Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Toxic Marriage: America and Vietnam's Poisoned Legacy

America's Toxic "Partnership" with Vietnam

by Finian Cunningham - SCF

America’s war on Vietnam may have officially ended 40 years ago, but the Southeast Asian country is still battling with the horrific legacy that the US military bequeathed. Yet last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry, while in Hanoi, eulogised about how the two countries are «healing» and forging a new«partnership».

Kerry was speaking on the 20th anniversary of «normalising ties» between the US and Vietnam that began in August 1995, more than 20 years after the war’s end.

«It took us 20 more years to move from healing to building. Think of what we can accomplish in the 20 years to come», said Kerry.

The American diplomat’s blithe account of «healing to building» belies the ongoing horror for some three million Vietnamese who live with the poisonous legacy of US war on that country. That number is about the same as the total of Vietnamese who died during the war from American saturation bombing and ground war.

Between 1961 and 1972 – three years before the war ended – the US military dropped a total of 20 million gallons of highly toxic herbicides on what was then South Vietnam. The New York Times reported the affected area was «about the size of Massachusetts» or some 27,300 square kilometres. That equates to over 15 per cent of the total territory of what was then South Vietnam.

The most well known of these defoliating chemicals was Agent Orange, which the Americans sprayed on forests and croplands from aircraft and river navy boats, with the alleged purpose of denying tree cover and food supplies to the South Vietnamese insurgents of the Vietcong.

According to the Vietnamese Association of Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA): «More than 3 million people in Vietnam still suffer from the after-effects of the defoliant. In 2012, a baby was reported to have suffered health problems related to the defoliant, meaning a fourth generation of victims had emerged.»

VAVA’s vice president Tran Xuan Thu says that as long as victims continue to suffer and new cases emerge then, «The war has still not ended».

The health impacts from the US chemical spraying across southern Vietnam include a litany of cancers, tumours, neoplasms, skin diseases and congenital birth defects.

Tran Thi Le Huyen, who is now 29, was born more than 10 years after the war’s end in 1975. She lives near Da Nang in central Vietnam from where the US military ran its main Agent Orange flights, known as Operation Ranch Hand. Tran has been bedridden since birth crippled from her twisted, emaciated legs. Her mother said: «We have visited various hospitals, but there was no place that offered any treatment».

Danish citizen Bente Peterson, who directed VAVA detoxification projects for nearly 10 years up to 2013, recalled to this author innumerable cases of whole families destroyed by poisoning from Agent Orange. She remembered one tragic Vietnamese war veteran in particular who raised three sons only to watch all of them die from different cancers.

Proportionate to population, the number of Agent Orange victims in Vietnam today would be the equivalent of some 10 million Americans suffering from similar life-threatening diseases. While thousands of US military veterans who also succumbed to Agent Orange toxicity have received chemical companies (Monsanto, Dow) that manufactured the herbicide, the Vietnamese people have never obtained any reparation from Washington. Class-action suits brought by Vietnamese victims have repeatedly been rejected in US courts, the latest being in 2009 by the US Supreme Court, even though these same courts ruled in favour of American veterans receiving compensation as far back as 1984.

Washington maintains that its use of herbicides in Vietnam were not knowingly targeting civilian populations. Therefore, it claims, Agent Orange was not used as a chemical weapon. But that seems like cynical word play when millions of acres of crops and forests were indiscriminately sprayed, with the full knowledge that the wider population would be contaminated. Also, industrial analysis showed as far back as 1957 that the herbicides used by the American military in Vietnam contained traces of highly toxic and carcinogenic dioxin. Under public pressure over the health dangers voiced by US scientists and the citizens’ anti-war movement, the Agent Orange operation was officially cancelled in 1972.

In 2012, the US Congress finally earmarked some $40 million for cleaning up toxic areas in Vietnam. Whether the full money is actually delivered is another point. A more realistic financial cost for the clean-up across Vietnam would be in the billions – and that is not including the billions more that would be required for proper medical treatment of victims. So far, the former US air base at Da Nang has undergone partial detoxification of its soil and nearby waterways. But there are dozens of other so-called dioxin «hot spots» scattered across southern Vietnam and adjacent to the borders with Cambodia and Laos.

Phung Tuu Boi of the Vietnam Forestry Science and Technology Association, which has been involved in replanting mangroves and upland areas destroyed by the American defoliation, says: «Centuries will be needed to restore the destroyed environment».

Forty years after devastating Vietnam, its people and environment, Washington’s «clean-up» assistance appears like a mere drop in the 55-gallon drums it used to drop Agent Orange on that country. It is woefully inadequate reparation for the millions of victims and generations of suffering children to come.

A closer reading of the Vietnamese press reports on John Kerry’s visit last week reveals the bigger US concern. Kerry might have talked about «healing» but he reportedly said very little about the plight of war victims or what Washington should provide in direct medical aid. Of more importance to the US secretary of state was apparently the desire to implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with 11 other Southeast Asian nations. Vietnam is seen as key to the US cementing the TPP, which pointedly excludes China from the trade pact.

Kerry also told Vietnamese political leaders that Washington was moving towards lifting restrictions on arms exports to Vietnam, and he emphatically reiterated America’s support for the country in its territorial maritime disputes with China.

The belated American moves to help detoxify its legacy in Vietnam first began in 2011 when Hillary Clinton was the US Secretary of State. That move also coincided with the «Pivot to Asia» policy under President Obama when Washington signalled that it would henceforth be targeting China as a top geopolitical rival. Since then, tensions between Washington and Beijing have steadily escalated.

So, when Kerry talks about how Vietnam and the US need to quickly move from «healing to building partnership» we can safely deduce that America’s real objective is to enlist Vietnam in its geopolitical calculations against China.

Vietnam’s leadership may be flattered by preferential trade concessions and supply of US warships. But, just as the millions of Agent Orange victims testify, the purported partnership with Washington will prove to be a toxic relationship.

Toxic Aftermath: Tianjin Evacuates 3km Radius, Sends in Chem-Warfare Troops

Tianjin evacuates all residents within 3km of blast site following new explosions, fire

by RT

A total of seven or eight explosions rocked the Tianjin blast site Saturday, prompting armed police to evacuate residents within a three-kilometer radius.

Wednesday’s double blast at a chemical warehouse killed 104 people and injured more than 700.

Apocalyptic scenes from Chinese port
of 24 hours after blasts

Fires broke out at the blast site in the Chinese port city at 11:40 a.m. local time Saturday, according to state news agency Xinhua. Seven or eight blasts from three separate locations were reportedly heard at the scene.

Following the fire, police began evacuating those within a three-kilometer radius, saying they were acting on “orders from higher authorities,” Beijing News reported.

“No people or vehicle[s] [are] allowed within the area,” a police officer said.

The new explosions come just three days after two blasts at the chemical warehouse left at least 104 people dead, more than 700 injured, and thousands homeless. At least 21 firefighters are among the dead, making the disaster the deadliest for Chinese firefighters in more than 60 years.

One of the blasts was equivalent to 20 tons of TNT exploding.

The Chinese officials have not determined the full list of chemicals at the site, saying that further investigation is needed.

The chemicals stored in the warehouse could possibly include sodium cyanide, Gao Huaiyou, vice head of the Tianjin bureau of work safety, said at a press conference Saturday morning. At the same time Bao Jingling, chief engineer of the municipal bureau of environmental protection, claimed that 17 monitoring sites had not detected any cyanide.

The list of dangerous chemicals which were possibly stored at the site might also include potassium nitrate and ammonium nitrate, Chinese media reported.

Meanwhile, relatives of those affected by the explosions are demanding answers. Family members of missing firefighters stormed a government news conference, insisting on information about their loved ones.

Unis'tot'en Update: Pipeline Police Retreat (For Now)

Update: Pipeline companies and police retreat (for now)


Good news - the pipeline surveyors have not returned to Unis'tot'en Camp, and the RCMP have taken down their checkpoint on the Morice River Road near the place where indigenous people are blocking the route for Tarsands and fracking pipelines.

But is this the calm before the legal storm? One thing for sure: the confrontation did more to bring us together than drive us apart.

Land defenders and allies are more determined than ever to stop pipelines.

One factor that's holding off the police and pipeline crews might be the letter the BC Civil Liberties Association sent to the RCMP.

Catch up with the whole story that we started reporting on two weeks ago.

Report from the Frontlines

Land defenders coming to town this week
Unis'tot'en clan members are coming to tell us their own stories about dealing with police and industry on their lands. Warning - this is going to be powerful.

Meet spokesperson Freda Huson and her chiefs: Weli' (Catherine Mitchell), Ltátén (Doris Rosso), Maskabu (Helen Mitchell) and Wet'suwet'en Chief Knedebeas (Warner William). Join like-minded supporters and find out how to be a part of this solidarity movement. Full details at

Our volunteers are helping build the new Healing Lodge for future healing gatherings. If you can't join us in person, please consider sponsoring this work. Thank you!

August 17 - Victoria

6 pm potluck, 7 pm presentation
First Peoples House Ceremonial Hall, UVic
Facebook page

August 18 - Duncan

7:00 pm, Duncan United Church
246 Ingram St.
Facebook page

August 19 - Salt Spring Island

6 pm potluck; 7 pm presentation
Lions Club Hall
103 Bonnet Avenue

August 20 - Galiano Island

Thank-you dinner for Camp supporters - by invitation

August 21 - Sechelt

7 pm, Sunshine Coast Arts Centre
5714 Medusa St
Facebook page

August 22 - Vancouver

Honour Freda Huson and the Unist'ot'en Camp
7 pm, Grandview Calvary Baptist Church
1803 East 1st Avenue
Facebook page
Allies and sponsors answer the call

Volunteers can get info on how to join the camp and share their skills and good energy. All ages are welcome.

Unis'tot'en and the Law

Unis'tot'en Camp is a reoccupation of traditional territory outside of reserve and treaty lands in northern British Columbia, Canada. The Unis'tot'en people were never conquered or driven from their land, and the courts have ruled that indigenous title still exists. The authorities may have trouble proving they can evict the camp.

Now that the police have started harassing the camp, FAN is preparing a legal team and the Eco Warriors Legal Defence Fund to assist anyone who gets in trouble for protecting the planet.

Support the legal fund or make a pledge for the camp today. Be a sponsor for the ones who are doing solidarity work year-round. Because we give back.


Thank you for being part of this movement to defend land and water

VIC FAN is celebrating its ninth year on Coast Salish and Nuu-chah-nulth territory on Vancouver Island. Big cheers to everyone who took part in our victories!
WildCoast and Forest Action Network are 100% home-grown and volunteer-led.

Our projects are supporting Unis'tot'en Camp, the House of Solidarity, the Secwepemc Women Warriors, and the Eco Warriors Legal Defence Fund.

You can contact us anytime.

Keep the spirit!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Corporate Hydra Blocks Renewable Energy's Progress

New Report Reveals Corporate-Funded Hydra Head Blocking U.S. Renewable Energy

by Steve Horn  - DeSmogBlog

July 27, 2015

A new report from the Energy and Policy Institute reveals the fossil fuel- and utility sector-funded network working to curb the proliferation of renewable energy in the United States.

Authored by Gabe Elsner and Matt Kasper, 'Attacks on Renewable Energy Policy in 2015,' the 86-page report spotlights the bevy of coordinated attacks on renewable energy policy happening in 27 states across the nation.

The report examines how this network flexes its muscle and advances corporate interests in statehouses nationwide.

Look no further than the State Policy Network (SPN), an entity created by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) corporate bill mill, which acts as the central hub around which the rest of the spokes in the think-tank (or “stink tank”) and public relations wheel connect. Both of these groups play a central role in the report.

“Once ALEC model bills are introduced, allied legislators and fossil fuel-funded front groups cite flawed reports to back up their reasoning to either repeal or weaken” laws favorable to advancing renewable energy, the report explains.

“[Thereafter], State Policy Network lobbyists…[provide] testimony in favor of the ALEC bills. Finally, fossil fuel-funded members groups, such as Americans for Prosperity, put additional pressure on lawmakers to pass ALEC model bills.”

But ALEC and SPN are just two examples and although they play a pivotal role, the report points to 23 other industry-funded front groups also part of the anti-renewable influence peddling machine. Others include names familiar to DeSmog readers, including the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity and Institute for Energy Research, the Heartland Institute and Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) and others.
Not Just Money in Politics, Lobbying

The report has citation after citation raising dire questions about the state, and often lack thereof, of U.S. democracy. But just as important is the premise it presents.

In a nutshell, it's not just about money in politics and lobbying alone.

It's that these industry-funded front groups play a central role in shaping the public narrative, providing cover to industry-funded politicians to do the bidding of corporate interests in statehouses nationwide, and thus shape the body politic at-large.

“While corporate interests also lobby politicians and regulators,” they write, “these front groups serve a fundamental role in these assaults by adding a supposed independent, anti-clean energy voice to energy policy debates.”

The back-drop to all of this, of course, is climate change. And among the chief drivers of global warming are the same fossil fuel and utility industries that fuel this PR machine with their money to begin with. At the end of the day, they fear a major challenge to their corporate bottom lines.

“Utilities and fossil fuel companies are alarmed at what the clean energy boom will do to their market share as the economics of [scale of] clean energy see continued improvement year after year,” the report states early on.

“As a result, the fossil fuel and utility industries have launched efforts to protect vested financial interests by repealing and weakening these laws through state legislatures and regulatory agencies.” 

It's a report with troubling findings, no doubt, but one well worth the read and keeping bookmarked as a go-to reference.

Dreams, Reality, and the Wages of Capitalism

Reality and Dreams

by Fidel Castro Ruz - Granma

August 13, 2015

Writing is a way to be useful if you believe that our long-suffering humanity must be better, and more fully educated, given the incredible ignorance in which we are all enveloped, with the exception of researchers who in the sciences seek satisfactory answers. This is a word which implies in a few letters its immense content.

All of us in our youth heard talk at some point about Einstein, in particular after the explosion of the atomic bombs which pulverized Hiroshima and Nagasaki, putting an end to the cruel war between the United States and Japan.

When those bombs were dropped, after the war unleashed by the attack on the U.S. base at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese Empire had already been defeated. The United States, whose territory and industries remained removed from the war, became the country with the greatest wealth and the best weaponry on Earth, in a world torn apart, full of death, the wounded and hungry.

The Soviet Union and China together lost more than 50 million lives, along with enormous material damage. Almost all of the gold in the world landed in the vaults of the United States. Today it is estimated that the entirety of this country’s gold reserves reached 8,133.5 tons of this metal. Despite that, tearing up the Bretton Woods accords they signed, the United States unilaterally declared that it would not fulfill its duty to back the Troy ounce with the value in gold of its paper money.

The measure ordered by Nixon violated the commitments made by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. According to a large number of experts on the subject, the foundation of a crisis was created, which among other disasters threatens to powerfully batter the economy of this model of a country. Meanwhile, Cuba is owed compensation equivalent to damages, which have reached many millions of dollars, as our country has denounced throughout our interventions in the United Nations, with irrefutable arguments and facts.

As has been expressed with clarity by Cuba’s Party and government, to advance good will and peace among all the countries of this hemisphere and the many peoples who are part of the human family, and thus contribute to the survival of our species in the modest place the universe has conceded us, we will never stop struggling for peace and the well-being of all human beings, for every inhabitant on the planet regardless of skin color or national origin, and for the full right of all to hold a religious belief or not.

The equal right of all citizens to health, education, work, food, security, culture, science, and wellbeing, that is, the same rights we proclaimed when we began our struggle, in addition to those which emerge from our dreams of justice and equality for all inhabitants of our world, is what I wish for all. To those who share all or part of these same ideas, or superior ones along the same lines, I thank you, dear compatriots.

Fidel Castro Ruz

Rumour and Propaganda: Dutch Safety Board's Vague Assurances of Maybes on MH17

Dangerous Rumour Mongering Surrounds MH17 Investigation as NATO War Games Barrel Ahead in Eastern Europe

by Roger Annis - New Cold

 Aug. 14, 2015

Could Be.’‘Might Be.’ ‘Can’t show or prove anything, but maybe.’ Is there any wonder that with such language coming lately from the “official” but secretive investigation of the July 17, 2014 crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, there is little reason for confidence in a final report? And lots of reason for concern of what a flawed or reckless final report could spark?

MH17 debris and rescuers

On August 11, the Dutch Safety Board and the ‘Joint Investigation Team’ investigating the MH17 crash issued a speculative statement saying they have discovered pieces among the debris they collected from the fields in eastern Ukraine where the plane came down that “possibly originate” from a spent Buk missile.

They say they can’t be sure. “At present, the conclusion cannot be drawn that there is a causal connection between the discovered parts and the crash of flight MH17.” And they can’t show us anything. But they are making the statement anyway.

The statement was reported widely by Western media along with predictable spin and wild interpretation. Western media has reported all along that the thinly-equipped self-defence forces in eastern Ukraine are the “likely” culprits in bringing down the MH17, “possibly” with backing coming from ‘somewhere’ in the Russian military command.


Recovery of MH17 wreckage in eastern 
Ukraine (Dutch Ministry of Defence)

Manipulation and misreporting of the known fact of the crash of the plane is disrespectful toward the victims and their loved ones. Much more troubling is the fact that it disregards the deadly context of events surrounding the investigation, including the string of military exercises upon which NATO is embarked in eastern Europe and now the latest news that Ukraine is moving heavy artillery back to the front line of its war in eastern Ukraine, to be unleashed on the civilian population.

Here is how the European correspondent of Canada’s daily Globe and Mail, Mark MacKinnon, reports the Dutch investigators’ statement in a special, center-spread article in the newspaper on August 12:

The recovery of the missile fragments adds to the bulk of evidence implicating pro-Russian fighters in the downing of the passenger jet, which killed 298 people. Moscow, which accuses the Ukrainian military of shooting MH17 out of the sky, recently used its veto at the United Nations Security Council to block the establishment of an international criminal tribunal to prosecute the case.

Who needs an official investigation with such an apparent, open and shut case? The implications of such thinking and writing are becoming unthinkable considering the exceptionally dangerous context reported in the opening of the very same Globe article:

War between Russia and the NATO alliance should be unthinkable. But a new study of recent military exercises suggests both powers are preparing for just that possibility.

Researchers at a European think tank [the European Leadership Network] warned that while there was no evidence that either side intended to go to war, the increasing frequency and size of military exercises on both sides [sic] of the NATO-Russia border heighten the possibility of an unplanned incident that could spark a wider conflict (Read the report PDF). The finding raises the spectre of a continent-wide clash of conventional armies, the sort not seen since Russia and the Western allies combined to defeat Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

The British government is piling on by announcing that it will double the number of Ukrainian soldiers and extremist militia members that it plans to train this year, from 1,000 to 2,000. Presently, Britain says it has 75 soldiers in the country. Speaking in Kyiv on August 11, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon described the conflict in eastern Ukraine as “red hot”.

Recovery of MH17 wreckage in eastern 
Ukraine (Dutch Ministry of Defence)

Rebel forces in eastern Ukraine have been receiving vital humanitarian aid from the Russian government and from widespread citizen initiatives. They have also received important political/diplomatic support from the Russian government.

The Russian government makes the utterly evident argument that Kyiv should respect the terms of the Minsk-2 ceasefire agreement it co-signed signed on Feb. 12, 2015 and negotiate the grievances which the population of eastern Ukraine has expressed over Kyiv’s radical, extremist turn to a pro-Europe, anti-Russia and pro-austerity orientation for Ukraine.

The issuance of another unfounded, speculative accusation by the Dutch-led MH17 investigation, then seized upon and manipulated by reckless journalists and editors, is another reason why this investigation cannot be taken seriously.

The Dutch government is refusing demands by Dutch media that it release documentation pertaining to its response to the crash last year. A formal request to this effect was made by RTL Nieuws.

The government defends its refusal by saying that documents contain the names of individuals and that the release of the documents could have negative consequences for relations with other countries.

RTL Nieuws has said the following in response to the government’s decision:

We think it perplexing hat the minister does not work harder to disclose more information. Of course, we understand that not every piece of information can be thrown into the street. But withholding basic facts and decisions? We will study the decision and decide if going to the courts is desirable and useful.”

Late last year, the Dutch news magazine Elsevier revealed some details of the secret agreement signed on August 8, 2014 by the four countries composing the so-called Joint Investigation Team investigating the disaster. The four are Holland, Belgium, Ukraine and Australia. (Malaysia was added to the JIT late last year following pressure and protest over its initial exclusion.) The secret agreement said that any one of the member countries of the JIT can veto release of any information gathered by the investigation.[1]

The implications of an official report that ‘goes rogue’ by leaving vital questions unanswered and throwing anti-Russia speculation and prejudice to the wind are very serious.

The words ‘Russia’ and ‘Buk missile’ have been pounded out in tandem so frequently by Western governments and media during the past year that any speculative report of a “Buk” missile in relation to the MH17 crash just reinforces the ‘blame Russia narrative’ they have worked to establish.

A survey of the circumstances of the crash and the composition of the investigation underlines the danger of the situation.

The armed forces of Ukraine and quite possibly the extremist, right-wing militias allied with it possess the Buk missile system. The government in Kyiv failed to close the airspace over eastern Ukraine when it launched a war there in the spring of 2014. This flew in the face of decisions by the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States and major international airlines months before the MH17 crash to prohibit passenger planes from flying there.

Following the crash/shoot down, Ukraine ignored the July 21, 2014 resolution at the Security Council demanding that the investigation be given unfettered access to the crash site. Investigators were forced in and out of the area, according to the exigencies of the war which Kyiv declined to put on hold. To the point where parts of the plane and parts of bodies are still being randomly discovered today by visitors to the scene.

The circumstances of the crash should easily argue in favour of excluding Ukraine from the official, international investigation, or at the very least, they argue for including Russia since its border lies only a few dozen kilometers away from the crash site. But no, the JIT investigation is being conducted by governments that are hostile to Russia and to the pro-autonomy rebellion in eastern Ukraine.

Malaysia showed its colours last month when it introduced a resolution at the UN Security Council on July 29 proposing that a witchhunt-style tribunal be established by the Security Council to investigate matters. The resolution was a win-win for the anti-Russia crowd. A special tribunal could conduct an investigation without having to go through the motions of impartiality required of the JIT. The terms of the Dutch-led investigation is that it establish the facts, not search for guilt.

Russia vetoed the resolution. The Russian government argued that with two investigations already taking place, what was the purpose of adding a third? Russia’s suspicions were already on high alert given the fact that its offers to cooperate with the investigation have been rebuffed or treated at arm’s length.

Russia’s ambassador to Britain explained his country’s vote:

Our partners preferred to conduct a vote that is impossible to explain by any other motive than seeking a fresh pretext for pointing a finger at Russia.”

Progress towards justice must be seen. So far, we have seen nothing.

The vetoed Security Council resolution looked for all the world as a staged ‘aha’ moment. As in, ‘Aha, what is Russia trying to hide by vetoing a tribunal?’ That’s exactly how much of Western media and Western governments reported the veto.

Moscow-based writer John Helmer who publishes an investigative website Dances With Bears has been following and reporting the MH17 story closely. He provided a comment about the latest developments:

So far, as I have reported, the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) stands out for an investigation that has failed to bring to light and analyze the most obvious sources of data or explain why the Board, the Dutch police and prosecutors have failed to do this.

For example, in public disclosure so far, there has been no analysis of U.S. satellite images, including infrared images, of the MH17 site just before, during, and just after the strike and crash, and no disclosure of whether the Dutch investigators requested this data, what they were told, or if the Dutch believe the data exist and is being withheld from the investigation.

I’ve seen no DSB analysis of the silence on the last four seconds of the Cockpit Voice Recorder, and no explanation of how this is possible. There has been no published analysis of the Ukrainian air traffic control radar and radio tapes or confirmation of whether Kiev handed them over to the Dutch, and if they haven’t been handed over, why not. So far, too, there has been no disclosure of evidence from the autopsy and post-mortem data collected from the victims’ bodies.

What is missing is obvious. So what to make of particles of evidence whose provenance, authenticity and authority of disclosure are far from obvious? The Dutch want to be thought of as careful, methodical, clean. Why so careless all of a sudden?

The “official” investigation is proceeding at the speed of a turtle and in unprecedented secrecy for a civilian airline disaster. Meanwhile, journalists and hostile governments are promoting a ‘blame Russia’ narrative and speculating on worst case scenarios. It’s a dangerous and toxic mix.

The Globe and Mail article mentioned earlier closes by citing a military analyst based in Moscow: “The lines of communication [between NATO and Russia] are closing and everyone is beefing up for an eventuality that could be very, very unpleasant.”

The Globe writes further, “… for now, the two sides were just posturing, ‘but posturing is the path to war. It always has been’.”

This article also appears on Counterpunch, Aug. 14, 2015.

[1] The website of the Dutch Prosecution Service (OM) explains: “The Joint Investigative Team conducts the criminal investigation and the Dutch Safety Board the investigation into the cause of the crash. Both investigations are conducted separately but JIT and DSB occasionally share material.”

Read also:
* MH17 – ‘Buk plume’ burns witness – Part I, by Max van der Werff, July 26, 2015

* Black boxes and black holes in the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 investigation, by John Helmer, July 17, 2015

* Preliminary report into the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014 (link to pdf), issued by the Dutch Safety Board, Sept. 9, 2014. The report is 34 pages long. (And related: MH17 preliminary investigation omits U.S. ‘intel’, by Tony Cartalucci, New Eastern Outlook, Sept. 19, 2014)

The website New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond contains an extensive dossier of articles on the July 17, 2014 crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. These include the extensive writings on the subject by U.S. journalist Robert Parry.

Awful White of You: West's Inherently Racist View of World Refugees

The Refugees Are Coming!!!

by Andre Vltchek - CounterPunch 

I don’t really know, I don’t understand how it feels: to live in a rich European country, which is rich mainly because it has been directly plundering many poor nations around the world. Or it has been plundering by association, through its membership in some extremist organization like NATO. To live there, refusing to acknowledge why it is rich, how it became rich.

Palaces, theatres, railroads, hospitals and parks in that rich country are built on broken skeletons and restless specters, on lakes of blood and shameless theft.

Then, when one looted country after another begins to sink, when there is nothing left there, when children begin dying from hunger and when men commence fighting each other over tiny boulders and dirty pieces of turf, pathetic boats, or dinghies, begin crossing the waterways, bringing half starved, half-mad refugees to the European sea-fronts decorated with marble.

What a horrifying sight! As if a woman, her hair waving in disarray, her lips broken, comes begging a man who raped her after killing her husband – begging for shelter and at least some work and piece of bread. She decided to abandon all her pride, because her children are sick and starving, because it is either this, or death.

That is what you reduced the world to, Europe – you, and your huge, insatiable offspring – North America!

Too egocentric, too cruel, you lost the ability to judge, to feel. All moral standards collapsed. There are no higher principles, anymore, only self-interest.

In Calais and Kos, in Paris, London, Stuttgart, and Prague, I heard the same questions posed with absolutely straight faces: “How are we going to absorb all those hordes of immigrants?”

Almost no one in the West is wondering aloud:

“How did the people on other continents manage to endure those long centuries of colonialism and neo-colonialism, of shameless plunder, of slavery, of constant locust-like onslaught of corporate and neoliberal cannibalistic hordes? Wouldn’t a set of keys issued to each and every citizen of robbed, formerly or presently colonized country, be the tiniest, the most basic token of justice?”

Is it morally acceptable that a thief, an arsonist, a rapist, a liar, a serial killer, all in one, would be allowed to live in a mansion, surrounded by slums housing his victims?

In the West, in the Christian West, in fundamentalist West, such arrangement is obviously tolerable.


Most of the citizens of Europe are completely unrepentant. Only few of them are capable of detecting connection between their continent’s wealth, those hundreds of millions of ruined lives all over the world, and the latest wave of immigrants.

A few months ago, my comrade and fellow philosopher, Milan Kohout, lost his temper, after listening to staunchly racist, anti-immigrant guests at a studio of the Czech Television in Prague. He began shouting, live, at both the moderator, and the bigoted speakers.

Insulting letters commenced raining almost immediately: “Why don’t you stick a few of those niggers into your own bedroom, you asshole?” Or more threateningly: “You should be hanged for this, you bastard!”

Several weeks after the television appearance, I received his email:

“Just letting you know I have been getting so many death threats that I am starting to take them seriously. Even the neighbors from the village we have the summerhouse in are threatening us. I do not know whether I should take all this serious or not but I guess I have to be careful…”

On the Greek island of Kos, which is now hosting several thousands of refugees from the Middle East and Asia, but which has neither camps nor other facilities for them, a brave medical volunteer (I decided not to use her name, as she was already threatened), described the recent developments:

“The situation in Kos is totally out of control. The [right-wing] extremists of Golden Dawn – some of them fully armed – have unleashed pogroms against the refugees. Someone must speak loudly for the Mayor’s responsibilities… who had sabotaged every solidarity effort and possible solution, from the very beginning.”

At the other side of Europe, the British Prime Minister is considering to employ the army, lamenting inconveniences being experienced by British holidaymakers. Traffic at the Eurotunnel is slow, often interrupted, as thousands of desperate refugees living in an appalling camp nicknamed “The Jungle” at the outskirts of the French city of Calais, are trying to reach England, some dying in the process.

Great Britain, responsible for the loss of hundreds of millions of human lives worldwide (through its colonial genocides and triggered/orchestrated famines), is now pretending that it is facing a serious “refugee crises”, while there are only some 25.000 asylum applicants on its territory.

As the Morning Star commented:

“According to the Refugee Council up to 74 per cent of all asylum-seekers are refused residency in Britain. While numbers have grown since 2008, applications for asylum in 2014 were below 25,000, with those fleeing from conflicts in Afghanistan, Syrian and Eritrea among the highest number of applicants.”

In Germany, Netherlands, Scandinavia, Greece, in fact all over the Europe, right wing, xenophobic groups and movements are busy attacking and intimidating defenseless refugees.

Immigrants are portrayed as some menace, or pest, not as a group of desperate human beings – victims of the Empire.

It is mainly because of the collapse of integrity inside the Western political elites, mass media, as well as in academia and the art worlds.

Now, most of those who are speaking in favor of accepting immigrants are doing so self-righteously, “out of charity”, not because they recognize that accepting victims of their continent’s cruelty is their moral obligation; not because they are convinced that breaking the gates of “fortress Europe” would be at least a tiny payment from the monstrous debt towards the world that had been ravished and plundered for numerous centuries.


It is not only what you see in Europe – that tip of the iceberg, that tiny fraction of misery that managed to land on Italian, Greek and Maltese shores.

The world is on the move. Tens of millions are displaced.

The overwhelming majority of the refugees are forced to leave their homelands because of political and economic imperialism of the West.

Syrians, Libyans, Iraqis and Afghanis were bombed to the stone-ages, just because they tried to feed, house and educate their people. In the eyes of the Empire, this was the greatest crime, as all resources are supposed to be used for alimenting Western corporations, banks and military complexes.

Eritreans were debilitated by sanctions and embargoes, right after their long war for independence. 10 million of Congolese people died since 1995, butchered by West’s allies – Rwanda and Uganda – so that Washington, London and Paris could enjoy a free flow of uranium and coltan. Many Congolese people are now trying to flee unimaginable horrors at home. Many Somalis are trying to escape, after Washington destabilized their country, after Kenya invaded its southern part on direct orders from the West, after the EU has been dumping toxic waste at its shores.

Even the plight of Rohingya people in Burma could be traced to the monstrous “divide and rule” of the British Empire in Asia.

For decades and centuries, the West kept overthrowing progressive governments, one after another. It has been murdering great political leaders like Patrice Lumumba, liquidating all attempts to build decent, socialist societies.

Then it would say: “Those niggers cannot govern their own countries… All their people want is to come to us, stealing our jobs, straining our social systems.”

It goes without saying that, if left alone, those countries that are now bleeding millions of their own people, “exporting refugees”, would be, most likely, as rich or even richer than the West. It applies to Iran and Iraq, Syria and Libya, perhaps even Congo and Indonesia.

The ongoing “refugee crises” is not a “problem that Europe has to deal with”. Europe is creating the crises. Europe is not “dealing” with anything. It is, as always, cheating, lying and calculating pennies, after stealing billions. Those who don’t see it are either blind or conditioned, alternatively well paid not to see.

If the mother earth gets hit, powerfully, with tremendous destructive force, pieces of it will fly, in all directions. The same applies to countries, to nations. If left in peace, states will find the way to take care of their people.

The present situation is actually just a tiny reflection, an overflow of horrors that the colonized and plundered world has to endure. It is just a tiny bit of that nightmare which is taking place inside Africa, the Middle East and several parts of Asia; a tiny bit thrown back to the face of the Europeans; being brought to and left at their doorsteps.


How come that “they” don’t see it? How come that almost all Western mass media are silent? How come most of present-day philosophers are not addressing, not combining the subjects of neocolonialism and immigration?

What I am saying in this essay is philosophically clear. It would be hard to dispute it. French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre came to several similar conclusions in his “Colonialism and Neocolonialism”, few decades ago. But that was “then”. Now, to combine the plunder of the Planet committed by the West, and the plight of the refugees, appears to be taboo.

But I don’t believe in taboos, as I don’t believe in a knowledge that is strictly “theoretical”.

In the past few years I documented human misery in countless battlefields, and in the refugee camps that are housing exiles from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Bangladesh, Libya and many other broken places.

I often see, first hand, how grotesque, unsustainable, repulsive the situation is: while tiny Lebanon is now a host of over 2 million Syrian refugees, one of the main global bullies, the UK, has lesser than 25.000 registered asylum applicants on its turf!

Even the intellectuals of aggressive NATO country, Turkey, write openly and honestly in the newspapers:
“We wanted to act like some smaller regional United States, therefore we should pay for those 1.8 million refugees who were forced to cross the border and settle in our camps.” Turkey is paying. As aggressive as it is, it has at least some dignity left, compared to the West.

There is simply something appalling, hypocritical, twisted, profoundly un-humanistic, in the way Europe addresses the plight of its victims.

Of course “it” is not something new. “It” has deep roots in both Christian dogmas and Christian cultural fundamentalism – the elements that are unyieldingly controlling the minds of the majority of European people. Such fundamentalism has been helping to accept and promote, even glorify, colonialism and neocolonialism, as well as the “exceptionalism”.

Fundamentalism and exceptionalism put their religions (even in the countries that became ‘secular’ on the surface), cultures, races and ways of life on the pedestal. They see “those others” as irrelevant. The suffering of “the others” is trivial, insignificant. Or it simply “does not exist”.

Orwell defined un-Christian, un-white and un-Western people simply as “un-people”, in the eyes of the West.

In Europe, wherever you go, you can read between the lines:

“If millions of them starve to death, then so be it – as long as Germany and France could maintain clean sidewalks and hospitals, and as long as the schools don’t have too many undesirable, foreign elements and influences.”

Destruction of the world, killing and starving of millions, is sad but a necessary price to be paid for the high standard of living of the chosen, white, good Christian people in Europe and North America. Let the slaughter be contained to far away places! Let it not appear on the television screens. Let us not see the victims.

And let those dirty and uncivilized beings stay where they are. We don’t want to face them at our resort towns and in our capital cities. We don’t want to see their sores, their wounds, and their puss.

Let everything remain out of focus, as blurry as possible, and at extremely low volume.

As I was told in California, during a conference: “Do not show us graphic images of Africans suffering… Here, people are very sensitive!”

Neocolonialism? Modern slavery? We don’t like these terms. They belong to the Cold War era. They died with the Soviet Union, didn’t they?”


As long as the Empire reigns, as long as the West rules over the planet, the refugees will be crossing dangerous waterways on board their fragile dinghies.

Some will die; others will make it.

Those who will make it will be put on trial. What they did is defined as “illegal”. They will have to prove that they are persecuted in their home country, that their lives have been threatened.

A tricky game… A very filthy game… Like in those days of Inquisition, men, women and children facing Western Christian “justice” would have to lie, in order to survive.

They would not be able to say: “I had to escape because your country killed my family.”
Or: “Your continent robbed me of my livelihood”.

Fear of persecution… A “genuine” refugee would have to invent his or her imaginary story, his or her torturer: one that is approved by the Empire.

Then, and only then, a refugee would have at least a tiny chance to receive his or her asylum, a shelter and a piece of bread – a tiny bit of what was already stolen from his or her native land.

The Jungle camp in Calais, France. 

Calais – anti refugee walls. 

Congolese refugees in Goma. 

Fainted refugee in Kos (courtesy photo from Kos). 

Refugees in Kos Greece (photos courtesy from Kos). 

Shia IDP on Madura Island, Indonesia. 

 Somali refugee in Dadaab camp.

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His latest books are: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”.Discussion with Noam Chomsky: On Western Terrorism. Point of No Return is his critically acclaimed political novel. Oceania – a book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about Indonesia: “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Press TV. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and the Middle East. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.
More articles by:ANDRE VLTCHEK

Alberta Winning Battles, While Losing War on the Wolves

Alberta Must Call a Truce in War on Wolves

by Sadie Parr and Chris Genovali

Wolf Awareness has erected a double-sided billboard along Highway 2 between Calgary and Red Deer alerting visitors and residents to the province’s misguided war on grey wolves.

The billboard highlights the dire situation wolves are facing and heightens awareness about preserving this ecologically influential species as an important part of Alberta’s intact environments.

Grey wolves in Alberta are exposed to lethal threats from every angle, including aerial gunning from helicopters, choking neck snares, and poison-baits that lure wolves and many other species to excruciating deaths. Alberta’s liberal hunting and trapping regulations, as well as unregulated private bounties, assure that the devastation of wolf families occurs nearly year-round.

Under the pretext of protecting caribou in habitat that is 95 per cent disturbed by oil and gas development, more than 800 wolves in the Little Smoky area were strangled by snares, gunned down from helicopters, and poisoned with strychnine over seven years. Many biologists and wildlife experts consider these killing methods inhumane and unethical. Caribou are endangered not because of wolves, but because the province has knowingly allowed industry to destroy essential caribou habitat for decades.

Snares intended for wolves “accidentally” killed at least 676 other animals, including two caribou. In a recent review of trapping as a wildlife management technique in the Journal of Canadian Wildlife Management and Biology, Gilbert Proulx and his co-authors reveal that Canadian snares are considered inefficient at killing and can cause tremendous pain and enduring suffering to animals.

Big Lakes is one example of numerous bounty programs hosted across the province, providing $300 for evidence of each dead wolf since 2010. Other bounties offer $500. Dwight Rodtka, a retired problem wildlife specialist with Alberta Agriculture, reported: “The municipal district of Big Lakes has claimed 647 wolves in their bounty program in less than five years. During the previous winter, 62 wolves were registered through Alberta Fish and Wildlife by registered trappers in the Sundre and Rocky districts alone. Another 19 wolves were registered as killed by hunters in these areas. These are bare minimums.”

In those districts alone, the combined mortalities are equivalent to 10 or more wolf packs being destroyed or facing the trauma of having individual wolves taken from their families and purposeful way of living.

Alberta is the only province that still uses strychnine to kill wolves and coyotes. It is past time to ban these dangerous toxins, as others have done. Knowing how many animals in addition to wolves died because of strychnine poisoning in the Little Smoky area is impossible because the victims’ bodies could not be accounted for.

Strychnine has long been judged by the Canadian Council on Animal Care as an inhumane way to kill animals and therefore inappropriate for euthanasia. Animals poisoned with strychnine die traumatically from asphyxiation caused by paralysis of the respiratory muscles. Considering that euthanasia implies death without signs of panic, pain or distress, minimum time to loss of consciousness, and minimal undesirable physiological and psychological effects on the animal, death through poisoning with strychnine does not comply with CCAC guidelines.

Raincoast Conservation Foundation large-carnivore experts Heather Bryan and Paul Paquet, along with colleagues at the University of Calgary and Israel’s Bar-Ilan University have authored a seminal scientific paper, published in the British journal Functional Ecology, which suggests wolves that are heavily hunted or subjected to intensive lethal control experience significant social and physiological stress. The scientists used tufts of hair to measure hormone levels in wolves subject to different hunting pressures in Canada.

Although the long-term effects of chronically elevated stress and reproductive hormones are unknown, there are potential implications for wildlife health, welfare, long-term survival and behaviour. The effects of stress are often subtle, but the ensuing harm can be acute, chronic and permanent, sometimes spanning generations.

Ignored in all the killing is the evidence that exploited wolf populations lead to smaller and unstable packs, smaller territories, and potentially more prey killed per capita by these inexperienced wolf packs. All of this increases conflicts with humans, who see wolves as competitors for livestock as well as wild game.

Wolves are recognized globally as predators playing a key role in the top-down regulation of ecosystems, yet they still struggle to find safety in Alberta. Will the province’s new leaders have the vision to right the wrongs being done to this highly persecuted species? The opportunity to do things differently remains.

Sadie Parr is executive director of Wolf Awareness Inc. and Chris Genovali is executive director of Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Thy Will Is the Whole of the Law: Pentagon Defines Its Moral Parameters

Boyle: New Pentagon War Manual Reduces Us to "Level of Nazis"

by Sherwood Ross

The Pentagon's new Law of War Manual(LOWM) sanctioning nuclear attacks and the killing of civilians, "reads like it was written by Hitler's Ministry of War," says international law authority Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois at Champaign.

"Historically, this is a terrible development," he added in an exclusive interview with this reporter. "We are reducing ourselves to the level of the Nazis."

The grim, 1,165-page-long document, issued in June by the Defense Department's Office of the General Counsel, also sanctions the use of napalm, herbicides, depleted uranium, and drone missile strikes, among other barbarities.

Boyle points out the new manual is designed to supplant the 1956 U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 written by Richard Baxter, the world's leading authority on the Laws of War. Baxter was the Manley O. Hudson Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and a Judge on the International Court of Justice. Boyle was his top student.

Boyle is the leading professor, practitioner and advocate of international law in America. He drafted the U.S. implementing legislation for the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention known as the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989.

"Over the years, 27-10 has proven to be a total embarrassment to the Pentagon because it sets forth a fair and accurate statement of the Laws of War both as of 1956 and as of today," Boyle says. He termed the  new manual a "warmongering" document.

The new document seeks to distinguish between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” acts of military violence against civilian targets, using the criterion of military necessity," points out Peter Martin of the World Socialist Website. "Thus, acts of mass slaughter of civilians could be justified if sufficient military advantages were gained by the operations."

The bulk of the document, Martin continues, "amounts to a green light for military atrocities, including mass killings." Martin said the most comprehensive previous such document, the 1956 Pentagon field manual, did not state that civilians, unlike military personnel, should be spared "unnecessary suffering" because it  assumed...

"that any deliberate targeting of civilians was illegal and a war crime."

Among the flagrant violations of international law sanctioned by the Pentagon's new LOWM, Martin writes, are:

  • Legitimizing the use of nuclear weapons. LOWM states, "There is no general prohibition in treaty or customary international law on the use of nuclear weapons." This flies in the face of a number of existing international covenants. Under the UN Charter as interpreted by the World Court in its Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, even threatening to use nuclear weapons, as the U.S. and Israel have threatened Iran, is illegal and thus a war crime.
  • Authorizing the use of banned incendiary weapons such as napalm, herbicides (as Agent Orange in Viet Nam), depleted uranium munitions (as used in Iraq). Napalm, for example, is banned under Protocol III of the 1980 UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.
  • Authorizing the use of cluster munitions, mines and booby-traps, the LOWM rationalizes that "the United States is not a Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions." (That's a disgrace, of course, when the  overwhelming majority of nations have signed it.)
  • Defends drone missile attacks, both by the Pentagon and intelligence outfits such as the Central Intelligence Agency, declaring flatly: "There is no prohibition in the law of war on the use of remotely piloted aircraft…" To the contrary, targeted killing off the battlefield is prohibited.
  • Authorizes the use of exploding hollow-point bullets, stating the U.S. is not a party to the 1868 St. Petersburg declaration banning their use. (At this writing, the U.S. is only 147 years late.)

In sum, the move by the Pentagon to supplant the 1956 manual with the LOWM represents an effort to justify the excesses of its trillion dollar-a-year war machine, one that is as large as the next dozen nations  combined.

The Pentagon today operates some 900 military bases globally, allegedly for "defense," and engages in warfare in a dozen countries. The new Pentagon manual illuminates in bold print the downward drift of the U.S. from a democratic to a totalitarian society.

LOWM has received no play in a media "following orders to conceal from the American people…the Pentagon's preparations for new and more massive war crimes, along with the destruction of democratic rights spelled out in the U.S. Constitution," Martin says.

Indeed, it seems TV "news" stations beam more commercials than news stories, and news reports of carnage inflicted by the Pentagon, are virtually non-existent. War? What war?

Sherwood Ross is an award-winning free-lance journalist who formerly reported for The New York Herald-Tribune, The Chicago Daily News, and major wire services. Reach him at

Summer of Slaughter: Rubbernecking Empire's Road Kill

Where Did the Antiwar Movement Go? War, Sunny Side Up, and the Summer of Slaughter (Vietnam and Today)

by Tom Engelhardt  - TomDispatch

Let me tell you a story about a moment in my life I’m not likely to forget even if, with the passage of years, so much around it has grown fuzzy. It involves a broken-down TV, movies from my childhood, and a war that only seemed to come closer as time passed.

My best guess: it was the summer of 1969. I had dropped out of graduate school where I had been studying to become a China scholar and was then working as a “movement” printer -- that is, in a print shop that produced radical literature, strike posters, and other materials for activists. 
 It was, of course, “the Sixties,” though I didn’t know it then. Still, I had somehow been swept into a new world remarkably unrelated to my expected life trajectory -- and a large part of the reason for that was the Vietnam War.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t particularly early to protest it.
Tomgram: Engelhardt, What It Means When You Kill People On the Other Side of the Planet and No One Notices

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Think of today’s dispatch as part two of my summer memoirs. In a way, it tells the tale of how I came to write my idiosyncratic history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. Note that for a contribution of $100, you can get a personalized, signed copy of that book from me and in the process help support this website. Check out our donation page for the details and while you’re there note what a range of signed books are available for donations, including Susan Southard's powerful new account of how this world entered the atomic age, Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War. Tom


Where Did the Antiwar Movement Go? War, Sunny Side Up, and the Summer of Slaughter (Vietnam and Today)

by Tom Engelhardt

I think I signed my first antiwar petition in 1965 while still in college, but as late as 1968 -- people forget the confusion of that era -- while I had become firmly antiwar, I still wanted to serve my country abroad. Being a diplomat had been a dream of mine, the kind of citizenly duty I had been taught to admire, and the urge to act in such a fashion, to be of service, was deeply embedded in me. (That I was already doing so in protesting the grim war my government was prosecuting in Southeast Asia didn’t cross my mind.) I actually applied to the State Department, but it turned out to have no dreams of Tom Engelhardt. On the other hand, the U.S. Information Agency, a propaganda outfit, couldn’t have been more interested.

Only one problem: they weren’t about to guarantee that they wouldn’t send a guy who had studied Chinese, knew something of Asia, and could read French to Saigon. However, by the time they had vetted me -- it took government-issue months and months to do so -- I had grown far angrier about the war, so when they offered me a job, I didn’t think twice about saying no.

Somewhere in that same year, 1968, I joined a group called the Resistance and in an elaborate public ceremony turned in my draft card to protest the war. For several years, I had been increasingly involved in antiwar activism, had marched on the Pentagon in the giant 1967 processional that Norman Mailer so famously recorded in Armies of the Night, and returned again a year or two later when, for the first time in my life, I got tear-gassed.

For a while, I had also been working as a draft counselor with a group whose initials, BDRG, I remember. A quick check of Google tells me that the acronym stood for the Boston Draft Resistance Group. Somewhere in that period, I helped set up an organization whose initials I also recall well: the CCAS. Though hardly an inspired moniker, it stood for the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars. (That “concern” -- in case it’s not clear so many years later -- involved the same war that wouldn’t end.) With a friend, I designed and produced its bulletin. As one of those “concerned scholars,” I also helped write a group antiwar book, The Indochina Story, which would be put out by a mainstream publishing house.

Of course, there’s much that I’ve forgotten and I can’t claim that all of the above is in perfect order. Even at the time, life was a blur of activism. Nearly half a century later, I’m a failing archive of my own life and so much seems irretrievable.

My intention here, however, is simply to offer a sense of how so many lives came, in part or in whole, to revolve around that war, while other things went by the wayside. It’s true that our government hadn’t mobilized us, but we had mobilized ourselves. Though much has been written about “dropping out” in the 1960s, this antiwar form of it has been far less attended to.

Images of War

So much of what I’m describing must seem utterly alien today. At a time when America’s endless wars might as well be millions of miles from our shores (and the national security state desperately needs a few “lone-wolf” Islamic terror types to drive home how crucial it is to our protection), it’s hard to remember how large the Vietnam War once loomed in our national life. In this age in which Americans have been demobilized from the wars fought in our name, who recalls how many people took to the streets how repeatedly in those Vietnam years, or how much the actions of our government were passionately debated from Congress to kitchens, or how deeply plagued and unnerved two American presidents were by the uproar and fuss? Who remembers how little the antiwar movement of that moment was a weekend operation and how central throwing some kind of monkey wrench into that war became to so many lives?

Much of the tenacious antiwar opposition of that era, when thought about now, is automatically attributed to the draft, to the fact that young men like me were subject to being called up and sent thousands of miles from home to fight in a conflict that looked more brutal, despicable, and even criminal by the second. And there is, of course, some truth to that explanation, but it’s a very partial, dismissive truth, one that, for instance, doesn’t explain the vast number of young women who mobilized against the war in those years.

While the draft was a factor in the growth of war consciousness, it was hardly the only one. It’s easy to forget that a generation raised in the Golden Fifties believed the American system would work for them and that, if it didn’t, it was the obligation of the citizen to try to fix it. Those young people were convinced that, if you spoke up loudly enough and in large enough numbers, presidents would listen. They also believed that you, as an American, had an obligation to step forward, to represent the best in your country, to serve. Hence my urge to join the State Department. In other words, I came from a generation primed -- in part by the successes of the Civil Rights Movement (when it seemed that presidents were listening) -- to believe that, in a democratic country, protest worked.

Of course, by the time the antiwar movement took off, it was hardly stylish to admit to such sentiments of service, but that didn’t make them less real. They were crucial to a passionate protest that began mainly with students but grew to include everyone from clergy to businessmen, and that, in its later years, would be led by disillusioned military veterans home from the country’s Southeast Asian battlefields.

The importance of an antiwar movement that refused to stand down, that -- while two administrations continually escalated the killing in Vietnam and spread it to Laos and Cambodia -- never packed up its tents and went home, can’t be emphasized too strongly. Its refusal to shut up brought Vietnam, both literally and figuratively, to America’s doorstep. It made that grim war a living (and dying) presence in American lives -- and no less important was what it made present.

Somehow, from so many thousands of miles away, we were turned into witnesses to repeated horrors on a staggering scale in a small, largely peasant land: free-fire zones, the body count, torture, assassination, war crimes, the taking of trophy body parts, and above all the feeling that a spectacle of slaughter was occurring and we were responsible for it. We here at home had a growing sense of what it meant for the U.S. military to fight a war against guerilla forces (which, at least on the left, came -- unlike the Islamic insurgents of the twenty-first century -- to look ever more heroic and sympathetic), with every means available short of nuclear weapons. That included bombing campaigns that, in the end, would outdo in tonnage those of World War II.

The images of that time still remain with me, including Ron Haeberle’s horrific photos of the My Lai massacre, which appeared in LIFE magazine in December 1969, and Associated Press photographer Nick Ut’s iconic 1972 shot of a young Vietnamese girl napalmed by a South Vietnamese plane and caught in pain and terror running naked down a road.

If you were in the antiwar movement in those years, you couldn’t help coming across testimony by American soldiers who had been in Vietnam and were ready to paint a nightmarish picture of what they and their companions had seen or done there. In the growing alternative or (as it was romantically termed then) “underground” press of those pre-Internet days, snapshots of unbearable atrocities were soon circulating. These undoubtedly came directly from soldiers who had snapped them, or knew those who had, or were like the servicemen -- stirred to action by a growing military antiwar movement -- who appeared at the Winter Soldier Investigation in 1971. There, they essentially testified against themselves on the commission of war crimes. Others similarly moved handed such photos over to alternative publications.

I’ve never forgotten, for instance, a trophy shot I saw in those years, of an American soldier proudly holding up a severed Vietnamese head by the hair. (If you want to imagine the impact such photos had, click here to see one that circulated in the alternative press at that time.)

In those years, thanks to the efforts of the antiwar movement, the Vietnamese -- the dead, the wounded, the mistreated, as well as “the enemy” (“Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, NLF Is Gonna Win!”) -- seemed to come ever closer to us until, though I was living in quiet Cambridge, Massachusetts, I sometimes had the eerie feeling that Vietnamese were dying right outside my window. In the post-9/11 American world, that sounds both ludicrous and histrionic. You’ll have to take my word for it that I’m not exaggerating and that the sensation was visceral indeed.

A Spectacle of Slaughter

Which finally brings me to that clunky television set. At some point in 1968 or 1969, I got an old black-and-white TV. I have no idea whether I bought it or someone gave it to me. I do remember one thing about it, though. In that era before remote controls, the dial you turned by hand to change channels was broken, so I used a pair of pliers. Sometimes, I had it running on my desk while I worked; sometimes, it was propped on a chair, just an arm’s reach from my bed. (Remember those pliers!) And in the off hours when old movies filled schedules on secondary channels, I began to re-watch the westerns, adventure films, and war movies of my childhood.

I no longer know what possessed me to do so, but it became an almost obsessional activity. I watched at least 30 to 40 of them, no small feat in the era before you could find anything you wanted online at a moment’s notice. Keep in mind that those films from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s -- grade B-westerns, John Wayne-style World War II movies, and the like -- were for me the definition of entertainment sunny side up. I had only the fondest memories of such films, in part because they were bedrock to the American way of life as I understood it.

You always knew what to expect: the Indians (or Mexicans, or Japanese) would fall in vast numbers, the cavalry would ride to the rescue in the nick of time, the Marines -- it hardly needed to be said -- would advance triumphantly before the movie ended, the West would be won, victory assured. It was how it was and how it should be.

Add in a more personal factor: my father had been in World War II in the Pacific. It wasn’t something he generally cared to talk about. (In fact, it made him angry.) But he often took me to such films and when we sat together in silence in some movie theater watching Americans fight his war (or cowboys and blue shirts fight the Indian wars), I felt close to him. In that shared silence, I felt his stamp of approval on what we were watching. If he and his generation were far more conflicted and less talkative about their war experiences than we now like to remember, they really didn’t need to say much in those days. After all, we kids knew what they had done; we had seen it sitting beside them at the movies.

Imagine my shock, on looking at those films again so many years later -- with that visceral sense of Vietnamese dying in my neighborhood -- when I realized that the sunniest part of my childhood had been based on a spectacle of slaughter. The “Vietnamese” had always been the ones to fall in staggering numbers just before the moment of victory, or when the wagon train again advanced into the West, or the cowboy got the girl.

Consider this my own tiny version of the disillusionment so many experienced with the previously all-American in those years. Our country’s triumphs, I suddenly realized, had been built on conquest and on piles of nonwhite bodies.

Believe me, looking back on one of the sunniest parts of my childhood from that antiwar moment was a shock and it led me to produce “Ambush at Kamikaze Pass,” the first critical essay of my life, for the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars. “Anyone who thinks the body count is a creation of the recent Indochinese war,” I wrote then, “should look at the movies he saw as a kid. It was the implicit rule of those films that no less than ten Indian (Japanese, Chinese...) warriors should fall for each white, expendable secondary character.” Almost a quarter century later, it would become the heart of my book The End of Victory Culture.

The Spectacle of Slaughter Updated

In 2015, the spectacle of slaughter is still with us. These days, however, few Americans have that sense that it might be happening right down the street. War is no longer a part of our collective lives. It’s been professionalized and outsourced. And here’s the wonder of it all: since 9/11, this country has engaged in a military-first foreign policy across much of the Greater Middle East and northern Africa, launching an unending string of failed wars, conflicts, raids, kidnappings, acts of torture, and drone assassination programs, and yet Americans have remained remarkably unengaged with any of it.

This is not happenstance. There is, of course, no draft. President Richard Nixon ended it in 1973 with the demobilizing of the antiwar movement in mind. Similarly, the military high command never again wanted to experience a citizen’s army reaching an almost mutinous state and voting with its feet or its antiwar testimony or its medals. Ever since Vietnam, the urge of successive administrations and an ever-expanding national security state has been to fight wars without the involvement of the American people (or the antiwar version of democratic oversight). Hence, the rise of the warrior corporation and the privatization of war.

Especially after 9/11, a kind of helplessness settled over Americans left out in the cold when it came to the wars being fought in their name. In some sense, most of us accepted our newly assigned role as a surveilled and protected populace whose order of the day was don’t get involved.

In other words, amid all the military failures of this era, there was a single hardly mentioned but striking victory: no antiwar movement of any significance proved to have staying power in this country. Osama bin Laden can, at least in part, be thanked for that. The 9/11 attacks, the shock of the apocalyptic-looking collapse of those towers in New York, and the loss of almost 3,000 innocent civilians inoculated America’s second Afghan War -- launched in October 2001 and still ongoing -- against serious protest.

The invasion of Iraq would prove another matter entirely. That act of Bush administration hubris, based on kited intelligence and a full-scale White House propaganda campaign filled with misinformation, brought briefly to life something unique to our era: a massive antiwar movement that preceded the launching of the war it was protesting. Those prewar demonstrations, which stretched worldwide, ran into the hundreds of thousands and were impressive enough that the New York Times front-paged “public opinion” as the other “superpower” in a post-Cold War world.

But as soon as the Bush administration launched its much-desired invasion, the domestic movement against it began to crumble. Within a couple of years -- with the exception of small groups of antiwar veterans -- it was essentially dead. In the end, Americans would generally live through their twenty-first-century wars as if they weren’t happening. There would neither be an everyday antiwar movement into which anyone could “drop out,” nor a population eager to be swept into it. Its lack would be a modest tragedy for American politics and our waning democracy; it would prove far more so for Afghans, Iraqis, Yemenis, and others.

For the spectacle of slaughter itself continued, even if few in this country were tuning in. Don’t consider it a fluke that the war culture hero of the period -- on the bestseller lists and in Hollywood -- was an American sniper whose claim to fame was that he had created his own singular body count: 160 “confirmed” dead Iraqis. Skip the unknown number of casualties of every sort (ranging from Iraq Body Count’s 219,000 up to a million dead) that resulted from the invasion of Iraq and the chaos of the occupation that followed or the tens of thousands of civilian dead in Afghanistan (some at the hands of the Taliban and their roadside bombs, some thanks to U.S. efforts). Consider instead the slaughter that can be connected to this country’s much-vaunted “precision” air weaponry, which -- so the claim has gone -- can strike without causing what’s politely termed significant “collateral damage.”

Start with the drone, a robotic machine that guarantees one thing in the ongoing spectacle of slaughter: no American combatant will ever die in its operations, no matter how many Afghans, or Yemenis, or Iraqis, or Syrians, or Pakistanis, or Libyans, or Somalis may die when it releases its aptly named Hellfire missiles. From that heroic investigative crew, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, we have an approximation of the casualties on the ground from Washington’s drone assassination campaigns across the Greater Middle East, and they run into the thousands (including hundreds of children) and lots of what might be called the mistaken dead. Keep in mind that the most basic drone attack of Washington’s wars in the Greater Middle East has been the “signature strike,” as it’s euphemistically known. These target not specific individuals, but groups on the ground that seem to fit certain behavioral patterns suspected of being telltale marks of terror outfits -- particularly young men with weapons (in regions in which young men are likely to be armed, whatever their affiliations).

Or consider U.S. air strikes targeting the Islamic State’s forces in Iraq and Syria. Again, with the grim exception of one Jordanian pilot, there have, as far as we know, been no casualties among American and allied combatants. That shouldn’t be a surprise, since the Islamic State (like just about every group the U.S. Air Force has faced in the twenty-first century) is incapable of bringing down a fighter jet. In the last year, according to a recent report, the U.S. and its allies have launched more than 5,700 strikes against Islamic State operations, claiming at least 15,000 dead militants. (Such figures, impossible to confirm on the ground under the circumstances, are undoubtedly fantasies.) The Pentagon has acknowledged only two civilian deaths from all these strikes, but a new study by Airwars of what can be known about just some of them indicates that hundreds of civilians have died, including more than 100 children.

To offer one more example, since December 2001 U.S. air power has obliterated at least eight wedding parties in three countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen). According to my count (and as far as I know there are no others), just under 300 people died in these eight strikes, including brides, grooms, and celebrants of every sort. Each of these incidents was reported in the western media, but none had the slightest impact here. They went essentially unnoticed. To put this in perspective, imagine for a moment the media uproar, the shock, the scandal, the 24/7 coverage, if anyone or any group were to knock off a single wedding party in this country.

And this just scratches the surface of Washington's long “global war on terror.” Yet without an antiwar movement, the spectacle of mayhem and slaughter that has been at the heart of that war has passed largely unnoticed here. Unlike in the Vietnam years, it’s never really come home. In an era in which successes have been in short supply for two administrations, consider this a major one. War without an antiwar movement turns out to mean war without pause, war without end.

Admittedly, American children can no longer catch the twenty-first-century equivalents of the movies of my childhood. Such films couldn’t be made. After all, few are the movies that are likely to end with the Marines advancing amid a pile of nonwhite bodies, the wagon train heading for the horizon, or the cowboy galloping off on his horse with his girl. Think of this as onscreen evidence of American imperial decline.

In the badlands and backlands of the planet, however, the spectacle of slaughter never ends, even if the only Americans watching are sometimes unnerved drone video analysts. Could there be a sadder tale of a demobilized citizenry than that?

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

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Copyright 2015 Tom Engelhardt