Friday, February 04, 2005
"Some People Push Back" On the Justice of Roosting Chickens
When queried by reporters concerning his views on the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963, Malcolm X famously – and quite charitably, all things considered – replied that it was merely a case of "chickens coming home to roost." On the morning of September 11, 2001, a few more chickens – along with some half-million dead Iraqi children – came home to roost in a very big way at the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center. Well, actually, a few of them seem to have nestled in at the Pentagon as well. The Iraqi youngsters, all of them under 12, died as a predictable – in fact, widely predicted – result of the 1991 US "surgical" bombing of their country's water purification and sewage facilities, as well as other "infrastructural" targets upon which Iraq's civilian population depends for its very survival. If the nature of the bombing were not already bad enough – and it should be noted that this sort of "aerial warfare" constitutes a Class I Crime Against humanity, entailing myriad gross violations of international law, as well as every conceivable standard of "civilized" behavior – the death toll has been steadily ratcheted up by US-imposed sanctions for a full decade now. Enforced all the while by a massive military presence and periodic bombing raids, the embargo has greatly impaired the victims' ability to import the nutrients, medicines and other materials necessary to saving the lives of even their toddlers. All told, Iraq has a population of about 18 million. The 500,000 kids lost to date thus represent something on the order of 25 percent of their age group. Indisputably, the rest have suffered – are still suffering – a combination of physical debilitation and psychological trauma severe enough to prevent their ever fully recovering. In effect, an entire generation has been obliterated. The reason for this holocaust was/is rather simple, and stated quite straightforwardly by President George Bush, the 41st "freedom-loving" father of the freedom-lover currently filling the Oval Office, George the 43rd: "The world must learn that what we say, goes," intoned George the Elder to the enthusiastic applause of freedom-loving Americans everywhere. How Old George conveyed his message was certainly no mystery to the US public. One need only recall the 24-hour-per-day dissemination of bombardment videos on every available TV channel, and the exceedingly high ratings of these telecasts, to gain a sense of how much they knew. In trying to affix a meaning to such things, we would do well to remember the wave of elation that swept America at reports of what was happening along the so-called Highway of Death: perhaps 100,000 "towel-heads" and "camel jockeys" – or was it "sand niggers" that week? – in full retreat, routed and effectively defenseless, many of them conscripted civilian laborers, slaughtered in a single day by jets firing the most hyper-lethal types of ordnance. It was a performance worthy of the nazis during the early months of their drive into Russia. And it should be borne in mind that Good Germans gleefully cheered that butchery, too. Indeed, support for Hitler suffered no serious erosion among Germany's "innocent civilians" until the defeat at Stalingrad in 1943.
The essay on this page was expanded into a full-length book - to buy Ward Churchill's Book "On The Justice of Roosting Chickens" for $20.95, postage included - click above on the image
Visit the George W, Bush - International Terrorist website There may be a real utility to reflecting further, this time upon the fact that it was pious Americans who led the way in assigning the onus of collective guilt to the German people as a whole, not for things they as individuals had done, but for what they had allowed – nay, empowered – their leaders and their soldiers to do in their name. If the principle was valid then, it remains so now, as applicable to Good Americans as it was the Good Germans. And the price exacted from the Germans for the faultiness of their moral fiber was truly ghastly. Returning now to the children, and to the effects of the post-Gulf War embargo – continued bull force by Bush the Elder's successors in the Clinton administration as a gesture of its "resolve" to finalize what George himself had dubbed the "New World Order" of American military/economic domination – it should be noted that not one but two high United Nations officials attempting to coordinate delivery of humanitarian aid to Iraq resigned in succession as protests against US policy. One of them, former U.N. Assistant Secretary General Denis Halladay, repeatedly denounced what was happening as "a systematic program . . . of deliberate genocide." His statements appeared in the New York Times and other papers during the fall of 1998, so it can hardly be contended that the American public was "unaware" of them. Shortly thereafter, Secretary of State Madeline Albright openly confirmed Halladay's assessment. Asked during the widely-viewed TV program Meet the Press to respond to his "allegations," she calmly announced that she'd decided it was "worth the price" to see that U.S. objectives were achieved.
The Politics of a Perpetrator Population As a whole, the American public greeted these revelations with yawns.. There were, after all, far more pressing things than the unrelenting misery/death of a few hundred thousand Iraqi tikes to be concerned with. Getting "Jeremy" and "Ellington" to their weekly soccer game, for instance, or seeing to it that little "Tiffany" and "Ashley" had just the right roll-neck sweaters to go with their new cords. And, to be sure, there was the yuppie holy war against ashtrays – for "our kids," no less – as an all-absorbing point of political focus. In fairness, it must be admitted that there was an infinitesimally small segment of the body politic who expressed opposition to what was/is being done to the children of Iraq. It must also be conceded, however, that those involved by-and-large contented themselves with signing petitions and conducting candle-lit prayer vigils, bearing "moral witness" as vast legions of brown-skinned five-year-olds sat shivering in the dark, wide-eyed in horror, whimpering as they expired in the most agonizing ways imaginable. Be it said as well, and this is really the crux of it, that the "resistance" expended the bulk of its time and energy harnessed to the systemically-useful task of trying to ensure, as "a principle of moral virtue" that nobody went further than waving signs as a means of "challenging" the patently exterminatory pursuit of Pax Americana. So pure of principle were these "dissidents," in fact, that they began literally to supplant the police in protecting corporations profiting by the carnage against suffering such retaliatory "violence" as having their windows broken by persons less "enlightened" – or perhaps more outraged – than the self-anointed "peacekeepers." Property before people, it seems – or at least the equation of property to people – is a value by no means restricted to America's boardrooms. And the sanctimony with which such putrid sentiments are enunciated turns out to be nauseatingly similar, whether mouthed by the CEO of Standard Oil or any of the swarm of comfort zone "pacifists" queuing up to condemn the black block after it ever so slightly disturbed the functioning of business-as-usual in Seattle. Small wonder, all-in-all, that people elsewhere in the world – the Mideast, for instance – began to wonder where, exactly, aside from the streets of the US itself, one was to find the peace America's purportedly oppositional peacekeepers claimed they were keeping. The answer, surely, was plain enough to anyone unblinded by the kind of delusions engendered by sheer vanity and self-absorption. So, too, were the implications in terms of anything changing, out there, in America's free-fire zones. Tellingly, it was at precisely this point – with the genocide in Iraq officially admitted and a public response demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt that there were virtually no Americans, including most of those professing otherwise, doing anything tangible to stop it – that the combat teams which eventually commandeered the aircraft used on September 11 began to infiltrate the United States.
Meet the "Terrorists" Of the men who came, there are a few things demanding to be said in the face of the unending torrent of disinformational drivel unleashed by George Junior and the corporate "news" media immediately following their successful operation on September 11. They did not, for starters, "initiate" a war with the US, much less commit "the first acts of war of the new millennium." A good case could be made that the war in which they were combatants has been waged more-or-less continuously by the "Christian West" – now proudly emblematized by the United States – against the "Islamic East" since the time of the First Crusade, about 1,000 years ago. More recently, one could argue that the war began when Lyndon Johnson first lent significant support to Israel's dispossession/displacement of Palestinians during the 1960s, or when George the Elder ordered "Desert Shield" in 1990, or at any of several points in between. Any way you slice it, however, if what the combat teams did to the WTC and the Pentagon can be understood as acts of war – and they can – then the same is true of every US "overflight' of Iraqi territory since day one. The first acts of war during the current millennium thus occurred on its very first day, and were carried out by U.S. aviators acting under orders from their then-commander-in-chief, Bill Clinton. The most that can honestly be said of those involved on September 11 is that they finally responded in kind to some of what this country has dispensed to their people as a matter of course. That they waited so long to do so is, notwithstanding the 1993 action at the WTC, more than anything a testament to their patience and restraint. They did not license themselves to "target innocent civilians." There is simply no argument to be made that the Pentagon personnel killed on September 11 fill that bill. The building and those inside comprised military targets, pure and simple. As to those in the World Trade Center . . . Well, really. Let's get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire – the "mighty engine of profit" to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved – and they did so both willingly and knowingly. Recourse to "ignorance" – a derivative, after all, of the word "ignore" – counts as less than an excuse among this relatively well-educated elite. To the extent that any of them were unaware of the costs and consequences to others of what they were involved in – and in many cases excelling at – it was because of their absolute refusal to see. More likely, it was because they were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I'd really be interested in hearing about it. The men who flew the missions against the WTC and Pentagon were not "cowards." That distinction properly belongs to the "firm-jawed lads" who delighted in flying stealth aircraft through the undefended airspace of Baghdad, dropping payload after payload of bombs on anyone unfortunate enough to be below – including tens of thousands of genuinely innocent civilians – while themselves incurring all the risk one might expect during a visit to the local video arcade. Still more, the word describes all those "fighting men and women" who sat at computer consoles aboard ships in the Persian Gulf, enjoying air-conditioned comfort while launching cruise missiles into neighborhoods filled with random human beings. Whatever else can be said of them, the men who struck on September 11 manifested the courage of their convictions, willingly expending their own lives in attaining their objectives. Nor were they "fanatics" devoted to "Islamic fundamentalism." One might rightly describe their actions as "desperate." Feelings of desperation, however, are a perfectly reasonable – one is tempted to say "normal" – emotional response among persons confronted by the mass murder of their children, particularly when it appears that nobody else really gives a damn (ask a Jewish survivor about this one, or, even more poignantly, for all the attention paid them, a Gypsy). That desperate circumstances generate desperate responses is no mysterious or irrational principle, of the sort motivating fanatics. Less is it one peculiar to Islam. Indeed, even the FBI's investigative reports on the combat teams' activities during the months leading up to September 11 make it clear that the members were not fundamentalist Muslims. Rather, it's pretty obvious at this point that they were secular activists – soldiers, really – who, while undoubtedly enjoying cordial relations with the clerics of their countries, were motivated far more by the grisly realities of the U.S. war against them than by a set of religious beliefs. And still less were they/their acts "insane." Insanity is a condition readily associable with the very American idea that one – or one's country – holds what amounts to a "divine right" to commit genocide, and thus to forever do so with impunity. The term might also be reasonably applied to anyone suffering genocide without attempting in some material way to bring the process to a halt. Sanity itself, in this frame of reference, might be defined by a willingness to try and destroy the perpetrators and/or the sources of their ability to commit their crimes. (Shall we now discuss the US "strategic bombing campaign" against Germany during World War II, and the mental health of those involved in it?) Which takes us to official characterizations of the combat teams as an embodiment of "evil." Evil – for those inclined to embrace the banality of such a concept – was perfectly incarnated in that malignant toad known as Madeline Albright, squatting in her studio chair like Jaba the Hutt, blandly spewing the news that she'd imposed a collective death sentence upon the unoffending youth of Iraq. Evil was to be heard in that great American hero "Stormin' Norman" Schwartzkopf's utterly dehumanizing dismissal of their systematic torture and annihilation as mere "collateral damage." Evil, moreover, is a term appropriate to describing the mentality of a public that finds such perspectives and the policies attending them acceptable, or even momentarily tolerable. Had it not been for these evils, the counterattacks of September 11 would never have occurred. And unless "the world is rid of such evil," to lift a line from George Junior, September 11 may well end up looking like a lark. There is no reason, after all, to believe that the teams deployed in the assaults on the WTC and the Pentagon were the only such, that the others are composed of "Arabic-looking individuals" – America's indiscriminately lethal arrogance and psychotic sense of self-entitlement have long since given the great majority of the world's peoples ample cause to be at war with it – or that they are in any way dependent upon the seizure of civilian airliners to complete their missions. To the contrary, there is every reason to expect that there are many other teams in place, tasked to employ altogether different tactics in executing operational plans at least as well-crafted as those evident on September 11, and very well equipped for their jobs. This is to say that, since the assaults on the WTC and Pentagon were act of war – not "terrorist incidents" – they must be understood as components in a much broader strategy designed to achieve specific results. From this, it can only be adduced that there are plenty of other components ready to go, and that they will be used, should this become necessary in the eyes of the strategists. It also seems a safe bet that each component is calibrated to inflict damage at a level incrementally higher than the one before (during the 1960s, the Johnson administration employed a similar policy against Vietnam, referred to as "escalation"). Since implementation of the overall plan began with the WTC/Pentagon assaults, it takes no rocket scientist to decipher what is likely to happen next, should the U.S. attempt a response of the inexcusable variety to which it has long entitled itself.
About Those Boys (and Girls) in the Bureau There's another matter begging for comment at this point. The idea that the FBI's "counterterrorism task forces" can do a thing to prevent what will happen is yet another dimension of America's delusional pathology.. The fact is that, for all its publicly-financed "image-building" exercises, the Bureau has never shown the least aptitude for anything of the sort. Oh, yeah, FBI counterintelligence personnel have proven quite adept at framing anarchists, communists and Black Panthers, sometimes murdering them in their beds or the electric chair. The Bureau's SWAT units have displayed their ability to combat child abuse in Waco by burning babies alive, and its vaunted Crime Lab has been shown to pad its "crime-fighting' statistics by fabricating evidence against many an alleged car thief. But actual "heavy-duty bad guys" of the sort at issue now? This isn't a Bruce Willis/Chuck Norris/Sly Stallone movie, after all.. And J. Edgar Hoover doesn't get to approve either the script or the casting. The number of spies, saboteurs and bona fide terrorists apprehended, or even detected by the FBI in the course of its long and slimy history could be counted on one's fingers and toes. On occasion, its agents have even turned out to be the spies, and, in many instances, the terrorists as well. To be fair once again, if the Bureau functions as at best a carnival of clowns where its "domestic security responsibilities" are concerned, this is because – regardless of official hype – it has none. It is now, as it's always been, the national political police force, an instrument created and perfected to ensure that all Americans, not just the consenting mass, are "free" to do exactly as they're told. The FBI and "cooperating agencies" can be thus relied upon to set about "protecting freedom" by destroying whatever rights and liberties were left to U.S. citizens before September 11 (in fact, they've already received authorization to begin). Sheeplike, the great majority of Americans can also be counted upon to bleat their approval, at least in the short run, believing as they always do that the nasty implications of what they're doing will pertain only to others. Oh Yeah, and "The Company," Too A possibly even sicker joke is the notion, suddenly in vogue, that the CIA will be able to pinpoint "terrorist threats," "rooting out their infrastructure" where it exists and/or "terminating" it before it can materialize, if only it's allowed to beef up its "human intelligence gathering capacity" in an unrestrained manner (including full-bore operations inside the US, of course). Yeah. Right. Since America has a collective attention-span of about 15 minutes, a little refresher seems in order: "The Company" had something like a quarter-million people serving as "intelligence assets" by feeding it information in Vietnam in 1968, and it couldn't even predict the Tet Offensive. God knows how many spies it was fielding against the USSR at the height of Ronald Reagan's version of the Cold War, and it was still caught flatfooted by the collapse of the Soviet Union. As to destroying "terrorist infrastructures," one would do well to remember Operation Phoenix, another product of its open season in Vietnam. In that one, the CIA enlisted elite US units like the Navy Seals and Army Special Forces, as well as those of friendly countries – the south Vietnamese Rangers, for example, and Australian SAS – to run around "neutralizing" folks targeted by The Company's legion of snitches as "guerrillas" (as those now known as "terrorists" were then called). Sound familiar? Upwards of 40,000 people – mostly bystanders, as it turns out – were murdered by Phoenix hit teams before the guerrillas, stronger than ever, ran the US and its collaborators out of their country altogether. And these are the guys who are gonna save the day, if unleashed to do their thing in North America? The net impact of all this "counterterrorism" activity upon the combat teams' ability to do what they came to do, of course, will be nil. Instead, it's likely to make it easier for them to operate (it's worked that way in places like Northern Ireland). And, since denying Americans the luxury of reaping the benefits of genocide in comfort was self-evidently a key objective of the WTC/Pentagon assaults, it can be stated unequivocally that a more overt display of the police state mentality already pervading this country simply confirms the magnitude of their victory.
On Matters of Proportion and Intent As things stand, including the 1993 detonation at the WTC, "Arab terrorists" have responded to the massive and sustained American terror bombing of Iraq with a total of four assaults by explosives inside the US. That's about 1% of the 50,000 bombs the Pentagon announced were rained on Baghdad alone during the Gulf War (add in Oklahoma City and you'll get something nearer an actual 1%). They've managed in the process to kill about 5,000 Americans, or roughly 1% of the dead Iraqi children (the percentage is far smaller if you factor in the killing of adult Iraqi civilians, not to mention troops butchered as/after they'd surrendered and/or after the "war-ending" ceasefire had been announced). In terms undoubtedly more meaningful to the property/profit-minded American mainstream, they've knocked down a half-dozen buildings – albeit some very well-chosen ones – as opposed to the "strategic devastation" visited upon the whole of Iraq, and punched a $100 billion hole in the earnings outlook of major corporate shareholders, as opposed to the U.S. obliteration of Iraq's entire economy. With that, they've given Americans a tiny dose of their own medicine.. This might be seen as merely a matter of "vengeance" or "retribution," and, unquestionably, America has earned it, even if it were to add up only to something so ultimately petty. The problem is that vengeance is usually framed in terms of "getting even," a concept which is plainly inapplicable in this instance. As the above data indicate, it would require another 49,996 detonations killing 495,000 more Americans, for the "terrorists" to "break even" for the bombing of Baghdad/extermination of Iraqi children alone. And that's to achieve "real number" parity. To attain an actual proportional parity of damage – the US is about 15 times as large as Iraq in terms of population, even more in terms of territory – they would, at a minimum, have to blow up about 300,000 more buildings and kill something on the order of 7.5 million people. Were this the intent of those who've entered the US to wage war against it, it would remain no less true that America and Americans were only receiving the bill for what they'd already done. Payback, as they say, can be a real motherfucker (ask the Germans). There is, however, no reason to believe that retributive parity is necessarily an item on the agenda of those who planned the WTC/Pentagon operation. If it were, given the virtual certainty that they possessed the capacity to have inflicted far more damage than they did, there would be a lot more American bodies lying about right now. Hence, it can be concluded that ravings carried by the "news" media since September 11 have contained at least one grain of truth: The peoples of the Mideast "aren't like" Americans, not least because they don't "value life' in the same way. By this, it should be understood that Middle-Easterners, unlike Americans, have no history of exterminating others purely for profit, or on the basis of racial animus. Thus, we can appreciate the fact that they value life – all lives, not just their own – far more highly than do their U.S. counterparts.
The Makings of a Humanitarian Strategy In sum one can discern a certain optimism – it might even be call humanitarianism – imbedded in the thinking of those who presided over the very limited actions conducted on September 11. Their logic seems to have devolved upon the notion that the American people have condoned what has been/is being done in their name – indeed, are to a significant extent actively complicit in it – mainly because they have no idea what it feels like to be on the receiving end. Now they do. That was the "medicinal" aspect of the attacks. To all appearances, the idea is now to give the tonic a little time to take effect, jolting Americans into the realization that the sort of pain they're now experiencing first-hand is no different from – or the least bit more excruciating than – that which they've been so cavalier in causing others, and thus to respond appropriately. More bluntly, the hope was – and maybe still is – that Americans, stripped of their presumed immunity from incurring any real consequences for their behavior, would comprehend and act upon a formulation as uncomplicated as "stop killing our kids, if you want your own to be safe." Either way, it's a kind of "reality therapy" approach, designed to afford the American people a chance to finally "do the right thing" on their own, without further coaxing. Were the opportunity acted upon in some reasonably good faith fashion – a sufficiently large number of Americans rising up and doing whatever is necessary to force an immediate lifting of the sanctions on Iraq, for instance, or maybe hanging a few of America's abundant supply of major war criminals (Henry Kissinger comes quickly to mind, as do Madeline Albright, Colin Powell, Bill Clinton and George the Elder) – there is every reason to expect that military operations against the US on its domestic front would be immediately suspended. Whether they would remain so would of course be contingent upon follow-up. By that, it may be assumed that American acceptance of onsite inspections by international observers to verify destruction of its weapons of mass destruction (as well as dismantlement of all facilities in which more might be manufactured), Nuremberg-style trials in which a few thousand US military/corporate personnel could be properly adjudicated and punished for their Crimes Against humanity, and payment of reparations to the array of nations/peoples whose assets the US has plundered over the years, would suffice. Since they've shown no sign of being unreasonable or vindictive, it may even be anticipated that, after a suitable period of adjustment and reeducation (mainly to allow them to acquire the skills necessary to living within their means), those restored to control over their own destinies by the gallant sacrifices of the combat teams the WTC and Pentagon will eventually (re)admit Americans to the global circle of civilized societies. Stranger things have happened.
In the Alternative Unfortunately, noble as they may have been, such humanitarian aspirations were always doomed to remain unfulfilled. For it to have been otherwise, a far higher quality of character and intellect would have to prevail among average Americans than is actually the case. Perhaps the strategists underestimated the impact a couple of generations-worth of media indoctrination can produce in terms of demolishing the capacity of human beings to form coherent thoughts. Maybe they forgot to factor in the mind-numbing effects of the indoctrination passed off as education in the US. Then, again, it's entirely possible they were aware that a decisive majority of American adults have been reduced by this point to a level much closer to the kind of immediate self-gratification entailed in Pavlovian stimulus/response patterns than anything accessible by appeals to higher logic, and still felt morally obliged to offer the dolts an option to quit while they were ahead. What the hell? It was worth a try. But it's becoming increasingly apparent that the dosage of medicine administered was entirely insufficient to accomplish its purpose. Although there are undoubtedly exceptions, Americans for the most part still don't get it. Already, they've desecrated the temporary tomb of those killed in the WTC, staging a veritable pep rally atop the mangled remains of those they profess to honor, treating the whole affair as if it were some bizarre breed of contact sport. And, of course, there are the inevitable pom-poms shaped like American flags, the school colors worn as little red-white-and-blue ribbons affixed to labels, sportscasters in the form of "counterterrorism experts" drooling mindless color commentary during the pregame warm-up. Refusing the realization that the world has suddenly shifted its axis, and that they are therefore no longer "in charge," they have by-and-large reverted instantly to type, working themselves into their usual bloodlust on the now obsolete premise that the bloodletting will "naturally" occur elsewhere and to someone else. "Patriotism," a wise man once observed, "is the last refuge of scoundrels." And the braided, he might of added. Braided Scoundrel-in-Chief, George Junior, lacking even the sense to be careful what he wished for, has teamed up with a gaggle of fundamentalist Christian clerics like Billy Graham to proclaim a "New Crusade" called "Infinite Justice" aimed at "ridding the world of evil." One could easily make light of such rhetoric, remarking upon how unseemly it is for a son to threaten his father in such fashion – or a president to so publicly contemplate the murder/suicide of himself and his cabinet – but the matter is deadly serious. They are preparing once again to sally forth for the purpose of roasting brown-skinned children by the scores of thousands. Already, the B-1 bombers and the aircraft carriers and the missile frigates are en route, the airborne divisions are gearing up to go. To where? Afghanistan? The Sudan? Iraq, again (or still)? How about Grenada (that was fun)? Any of them or all. It doesn't matter. The desire to pummel the helpless runs rabid as ever. Only, this time it's different. The time the helpless aren't, or at least are not so helpless as they were. This time, somewhere, perhaps in an Afghani mountain cave, possibly in a Brooklyn basement, maybe another local altogether – but somewhere, all the same – there's a grim-visaged (wo)man wearing a Clint Eastwood smile. "Go ahead, punks," s/he's saying, "Make my day." And when they do, when they launch these airstrikes abroad – or may a little later; it will be at a time conforming to the "terrorists"' own schedule, and at a place of their choosing – the next more intensive dose of medicine administered here "at home." Of what will it consist this time? Anthrax? Mustard gas? Sarin? A tactical nuclear device? That, too, is their choice to make. Looking back, it will seem to future generations inexplicable why Americans were unable on their own, and in time to save themselves, to accept a rule of nature so basic that it could be mouthed by an actor, Lawrence Fishburn, in a movie, The Cotton Club. "You've got to learn, " the line went, "that when you push people around, some people push back." As they should. As they must. And as they undoubtedly will. There is justice in such symmetry.
ADDENDUM The preceding was a "first take" reading, more a stream-of-consciousness interpretive reaction to the September 11 counterattack than a finished piece on the topic. Hence, I'll readily admit that I've been far less than thorough, and quite likely wrong about a number of things. For instance, it may not have been (only) the ghosts of Iraqi children who made their appearance that day. It could as easily have been some or all of their butchered Palestinian cousins. Or maybe it was some or all of the at least 3.2 million Indochinese who perished as a result of America's sustained and genocidal assault on Southeast Asia (1959-1975), not to mention the millions more who've died because of the sanctions imposed thereafter. Perhaps there were a few of the Korean civilians massacred by US troops at places like No Gun Ri during the early ‘50s, or the hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians ruthlessly incinerated in the ghastly fire raids of World War II (only at Dresden did America bomb Germany in a similar manner). And, of course, it could have been those vaporized in the militarily pointless nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There are others, as well, a vast and silent queue of faceless victims, stretching from the million-odd Filipinos slaughtered during America's "Indian War" in their islands at the beginning of the twentieth century, through the real Indians, America's own, massacred wholesale at places like Horseshoe Bend and the Bad Axe, Sand Creek and Wounded Knee, the Washita, Bear River, and the Marias. Was it those who expired along the Cherokee Trial of Tears of the Long Walk of the Navajo? Those murdered by smallpox at Fort Clark in 1836? Starved to death in the concentration camp at Bosque Redondo during the 1860s? Maybe those native people claimed for scalp bounty in all 48 of the continental US states? Or the Raritans whose severed heads were kicked for sport along the streets of what was then called New Amsterdam, at the very site where the WTC once stood? One hears, too, the whispers of those lost on the Middle Passage, and of those whose very flesh was sold in the slave market outside the human kennel from whence Wall Street takes its name. And of coolie laborers, imported by the gross-dozen to lay the tracks of empire across scorching desert sands, none of them allotted "a Chinaman's chance" of surviving. The list is too long, too awful to go on. No matter what its eventual fate, America will have gotten off very, very cheap. The full measure of its guilt can never be fully balanced or atoned for.
Ward Churchill (Keetoowah Band Cherokee) is one of the most outspoken of Native American activists. In his lectures and numerous published works, he explores the themes of genocide in the Americas, historical and legal (re)interpretation of conquest and colonization, literary and cinematic criticism, and indigenist alternatives to the status quo. Churchill is a Professor of Ethnic Studies and Coordinator of American Indian Studies. He is also a past national spokesperson for the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee. His books include Agents of Repression, Fantasies of the Master Race, From a Native Son and A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas.
Thursday, February 03, 2005
Bush will target health care next: Employers off the hook?
WASHINGTON – Emboldened by their success at the polls, the Bush administration and Republican leaders in Congress believe they have a new opportunity to move the nation away from the system of employer-provided health insurance that has covered most working Americans for the last half-century.
In its place, they want to erect a system in which workers – instead of looking to employers for health insurance – would take personal responsibility for protecting themselves and their families: They would buy high-deductible “catastrophic” insurance policies to cover major medical needs, then pay routine costs with money set aside in tax-sheltered health savings accounts.
Elements of that approach have been on the conservative agenda for years, but what has suddenly put it on the fast track is GOP confidence that the political balance of power has changed.
With Democratic strength reduced, President Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and House Ways and Means committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) are pushing for action.
Supporters of the new approach, who see it as part of Bush’s “ownership society,” say workers and their families would become more careful users of health care if they had to pay the bills.
Also, they say, the lower premiums on high-deductible plans would make coverage affordable for the uninsured and for small businesses.
Critics say the Republican approach is really an attempt to shift the risks, massive costs and knotty problems of health care from employers to workers. And they say the GOP is moving forward with far less public attention or debate than have surrounded Bush’s plans to overhaul Social Security.
Health savings accounts, known as HSAs, have already been approved. They were created as a little-noticed appendage to the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill.
HSAs have had a strong start in the marketplace. Although regulations spelling out how they would work were not issued until mid-2004, as of Sept. 30, about 440,000 people had signed up. And more than one-quarter of employers say they are likely to offer them as an option.
The accounts are available only to people who buy high-deductible health insurance, either through an employer or individually. Consumers can set aside tax-free an amount equal to their deductible. Employers can contribute to workers’ HSAs but do not have to. Unused balances can be rolled over from year to year, and employees take their HSAs with them when they switch jobs.
The idea that losing one’s job would not automatically mean losing protection for medical costs has bipartisan appeal.
“Portability” was a key feature of President Clinton’s ill-fated health care reform plan. But the GOP approach is significantly different: Whereas Clinton would have required all employers to chip in for universal health insurance, Bush wants to leave responsibility primarily to individuals.
“This is certainly getting a lot of attention from employers,” said Jack Rodgers, a health care analyst for PricewaterhouseÂCoopers LLP.
High schoolers find freedom a little too free
WASHINGTON – The way many high school students see it, government censorship of newspapers might not be a bad thing, and flag burning is hardly protected free speech.
The original amendment to the Constitution is the cornerstone of the way of life in the United States, promising citizens the freedoms of religion, speech, press and assembly.
Yet, when told the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes “too far” in the rights it guarantees, according to a study released Monday. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.
“These results are not only disturbing; they are dangerous,” said Hodding Carter III, president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which sponsored the $1 million study. “Ignorance about the basics of this free society is a danger to our nation’s future.”
Students are more restrictive in their views than their elders, the study says.
When asked whether people should be allowed to express unpopular views, 97 percent of teachers and 99 percent of school principals said yes. Only 83 percent of students did.
The results reflected indifference, with almost three in four students saying they took the First Amendment for granted or didn’t know how they felt about it. It was also clear that many students do not understand what is protected by the bedrock of the Bill of Rights.
Three in four students said flag burning is illegal. It’s not. About half the students said the government can restrict any indecent material on the Internet. It can’t.
“Schools don’t do enough to teach the First Amendment. Students often don’t know the rights it protects,” Linda Puntney, executive director of the Journalism Education Association, said in the report. “This all comes at a time when there is decreasing passion for much of anything. And, you have to be passionate about the First Amendment.”
The partners in the project, including organizations of new editors and directors, share a clear advocacy for First Amendment issues.
Federal and state officials, meanwhile, have bemoaned a lack of knowledge of U.S. civics and history among young people. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) has even pushed through a mandate that schools teach about the Constitution on Sept. 17, the date it was signed in 1787.
More than 100,000 students, 8,000 teachers and more than 500 administrators at 544 public and private high schools took part in the survey in early 2004.
The study suggests that students embrace First Amendment freedoms if they are taught about them and given a chance to practice them, but schools don’t make the matter a priority.
Students who take part in school media activities, such as a student newspapers or TV production, are much more likely to support expression of unpopular views, for example.
About nine in 10 principals said it is important for students to learn some journalism skills, but most administrators say a lack of money limits media offerings.
More than one in five schools offer no student media opportunities. Of the schools without student papers, 40 percent have cut them in the past five years.
“The last 15 years have not been a golden era for student media,” said Warren Watson, director of the J-Ideas project at Ball State University in Indiana. “Many students do not get the opportunity to practice our basic freedoms.”