Monday, December 28, 2009

davidswanson's Journal - An Avatar Awakening

davidswanson's Journal - An Avatar Awakening

Anyone else go to see Avatar? I recommend it and agree 100% with David Swanson on this. He also suggests handing out the flyer at the end of this article as people come out of the theaters.
He says:
"Let's face it, if James Cameron had made a movie with the Iraqi resistance as the heroes and the U.S. military as the enemies, and had set it in Iraq or anywhere else on planet earth, the packed theaters viewing "Avatar" would have been replaced by a screening in a living room for eight people and a dog.

Nineteen years ago, Americans packed theaters for "Dances with Wolves" in which Native Americans became the heroes, but the story was set in a previous century and the message understated.

The Na'vi people of "Avatar" are very explicitly Iraqis facing "shock and awe," as well as Native Americans with bows and arrows on horseback. The "bad guys" in the battle scenes are U.S. mercenaries, essentially the U.S. military, and the movie allows us to see them, very much as they are right now in 177 real nations around the world, through the eyes of their victims.

People know this going into the movie, and do not care. For better, and certainly for worse, they do not care. Millions of people stand in lines, shell out big bucks, wear stupid-looking 3-D glasses, sit in the dark for three hours, identify with twelve-foot-high pointy-eared blue people, cheer as the credits roll, and simply do not care that actual human beings suffer the same fate as the computer-generated creations, albeit without miraculous happy endings.

Imagine if a tenth of the people who now sympathize with these bony blue beings were to take three hours to read a book or watch a movie about the people of Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Yemen or Iran. Our real planet would then be a different world.

When I saw "Avatar" in a packed 3-D theater in Virginia, and the crowd cheered the closing shot, I shouted: "And get out of Iraq too!" No one cheered for that. But no one called me a traitor either.

But will anyone in that crowd lift a finger to pressure their representatives in Congress to stop funding the evil they'd just seen sanitized, animated, relocated, and ever so slightly disguised?

Rob Kall at OpEd News suggested that we make flyers to hand out at theaters following screenings of "Avatar." Having now seen the film, I think he's right. Here's a flyer (PDF). Here's the text:


Did you know that the Na'vi people are real, their troubles are real, and you can be a hero who saves them? It's true!

The story of "Avatar" is the story of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries attacked and occupied by U.S. mercenaries and U.S. troops.

It's harder to think about that, than it is to sympathize with giant blue computer-animated creatures. But it's extremely important that you take the step to explicitly admit to yourself what you've just watched in this movie, and that you take the additional step of doing something about it.

You don't have to ride a dragon or shoot an arrow, but you do have to call this number 202-224-3121 and ask to speak with your representative in the U.S. House of Representatives and tell them that their career will be over if they vote another dime to pay for the evil depicted in "Avatar."

Tell them that investing your money in education, transportation, energy, or infrastructure produces many more jobs than investing it in killing. Tell them that diplomacy and aid work better than bombs, and that we do not need unobtainium, which is called that for a reason, although we know it as "oil".

Call every day until you get the right answer, and report your daily progress at "

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Seasons greetings: The Christmas Truce, Have a Peaceful Christmas and New Year

John McCutcheon tells a Christmas tale and sings his great song The Christmas Truce.
We hear this one at our just concluded Winter Solstice concert every year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Corporations Are Persons, Gitmo Detainees Aren't. Welcome To Our Brave New World.

I find this almost unbelievable!

Crooks and Liars: "If any of your loved ones are serving abroad, you might be interested to know the Obama administration, by virtue of SCOTUS's refusal of the case, just got the Supreme Court's blessing to torture. Obviously, other countries will follow our lead:"

"The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., had ruled that government officials were immune from suit because at that time it was unclear whether abusing prisoners at Guantanamo was illegal.

Channeling their predecessors in the George W. Bush administration, Obama Justice Department lawyers argued in this case that there is no constitutional right not to be tortured or otherwise abused in a U.S. prison abroad.

The Obama administration had asked the court not to hear the case. By agreeing, the court let stand an earlier opinion by the D.C. Circuit Court, which found that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – a statute that applies by its terms to all "persons" – did not apply to detainees at Guantanamo, effectively ruling that the detainees are not persons at all for purposes of U.S. law.

The lower court also dismissed the detainees’ claims under the Alien Tort Statute and the Geneva Conventions, finding defendants immune on the basis that "torture is a foreseeable consequence of the military’s detention of suspected enemy combatants."

Finally, the circuit court found that, even if torture and religious abuse were illegal, defendants were immune under the Constitution because they could not have reasonably known that detainees at Guantanamo had any constitutional rights.

The circuit court ruled that "torture is a foreseeable consequence of the military’s detention of suspected enemy combatants."

Eric Lewis, lead attorney for the detainees, said, "It is an awful day for the rule of law and common decency when the Supreme Court lets stand such an inhuman decision. The final word on whether these men had a right not to be tortured or a right to practice their religion free from abuse is that they did not."

"The lower court found that torture is all in a days’ work for the secretary of defense and senior generals," he added. "That violates the president’s stated policy, our treaty obligations, and universal legal norms. Yet the Obama administration, in its rush to protect executive power, lost its moral compass and persuaded the Supreme Court to avoid a central moral challenge. Today our standing in the world has suffered a further great loss."

Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Attorney Shayana Kadidal, co-counsel on the case, told IPS, "In many ways the opinion the Supreme Court left standing today is worse when one gets past the bottom line – no accountability for torture and religious abuse – and digs into the legal reasoning."

"One set of claims are dismissed because torture is said to be a foreseeable consequence of military detention," he said. "How will the parents of our troops captured in future foreign wars react to that?"

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Obama Fails to escape the Bush Legacy of a War on Terror: Lets the Pentagon lead instead of Interpol

Informed Comment:
Juan Cole's insight on Obamas Peace Prize speech:

Obama, Peace and War

"If it is true that the Nobel committee awarded President Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize for not being George W. Bush, they must have been dismayed to discover that Bush's war on terror remained the framework for Obama's acceptance speech.

It was a great speech, with its references to Gandhi and King and its emphasis on human rights and economic justice. It was not a speech Bush could or would have given.

But Obama ultimately failed to escape the pull of the GWOT. Accountability is demanded of others but not of the US. No high official will be prosecuted for war crimes in Iraq.

The fringe terrorist group al-Qaeda is depicted as a challenge for the Pentagon, not the Interpol. Then Afghan insurgents are equated to al-Qaeda. Iran, which has no nuclear weapons program, is equated with North Korea.

Obama implied that peaceful conflict resolution is preferable, but that challenges do arise that require a military resolution. But he has unwittingly stacked the deck in favor if the military-industrial complex by adopting Bushian rhetoric at key junctures--speaking of enemies as 'evil,' militarizing the response to terrorism, and asserting false equivalences that help make war seem inevitable.

Obama has yet to decide whether he is a visionary or a technocrat. The prize committee hoped for the former. In this speech they got the latter."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

- Making the TransAfghanistan Pipeline Safe for Democracy

McCamy Taylor's Journal - Making the TransAfghanistan Pipeline Safe for Democracy

I don’t pretend to know why President Obama is so determined to escalate the war in Afghanistan, the country that drove the Soviet Union into bankruptcy. Maybe he covets the executive privilege that goes with being a war time president. Maybe he is courting the center and center-right in anticipation of the 2012 election. Maybe he does not want to bring too many troops home all at once for fear of worsening the economic recession at home. Maybe he is scared of being called a waffler a flip flopper or some other unpleasant name if he goes back on his word. Maybe he is afraid that terrorists will attack the mainland U.S. again and he will be blamed for ending one of Bush’s foreign wars too soon. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

The only thing I know for certain is that the troops will not be back home until after 2014. That is when the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline is scheduled to be operational.

The Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline is the reason the Taliban rose to power. In the mid 1990s, Unocol began plans for an oil and a gas pipeline that would run from the Caspian Sea, through Afghanistan and Pakistan and finally to India. You know, the country where they are sending all our jobs. Unocol and the CIA helped to put the Taliban in power, thinking that the new regime would permit them to build the pipeline.

Intelligence "whistleblower" Julie Sirrs claimed that anti-Taliban leader Ahmad Shah Massoud told her he had "proof that Unocal had provided money that helped the Taliban take Kabul "
And French journalist Richard Labeviere said, referring to the later 1990s, "The CIA and Unocal's security forces ... provided military weapons and instructors to several Taleban militias.

Afghanistan is not another Vietnam, It is another Afghanistan - Obama Leads the Empire to Tragedy

By Scott Weinstein
December 1, 2009

President Obama’s intensification of the Afghanistan war announced tonight, showed the few of us who protested Bush's rush to war in 2001, that they are the same. Like a Shakespearean tragedy, Obama’s web of lies and aggrandizement destroys his promise of “change we can believe in”.

Since the 2001 U.S. invasion, a few hundred Al Quaeda, a thousand allied troops, a few thousand Taliban and tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed by the war. This begs the question: Why is the U.S., Canada and NATO occupying Afghanistan?

The first Obama lie

The U.S. must prevent a safe haven for Al Quaeda.

Al Quaeda is a small loose network that comprises a few hundred people in the Afghanistan / Pakistan. If they are as amorphous and flexible as the western intelligence says they are, Al Quaeda has essentially disappeared from the war region and moved elsewhere.

If Al Quaeda is staying in the region, it is not because it is the only place to launch attacks on the west, but because they want to fight the invaders.

The 9-11 hijackers did not come from Afghanistan or even Pakistan. Most of them came from Saudi Arabia, via Germany, Arizona and other un-targeted places.

9-11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, captured in 2002, will face trial in New York. The U.S. does not know where Osama Bin Laden resides.

The Second Obama lie

The Taliban, who are Al Quaeda’s ally, must be defeated.

The Taliban are not Al Quaeda allies, but are fundamentalist Afghan nationalists. Evolved from the U.S.-backed anti-Soviet mujahideen, they allied with Al Quaeda in the 1990’s out of convenience. Bin Laden gave them a lot of money, and they rented him land and some security. The Taliban even came to the U.S. to discuss a joint gas pipeline deal. The Al Quaeda came to the U.S… well you get the difference.

Now the Taliban are not fighting for Al Quaeda, they are fighting the U.S., Canadian and the NATO invaders. Just as they and other Afghans successfully routed the Soviet invaders, their grandparents successfully fought the British occupation earlier in 1919. Previously, Afghans defeated the Macedonians, the Safavid Persians, and the Romans invaders.

Vietnam only kicked out two empires. The Afghans have expelled many.

The third Obama lie

We must fix the current government control Al Quaeda and the Taliban.

Afghanistan’s Karzai government is a coalition of warlords, drug-lords and other corrupt men with different priorities and interests - not a unified noble national mission.

Malalia Joya is a brave Afghan woman elected to parliament, and then expelled from parliament and hunted by the current government. Joya puts the situation in stark perspective: the current US/Canadian-backed Afghan government is no better for the Afghan people than the Taliban.

Joya explained in Montreal November 24, “We are fighting against occupation. We are fighting against warlords, and the Taliban. It is easier to fight against one enemy than two. So we need your help to end the occupation.”

Democracy, women's rights and opium-war off the table

At least give Obama some credit for dropping some of Bush’s propaganda.

The U.S./NATO operations have killed thousands more women and children than Americans died in the 9-11 attacks. We read about wedding parties mistakenly targeted by U.S. drones and NATO fighter jets, but thousands of refugees have died of exposure and starvation in the cold mountains fleeing U.S. bombing campaigns.

Women’s rights have literally taken a beating under the Karzai government warlords. Women have been raped, beaten, tortured and killed - just as under the Taliban. The Karzai government enacted a repressive Sharia law while the Western governments continued to arm and fund them. Today, girls are forbidden to attend school in most of Afghanistan.

Why are we fighting in Afghanistan?

John Foster is an energy economist and author of "Afghanistan and the new great game: Prized pipeline route could explain West's stubborn interest in poor, remote land.” Foster writes, “Afghanistan is a strategic piece of real estate in the geopolitical struggle for power and dominance in the region”.

The military industrial complex benefits from war. It primes the defense contractor’s pump, employs a massive amount of political and human capital, and helps the capitalist system control priorities.

By Obama’s calculation, this unpopular war costing more lives, 30,000 more troops, many more years, and tens of billions of dollars yearly is not too high a price for the empire, yet.

However, our opposition can drive the political cost up rapidly, and end the Afghanistan tragedy sooner.
Thanks to Scott Camil for this letter