It is my understanding that the infamous Patriot Act (and various other reactionary bits of 'anti-terrorist' legislation that have become the law of the land) makes it a crime - and a serious crime at that - to provide funding for terrorist organizations. It is also my understanding that the United States government has sponsored terrorist acts, and continues to sponsor terrorist acts, all around the world. In fact, a case could fairly easily be made in any legitimate court of law that the United States is the world's number-one sponsor of terrorism. The case could also be made that the United States government is itself a terrorist organization.
It occurs to me then that maybe it is time for 'we the people' to put the Patriot Act to work for us, for is it not perfectly clear that its various provisions forbid us from providing financial aid to the United States government? Is it not a crime to forfeit a portion of our hard-earned wages to the federal government to help finance daily acts of terrorism in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the wholesale psychological terrorization of the American people?
In the final analysis, there are only two things that your government needs from you, and one of those two things - your consent - can be fairly easily manufactured. That means that there is really only one thing that the U.S. government needs from you to continue operating in the manner to which it has become accustomed: your money.
It needs your money in order to finance both its wars of aggression and the continued stripping away of your rights. Because it is you and I, you see, who are expected to pay for such things. The people who actually benefit from the administration's policies could, of course (and rightfully should), foot the bill. But they would rather have you and I pick up the tab.
As we all should realize by now, wars abroad, as well as the war on democratic freedoms being waged here at home, are not fought for the benefit of the American people; they are fought for the benefit of corporate America. But in spite of the carefully nurtured illusion that the rewards of capitalism fall to those who make the investments and take the risks, it is not corporate America that pays the price, in either blood or money.
On April 3, 2004, the Los Angeles Times once again did a perfectly fine job of burying a headline story in the In Brief section that appeared on page A10. That article is reproduced here in its entirety:
Most American and foreign corporations operating in the United States paid no income tax between 1996 and 2000, government auditors said Friday. The General Accounting Office auditors found that 71% of foreign corporations paid no federal income tax. During the same time, 61% of American corporations paid no income tax. Among the largest corporations, American businesses were more likely to avoid taxation than foreign businesses.
Keep in mind here that those figures were based on an audit of the years 1996-2000, before Bush decided that corporate America was carrying too heavy a tax burden. So if roughly 2/3 of corporations were paying no federal taxes even before the Bush tax cuts, then it is probably safe to say that the overwhelming majority of corporate America is now getting a free ride.
Because corporate America (the highest levels of which is the United States government) refuses to pay its way, the burden falls on you and I. So our money, in the form of federal income taxes, is absolutely essential for keeping the military machine running, and for keeping the Department of Homeland Security running, and for keeping the world's largest prison system running. So it occurs to me that the most realistic way to stop the murderous thugs running the show may be to bankrupt the bastards. And the legal basis for doing so has been handed to us by, curiously enough, the Patriot Act.
Even without the Patriot Act, it seems to me that there are at least three perfectly valid arguments that could be made for the legality of refusing to fund the United States government. The first is that the federal income tax system is based on a covenant between the government and the people, and that covenant says, in essence, that the American people will forfeit a portion of their income to the government so that, in return, the government can provide for the 'public good.' The problem here, quite obviously, is that the things the government does best, like building bombs and prisons, do not qualify as providing for the public good.
The truth is that Washington long ago lost any passing interest that it might have had in providing for the public good. The federal government, in other words, has breached its contract with the American people, rendering that contract null and void.
The second argument concerns the fact that the Bush administration is, by any objective assessment, illegal, unconstitutionally assembled, and illegitimate. It therefore has no constitutional authority to levy taxes against anyone. In fact, since the Bush regime is, technically speaking, a government of occupation, it could be reasonably argued that providing any form of financial aid to such a pseudo-administration is an act of treason.
Lastly, and perhaps most compellingly, it could be reasonably argued that providing financial assistance to an entity engaged in the open commission of war crimes, is itself a war crime. And make no mistake about it: the United States government has been committing war crimes like it's nobody's business. In fact, after reviewing the principles established by the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1950, I'm wondering if there are any crimes listed therein that the United States government hasn't committed in recent years.
Let's take a quick run through the list (as it is presented in Principle VI), shall we?
a. Crimes against peace:
i. Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
ii. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).
b. War crimes:
Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war, of persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cites, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.
c. Crimes against humanity:
Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.
Planning, preparing and waging a war of aggression? Been there, done that. Murder and mistreatment of POWs? I think we have that one on tape. Killing of hostages? It's been known to happen. Plunder of public or private property? We got both of those well covered. Wanton destruction of cities and villages? Can you say Fallujah? Devastation not justified by military necessity? It's hard to see how anything that we have done in Iraq was justified by military necessity. Inhuman acts against a civilian population? Oh, let's see now ... how about deliberately targeting civilian water supplies for the express purpose of creating genocidal conditions (as CIA documents openly acknowledge)?
With the possible exception of murder or ill-treatment of persons on the seas (and we certainly can't rule that out), we seem to have swept all three categories. It's as if we scored a Nuremberg hat trick.
Nuremberg Principle VII reads as follows: "Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principles VI is a crime under international law." Providing necessary funding can be, and has been, interpreted as complicity in the commission of the crime. Therefore, anyone who provides funding that facilitates the commission of a war crime is guilty of a war crime. And, to repeat once again, lest anyone miss the point here, it is the tax dollars of rank-and-file Americans that fuel the war machine and allow war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity to be committed. All tax-paying Americans are therefore war criminals.
"But wait," you say (well ... not you, necessarily, but maybe the guy you know from work who fancies himself to be something of a Patriot): "Nuremberg Principles, my ass! This here is the United States of America, and we have us a Constitution! That's the only law I know about."
Au contraire, my friend (that's French, I think, which I thought I would use to give this newsletter a bit of a continental flavor, which generally goes over very well with folks who claim to be big fans of the Constitution). My copy of the Constitution (an original, and I know that because someone has rolled up most of the pages and smoked them) says this (in Article VI, Clause 2):
This Constitution ... and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding." (emphasis added)
From this we can draw one very obvious, and quite astounding, conclusion: the Founding Fathers were never taught the proper use of capitalization! And we can also conclude that, since the United States did sort of sign off on the Nuremberg Principles, those Principles are, according to our very own Constitution, the supreme law of the land, and every judge across this land is bound by them.
"But," you protest again, "I am compelled by the government, under threat of severe penalties, to provide it with a steady supply of cash, so that it may continue to commit egregious war crimes in my name. There is nothing that I can really do about it."
"Sorry," say I, "wrong answer." Nuremberg Principle IV is pretty clear on the issue of the "just following orders" defense: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."
So you see, my friends, it really comes down to those last ten words: "provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him." And is a moral choice possible? Of course it is; it just isn't the easy choice. The easy choice is, as always, passive acceptance of the unacceptable. Our fearless Founding Fathers realized that; in fact, they wrote about it, in their inimitable style, in an obscure document known as the Declaration of Independence:
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
In the Preamble to that other obscure document, the US Constitution, the very same Founding Fathers listed some of the things that a government should provide for a free people: "... establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."
That list, updated by the Bush regime, reads a little differently today: "... establish secret, unaccountable military tribunals; issue frequent unsubstantiated terror warnings to insure that the domestic scene will be anything but tranquil; provide for unlimited offensive military capabilities, but provide no defense whatsoever when the country is purportedly under attack; exhibit a brazen disregard for the general welfare; and strip away the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our children."
So what have we learned today? That we have not only a right, but an ethical and moral duty to refuse to continue funding the commission of war crimes, crimes of peace, and crimes against humanity -- and to refuse to continue funding the creation and maintenance of the world's largest prison system -- and to refuse to continue funding the creation of a high-tech police state -- and to refuse to continue funding the wanton destruction and exploitation of the natural environment -- and to refuse to continue funding a government that speaks only for the interests of corporate America, and offers nothing for the people it claims to represent -- and to refuse, as anyone with a conscience would surely do, to continue funding a government that is so vile, so loathsome, and so fundamentally deranged that it would sanction the rape and torture of Iraqi children while their parents are forced to watch (as award-winning journalist Seymour Hersch has claimed that he has seen on videotape).
[Legal disclaimer: the guy who wrote this is not an attorney, so you might want to run this stuff by someone who is an actual attorney before you rely on it.]
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Have I mentioned the bogus Berg beheading lately? I mention it now because I happened to notice that the Los Angeles Times, in accordance with its longstanding policy, buried yet another interesting little story in the In Brief section of a recent Sunday (July 18) edition. Included in the four-sentence article was this description of a videotape of the alleged June 18 beheading of American Paul Johnson: "The tape shows what appears to be the motionless body of Johnson being decapitated and the head held up for the camera."
It's kind of funny how that description seems to perfectly fits the notorious Berg beheading video as well. Maybe I'm getting old or something, because I can still remember the days when Americans were a little more feisty - maybe with a little more of the frontier spirit - and they would fight to keep their heads attached. But not anymore, I guess. Nowadays, Americans tend to go with the "possum" defense.
Just after reading about the Johnson beheading, I saw where American Wassef Ali Hassoun, who had had his head chopped off, was holding a press conference in Quantico, Virginia. At first, I was amazed at the remarkable skill with which someone had apparently reattached his head. As I was straining to see the scar, I learned that he hadn't actually had his head lopped off -- but, he was quick to add, he certainly had seen other people lose their heads! However, there was no evidence to support that claim, because, from what I hear, the battery for the videocamera was being recharged when those beheadings took place.
Not long after that peculiar news conference, I read about another American in Iraq who was beheaded on videotape, variously identified as Benjamin Ford or Benjamin Danforth. But then I found out that Benjamin is also still quite firmly attached to his head -- and he has never been anywhere near Iraq and isn't named Ford or Danforth, but rather Vanderford. So that story didn't really pan out so well.
I have to say that I am beginning to wonder if there is any credible evidence that supports the charge that any real, live Americans have had their heads whacked off by crazed Islamic fundamentalists (or anyone else), despite the impression one might come away with after suffering dangerously high levels of exposure to the U.S. media machine. As near as I can tell, the only authentic beheading video to surface is the one that Michael Moore thoughtfully included in his new film -- to demonize the Saudi people and present Arabs in general as barbarians. But that's another story entirely ...
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Has anyone seen any of those infamous mass graves in Iraq? I keep hearing people talking about them, usually while said people are trying to justify the brutal and illegal U.S. occupation of Iraq on humanitarian grounds. I've been hearing about the mass graves for well over a year now. Back in July of last year, for example, the Los Angeles Times ran an article that began as follows:The former head of the U.S.-led effort to rebuild Iraq predicted Wednesday that investigators would find the corpses of as many as 1 million Iraqis executed during Saddam Hussein's reign. Reflecting the Bush administration's increasing emphasis on human-rights violations by Saddam -- as more time passes without discovery of weapons of mass destruction -- retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner offered the highest such estimate to date by a present or former senior official of the U.S.-led coalition. "I think before it's all over that we will come close to uncovering 1 million bodies killed from probably in the mid-'80s all the way up to the time of the war," Garner said. Garner's estimate of the number of Iraqi citizens slain by Saddam's government in "killing fields" scattered mostly in Shiite regions of Iraq is plausible, said Ann Clywd, Britain's envoy to Iraq for human rights.Just four months later, Bush impersonator Tony Blair claimed that US and UK forces had "already discovered, just so far, the remains of 400,000 people in mass graves." So we were already, as of last November, well on our way to hitting the 1 million mark, and since the time of that report, any number of mass graves have purportedly been discovered in Iraq.
(Mark Fineman and John Hendren "Garner: A Million Iraqi Corpses Possible," Los Angeles Times, July 2, 2003)
The funny thing about all that though is that I haven't seen any visual evidence of any such graves. I like to think that I follow the news as closely as the next guy, but I can't recall seeing any video footage, or any still photographs, depicting the excavation of any mass graves in Iraq. None at all. I asked around, and no one that I know has seen any such evidence either.
You don't have to be Karl Rove to realize that such inflammatory images would have a tremendous amount of pro-war propaganda value, at a time when the Bush team is desperately in need of something that will bring the American people back on board the war train. So where are the graphic images?
As it turns out, there aren't any. As it turns out, Tony Blair is a liar, as is Jay Garner. Because the truth of the matter is that the grand total of bodies exhumed through official procedures from mass graves in Iraq is - are you ready for this? - zero. And since there aren't any bodies, then there can't very well be any photographic evidence of bodies.
A funny thing happened, you see, when Guardian reporter Brendan O'Neill went in search of the elusive corpses. When he "asked Joanna Levison of the U.S. State Department how many bodies have been exhumed, she said: 'Through official procedures? None.'" And when O'Neill asked the same question of Jonathan Forrest, a forensic specialist in Iraq, he said: "I do not believe that any forensic scientists have exhumed any bodies in Iraq at all."
And that is hardly surprising, given that phantom mass graves have been a staple of Western propaganda for a good many years. In Newsletter #38, I reported that a group in the former Soviet Union seemed to be having trouble locating the mass graves that were allegedly filled with millions of bodies during the Stalin era (while I have received criticism of that posting, by the way, none of the critics have yet offered evidence of the existence of the elusive mass graves). The mass graves in Kosovo also remain undiscovered, many years after the military assault that was predicated on lies about their existence.
There is, however, at least one part of the world where mass graves have been recently discovered, but the Western media didn't pay much attention. That is probably because the mass graves unearthed in Guatemala were filled under the watchful eye of Uncle Sam.
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Near the end of 2003, a few scattered media reports warned of Team Bush's plans to militarize space (although what they were really talking about was Team Bush's plans to accelerate the ongoing process of militarizing space).
(http://www.sundayherald.com/34768 and http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/10/16/1065917535115.html)
Not long after those reports surfaced, our feckless leader announced that he was stepping up to the plate to take on the ambitious task of sending men to the moon. The timing of the announcement was rather unusual, by the way, given that it came just as the Bush mob was receiving high-fives all around for the heroic capture of Public Enemy #1, Saddam Hussein, whereas traditionally the "let's send some guys to the moon" scam has only been used to direct attention away from administration failures.
Come to think of it, I guess Saddam wasn't really Public Enemy #1. That title, I suppose, should properly be reserved for Osama bin Laden. After all, bin Laden allegedly murdered some three thousand red-blooded Americans, while Saddam only stands accused of slaughtering tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of Iraqis. And according to the U.S. State Department's latest Equivalency Tables, one American life is worth 867.82 Iraqi lives. Therefore, Osama's alleged crimes are far more heinous than Saddam's alleged crimes and it is Mr. bin Laden who should properly be recognized as the world's #1 arch-villain. But that really has nothing to do with the current discussion.
There hasn't been much follow-up on George W. Jetson's initial proposal, but during the very brief period of 'debate' over the advisability of sending men to the moon in these troubled economic times, the commentary was at times rather surreal. Some experts quoted in the media speculated that it would take 10-15 years to achieve Bush's lofty goal of a manned moon landing. The first step, these experts said, would be developing a rocket capable of powering such a flight, since nothing in NASA's current arsenal apparently has what it takes. Some experts noted that China is also working on a 10-15 year plan to send men to the moon. And Republican Senator Sam Brownback warned, "you've got the Chinese saying they're interested -- we don't want them to beat us to the moon."
Hell no, we don't! And if we don't act soon, there is a very real danger of that happening -- if the Chinese also have a 10-15 year plan to develop a time machine, so that when they finish developing all their moon-landing gear, they can transport it back to the 1960s.
For some curious reason, a lot of experts seem to have forgotten that we already sent men to the moon (or claimed to, anyway) -- about 35 years ago, if I remember correctly. It was actually a pretty big deal at the time. There was lots of media coverage and lots of parades and stuff. You could probably go to the library and look it up in some musty old newspaper archives. And I'm pretty sure that if someone over at NASA takes a look through the files, they will find some faded old copies of the original plans and specifications. I would suggest first checking under "A" for "Apollo." And someone also might want to look around the shop to see if there are any old Saturn V rockets gathering dust somewhere. It could save a lot of time and money.
As it turns out, there really is no need to reinvent the wheel here. Those trusty old Apollos worked great, safely returning our brave astronauts from each and every mission to the great beyond. Hell, even unlucky #13 came through in the end and got our boys home safe and sound. Unlike more sophisticated vehicles used for space travel, Apollos never behaved like giant bottle-rockets on take-off. And Apollos never provided pyrotechnic shows on re-entry. They were a safe and reliable (dare I say, underrated?) mode of transportation for anyone with a hankering to go to the moon. And incredibly enough, it only took NASA scientists eight years to land one of those babies on the moon! Eight years! And that was back in the 1960s, an era generally considered by serious historians to be the 'Technological Dark Ages.'
So doesn't it seem just a little strange that experts would now suggest that if we get to work right away, we might be able to land men on the moon by the year 2018? Isn't that like saying that with a lot of hard work and a little luck, we might be able to develop a video game as technologically advanced as Pong by the year 2030? Or that by 2020, the scientific community might produce a battery-operated pocket calculator?
What else will the future bring? Digital clocks? 8-track tape players? Portable transistor radios? Cameras that shoot pictures on special film that develops right before your eyes? Only time will tell, I suppose.
(see also http://www.davesweb.cnchost.com/apollo.htm.)