Memorial Day- A time for honor and glory or truth and reconciliation?

Abu Ghraib This is an essay I have wanted to write for some time, but have never felt confident that I had the words to accurately express my thoughts and feelings. I have looked for other authors who could state the ideas more clearly and succinctly than I can, but having found none, I have decided to take the risk and try to express the idea myself.

On this memorial day, I have a great deal of difficulty honoring and paying tribute to people who have engaged in immoral, unethical, and perhaps even criminal behavior. I am talking about soldiers who willingly and readily engaged in the killing in the immoral wars in Viet Nam and Iraq. Participating in the immoral wars of empire is not an honorable or moral activity. The defense that the soldier is “only doing their job”, and “just following orders” is the same as the German soldiers who transported the Jewish people and manned the crematoriums during the Holocaust. This defense was judged to be inadequate in the Nuremberg trials after World War II and it is not adequate for our soldiers immoral activity in a war of imperial conquest now.

There are courageous and heroic people who objected to the criminal activity and said “Hell no, I won’t go!”, and who rejected further service. I call these soldiers, “Soldiers of conscience” because they have reflected on the activities they were being ordered to participate in and judged them immoral and objectionable and at great personal sacrifice said so and refused to participate. They're people of conscience I admire, honor, and respect and yet the majority of Americans seem embarrassed by them because they force us as a nation to examine our nation’s policies and activities and we are conflicted and ashamed. It is another example of the classic case of the little boy saying to his mother, “The king has no clothes on!” and she tells her son to “Hush up!” because she fears the reprisal and retribution for his honesty.

As a therapist, I hypothesize that a great deal of what gets diagnosed as PTSD is a case of overwhelmingly guilty consciences at what was done, or what was seen done, and what was participated in, and yet there is no socially acceptable mechanism for individual soldiers and us, as a nation, to confess our sins, acknowledge our guilt, ask for forgiveness, and repent. This spiritually cleansing strategy has been labeled by the current Republicans and conservative pundits as “cut and run”. And yet it is much more psychological and spiritually healthy to call a spade a spade, take the bull by the horns, determine the nature and degree of harm done, and attempt to rectify and repair the harm.

Our current political climate and culture is too imbued with hubris to admit mistakes, take responsibility for immoral and illegal behavior, admit wrongs done, and apologize and make amends. So the iconic images and ideas of Abu Ghraib and Guantanomo, of extraordinary rendition, of deceit in justifying a pursuit to war, makes us as a nation hide our shame by sporting yellow “support the troops” magnetic ribbons on our cars and pretend that memorial day is a day to celebrate the heroic sacrifices of the activities of soldiers who have engaged in immoral, illegal, and unethical acts in our name.

We do no service to ourselves and to them when we lie and deceive ourselves and others about the horror we have inflicted on Iraq, Viet Nam, and other people’s around the world.

As Nuremberg trials concluded, at the end of the day, the individual conscience is supreme and to excuse one’s moral choices saying “ I was serving my country” or “I was following the orders of the Commander in Chief” is no defense.

When we look at the indicators of mental health among our soldiers: the rates of PTSD and other psychiatric problems, the suicide rates, the dysfunction among military families, I have to ask myself on Memorial Day, who is kidding who? If this activity is so grand and noble why the terrible psychic sequelae?

We have allowed ourselves as a nation to follow a delusional administration, and a dysfunctional congress into engaging in a pre-emptive, immoral, and illegal war. As Michael Moore pointed out on Larry King live over 100 million Americans, about 1/3 of the voting public knew the war was wrong. Millions more around the world knew the war was wrong. The United States essentially declared war alone with many more nations being unwilling than the touted few who were willing. The Pope and other major religious leaders around the world declared the war immoral. How can this be the occasion for honor and tribute? It will only make us crazier. It is better to call sin what it is – sin, and then go from there.

I honor the prophets, like the little boy who saw that the emperor had no clothes on, and thank them for their enlightened witnessing when those in power and the “moral majority” who support them have lost their way.

This Memorial Day should be a day of reflection and repentance. Let’s stop glorifying and honoring what is morally ugly. Let’s provide opportunities for truth and reconciliation instead of military jingoism and chauvanism. What many of our soldiers need is moral cleansing, along with our leaders, and then maybe it wouldn’t be necessary for them to kill themselves and go nuts.

Here is video with Darrell Anderson who is one veteran whom I admire and honor very much. The video lasts a little over 4 minutes and is worth every second.

Martin Luther King, Jr. killed forty years ago today spoke truth to power about America's "spiritual death" from its war mongering

In, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech against war he rebukes his own government of the United States. Would that we Americans had learned his lessons. He, indeed, is a prophet, largely ignored, and killed forty years ago today on April 4, 1968. Often sentimentalized in politically correct ways while ignoring his deeper beliefs, values, and messages.

The video only lasts about 2 1/2 minutes. It sends chills up my spin to listen to him and watch this video.

60th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Udhr While President Bush and his administration disingenuously tell the American people that the terrorists hate Americans for their freedoms, very few Americans know about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was agreed to and promulgated by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948.

This year is the 60th anniversary celebration of this declaration.

There are many web sites devoted to the Declaration and a good place to start is the article on Wikipedia.

It seems hypocritical for the Bush administration to be talking about freedom when this administration has engaged in war crimes perpetrating a pre-emptive and immoral war on false pretenses, engaged in torture against the principles of the Geneva Convention, thrown out Habeas Corpus, engaged in illegal surveillance activities on its own citizens, utilized extraordinary rendition, refused to participate in the International Court, the Kyoto treaty, and the list goes on.

It would be a positive step forward if the next President and his or her administration fully supported Universal Human Rights. Do you know where your favored candidate stands on this topic?

Link: UDHR - 60th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights - Home.

An Honorable Exit from Iraq - An ethical plan based on justice

In the Fall, 2007 issue of YES magazine, Poka Laenui describes the most rational, ethical, and probably effective exit strategy from Iraq. Basically, his plan says that the U.S. must apologize for its illegal and immoral war. The United States should not attempt "to win" in its war against Iraq because there is no victory to be had. It should change its strategy to being just.

Poka writes in part:

The United States should not win in its war against Iraq. It should change its strategy to being just.

The United States was wrong to attack Iraq. Possession of weapons of mass destruction is not a justification, moreover Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Toppling Saddam Hussein is no justification; the imposition by a stronger nation of its political preference for the running of another nation’s government has never been a legitimate basis for attack.

Every justification for the attack by the United States against Iraq leads to the same conclusion: the United States acted as an international delinquent, a violator of Iraqi sovereignty, and an international threat to peace.

So how could one even entertain the notion of winning a war for which there is no justification?

He then lays out a 7 point plan which is worth reading. Click on the link below to go to his article.

Link: Commentary: An Honorable Exit from Iraq by Poka Laenui.

The Amish Of Nickel Mines, PA most inspiring person of 2006

The Amish of Nickel Mines, PA were choses the most inspiring person of 2006 by for their radical forgiveness of the man who killed 5 of the 10 children he shot in their school house.

With an act of radical forgiveness, a grieving community showed the world an alternative response to violence.

Would that our politicians and more of our fellow citizens could do the same, we would be living in quite a different country and world.

Link: beliefnet: Most Inspiring Person of 2006 Winners: The Amish of Nickel Mines, Pa..

The Attica Rebellion, 35 year anniversary.

Attica_rebellion This week America will be pre-occupied with the fifth annivesay of 9/11, but there is also, this week, the 35th anniversary of the Attica Prison Rebellion. I remember the day well on September 13, 1971 when Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered the retaking of the prison in which New York State Troopers killed 45 people in D yard in cold blooded murder. None of the hostages or prisoners killed that day were killed by inmates, but by New York State employees. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.

The state has never apologized to inmate families or correction officer families for the atrocity committed that day although small reparations have been made. Correction Officer families have been treated dispicably by the state. For their story click here.


The National Radio Project produces a radio show called Making Contact which has a brief, 29 minute program which aired on September 6, 2006, regarding the Attica Rebellion which you can listen to on line. It is well worth listening to. To go to the Making Contact web site to listen to the show click on the link below.Link: The Attica Rebellion.

The ugly under belly of America's racist past

Elizabetheckfordmob 49 years ago today, September 4, 1957, Elizabeth Eckford was blocked from becoming the first black student at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, called out the National Guard to block the school and on September 24, 1957, President Eisenhower sent in federal troops to enforce the law.

I was 11 years old at the time growing up in Brockport NY and feeling scared that I was living in a country where such hatred existed solely because of the color of a person's skin.

Terrorism was alive and well in the South in those days with blacks being killed along with white civil rights workers. This country has an ugly past which we should not forget as we attempt to intervene around the world. There are brave and courageous people among us who fight for justice which often are overlooked by history and from whose courage and sacrifices millions of people now benefit.

On 4th September, 1957, Elizabeth Eckford and eight other African American students attempted to enter Little Rock Central High School, a school that previously had only accepted white children. The governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, was determined to ensure that segregation did not take place and sent the National Guard to stop the children from entering the school.

On 24th September, 1957, President
Dwight Eisenhower, went on television and told the American people: "At a time when we face grave situations abroad because of the hatred that communism bears towards a system of government based on human rights, it would be difficult to exaggerate the harm that is being done to the prestige and influence and indeed to the safety of our nation and the world. Our enemies are gloating over this incident and using it everywhere to misrepresent our whole nation. We are portrayed as a violator of those standards which the peoples of the world united to proclaim in the Charter of the United Nations."

After trying for eighteen days to persuade
Orval Faubus to obey the ruling of the Supreme Court, Eisenhower decided to send federal troops to Arkansas to ensure that black children could go to Little Rock Central High School. The white population of Little Rock were furious that they were being forced to integrate their school and Faubus described the federal troops as an army of occupation. Elizabeth Eckford and the eight other African American children at the school suffered physical violence and constant racial abuse. Parents of four of the children lost their jobs because they had insisted in sending them to a white school. Eventually Orvel Faubus decided to close down all the schools in Little Rock.

For more information, click on the link below.

Link: Elizabeth Eckford.

America's own home grown terrorists.

Most intelligent, thinking Americans are well aware by now that the so called "War On Terror" is a 1984 political strategy to manipulate the populice of the United States.

Easily forgotten is the other "war on terror" which Southern Whites perpetrated on African Americans and anyone else who would challenge their system of segregation. Today, August 21, Samuelbowers 2006 is the 8th anniversary of the conviction of Samuel Bowers in Hattisburg Mississippi, the former Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan, an American organization committed to controling the population with terror, for the killing of Vernon Dahmer, a civil rights activist in 1966, by fire bombing his home. It took 32 years for the State of Mississippi to finally bring to justice this terrorist.

Dahmers_homeFor a more detailed description of the atrocity and the trial click on the link below to take you to an article written by Sandra Peters for United Methodist Women.

Link: 32 Years to Justice.

World justice through mechanisms like the International Criminal Court and the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions

The Radio Show, A World Of Possibilities, had a great show on 04/04/06 entitled "Bringing Tyrants To Justice: War Crimes On Trial"

The United States is one of the few countries which has not agreed to participate in the International Criminal Court because of fear that it would be possibly brought before the court for prosecution for war crimes.

Over 100 other countries have agreed to participate in the International Criminal Court as a way of bringing mass murderers to justice. If a person kills one other person, they will be brought to trial and if found guilty sentenced to possibly life in prison or perhaps even execution if you live in the United States which still uses capital punishment unlike most other countries of the world, but if a war lord or head of state kills thousands or hundreds of thousands of people they may well retire to an ocean side resort like Papa Doc from Haiti or Idi Amin from Uganda or George Bush from the United States.

The program also discusses other ways for justice to be pursued in the face of atrocities such as various truth telling tribunals and the truth and reconciliation commission in South Africa.

This program is well worth listening to. It puts United States history and policy in a world wide context and makes it more understandable why United States foreign relations have deteriorated so badly over the last 6 years.

To listen to the show click on the link below.

Link: "A World of Possibilities" Program Details.

Big Brother Is Watching You, How About You Watching Big Brother?

The PBS show NOW had a great show last night, April 21, 2006, on Witness, a human rights program co-founded by singer, songwriter, musician, Peter Gabriel to film human rights abuses around the world.

After achieving fame as a singer, Gabriel helped set up Witness, a Brooklyn-based organization that trains human rights advocates to use video cameras, provided by the group, to document abuses around the world. Their motto: 'See it, film it, change it.'

The old saying is "Seeing is believing" and providing witness to situations of oppression, subjugation, injustice, and abuse is a first step in positive change. It seems that governments around the world are increasingly using video cameras to keep its populations under surveillance whether its on a city street, in stores, in schools, and on school buses. It seems that increasingly citizens are now documenting governmental abuse and malfeasance as often as criminal activity of citizens is being documented by government. And which is worse?

Click on the link below to visit the NOW web site to learn more about Witness.

Link: NOW. Politics & Economy. In Your Eyes | PBS.