Saturday, May 14, 2011

NRA's Second Amendment Perception is Fallacious

"Hurray for the NRA!" is the clarion call of gun owners all across America. That’s because the National Rifle Association (NRA), with about four million members, staunchly defends the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. They spend tens of millions in support of favored political candidates, and are the leading special interests group in America. Needless to say, their political clout is vast.

The political influence of the NRA is so significant that Democrats feel in some way they must buy into NRA’s ideology. Disappointingly, President Obama in 2009 signed into law legislation that would allow visitors to carry guns into our national parks and wildlife refuges, and in 2010 made it legal for Amtrak passengers to carry guns and ammunition. And he, like the Republicans, has repeatedly stressed his belief that the Second Amendment “guarantees an individual right to bear arms.”

After the attempted assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, President Obama rejected those who were pushing for stricter gun laws. Later, he wrote an article for the Arizona Daily Star calling for a “new discussion” on an “intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place.”

That “new discussion” has yet to transpire, and with an election coming up in 2012, it’s unlikely it will. Besides, I don’t believe he ever intended to launch that “new discussion.” Obama’s weakness is that he is a politician and feels his tenure is in jeopardy if he doesn’t kowtow to the NRA. Just as he took the risk to approve the assault on Osama bin Laden’s compound and to kill him, we desperately need an Obama who will take the risk to make that call for strong federal gun regulations regardless of NRA’s political influence.

President Obama said, “But one clear and terrible fact remains. A man our Army rejected as unfit for service; a man one of our colleges deemed too unstable for studies; a man apparently bent on violence, was able to walk into a store and buy a gun.” What Obama alluded to but didn’t have the courage to directly say is that the lack of sufficient and appropriate gun regulation is precisely the reason the Giffords tragedy happened. That happened in Arizona, but it could happen in any state or in the District of Columbia. The lack of federal regulation allows purchasers who cannot buy in one state to acquire a gun in another state. The lack of federal regulation allows gunrunning from the United States to Mexico, where there are strict gun laws. The lack of regulation allows the gangbangers to easily acquire guns.

NRA outgoing President Ron Schmeits, speaking at its April 2011 annual convention, egregiously encouraged members to motivate young people to join NRA, and towards the end of his remarks said, “Get out and shoot, take along a young person.” NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre called for the Justice Department to cease its initiative intended at stopping the flow of weapons to Mexican drug cartels. Although the sting operation initiative known as Project Gunrunner misfired, that initiative would not have been necessary if in the first place congress had enacted strong federal gun laws.

The NRA and gun rights activist associate their freedoms with an unintrusive right to purchase a firearm. In 1776 as now, money gives one that right, not the U.S. Constitution or its Second Amendment. Freedom, therefore, now as in 1776, is reserved for those who can afford it.

Furthermore, just imagine what kind of a world we would be living in if everyone had the right to own any of today’s armament(s) that money could buy. Would Americans, especially those who could not afford a weapon, be safer and would their freedom be enhanced? Under these circumstances, could world peace ever be achievable? I certainly don’t think so, but judging by the number of politicians who support the NRA, the answer to those questions is yes. For those who kowtow to the NRA, yes is the answer they will capitulate to, even though yes may not be in their heart of hearts. And Americans who have a proclivity to violence will always support the right to own a gun, and their answer is yes.

However, if we could turn the pages back to before the Wild West, and if today the Second Amendment were upheld under the dictate of original intent, it would mean that "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms" would be limited to flintlock muskets and pistols. And if that were the case, I do agree, America would be safer, we would have greater freedom, and we would have a better chance at world peace.


NRA, April 30, 2011 annual convention

James Hohmann, National Rifle Association members focused on ousting President Obama, Politico

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Creation of Understanding

It’s discouraging that political bickering, books, movies, music, television, news broadcast and newspapers exploit sensationalism, not only visually, but also in language in order to rile others into action. The words must be provocative; therefore, in one way or other, it must indulge in raunchy, invective, sarcastic, or other contemptible language. Moreover, whether what is written or said is factual, fictitious or something in between, it does not seem to matter. In short, it must satisfy America’s egregiously bizarre appetite for what, in their view, is entertaining.

In America, we have abandoned decency, civility, and honesty. We have abandoned probity for whatever enhances one’s bottom line. In using inappropriate, meaningless, and callous language, we have lost the essence of persuasion, rather, we engage in manipulation. Embracing inappropriate language mars one’s ability to lead effectively. Leaders, instead, become a bully on the pulpit.

As leaders, we must behave so others will emulate our actions. So, using appropriate language in speech and writing is incumbent upon all of us.

It is not as if we do not have a better choice. There are many resources available from which one can choose to select a suitable word, phrase, euphemism or metaphor to symbolize one’s intention, view or opinion.

In employing a higher standard vocabulary to construct meaningful expressions, one reduces the chance of any unintentional meaning or misinterpretation, enabling one to communicate complex ideas and concepts that are succinct and non-esoteric. Furthermore, to use slang or gobbledygook is only a shortcut to circumvent the hard work of developing appropriate and more meaningful expressions. When we use shortcuts, we may blur fact and fiction.

So it should go without saying, don’t use the language of television and radio talk show hosts, who depend on confrontation, recrimination, incendiary words and hyperbole as tools to fire up their supporters and to discredit competition that don’t agree with them.

And certainly do not employ metaphoric militaristic language that has become so popular. Sarah Palin’s notable quotation, “Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!” is a good example of this egregious style.

The essence of communication is the creation of understanding. A writer or speaker sometimes may be communicating some very sophisticated and complex ideas or concepts to general audiences. It therefore is incumbent on the speaker or writer to be considerate of the symbols they employ.

We need leaders, their spokespersons and interlocutors to serve people rather than prey on them. They need to use words crafted to create understanding and not to intimidate or entertain rather than inform.

“60 Minutes” Quest for Sensationalism Rules over Probity

In 1993, mountaineer Greg Mortenson joined a group of climbers set out to climb K2, the second peak of Pakistan’s Karakoram Range in northern Kashmir. The climb was cut short in order to rescue another climber, during which Mortenson became lost and disorientated. Exhausted and weak, he stumbled into the village of Korphe. The village’s chief elder, the late Haji Ali, welcomed him and took him in, caring for him until he was well. During his recuperation, he recognized there was a desperate need for education, especially for girls. To show his appreciation for their hospitality he organized the funding necessary to build Korphe a school for girls. From that beginning, building schools for girls in Pakistan and later in Afghanistan turned out to be his life’s work. Teaming up with the late Jean Hoerni, a Silicon Valley pioneer, in 1996 they co-founded the Central Asia Institute (CAI), a foundation dedicated to building schools in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 1994, students at Westside Elementary School, River Falls, Wisconsin collected 62,340 pennies to help build a school in Pakistan, which became the name of CAI’s philanthropic program “Pennies for Peace.”

In recent years, Greg Mortenson has written two books, “Three Cups of Tea” and “Stones to Schools,” and has taken on a hectic schedule of speaking engagements, all to promote the CAI’s mission.

According to CAI, it has built 170 schools in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan, supported fully or partially 687 teachers, and say they have educated over 58,000 students of which 44, 000 are girls. Mortenson claims “This year alone (2011), just in Afghanistan, CAI plans and already started work to establish and build 63 to 68 more, mostly girls’ schools, based on the significant donations received in 2009-2010.”

Unfortunately, a CBS “60 Minutes” investigation charged that Greg Mortenson’s book “Three Cups of Tea” is exaggerated and fabricated; alleges that many schools CIA built don't exist or were built by others, and that CIA may have mishandled donations.

Greg Mortenson and CIA strongly dispute these accusations.

I cannot agree more with
Daniel Glick who says, 60 Minutes expose on Three Cups of Tea is weak – and wrong, and, that [he has] “no doubt he[Mortenson] has done orders of magnitude more good than harm.”

In 2009, in recognition for his humanitarian work and promotion of girl’s schools and education, Greg Mortenson received the Sitara-e-Pakistan (Star of Pakistan), Pakistan’s highest civilian award.

In 2009, he was deservingly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, by several bi-partisan members of U.S. Congress, and according to Norwegian odd-makers was believed to have been in a handful of finalists of the Peace prize that was awarded to President Obama on October 10, 2009.

According to a CBS News Release in 2009, the late Don Hewitt, creator of
60 Minutes,
“liked to say that 60 Minutes' success was not the best thing to happen to the small screen. Especially later in his life, he railed about how his news magazine changed television for the worse. News programs were never supposed to make money, he argued, and the minute they did, the pressure was on for news to get ratings. The quest for ratings led to more sensational topics on an increasingly larger number of broadcasts. Indeed, as soon as 60 Minutes broke the top 20 in 1977, a parade of imitators began and, at one point in the late ‘90s, nearly 30 percent of the top 20 programs were news magazines. Hewitt began to say publicly that ‘behind every news magazine there is a failed sitcom’ - the networks were using the format to cover their mistakes, not the news.”

And so, “60 Minutes” is certainly no stranger to “yellow journalism,” and there is more than enough evidence of what stirs audiences to read or view certain material, clearly illustrating that sensationalism rules over probity.

It is my fervent hope that other reputable news outlets in their pursuit for sensationalism can produce evidence of where “60 Minutes” missed the boat. After all, what news organization would not jump at the chance of proving a competitor wrong?


60 Minutes, The Program Video
Sunday, April 17, 2011

CBS News, Questions over Greg Mortenson's stories, 60 Minutes

Daniel Glick, 60 Minutes expose on Three Cups of Tea is weak – and wrong,

Photojournalist Ellen Jaskol and author Karin Ronnow, Journey of Hope, Central Asia Institute

Greg Mortenson and CAI’s responses:

Greg Mortenson’s Message to Supporters
CAI Board of Directors Statement 04/16/11
CAI Board of Directors Response to “60 Minutes” Questions
Greg Mortenson’s response to “60 Minutes” Questions

Sunday, April 10, 2011

National security is America’s Sacred Cow

In Chris Hellman's article for Tomgram he calculates “The Real U.S. National Security Budget” outlay at $1.2 to $1.3 trillion. The 2012 national security budget request is for $1.030–$1.415 trillion. While the 2011 United States federal budget request by President Obama puts federal budget expenditures at $3.82 trillion, with a deficit of $1.65 trillion.

There are national security costs that are unknown and could in reality increase these costs even more. Some of the unknowns are supplemental appropriations for defense, such as last year’s H.R. 4899, the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2010, and “Top Secret America, a hidden world, growing beyond control [that] has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.” And there are contingencies such as Libya: “On the first day of strikes alone, U.S.-led forces launched 112 long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles, which cost about $1 million to $1.5 million apiece, from ships stationed off the Libyan coast. That totaled $112 million to $168 million.”

In reality, national security costs already add-up to greater than one-third, and possibly could end up at one-fourth to a half, of the federal budget.

Independents, democrats, and republicans alike have an egregiously disproportionate regard to funding national security, which supersedes any concern for the wellbeing of needy Americans. Homeland Security and the Pentagon are rampant with cost excesses. For example, the Navy has eleven carrier strike groups. Each group has a complement of 7,500 personnel, an aircraft carrier with an air wing of 65 to 70 aircraft, at least one cruiser, and two destroyers. As James Carroll points out in “Our misguided faith in strength, More personnel serve on just one carrier task force than the total of US foreign service officers. The familiar fact bears emphasizing: the State Department spends less than $50 billion annually, compared to the nearly trillion-dollar Pentagon — and Republicans want to cut the State Department even more.” Carroll also points out that we are “spending more than the rest of the world combined on weapons and warriors. …In fact, we outspend … China, roughly by a factor of 10.”

Bush’s “war on terror,” including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, since the 9/11 terror attacks and through 2010, have cost an estimated $1.15 trillion, according to the Congressional Research Service. Bush borrowed most of the money to fund these wars. At the same time, Bush and the republican majority cut taxes on the wealthy, pushing the middle class into poverty while bolstering America’s plutocracy. At the beginning of this year, Obama compromised with republicans to extend Bush’s tax cuts for another two years, even though they were cognizant of the fact that these tax cuts would increase the deficit by $858 billion dollars, and has become one of the deficit’s principal drivers.

This alone is proof positive that there is a lack of concern for Americans on Main Street, never mind the wellbeing of needy Americans, yet then we have Wisconsin Republican and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity,” the republican 2012 budget resolution. It is designed “to trim more than $1 trillion from the deficit over the next decade by reworking and cutting Medicaid and Medicare, defunding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, cutting farm subsidies, and other discretionary spending. Additionally, Ryan proposes a tax rate reduction to 25 percent for affluent individuals, corporations, and to end deductions.

Republicans say they are proposing budget cuts in non-defense discretionary spending, despite the fact that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security constitute mandatory spending. National security is necessary, but the sky is not the limit. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya fall under the category of discretionary spending, since it was America’s choice to engage in those endeavors.

And, it’s important to note that Obama’s spending plan also targets non-defense discretionary spending, cutting into programs that assist the poor, help the needy heat their homes, and expand access to graduate-level education.

Despite the fact that “A majority of Americans prefer cutting defense spending to reduce the federal deficit rather than taking money from public retirement and health programs,” to the President and congress national security spending remains sacrosanct. It’s America’s Sacred Cow.

RELATED VIDEO: Rethink Afghanistan War (Part 3): Cost of War


Jacob Weisberg, “Good Plan!” Slate:

E.J. Dionne, Jr., “The Right’s War on Moderation,” Posted on Apr 6, 2011

Jay Bookman, “The Ryan budget, Part I: Social Security,” Atlanta Journal- Constitution:

Jay Bookman, “The Ryan budget plan, Part II: Medicare,” Atlanta Journal- Constitution:

Jay Bookman, “The Ryan budget plan, Part III: More trickle-down,” Atlanta Journal- Constitution:

Wikipedia contributors, 'Military budget of the United States', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 8 April 2011, 15:21 UTC, [accessed 9 April 2011]

Christopher Hellman, “FY 2012 Budget Request: Detailed Numbers,” Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation:

Matthew Potter, “Despite Record Defense Spending Layoffs Starting to Mount,” Defense Procurement News:

Wikipedia contributors, 'Carrier strike group', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 30 March 2011, 01:19 UTC, [accessed 9 April 2011]

Dana Priest and William M Arkin, “Top Secret America,” The Washington Post:

Christopher Hellman, “The Real U.S. National Security Budget,”

James Carroll, “Our misguided faith in strength,”

Jennifer Liberto ,“Medicaid reduced by $1 trillion in GOP Plan,”

Juan Cole, “The $1 Trillion Cost of War: Rethinking Afghanistan, Pt. 3,”

Huffington Post, “Obama Budget Proposal: Cuts To Target Working Poor, Middle Class & Students (LIVE UPDATES),” HuffPost Politics:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Unity of consciousness and advancements in knowledge will bring world peace

Around 475 BC, Leucippus, and his pupil Democritus developed a philosophical hypothesis of atomism, a doctrine postulating that simple, minute, indivisible, and indestructible particles were the basic components of the universe.

About 4 centuries later, in 50 BC, Roman poet and philosopher Titus Lucretius Carus published his epic poem “De rerum natura,” which when translated means “on the nature of things.” Considered a masterpiece of Epicurean philosophy, it portrays nature as a source of life, death, joy, peace, and terror, and describes how human beings should conduct themselves in their relationships. Lucretius conceived that the world could be understood by reason and that religion only aroused fear; that pursuing friendships over belligerence will avoid war; and that in Epicureanism lays the world’s best hope for happiness. In his poem, Leucippus also describes atoms as the building blocks of every object and living thing, and predicts an infinite universe.

Today, about 20 centuries later, from that first philosophical concept of an atom, evolving technology has made possible scientific study of sub-atomic reality. Physicists such as Amit Goswami, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, are now exploring what quantum physics tell us about the origins of the universe: the factual nature of reality rather than its conventional perception, and of life itself.

What Hawking and Mlodinow, as well as Goswami and others have come up with, so far, is that “the cosmos does not have just a single existence or history, but rather that every possible history of the universe exists simultaneously. When applied to the universe as a whole, this idea calls into question the very notion of cause and effect. But the ‘top-down’ [downwards causation] approach to cosmology they describe would say that the fact that the past takes no definite form means that we create history by observing it, rather than that history creates us. … the idea that ours is just one of many universes that appeared spontaneously out of nothing, each with different laws of nature.”

If, right now, all sentient life ceased to exist, would geologic or cosmic reality continue to exist? It would not. That is because sentient life creates its own reality, a reality that can only exist within our laws of physics, biology, and chemistry, which paradoxically in itself is a result of our own creation. Our sentience, from which all phenomena are created, depends on chemical reactions to provide the sensory information that enables hearing, vision, touch, smell, and taste, as well as to form objects. Without that cause and effect, nothing would exist. Moreover, Amit Goswami says, “we become one with the neuronal images of an external object because of a strange loop circularity known as tangled hierarchy, wherein the “observer is the observed.”

The evidence clearly suggests that all sentient beings are reciprocally interconnected. We have an inherent unity of consciousness, what Amit Goswami refers to as “monistic idealism,” the “downwards causation” view that consciousness is the foundation of everything that is now or ever will be. The existence of consciousness is much like that of light: omnipresent but not visible.

Other than being curiously interesting, arousing one’s interest because of its novelty and strangeness, why are these findings important?

Foremost, it is necessary to come to an understanding that the purpose of our life is our evolution -- not just Darwinian, but also in every other sense of that word. A process of fluctuation, change and eventual transformation takes place in all creation. Before the birth of Jesus Christ, Leucippus postulated that simple, minute, indivisible, and indestructible particles were the basic components of the universe, a philosophical notion. In 1900, the discovery of quantum mechanics brought science to the scientific study of the structure and behavior of atoms and molecules. Today, Amit Goswami and others are studying the primacy of consciousness, where it is not atoms and molecules that are the basis of reality, but rather, the reality is that “consciousness is the ground of all being.” The pursuit in life should not be for material things; it is the pursuit of knowledge and unity of consciousness that will bring a better life over time through change. For, it is the lack of knowledge that has caused the world’s ills, and it is the gain of knowledge over time that is its cure.

The advancement of knowledge in science and technology, so far, has brought a more comfortable life with more conveniences for most people, while change has been slow in how humans conduct their relationships: we still cling to belligerence, violence, and war as solutions to conflict. The cause has been a worldview grounded in religious values and materialism motivated by a quest for power and wealth. But, the determination of Hawking, Mlodinow, and Goswami is that we must change our worldview if we are to progress and achieve world peace.

Achieving world peace will never come to fruition until the world understands that a pursuit of love and friendship, and embracing human values over religious, materialistic, and monetary values are the only way we will avoid war and unnecessary human conflict. Moreover, there needs to be an understanding that peace is a process, and a way of living, a way of thinking, and a way of being.

These principles originating in consciousness are our only best hope for happiness.


Amit Goswami, Center for Quantum Activism,

Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow, "The Grand Design"
Bantam | 2010 | ISBN: 0553805371 | 208 pages | PDF | 10,4 MB

Peter Russell, The Spirit of Now,

Craig Hamilton, Scientific Proof of the Existence of God, an interview with Amit Goswami, EnlightenmentNext’ magazine:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Forty-Third Anniversary of the Son My Massacre

On Saturday morning, March 16, 1968, Truong Moi, an 18-year-old fisherman from the hamlet of Mỹ Lai in Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam, went out to check his fishnets that he had set in a nearby river. Troung was a member of a community of about 700 people, including the hamlet of My Khe. They lived in thatch-roofed huts and redbrick homes in the village of Sơn Mỹ, located on Vietnam’s South Central Coast. Mỹ Lai and My Khe were quiet and peaceful hamlets. Untouched by the war, villagers generally did not see soldiers.

That all changed when the brunt of the Vietnam War abruptly entered their lives: On that Saturday morning around 7:30 A.M., a barrage of American artillery rounds and strafing by Huey Cobra attack helicopters bombarded Truong’s village. Following the shelling, a little less than a third of a mile from where Truong was collecting his night’s catch, three platoons from Americal Division’s Charlie Company disembarked and fanned out from Huey Slick choppers. Two platoons surrounded and cordoned off Mỹ Lai, bottling up the perimeter while infantrymen from the 1st platoon spearheaded the invasion into the village. Led by Second Lieutenant William Calley, they entered Mỹ Lai hamlet. On orders from the Company‘s Captain Ernest Medina, they went into the hamlet firing at anything that moved including women and children. They set fire to huts, blew up homes, killed animals, and poisoned drinking wells.

These actions were routine in "free-fire zone" designated search and destroy missions in Vietnam. But, what transpired was not routine, although it was not an isolated event, either.

When Charlie Company landed, Truong was terrified and took cover. After the hell he had witnessed from his position in hiding had ended, and was sure the Americans had left, he returned to his commune. In their home, he found the charred remains of his mother, and the remaining members of his family at the foot of a watchtower. His brother, his sister and her two children were dead. In all twenty-four members of his immediate family had been slaughtered. He found piled bodies along paths and in ditches including children with their throats slit and others naked and disemboweled.

His father, like Truong was working in the rice fields and escaped. His brother was spared from the slaughter because he had hidden under bodies that shielded him from the soldier's bullets.

At about 9 A.M., at the height of the massacre, Warrant Officer Hugh C. Thompson, Jr., along with his crew, Specialist Glenn Andreotta and Specialist Lawrence Colburn, was flying his Raven observation helicopter over Mỹ Lai. On an earlier flyover, Thompson had marked the location of several wounded Vietnamese with green smoke, signaling they needed help, but noticed that they were now dead. He and his crew saw Captain Ernest Medina walk up to a wounded Vietnamese woman whose location Thompson also marked earlier that morning. Medina nudged her with his foot and then killed her. His flyover included a view of an irrigation ditch with dozens of bodies. There was movement in the ditch indicating some were still alive. Thompson landed. Thompson requested help for the people in the ditch from Squad Leader Sergeant David Mitchell. Second Lieutenant William Calley interceded, commanding Thompson had “better get back in that chopper and mind your own business.”

Thompson returned to his chopper and took off. His crew chief, Specialist Andreotta, reported that Squad Leader Mitchell was executing people in the ditch.

Thompson and his crew spotted a group of unarmed Vietnamese, including children, running from infantrymen of the 2nd Platoon. Thompson landed knowing the soldiers intended to execute them. He put himself between the Vietnamese and their adversaries. Thompson commanded his crew to give him cover and to shoot the Americans if they began shooting at the fleeing villagers.

He confronted 2nd Platoon Leader Lieutenant Stephen Brooks, telling him he was going evacuate the Vietnamese and requested his help. Thompson persuaded the pilots of his two Huey gunship escorts to evacuate eleven survivors. Later, on his return from refueling, crewmember Specialist Andreotta found a boy alive, who Thompson flew to a hospital in Quang Ngai.

When it was all over, Charlie Company deliberately massacred 347 Vietnamese in Mỹ Lai and 157 in the hamlet of My Khe. Warrant Officer Thompson, because of his actions at M
Lai, took sharp congressional criticism. Congressmen Mendel Rivers stated opinion was that Thompson should be the only soldier punished, and Rivers even attempted to have him court-martialed. It took thirty years for America to recognize the heroic actions of Thompson, Andreotta, and Colburn when they were awarded the Soldier’s Medal for bravery. Thompson was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and he, Andreotta and Colburn were awarded Bronze Stars.

Warrant Officer Hugh C. Thompson, Jr. retired from the Army with the rank of Major in 1983 and died in 2006. Specialist Andreotta was killed in action three weeks after Mỹ Lai’s engagement.

These events are troubling enough, but what makes them even more so are there acceptance, perceived as part and parcel of war. Many believe that the U.S. Military or an American soldier would not deliberately perform such acts, and if they did, there were other reasons for their actions. Here is a typical comment: “Until you have faced the terrors and stress of war far from your home, I'd be quite hesitant to point your finger. Neither of us was there and could never understand, but many of us are now returning with unspeakable experiences.” And, United States Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “… in war, these sorts of horrible things happen every now and again, but they are still to be deplored,” despite the fact that at the time he essentially whitewashed the Mỹ Lai atrocities.

The excusing or extenuation of these criminal acts is evidenced by the lenient sentences given to the participants in this massacre. Second Lieutenant William Calley was the only participant convicted. After various military and civilian court determinations, a pardon by President Richard Nixon ended up making Calley a free man. Others were acquitted or never tried for their crimes. Moreover, it is important to understand that German and Japanese soldiers were executed for similar acts committed during World War II.

On this forty-third anniversary of the Sơn Mỹ Massacre, it’s important to note that this massacre is only one out of many. Other atrocities, such as the Thanh Phong Massacre, may not have had the same enormity, but we should not treat any of them as insignificant by doing no more than just fluff them off and say they are “to be deplored.” Somehow, Americans need to be made to understand that American soldiers do kill whether they look like the enemy or not, it all depends on what commanders determine as the enemy, even pregnant women, infants, and children; that to kill is an infantryman’s training and purpose; that our Armed Forces do not have a benevolent purpose; that we need “to point our finger” at war’s immorality and wrongdoing; and we need to make a commitment and take all measures available to prevent sending an American to face “the terrors and stress of war.”

In a "60 Minutes" interview, Hugh Thompson said, "I mean, I wish I was a big enough man to say I forgive them [soldiers of Charlie Company at M
Lai], but I swear to God, I can't."

And neither can I.


Michael Bilton and Kevin Sim, The Villagers of My Lai, excerpted interviews from their book “Four Hours in My Lai,” My Lai Courts-Martial

Associated Press, Vietnam atrocities revealed in report, Boston Globe

Wikipedia contributors, 'My Lai Massacre', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,> [accessed 19 March 2011]

Wikipedia contributors, 'Hugh Thompson, Jr.', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, <6><,_Jr.&oldid=417500201> [accessed 19 March 2011]

Wikipedia contributors, 'Bob Kerrey', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 6 March 2011, 21:42 UTC, <> [accessed 19 March 2011]

Seymour M. Hersh/St. Louis Post Dispatch, The My Lai Massacre, An Atrocity Is Uncovered: November 1969, Candide’s Notebooks: Texts reproduced from Reporting Vietnam, Part Two: American Journalism 1969-1975 (Library of America, 1998), pp. 13-27.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Reflection on the Taliban: Our Muslim Monster

In a December 2010 CNN documentary, “Life among U.S. enemies: Embedded with the Taliban,” Norwegian journalist Paul Refsdal risked his life while embedded with the Afghan Taliban. The film reveals a human side of the Taliban, and their regional commander, Dawran, as a father at home playing with his children after a day at war. In the film, the Taliban sing, pray, and play games during long hours of downtime between ambushes. The documentary also films Dawran directing an attack against U.S. forces, commanding them to "Attack, attack, with the help of God!”

James Carroll writes in his article for TomDispatch, The Disappearance of the Nightmare Arab: How a Revolution of Hope Is Changing the Way Americans Look at Islam, “Americans have been living with a nightmare Arab, a Muslim monster threatening us to the core, chilling our souls with the cry, ‘God is great!’”

But, above all else, what Americans remember of the Taliban’s brand of Islamic law is the indelible image of Zarmina, an Afghan woman shrouded in a blue burqa, brought to a soccer stadium and publicly executed with a shot to the back of her head for the steel hammer murder of her abusive husband as he slept. Witnesses say that thirty thousand Afghans viewed that execution, with several people shouting, following the execution, "God is great."

For a Muslim to praise or plea passionately for “Allah’s” help does more than chill the American soul: it infuriates us to the point that we are blinded to “what this religion actually looks like”; and instead of inquisitiveness, "God is great" drives our “human temptation to drown fear with blood.”

Many Americans perceive the Quran, considered by Muslims to contain revelations by God to Muhammad, as Satan’s Bible. The Taliban claim that their version of Islam is a pure one that follows a literal interpretation.

Christians and Jews, too, claim the Holy Bible is pure, that it contains revelations by God to Man, and that its interpretation must be literal.

Americans, too, praise God, plea for His help, and claim He is on our side. Our claim is that we are one Nation under God, a Christian nation. And, it was General George S. Patton who famously said, “God of our fathers, who by land and sea have ever lead us to victory, please continue your inspiring guidance in this the greatest of all conflicts. Strengthen my soul … If it be my lot to die, let me do so with courage and honor in a manner which will bring the greatest harm to the enemy, and please, oh Lord, protect and guide those I shall leave behind. Give us the victory, Lord.”

The European Union “strongly opposes the death penalty in all circumstances.” But as in Afghanistan, the United States does not, although we are more lenient with the types of offenses that are worthy of death. As of January 1, 2010, there were 61 women on death row, and there have been 51 women executed in the United States since 1900. Our methods of killing another human being may vary in that we don’t behead or allow public executions; nevertheless, we do kill prisoners convicted of capital offences by firing squad, hanging, electrocution, gas chamber, and lethal injection.

In war, each side claims the other to be evil. We perceive Taliban actions as brutal, gruesome and evil. Yet America’s wars are just as evil: what could be more brutal, gruesome, and cowardly for that matter, than maiming and killing men, women, children, babies, and the unborn in horrific ways from airstrikes against an enemy that does not even own an airplane. In those strikes we decapitate and incinerate, bone and flesh are blown into many pieces, and bodies and faces are disfigured forever.

The only real differences between the Taliban and us lie in our religious and political extremes. But, we all breathe the same air; we all want a better future for our families and especially our children; we all need life’s requirements of nourishment, safety, and health; and we all bleed.

The obstacles that prevent the full expression of our collective humanity are politics, religion, and money. The one that stands out above all others is clashing religious perceptions of God.

The late Joseph Campbell, a professor at Sarah Lawrence College and author on comparative mythology, had it right when he said, “Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble; God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought. It's as simple as that.”

If there ever is going to be a lasting peace, all of us must decide to embrace human values over religious values. We must disregard literal interpretations of the Bible and the Quran, and abandon the notion that there is a God and Heaven external to us.

Collectively, we are the embodiment of that which we call God.

Related Video:

FRONTLINE, Behind Taliban Lines: 10 days living and filming with an insurgent cell allied with Al Qaeda

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ greatest fear is his greatest weakness

Massive land armies facing each other on the battlefield has been in existence for some four thousand seven hundred and eleven years. [1]

On Friday, February 25, 2011, two months into the eleventh year of our third millennium AD, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates delivered a speech to West Point cadets gathered at Eisenhower Hall. Now you would think in better than four millenniums that the world would have made significant progress toward solving differences non-violently with greater strides into achieving a lasting world peace. But, in looking for signs of a world with the promise of less conflict, Secretary Gate’s speech was not optimistic.

Instead of optimism, our Secretary of Defense claims that we are in what Army Chief of Staff General William Casey calls “an era of persistent conflict.” Gates predicts that potential adversaries will seek to “frustrate” the Army’s “ability to shoot, move and communicate with speed and precision” in an asymmetrical/irregular warfare environment, with an Army of smaller forces brought on by necessity because of budget reductions.

And, at first, it might sound encouraging when the Secretary said, “…any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined.” But, he qualified that by saying, “… potential conflicts in places like Asia or the Persian Gulf were more likely to be fought with air and sea power, rather than with conventional ground forces.” So, in essence, there is no recognition that those wars were a mistake, but that sending a land army instead of air and sea power was a mistake.

In relationship to reduced dependency on Army firepower, his words where disappointing. He said, “By no means am I suggesting that the U.S. Army will – or should – turn into a Victorian nation-building constabulary [a reference to ideals of morality regarded as characteristic of the Victorian era] – designed to chase guerrillas, build schools, or sip tea [a reference to Greg Mortenson's heroic efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan].” Disappointing because that precisely should be our military mission: greater reliance on soft power and humanitarian aid as opposed to the hard power of a “shock and awe” blitzkrieg from air and sea that increases civilian casualties and does not win hearts and minds.

It’s not that the Secretary does not recognize the benefits of soft power; he doesn’t recognize that the Department of Defense should serve a central role in its execution. In 2007 at Kansas State University Gates spoke of the need to enhance American soft power wherein he called for, “… a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security -- diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action and economic reconstruction and development.” [2]

One of Gates greatest fears is that returning warrior officers at war’s end from Iraq and Afghanistan “may find themselves in a cube all day re-formatting PowerPoint slides, preparing quarterly training briefs, or assigned an ever-expanding array of clerical duties,” concluding, “The consequences of this terrify me.” His words reflect a lack of forward thinking and thinking outside the box. His fear is his greatest weakness. The Army, and all of the armed services, should expect to have a greater participatory role with the Coast Guard, assisting with rapid reaction disaster planning, homeland security assignments, and humanitarian assistance, and with development and deployment of soft power peacetime missions.

Secretary of Defense Gates has expressed his intent to leave office sometime this year, so perhaps our new Secretary will not stovepipe thinking that would keep the Department of Defense from solving its problem, but rather be more creative and innovative in its solution.


[1] Richard A. Gabriel and Karen S. Metz, Chapter 1 - The Origins of War form A Short History of War: The Evolution of Warfare and Weapons, Strategic Studies Institute. U.S. Army War College (Online version by Air War College)

[2] Thom Shanker, Defense Secretary Urges More Spending for U.S. Diplomacy, New York Times

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Three-star General Orders PSYOPs on Members of Congress

Lieutenant General William Caldwell

Hoping to have an exclusive as he had with his "The Runaway General" article that led to General Stanley McChrystal, commander of United States forces in Afghanistan, to resign, Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings has written his new scoop, “Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators.”

The article exposes a "Psychological Operations" military team ordered by Lt. General William Caldwell, commander of Afghanistan’s NATO Training Mission, to influence visiting dignitaries, diplomats and American Senators into providing more resources for the war. The team was lead by Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes responsible for Information Operations (IO), a component of psychological operations (PSYOP). IO makes use of technology, focusing on human-related aspects of information use, including social network analysis, decision analysis and the human aspects of Command and Control.

Lt. Colonel Holmes accuses Lt. General Caldwell of illegally (allegedly a violation of the Smith-Mundt Act ) ordering him to use his unit’s capabilities to compile profiles of visiting dignitaries. He told Fox News, Caldwell wanted to know what visiting Senators, Representatives and others wanted from him. “What is it that we can tell them that will get them to give us more resources, more people, more money ... make them vote our way in Congress.” Holmes said that the General wanted to know how to shape his presentations and how best to "refine our messaging"; “… to find out what dignitaries ‘did for us’ and what ‘we need to do next time in order to make things better.’"

However, basic public relations do not become PSYCOPs simply because the officer assigned to perform that task is from IO.

What developed is because of his exaggerated role perception Holmes became discontent. As Holmes told Rolling Stone reporter Hastings, "[his] job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave.”

Furthermore, Pentagon spokesman, Marine Col. Dave Lapan said that Holmes assignment was not illegal. IO officers do not have any “special firewalls.”

And, it seems, Holmes evidently isn’t familiar with the common business practice of profiling your client. Or, that it’s not unusual in business, politics, or the military to direct professionals to perform duties and special projects that may be outside of their job description. Caldwell assigned Holmes to perform duties that were essentially public relations, but not perceived as dignified as PSYOP and therefore played on his ego.

Without a doubt, it would be unacceptably irresponsible of Lt. General Caldwell not to know all that it was ethically possible to know about the person with whom he was to have an interview. He does need background assessments in order to know” how to shape his presentations” …this is not an uncommon prerequisite. It would be surprising if dignitaries in anticipation of meeting with General Caldwell did not expect him to be prepared, which means he would need their profiles and other information to make a persuasive and enlightened presentation.

This seems to be a story where Lt. Colonel Holmes had an ax to grind, and a reporter, Michael Hastings, motivated to repeat his previous success with a like article, both exploiting each other’s circumstances to enhance their own self-interest. However, in this case, the reporter failed to be skeptical, to check his source by using multiple sources, to make sure he understood his sources bias before publishing.


Michael Hastings, The Runaway General,

Michael Hastings, Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators,

Wikipedia contributors. Psychological Operations (United States). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. February 25, 2011, 06:42 UTC. Available at: Accessed February 26, 2011.

Jennifer Griffin and Justin Fishel contributed to this report, Military Officials Dispute Claim Army Unit Was Directed to Manipulate Senators,

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wars Bump in the Road is American Gullibility

Really, is there anyone in America who actually believes that we would have lost our freedom if we did not go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Well, yes! Unfortunately, there are many who do. They believe that war is necessary and unavoidable; that our government would not send Americans into harm’s way if it were not necessary for the security of the United States and protection of our way of life; that America’s motives are noble.

The fact is that war is avoidable. The fact is that our elected officials will lie in order to create a fear that Americans will lose their sovereignty if we don’t take military action. The fact is our government does not take us into war to protect our freedoms. The fact is that America’s motives are not always noble.

The assertion that American warriors are put into harm’s way to keep America free is one of the many lies disseminated by government, corporate interlocutors, and news media. Rather, our motives are initiated by greed/economic incentives, profit seekers who use war to enrich themselves, and by those who seek power, domination and empire. What our government does is prevaricate, by fudging, obfuscating and misrepresenting the truth, the revelation of which is crystal clear in the Downing Street memo regarding the Iraq war. A disclosure that makes it evident that our government has little concern for the harm or death to innocent civilians or to the warriors we send into harm’s way that their decision will cause. “Behind the fear-mongering, flag-waving and lies of George W. Bush and the blandishments of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama lies the ugly reality that our leaders have been seduced by political ambition, delusions of military superiority, and the promise of secrecy and impunity to commit otherwise unthinkable crimes.”

This is not new or particular to our current conflicts. From The Idler, 1758, Samuel Johnson recognized this ultimate failure of truth, wherein he said, "Among the calamities of war may be justly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates, and credulity encourages,”
[3] prompting US senator, Hiram Johnson in 1918, regarding World War I, to truncate that quote by saying, "The first casualty when war comes is truth." And, he said, "the war warps us, distorts our judgment, and destroys our sense of justice, and our ideals.” [4]

History is replete with accounts of lies, deceit, and misinformation by our government in order to motivate Americans to accept war as the only alternative. Here are some examples:

Abraham Lincoln’s motive behind the Civil War was not to free the slaves; instead, his concern was solely the secession of the South from the Union. [5] When Lincoln said, “Freedom is the last, best hope of earth,” he meant freedom for white people, not for the poor or people of color.

Most Americans are under the mistaken impression that without provocation the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. However, the fact is that through increasing stringent economic sanctions, and other measures, and dismissing Japanese diplomatic overtures to repair relations, the United States intentionally provoked the Japanese. It put Japan in an untenable position, which the United States hoped would cause an incident that would bring the United States into Europe’s war with Germany, with whom Japan was an ally. It worked, and as a result of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and our consequential declaration of war on Japan, on December 11, 1941, Hitler declared war on the United States.

The Vietnam War’s “Tonkin incident,” and “Operation Menu: the secret bombing of Cambodia and Laos”; the infamous “Five O'clock Follies” at the Rex Hotel, in what was then Saigon, where in press conference briefings reporters were given inflated enemy body counts
[7], as well as other fudging, obfuscations and misrepresentations throughout the war.

In John Nichols review of David Swanson’s book “War Is A Lie” he ends with two footnotes:

“War comes because of the lies that are told to prepare for and justify it”;

“War (make that ‘wars’) ends when we the people stop accepting those lies from war presidents, war publicists and war profiteers.”

The title of the last chapter of “War Is A Lie” is “War Is Over If You Want It.” Many of us want it, but our bump in the road is American gullibility.


[1] David Swanson, “War Is A Lie,”

[2] John Nichols,
War Is A Lie,

[3] Wikipedia contributors. The Idler (1758–1760). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. March 30, 2010, 15:37 UTC. Available at: Accessed February 21, 2011.

[4] Lawrence W. Levine,
The “Diary” of Hiram Johnson,

[5] Thomas J. DiLorenzo, The Lincoln Cult's Latest Cover-Up,

[6] Robert Higgs,
How U.S. Economic Warfare Provoked Japan’s Attack on Pearl Harbor,

[7] Tom Engelhardt, Tomgram: Engelhardt, Epitaph from the Imperial Graveyard,

Other related material:

The Real News,
War is a Lie, video: