Monday, July 16, 2007

Above All Else....Hope

The last couple of weeks, on this blog, have been kinda depressing to me. We have such a wide range of some cases a giant chasm....on how to proceed in the Middle East. I have to admit that lately I seem to have lost hope--any hope really--in thinking that people in this country of intelligence and good nature will prevail over the ones who think slaughtering people is just dandy. Or we can even find any common ground, for that matter.

So, this week, I decided to do what I always to when I feel down: talk to a young person. By young, I mean in the 16-20 year range. There have been times, of course, when this has made me even more depressed, especially when I meet a young person who can't name a single world leader other than President Bush. And doesn't care either. But most of the time their energy and general positivity rub off on me and I feel better. I felt these things and more when I spent some time talking with a friend of mine named Alice Childress.

Alice is going to be senior at a suburban high school here in Minneapolis. She is bright, charming, and I consider it an honor to have a friendship with her. Last week, I loaned her the movie Breakdown and asked her for her reaction. I asked her four questions and her responses were far more profound and intelligent than I expected them to be. She sees her generation with an extreme width of vision and has a balanced view which I think we will all find refreshing.

M: What is your reaction to this film?
A: I have to admit, I’m not quite as crazy about this film as you are. I do agree with a lot of information presented, particularly the interview with the economic hit man and the facts about the United States’ previous involvement in several third world nations. But some of the suggestions, like the idea that our government is to blame for September 11 or anthrax, just piss me off. There’s no other way to say it. But overall I thought it was a very good and mostly factual film. It does amaze me how both sides of extremists can twist, omit and carefully place words and images to prove their point. For as much as the Bush administration has lied and played with information, the liberal extremists probably haven’t been much more honest. The difference, however, is that Bush’s lies have resulted in a four year war and hundreds of thousands of deaths.

M: How do you see the situation in Iraq?
A: Honestly, I don’t see how we’re helping Iraq. We went in there with the goal of helping the citizens, and like the film said, we ended up attracting terrorism and killing upwards of 150 thousand civilians. Real big help, yeah. The liberals will argue that oil, not helping the Iraqis was our motivation for war. A much less noble cause to be sure, but even that doesn’t appear to have been very successful. As a new driver, my life basically revolves around gas and I feel like I have to sell my soul for a tank.
So remind me again, why are we there? I think the current reason is that we’re setting up a democracy in Iraq so it can be used as a model for the Middle East. What America – and the rest of the western world, the World Bank, and the IMF – doesn’t get is that the Middle East doesn’t want or need democracy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the system in most cases. But the western idea of success in government is very different from the eastern, and until we recognize that giant cultural difference it will be impossible to make progress in the Middle East.

Take a look at China, for example. Americans hate communism; they always have and they always will. But China has the fastest growing economy in the world, a secure government, and its people seem to be a whole lot happier than the Iraqis. Different nation, different values, good result. Yet Americans still believe that democracy is the only savior.

M:How do you see the United States’ place in the world?
A: In regard to this question, I believe that my generation has been fucked…er, screwed…and here’s why: we have no respect for our country. Since first grade, I’ve been indirectly told by young, smiling teachers as part of the revisionist curriculum that I was an ugly white American who killed the Indians, chopped down the rain forest and used to hold slaves. So I didn’t start off being particularly proud of my nation’s history.

I was ten years old when George Bush was inaugurated. I watched CNN in my sixth grade classroom on September 11, 2001, on a television that had been smuggled into the room because the school administration didn’t want to tell us about the attacks. For as long as I have cared, the United States has occupied areas of the Middle East under Bush’s leadership. To people my age, America has been defined by its involvement in the Middle East. That involvement has been personified by Bush. Therefore, America = Bush. It is perceived, at least at my high school, that to love America is to love the Bush administration and to support the troops is to support Bush’s decision to keep them in Iraq.

So, half the young population is convinced that they do not love their own country. This, of course, is incorrect, as we are mistakenly identifying the nation. But we don’t know that because we have been socialized by the media, our left-leaning public schools, and our peers. I believe the result is that there is no such thing as patriotism in people between fourteen and twenty years old.

We are disillusioned, separated, and ungrounded. In thirty years, when we will be the leading politicians, I imagine a very different America will develop as a result of this upbringing. Unless, of course, we all move to Canada because we just can’t take it anymore. I hear the skiing’s pretty good up there, so who knows.

M: Do you have hope?
A: Hope of what, exactly? Getting out of Iraq? Yes, I do. America’s finally starting to get pissed each time another dead body comes home. Not Vietnam-pissed, but if there was a draft I can definitely see it going there. Hope for Iraqis? They need to have their own hope first before mine makes any difference. How about hope for our government? Yes and no. Bush has really messed up and I am certainly looking forward to how history treats him. But there are a lot of leaders before him who have messed up as well. I think the government of this nation will always lie, it will always pursue alternate interests, and it will always be helped along by the media.
That’s just the kind of country we are.

I think if you can accept that and still strive to make it the best government possible, you can have hope. Basically, as a young and mostly innocent person I think I am inclined to be optimistic about the future. And there are several million more American citizens with that exact same natural tendency.

In my opinion, that simple fact seems reason enough for incredible amounts of hope.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

She Does It Again

It's been a long time since the token conservative at the Minneapolis Star Tribune pissed me off. I guess she was saving it all up for today. Check out this column. Click here to read it.

For those of you who don't remember, I wrote a column on this very subject last year. Click here to read it.

Normally I don't respond to people like Ms. Kersten because it's like....oh, I dunno...having a conversation with an empty Styrofoam cup but I decided to send her the following email. Think I will get a reply?

Ms Kersten,

Your column today is a shining example of someone who lives in a cocoon of
unreality. If you had actually taken the time to do research on the
Reichstag Fire you would've seen the striking similarities between that
incident and 9-11.

Take off your neocon blinders and see that the people that you support are
criminals who will stop at nothing in their greedy pursuit of wealth and
power. One of things that I have always admired about the conservative
message is its adherence to morality and the law. Apparently, our current
administration is excused from both of these principles and get away with
pretty much whatever they want...thanks to people like you and columns like
you wrote today.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Part Two

Here is Part Two of my interview with Joanne Tucker, producer and director of the film Breakdown.

M: In the film, you seem to intimate that the US government itself was responsible for the anthrax attacks. What do you think really happened with all of that? We haven't heard much about it and it seems that most people have forgotten.

J: I wasn't directly intimating that our government was responsible for the anthrax attacks of late 2001. What the film shows (in part one, The Message) is Colin Powell making the case for War on Iraq in February 2003 at the UN Security Council, in which our leadership was stating in an unequivocal way that Iraq possessed WMDs.

Powell, always speaking on behalf of his bosses, stressed throughout the key speech that these were not assertions but statements of solid fact. In the film I show one of those statements made by Powell flanked by the Head of the CIA and the US Ambassador to the UN, while holding up a vial of white (probably johnson's baby) powder before the Council and the world's TV cameras:

'This forced several hundred people to undergo emergency medical treatment and killed two postal workers just from an amount, just about THIS quantity that was inside of an envelope. Iraq declared 8500 litres of anthrax..'

The wording is very very clever and very very typical of the government and media persuasion campaign leading to war. I don't put the entire onus on Colin Powell, although he as others allowed himself to be used and I'm sure he as others, is not proud of that chapter.

Notice how Powell is speaking of the anthrax attacks directly after 9/11 that made headlines on every US news show linking it to Iraq or Arabs, and in the very next sentence, he talks of Iraq. But as usual with the Administration's propaganda build-up, it's all about juxtaposition (putting unrelated statements next to each other but leaving it up to the listener, to make the direct links that don't exist.) and omission.

He puts two statements together that are completely unrelated. It would have been much more relevant for example (but not good for a case for War on an oil-rich Islamic heartland state) if Powell had said in statement 2: 'A 52-year-old American belonging to the Aryan Nations, a US-based militant white separatist group, who in 1995 and 1998 was arrested by the FBI for possessing bubonic plague and convicted of threatening to wipe out the city of Las Vegas and the state of Nevada with military grade anthrax to which he had access, has not been determined to be responsible for the so far timely but unaccounted for anthrax attacks of late 2001.'

Powell's other party trick (the omission) is in saying: 'Iraq declared 8500 litres of anthrax..' Yeah. In 1991, before those 8500 litres were destroyed under UN supervision and documented by the UN (again, not mentioned.) No anthrax, biological or chemical weapons were ever found in Iraq. However, our government IS fedexing bubonic plague anthrax vx and other highest-level toxicity germs around the country to send to Lawrence Livermore National Labs in California (and others but primarily Livermore) where in 2004, it began a brand new expanded biological and chemical weapons programme with newly released funds from Congress and taxpayers' billions.

As for accountability? Weird that the Anthrax attacks story disappeared from the network airwaves as quickly as it had massively appeared in 2001, and was never mentioned by officials again. Could that have anything to do with the fact that the weapons grade anthrax spores being sent to TV celebrities was found to originate in an Army bio terrorism facility near Maryland? Newspaper exposures did not remotely receive the same level of TV buzz again or follow up of the investigations in the public interest.

M: I was shocked to see some of the footage of Jimmy Carter you put in the film. He really sounded a lot like our current president in regards to Middle Eastern policy. Do you think US Foreign Policy is better or worse depending upon whether it is a Democrat or a Republican in office? How is Bill Clinton that different than George W. Bush, for example?

J: Carter's very famous statement in his 1980 State of the Union Address: " Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force…" has to be understood in the context of US superpower ambitions and designs on the Persian Gulf region. It's irrelevant that Carter's a Democrat. He has since come clean about a lot of the hypocrisy and double standards.

When it comes to the Persian Gulf and Israel, Democrats and Republican are one and the same party. The solution does not have to be military or exclusively unjust. America can get all the oil it needs and all the friends it needs in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East without backing (Arab or Israeli) dictatorships or ethnocentric regimes in the region, without giving the most foreign assistance in grants weapons and contracts to Israel to the tune of more than $3 trillion dollars since 1973, to continue to fuel an unjust conflict where right and wrong are as clear as day to both Israelis and Palestinians, the vast majority of both of whom want to live in one country in peace. United States policies will not allow peace in the region, period.

Israelis recognize and write about this regularly in their press, as do neighbouring countries particularly Lebanon, especially since the spectacular failure of last Summer's Washington conceived, Israeli-executed War on Lebanon in 2006 which killed more than one thousand civilians and destroyed an entire country's infrastructure.

America can get all the oil and Arab or Israeli friends it needs, both of whom admire US values, striving to save democracy in their own countries so often blocked by US policies, without creating al Qaeda and spreading violence in the world's most sought after region throughout history, without diverting multiple billions of American taxpayer's money (supporters of long term injustice in the ME love to talk about small government and lower taxes but say nothing about Americans' money being flushed down the toilet in the cause of invasions, war and unjust escalations) to create an ever-growing arms race, pouring money and wmds into Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan to name a few of our closest allies.

Only when Americans are informed about their country's policies will they correctly influence and lead their politicians' policies and decisions rather than be led by Arms, Israel or Oil lobbyists on the issues.

M: You mention Israel a lot in this answer and that leads me to the one area of the film with which I disagreed. The Israeli-Palestinian segment...It seemed a little one sided. Was that on purpose? What is your view on Hamas?

J: Hamas is a national liberation movement that uses its popularity in the political arena, an armed military wing and terror operations to achieve aims which for Palestinians are enshrined in long-passed but never enforced UN international laws and resolutions.

Which liberation movement in history apart from Gandhi's millions-strong non-violence movement in India, a luxury the Palestinians don't have being denied movement from one town to the next, connections to one another, their homes gardens or farm lands when annexed by the Army and even return to their families and residencies on a regular and arbitrary basis, so which independence or liberation movement in history has not used terror against more destructive sophisticated and widespread state terror, to achieve freedom?

Terror is not a one-way street and it is deeply tragic not only to Israeli families and victims who lose their loved ones but to Palestinians. Palestinians are the minority but Palestinian civilians have been killed in the 50 year+ conflict as a deliberate policy of state terror to force a settlement on Israeli terms (which has never worked) and in far greater numbers. Israeli settlers walk around Palestinian majority residential areas (such as East Jerusalem and Hebron) with M16s that they are free to use, but the more than a third of Palestinians killed by Israel's Military are under 16 according to the UN. The vast majority of Palestinians killed in the double digits daily are unarmed civilians. Israel has become great (the very best) at occupying civilians and capturing detaining or fighting unarmed civilians while at the same time, becoming extremely bad at the Art of War or strategy, because the Occupation is corrupting Israeli society and creating profoundly avoidable tragedies on both sides.

This is the model that the US is now emulating in Iraq and across the so-called New Middle East. Dr Rice called last Summer’s War on Lebanon ‘the birth pangs of a new Middle East.’ If this is the new Middle East, say the vast majority of people including Israelis who live there, give us the old unjust paradigm but where the violence was predictable and contained, any day of the year.

Got a question or comment for Joanne? Click on comments below.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Our Girl Friday

In the 1940 screwball comedy, His Girl Friday, Rosalind Russell plays Hildy Johnson, a star reporter for the Morning Post in Chicago. On her way out the door for a quiet family life, Walter Burns, played by Cary Grant, coaxes her back to the paper for one final story. As the film progresses, the audience realizes that Hildy is born to do one thing and one thing alone: write the truth.

In the end, all of us (and Cary Grant) thank God that she sticks around because she uncovers a city wide corruption ring that was almost responsible for hanging an innocent man.

I guess I feel that way about Joanne Tucker. She is Our Girl Friday and I thank God she has been sticking around the Middle East for the past few years.

After studying languages and politics in England, Joanne started her career at the BBC in the 1990s where she worked her way up assignment production & reporting for seven years. Directly after the 9-11 attacks she went to work for Al Jazeera, working directly under the editor in chief at the network. She ran their temporary web site for the war, in English in 2003, which received a lot of US attention including feature articles in the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, LA Times & Chicago Tribune. In 2004, she left Al Jazeera to produce and direct the film I have been talking about for the last two weeks, Breakdown.

I have gotten to know Joanne rather well over the last month and, without a doubt, she, like the character of Hildy Johnson, is a person of great intelligence and integrity who tells the truth about our country, which these days seems to be a bitter pill for many of us to swallow. I thought it would be interesting to inaugurate my first ever interview with someone like Joanne.

This is Part One.

M: You have told me that you made this film because you were surprised at how little Americans know about their own country let alone what is going on in the world. Is that the main reason why you made this film? Are there others?

J: The film from the start and in many ways made itself. I was looking for the behind the superficial headlines facts about US foreign policy in the Middle East and beyond. I was looking at why 'Terrorism' and who that specifically refers to in our 21st century foreign policy had replaced Communism as America's new greatest enemy and those facts emerged from people who deal with, analyze or face them on a daily basis in their lives and work.

When you watch the News, do you really understand what's going on? No. For most Americans, who don't already have a continuous book-informed, first-hand or in depth knowledge about the region policies or events being broad brushed in a 90 second TV report, 30 seconds of which is about making the reporter or anchor look good or impressively knowledgeable when that's rarely the case, the ordinary viewer's knowledge is not advanced and often becomes more skewed and biased based on inaccurate information or politically motivated sound bytes.

Many news channels and particularly when it comes to US global economic interests, in which those networks are direct stakeholders, or matters deemed for or against national security by the political players, have no desire or intention to spread facts. The facts and big picture accuracy are low-priority and expendable, because they are not in the News but the propaganda business.

So commercial, corporate (and inherently politicized) TV News networks are rarely about informing you the viewer -- unless it's an ultra-trivial subject when you'll get unasked for details and analysis coming out of your ears -- but not those topics or subjects where American lives and billions are at stake.

M:The Perkins segment is staggering. He has a new book out called The Secret History of the American Empire. Do you agree completely with what he says? Is the US government that awful in its economic policies in the rest of the world? Why do you suppose that is?

J: What he reveals in the film, as a former NSA-insider is logical and completely in sync with any military and economic superpower's overt and covert actions backed by considerable budgets. In other words, the US is simply behaving as a superpower empire, like so many before it, economically, military, diplomatically and through the use of global military-political proxies.

Two things stand out however and are very noteworthy. The Unites States exists as a nation today out and was born out of the imperative to defend universal human values including equal economic opportunities regardless of religion or race, impose judicial accountability and equality of all before laws, erase political favoritism or constitutional elitism and stamp out imperial arrogance and overreach in world affairs. And two, there has never in all of history been a bigger superpower from every angle including but not limited to, the spread and number of global military bases, pay-rolled proxy regimes worldwide, military lethality and destructive power, corporate economic monopolies of public assets directed by US-led international institutions & the redirection of global wealth and resources into US capital, equity (stock) markets and the dollar currency. So there is a giant and growing gap between rhetoric and reality, cause and result.

M: So if the US "exists as a nation today out and was born out of the imperative to defend universal human values including equal economic opportunities regardless of religion or race, impose judicial accountability and equality of all before laws, erase political favoritism or constitutional elitism and stamp out imperial arrogance and overreach in world affairs" how is it that this definition of the US "soul" if you will is perverted by men like Bush/Cheney etc..?Why is this happening? Is it simple greed? Or something more?

J: Why is it happening? Simple. There is no soul without a mind or heart to work with and guide it. The Founding fathers including Washington and countless independence politicians of stature gave numerous warnings of the end of democracy and beginning of tyranny when the people are not informed or involved in their leaders' decision-making. No democracy can survive for long without an informed public acting as the conscience and constituency of mainly unscrupulous politicians and without a rigorous Legislative or Judicial branch doing its job, doing it with justice and in the public eye for the greater good.

For at least thirty years and I would say after the mid 70s, politicians have learnt the WRONG lessons from those years, what they have learnt is NOT to get caught next time. The media giants work for them not to inform or educate the public, leaders and politicians including in Congress work for unelected unaccountable companies whom they will join once their employment contract in the White House or DoD is over and whose bottom line is maximizing profit at any cost: human cost, including loss of jobs, extreme polarization of wealth, the loss of global democracies, cultural independence and the earth for future generations.

So, why is the soul perverted by people like X & Y? Because the body is sick, the mind is weak and the heart is full of fear and reluctant to get hurt again. It's hard, it's tough but it's do-able. To get healthy, get organized and once again get our priorities as the greatest nation on earth, straight.

Part Two of this interview will be posted on Wednesday July 11, 2007.

Got a question or comment for Joanne? Post in Comments below.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Childish Understanding of the Region

The sad and unbelievable truth as seen through the eyes of people who have actually been there...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

BreakDown: The Exploitation of 911

Lots of interesting information in this clip. The woman from the Pentagon was in another one of my favorite films, Why We Fight (2005)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Note From The Cocoon

When I started this blog a few years back, I wanted to try to make some sense out of the 9-11 attacks. My main goal was to try to get the people that read my stuff (around 200 of you now)to start thinking globally. I really felt that people would really start to wake up in this country and realize that there IS a world out there and, as of September 11th, we have been brought to the front lines of it, hence the name Notes From The Front.

For a time, it actually did look like the citizens of this country would take an interest in United States foreign policy and its effect on the countries with which we are involved. It seemed that my childhood dream of our people thinking more internationally and less nationally would finally be realized.

After all, there were people from all over the world that died in the 9-11 attacks. Right? Boy, was I wrong.

We have gone from being the United States of America to the United Simpletons of Abnegation.

The current administration and their lapdogs in the media spun a cozy cocoon around our borders and have proceeded, since that day, to alternatively pummel us with patriotic cotton candy and fear of the unknown. And those of us that escape this brainwashing don't like to talk about politics...gawd, it's like so serious and stuff!

We have gone willingly into our cocoon because we are all bunch of fucking cowards who would rather live in a fantasy land of bullshit than confront the world and the horrors we have created in it. A shining example of how far we have actually sunk is our soldiers in Iraq sending Paris Hilton letters of comfort while she was sleeping off her 8 year drunk in prison, recently related to her on the Larry King Show on CNN.


I realize that they were probably just horny dudes but I think their priorities are way off. And, by the way, aren't they supposed to be worrying about themselves and their unit? And what about the media? Good lord, the coverage alone of Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith is proof enough of my cocoon theory. The other night my wife and I wanted some news...real news...not the nonsense that passes for news on the "big" networks....real news, y'know what's happening in the world, important issues in our country, and intelligent stories that spark the mind with wonder. Instead, as we flipped around, we got:

Paris Hilton discussion on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360.

Dangerous Minds, a true crime story of murder and rape on MSNBC.

Greta Van Sustren discussing a.....true crime story of murder and rape on Fox News.


Imagine being someone who actually thinks THIS is what is important in the world. Sheesh. Thankfully, though, since I have a satellite dish, I get Link TV. Link TV is Television without borders. It shows newscasts from around the world, including several from the Middle East. It runs documentaries on a variety of subjects in a variety of countries. They are all extremely insightful and highly intelligent. When I watch them I feel enlightened as opposed to fearful, angry, and ignorant like the powers that be want us to feel when we watch what laughably passes for news on the major networks. It was on Link TV that I first saw the film Breakdown. And it was one of those moments...

You know what I am talking about, right? It's like you have your life before you heard Abbey Road by the Beatles and your life after you heard it. You are altered. You are changed in such a way that there is no going back. Your width of vision is expanded and it is impossible to look at things in the same way again. This film caused one of those moments for me and I will never, ever be able to look at our country in the same way again.

Breakdown essentially confirms everything I have said on this blog and goes even further to sharpen and clarify United States foreign policy in the Middle East. It is a film in six parts, each about twenty minutes, that includes:

-The specific lies the Bush Administration told leading up to the Iraq War.

-Details about the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia AKA The real reason why Al Qaeda attacked us on 9-11.

-Footage of our support of Saddam Hussein's murderous rampages in the 1980s

-The dollar and the Euro AKA why we really attacked Iraq.

-How US Energy Policy, as early as May of 2000, has dictated our foreign policy.

-A stunning interview with John Perkins, a former economic "hit man" for the US government, which details how our government essentially acts like the Mafia when it comes to Third World countries.

-Nauseating testimony from troops, who have been on the ground in Iraq, relating what is actually going on over there as opposed to the lies or non-coverage we hear on a daily basis in the lamestream media.

After watching this film, I went to the gym to work out and try to get my head around what is essentially the main point of the film: The United States government thrives on terror. Terror is good, which is the title of the fourth chapter of the film. It's good business for our whole country. As I was thinking about this, I looked up to one of the TVs above me and saw the following sentence on the Fox Ticker on Fox News:


They are not even bothering to try to deny it anymore. They don't care. They know that most our country doesn't even vote (for the president that is, plenty more do for American Idol). They know that most of our country is too busy worried about discovering new ways to become fatter and more brain dead. They know that most of you are too biased, too busy, or too lazy to watch a film like Breakdown.

Prove them wrong. Buy this DVD by clicking here. The cost is about 15 bucks and it is well worth it. Use the information in it to pick the right candidate to lead out country in 2008. Start talking to people about what the film says and why it is so vital for us to change the course of this country. If we don't start to make an effort for change, the greedy bastards that have run this country for the last 44 years will run it straight into oblivion.

The daily torture that we inflict upon the peoples of the world coupled with the denial that it is actually happening has already caused many Americans to lose their lives. Do you want more people to die? Are you ready to expand your width of vision?

Let your voice and your mind be heard.

Tuesday: A clip from Breakdown entitled "The Exploitation of 9/11."