Thursday, December 27, 2012

September 11, 2001 was the best of days for the weapons, oil and construction industries. And it fortified the relatively new service branch of professional paramilitary mercenaries into a large national killing industry. Now that the stage was set, the Permanent War Age had to be sold. We good humans must be fearful of the terrorists, and thus we will passively or actively support all the wars the various US governments render us, as we must accept their terror laws and the demise of civil and labor rights fought for and won by workers, solidarity and leftist activists, ethnic rights fighters and civil libertarians.

December 25, 2012

Born in the USA

Regimen of Permanent Wars


We live in the Permanent War Age. The United States’ goal is simple—one that exposes a superpower’s arrogance and monetary greed, and one that appeals to the American Dream for the majority of its citizens—world domination!

Most US Americans believe they are the best people in the world, the strongest, the bravest, owners of the Land of Opportunity. And if war is necessary to maintain that predominance, so be it—although since the 2008 capital-created economic crisis, there are some cracks in the wall.

Granted, there have been wars for thousands of years ever since the idea took hold that one should possess private property. From that came acceptance of war to seize others’ private property. Wars for territorial expansion have existed since the first empires were formed some 4000 years ago.

While emperors sought territorial expansion and control over socio-political entities, modern imperialism concentrates on economic domination without a permanent military presence, until a military intervention is deemed necessary to put down domestic unrest or other foreign influence.

For the last generation since the fall of state socialism (or state capitalism) in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, as well as in Viet Nam, Cambodia, China and Cuba, the US has stood as the world’s sole superpower. Nevertheless, to assure world domination it must ally with Europe especially NATO, along with Canada, Australia and Japan.

The so-called Cold War ended with the fall of any pretense of functioning socialism but wars continue, and the militarization of the world marches hand in hand with globalization extending even into outer space. The United States gets off with its aggressive wars by simply declaring them necessary to stop terrorism, especially in the Middle East, but not, of course, its terrorist friends in Israel and Saudi Arabia. US self-righteous excuse is the terrorism committed against US power structures within the United States, on September 11, 2001. No matter that almost all of those allegedly identified terrorists were Saudi Arabians—none were from Afghanistan or Iraq—the warriors in the Pentagon and Langley unleashed patriotic murder and legitimized torture in Afghanistan, then Iraq and other Middle Eastern and African countries where challengers lurk.

“The War-On-Terror” script was written just a year before its terror was enthusiastically unleashed to grab all oil and gas fuel and other raw materials anywhere it could. The world’s policeman warehoused ample ammo in 800 military bases, in 131 countries. Today, the US has military bases where it never had before the fall of European socialist states, including in several new sovereign states earlier under the Soviet Union, but also in Iraq and Afghanistan, and even in Australia. It has doubled its number of bases in Colombia for a total of eight where it also has troops. It operates military war games with previous enemies in Viet Nam and Cambodia. 

The business warlord promoters, who wrote the script “to promote American global leadership” with its preeminent military forces, had founded the right-wing think tank, Project for a New American Century (PNAC), in 1997. In September 2000, the PNAC published its imperial report, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces, and Resources for a New Century”. They knew it would be unpopular so they predicted that, in order for it to be accepted by sufficient numbers, a tragedy on the scale of Pearl Harbor would have to occur. Some forces complied a year later.

September 11, 2001 was the best of days for the weapons, oil and construction industries. And it fortified the relatively new service branch of professional paramilitary mercenaries into a large national killing industry. Now that the stage was set, the Permanent War Age had to be sold. We good humans must be fearful of the terrorists, and thus we will passively or actively support all the wars the various US governments render us, as we must accept their terror laws and the demise of civil and labor rights fought for and won by workers, solidarity and leftist activists, ethnic rights fighters and civil libertarians.

“When a state is committed to such policies, it must somehow find a way to divert the population, to keep them from seeing what’s happening around them. There are not many ways to do this. The standard ones are to inspire fear of terrible enemies about to overwhelm us, and awe for our grand leaders who rescue us from disaster in the nick of time,” so Noam Chomsky asserted already in 1986 (What Uncle Sam Really Wants.)

The September 13, 2001 edition of the “Philadelphia Inquirer” spoke to those fears aroused on 9/11 with the headline: “Give War a Chance”!

George Bush Jr. ordered the war-on-terror October 7, after having granted the military forces unlimited money, weapons and resources. The CIA got ten times the previous amount of money for bribes and payments to mercenaries and torturers. “Preventative” war was approved with new mass destruction weapons including nuclear and bacteriological weapons.
PNAC spokesmen took up many important posts in the Bush regime—Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol, Elliott Abrahams, John Bolton, Richard Perle, John Ashcroft, Richard Cheney (Halliburton’s former CEO). They succeeded in ramming through the Patriotic Act. People can now be arrested and detained indefinitely without a judge’s approval or even a trial. A police state is well underway.

Former NATO Commander, U.S. General Wesley Clark told “Democracy Now” (2007) that just ten days after 9/11, the Bush regime had plans to invade as soon as possible several of 40 countries it listed as “rogue states”—Iraq, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan and Iran. What they had in common was oil and banks not under the multinational corporation control of the Banking International Settlement (BIS) rules that benefit private capital interests. One of the empire’s fears, for example, was that Saddam Hussein had agreed with France President Jacques Chirac to switch from dollars to Euros in oil trading. Six months later oil dollar rich Bush invaded.
Despite initial hesitancy from several European governments, the Bush regime succeeded in drawing nearly all of Europe, including most Social Democrats and Socialists, into its wars. NATO’s constitution had been limited to defense but was remade, in order to allow for aggressive wars in any area of the world.

While the Bush government was held down to two wars at a time, the Obama regime has stepped up the ante with seven at once: Iraq still is under partial control of U.S. military advisors and well paid mercenaries, plus Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Uganda, Somalia, Libya. The Syrian opposition is also politically and materially supported by the US and some of Europe.

The US governmental budget is $3.7 trillion; about half of that is for its military apparatus and its present and past wars. There are currently 25 million war veterans and they get paid pensions and payment for injuries received under wartime. 

To be able to understand how the US got the way it is today—the world’s dominating war power—we must look at its two hundred history saturated in war.

Imperial History

The first war began even before the United States gained nationhood. While still a British colony, the white colonists warred against the indigenous “Indians”, in order to take over the lands they used. Formal warring began in 1775 with the declared Chickamauga War against the Cherokee nation, the Shawnees and others. The “Indian wars” lasted for a century in which up to two million natives were murdered. Those who survived were incarcerated into “reservations”.

This war, and those to come against Latin Americans, was part of “Manifest Destiny”, ordained to “expand its territory” and “to extend and enhance its political, social and economic influences”.

The congress legalized, in 1823, the “Monroe Doctrine” as part of Manifest Destiny. Its policy towards Europe: Hands off the US’s backyard, that is, Latin America.

Of the thousands of times that US military force has been used, many countries have been subjected several times. Cuba has been attacked 12 times since 1814; Nicaragua 12 times since 1853; Panama on 13 occasions since 1856.

Although Latin America has been the most targeted, China has been attacked 30 times from 1843 “gunboat diplomacy” to 1999 when the US bombed its embassy in Yugoslavia. 

War was waged in 1798-1800 against France over its colonies in the Caribbean. Then it was Britain’s turn in 1812. The United States stole half of Mexico in 1846-8: Texas, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Wyoming.

In 1933, the pensioner Marine Corp Major-General Smedley Butler explained how war is a racket.

“I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service. 

I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.”

Overt military invasions and interventions

In my research about US wars, I found many sources of facts and statistics. Some of them are from US government departments, the Congress, historians, journalists, former top killers, such as General Butler and secret service officers. Listing names and figures is boring reading but bear with me because these facts are startling.

Between 1869 and 1897, the US sent is war ships to Latin American harbors 5,980 times. That is one ship ever two days over three decades. Hundreds of these dockings resulted in killings of local workers on strike and insurgents against national governments. (1)

In a report to Congress in 2008, 330 military interventions were detailed. (2) 167 interventions from 1798 to 1941, plus 163 interventions from 1945 to 2008. Since then wars against or within Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Uganda must be added: 335. All these wars were aggressive. Both world wars in the 20th century are not included since they were uniquely defensive wars.

After World War Two, the United States economy was booming and its territory unscathed unlike all of Europe and Japan. Its tycoons and politicians seized the perfect opportunity to strive for world domination, albeit the Soviet Union was an obstacle as was China also soon to become. State Department chief for national security planning, George Kennan, expressed the policy succinctly in the secret Policy Planning Study of 1948:

“…We have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population. This disparity is particularly great between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction.”

 “In the face of this situation [Asiatic problems among the peoples themselves, overpopulation, lack of food, and Moscow’s luring influence. Ed. note] we would be better off to dispense now with a number of the concepts which have underlined our thinking with regard to the Far East. 
We should dispense with the aspiration to ‘be liked’ or to be regarded as the repository of a high-minded international altruism. We should stop putting ourselves in the position of being our brothers’ keeper and refrain from offering moral and ideological advice. We should cease to talk about vague and – for the Far East – unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.” (3)

Kennan was considered by the mass media to be a “liberal dove”, just as were John Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Colin Powell, and as is Barak Obama today.

US military bases on foreign soil were used 200 times between 1945 and 1991 to intervene in third world countries. Millions were killed during the alleged Cold War period. (4)

Several analysts add to the above aggressions the use of military power as threats to force governments to do what the US demands, which succeeded without the use of bullets. This happened 218 times just between January 1946 and January 1976. (5)

The US has conducted military aggression 565 times—combining direct military attacks and lesser military interventions—between 1798 and the present; 395 of these attacks occurred since World War 11 (6) in, at least, 60 countries up to 1988. (7) The estimated numbers of persons killed in these non-defensive wars is placed at 20 million.

Of these invaded countries the US has bombarded 28 nations between the end of the Second World War and 2000. (8). Since then one must add Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and drones against Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen: 34 nations.

Covert Wars

Five hundred and sixty-five military invasions/interventions is not the whole story of state terror. We must add the covert murders under the direction of the National Security Council (NSC) with the CIA as its key killer since WW11. President Harry Truman’s National Security Council Directive 10/2 gave the NSC/CIA permission to use paramilitary forces, sniping and other forms of assassinations, create instability in economies, intervene in elections, and use other means to overthrow governments “from time to time”.

These preemptive deadly actions were ordered to be “so planned and executed that any US Government responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorized persons and that if uncovered the US Government can plausibly disclaim any responsibility for them.” (9)

Following the victory of the tenacious Vietnamese over the warrior Yankees, Congress investigated US executive use of unlawful violence against several countries and leaders. 

In 1975 and 1976, Senator Frank Church’s Committee United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities “published fourteen reports on the formation of U.S. intelligence agencies, their operations, and the alleged abuses of law and of power that they had committed, together with recommendations for reform, some of which were put in place.”

“Among the matters investigated were attempts to assassinate foreign leaders, including Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, the Diem brothers of Vietnam, Gen. René Schneider of Chile and President John F. Kennedy’s plan to use the Mafia to kill Fidel Castro of Cuba.” (10)

The Church committee found that the CIA had committed 900 large and 3,000 lesser covert and violent operations. (11)

John Stockwell, one of several CIA officers who became whistle-blowers, said, in 1990, that the CIA had completed 3,000 large and 10,000 lesser covert operations during its existence.

 Stockwell asserted that at least six million people had been murdered in the CIA’s secret wars. That would bring the figures of persons murdered overtly and covertly by the United States to 26 million by 2008—and that does not include covert murders since 1990 or the overt killings since 2008. (12) 


Despite the fact that all humans either know or can know that the United States is a gruesomely violent nation, its Obama government (and many others in Europe) was able to convince the majority of its citizens, including well-meaning NGOs and many progressive activists that it and NATO were justified in a partial invasion of Libya, in order to remove the Gaddafi government because it was killing “innocent civilians”.

Let us see what was really at stake. 

Libya was Africa’s largest exporter of oil, 1.7 million tons a day, which quickly was reduced to 300-400,000 ton due to US-NATO bombing.

Libya exported 80% of its oil–80% of that to Italy (32%), Germany (14%), France and China (10% each), and USA (5%). With just 20% of the extracted oil there was plenty of money to afford education and health care for the entire population without individual payment. There were schools, libraries, hospitals enough for all. Youths studying abroad had their education paid for by the state. Each newly wed couple received $50,000 from state coffers to start a family. There was no poverty. And there was plenty left over for wealth to the Gaddafi clan. (13)

Gaddafi had been preparing to launch a gold dinar for oil trade with all of Africa’s 200 million people and other interested countries. French President Nickola Sarkozi called this, “a threat for financial security of mankind”. Much of France’s wealth—more than any other colonial-imperialist power—comes from exploiting Africa. There is evidence from Gaddafi defectors (especially Nouri Mesmari, who was under French protection) that France started preparing a Benghazi-based rebellion against Gaddafi from November 2010, in order to stop his plans to switch from the dollar to a new gold currency. US politician, Rep. Dennis Kucinich confirms this. (14)

Central Bank of Libya is 100% owned by state (since 1956) and is thus outside multinational corporation BIS banking control. The state can finance its own projects and do so without interest rates, which reduces the costs by half that of private banks. Libya’s central bank had 144 tons of gold in its vaults, which it could use to start the gold dinar. (China, Russia, India, and Iran are also stocking great sums of gold rather than relying only on dollars.)

The Central Bank used $33 billion, without interest rates, to build the Great Man-Made River of 4,000 kilometers with three parallel pipelines running oil, gas and water supplying 70% of the people (4.5 of its 6 million) with clean drinking and irrigation water. This provides adequate crops for the people and was a competitive exporter of vegetables with Israel and Egypt.

The Central Bank also financed Africa’s first communication satellite with $300 million of the $377 million cost. It started up for all Africa, December 26, 2007, thus saving the 45-African nations an annual fee of $500 million previously pocketed by Europe for use of its satellites. This means much less cost for telephones and other communication systems for all Africans.
The opposition, led by some clan leaders in the east, and former Gaddafi ministers, set up a central bank in Benghazi to replace Libya’s central bank even before they had set up a government. It was immediately recognized by Paris’ stock exchange and soon other Westerners. This is the first time in history that rebels have set up a bank before victory or before having a government.

Key western powers decided that Gaddafi was not enough their man and France, along with the UK, took the lead to threaten him militarily. In March, 2011, Gaddafi threatened to throw western oil companies out of Libya. With more blustering from the west, Gaddafi invited Chinese, Russian and Indian oil companies to take their place.

The West then accused Gaddafi of murdering “innocent civilians”. What he did was to threaten that they would be killed in battle if they did not surrender their arms. They were not “innocent civilians” but armed insurrectionists. Every government fights armed insurrections. 

On March 17, the US-France-UK got what they wanted for starters from the UN. Resolution 1973 called only for a no-fly strategy and not a regime shift or troop landings. It was not backed by key big powers: China, Russia, Brazil, India and Germany. Of the 28 NATO countries, only 14 were involved in the Libyan campaign and only six of those (including Denmark) took part in the air war, which soon escalated far beyond a “no-fly” strategy to hit any target. The Gaddafi forces did not use any aircraft once the Triumvirate (The US, NATO and the European Union) invaded. 

Sadly, as former State Department analyst William Blum, put it:

“If the Triumvirate’s propaganda is clever enough and deceptive enough and paints a graphic picture of Gaddafi-initiated high tragedy in Libya, many American and European progressives will insist that though they never, ever support imperialism they’re making an exception this time because …” 

“The Libyan people are being saved from a “massacre”, both actual and potential. This massacre, however, seems to have been grossly exaggerated by the Triumvirate, al Jazeera TV, and that station’s owner, the government of Qatar; and nothing approaching reputable evidence of a massacre has been offered, neither a mass grave or anything else… Qatar, it should be noted, has played an active military role in the civil war on the side of NATO. It should be further noted that the main massacre in Libya has been six months of daily Triumvirate bombing, killing an unknown number of people and ruining much of the infrastructure…” (15)

Following the Triumvirate victory against secular Libya, several Islamist fundamentalist factions, including al-Qaeda, formed the new government. And the Triumvirate seeks to privatize the National Oil Corporation, transferring Libya’s oil wealth into foreign hands.


Now, it is the secular governments of Syria and Lebanon’s turn to be corralled. If the Triumvirate is successful in overthrowing these governments, all of the Middle East will be run by religious regimes, and al-Qaeda will be in several of them. Ironic it is, but it is also understandable since the Islamic fundamentalists became powerful throughout so much of the Middle East only after the United States trained, armed and financed both al-Qaeda and Taliban, in order to be rid of Soviet influence. These fundamentalists, in reality, need be no economic threat as they are guided by conservative capitalism. The only contention is that they wish to be sovereign. And so does Iran, and that is the next big target.

The Obama regime is also exercising the traditional Hands Off policy against its southern back yard whereas Bush was nearly inactive there. State Department Secretary Hillary Clinton mentioned Bush’s insufficiency in dealing with the new rogue states in Latin America during her May first, 2009 speech. And she warned the region and the west in general about Russian, Chinese and Iranian growing influence, which must be stopped. Clinton also blamed Bush, in effect, for Hugo Chavez ascendancy in Venezuela, and that of Evo Morales in Bolivia, and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.

Honduran General Romeo Vasquez was among Clinton’s devout listeners. Less than two months after his mentor’s authoritarian speech, he led a coup d’état against the popularly elected president Manuel Zelaya. Although coming from a conservative political party, and being a rich rancher, once in office he began to listen to Chavez and sought to improve the lot of the poor. Zelaya even brought Honduras into the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America), an alternative economic-socio-political alliance to those bound to capitalist economics and politics.

After illegally arresting President Zelaya, some of Vasquez troops beat up and harassed ambassadors and other diplomats from the embassies of Venezuela, Nicaragua and, of course, Cuba. The Clintons alongside Obama, with Bush in the wings, must have smiled.

Zelaya was exiled to Costa Rica, and the new government got out of ALBA and rejoined the United States’ back yard. Unlike in the past, all of Latin America refused to recognize the coup and suspended Honduras from cooperative unions.

Three years afterward, June 2012, another progressive president—former Catholic Bishop Fernando Lugo elected president of Paraguay—was ousted from office by a “congressional coup d’état”. Practically all of Latin America, including conservative Colombia and Chile, denounced what they also considered to be a coup. Paraguay’s new government was expelled from cooperative unions such as Mercosur. But, as in the case with Honduras, no matter how much critique and denunciations there may be as long as the world’s policeman backs totalitarianism so be it.


Not all is bleak. As Leonard Cohen sings, “There are cracks in everything; that’s how the light gets in”.

Wikileaks whistle blowers disseminate worldwide many of these cracks in the imperial wall. There are many insiders who come over to the people’s side, brave people such as Bradley Manning. There is still hope with the Arab Spring persistency, albeit many protestors have been persuaded to ally directly or indirectly with new governments and insurgencies friendly to the imperial system.

Moreover, the Occupy Wall Street movement, although not as powerful as at its beginning, is far from being finished. Their militancy, coupled with the original Arab Spring energy and that of indignados in Spain and like minded activists in several crisis-rammed European countries, is an inspiration today and for the future.

As someone born in the USA, I encourage us to rebuild and fortify anti-war movements in our countries, and act in solidarity with progressive forces in people-oriented governments and insurgency movements. Let us engage the monster creatively, using not only mass demonstrations but also direct actions and civil disobedience, and disseminate our message loudly and clearly wherever we are: in schools, work places, in religious-spiritual centers, worker unions…

Ron Ridenour, born in the devil’s own country, is a veteran radical activist and journalist, and author of nine books—“Yankee Sandinistas”, “Backfire: The CIA’s Biggest Burn”; his the latest is “Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka.” His website is:


1. Williams, William Appleman (1980). Empire as a Way of Life. Oxford University Press.

2. History US Military Overt and Covert Global Interventions 
Congressional Research Service (CRS). (February 2, 2009). Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2008. Washington D.C.: CRS Report to Congress.

3. Secret memorandum written on February 24, 1948 for Secretary of State George Marshall. It is called PPS/23 (Policy Planning Staff): ‘Review of Current Trends: U.S. Foreign Policy’. My excerpts are taken from part VII: Far East. This memo was printed by the magazine, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1948, Volume 1, 509-529.

4. Gerson, J. and Birchard, B., eds. (1991). The Sun Never Sets. Boston; South End Press.

5. Blechman, B.M., and Kaplan, S.S. (1978). Force Without War: U.S. Armed Forces as a Political Instrument, Appendix B. Wash., D.C.: The Brookings Institution.

6. See: CRS, Gerson’s and Barnaby’s essays, Blechman and Collins, J.M. (1991). America’s Small Wars: Lessons for the Future.

7. Barnaby, F., ed (1988). The Gaia peace Atlas. New York; Doubleday.

8. Blum, William (2000). Rogue State. Common Courage Press, pp. 92-95.


11. Prados, J. (1996). President’s secret wars: CIA and pentagon covert operations from World War

11. Prados, J. “President’s secret wars: CIA and Pentagon covert operations from World War 11 through the Persian Gulf.” Chicago, 1996. Elephant paperbacks, Ivan R. Dee.

12. Stockwell, J. (1991). The Praetorian Guard: The U.S. role in the new world order. Cambridge, Ma.: South End Press. “The CIA and the Gulf War” – a speech by John Stockwell; February 20, 1991, Santa Cruz, Ca. 
One can see 345 of these wars and military interventions on the website: See also:¬_United_States_military_operation

13. Scott, Peter Dale.“The Libyan War, American Power and the Decline of the Petrodollar System” ; “Bombing of Libya – punishment for Gaddafi for his attempt to refuse US dollar” as cited by Ellen Brown in “Libya: All About Oil, or All About Banking.” For this and other points made here see also: Petras, James,“Euro-US War on Libya: Official Lies and Misconceptions of Critics”.

14. Bechis, Franco, “French plans to topple Gaddafi on track since last November.
15. Blum, William. The Anti-Empire Report, September 1, 2011.

15. Blum, William. “Libya and the world we live in: the Anti-Empire Report.”

Our country and our media have too much reverence for the U.S. military and the CIA, which are not making us safer but rather helping to create new threats.

December 26, 2012

Why the US Military Needs to Leave Afghanistan

Institutionalizing “Secret” Drone Strikes


There is perhaps no time in American history when our leaders have fought a war with so little support. More than 60 percent of Americans want out of Afghanistan. Even at the peak of the anti-Vietnam-war movement, after a majority had turned against the war, there were still a large number of citizens who believed in the war and its official justifications. Today, as my colleague Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy notes, “Western leaders have largely given up trying to explain or justify why Western troops are still in Afghanistan and why they are still killing and being killed.”

Yet the war goes on, and even the White House plans for too slowly reducing the U.S. troop presence meet resistance from the Pentagon. In a replay of the internal fight over U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, U.S. commander General George Allen was pushing just a few months ago to keep the current level of troops for another year. The military would also like to maintain a permanent presence of some 6,000 to 15,000 troops.

That is not going to happen, as the Afghan people don’t want foreign troops in their country any more than we would want armed fighters from Al Qaeda here in the U.S. But the attempts to establish a permanent base of operations will make it more difficult to negotiate an end to war.

And yes, ironically, the U.S. will most likely end up negotiating with the Taliban to end this war, something our government refused to do after 9-11 when it launched the invasion instead. So, 11 years of war, more than 2,000 U.S. troops dead and tens of thousands wounded will have all been for nothing, to arrive at the same opportunity that was available without America’s longest war. Thousands of Afghans have been killed, and the population has suffered enormously.

The invasion of Iraq was disaster on an even larger scale, with more than a million estimated dead, including more than 4,400 U.S. troops. Hundreds of thousands came home wounded or with brain or psychological trauma and bleak job prospects. Beside the fact that the war was launched on the basis of lies, it is hard to see how anyone could excuse this crime even in retrospect. As the revolution in Egypt showed, people can get rid of their own dictators – foreign intervention is much more likely to create or vastly expand a bloody civil war.

Meanwhile, U.S. drone strikes carried out “secretly” by the C.I.A. are becoming institutionalized, widening the so-called “war on terror” to more countries, in addition to the hundreds of strikes already carried out in Pakistan. These attacks, which have killed hundreds of civilians and have even targeted rescue workers, are each day making more people want to kill Americans.

Our country and our media have too much reverence for the U.S. military and the CIA, which are not making us safer but rather helping to create new threats. As the Washington Post reports, some of our generals have an “array of perquisites befitting a billionaire, including executive jets, palatial homes, drivers, security guards.” Even worse, many officers later join the boards and executive suites of military contractors, where they rake in millions making corporations such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman richer at taxpayer expense, and sometimes promoting war itself on the network news. Our military-industrial complex is as corrupt and rotten as any institution of America’s broken democracy, and more deadly than most in its consequences.

We need to end this war in Afghanistan and the other operations that are making Americans less secure and recruiting new enemies daily. Then we can focus on fixing our broken economy at home.

Mark Weisbrot is an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: the Phony Crisis.

This essay originally appeared in Stars and Stripes.

Every generation gives war trauma a different name,” explained Korean vet Jiwon Chung at our last vets’ meeting. “Moral injury, the latest term, de-pathologizes the condition. If you go to war, come back, and are not the same, troubled, or suffering, it is not because you are psychically weak, but because you are morally strong. What you witnessed or did went against your deepest moral convictions, violating our humanity to the core.”

December 26, 2012

Is the Worst Yet to Come?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or “Moral Injury”?


“My God, what have we done?” combat soldiers sometimes gasp as they see those they or comrades just killed, especially when they include innocent children, women, and other civilians.

“We knew that we killed them/…the terrified mother/ clutching terrified child,” writes former Lieutenant Michael Parmeley in his poem “Meditation on Being a Baby Killer.” In l968, Lt. Parmeley led a combat platoon in the American War on Vietnam. He receives benefits for what is clinically described as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“My gunner…started to cry,” Parmeley writes. “There’s a myth of recovery,/ that you put it behind you/…but memories aren’t like that/…I know that we killed them.”

Parmeley and I have participated in the Veterans’ Writing Group for twenty years. We attend regular meetings, break silences, tell our stories in a healing context, and listen without judgment. His poem appears in our book “Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace,” ( edited by our writing teacher, award-winning author, and former University of California Berkeley professor Maxine Hong Kingston.

Would the best description of what Parmeley has be a “disorder?” Or might other words be more accurate?

“Moral injury” is a relatively new term to refer to what veterans and others experience, especially those who saw combat or violence. Other words that have been used include hidden war wounds, shell shock, battle fatigue, and soldier’s heart.

“Moral injury” places the cause on war itself. A disorder implies that something is permanently wrong, whereas the word “injury” suggests that healing is possible. It also indicates that the problem was created by an outside force, rather than a mental illness or weakness from within.

“Every generation gives war trauma a different name,” explained Korean vet Jiwon Chung at our last vets’ meeting. “Moral injury, the latest term, de-pathologizes the condition. If you go to war, come back, and are not the same, troubled, or suffering, it is not because you are psychically weak, but because you are morally strong. What you witnessed or did went against your deepest moral convictions, violating our humanity to the core.”

Chung later added, “That we vets suffer moral injury, despite the tremendous suffering and anguish it brings, is actually a validation of our humanity. War is the reason for moral injury, not any individual shortcoming. Peace, justice, and reparation are the cures for moral injury.”

The ruthless, recent murder of elementary students and teachers in Connecticut re-stimulates my grief about the deaths of children in wars. I have cried for hours about the loss of life in Newtown and what it says about us as Americans. The weapons used by the Connecticut killer were military weapons. His killing is connected to the ongoing murders by Americans in Afghanistan.

Parmeley concludes his poem as follows; “A Mother and child,/ alone in a bunker,/ a war passing over,/ right now as I speak.” Those words, which were written decades ago, remain true today—“a war passing over”–this time in Afghanistan.

What are we teaching our children? As the old sayings go, what goes around comes around, you reap what you sow, and the chickens come home to roost. The wars that we have trained people for may be coming home to the United States in more deadly ways.

I was also a young officer in the U.S. Army during the same years as my vet buddy Parmeley. However, fortunately, I never made it to Vietnam. But I was raised in the military family that gave its name to Ft. Bliss, Texas, and lived in Chile during “the other 9/11”–Sept. 11, l973. I have been diagnosed with PTSD. I have been treated by psychiatrists, counselors, and at vets centers.

But what has helped me most has been the support by vets and our allies to push through silence, shame, guilt, and feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness to speak and write about my condition.

“Sound Shy” entitles my essay in our book “Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace.” I suffer from sound trauma, after being raised on loud Air Force bases around the world where my family was stationed. Even today, decades later, certain sounds, such as weapon-like leaf blowers, can trigger my sound trauma and bring back the kinds of nightmarish “memories” about which Parmeley writes.

Much of my behavior is “sound-avoidant,” seeking quietness. So I live and work on an organic farm, away from the concentration of people, closer to plants, animals, and the elements. I engage in what I have written about as agro-therapy—farms as healing places.

After leaving the military, I moved to Chile, where thousands of young people from around the world gathered to participate in the “democratic revolution” of Pres. Salvador Allende. Then Gen. Augusto Pinochet, supported by the U.S. government, toppled Dr. Allende. Among those tortured and executed was my good friend Frank Teruggi.

I survived, and still live, nearly forty years later. But I bear what is described as “survivor’s guilt” from that experience. Rationally, I know that it was not my fault that Frank was tortured and executed. But why him and not me? I still hear Frank crying out, inside.

In 2006, I received a summons from an attorney to appear before a judge in Chile investigating Frank’s case. I went and testified. I also visited some of the torture centers. Though now transformed into peace parks, I could still feel the cries of those tortured. Is that really a disorder? Or does it indicate that humans have a natural kinship to other sentient beings and can sense their pain?

My Post-Traumatic Stress was triggered in Chile. But the term disorder does not seem accurate. I felt a kinship with the suffering of those tortured. I received what would be better described as a “moral injury,” dating back to being raised in a military family, having served in the military, and then experiencing the loss of a buddy in my mid-twenties.

Such injuries leave a scar and do not disappear easily. The nervous system is re-wired and the physiology of the brain is altered, as a way to cope with them. They can lie dormant and then be re-stimulated by present-time wounds, such as one that I recently received. I was rejected to teach a section of a Leadership course at Sonoma State University, which I had successfully taught for three years. A person replacing me had never taught before or even been educated to teach.

So I am trying to tell my story and write my way out of having these sleepless nights and nightmares again.

Having “moral injury” can sensitize one, making a person hyper-vigilant. Yet others become de-sensitized to moral injury, the way they become de-sensitized to violence.

What I feel in my body at this moment in America history is that the killing of so many young innocent children and their teachers at Sandy Hook School, and the continuing American War in Afghanistan, are dangerous signs for our future. The worst may be yet to come. It’s time to wake up and focus our attention more on the mounting problems our violence bring us here, rather than deploy so many resources abroad.

It is not only vets who return from war with “moral injury.” Since at least the American War in Vietnam, the U.S. has been on a steady moral decline. Each time it invades another country, most recently Iraq and Afghanistan, it deepens our national “moral injury.” What might be next? Iran? Pakistan? More children here?

Shepherd Bliss teaches college, has contributed to two-dozen books, and continues the organic farming that he has done for the last 20 years. He can be reached at

We passed a bond to rebuild our schools in Detroit, only to have them seized by a new separate and unequal school district called “Educational Achievement Authority.” It is a Jim Crow district with no transparency and no public accountability except to shareholders and “non profits” and foundations.

December 26, 2012

A Year in Review

Democracy & Detroit, 2012


Detroit is the largest of the internal colonies of Michigan. It is followed by Benton Harbor, Flint, Muskegon Heights, Pontiac and Highland Park. The aforementioned cities have been occupied by “Emergency Managers” for the past several years.

In 2009 Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm, the first woman governor of Michigan, appointed Robert Bobb over Detroit Public Schools. Two years later, after Snyder was elected (Republican) governor of Michgan, he appointed former GM executive and MGM casino magnate Roy Roberts to the position of Emergency Manager.

Each of these two have caused Detroit Public Schools to go into exponentially greater debt than before the “emergency” was created by the governor and his mouthpiece corporate media. The people of Michigan (82% in Detroit) repealed the Emergency Manager law 52% to 48% when it became clear that the law was nothing more than a license to loot and terminate collective bargaining agreements and sell off public goods to private interests, who do not have to bid or say who they are or where they got their money.

We passed a bond to rebuild our schools in Detroit, only to have them seized by a new separate and unequal school district called “Educational Achievement Authority.” It is a Jim Crow district with no transparency and no public accountability except to shareholders and “non profits” and foundations.

The role of the philanthropic interests is one that requires a deeper investigation than this simple review of 2012 in Detroit can achieve, but one worth pursuing in depth. It is an example of what happens when government is replaced by corporations.

Detroit is the epicenter of the racialized privatization battle going on in Michigan, but it is only one part of the story. The Emergency Manager remains in charge of Detroit Public Schools despite the repeal of the law. Everything the State could do to subvert the vote was done, and when the vote came in at against the Emergency Manager law, the governor ignored the vote and kept the EMs in charge.

There is utter contempt for the people in this lawless corrupt state.

It does not matter if we vote because the results are ignored. It does not matter if we go to court; the judges simply postpone the proceedings.

There is no voice of moral authority in Michigan; there are looters from top to bottom stealing the public treasury and the future of our youth. Schools are so severely underfunded that Teach for America teachers are in front of classrooms of 40 and more students all by themselves.

Millions of dollars have gone missing from the Detroit Public Schools’ classrooms, to the joy of charter operators and new shadow governments in the form of “self-governing schools” and “review boards.”

The Emergency Manager is surrounded by security guards at all times because he and his minions are so despised by the people they rob. It is a good time for a few, but not a sustainable plan.

When the colleges and universities catch on that their future students cannot score high enough on ACT or SATs, they will have to let in only the white students from the suburbs. Then there will be a movement for equity and access and we can start all over again.

Elena Herrada is a Detroit community activist leader, longtime organizer, and member of the Detroit Public Schools board. She can be reached at