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Wednesday, 30 November 2005

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Sherwood Ross


CAN AMERICANS ADMIT U.S. HAS BECOME A TYRANNY?

By Sherwood Ross

We Americans like to think of our country as a democracy, when, tragically, sadly, it has become a tyranny. Just because we enjoy Constitutional rights at home does not mean we are not trampling the liberties of other nations. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines tyranny “to govern or use authority harshly or cruelly.”

The U.S. has acquired any number of the characteristics of the tyrant state, notably the ascendance of the “military-industrial complex” of which President Eisenhower warned. Let’s look at the facts:

# The Bush Administration is waging an aggressive war in Iraq based on the Big Lie. At least 30,000 Iraqi civilians are dead, and a nation is being destroyed. Mr. Bush plunged in even as UN inspectors were shouting they could find no WMD.


# President Bush has pumped up military spending during his term from $343-billion to $420-billion. The $442-billion he seeks for fiscal 2006 is about as much as all the rest of the world’s military spending combined.

# The Pentagon is operating 700 military bases in 130 countries from Turkey to Japan. It has spread its intimidating presence to every corner of the globe. What's more, it is also spending $1.5-trillion to create 80 new terrifying weapons systems.

# The U.S. military is holding thousands of prisoners indefinitely without charge, a tactic Hitler once used. President Bush denies torture occurs but as The Nation reports (Dec. 26), "prisoners have been kicked and punched, their bones broken. Their heads have been hooded, wrapped in duct tape and smashed. Their flesh has been seared with the chemicals in fluorescent lights. They have been frozen to death, suffocated, hung upside down until dead, starved, electrically shocked and waterboarded." Is this not the use of authority "harshly or cruelly"?

# The U.S. is the world leader in weapons sales, with close to $15-billion annually, almost as much as the rest of the world combined. These sales tend to fortify dictators in power and spread war fever among populations yearning for peace.

# The U.S., which lavished $6-trillion on nuclear arms, has 5,000 nuclear warheads that can be detonated via ballistic missiles, planes and submarines, hundreds of them at the ready for use.

# Our popular culture reeks of Death, from violent video games to Hollywood films. USA suffers astronomical rates of crime and firearm murders, pens 2-million men in prison, and is one of the few nations to still impose the death penalty.

If America armed solely for self-defense, its global prestige today would not be at an all-time low. However, President Bush’s aggression is no new thing. His war has accelerated a process that has been in the making for some time.

Writing in The Atlantic Monthly 30 years ago, historian Henry Steele Commager noted America’s post-WWII record was no better than Stalin’s:

“Suffice it to say that the CIA has at least tried to be as subversive as the KGB in many parts of the globe, that intervention in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala was no less in violation of law than the Soviet invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and that a 10-year undeclared war in Vietnam, with casualties of some two million, both military and civilian, and bombardment with three times the tonnage dropped on Germany and Japan in World War II contrasts unfavorably with the much-condemned Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.”

Now, Nobel Prize British playwright Harold Pinter, makes a like case: “The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror (it) inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.”

Today, the U.S. is more powerfully armed than any nation in history and headed by a deceitful ruler guilty of launching a war of aggression. We cannot accept this stoically. Let us recall President Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural appeal "to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." If we are to achieve Lincoln’s vision of peace and justice, let us first admit what we have become. That is the beginning of finding peace within ourselves, and the world.

(The writer contributes to history journals and political magazines. He previously worked for the Chicago Daily News, in the civil rights movement, and as a wire service columnist.)

Sherwood Ross

747 Lenox Avenue

Miami Beach, FL 33139

Sross1@atlanticbb.net (305) 205-8281

Sherwood Ross


CAN AMERICANS ADMIT U.S. HAS BECOME A TYRANNY?

By Sherwood Ross

We Americans like to think of our country as a democracy, when, tragically, sadly, it has become a tyranny. Just because we enjoy Constitutional rights at home does not mean we are not trampling the liberties of other nations. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines tyranny “to govern or use authority harshly or cruelly.”

The U.S. has acquired any number of the characteristics of the tyrant state, notably the ascendance of the “military-industrial complex” of which President Eisenhower warned. Let’s look at the facts:

# The Bush Administration is waging an aggressive war in Iraq based on the Big Lie. At least 30,000 Iraqi civilians are dead, and a nation is being destroyed. Mr. Bush plunged in even as UN inspectors were shouting they could find no WMD.


# President Bush has pumped up military spending during his term from $343-billion to $420-billion. The $442-billion he seeks for fiscal 2006 is about as much as all the rest of the world’s military spending combined.

# The Pentagon is operating 700 military bases in 130 countries from Turkey to Japan. It has spread its intimidating presence to every corner of the globe. What's more, it is also spending $1.5-trillion to create 80 new terrifying weapons systems.

# The U.S. military is holding thousands of prisoners indefinitely without charge, a tactic Hitler once used. President Bush denies torture occurs but as The Nation reports (Dec. 26), "prisoners have been kicked and punched, their bones broken. Their heads have been hooded, wrapped in duct tape and smashed. Their flesh has been seared with the chemicals in fluorescent lights. They have been frozen to death, suffocated, hung upside down until dead, starved, electrically shocked and waterboarded." Is this not the use of authority "harshly or cruelly"?

# The U.S. is the world leader in weapons sales, with close to $15-billion annually, almost as much as the rest of the world combined. These sales tend to fortify dictators in power and spread war fever among populations yearning for peace.

# The U.S., which lavished $6-trillion on nuclear arms, has 5,000 nuclear warheads that can be detonated via ballistic missiles, planes and submarines, hundreds of them at the ready for use.

# Our popular culture reeks of Death, from violent video games to Hollywood films. USA suffers astronomical rates of crime and firearm murders, pens 2-million men in prison, and is one of the few nations to still impose the death penalty.

If America armed solely for self-defense, its global prestige today would not be at an all-time low. However, President Bush’s aggression is no new thing. His war has accelerated a process that has been in the making for some time.

Writing in The Atlantic Monthly 30 years ago, historian Henry Steele Commager noted America’s post-WWII record was no better than Stalin’s:

“Suffice it to say that the CIA has at least tried to be as subversive as the KGB in many parts of the globe, that intervention in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala was no less in violation of law than the Soviet invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and that a 10-year undeclared war in Vietnam, with casualties of some two million, both military and civilian, and bombardment with three times the tonnage dropped on Germany and Japan in World War II contrasts unfavorably with the much-condemned Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.”

Now, Nobel Prize British playwright Harold Pinter, makes a like case: “The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror (it) inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.”

Today, the U.S. is more powerfully armed than any nation in history and headed by a deceitful ruler guilty of launching a war of aggression. We cannot accept this stoically. Let us recall President Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural appeal "to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." If we are to achieve Lincoln’s vision of peace and justice, let us first admit what we have become. That is the beginning of finding peace within ourselves, and the world.

(The writer contributes to history journals and political magazines. He previously worked for the Chicago Daily News, in the civil rights movement, and as a wire service columnist.)

Sherwood Ross

747 Lenox Avenue

Miami Beach, FL 33139

Sross1@atlanticbb.net (305) 205-8281

Sherwood Ross

ARMY TOLD FOX TV "24" PROMOTES

USE OF TORTURE IN IRAQ PRISONS

By Sherwood Ross

After interrogators began torturing Iraqi prisoners using methods they saw on Fox TV's popular "24", Army's Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan warned the show's producers "24" is negatively impacting the training and performance of U.S. troops.

Finnegan, dean of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, accompanied by veteran military and FBI interrogators, met with "24's" creative team in Southern California last November to tell them "I'd like them to stop. They should do a show where torture backfires," according to an article in the Feb. 19-26 issue of The New Yorker by Jane Mayer. "24" is said to have a weekly audience of 15-million viewers and reaches millions more through DVD sales.

The general, who said "24" is popular with his students, told Mayer, "The kids see it, and say, 'If torture is wrong, what about '24'?"

Finnegan also told the producers their suggestion the U.S. perpetrates torture hurts America's global image.

The Fox show producers retorted they are careful not to glamorize torture and said their fictional "Counter Terrorist Unit" agent Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland, never enjoys inflicting pain. Finnegan and his experts disagreed, stating Bauer remains coolly rational after committing barbarous acts, including the decapitation of a state's witness with a hacksaw, Mayer reported.

Tony Lagouranis, a former Army interrogator in Iraq and one of the meeting's participants, told the show's staff "24's" DVDs are circulated widely in Iraq. Lagouranis told Mayer, "People watch the shows, and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they've just seen."

Lagouranis added, "I used severe hypothermia, dogs, and sleep deprivation. I saw suspects after soldiers had gone into their homes and broken their bones, or made them sit on a Humvee's hot exhaust pipes until they got third-degree burns. Nothing happened."

Joe Navarro, an FBI official who has conducted some 12,000 prisoner interviews and attended the meeting, said torture was not an effective response: "These are very determined people, and they won't turn just because you pull a fingernail out."

Joel Surnow, co-creator and executive producer of "24", told The New Yorker's Mayer, "We've had all of these torture experts come by recently, and they say, 'You don't realize how many people are affected by this. Be careful.' They say torture doesn't work. But I don't believe that."

"Young interrogators don't need our show. What the human mind can imagine is so much greater than what we show on TV. No one needs us to tell them what to do. It's not like somebody goes, 'Oh, look what they're doing, I'll do that.' Is it?"

The delegation of interrogators left the meeting, Mayer wrote, "with the feeling that the story lines on "24" would be changed little, if at all." Lagouranis said of the Fox producers, "They were a bit prickly. They have this money-making machine and we were telling them it's immoral."

The Army-"24" meeting was arranged by Human Rights First official David Danzig, long active in the nonprofit's campaign to end torture and its portrayal in the media. Before the 9/11 atttacks, fewer than four acts of torture appeared on prime-time TV each year, Danzig told Mayer. Now there are more than 100, and "It used to be almost exclusively the villains who tortured. Today, torture is often perpetrated by the heroes."

Melissa Caldwell, senior director of programs for The Parents' Television Council, said there were 67 torture scenes during the first five seasons of "24", calling the Fox show "the worst offender on television: the most frequent, most graphic, and the leader in the trend of showing the protagonists using torture."

Mayer commented, "The show's villains usually inflict the more gruesome tortures: their victims are hung on hooks, like carcasses in a butcher shop; poked with smoking-hot scalpels; or abraded with sanding machines. In many episodes, however, heroic American officials act as tormentors, even though torture is illegal under U.S. law."

She noted the Bush Administration has "firmly rejected" the idea that physical coercion in interrogations is unreliable. Last September, Mayer noted, Bush defended the Central Intelligence Agency's use of "enhanced" measures to extract "vital information" from "dangerous" detainees aware of "terrorist plans we could not get anywhere else."

Surnow said, "People in the Administration love the series, too."

#

(Sherwood Ross is a Miami-based free-lance writer who has worked for major dailies, wire services, and in radio news. Reach him at sherwoodr1@yahoo.com)


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I'm a Minister with Amida Shu, a Pureland Buddhist Order. Now semi-retired, I teach on-line and hold Pureland Buddhist sangha gatherings in Perth, Scotland. This site is mainly Buddhist in content. I share the teachings of the Head of our Order, Dharmavidya David Brazier
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