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"No matter how cynical you
get, it's almost impossible
to keep up." - Lily Tomlin
Way Worse Than
a Dumb War:
Iraq Ten Years Later
Phyllis Bennis- The Nation

Editor’s Note: This statement on the tenth anniversary of the launch of the
Iraq War was signed by Phyllis Bennis, John Cavanagh and Steve Cobble
(Institute for Policy Studies); Judith LeBlanc and Kevin Martin (Peace
Action); Laura Flanders (GritTV); Bill Fletcher (The Black Commentator);
Andy Shallal (Iraqis for Peace); Medea Benjamin (Code Pink); Michael T.
McPhearson and Leslie Cagan (United for Peace and Justice); Michael
Eisenscher (US Labor Against the War) and David Wildman. All
organizations for identification only.

It didn’t take long for the world to recognize that the US invasion and
occupation of Iraq constituted a dumb war, as then Senator Barack Obama
put it. But “dumb” wasn’t the half of it.

The US war against Iraq was illegal and illegitimate. It violated the UN
Charter, the Geneva Conventions and a whole host of international laws
and treaties. It violated US laws and our Constitution with impunity. And it
was all based on lies: about nonexistent links between Iraq and Al Qaeda,
about never-were ties between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden,
about Iraq’s invisible weapons of mass destruction and about Baghdad’s
supposed nuclear program, with derivative lies about uranium yellowcake
from Niger and aluminum rods from China. There were lies about US troops
being welcomed in the streets with sweets and flowers, and lies about
thousands of jubilant Iraqis spontaneously tearing down the statue of a
hated dictator.

And then there was the lie that the US could send hundreds of thousands of
soldiers and billions of dollars worth of weapons across the world to wage
war on the cheap. We didn’t have to raise taxes to pay the almost one
trillion dollars the Iraq war has cost so far, we could go shopping instead.

But behind these myths the costs were huge—human, economic and more.
More than a million US troops were deployed to Iraq; 4,483 were killed;
33,183 were wounded and more than 200,000 came home with PTSD. The
number of Iraqi civilians killed is still unknown; at least 121,754 are known to
have been killed directly during the US war, but hundreds of thousands
more died from crippling sanctions, diseases caused by dirty water when
the US destroyed the water treatment system and the inability to get
medical help because of exploding violence.

And what are we leaving behind? After almost a decade the US finally
pulled out most of its troops and Pentagon-paid contractors. About 16,000
State Department-paid contractors and civilian employees are still stationed
at the giant US embassy compound and two huge consulates, along with
unacknowledged CIA and FBI agents, Special Forces and a host of other
undercover operatives. The US just sold the Iraqi government 140 M-l
tanks, and American-made fighter jets are in the pipeline too.
But there is little question that the all-encompassing US military occupation
of Iraq is over.
After more than eight years of war, the Iraqi government finally said no
more. Their refusal to grant US troops immunity from prosecution for
potential war crimes was the deal-breaker that forced President Obama’s
hand and made him pull out the last 30,000 troops he and his generals
were hoping to keep in Iraq.

But as we knew would be the case, the pull out by itself did not end the
violence. The years of war and occupation have left behind a devastated
country, split along sectarian lines, a shredded social fabric and a
dispossessed and impoverished population. Iraq remains one of the most
violent countries in the world; that’s the true legacy of the US war. We owe a
great debt to the people of Iraq—and we have not even begun to make
good on that commitment.

The US lost the Iraq War. Iraq hasn’t been “liberated.” Violence is rampant;
the sectarian violence resulting from early US policies after the 2003
invasion continues to escalate. Of course we didn’t bring democracy and
freedom to Iraq—that was never on the US agenda. The failure to “liberate”
Iraq cannot be the basis for assessing the war.

The real assessment must be based on whether the war achieved the goals
that the Bush administration and its neo-conservative, military CEO and
Pentagon profiteering partners established for this war:

Consolidating permanent US control over Iraq’s oil. Nope, US oil companies
are just some of the myriad of foreign oil interests in Iraq’s oil fields.

Leaving behind a pro-US, anti-Iranian government in Baghdad. Hardly,
Prime Minister al-Maliki is barely on speaking terms with anyone in

Guaranteeing permanent access to US bases in Iraq. Not even close, all but
two of the 500 plus US bases and outposts were either closed down or
turned over to the Iraqi military.

Ensuring that a post-war Iraqi government would allow the US to use Iraq as
a jumping off point to attack Iran. No way, despite continuing billions of
dollars of our tax money, the Iraqi government today is allied more closely
to Iran than the US.

In the buildup to the war, too many media, government officials, academics
and others allowed fear to curb their tongue or their eagerness to curry
favor with those in power to stifle their speech. This remains a crucial
lesson as we stand up to the escalation of Obama’s drone war and continue
to challenge those who call for war against Iran.

The war in Iraq began with significant support, with many people accepting
the false claims that this new war would bring security to a still-frightened
US public. But that support did not last long. Within the first years, pro-war
assumptions had been reversed, and by the end, the anti-war movement
and escalating casualties had turned around public opinion so thoroughly
that overwhelming majorities admitted the war in Iraq was wrong and should
never have been fought in the first place.

And this war showed us our power. It proved the possibility of globalizing
opposition even before the war began. The mobilization of February 15,
2003, when the broad United for Peace and Justice coalition joined with
allies around the world on the day the world said “No to War!” February 15
created what The New York Times called “the second super-power,” ready
to challenge the US drive towards empire. Our movement changed history.
While we were not able to prevent the invasion of Iraq a month later, that
mobilization proved the illegality of the war. It demonstrated the isolation of
the Bush administration, pulled governments and the United Nations into a
trajectory of resistance, helped prevent war in Iran and inspired a
generation of activists, including some of those who, eight years later,
would create the Arab Spring in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

The US troops left behind a devastated, tortured Iraq. What they didn’t
leave behind is one dollar for reparations or compensation. That battle still
lies ahead. The US war in Iraq may be over, but we owe an apology to all
those who suffered from the war. And that apology must be grounded in
recognition of our enormous debt to the people of Iraq, a debt for which
compensation and reparations are only a start. Our real obligation, to the
people of Iraq and the region and the rest of the world, is to transform our
government and our country so that these resource-driven wars, shaped by
lies and fought for power and for empire, whether in Iran or somewhere
else, can never be waged again

Read more:
Noam Chomsky
Commemorating" the Vietnam
War: One Marine's Perspective
By Camillo Mac Bica,        Truthout | Op-Ed   

March 29 has been designated "Vietnam Veterans Day,” according to a
proclamation issued by President Obama in 2012. The Vietnam War,
according to the proclamation, "is a story of patriots who braved the line of
fire, who cast themselves into harm's way to save a friend, who fought hour
after hour, day after day to preserve the liberties we hold dear." Now I have
no problem acknowledging the debt owed to all whose lives were affected
by this war, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians and Americans alike. What
I find intolerable, even disgraceful, however, is that even 50 years later,
our leaders are incapable of telling the truth about the war and choose
rather to perpetuate the lie that these "sacrifices," at least those of the
Americans, were "to preserve the liberties we hold dear." Such rhetoric -
although perhaps inspiring to some - hinders reconciliation, dishonors the
veteran, and damages the moral integrity of this nation.

As we embark upon a congressionally mandated 13-year-long
commemoration, probably "celebration" would be more accurate, of the
50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, I feel a responsibility, as a veteran of
that war, to contribute a perspective I fear will be ignored willfully at the
official commemoration web site. I am certain that there are as many
perspectives as there are individuals who served, observed, protested
against and supported that very divisive war. Consequently, I offer no
guarantee that my observations, interpretations and conclusions about the
war are definitive, or better than those of someone with a profoundly
different recollection and analysis.

What I offer in this essay, then, is my personal narrative and a perspective
on the Vietnam War by a former Marine Corps officer, Vietnam veteran and
philosopher who has spent many years studying the theory of war, diverse
historical accounts of the Vietnam war and, perhaps more to the point,
contemplating a life profoundly impacted by the experience. My hope is to
tell the truth as I see it and offer an analysis of the war that counters what I
fear is the goal and purpose of this proclamation and commemoration.
That is, to continue to perpetuate, if not ratchet up, the lie of 50 years ago
and the mythological portrayal of the Vietnam War as justifiable, necessary
and in the national interest.

Childhood Memories: Learning About War
I was born in Brooklyn, New York. My parents, like most immigrants at the
time, were grateful to be living in this land of "unlimited opportunity."
Influenced by Catholic school education, John Wayne movies and John F.
Kennedy's admonishment to "ask what you can do for your country," I grew
up stridently patriotic with a strong sense of duty to God and to country.

The Old Ones
As the old men played Briscola, a card game of Sicilian origin, they smoked
DiNobli cigars and drank Caffe' Corretto, a grappa-laced espresso, in small
cups. The cigar smoke lay heavy in the room, dispersing the glow of the
single light bulb that hung precariously over the table. They spoke in
broken English of coming to America. Some came illegally. Most flirted a bit
with the mafia, and all worked hard to support their families in a difficult job
market for laborers. Nervous and excited, I listened attentively, from a safe
distance, hidden behind the old green sofa. On most occasions I was
quickly discovered. And after a good-natured reprimand and a gentle "boot
in the ass," I was sent on my way. On a few occasions, however, my
perseverance was greatly rewarded. For reasons I can only speculate
about, no one seemed to notice my presence. Even as a 10-year-old,         
I realized that this was a special place and I had no business
eavesdropping on such privileged conversation.

As they consumed the potent coffee, barriers lowered and the discussion,
at least as I remember it, invariably turned to their experiences during the
Second World War and the Korean conflict. Despite being immigrants, all
were drafted into the American military. I listened intently as my father,
while contemplating his next discard, recalled his experiences as a US
Army interpreter fighting through the villages and countryside of Sicily, the
land of his birth. Somberly, he described in great detail how American
artillery and bombing had devastated the village in which he was born.   
How he had been torn between strong feelings of patriotism for his adopted
homeland and a deep sense of shame and guilt he felt for the deaths of
innocent villagers, some of whom had been his neighbors. I learned also
that my Uncle Gasper, a SeaBee, had narrowly escaped being killed by a
Japanese sniper while building an airfield on Guadalcanal. Uncle Tony,
nicknamed "Squint Eye," but only addressed as such by a few of his
closest friends, told of nearly being blinded by shrapnel during a kamikaze
attack against his minesweeper in the South Pacific. What impressed me
most, I think, was hearing my Uncle Joe relate, with great emotion, the
heroic last stand of the Marines at the frozen Chosin Reservoir in Korea.    
I was amazed to see this very strong, austere and stoic man cry when he
described gently holding a fellow Marine in his arms as the dying man
gasped his last breath. As I listened to their stories, despite my young age,
I empathized with their obvious pain and grief.

Surely, the Old Ones were aware of my presence behind the old green
sofa. I often wondered why, on those few occasions, I was allowed to
remain and witness such intensely personal discussions of aspects of their
lives they kept so well hidden from all except those who shared similar
experiences. Perhaps they thought it important that I know the family
history. In my more whimsical moments, however, I fancy that they were
trying to educate me and make me aware of war's realities.

In my youth, I was fascinated and exhilarated by war. Because of what I had
learned from my hiding place behind the old green sofa, however, I was
also wary of its devastating effects. War was an enigma I wished I could
have discussed with the Old Ones. My concerns could never be
addressed, however, as I realized the inappropriateness of discussing such
matters outside the sanctuary of "the warrior's circle."

Confronting the Vietnam War
In 1968, America was at war. Communism was the menace; Vietnam, the
focal point of the confrontation between good and evil, the domino of
choice that must, at all costs, remain standing. To the Vietnamese,
however, it was a continuing struggle against another in a seemingly
endless series of colonial or occupying powers intent upon denying them
independence, national unity and self-determination. To Americans, it was
portrayed as a grass-roots struggle between north and south, a noble and
necessary intervention to exorcize pervasive evil seeking world domination.
Ultimately, however, it was a disaster, a quagmire, an immoral, illegal,
unnecessary and divisive war few chose to fight, so many were conscripted.

"The unwilling, led by the unqualified, doing the unnecessary for the
indifferent and the ungrateful." Anonymous Grafitti

As a consequence of the draft, many young Americans were confronted
with a profound social and moral dilemma. Whether to severely disrupt
their lives, possibly shame themselves and their families by expatriating -
fleeing to Canada - or risk injury or death by answering the call, becoming
a warrior and, in the view of many, a murderer, or an accessory to murder.
However, I had an additional option. Upon graduating from college, I could
have availed myself  - quite rightly, my parents believed - of the deferment
from military service offered to teachers at the time - a testimony, I guess,
to the importance of education in creating the "Great Society" that Lyndon
Johnson had hoped would be the legacy of his administration. Further,
because the teaching position was at an "inner-city school," the social
importance of such an undertaking, I reasoned, justified accepting the
deferment. In truth, such rationalization was unnecessary, because
avoiding military service was quite common and un-noteworthy, especially
for the wealthy and the influential. For me, however, to remain at home
while others fought and died in my place was cowardice. More importantly,
it was an affront to the parents of my childhood friend Ralphie, who, a few
months earlier, had dutifully, albeit reluctantly, sent their son to war. All
they received in return were fragments of bone and sinew and a form letter
from the president of the United States expressing the nation's regrets and
gratitude for Ralphie's heroic sacrifice in behalf of freedom and democracy.
Code words for a mistake, a paranoia-driven crusade against contrived evil
that demanded the life of their child.

As I watched the drama of Ralphie's funeral unfold, I remembered playing
stickball on East 87th Street not many years before. I smiled, recalling how
a foul ball had broken Eddie's mother's window and how Ralphie had
quickly handed me the bat before shrewdly escaping to the sanctuary of
Anthony's garage. No one believed I wasn't the culprit, until Ralphie
abandoned his hiding place and with cobwebs hanging from his forehead,
bravely admitted to the deed. As they lowered Ralphie's casket into the
ground, I drifted among a tangle of childhood memories - ring-a-levio, kick-
the-can on humid summer nights, and riding our bikes down "suicide hill."
Ralphie was 20 years, 6 months and 2 days old when war ended his life.

The lesson I learned from Ralphie's death was that in war young people die
and old people grieve. The rational response would probably have been to
put the tragedy behind me, to accept the deferment and go on with my life.
But those were not rational times. Instead, I enlisted in the Marine Corps -
understanding full well that a trip to Vietnam was guaranteed.

I was excited and could not wait to tell my Uncle Joe. I thought for sure he
would be pleased, proud that his nephew chose to emulate him and
become a Marine. As I gave him the good news, I studied his time-worn
face for approval. I sensed, perhaps for the first time, an uncharacteristic
vulnerability, even frailty. He seemed much older than his years. "Why you
do that?" he said as our eyes finally met. Without waiting for a response,
he kissed me on both cheeks. "Che Dio vi benedica" were his last words to
me as he turned and walked away. Rendered speechless by what had
occurred, I didn't even think to return the blessing or to say goodbye. Soon
after I had arrived in Vietnam, I learned my Uncle Joe had died.

In retrospect, I'm not really certain why I decided not to accept the
deferment. Perhaps, it was patriotism, or bravado, or even to avenge my
friend's death. Or perhaps it was just to fulfill my destiny as a warrior and
heir apparent to the legacy of the Old Ones. I left on July 5, 1968, for
Marine Corps officer training at Quantico, Virginia. What I failed to realize
at the time, however, was that I was leaving behind, forever, all that I had
cherished and held sacred for the past 21 years. Most tragically, I was
leaving behind the innocence of my youth.

The Experience of War
Marine Corps training was truly a life-altering experience. What ultimately
enables a Marine to ignore the ethical limits normally placed on the use of
violence – to kill and to die in battle – is not abstract ideology, or even
patriotism, but rather a personal code of honor, self-respect, loyalty and
accountability to one's comrades. I learned my lessons well and readily
embraced the mythology of the warrior. Upon completion of my training,      
I felt part of a proud and chivalrous tradition, a select brotherhood of noble
and courageous knights, empowered by God and country to exorcize the
demonic agents of evil. I was prepared to kill and to selflessly sacrifice my
life, if need be, for right and for good. After Ralphie's death and the
sacrifices of the Old Ones, how could I do anything less?

Soon after arriving in Vietnam, however, I learned that no one is truly
prepared for the horror, inhumanity and destruction of "demythologized"
war. Fear, inevitably, is the myth breaker, restoring to war a reality that is
bleak, uncompromising and hellish.

"My first experience of war was not auspicious. As mortar rounds walked in
upon us, like giant steps of death and destruction, I was mesmerized by
excitement and fear. Frozen in place, gauging the next footfall, I was
pushed, rather unceremoniously, into a sandbagged bunker, more to clear
the escape route than from a concern for my well-being. All that I had
learned forgotten, I burrowed, wormlike, into the muddy bottom, seeking
sanctuary, cursing my inability to disappear into the earthen mother's
womb." (war journals, Bica, C.C., 1969)

Despite my childhood fascination and Marine Corps indoctrination, I was
never enthusiastic about war. Even those more motivated than I, those who
viewed war as a means for advancement, lacked fervor for this particular
enterprise. Yet men turned easily into killers, shedding a young lifetime of
humanity and compassion. In a brief moment of frenzy, killing became
orgasmic, and death, performance art.

"A body of a dead Viet Cong sapper stood upright impaled in layers of
concertina wire marking the no-man's land that surrounds the perimeter of
a firebase north of Danang. Killed trying to breech the base's defenses, his
catatonic body adorned by holiday revelers with Christmas decorations and
a sign, soiled with blood and entrails, wishing all peace and good will from
the United States Marines. As we passed and entered the base, few even
took notice. I heard one young Marine, newly arrived in country, whisper to
no one in particular, "Ho, fucking ho, fucking ho." The innocence of youth
dies quickly when killing becomes a rite of passage."
(war journals, Bica, C.C., 1969)

The reality of the situation on the ground failed to match the rhetoric of our
leaders. I felt a moral uneasiness with both the purpose of the war and the
manner in which it was conducted. Because attrition became the strategy
and the goal - seemingly the only strategy and goal - and identification of
the enemy problematic, killing became indiscriminate and all too easy.
Dying became routine, purposeless and seemingly inevitable ... and
Ralphie's death all the more tragic. But yet,

"With the Marine Corps Hymn lingering in the background of my mind, I
persevered, like Sergeant Stryker charging valiantly up Suribachi, dying
quickly, quietly, gently, and without pain or regret. In truth, most linger,
scream for their mothers like children, first imploring God to let them live,
then begging for death to end their suffering. Final glances exchanged
eyes burned deeply into my soul. Faces of the soon to be dead, I'll
remember for the rest of my life." (war journals, Bica, C.C., 1969)

Patriotic hymns and anthems fade quickly amid the screams of the
mutilated and the dying. As the warrior's mythology crumbled, I felt an
overwhelming burden of responsibility, no longer to Corps and country but
to those whose lives depended upon my abilities and decisions. I saw
Ralphie in each of their young faces, made empty and hardened by war,
and was deafened by the heartbreaking and poignant cries of parents
pleading for the lives of their children. Survival was all that really mattered.
What I failed to realize at the time, however, was that, at least in spirit, we
were all already dead.

War usurps the omnipotence of god, the power over life and death, and
makes it anathema. Some found such power exhilarating. I knew people
like that, didn't like them much. Thought them lucky, though, as killing and
dying meant nothing. In a perverse way, they enjoyed it, enjoyed the jazz,
the excitement, the power. Intoxicated by war, such men hated to see it
end. For me, the war never ends.

For the remainder of my time in country, I struggled with the conflicting
responsibilities of an officer of Marines in war and of safeguarding the lives
of those entrusted to my care. Tragically, what mattered least in this moral
equation were those we were allegedly there to liberate and to protect.
They became expendable as dead Vietnamese posed no threat to our
survival and satisfied the military demand for body count. Like most, I did
what "had to be done," and this is something I will live with for the rest of my
life. ... All of war is atrocity.

We often hear our military and political leaders speak of our nation's
uncompromising commitment to the international and moral laws of war and
rules of engagement. Such talk, however, is, in reality, part of the
mythology, necessary to maintain a guise of legality and morality and to
allow our national conscience to remain clean. As is clear from history, law
as it applies to war, is merely a tactic of advantage, having relevance and
application only should belligerent nations find such law and restrictions
advantageous to the achievement of some important national goal or
purpose. But when perceived political or military interest comes in conflict
with legal and moral principles, it is inevitably the former that prevails. How
else could one explain the systemic incineration of hundreds of thousands
of innocent men, women and children as a consequence of the saturation
and nuclear bombing of cities during World War II, while, at the same time,
countries doing the bombing condemned the genocide of Nazi death
camps. How else can one explain torture, "targeted" drone assassination
and signature strikes during the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.,
while the perpetrators condemn the terrorism of al Qaeda.

Make no mistake, however. Few if any go to war to murder innocent
people. Most exert great effort, often at considerable personal risk, to
protect the innocent and conduct themselves with decency and integrity.
Unfortunately, either under the rubric of "supreme emergency," as was the
case in World War II, or because of the morally untenable conditions of
guerrilla and/or counterinsurgency warfare as in Vietnam, Iraq and
Afghanistan, soldiers inevitably become the unwitting instruments of
slaughter. Such occurrences are always tragic and regrettable but never
more so than when war is misguided and unnecessary. Those removed
from the chaos and confusion of the battlefield are understandably
appalled by what, from their perspective, constitutes brutality and murder.
When public outrage demands justice, it is invariably the warrior who is
held accountable while those who initiated the war or who supported or did
little or nothing to stop it are themselves absolved of responsibility and
permitted to continue their charade of moral awareness and concern as
they sit in judgment of our actions. We are the victims of their hypocrisy,
the scapegoats for the inevitable affront to the national conscience and the
sacrificial lambs sent to slaughter in retribution for our collective guilt and
inadequacies. In fact, no one knows the sacrilege of war better than we
who must fight it and then have to live with the memories of what we have
done and what we have become.

"The monster and I are one. I have feasted upon the flesh of decaying
corpses and with their blood have quenched my thirst. The transformation
is complete and I can never return. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima
culpa." (war journals, Bica, C.C., 1969)

The Aftermath of War
All who are touched by war are tainted. Upon my return to the the United
States world, I felt a stranger in my own home, disoriented and adrift
between the world I recognized as my place of origin - although now quite
alien - and the world of killing and destruction of which I was a part.

"Things were different . . . or maybe I was different. As much as I had come
to hate the war, there at least I felt I belonged. I knew what was expected of
me, and I had become proficient at fulfilling those expectations. Here I am a
misfit, an aberration, isolated and alone." (postwar journals, Bica, C.C.,

Vietnam was the defining experience of my life. Although physical wounds
may heal, the emotional, psychological and moral injuries of war linger and
fester. Vietnam forever pervades my existence, condemning me to
continually relive and question the past. Inevitable concerns of those who
participate in an enterprise whose primary - no, sole - function is to take life
and cause others to die. Despite the urging of well-meaning friends and
loved ones, I can never forget Vietnam nor put it behind me. No one truly
recovers from war. No one is ever made whole again. The best that can be
hoped, I think, is to achieve a degree of benign acceptance. To that end, I
strive each day to forgive and absolve myself of guilt and to live with the
wounds of war that will never heal.

"The endless screams of the dying forever echo in my mind. A sacrificial
offering of virgins to placate the elder gods. I've become an atheist."
(postwar journals, Bica, C.C., 1971)

Of late, I think often of Ralphie and his parents, of ring-o-levio, and bike
rides down "suicide hill." I often think too of the Old Ones, and sometimes,
while deep in thought, or, perhaps, lost in a daydream, I can almost smell
the faint aroma of DiNobili cigars and alcohol-tinged espresso. For a
fleeting moment, I am 10 years old again, watching and listening from
behind the old green sofa. But now the exhilaration, awe and wonder I
enjoyed as a child is gone as I have learned the reality of war. I think of the
Old Ones, still with admiration, but now tempered by understanding and
sadness for all they had endured. I know now the true cost of war and the
burden of life in its aftermath. I realize as well that all war is profane - and
unnecessary war is sacrilege. And perhaps worst of all, I know the
frustration of having to sit idly by, helpless, as it all happens again. I mourn
young lives devastated by war. I see Ralphie in each of their faces and am
deafened by the screams of devastated loved ones. Never had I missed
the Old Ones more, especially my father. Never were my Uncle Joe and the
Marine who died in his arms at the Chosin more clearly in my mind.

Perhaps war is a reality that will not soon go away, and sacrifices on the
field of battle will again be required. But rather than "commemorate" and
"celebrate" Vietnam with lies, let us end the mythologizing of war and
demand truth. Let us question war's purpose and necessity and ensure a
clarity of vision rather than the blind compliance some wish to portray as
patriotism. Let us ensure that war remains a means of last resort and that
no other person will again have to kill, die or grieve the loss of their son or
daughter for a cause that is misguided. Let us demand accountability for
war criminals who dare to initiate such wars and connive to use deception
and myth to encourage participation and support. Let us make this our
legacy and celebrate peace rather than war.

Camillo "Mac" Bica, PhD, is a professor of philosophy at the School of Visual Arts
in New York City. He is a former Marine Corps officer, Vietnam veteran, longtime
activist for peace and social justice, and the coordinator of the Long Island Chapter
of Veterans for Peace.
The Punishment of Gaza
is Complicit in
Israel’s Crimes
July 26th  CounterPunch

While viewing the massacre of
Gazans, you may wonder why 1.8
million Arabs are crowded on that
tiny strip of seashore and are being
bombed day and night  into death
and ruins by Israel’s powerful military
machine.  A glimpse of history is

Facts set forth below are little known
in America:

Sixty years ago 800,000 Arabs fled
their ancestral homes in rural
Palestine fearing death as a Jewish
onslaught obliterated without a trace
over 500 Arab towns, villages and
hamlets.  Massacres were reported.  
Those who fled are forbidden to
return home.

Fifty years later, a survey show the
refugee problem staggering:
766,000 in Gaza; 741,000 in Jordan;
408,000 in Syria; and 144,000 in
Egypt; smaller numbers in other
Arab states.

Gaza soon become a part of Israel
Occupied Palestine.  Refugees and
their descendants struggle there for
survival.  Israeli controls are brutal.  
Potable water is nearly gone.  Most
of the population depends for
survival on food and water
distributed by United Nations
officials.  If supplies are not
increased starvation—not just
malnutrition–is certain.  Arabs
huddle behind high fences equipped
with Israeli remote- controlled
machine guns.  A gate that once
served as an occasional opening to
freedom is now kept locked by the
government of Egypt at Israel’s

Gaza has long been described as
the largest open-air prison in the

Israeli punishment of Gazans
became more severe seven years
ago when theuy exercised the right
of self-determination by electing the
Hamas Party to manage local affairs.

Once Hamas took control in Gaza,
Israel and the U.S. government
conspired in a sustained but
unsuccessful attempt to destroy the
organization.  Hamas was reelected
to a second term and recently
achieved a cooperative arrangement
with the Fatah organization that
maintains a measure of authority in
the West Bank.

Infuriated because all gates stay
closed, Hamas sends rockets over
the fence.  They do little damage but
incite Israelis to launch heavy lethal
bombing.   Revenge is not
commendable, but I understand why
people penned up like cattle may
welcome pain and discomfort for
their oppressors.

The current assault on Gaza is Israel’
s third in seven years. This is the
first time Hamas has used sustained
rocket fire, but it is no match for
Israel’s artillery, missiles and bombs.
Thanks to U.S. taxpayers, Israel has
high tech missiles that shoot down
Hamas rockets while still in the air.  
Hamas has no such defense, in fact,
no defense at all.

The late radical Rabbi Meir Kahane,
wrote a book titled “They Must Go.”  
In it he contended that all Arabs
must be removed from Palestine so
an all-Jewish Eretz Israel, the dream
of Zionism, can come into being.  
Eretz Israel consists of entirety of
Palestine, including the West Bank,
East Jerusalem and Gaza, plus the
Golan Heights, long a part of Syria,
exactly the Arab territory Israel now

All Arabs are not gone, but nearly
two million are imprisoned in Gaza.  
Elsewhere in Occupied Palestine,
4.2 million Arabs are abused and
denied basic liberties.  Their
property and livelihood are steadily
being  seized by Israel to provide
illegal housing for Jews-only
settlements.  These Arabs are
squeezed into an ever-shrinking part
of  their birthright.  More  than one-
half of the Palestinian West Bank is
now populated by more than
500,000 Israeli settlers.  Zionist
dreamers can boast they are more
than halfway toward their dream.

Who is responsible for this tragic
treatment of Palestinians?  If you
ponder that question, bear in mind
that Israel could not possibly commit
this criminal behavior without
automatic, unqualified, U.S.
government support year after year.

Pro-Issrael lobby pressure controls
all major news media.  Congress
behaves like a committee of the
Israeli parliament.  No president
since Dwight Eisenhower has had
the courage to stand up to Israeli
wrongdoing.  Those who know the
truth are afraid to speak out for fear
of paying a heavy price– maybe loss
of employment.

All citizens of the United States must
face the truth:  Our government is
complicit in in Israeli crimes against
humanity.  This is an election year.   
We should elect a Congress that will
suspend all aid until Israel behaves.

The bloody standoff in Gaza will stop
if Israel opens the gate to Egypt and
keeps it open. When that happens
Arabs living there can “breathe free,”
a precious right our Statue of Liberty
proclaims for all humankind.

Paul Findley served as a member of
United States House of
Representatives for 22 years. His
books include ”Deliberate
Deceptions: Facing the Facts About
the U.S.-Israeli Relationship.”
Works in progress.
I will return
Sept 23rd
to work on this site.
Therese Joseph
More of the Same
An Unlearned
Lesson from 9/11

Sept 10th, 2014
On a rainy morning on April
1958, in Washington DC, Ezra
Pound -then a seventy-two
year-old man- was declared
“incurably insane” by Judge
Bolitha J. Laws, who set him
free. As he prepared to leave
for Italy Pound declared, “Any
man who could live in America
is insane.”

I wonder what Pound –one of
America’s greatest poets-
would think today of the state
of the country, which is
suffering from a long blood-
letting process resulting from
unjust, unjustified wars. This
situation is particularly evident
when one returns to the US
after staying from some time
overseas. What one sees, as
many friends told me, is an
American government bent on
an almost suicidal road to war.

It has been shown almost ad
infinitum that following the wars
in Iraq and Afghanistan, to cite
only the most important ones,
that the climate of worldwide
violence has increased
substantially, and shows no
signs of diminishing. And while
we are justifiably horrified by
the recent beheadings of two
American journalists, we were
not equally horrified by the
killings by drones of whole
families in countries overseas.

Nor we were equally horrified
by the hundreds of Palestinian
children and the destruction of
thousands of homes of people
fighting for the right to live in
their own land. In the
meantime, meretricious US
politicians repeated like a
mantra that they supported the
right of Israel to defend itself,
without any mention of
Palestinians’ suffering.

In the meantime, few people
seem to be concerned about
the tortures and humiliations at
Guantanamo, Iraq, Afghanistan
and so many other countries
where prisoners were sent to
be tortured by the US
authorities. And while President
Barak Obama has promised,
even before being elected, that
he would close Guantanamo
this is yet to happen, and the
issue has become one of the
darkest episodes in the US’s
moral history.

This is happening while more
attacks are being carried out
on Iraq and in Syria, the same
rebels we have armed, are
proving to be a nightmare for
US forces and a huge
hindrance to eventually reach
peace in that region. In the
meantime, the US intervention
in Libya, rather than
democratizing the country, has
left a mess of deadly rivalries of
conflicting armies without a
solution in sight.

And while an agreement with
Iran over its nuclear program is
pursued, new sanctions were
imposed on that country that in
the least are an irritant and at
most an obstacle
to an agreement.

To add to this panorama of
desolation, we see the slow
disintegration of Ukraine, the
hapless country in the middle
of conflicting US and Russian
interests. And rather than
trying to calm the waters of
dissent, the US is slowly
encircling Russia through
NATO, unconcerned that a
similar situation on the US
borders would be
unacceptable to the US.

The “war on terror” has not
defeated it but brought more
terror to the world. As Rami G.
Khouri, a contributing editor to
the Beirut Daily Star, and a
keen observer of international
politics recently wrote, “Dear
Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden and
Prime Minister David Cameron
of the United Kingdom: before
you launch a new global war on
terror and another coalition of
countries to fight ISIS, please
note that the last three
decades of your global war on
terror have sparked the
greatest expansion of Islamist
militancy and terrorism in
modern history. This partly,
maybe largely, because your
military actions in Islamic lands
usually destabilize those lands,
allowing your enemies to
organize and take root, and
also provide the greatest
magnet that attracts mostly
fringe and lost young men to
give meaning to their lives by
joining what they see as a
defensive jihad to save Islamic
societies from your aggression.”

To continue the war on terror is
thus not only counterproductive
and will not bring peace to the
world but will show, sadly, that
the main lesson of 9/11 has not
been learned.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a winner
of an overseas Press Club of
America award for an article on
human rights.
musical medicine for
the mind, body and soul
Friday Sept 19th 8pm
$20 Donation  $15 members
Peacehouse Fundraiser
More info on Peacehouse page
Workers in Maine Buy
Out Their Jobs, Set an
Example for the Nation
Saturday, 13 September 2014
10:25    By Rob Brown, Noemi
Giszpenc and Brian Van Slyke,
Truthout | Op-Ed   

t(On remote Deer Isle, Maine, the
movement for a more just and
democratic economy won a major
victory this summer. More than 60
employees of three retail businesses
- Burnt Cove Market, V&S Variety and
Pharmacy, and The Galley - banded
together to buy the stores and create
the largest worker cooperative in
Maine and the second largest in New

Now the workers own and run the
businesses together under one
banner, known as the Island
Employee Cooperative (IEC). This is
the first time that multiple businesses
of this size and scope have been
merged and converted into one
worker cooperative - making this a
particularly groundbreaking
achievement in advancing economic

Getting There: What It Took

When the local couple that had
owned the three businesses for 43
years began to think about selling
their stores and retiring, the workers
became concerned. The stores were
one of the island's biggest employers
and a potential buyer probably would
not have come from within the
community or maintained the same
level of jobs and services. Only a
worker buy-out could achieve stability.

Because these workers were trying to
accomplish something historic, it took
more than a year - and it wasn't
always an easy road. But the workers'
strength lay in their own
determination, and in the ability to
rely on a group of allies dedicated to
growing the cooperative movement.
The Independent Retailers Shared
Services Cooperative (IRSSC) and
the Cooperative Development
Institute, helped them develop their
management, governance, legal and
financial structures. They were also
able to secure financing from
Maine-based Coastal Enterprises and
the Cooperative Fund of New
England, both Community
Development Finance Institutions
(CDFIs). Without that dedicated
technical assistance and available
capital, it is doubtful the IEC would be
here today.

More Is Needed

While the creation of the IEC
maintained dozens of decent paying
jobs and a remote community's only
nearby access to essentials such as
groceries and prescription
medications, it also points to a
successful model that could be used
across the country to expand
ownership and wealth to regular
working people. This experience
shows that if only we had more
resources to experiment with
grounded, practical economic
policies, we could create many more
of the living-wage jobs and
community-sustaining businesses we
desperately need.

The Great Recession has led many to
consider better ways to organize our
economy, as always happens during
economic downturns. But the reality is
that our economy, even during the
"good times," has always been failing
working people. So we need to think
long term and change our strategies
in order to build a durable,
democratic, equitable and just

The Great Recession in Maine: A Bad
Situation Gets Worse

In the aftermath of the Great
Recession, Maine has won back less
than half of the jobs we lost (ranking
us 46th among the states): We are
second from the bottom for total job
growth, and we have one of the
highest numbers of part-time workers
who want more employment but can't
find it. Nearly one-third of
unemployed Mainers have been
looking for work for more than six
months, which is more than twice the
national average. And what little
growth there has been has occurred
almost exclusively in the Portland
metro region, in far southern Maine.

But it's not as if our workers were
prospering before the Great

Over the last 30 years, the incomes
of the poorest Maine workers grew by
only 27 percent, while incomes for the
wealthiest Mainers jumped by 67
percent. Starting in the late '90s,
Maine lost more manufacturing jobs
per capita than any other state.
Maine workers also have the lowest
average incomes of all the New
England states and, of Maine's 16
counties, 14 of them are among the
poorest in the region. As a result, one
in seven Mainers overall and more
than one in five children live in
poverty. Most shamefully, poverty
characterizes more than one in four
young children, and one in three in
our poorest counties.

In short, Maine's low wages, limited
job prospects, deepening poverty and
growing inequality are not just the
result of the Great Recession; it is
structural and long-standing. We've
needed to change the way the
economy works for quite a while. And
that's exactly why strategies to create
sustainable, democratic businesses
like the Island Employee Cooperative
are so critical.

The Island Employee Cooperative: A
Model for Maine and the Nation

Worker cooperatives hold the
promise of fundamentally addressing
our longstanding economic woes.
Because they give members an equal
voice in the co-op's governance, a
worker co-op will almost never pick up
and leave its community. Those jobs
are democratically owned by the
people who work and live there.

In addition, in worker co-ops,
employees have an incentive to work
harder and smarter, because they
benefit from an equitable share of the
profits. And when a worker co-op is
facing financial difficulty, the first
response isn't to lay people off.
That's because the worker-owners
are sharing the risks and burdens of
the business as well. Instead,
members often come together to find
democratic solutions to their
problems, such as temporarily
lowering wages or cutting hours for all
workers, so that no one person has to
lose their job. This is one of the major
factors that also make worker co-ops
more economically sustainable in
low-income communities.

For the new worker-owners of the
Island Employee Cooperative, the
transformation into a co-op will, over
time, create profound changes in
their lives as they begin investing
some of the business' profits into
better wages and benefits -
something that is extremely
uncommon for those in the retail
business. The co-op is also already
collaborating with the Maine
Community College System to deliver
education programs on-site so that
the workers can improve their
knowledge and skills. While retail jobs
are often depicted as low-wage and
dead-end, these retail workers are
now business owners who will learn to
make many hard decisions together.
And because IEC is one of the
island's largest employers, the
cooperative ownership model will
make a tremendous impact on the
community as many more families
build wealth through democratic

That's a model we can and should
scale up.

A New Approach to Economic

Unfortunately, successful examples
like the IEC are rare in the United
States because worker cooperative
development gets little to no support
from city, state and federal
governments. Instead, these
institutions spend a fortune on
economic development programs that
create windfall profits for
corporations, but very few
sustainable, living-wage jobs.

The way states have traditionally
pursued economic development relies
primarily on "chasing smokestacks"
and dreaming up new tax giveaways
for out-of-state corporations. That
serves to benefit the 1% while leaving
workers in the dust.

A less costly, more effective and more
equitable strategy of focusing on
worker co-op development would
drive investments into grassroots
initiatives for economic sustainability.
Some support already exists: For
example, New York City just passed
its 2015 budget and is investing over
$1 million in a comprehensive
program to support the development
of worker cooperatives, including
directing existing
business-development resources to
be more supportive of worker co-ops.
Ohio has provided small grants for
feasibility studies and technical
assistance to employees considering
a cooperative buyout of their
workplace, using federal funds that
are available in every state (but
utilized by only a half-dozen or so).
Rural Cooperative Development
Grants from the US Department of
Agriculture support state and regional
groups that provide cooperative
development services in rural areas
(though not just to worker co-ops).

There are more examples of
supportive policies, but they all
amount to a tiny drop in the bucket
compared to what is spent on typical
economic development approaches
that do little for working people.

In order to begin scaling up worker
co-op development, we need to
provide technical assistance and
small pre-development grants to
people starting co-ops within their
own communities, make available
better education on how to operate a
cooperative, provide loan guarantees
for groups who would otherwise
struggle to access credit, and offer
targeted, accountable tax incentives.

Communities across the country
would benefit from more initiatives
that support development of new
co-ops, as well as converting existing
businesses into worker-owned ones
like the Island Employee Cooperative.

This approach would allow many
more communities to sustain
themselves, cultivate jobs with dignity,
improve wages and help more people
build wealth through democratic
ownership. And then we might see a
transformation into an economy that
truly and sustainably serves the
needs of all.
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reprinted without permission.