address this topic of British Imperialism. … Regarding the role the empire played in the genesis of W.W.I (and W.W.II as a result):

“There had taken place in the half-century or so before the [1914] was, a tremendous expansion of British power, accompanied by a pronounced lack of sympathy for any similar ambition on the part of other nations… If any nation had made a bid for world power, it was Great Britain. In fact, it had more than made a bid for it. It had achieved it. The Germans were merely talking about building a railway to Baghdad. The Queen of England was Empress of India. If any nation had upset the world’s balance of power, it was Great Britain.”
(J. Remak, 1914 – The Third Balkan War; Origins Reconsidered, quoted in Kennedy, p. 226)

Finally, just a cursory review of so many of the world’s contemporary problems reveal that the British Empire played a major role in their genesis:

· The apartheid regimes in South Africa and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) which are both the direct result of British (and Dutch) colonialism and the Boer War. After the Boer War – which the British won by slaughtering the Boers’ livestock and establishing concentration camps (the British called them this) for women and children – it was Churchill himself who lobbied Parliament to allow the Boers’ system of apartheid to be applied to the newly formed Union of South Africa.

· Iraq, specifically the circumstances surrounding the creation of Iraq – the Sykes-Picot agreement during W.W.I. After the war – and knowing that there was a lot of oil in northern Iraq (which was still claimed by the Turks) Britain gave France what had been Germany’s 25% interest in the Turkish Petroleum Company (TPC) as compensation for dominion over all of Iraq (and thus helped to assure a second world war would be fought over many of the same issues as the first). This was the Long-Berrenger agreement. It should be noted that Germany’s 25% stake in the TPC was negotiated with a sovereign government (the Ottomans) and the original agreement also include an interest for Britain and the Iraqis themselves. Upon hearing of the Sykes-Picot agreement (after the fall of czarist Russia) the US was shocked, but we recovered when were given what had been the Iraqi equity position in the development of oil resources in Iraq. This was the so-called “Red-Line Agreement of 1925.” It was so-called because the outline of the agreement was drawn in red-crayon on a map of the Middle East by the British, French, and Americans working with a Turk named Calouste Gulbenkian.

· The rise of the mullahs in Iran. In 1953 Iran was well on its way to establishing a secular, democratic regime under Mohammed Mossedegh. Unfortunately, Mossedegh insisted on a more equitable sharing of oil revenues with British Petroleum. The British refused to negotiate in good faith and Mossedegh was basically forced to nationalize Iranian oil production. Churchill convinced Eisenhower (Truman had earlier refused) to launch a coup to return the Shah to power. Of course this coup was “successful” in the short term – only to blow up in our face 25 years later. Apologists for the coup argue that it was to keep Iraq out of the grasp of the Soviets. A closer inspection revels that a Soviet style regime would have been extremely difficult (if not impossible) to export to Iraq and that the only conceivable rationale for the coup was to recover the British position in Iran. Stephen Kinzer details all of this in his book All the Shah’s Men.

· The opium trade. Recall, that Britain fought two wars with the Chinese to ensure access to Chinese markets to sell opium. In the first opium war Britain gained control over Hong Kong – which they did not give up until 1997. When India was the jewel of the British Empire opium was the second largest source of government revenue to the British (the land tax was first). Included in India would have been Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan the opium trade seriously undermines our efforts to stabilize that country.

The list could continue but I only wanted to touch on a few points. In spite of what I think is the pretty clear historical legacy of the British Empire there are many contemporary historians – Nile Gardiner and Niall Ferguson in particular – who claim that the Empire was a great benefit to mankind and should serve as a guide for the United States. Are these people serious? Given the fact that these people do take themselves quite seriously and that they seem to exert a fairly significant amount of influence on the administration these people need to be challenged. It is for this reason that I think a more powerful historical analogy for the neo-cons is the British Imperialists. Such an analogy would also expose the folly of Empire by examining:

· The effect that the empire had on bringing Britain into conflicts with other countries and these conflicts eventually bankrupted Britain. While the US is not in any danger of getting in a conflict with anyone that can challenge us militarily (which Britain did with Germany) we do run the risk of getting involved in conflicts that we simply can not afford. What is more, those British tactics for quelling rebellions in colonies that were inexpensive – for example, during the 1920 revolt in Iraq the RAF simply bombed and strafed entire villages (Churchill wanted to use chemical weapons) in a policy of collective punishment – cannot really be seriously considered in today’s world. Of course, there are some people, Ralph Peters of the New York Post for one, who think that we should be prepared to march on Mecca if need be. While these people may think reducing cities to rubble is an option it is certainly not one that will produce any long term success.

· The effect the Empire had of insulating British industry from international competition. Today there are few – Rolls-Royce is the only one I can think of – internationally competitive British companies. Britain does not even have a significant representation in the most important postwar industry, automobiles.

As with the list of problems left by the Empire, this list is not complete. I just wanted to raise the issue with you.

~ Peter

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