Sunday, October 15, 2017

Ignore Your Empire's Wars At Your Peril

"Troops killed in ambush on joint US-Niger patrol" Al-Jazeera 
My friend Janet re-tweeted photos of the four U.S. military men killed in Niger last week, which led me to search for more news about this disturbing event.

Now that Google has re-configured its search algorithms to even more strongly preference corporate "news" sources, I have to dig deeper for nuggets of information about the misadventures of the empire I'm funding (e.g. my yearly bonus for achieving National Board Professional Teacher certification is $3,000, but I'll receive only about $2,000 after taxes of which more than half will go to the Pentagon).

I could stop using Google and instead use DuckDuckGo or another search engine that does not track my activity. But, it returns similar corporate media sources and will never tailor itself to my preferences as it doesn't remember what I've clicked on in the past.

Such is the labor required to find news in the declining days of the so-called Information Age.

I thought I had found something useful on GlobalResearch.com, the website of the Centre for Research on Globalization. But it turned out to be a reprint of an article from salon.com focusing on the demagogue with bad hair and his non-reaction to the deaths in Niger.

Every time I look for news online these days it seems to want to fall into one of two categories: bland regurgitation of press releases from the government, or an obsessive focus on the role of the demagogue with bad hair.

Progressive journalists in the U.S. seem to have become mentally ill under the steady influence of their obsession with the man and his misdeeds. I find myself drifting further from finding such news purveyors relevant or even useful with each passing day.

Eventually I navigated to the World Socialist Website article "Killings of four elite soldiers in Niger highlight vast scale of American military operations in Africa" by Eddie Haywood.


Besides offering current context, it provided useful background on how regime change in Libya effected by a U.S. Democratic Party administration sparked military conflict in the bordering nation of Mali which has in turn led to militarized violence in Niger, which shares a border with both.

Along the way of my search I stumbled on news that the former Deputy PM of Qatar is warning that mercenaries employed by Erik Prince (i.e.Blackwater, now known as Academi) are poised to invade Qatar from the United Arab Emirates. Middle East Monitor reported that these military preparations pre-date the recent sanctions and threats against the home base of media company Al Jazeera.


Also, I encountered a report on U.S. troops rotating home from northern Australia where Obama sent them to engage in war rehearsals with their counterparts in Oz. 

Map: anti-bases.org

According to a report in Reuters:
During the six-month deployment, the U.S. troops participated in 12 joint exercises with the Australian Defence Force, giving them an opportunity to interact with a range of countries including China, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The exercises are part of the "pivot to Asia" which U.S. troops in Niger could also be seen as participating in; both are about countering China's considerable influence in Africa and, of course, southeast Asia and the South Pacific.

All of this led me to reflect on the best essay I read this week, an examination by military historian Andrew Bacevich of "How We Learned Not To Care About America's Wars."

Bacevich presents what he sees as the salient factors in descending order of importance:

1) U.S. casualty rates are low
2) the actual costs of U.S. wars are never calculated
3) lip service about supporting the troops has supplanted actual engagement
4) the dangers of terrorism are "hyped and hyped and hyped some more"
5) talking head nonsense crowds out substantive discussion and debate
6) people in the U.S. educated classes keep themselves very, very busy
7) belief that the next Commander-in-Chief will save the day
8) the diverse "progressive" military is seen as immune to criticism

His final paragraph renders this scathing indictment (from a West Point graduate who lost a son to the war on Iraq):
A collective indifference to war has become an emblem of contemporary America.  
But don't expect your neighbors down the street or the editors of the New York Times to lose any sleep over that fact.  Even to notice it would require them -- and us -- to care.
Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it, or so the old saying goes. I find our deliberately induced ignorance of current events is integral to our historic amnesia.

Here's an historical nugget of archival footage of a pro-America pro-Nazi rally held in 1939 in Madison Square Garden, NYC that you may wish you could unsee.



A Night at the Garden from Field of Vision on Vimeo.

Cue the chorus of "my grandfather fought fascists in WWII" clogging up the comment sections of articles on the rise of white supremacists again going proud and public in 2017. Never mind that it was mostly the Soviets who defeated Nazi Germany. Who remembers that?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

When A Picture And Caption Are Worth One Thousand Words



I am a word person but the explosion of visuals that digital media makes possible and social media makes visible has been one of the joys of my middle and now elder life.

The image above is one I created after sister peace activist Palma Ryan pointed out the opportunity for messaging created by Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit images growing old enough to enter the public domain.

Maine Veterans for Peace leader Richard Clement is creating buttons based on the design, and I expect to be receiving some in the mail soon. (Let me know if you'd like one by leaving a comment on this blog post.)



Art work by Russell Wray
As the annual Maine Peace Walk gets underway this week, I'm inspired by artist Russell Wray's eloquent banners and sculpture to express where we are and where he'd like us to be.


Banner posted by Mary Ann Grady Flores of protest at Hancock Air Base where she was arrested and sentenced to 6 months in jail for photographing protesters. Her appeal is being heard in Albany, NY this week.

How best to move people to realize we're bankrupting ourselves and killing forms of life all over the planet so a few very wealthy people can become even more wealthy?


Banner by Artists Rapid Response Team (ARRT!) of the Union of Maine Visual Artists

Anthony Freda is one of my favorite artists for the movement. His work ranges over many topics, but nobody does antiwar imaging better.

Here's one he created at my request that I use for the Natural Guard campaign:

Image: Anthony Freda
And a more recent image he created in response to the death wish expressed by the nominal leader of the USA:

As the leaves die brilliantly around me these days, I fear we may be in danger of witnessing the end of our ability to imagine and create images. I hope not.