Saturday, September 07, 2013

Free Private Manning Now!

Featured graphics

These are the graphics that we’re using for posters, billboards, stickers, etc. Most are vector, but some are huge.
manning-image200Note that the photo left is Pvt. Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning’s preferred image. New images of Pvt. Manning are not expected to become available anytime soon. justice-pvt-manning150 18x24-4b150
Archive of graphics used prior to the change of our name and primary URL.
hand200free-bradley200 giant150

4 thoughts on “Featured graphics

Write a letter supporting PVT Manning’s request for clemency!

Buchanan, Jeffrey S. - Commander, Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region and the Military District of Washington
Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan

Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Convening Authorities are granted the power to reduce or eliminate a convicted soldier’s sentence. They use this power when they feel the court martial failed to deliver justice. As Commanding General of the Military District of Washington, Major General Jeffrey S. Buchanan is the only other individual besides President Obama with the power to ameliorate WikiLeaks whistleblower PVT Manning’s sentence in the immediate future.
We are now requesting letters from professors, law experts, human rights advocates, politicians, artists, veterans, and concerned citizens urging Maj. Gen. Buchanan to reduce PVT Manning’s sentence. These letters will be submitted as part of an application for clemency from PVT Manning’s legal defense. These letters, once completed, should be sent to
There are a few important guidelines to keep in mind as you compose your letter:
  • Your letter should be approximately 1 page long.
  • It should be composed on personalized letterhead -you can create this yourself (here are templates and some tips for doing that).
  • Pvt Manning’s recently announced that her preferred name is Chelsea, and that folks should use female pronouns. However, she also understands that for efforts such as these, it is most effective for supporters to use her legal name and military rank, “Pvt. Bradley E. Manning”, along with male pronouns.
  • The letter should focus on your support for PVT Manning, and especially why you believe justice will be served if PVT Manning’s sentence is reduced. The letter should NOT be anti-military and/or anti-Buchanan, as this will be unlikely to help.
  • A suggested message: “Pvt. Manning has been punished enough for violating military regulations in the course of being true to his conscience. I urge you to use your authority as Convening Authority to reduce Pvt. Manning’s sentence to time served.” Beyond that general message, feel free to personalize the details as to why you believe PVT Manning deserves clemency.
  • Please send your letter to by November 1, 2013, and sooner if possible. We will review these letters prior to forwarding them to PVT Manning’s legal defense, and may request that you make changes if necessary.
Courage to Resist, the organization sponsoring the Private Manning Support Network, has successfully convinced Convening Authorities to reduce the sentences of conscientious objectors in the past (see the cases of Travis Bishop and Cliff Cornell). PVT Manning is unjustly imprisoned because the things she witnessed in the Iraq War compelled her to follow her conscience. Now, through creating compelling and personal letters, it is time to call upon Maj. Gen. Buchanan to honor his conscience in turn.

Monday, September 02, 2013

EP Thompson on why history is a weapon

Listen to this, part of the famous plenary debate which included Thompson at History Workshop 13, on the subject of 'People’s History and Socialist Theory', which took place between 30 November and 2 December 1979 at Ruskin College Oxford.


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02 September 2013

HISTORY / Bob Feldman : A People's History of Egypt, Part 8, 1922-1923

Sultan Ahmad Fuad became King Faud I in 1922. Image from Wikipedia Commons.
A people's history:
The movement to democratize Egypt
Part 8: 1922-1923 period -- Socialist and labor activism flourish despite foreign-dominated monarchy.
By Bob Feldman / The Rag Blog / September 2, 2013

[With all the dramatic activity in Egypt, Bob Feldman's Rag Blog "people's history" series, "The Movement to Democratize Egypt," could not be more timely. Also see Feldman's "Hidden History of Texas" series on The Rag Blog.]

In 1922 “the British decided allow Egypt formal independence...because of the realistic possibility that the 1919 Revolution could recur,” according to Selma Botman’s Egypt from Independence to Revolution, 1919-1952.

Yet despite obtaining its formal independence from the UK on February 28, 1922, “Egypt of the pre-Nasser period was dominated by foreigners: the British controlled the upper levels of the military and the government, and people of various European nationalities owned and operated the banks, hotels, textile factories, and insurance companies,” according to the same book.

Although the UK-selected Sultan Ahmad Fuad was now officially the king of a formally independent Egyptian monarchical government in March 1922, the UK government still “retained the right to maintain the security of British imperial communications through Egypt (i.e., the Suez Canal),” according to Jason Thompson’s A History of Egypt; and during the next few decades “more than once Royal Navy warships appeared before the palace windows in Alexandria when the British wanted a controversial decision to go their way...”

A "strong British military presence remained in Egypt, not only in the canal zone but also in Alexandria and in Cairo, where the British army barracks stood in the middle of town on the site now occupied by the Nile Hilton Hotel,” and “a British high commissioner...was quite willing to intervene,” according to the same book.

Despite the monarchical government’s censorship policy, during the next few years “between 15,000 and 20,000 workers” in Egypt “were influenced by” the anti-imperialist Egyptian Socialist Party’s labor activism, according to Tareq Y. Ismael and Rifa‘at El-Sa’id’s The Communist Movement in Egypt: 1920-1988.

Party activists mobilized workers, organized meetings, and recruited new members in the Alexandria and al-Mahulah al industrial districts of Egypt; and one of the Egyptian Socialist Party’s founders, Joseph Rosenthal, organized 3,000 Egyptian workers to become members of the General Union of Workers (Itihad al-Naqabot al-‘Am) before being expelled from the Egyptian Socialist Party in December 1922 for opposing the party’s decision to accept the Comintern’s requirements for being affiliated to the Comintern.

Between August 1921 and April 1922, Egyptian workers in 50 different Egyptian workplaces were mobilized to fight for improved labor conditions in 91 separate strike actions. Tram workers in Alexandria went on strike for 42 days, Cairo’s tram workers went on strike for 102 days, and workers at the Shell Oil Refinery in Egypt went on strike for 113 days.

By late 1922, the Egyptian Socialist Party had recruited around 400 members in its Alexandria branch and about 1,100 members in its branches in other Egyptian cities; and the General Union of Workers -- that Egyptian Socialist Party members led -- now had about 20,000 members.

After affiliating with the Third International’s Comintern, the Egyptian Socialist Party then changed its name to the Egyptian Communist Party; and, led by a Central Committee which Hosni al-‘Arabi’ chaired, adopted the following program for the democratization of Egyptian society in its January 1923 meeting:
  1. nationalization of the Suez Canal;
  2. the liberation and unification of Egypt and the Sudan;
  3. the repudiation of all Egyptian state debts and foreign capitulation agreements;
  4. an 8-hour workday;
  5. equal pay for Egyptian and foreign workers in Egypt;
  6. abolition of land tenancy agreements in which Egyptian peasants had to pay 50 percent of the crop on rented land to large landowners;
  7. the cancellation of the debts of all Egyptian peasants who owned less than 10 feddans of land; and
  8. the restriction of landownership by individual landlords in Egypt to no more than 100 feddans.
To prevent the development of an anti-imperialist leftist movement of workers and intellectuals in Egypt during the early 1920s, however, a "special bureau” had been established by the UK-backed Egyptian Ministry of the Interior in 1921 “to monitor the activities” of the Egyptian Socialist Party; and “in their opposition to socialist activists the British found allies within the Egyptian bourgeoisie and religious circles,” according to The Communist Movement in Egypt: 1920-1988.

In addition, a Constitution for Egypt, “written by Egyptian legal experts who were sympathetic to the king and the British,” was also decreed on April 19, 1923, which set up an Egyptian Senate and Chamber of Deputies -- with members elected only by Egyptian men, “except for the two-fifths of the Senate who were appointed by the king” of Egypt, according to Egypt from Independence to Revolution, 1919-1952.

This same Egyptian Constitution of 1923 also “gave excessive power to the monarch, who was granted authority to dismiss cabinets, dissolve parliament and appoint and unseat prime ministers,” according to the same book.

And besides holding excessive political power under the April 1923 Egyptian Constitution, “the royal family of Egyptian King Fuad also “owned about one-tenth of the arable land in Egypt” in 1923, according to A History of Egypt. Yet, according to the Encyclopedia Judaica, the Egyptian monarchical government’s minister of finance and communications in 1923, Joseph Cattaui, was of Jewish religious background.

[Bob Feldman is an East Coast-based writer-activist and a former member of the Columbia SDS Steering Committee of the late 1960s. Read more articles by Bob Feldman on The Rag Blog.]

The Rag Blog

03 September 2013

Michael James : Muddy Waters and James Cotton at the Fat Black Pussycat, 1963

Muddy Waters and James Cotton at the Fat Black Pussycat in Chicago, 1963. Photo by Michael James from his forthcoming book, Michael Gaylord James' Pictures from the Long Haul.
Pictures from the Long Haul:
Muddy Waters and James Cotton
at the Fat Black Pussycat, 1963
Music has always been big in my life... In the 1950’s I was all in when Rock and Roll swept the scene, its fans, its makers, and its content crossing racial boundaries. No more Snooky Lanson and Your Hit Parade for me.
By Michael James / The Rag Blog / September 3, 2013

[In this series, Michael James is sharing images from his rich past, accompanied by reflections about -- and inspired by -- those images. This photo will be included in his forthcoming book, Michael Gaylord James' Pictures from the Long Haul.]

My younger brother Beau was often ahead of me: like having a car with a nice paint job, and knowing what was going on in music. In our early Bedford Junior High years, while I was probably listening to Pat Boone muck up Fats Domino’s "Blueberry Hill," Beau and a little band of hipsters, the Jolly Jazzbos, were down in Norwalk at the Forest Hotel, a black joint where bluesman Jimmy Reed was too drugged-up and drunked-up to perform. They got to see him nod out on stage.

Regarding the paint job: when he graduated from high school, Beau spent the next year working at Kerrigan’s Auto Body, a place worthy of one hell of a sitcom. Beau had a beautiful 1950 Ford convertible. Unfortunately, I backed it out of the shop’s painting bay where it had just received a new paint job, leaving it with a big scratch.

It was only days since I had returned from my motorcycle trip to Mexico City and my eye-mind-heart-opening summer of study and adventure. Then I headed back on the highway with Beau, in his Ford. We headed west to Illinois, to Lake Forest College -- I to be a junior and Beau a freshman. I was glad to be bringing him along. I knew it would be a good year.

While I was now more aware of the world, I was still not old enough to drink legally, and not old enough to vote. I felt more grown up, though: smarter, and certainly cooler. However, I was (and still am) prone to infantile anti-authoritarianism; I refused to sign in for the required all-student-body college convocations. I conspicuously walked on the grass near the administration building that sported “Keep off the Grass” signs. (Hey, grass is for walking on!) I parked Beau’s Ford in the college president’s designated parking space, which seemed sensible since the Prez didn’t use it.

Having experimented with weed in Mexico, I was of course hooked, appreciating how it enhanced my perceptions. And I was looking for more. This quest took me and some friends to a pool hall in Waukegan where we found it, getting a lid from a pool-shooting black kid. Unfortunately, it didn’t have the same effect as the smoke in Mexico City, and I recall I felt burned.

All this said, it wasn’t as if I was going to the dogs: I was a productive young guy. I was getting A’s, going to classes, lectures, and the library. I was involved with student organizations and government, and the college newspaper, The Stentor. I explored religion, and considered becoming a minister. Checking out the religious scene had me going to Quaker meetings, visiting the Bahia Temple, and attending Unitarian services. I was unconsciously developing and nurturing the roots of my own spirituality and future political action.

That process included meeting William Sloan Coffin, the Yale Chaplain. He spoke at Lake Forest and we talked at a reception at President Cole’s home. He was among a growing number of people who influenced and inspired me. A few years later someone reported that he asked, “What happened to that young guy with good ideas?”

Ideas don’t drop from the sky. Humans learn from experience, both their own and others'. Learning: I was being exposed to, participating in, and observing all manner of things. In The Stentor office I heard about the New Left through the College Press Service. It reported on a meeting in Hazard, Kentucky, of unemployed coal miners with members of Students for a Democratic Society, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the Northern Student Movement. That event caught my interest.

And the events kept coming.

On campus there was a foreign film series, and there were many speakers. I heard Alan Watts talk about Zen. I thought Feminine Mystique author Betty Friedan was great -- though the sorority housemothers and some sorority sisters did not and were bent out of shape by her ideas on women in society.

Classmates Dave Feldman and Penelope Bartok (now Rosemont) started the Jacobin Society, a leftist club that brought liberal and radical speakers to campus. There was Fair Play for Cuba, the American Friends Service Committee, Jay Miller of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Carl Shier, a labor organizer with the United Auto Workers. I really liked him. And the Jacobin Society provided my first encounter with Joffre Stewart, a black beat poet, anarchist, and long-time contrarian-type guy in Chicago’s left political scene. He got someone to burn a draft card at our small meeting!

On the music and political front we brought the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s Freedom Singers to campus. I drove the school’s van that brought them back to Hyde Park, to the home of Sylvia Fischer, who called herself a socialist and was a leader in the Chicago Area Friends of SNCC. James Foreman, a SNCC leader and major civil rights movement thinker, was handing out travel money. Willy Peacock said: “I can’t get back to Mississippi on $25” -- to which Foreman gruffly replied: “You have to.”

Music has always been big in my life -- listening, playing, singing, and dancing. In the 1950’s I was all in when Rock and Roll swept the scene, its fans, its makers, and its content crossing racial boundaries. No more Snooky Lanson and Your Hit Parade for me. Beau and I would blast our tunes. Our dad, a Broadway musical kind of guy, would yell up the stairs: “What do you think this is -- a fucking plantation?” Oh, Dad.

I danced my ass off on November 22, 1957, when Bo Diddley came to St Anthony’s Hall in Saugatuck, the Italian section of Westport. The ticket price was $5 a couple. I had a jug of cider brought back from a visit to see Beau at a school named North Hampton, in New Hampshire.

I loosened the cap to let the cider ferment. Apparently Beau had done the same thing, getting kicked out of that school a few weeks later when he got drunk and stole the school’s tractor for a nighttime joy ride into town. I too got drunk, sharing swigs of fermented, hard apple cider with Jerome, Bo Diddley’s maraca player. That was a night to remember!

A friend’s dad drove us to New York for Alan Freed’s rock ‘n roll shows at Lowe’s State and Brooklyn Paramount theatres. I went to shows at the Apollo in Harlem. I listened to Jocko’s Rocket Ship Show on WNJR out of Newark (“Woo-ditty-wop and we’re back with the Jock, back on the scene with the record machine...”). Late at night I listened to tunes on CKLW from Windsor, Ontario, and the Hound Dog Show from Buffalo’s WBLK. I started getting a regular dose of country and western listening to WWVA out of Wheeling, West Virginia.

Doing my time at Lake Forest from 1960 to 1964, the good music kept on coming -- listening to lots of jazz, plus Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Dave "Snaker" Ray, and Spider John Koerner. And Doc Watson, Roscoe Holcomb, The Country Gentleman, Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston, the Seeger family, as well as chain gang chants and field hollers on Folkways Records.

Active on the Cultural Activities Committee, I met Old Town School of Folk Music pioneers Fleming Brown and George and Gerry Armstrong. We brought Mississippi country bluesmen Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon, a guy named St. Louis Jimmy, and Muddy Waters’ cousin Otis Spann to the College.

I met Mike Bloomfield and Charlie Musselwhite, who were hanging around Joe Segal and Bob Koester’s Jazz Record Mart on Wabash below Roosevelt University. I worked with Bloomfield to put on a little blues show at a high school for the local Junior Chamber of Commerce; attendance at this early production was sparse.

My professor friend Sam Pasiencier, who’d developed the rolls of film from my 1962 Mexico motorcycle trip, took me to a place in Chicago on Broadway north of Diversey called the Fat Black Pussy Cat. There we saw Muddy Waters playing with harmonica player James Cotton and some young white musicians. I got a good shot of Muddy and James.

Early in the summer of 1963 I was heading to the Twin Cities on my motorcycle. Outside of Portage, Wisconsin, the engine blew. I chained the Triumph to a fence, hiked through fields and knocked on a farmhouse door. A big farmer in overalls let me use the phone in his kitchen. That night I took a bus out of Mauston, riding north to meet up with Beau and his squeeze Ellie, daughter of Werner Pese who had been my freshman World History professor -- a smart man and heavy smoker, with a heavy German accent.

A few days later, the three of us returned to the bike, with a trailer hooked to the back of the Ford. Back in Illinois, I sold the Triumph to a motorcycle shop in East Chicago, Indiana.

That summer I participated in an open-air art exhibit in the Lake Forest town square, displaying my welded sculptures, a torso carved from stone, and figures made of clay. Then, still needing language credit, I headed back to Connecticut for another dose of español.

I attended Trinity College in Hartford. Terry Montgomery and Tim Lyons were the two guys I hung with at Trinity. Tim lived in Kent, where we visited his family’s dairy farm. He urged me to climb on the back of a young Guernsey cow. I expected her to buck, rodeo-like, and could only laugh when the frightened beast stood in place, shitting and swinging her tail, decorating my backside.

The civil rights movement and upcoming March on Washington were in the news. The New York Times reported the leaders of the March were forcing SNCC’s John Lewis (now Congressman John Lewis) to cool it on radical demands, weakening his call for jobs and freedom to accommodate the Kennedy Administration. Tim, Terry, and I headed to Washington, D.C. in a green VW bug and spent the eve of the March at the home of a lady friend of Terry’s. He said she was a nymphomaniac; I had to ask what that was.

On the morning of August 23, 1963, we were moving: first in the little green critter of a car surrounded by busloads of people on the freedom road; then we walked -- marching, surrounded by a mass of humanity. And then thousands upon thousands of us stood together as one at the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool. We felt a real sense of hope and togetherness, a belief in the future.

To this day I welcome the tears that come every time I hear Dr. King as he declares, “I have a dream... we shall over come, someday... black and white together.”

That day is good forever.

[Michael James is a former SDS national officer, the founder of Rising Up Angry, co-founder of Chicago's Heartland Café (1976 and still going), and co-host of the Saturday morning (9-10 a.m. CDT) Live from the Heartland radio show, here and on YouTube. He is reachable by one and all at Find more articles by Michael James on The Rag Blog.]

The Rag Blog

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

A Visit to Highgate Cemetery

Karl MarxHerbert Spencer (definitely the odd one out here)Claudia JonesRalph MilibandChris Harman and Paul FootEric Hobsbawm
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05 September 2013

Johnny Hazard : Mexico City Rocked by Massive Teacher Protest

Teachers mobilize in Mexico City, Wednesday, September 4, 2013. Photo by Alejandro Mancilla / The Rag Blog.
Militant teachers' strike:
Massive protests continue in Mexico
The actions were a continuation of protests against an education 'reform' package first passed by Congress on new President Enrique Peña Nieto's first day in office.
By Johnny Hazard / The Rag Blog / September 5, 2013

MEXICO CITY -- Thousands of teachers, mostly members of the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE), remain camped out in the center of Mexico City after having initiated a series of protests that have included blocking the airport for a day, blockades at the two major television networks in demand for equal time (they received three and five minutes, respectively), and marches that have forced the closure of various major thoroughfares and Metro stations.

Massive marches took place on Sunday, September 1, and Wednesday, September 4. The actions were a continuation of protests against an education "reform" package passed by Congress on new President Enrique Peña Nieto's first day in office.

There were also actions in other parts of Mexico including an hour-long shutdown of the border bridge by teachers in Juárez. A demonstration by teachers in Los Cabos blocked the airport there.

The actions of the CNTE do not represent, numerically, the biggest demonstrations in recent Mexican history, but have proven to be the strongest; the anti-election fraud movements of 2006 and 2012, and the militant protests after 45,000 electricians were arbitrarily fired by the federal government in 2009, pale in comparison.

Federal police mobilize in response to militant teachers' action on Wednesday, September 4. Photo by Alejandro Mancilla / The Rag Blog.
With the protests of Chicago teachers this year and last, the demonstrations in Mexico City represent the most significant resistance to big-business-based education reform thus far.

September 1 is, by law, the day the president delivers his annual report ("informe," similar to the State of the Union address). This year, the teachers planned to interrupt it or block roads leading to the Congress, so the president postponed his presentation until the next day, Monday, and had his top cabinet official hand over the written report to the Congress.

There was a march of about 50,000 teachers, with numbers disproportionately from Oaxaca. Since there were thousands of police and soldiers awaiting them at the Congress building, they began marching instead toward the presidential palace Less than halfway, the rank and file (especially, again, those from Oaxaca) -- after receiving news that the Congress had already begun meeting to pass a remaining set of "reforms" that day -- demanded to go to the Congress.

So the marchers turned back towards the Congress building. As they got closer, some in the crowd -- many of them not teachers -- got into confrontations with police. There were a few arrests of "ultra" protesters -- including young urban "anarquistas" as well as bystanders and independent reporters. Most of these arrests occurred miles from the original march route, as the police had surrounded marchers and forced them to a distant location.

A group of 30 police horses were spooked by loud noise when officers took them out of their trailers near the Congress building and they stampeded through downtown Mexico City, causing quite a stir and substantial damage, especially to their paths, and a number of horses were injured as a result.

Monday and Tuesday, the Senate met to approve the reforms. Several Metro stations and at least three major avenues were closed all day -- by the cops, not by the protesters -- an example of how the ostensibly leftist city government is cooperating with its federal allies, in this case by creating traffic problems and blaming the teachers.

Wednesday brought a 24-hour work stoppage by teachers, including many in Mexico City, and a massive "insurgent mobilization." Again, about 50,000 teachers and supporters gathered at the national auditorium, near the presidential residence, leading to speculation that the plan was to surround and shut down the residence, known as "Los Pinos."

Demonstrators rally in Mexico City on Wednesday. Photo by Alejandro Mancilla / The Rag Blog.
But, perhaps because President Enrique Peña Nieto left Tuesday for the G-20 summit in Russia, the marchers instead headed toward other federal office buildings. After hours during which a group of teachers' representatives were inside negotiating with low-level government officials, the marchers were still on the streets, in the rain, blocking a stretch of "the most beautiful avenue in Latin America," Paseo de la Reforma -- and were making plans to return to their encampment and launch similar actions on Thursday, including the possibility of a nationwide work stoppage.

Tens of thousands of teachers in the states of Veracruz and Oaxaca are already on strike. Teachers -- who have been disproportionately blamed for students' low academic achievement -- are demanding that they be evaluated by means other than simple standardized tests and that, in turn, president Peña Nieto and the television networks also be evaluated.

Among the non-teacher participants Wednesday were a girl of about five years old with a T shirt that read, "Today I didn't go to school. I came here to defend public education" and hundreds of women from the Triqui indigenous group of Oaxaca in their bright red traditional dresses.

Peña Nieto's annual report -- echoed constantly in advertising paid for by the government to promote its agenda -- promised 120 days of major transformations in Mexico. That is probably true, but it remains to be seen whether the changes will be the ones that he has in mind.

Representatives of the CNTE have announced their intention to stay in Mexico City at least until Sunday, September 8, to participate in a rally organized by opposition political leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador against the privatization of the petroleum industry, and it is likely that they will try to hold out until September 16 to impede official Independence Day celebrations that take place every year in the Zócalo (central square) of Mexico City, exactly where the CNTE has its enormous tent city installed.

[A former Minneapolis teacher, Johnny Hazard now lives in Mexico City where he is a professor at the Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México and author of Con estos estudiantes: La vivencia en la UACM, a book about that alternative university.]

See earlier Rag Blog coverage of the continuing Mexican teachers' protests by Johnny Hazard and Shirley Youxjeste.

The demonstrators included young urban "anarchistas." Photo by Alejandro Mancilla / The Rag Blog.
The Rag Blog
A Song For Our Times -Bob Dylan's Masters Of War -No War On Syria

Masters Of War by Bob Dylan


Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people’s blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

You’ve thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain’t worth the blood
That runs in your veins

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I’m young
You might say I’m unlearned
But there’s one thing I know
Though I’m younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand o’er your grave
’Til I’m sure that you’re dead

Read more:

05 September 2013

Lamar W. Hankins : 'Masters of War' Target Syria

"Masters of War." Art from Society of Wood Engravers.
U.S. foreign policy:
The 'Masters of War'
are firmly in control
Diplomacy and fairly negotiated economic agreements have taken a back seat to violent military action as the primary way to deal with the world.
By Lamar W. Hankins / The Rag Blog / September 5, 2013
You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy
-- Bob Dylan, from "Masters of War"
The news this past week seems to confirm that “Masters of War,” the phrase from Bob Dylan’s 1963 song of that title, are firmly in control of U.S. foreign policy. Diplomacy and fairly negotiated economic agreements have taken a back seat to violent military action as the primary way to deal with the world.

At the age of 22, Dylan understood U.S. foreign policy more clearly than most politicians in my lifetime. I am not suggesting with regard to attacking Syria, for instance, that there are not some people genuinely concerned about the welfare of the Syrian people, who were likely gassed recently by President Assad. But I consider most of their comments hollow, hiding motives other than the humanitarian ones they espouse.

Sen. John McCain, for example, says,
For us to sit by, and watch these people being massacred, raped, tortured in the most terrible fashion, meanwhile, the Russians are all in, Hezbollah is all in, and we’re talking about giving them more light weapons? It’s insane.
John McCain has never seen a conflict that couldn’t be improved with a little war-making. He’s been a friend of the “Masters of War” his entire career, and has been richly rewarded. McCain is so pro-war that he made a trip to Syria last May and wound up having a photo-op with terrorists who were involved in a high-profile kidnapping case. The terrorists’ virtue was that they opposed Assad.

President Barack Obama is hardly any better than McCain:
It's important for us to recognize that when over 1,000 people are killed, including hundreds of innocent children, through the use of a weapon that 98 or 99 percent of humanity says should not be used even in war, and there is no action, then we're sending a signal that that international norm doesn't mean much. And that is a danger to our national security.
Obama apparently opposed the Iraq war 10 years ago against just as brutal a dictator as Assad and one who killed more people with chemical weapons than has Assad. Of course, some of Saddam’s gassings were done with U.S. approval and aid, when Iraq was fighting against Iran, our long-time enemy that does not bend to our will. And the U.S. gave Saddam a pass for killing between 3,000 and 5,000 Kurds in Halabja in 1988.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s comments on the subject are even more jingoistic than McCain’s and Obama’s:
Our sense of basic humanity is offended, not only by this cowardly crime but also by the cynical attempt to cover it up. What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality. The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons, is a moral obscenity. By any standards, it is inexcusable, and despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.
These words come from an anti-Vietnam War veteran who nevertheless had few problems with agreeing to invade Iraq in 2003, making his talk of morality unpersuasive. War itself should be enough to shock the conscience, especially of someone who has participated in it.

Maybe these three U.S. leaders forgot that the U.S. has used the same excuses and equivocations to justify its use of depleted uranium against innocent Iraqis several times over a 20-year period, leading to vastly increased incidences of cancer (especially leukemia) and birth defects in Iraqi children.

As Marjorie Cohn and Jeanne Mirer, both associated with human rights organizations, have reported, the U.S. also used white phosphorous gas, which melts the skin and burns tissue down to the bone, in both Afghanistan and Iraq. A third weapon used by the U.S. in both those countries is cluster bombs, which contain tiny bomblets that spread over a vast area and can kill or maim long after being deployed if civilians, often children, disturb them.

Cohn and Mirer write, “The Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in time of War (Geneva IV) classifies ‘willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health’ as a grave breach, which constitutes a war crime.” Our leaders can always be counted on to lament the loss of civilian lives, but they do little else to prevent such losses.

Kerry’s comments about Assad’s use of gas, that it “defies any code of morality” and should “shock the conscience of the world,” apply equally to America’s conduct in its wars. But the U.S. has not been held to account for the “use (of) the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people."

And neither McCain, Obama, nor Kerry is calling for America to be held accountable. Their claimed moral outrage at the use of Assad’s weapons is mere hypocrisy until they take responsibility for our own human rights violations.

While I agree that Assad’s use of gas is an affront to civilization, it is time to acknowledge that the U.S. has committed similar atrocities that also affront humanity. What disturbs me even more, however, is that over 100,000 people have been killed so far in the Syrian civil war. This fact should be even more alarming than the deaths of 1,500 by unconventional methods.

I have tried to understand why unconventional weapons -- chlorine, phosgene, mustard, and sarin gas, along with phosphorous gas, depleted uranium, and cluster bombs, and atomic bombs and their successors -- are viewed as being in a special class of war-making weapons that various people see as so exceptional that they should be banned. I understand that a gas attack can be very painful and leave people in agony for days before they die, but conventional weapons often have the same result.

When it comes to atomic and hydrogen bombs, I understand that their widespread use would likely end life as we know it on the earth. But this is not true of the other weapons, including the sarin gas that Assad is likely to have used recently against his foes in Syria. Ninety-eight percent of the world’s countries oppose chemical weapons. This figure would impress me more if the same number of countries opposed all military weapons that kill and maim indiscriminately.

If the purpose of war is to kill the enemy until it surrenders, it is unclear to me why any weapon should be considered more horrendous than another. War has always meant indiscriminate death. The best solution to indiscriminate death is negotiation, preferably through the UN or other international bodies.

The U.S. has not pressed negotiation aggressively in Syria because its perceived interests are best served by prolonging that civil war. Syria’s allies include Iran and Hezbollah. Tying up Iran and Hezbollah in helping Assad diverts their attention from other mischief, such as bothering Israel, America’s closest ally in the Middle East.

In addition, the U.S. doesn’t know whom to support among groups that oppose Assad. All of the groups could become bitter enemies of the U.S. should they prevail and come to power in Syria. This is what happened in Egypt. The U.S. supported the ouster of Mubarak (after many years of supporting him), only to see a democratic election put the Muslim Brotherhood’s choice in power, making necessary (from the U.S. perspective) the ouster of President Morsi by the Egyptian military.

But the U.S. government won’t call that a coup by the military because we don’t have any good options there to bring someone to power who will do our bidding. The Egyptian military, supported by $1.5 billion in annual U.S. aid, is not a reliable friend. And why should it be, when $12 billion has been pledged by Arab sources?

For all those too young to remember Bob Dylan’s words, the lyrics to “Masters of War,” which I find useful to read occasionally as a reminder of what drives the American war machine, can be found here. Dylan identifies the “masters of war” as those who build weapons, from which they become wealthy, thus giving them an incentive to push for war whenever possible.

By implication, Dylan suggests we should “follow the money,” to see who benefits from war. He sees these people (and their minions in Congress) as indifferent to human life. He references their lies and deception, the fear they generate, and the immorality of their actions.

President Obama now wants to punish Syria for its use of sarin gas, but he wants the approval of Congress to do so. It is beginning to sound as if Obama will attack Syria, with or without congressional approval, but finds it politically advantageous to get its approval, if that doesn’t take too long.

Considering the forces arrayed in favor of attacking Syria -- the Pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, the neoconservative pundits who took us into Iraq, policy institutes (think tanks) that have produced such people as National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice, the entire arms industry, and most of the oil industry -- there is little doubt that the U.S. will attack Syria. Only the duration and extent of that involvement seem in question.

Dylan’s words remain relevant 50 years later, and will probably remain so as long as human beings exist. If it is possible to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice and freedom, we could do worse than pay more attention to what Dylan had to say.

[Lamar W. Hankins, a former San Marcos, Texas, city attorney, is also a columnist for the San Marcos Mercury. This article © Freethought San Marcos, Lamar W. Hankins. Read more articles by Lamar W. Hankins on The Rag Blog.]

The Rag Blog

Friday, September 06, 2013

Solidarity with Revolutionary Socialists in Egypt: Freedom for Haitham Mohamedain

We condemn the arrest and detention of Haitham Mohamedain by the Egyptian army on 5th September in Suez. Haitham is a well known labour lawyer and revolutionary activist who has represented hundreds of workers arrested on picket lines or facing court hearings as a result of victimisation by their bosses or assaults by the police.
Just two weeks ago he was in Suez defending steel workers whose strike for higher wages was broken up by the Army. As a leading member of the Revolutionary Socialists, Haitham has also been one of only a small number of revolutionary activists prepared to publicly condemn the brutal crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood by the Army in recent weeks, including the killing of hundreds of protesters on 14th August.
We call for Haitham’s immediate release and the withdrawal of any charges against him.
Add your name to this solidarity statement and read more about the case here
Labels: ,

Global Opposition to Attacking Syria

by Stephen Lendman

It's growing. Millions oppose more war. They're fed up. They're not silent. They're speaking out. They're making their feelings known. More on that below.

Imagine claiming war on humanity's being waged for peace. Imagine mass slaughter called humanitarian intervention.

Imagine the worst of all possible outcomes. Imagine a brave new world impossible to live in.

Imagine turning it to rubble. Imagine doing so for global dominance. Imagine mass opposition failing to stop Obama. Imagine collapse of enough of international support to give him pause.

Imagine not enough to prevent bombs away. After Obama returns from G20 talks, they could ravage Syria any time. They could do so with or without Security Council and congressional authorization.

Stopping Obama matters most. Drawing a universal red line is essential. Millions against war worldwide need to act. Lawless aggression can't be tolerated. Now's the time to stop it. Later may be too late.

Russia and China forthrightly oppose war. President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy says world leaders must seek a political solution.

From St. Petersburg, he said:

"There is no military solution to the Syrian conflict, only a political (one) can end the terrible bloodshed, great violations of human rights and a far-reaching destruction of Syria."

President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso called the situation "a stain on the world's conscience."

"The European Union believes that efforts should be evolved towards a political solution to the conflict," he added.

Both leaders urged all sides negotiate for peace. Attacking Syria prevents it.

China forthrightly opposes military action. Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said:

"Military action would have a negative impact on the global economy, especially on the oil price. It will cause a hike in the (its) price."

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said:

"In international relations, the only organ that can make a legitimate decision about the use of force is the United Nations Security Council - not the Russian parliament, not the US Congress."

If Washington attacks, Putin suggested a more robust response.

"We have our ideas about what we will do and how we will do it in case the situation develops toward the use of force or otherwise."he said. "We have our plans." He didn't explain.

Pope Francis spoke out for peace. He did so despite blood on his hands. The former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was very much involved in Argentina's dirty war.

Prelates denouncing human rights abuses anywhere is taboo. Dirty war survivors accused Bergoglio of complicity with what demanded condemnation.

That was then. Is now different? Not rhetorically on Syria. Sub-service views may be entirely different. Longstanding Vatican policy is ugly. Pope Francis wasn't anointed to change things.

Nonetheless, he urged urged G20 leaders to abandon the "futile pursuit" of militarily intervening against Syria.

He made the case for peaceful conflict resolution. He lamented that "one-sided interests" prevent doing so.

"(S)enseless massacre(s)" continue, he said.

"To the leaders present, to each and every one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution."

On Saturday, he'll host a St. Peter's Square peace vigil. Hopefully groundswell opposition to attacking Syria will follow.

Wars beget continued conflicts. Waging them prevents resolving things peacefully. The worst of all possible outcomes is risked. Regional war may follow. It may spread globally.

On Thursday, the Vatican summoned Holy See ambassadors. Its position on Syria was addressed.

Vatican Foreign Minister Archbishop Dominique Mamberti said Ghouta's attack generated "horror and concern" worldwide.

"Confronted with similar acts one cannot remain silent, and the Holy See hopes that the competent institutions make clear what happened and that those responsible face justice," he said.

He called for peaceful dialogue. He urged not letting Syria be split along ethnic and/or religious lines.

On Wednesday, Francis Jesuit order head Rev. Adolfo Nicolas called impending US/French military action an "abuse of power."

"I cannot understand who gave the United States or France the right to act against a country in a way that will certainly increase the suffering of the citizens of that country, who, by the way, have already suffered beyond measure," he said.

Congress may violate international law. The Security Council alone decides on war or peace issues. Circumventing its authority is illegal.

On Monday, Congress returns from summer recess. Democrats aren't certain about rubber-stamping authorization for attacking Syria.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi emailed Democrats for support. She's not sure if House members intend supporting Obama.

"I don't know," she said. "I think it would be important to get a majority in the Congress."

She's unsure if it's there, she added. Strong public opposition makes it uncertain.

Obama "needs to continue to make the intelligence case to the American people as to the Assad regime's responsibility for the attack and why it's in our national interest to respond to it," she said.

She stopped short of saying so-called intelligence is fake. Attacking Syria without Security Council authorization violates core international and constitutional law.

Congress has no right to authorize lawlessness. Pelosi's on the wrong side of history. If Obama attacks Syria, congressional supporters are complicit in war crimes.

On September 5, Russia Today (RT) headlined "Congress may vote 'No' on Syria Attack."

Senate approval appears likely. House authorization remains unclear. Members are being carpet bombed with phone calls, letters and emails.

Overwhelming opposition to attacking Syria is expressed. A national social media debate rages. It's one-sided against war.

House members are running scared. Rep. Jim McDermott (D. WA) said:

"Calls and emails from my constituents are 100 to 1 AGAINST getting involved in Syria. The American people are speaking."

Rep. Elijah Cummings, (D. MD) said 99 percent of calls he's getting oppose an attack.

Rep. Andy Harris, R. MD) said:

"Constituents who have contacted my office by phone or mail oppose action in Syria 523-4 so far."

Rep. Thomas Massie, (R. KY) tweeted:

"My phones are blowing up, and an overwhelming amount of constituents oppose US military intervention in Syria."

Rep. Matt Salmon, (R. AZ) tweeted:

"Syria constituent calls 489-2 against."

Rep. Shelley Capito, (R. WV) said of "about 1,000 calls to my office, maybe 5 are for."

Rep. Vern Buchanan, (R. FL) said calls and emails to his office are 600 to 9 against striking Syria.

Rep. Rand Paul, (R. KY) said:

"I'm told the phone calls are 9 out of 10 against a strike in Syria, from my constituents in Kentucky."

Rep. Ralph Hall, (R. TX) said:

"I have received hundreds of calls and letters from constituents expressing strong opposition."

"Rep. Michele Bachmann, (R. MN) tweeted:

"My office has been inundated with constituent phone calls and emails about Syria. Virtually unanimous opposition to military intervention."

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, (R. UT) tweeted:

"So far about 500 emails regarding Syria. 499 say NO and 1 says YES go to war" and "hundreds of calls to our Provo and Washington, DC office. So far not a single call in favor of bombing Syria."

"Rep. Paul Gosar, (R. AZ) tweeted:

"The phones in my office are ringing off the hook and mail is flowing in. Almost all the people are opposed to intervention in Syria."

Numerous other congressional members reported the same thing. Americans oppose attacking Syria. They do so overwhelmingly.

It remains to be seen how Congress will vote when it reconvenes. What looked rubber-stamp at first appears uncertain.

On September 6, the Tripoli Post headlined "Congress Heading to Vote 'No' on Syria Strike," saying:

Obama's "heading to a stunning defeat on his sought after congressional authorization for a military attack against Syria after many congressmen have learned that any action against Syria even if its ‘limited’ will definitely drag the US to a quagmire."

"According to data compiled by ThinkProgress, 217 House representatives have either decisively ruled out support to an attack on Syria or say they are unlikely to back it. A rejection of the Obama request for authorization to act against Syria requires only 217 votes to pass."

"Only 44 congressmen said they would definitely or likely to vote for a strike against Syria. The numbers are based on analysis of public statements of 407 Representatives."

"Within less than 24 hours, thirty congressmen confirmed publicly on Thursday that they would vote against the attack on Syria, while only four representatives announced that they would vote 'yes.' "

"It is very possible that the classified briefing by the Obama administration to members of the US Congress that took place on Wednesday about the attack on Syria had turned off the lawmakers who found the consequence of any attack could very well turn into a catastrophe for America."

Rep. Michael Grimm (R. NY) perhaps spoke for others. He initially supported Obama. He changed his mind. Constituent feedback convinced him.

"Thus, after much thought, deliberation and prayer, I am no longer convinced that a US strike on Syria will yield a benefit to the United States that will not be greatly outweighed by the extreme cost of war," he said.

G20 leaders are split on Syria. The Wall Street Journal headlined "World Powers Remain Divided Over Syrian Action at G-20," saying:

Obama came to St. Petersburg for support. "But just as Congress is divided over authorizing a strike, the global community seems equally uncertain about what action to take."

"France is one of the few Western allies supporting a possible strike."

Russia, China, Brazil, India, South Africa, Italy, and other EU nations cautioned against attacking Syria without Security Council authorization.

Putin and other leaders strongly oppose military intervention. "For Mr. Obama, the summit represents a fateful diplomatic moment," said the Journal.

Failure to enlist support shows attacking Syria lacks legitimacy. Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta opposes war. Where will it end, he asked?

He doubts what Obama plans is limited. "There are some who interpret this as the start of something of which we don't know the end," he said.

"These are obviously two very different scenarios, and I'm sure that's part of what's blocking things and creating so much difficulty."

On Thursday, the State Department said Australia, Albania, Kosovo, Canada, Denmark, France, Poland, Romania and Turkey support military intervention. Most other nations oppose it.

On September 5, G20 leaders concluded summit discussions. Its Declaration focused on economic, investment, multilateral trade, and related issues. It omitted mentioning what was discussed on Syria.

On September 4, former US service academy graduates headlined a press release saying:



"The relentless march to war is replete with demonization, self-righteous arrogance and bullying. The risk of committing war crimes on the civilian populations is high."

"We remember well the dissembling Colin Powell’s performance. We oppose all efforts to launch an attack on Syria based on flimsy evidence and political bombast."

"As long as the brutal tools of war are used to carry fear-filled olive branches, the US will lose. There is no strategic or tactical or moral benefit to the United States for bombing Syria."

"For with all the shock and awe and terror and fear inevitably comes loathing. Bombing an already chaotic situation is only a prescription for disaster and more loathing, much more."

"There is also the enormous risk of causing a vastly wider conflict. We refuse to accept another political adventure into the same carnage of war under the same tired misrepresentations and false-flag patriotism."

"We spoke out for the innocent victims of the Iraq war and today we speak for all the innocent Syrian victims past and perhaps to come."

"In all aspects, bombing Syria is exactly the wrong thing to do. Now is the time for dialogue not dynamite."

US history reflects unconscionable crimes of war, against humanity and genocide. Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are America's most recent great crimes.

Syria's the latest. It's being ravaged and destroyed. Direct US intervention will do it entirely.

Viktor Ozerov chairs Russia's Upper House of Parliament (the Federation Council of Russia). He heads its Defense and Security Committee. He forthrightly said:

"If we recognize the supremacy of international law and sovereignty of UN member states, the start of the US military actions against Syria bypassing the UN Security Council could only mean one thing, another American aggression against an Arab state."

"The aftermath of the US aggressive operations are still fresh in our memory; Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya."

"The list could be extended. No arguments can be accepted here in defense of democracy or human rights."

"What is really happening is that Washington cannot agree that countries exist that do not dance to its tune or play by its rules."

Stop NATO editor Rick Rozoff was clear and unequivocal. The "gravity of the situation" is clear, he said.

"(T)he world needs to be able to marshal all the resources it has; information, organization, moral resources, in order to combat the threat of a war against Syria, which could quite entirely possibly expand into something not only a regional conflict or conflagration, but into something that could be a global showdown."

"(W)orld public opinion has to tell Washington, both the legislative and executive branch: 'No war! It's against the law internationally! It's a moral crime! And it's an historic crime that will be judged in that manner and its perpetrators will be held accountable!"

Emergency conditions exist. Opposing war on Syria is crucial. Do it now. Stopping Obama matters most. The alternative is too potentially catastrophic to risk.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

Visit his blog site at

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