Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What makes me a liberal?

I had a discussion about where traditional conservatives and liberals agree and disagree. Out of it came the question of what separates us. After much thought I decided that a description of my beliefs may help explain why I am a liberal. What I write is not intended to be insulting to people with different beliefs.

In one short paragraph:

It is easy to treat those who deserve it humanely. It is how we treat those who don't deserve it that measures our humanity.

The decision of who deserves what is individual. Your opinion and mine will likely be different. At some point enough people agree on what people deserve, and it becomes a societal value. In our society laws are supposed to reflect this societal value. If the law and our societal value are not in alignment then the law needs changing.

There are some values that are the basis of our form of government and these are spelled out in our Constitution. This is important. Our religious beliefs affect our personal values, and as such our laws tend to reflect our collective religious values. But, the Constitution puts a limit on this specifically to protect the values of the minority.

My discussion here is religious, but not based upon a belief in a superior power. My beliefs are religious, based on a belief in humanity and in life. Religious beliefs cannot be debated because they are the foundation and assumption upon which our opinions and (hopefully) actions are based.

Restating my belief statement above, and paraphrasing a great man, what you do unto the least of these you do unto humanity.

It is easy to treat those who deserve it humanely.

It is trivial to say it is easy to not hit a stranger in the face for no reason. Providing first aid is a humane act. Helping people less fortunate or who have suffered a crisis is a humane act.

I do not want to trivialize the sacrifices made by people when they help out some deserving person. Easy is relative. I am very glad that some of our injured troops are getting aid they need, but that our government hasn't provided (and therefore not deserving under my definition). The outpouring of aid after a natural disaster is great to see. These are real sacrifices made in time, money, emotional wellbeing, etc. Humane acts can even cause long term or permanent harm to the giver such as nightmares, injury, or even death. But, these are people in good standing in the eye of the person acting humanely. To exemplify what I mean by “easy” is relative I will use an extreme case. Putting yourself in harm’s way to save a friend's life is easier that taking the same action to save someone who has repeatedly harmed you.

It is how we treat those who don't deserve it that measures our humanity.

Continuing with my example, though I disagree with the morality of war, a soldier who risks his life to save the life of an enemy is acting with great humanity.

We make errors. When we decide that someone doesn't deserve something it is normally because they have done something, or belong to some group. In World War II we decided that people of Japanese descent did not deserve to live in society. Clearly that was an error. We acted inhumanely. It would have been humane to let those we felt undeserving to continue their lives in society at large. We cannot give back the years lost. As reflected by our actions, we still believe that they do not deserve full compensation for their economic loss.

There are those who got what they deserved and lost much more. On May 4th, 1990 we executed Jesse Joseph Talero. We gave him what he deserved. There is a problem. He was innocent. The only reason we know about him is that his partner Sunny "Sonia" Jacobs was later exonerated. And if you think we execute humanely, Jesse didn't die on the first attempt to electrocute him, but rather his head caught fire. When his teenage daughter heard about the pain her father went through she attempted suicide. Our humanity was measured when we killed him.

These are cases where we gave people what they deserved only to change our minds later. What about when we haven't changed our minds?

I have frequently thought and said that I hope I don't get what I deserve. I have what I have because I am white, I live in a rich country, and I have been lucky. I have done little to warrant more than those in the favelas of Rio. Our condition in life is more based upon chance than anything we have done. Keep that in mind. Most of the people we label through our laws as undeserving are undeserving by chance.

Society has made decisions about what the people listed here deserve, and it is upon this that our humanity is measured. I have selected issues that generally separate liberal and conservative thought.

Undocumented people living in our society do not deserve to live in it.

We deserve to live here even though our descendent came here undocumented.

Some employed people, and those making a good income deserve preventative health care.

Unemployed, lower incomes, etc. deserve emergency room care only.

Sometimes if you kill someone or several people you deserve to die.

Sometimes you can kill hundreds, thousands, or even millions but you don't deserve to die.

If your parents make enough money you deserve food on the table.

I could go on, but the point is made. Our humanity is measured by how our society takes care of these people. And this is reflected in our laws.

Humanitarian help outside of government is good, but it will never replace governmental help. Otherwise homelessness and hunger would already be eliminated and everyone would get preventative medical care. To say that this isn't the roll of government is to say that some people are more deserving of basic needs than others based primarily on chance.

This is why I'm a liberal.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Almost every single year of my life the U.S. has been involved in military action in a foreign country. In most cases the county has natural gas or oil, even when it is humanitarian aid (see Haiti). In only one case that I know of was our action specifically stated as involving oil, so the evidence is in the pattern. (Note: I am not stating that every conflict involves countries with oil reserves.)

Before I start going through the conflicts I want to comment about "One nation under God". Under god was added in 1954 as a Cold War reaction to communism. We have a long history of believing that we have some God given rights or missions not granted to others, as evidenced by our "manifest destiny" to steal land from it inhabitants, or the Monroe Doctrine. Adding God to our money, and to our pledge feeds into this. THIS IS WRONG AND DANGEROUS. WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO ANYTHING OUTSIDE OUR BORDERS. WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO FORCEFULLY DEFEND OUR BUSINESS INTERESTS IN OTHER COUNTRIES. To claim otherwise is imperialism.

That last statement is important enough to expand upon. Suppose we freeze assets belonging to the business interests of another country. Does that country have the right to attack us? Does that country have the right to form a coalition of countries to attack us? If so, Palestine and all its allies have that right. (Remember, on votes regarding Israel and Palestine there are numerous times the vote was the whole world against the U.S. and Israel.)

Now, here are the military actions I am aware of in my life. I've excluded action within our own borders.

The format is Nation; Year(s); Oil reserves. Comments are on the next line(s).

PHILIPPINES; 1948-54; 168,000,000 bbl
The CIA directs war against Huk Rebellion.

PUERTO RICO; 1950; (No oil reserves)
US provided Command Operations. Independence rebellion crushed in Ponce.

KOREA; 1951-53 (-?); (No oil reserves)
Sent Troops, naval, bombed, threatened nuclear.
U.S./So. Korea fights China/No. Korea to stalemate. The threat of using the A-bomb threat in 1950, and against China in 1953. We still have bases.

IRAN; 1953; 137,600,000,000 bbl
CIA overthrows democracy, installs Shah.

VIETNAM; 1954; 4,700,000,000 bbl
French offered bombs to use against siege.

GUATEMALA; 1954; 83,070,000 bbl
CIA directs exile invasion after new gov't nationalized U.S. company lands; bombers based in Nicaragua.

EGYPT; 1956; 4,300,000,000 bbl
Soviets told to keep out of Suez crisis; Marines evacuate foreigners; threaten nuclear.

LEBANON; 1958; (No oil reserves)
Army & Marine occupation against rebels.

IRAQ; 1958; 115,000,000,000 bbl
Iraq warned against invading Kuwait. Nuclear threatened.

CHINA; 1958; 20,350,000,000 bbl
China told not to move on Taiwan isles. Nuclear threatened

PANAMA; 1958; (No oil reserves)
Flag protests erupt into confrontation.

VIETNAM; 1960-75; 4,700,000,000 bbl
Fought South Vietnam revolt & North Vietnam; one million killed; atomic bomb threats in l968 and l969.

CUBA; 1961; 178,900,000 bbl
CIA-directed exile invasion fails.

GERMANY; 1961; 276,000,000 bbl
Alert during Berlin Wall crisis. Nuclear use threatened.

LAOS; 1962; (No oil reserves)
Provided military command during the military buildup during guerrilla war.

CUBA; 1962; 178,900,000 bbl
Blockade during missile crisis; near-war with Soviet Union.

IRAQ; 1963; 115,000,000,000 bbl
CIA organizes coup that killed president, brings Ba'ath Party to power, and Saddam Hussein back from exile to be head of the secret service.

PANAMA; 1964; (No oil reserves)
Panamanians shot for urging canal's return.

INDONESIA; 1965; 4,050,000,000 bbl
Million killed in CIA-assisted army coup.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC; 1965-66; (No oil reserves)
Army & Marines land during election campaign.

GUATEMALA; 1966-67; 83,070,000 bbl
Green Berets intervene against rebels.

CAMBODIA; 1969-75; (No oil reserves)
Up to 2 million killed in decade of bombing, starvation, and political chaos.

OMAN; 1970; 5,500,000,000 bbl
U.S. directs Iranian marine invasion.

LAOS; 1971-73; (No oil reserves)
U.S. directs South Vietnamese invasion; "carpet-bombs" countryside.

MIDEAST; 1973; (Multiple nations with reserves)
World-wide alert during Mideast War. Nuclear action threatened.

CHILE; 1973; 150,000,000 bbl
CIA-backed coup ousts elected marxist president.

CAMBODIA; 1975; (No oil reserves)
Gassing of captured ship Mayag├╝ez, 28 troops die when copter shot down.

ANGOLA; 1976-92; 13,500,000,000 bbl
CIA assists South African-backed rebels.

IRAN; 1980; 137,600,000,000 bbl
Raid to rescue Embassy hostages; 8 troops die in copter-plane crash. Soviets warned not to get involved in revolution.

LIBYA; 1981; 47,000,000,000 bbl
Two Libyan jets shot down in maneuvers.

EL SALVADOR; 1981-92 (No oil reserves)
overflights aid anti-rebel war, soldiers briefly involved in hostage clash

NICARAGUA; 1981-90; (No oil reserves)
CIA directs exile (Contra) invasions, plants harbor mines against revolution.

LEBANON; 1982-84; (No oil reserves)
Marines expel PLO and back Phalangists, Navy bombs and shells Muslim positions. 241 Marines killed when Shi'a rebel bombs barracks.

GRENADA; 1983-84; (N0 oil reserves)
Invasion four years after revolution.

HONDURAS; 1983-89; (N0 oil reserves)
Maneuvers help build bases near borders.

IRAN; 1984; 137,600,000,000 bbl
Two Iranian jets shot down over Persian Gulf.

LIBYA; 1986; 47,000,000,000 bbl
Air strikes to topple nationalist gov't.

BOLIVIA; 1986; 465,000,000 bbl
Army assists raids on cocaine region.

IRAN; 1987-88; 137,600,000,000 bbl
US intervenes on side of Iraq in war.

LIBYA; 1989; 47,000,000,000 bbl
Two Libyan jets shot down.

VIRGIN ISLANDS; 1989; (No oil reserves)
St. Croix Black unrest after storm. We sent troops.

PHILIPPINES; 1989; 168,000,000 bbl
Air cover provided for government against coup.

PANAMA; 1989 (-?); (No oil reserves)
Nationalist government ousted by 27,000 soldiers, leaders arrested, 2000+ killed. We bombed

LIBERIA; 1990; (No oil reserves)
Foreigners evacuated during civil war.

SAUDI ARABIA; 1990-91; 264,600,000,000 bbl
Iraq countered after invading Kuwait. 540,000 troops also stationed in Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Israel.

IRAQ; 1990-91; 115,000,000,000 bbl
Blockade of Iraqi and Jordanian ports, air strikes; 200,000+ killed in invasion of Iraq and Kuwait; large-scale destruction of Iraqi military.

KUWAIT; 1991; 104,000,000,000 bbl
Kuwait royal family returned to throne.

IRAQ; 1991-2003; 115,000,000,000 bbl
No-fly zone over Kurdish north, Shiite south; constant air strikes and naval-enforced economic sanctions

SOMALIA; 1992-94; (No oil reserves)
U.S.-led United Nations occupation during civil war; raids against one Mogadishu faction.

YUGOSLAVIA; 1992-94 (No oil reserves)
NATO blockade of Serbia and Montenegro.

BOSNIA; 1993-?; (No oil reserves)
No-fly zone patrolled in civil war; downed jets, bombed Serbs.

HAITI; 1994; Suspected oil reserves
Blockade against military government; troops restore President Aristide to office three years after coup. Geophysicists believe it may have one of the worlds largest untapped reserve of oil and gas.

ZAIRE (CONGO); 1996-97; 1,600,000,000 bbl
Troops at Rwandan Hutu refugee camps, in area where Congo revolution begins.

LIBERIA; 1997; (No oil reserves)
Soldiers under fire during evacuation of foreigners.

ALBANIA; 1997; 199,100,000 bbl
Soldiers under fire during evacuation of foreigners.

SUDAN; 1998; 6,800,000,000 bbl
Attack on pharmaceutical plant alleged to be "terrorist" nerve gas plant.

AFGHANISTAN; 1998; Strategic location for oil pipeline
Attack on former CIA training camps used by Islamic fundamentalist groups alleged to have attacked embassies.
Borders Turkmenistan with the third largest natural gas reserves globally. Russia, China, and the US are all planning new pipelines, with the US plan going through Afghanistan.

IRAQ; 1998; 115,000,000,000 bbl
Four days of intensive air strikes after weapons inspectors allege Iraqi obstructions.

YUGOSLAVIA; 1999; (No oil reserves)
Heavy NATO air strikes after Serbia declines to withdraw from Kosovo. NATO occupation of Kosovo.

YEMEN; 2000; 3,000,000,000 bbl
USS Cole, docked in Aden, bombed.

MACEDONIA; 2001; (No oil reserves)
NATO forces deployed to move and disarm Albanian rebels.

AFGHANISTAN; 2001-?; Strategic location for oil pipeline
Massive U.S. mobilization to overthrow Taliban, hunt Al Qaeda fighters, install Karzai regime, and battle Taliban insurgency. More than 30,000 U.S. troops and numerous private security contractors carry our occupation.
Borders Turkmenistan with the third largest natural gas reserves globally. Russia, China, and the US are all planning new pipelines, with the US plan going through Afghanistan.

YEMEN; 2002; 3,000,000,000 bbl
Predator drone missile attack on Al Qaeda, including US citizens.

PHILIPPINES; 2002-?; 168,000,000 bbl
Training mission for Philippine military fighting Abu Sayyaf rebels evolves into combat missions in Sulu Archipelago, west of Mindanao.

COLOMBIA; 2003-?; 1,900,000,000 bbl
US special forces sent to rebel zone to back up Colombian military protecting oil pipeline.

IRAQ; 2003-?; 115,000,000,000 bbl
Saddam regime toppled in Baghdad. More than 250,000 U.S. personnel participate in invasion. US and UK forces occupy country and battle Sunni and Shi'ite insurgencies. More than 160,000 troops and numerous private contractors carry out occupation and build large permanent bases.

LIBERIA; 2003; (No oil reserves)
Brief involvement in peacekeeping force as rebels drove out leader.

HAITI; 2004-05; Suspected oil reserves
Marines & Army land after right-wing rebels oust elected President Aristide, who was advised to leave by Washington.
Geophysicists believe it may have one of the worlds largest untapped reserve of oil and gas. US refused landing rights to Venezuelan, Nicaraquan, Bolivian, French, and Swiss planes carrying medical supplies and water.

PAKISTAN; 2005-?; 436,200,000 bbl
CIA missile and air strikes and Special Forces raids on alleged Al Qaeda and Taliban refuge villages kill multiple civilians. Drone attacks also on Pakistani Mehsud network.

SOMALIA; 2006-?; (No oili reserves)
Special Forces advise Ethiopian invasion that topples Islamist government; AC-130 strikes, Cruise missile attacks and helicopter raids against Islamist rebels; naval blockade against "pirates" and insurgents.

SYRIA; 2008; 2,500,000,000 bbl
Special Forces in helicopter raid 5 miles from Iraq kill 8 Syrian civilians

YEMEN; 2009-?; 3,000,000,000 bbl
Cruise missile attack on Al Qaeda kills 49 civilians; Yemeni military assaults on rebels

HAITI; 2010-?; Suspected oil reserves
Post earthquake relief.
Geophysicists believe it may have one of the worlds largest untapped reserve of oil and gas. US refused landing rights to Venezuelan, Nicaraquan, Bolivian, French, and Swiss planes carrying medical supplies and water.

LIBYA; 2011 (?); 47,000,000,000 bbl
NATO coordinates air strikes and missile attacks against Qaddafi government during uprising by rebel army.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Carrying on the fight

For those who worked to save Troy Davis, we lost that struggle. Though I firmly believe he was innocent, I'm not writing about this case. I will start by honoring him.

Troy Davis proved himself a honorable and caring person, even when he was strapped to the gurney and knew his life would end in minutes. I don't know if I could forgive those who were about to unjustly kill me. He did, proving himself a hero. These are his last words as reported by the Associated Press.

"I'd like to address the MacPhail family. Let you know, despite the situation you are in, I'm not the one who personally killed your son, your father, your brother. I am innocent.

The incident that happened that night is not my fault. I did not have a gun. All I can ask ... is that you look deeper into this case so that you really can finally see the truth.

I ask my family and friends to continue to fight this fight.

For those about to take my life, God have mercy on your souls. And may God bless your souls."

I am not writing this as an English Lit exercise. I am writing in an attempt to create change. If you disagree with what I write I would love for you to comment stating exactly where we disagree. If you agree with my writing I would equally love for you to refer others to this page, especially those who disagree.

Capital Punishment

Capital punishment does not deter crime, executes innocent people, is expensive, and is immoral. Where I use the words of others I will give credit.

Capital punishment does not deter crime. (From Amnesty International)

A September 2000 New York Times survey found that during the last 20 years, the homicide rate in states with the death penalty has been 48 to 101 percent higher than in states without the death penalty.

FBI data shows that all 14 states without capital punishment in 2008 had homicide rates at or below the national rate.

The murder rate in non-Death Penalty states has remained consistently lower than the rate in States with the Death Penalty.

Overall National Murder Rates of Death Penalty and Non-Death Penalty States

The threat of execution at some future date is unlikely to enter the minds of those acting under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, those who are in the grip of fear or rage, those who are panicking while committing another crime (such as a robbery), or those who suffer from mental illness or mental retardation and do not fully understand the gravity of their crime

Capital punishment executes innocent people. (From Amnesty International)
Since 1973, over 130 people have been released from death rows throughout the country due to evidence of their wrongful convictions. In 2003 alone, 10 wrongfully convicted defendants were released from death row.

Examples of wrongful convictions:
Arizona: Ray Krone, released in 2002
  • Spent 10 years in prison in Arizona, including time on death row, for a murder he did not commit. He was the 100th person to be released from death row since 1973. DNA testing proved his innocence.

Illinois: Madison Hobley, Aaron Patterson, Stanley Howard and LeRoy Orange, pardoned in 2003
  • Sent to death row on the basis of "confessions" extracted through the use of torture by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and other Area 2 police officers in Chicago. They were pardoned by outgoing Governor George Ryan, who also commuted the remaining 167 death sentences in Illinois to life imprisonment.

North Carolina: Jonathon Hoffman, exonerated in 2007
  • Convicted and sentenced to death for the 1995 murder of a jewelry store owner. During Hoffman's first trial, the state's key witness, Johnell Porter, made undisclosed deals with the prosecutors for testifying against his cousin. Porter has since recanted his testimony, stating that he lied in order to get back at his cousin for stealing money from him.
Factors leading to wrongful convictions include:
  • Inadequate legal representation
  • Police and prosecutorial misconduct
  • Perjured testimony and mistaken eyewitness testimony
  • Racial prejudice
  • Jailhouse "snitch" testimony
  • Suppression and/or misinterpretation of mitigating evidence
  • Community/political pressure to solve a case
(My own words) Can anyone honestly say that, because some people were exonerated before being killed, that no innocent people were killed?

Capital punishment is expensive. (From Amnesty International.)
  • A 2003 legislative audit in Kansas found that the estimated cost of a death penalty case was 70% more than the cost of a comparable non-death penalty case. Death penalty case costs were counted through to execution (median cost $1.26 million). Non-death penalty case costs were counted through to the end of incarceration (median cost $740,000).(December 2003 Survey by the Kansas Legislative Post Audit)
  • In Tennessee, death penalty trials cost an average of 48% more than the average cost of trials in which prosecutors seek life imprisonment.
    (2004 Report from Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Office of Research)
  • In Maryland death penalty cases cost 3 times more than non-death penalty cases, or $3 million for a single case.
    (Urban Institute, The Cost of the Death Penalty in Maryland, March 2008)
  • In California the current sytem costs $137 million per year; it would cost $11.5 million for a system without the death penalty.
    (California Commission for the Fair Administration of Justice, July 2008)

The greatest costs associated with the death penalty occur prior to and during trial, not in post-conviction proceedings. Even if all post-conviction proceedings (appeals) were abolished, the death penalty would still be more expensive than alternative sentences.

Capital punishment is immoral.
I do not believe that "all my friends are doing it" is an excuse or a moral stance. But, when "all my friends" are making a moral decision, then I need to look at why they made that decision. With that in mind, here's a map of the world from Wikipedia showing where capital punishment is used and not used.

Abolished for all crimes
Abolished for crimes not committed in exceptional circumstances (such as crimes committed in time of war)
Abolished in practice
Legal form of punishment

Morality is individual. What I think is immoral, and what you think is immoral will likely be different. I will state some of the reasons I find capital punishment immoral. Each argument taken individually does not necessarily make capital punishment immoral. Similarly capital punishment is not moral just because you disagree with any argument.

Capital punishment is cruel to the accused, to the accused family, and to the victims family. The case of Troy Davis a good example. Troy's execution date was set four times. Four times Troy had to prepare to die, and four times both families had to prepare. This plays mental havoc on everyone. In the case of the victim's family, this delays when they can move on with their lives. Even in the case that their are no delay, capital punishment delays the healing process while the accused is on death row.

The race of the victim is more important in the decision to execute someone than the seriousness of the crime. This chart is from Amnesty International.

The assignment of the death penalty highly arbitrary. These are factors that contribute to the arbitrariness of the death penalty, including the previously mentioned factor of race. (From Amnesty International.)

  • Almost all death row inmates could not afford their own attorney at trial. Court-appointed attorneys often lack the experience necessary for capital trials and are overworked and underpaid. In the most extreme cases, some have slept through parts of trials or have arrived under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Prosecutors seek the death penalty far more frequently when the victim of a homicide is white than when the victim is African-American or of another ethnic/racial origin.
  • Co-defendants charged with committing the same crime often receive different punishments, where one defendant may receive a death sentence while another receives prison time.
  • Approximately two percent of those convicted of crimes that make them eligible for the death penalty actually receive a death sentence.
  • Each prosecutor decides whether or not to seek the death penalty. Local politics, the location of the crime, plea bargaining, and pure chance affect the process and make it a lottery of who lives and who dies.
  • GEOGRAPHIC ARBITRARINESS: Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, 80% of all executions have taken place in the South. The Northeast accounts for less than 2% of executions.

Executions by Region

(From Amnesty International)
The execution of those with mental illness or "the insane" is clearly prohibited by international law. Virtually every country in the world prohibits the execution of people with mental illness.
International Resolutions Year Excerpt
UN Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death Penalty 1984 " ...nor shall the death sentence be carried out... on persons who have become insane."
UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions 1997 Governments that continue to use the death penalty "with respect to minors and the mentally ill are particularly called upon to bring their domestic legislation into conformity with international legal standards."
UN Commission on Human Rights 2000 Urges all states that maintain the death penalty "not to impose it on a person suffering from any form of mental disorder; not to execute any such person."

The execution of the insane – someone who does not understand the reason for, or the reality of, his or her punishment - violates the U.S. Constitution (Ford v. Wainwright, 1986). The Ford decision left the determination of sanity up to each state. Constitutional protections for those with other forms of mental illness are minimal, however, and dozens of prisoners have been executed despite suffering from serious mental illness. The National Association of Mental Health has estimated that five to ten percent of those on death row have serious mental illness.

  • James Colburn had an extensive history of paranoid schizophrenia when he was arrested for murder. During his 1995 trial, Mr. Colburn received injections of Haldol, an anti-psychotic drug that can have a powerful sedative effect. A 1997 post-conviction assessment questioned Mr. Colburn's competency to stand trial at that time, finding he had been "seriously sedated during the time of his trial." He was executed March 26, 2003.
  • On January 6, 2004, the State of Arkansas executed Charles Singleton, who was said to be "seriously deranged without treatment" and "arguably incompetent with treatment." It was only during an episode of "drug-induced sanity" that the state scheduled his execution.
  • On May 18, 2004, Kelsey Patterson was executed in Texas although he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1981 and did not possess rational understanding at his trial.

The State of Texas ranks 46th out of the 50 U.S. states in terms of the amount of money spent per capita in the treatment of the mentally ill, including funds for mental health services in jails and prisons (News 8 Austin, April 21, 2003). It spends an average of $2.3 million to try a death penalty case. (Dallas Morning News, March 8, 1992).

(My own words) Texas executes over four time as many people as the second highest state.

In the words of Troy Davis, "I ask my family and friends to continue to fight this fight." I ask my family, my friends, and others to continue to fight this fight.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The failure of Violence

Several times I have written about how non-violent action works. Today I am writing about the failure of violence. This is not a moral discussion, though my belief in non-violence is a moral decision. This is about the reality of violence.

I will not go into the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in detail. What is important is that many people believe that their protracted fight was one of the major causes of the collapse of the USSR. Most importantly, Osama bin Laden fought with the Mujahideen, and believed that they brought down the empire. Osama only believed in Sharia Law and violently opposed socialism, communism, democracy, and pan-Arabism. After the collapse of the Soviet Union he turned his attention to the other great power, the U.S., and apparently believed he could cause its collapse also.

Prior to 2001 he made several attacks on us with minor successes, enough to be on the CIA most wanted list. Then on 9/11/2001 he made had his only major success.

Our response was predictable and violent. We attacked. We overthrew the Afghan government, and sent Al Qaeda up into the mountains. Now we have killed Osama bin Laden. We won.

Since 9/11 we have had many of our rights taken away. All Osama bin Laden has had to do is occasionally have someone make an attempt at a violent act, and it didn't even need to be successful. Each time more of our rights were taken away. We now can be "legally" sexually assaulted if we choose to fly. We have spent trillions of dollars fighting while our infrastructure deteriorates, education falls behind, and we brought down the world economy. Osama bin Laden won.

So, both sides won violently.

I see something else. I see two playground bullies trying to be the playground boss, and so intent on hurting each other that they don't even see that the playground has moved. Both of us became irrelevant.

When Tunisia revolted against their government they did it on their own. The Western World and Al Qaeda were not invited. Egypt was one of our proxy torturers. When they revolted we didn't get the invite, and neither did Al Qaeda. When Pakistan and Afghanistan met to work out a reconciliation agreement the U.S. wasn't at the table. And the new Egyptian government just helped broker an agreement between Hamas and Fatah that would re-unite Gaza and the West Bank. The U.S. wasn't there. Al Qaeda wasn't there. We are irrelevant.


Note: Libya is not an example contrary to my point. In Tunisia and Egypt the peaceful demonstrations were met with violent repression including being shot. The reaction of the people was to join in mass and peacefully. They won and it appears they threw off the imperial influence of the U.S. The Libyan people chose to rebel violently, and became dependent upon the imperialist in their struggle. Every case is different, and we don't know if peaceful demonstrations would have worked. I do know that because of their dependence upon external military force, if the rebellion is successful the external governments will have influence over their government and natural resources.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A proposal to amend the Constitution

Last week the Democrats and Republicans negotiated a budget. In that budget was a rider that prevented the 24th largest city in the U.S. from using locally collected taxes for a needle exchange, against the will of the city council provided a voucher program to fund students going to private schools, and restricted elective abortions. This was only possible because of a clause in the Constitution that give congress "exclusive legislation" over the District of Columbia.

This is an excerpt form Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;

It is outrageous and immoral that the Republicans used the budget of the D.C. as a pawn in the negotiations, and it is immoral that the Democrats allowed it. There is only one way to permanently protect the citizens for this abuse in the future; to amend the Constitution. Washington D.C. needs to be granted statehood. There are other reasons to take this action.

1. The original purpose of this clause in no longer valid. It was created to permit the federal government the power to provide their own protection from attack. In 1783 a mob of angry soldier attacked the Congress at Philadelphia leading James Madison to argue for this separate district.
2. The people of Washington D.C. are to a great extent disenfranchised, going against the very principal of the establishment of our government. The 23rd amendment gives them 3 electoral votes, but still do not have anyone in the congress.
3. They want statehood.
These first reasons are moral reasons. There are political reasons also.
4. In recent elections the district has voted overwhelmingly democratic.
5. Washington D.C. is similar to many inner cities, and as such tend to support progressive social issues. This is exemplified by the very items that our government took away from them. The Progressive Caucus is the largest caucus in the House of Representatives with 18.4% of all representatives belonging. There is a good chance that a representative from D.C. would join.

Some of the the arguments against allowing D.C. representation are these.
It is contrary to the Constitution. This argument ironically was used by G. W. Bush who clearly violated the constitution. But, this is why I propose the change be made to the Constitution.
It is too small to be given the full representation of statehood. This ignores that Wyoming has a smaller population, and no one suggests it is too small.
The Democratic party is accused of supporting this for self interest reasons. My short answer is "So?" This is clearly a self interest argument and suggesting it, especially after what was done in the budget, is hypocritical.

For both moral and political reasons, the Progressive Caucus and the Democratic Party should make the statehood of Washington D.C. an issue.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Restore Democracy

The title of the post is the name of the blog. I originated this blog because our democracy was under attack from within. I am writing this post because our democracy is under attack from within.

In my last post I questioned our action in Libya based only on Libya. I thought hard before I wrote"Was what we did better than doing nothing? I can't answer this question. " I have decided that I should explain that statement. I am personally unable to make a judgment that violence against one set of people is better than violence against another set of people. I believe in nonviolent action, even when opposing violence. Gandhi, Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr., the Egyptian uprising all did. I believe there was an action that was better than nothing, but I can't judge if our violent act was better.

I could go on, but this is about our country.

This is from our Constitution.

Article 1 - The Legislative Branch
Section 8 - Powers of Congress

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;


Obama did not consult with congress when he attacked Libya, yet very few people in congress are taking him to task for exceeding his constitutionally granted rights.

"This president has assumed power that no president, not even President Bush, has assumed." Rep. Kucinich

"... assumed power ... not even President Bush ..." We now have had a Republican and Democratic administration that have blatantly exceeded their granted powers with little opposition. We are losing, or have already lost the checks and balances built into the Constitution.

How did we get here!

"... we don’t hang on to the past. We always move forward ..." Pres. Obama

To paraphrase, don't look at how we got here. Don't investigate war crimes committed by the previous administration. Don't recognize how we got entangle in Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. Don't do anything that could hinder his goal of raising over $750,000,000 for his presidential reelection. Don't alienate big business. Don't represent the people, but rather represent the corporate interests.

I am using only one example of how we have already lost our representative government. I could have used many examples of our governments at all levels going against the wishes of the people. I could have used the efforts, some successful to completely privatize local governments. I could have used the laws being passed that remove the right of unions to collect campaign money from members. I could have used the arbitrary arrest of reporters during the last presidential campaign, later to have charges dropped. I could have used the criminal system where blacks are arrested for loitering and then become the new slaves. I used the author of Audacity of Hope who has had the audacity to raise our hope and expectation with flowery words, then crush them while expecting the perfume of the words to hide his deceit.

When the village idiot tried to act like Emperor Bush he surrounded himself with clever crooks, and I knew that much of our democracy was pawned to the rich. Emperor Obama has now institutionalized lawless government and I question the very existence of government controlled by the Constitution.

I don't question the ability of the people to take back our constitutional government. But, it takes the will of the people, something I just don't see in great enough numbers. Therefore it takes each of us educating those around us, especially those that want to remain ignorant as to what is happening. Personally, for the most part I don't challenge their misconceptions. It will start a possibly fun debate, but it will not change their mind. I just provide them with facts they were unaware of. I show them that they have been getting poorer since "trickle down economics" started. I show them that the rich have been getting richer during the same time period. At another time I will tell them that only 10% of the money pledged to Haiti has been released for reconstruction.

Again I could go on. The point is a democracy works with an educated public, and if you want democracy you need to do your part to educate.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

To do nothing is unthinkable, to do something may by worse

The history of the Gaddafi regime supports the belief that his armed forces had been and were going to commit a massacre in order to preserve his reign. It was therefore unthinkable for the rest of the world to do nothing. But, as a pacifist and humanitarian I can't help but think about those dying by our hands.

We don't know anything about the man in this tank except that he was fighting on Gaddafi's side. Why was he fighting? Did he support Gaddafi? Was he a military contractor trying to earn some money? Was he forced to fight? (Remember, we use military contractors, and we force our military members to fight even when they disagree.)

Did this soldier have a wife? Was he a father? Is a mother, father, or sibling morning the loss?

Was what we did better than doing nothing? I can't answer this question.

On Tuesday's DemocracyNow! there was a debate between University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole and University of Trinity Professor Vijay Prashad. I encourage you to listen to it.

I have one last issue that was not brought up in the debate. Why is NATO providing command? Egypt, part of the Arab League has a strong military and competent command. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, also part of the Arab League are patrolling the skies over Libya. Does it take a Western power to take command? Is it a disrespect to expect Arab nations to follow commands from NATO, but not to consider NATO following their commands?

I have not discussed the monetary cost to the U.S., and do not believe it should be a consideration.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Pop Quiz

OK class. We are going to have a current events quiz. Please take out a piece of paper and a pencil.

Are we ready? Good.

First question: Recently in Egypt reporters covering peaceful demonstrations were arrested and beating, then later released without charge. What country's administration condemned Egypt, yet in 2008 at peaceful demonstrations slammed reporters to the ground, arrested them, and later released them without charge?

Second question: Where is there an effort to outlaw public sector workers from organizing, and the government has threatened to call in the military to stop peaceful demonstrations?

Third question: This past weekend a reporter covering the rebuilding of schools in Haiti returned to his native country. Upon entry he was held for several hours as every paper he had was photocopied, a copy was made of his complete laptop hard drive, and the contents of camera flash cards were duplicated. What nationality was that reporter?

Fourth and final question: What part of the world have there been large mass protests to stop and prevent abuses like those in the previous questions?

Trade papers with the person next to you, and lets go over the answers.

Question 1. The U.S.. Secretary Clinton recently condemned Egypt for their treatment of the media, but at both the Democratic and Republican conventions in 2008 reporters were targeted by the police. At the Republican convention at least one reporter had his nose bloodied during his arrest. All charges were later dropped. Though the abuse was not as bad as Egypt, there was an organized effort to suppress the media.

Question 2. You get two point if you wrote Wisconsin, and one point if you said the U.S.. The governor of Wisconsin is trying to get a law passed that would eliminate most public sector workers' collective bargaining rights. Excluded from the law are law enforcement and fire fighters, the two labor groups that supported him in his last election. He has threatened to call out the national guard to stop protests against this action.

Question 3. American. When the plane landed everyone was told to have their passports available as they left the plane. When independent journalist Brandon Jourdan left two immigration workers grabbed him and took him to a room where he was held, questioned, and his information copied. He was the only person on the flight to have this treatment. His treatment is not unique. Reporters and lawyers working abroad often are treated this way.

Question 4: Inspired by the success of Tanzania and Egypt there are protest in many Middle Eastern countries.

Now, back to me, Stanford.

We do not have it as bad as people Tanzania, Egypt, Palestine, and many other nations with oppressive regimes. But, we are losing our rights, and losing them at a great rate.

Our government is suppressing the freedom of press by harassing reporters, arresting reporters covering demonstrations, and now attempting to cut funds for public and independent media.

Our government is copying the files of lawyers returning to this country, including ones getting evidence for the defense. This is denying defendants their full rights.

Our government claims the right to kidnap people including U.S. citizens (extrajudicial rendition) and even to assassinate U.S. citizens overseas without trial.

AT&T spits all communications going through the San Francisco switch, and possibly others, giving our government a copy of all communications without a search warrant. This includes all conversations, emails, text messages, etc. They claim to "only" keep communications with one party overseas. First, there is no oversight, and what gives them that right?

I could continue, but the point is made. If we allow this trend to continue, our government could become one of the oppressive regimes. It is therefore imperative that we follow the lead of Tanzania, Egypt, and others, and protest. Nonviolent protests work! Is has been proven! The costs are high, and people will die. That is also proven.

I do not suggest or support the overthrow of a government, except in the most extreme cases. I do suggest restoring our constitutional government, and adding security to insure that never again will our government become the bullies of the world. I do suggest prosecuting governmental leaders that have violated the law, giving them the right to a fair trail that they have denied to others.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

50 Years Ago Today

This is the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's inauguration. On that day a superb orator gave his only inaugural address. Three days earlier the outgoing President Eisenhower gave his farewell address, and warned a nation of the danger inherent in our growing "military industrial complex". I recommend listening to these. Listen to these leaders at the dawn of the tumultuous 1960s. Listen for the similarities and the contrast.

President Eisenhower's Farewell Address
President Kennedy's Inaugural Address

As important historically as these two event were, I want to take you back to November 2, 1960. After the polls closed father took me down to the polling station as they started the vote count. The ballot boxes were opened, and more than one person looked at each ballot as the votes were counted. We did not stay for the whole count, but I saw enough to see democracy in action. I saw people insuring that each vote was counted, and counted fairly. Fairness was more important than result, and fairness was more important than speed.

By the time I voted the count was being done mechanically, and the results were provide to the nation quickly. Something is lost in the almost instant results. No longer can a 10 year old watch neighbors taking responsibility for the continuation of our form of government.

In addition the controversies and fraud of the 2000 and 2004 elections would not have happened with the slow methodical count. I do not claim that our elections were fair prior to electronic voting. Our history is filled with denying groups the vote be it race, economic standing, or gender. But, without mechanical counts there would have been no hanging chads in 2000. Without electronic voting there would have been no possibility for "man in the middle" fraud in 2004.

I believe that this country needs to get back to 100% paper ballots and 100% hand counting. I believe that the majority of accessibility issues could be addressed while still providing a hand counted ballot. I believe that these steps would strengthen our election process.

I hope you spend about a half hour listening to the two addresses linked above.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King Jr.

It takes a truly brave person to put his life on the line every day for what he or she believes. It take a special hero to then stand up and speak the truth when you know it will turn many of your supporters against you. One year to the day before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated he did exactly that. Not only did the government turn against him, 55% of Blacks and 75% of the public did also.

MLK mortally wounded
As we honor this man today we need to remember not just the man with a dream, but the man who anger so many supporters.

This is the speech that he gave on April 4th, 1967. I have copied the complete text, including the requests to link to the site of origin. All pictures are my addition. All of them are from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan except for the 1967 protest and the flag.

Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence

By Rev. Martin Luther King
4 April 1967

Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City

[Please put links to this speech on your respective web sites and if possible, place the text itself there. This is the least well known of Dr. King's speeches among the masses, and it needs to be read by all]

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don't mix, they say. Aren't you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church -- the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate -- leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.

Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

The Importance of Vietnam

Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years -- especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

For those who ask the question, "Aren't you a civil rights leader?" and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of America." We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission -- a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for "the brotherhood of man." This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men -- for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the "Vietcong" or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

Finally, as I try to delineate for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.

This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

Strange Liberators

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them too because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation, and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony.

Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not "ready" for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination, and a government that had been established not by China (for whom the Vietnamese have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that included some Communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam.

Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of the reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization.

After the French were defeated it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva agreements. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators -- our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords and refused even to discuss reunification with the north. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by U.S. influence and then by increasing numbers of U.S. troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem's methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change -- especially in terms of their need for land and peace.

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy -- and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us -- not their fellow Vietnamese --the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go -- primarily women and children and the aged.

They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one "Vietcong"-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them -- mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation's only non-Communist revolutionary political force -- the unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators?

Now there is little left to build on -- save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these? Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These too are our brothers.

Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front -- that strangely anonymous group we call VC or Communists? What must they think of us in America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the south? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of "aggression from the north" as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.

How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent Communist and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will have no part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them -- the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new violence?

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

So, too, with Hanoi. In the north, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which would have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again.

When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered. Also it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva agreements concerning foreign troops, and they remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.

Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard of the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the north. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor weak nation more than eight thousand miles away from its shores.

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless on Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor.

This Madness Must Cease

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours.The initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words:

"Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism."

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.

The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.

In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

  1. End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.
  2. Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.
  3. Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.
  4. Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and in any future Vietnam government.
  5. Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva agreement.

Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We most provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary.

Protesting The War

Meanwhile we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative means of protest possible.

As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them our nation's role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is the path now being chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military "advisors" in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken -- the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. n the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove thosse conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.

The People Are Important

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light." We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every moutain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain."

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept -- so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force -- has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says : "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word."

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The "tide in the affairs of men" does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out deperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on..." We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world -- a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter -- but beautiful -- struggle for a new world. This is the callling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God's new Messiah,
Off'ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.

Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet 'tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.

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