Posts Tagged ‘American Army’

Raouf Halaby on Vonnegut’s ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ as Great Banned, Anti-War Book

September 29, 2017

There’s a great piece over at Counterpunch today by their contributor, the academic Raouf Halaby, on a celebration of banned books. One of the librarians at a local university celebrated Banned Books Week by holding a Banned Books Read-Out in the college amphitheatre. Students and teaching and non-teaching staff were invited to choose a banned book, and read from it for ten minutes. The librarian also provided 100 banned books from the university library to help people decided and participate.

Halaby himself chose Kurt Vonnegut’s SF novel, Slaughterhouse Five because of its powerful anti-war message, a message that is unfortunately still very pertinent five decades after he wrote it. The novel was written against the Vietnam War, and is about a man, who comes unstuck in time, going backwards and forwards into the past and future, but returns to 1945 and the infamous bombing of Dresden, before ending up in an alien zoo. Vonnegut himself had been an American squaddie during World War II, and he and his fellows were in Dresden when it was bombed. They had been captured as P.O.W.s, and were imprisoned in a converted abattoir called ‘Schlachthof Funf’ – ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ – during the bombing. Vonnegut was a great master of irony and black humour, and I’m very sure he saw the dark humour in having been saved from a bombing raid that killed an entire town while shut up in a slaughterhouse.

Halaby states that his mother was a quaker, and that’s possibly where he gets his anti-war ideas from. But he was a soldier, and dedicated his reading of Vonnegut’s great work to some of his army buddies, who were killed in Vietnam. As for the book’s continuing relevance today, he writes

For my ten minutes, I selected Kurt Vonnegut’s acclaimed Slaughterhouse Five for the following reasons: 1. Since the end of WWII the U.S. has waged war on the Korean Peninsula, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and at least half a dozen more countries around the globe. 2 Ken Burn’s Vietnam documentary has, at long last, forced us to engage in some serious soul searching, and a much needed conversation about the many lies, mistakes, and atrocities of this war, thus providing an opportunity to reach out to the hundreds of thousands who served in Vietnam as well as those who opposed the war and helped bring it to an end. 3. The U.S. is still using its superior military power, a disproportionate, scorch earth power that incinerates thousands of precious lives in faraway lands, and a power that pulverizes entire nation states. 4. Recent threats of unleashing the “fire and fury” of nuclear weaponry poses a grave danger to humanity. 5. Innocent civilians seem to always be in the sights of machine guns, missiles, and now, drones and MOABs . 6. Those who order soldiers to wade into the hades of military adventures do so under the guise of national security; waging a war is, after all, a pernicious flag-waving pathway to furthering political careers; gullible voters continue to buy into war snake oil. 7. And finally, I have seen firsthand the ravages of war and the devastating effects wars have had on individuals, communities, nations, and regions. I have inherited my mother’s Quaker values.

Much of his article is a long passage from the book, presumably the one he read out, describing the author’s experience in Dresden and their imprisonment in the slaughterhouse, and how it shows the brutality and inhumanity of war. All war. And makes the case that ordinary bombing with conventional weapons can kill as many people as nuclear bombs. A bombing raid on Tokyo with ordinary bombs one night killed 84,000 + people, while 79,000 + people were incinerated at Nagasaki. Not that this makes nuclear weapons any better, and they’ve gone on to vastly outstrip the destructive power of conventional weaponry. He also makes the point that war is evil, but the people, who commit the acts of mass death may be perfectly normal, otherwise decent people.

See: https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/09/29/dont-let-them-ban-our-books/

I don’t know if Vonnegut’s book was ever banned, though I don’t doubt that it’s anti-war stance and biting satire was extremely unpopular amongst the right and the military. It was so popular, that it was made into a movie in 1972, though critics like John Clute have said it does not equal the book. Vonnegut passed away a few years ago. However, he was still a trenchant critic of American politics and society right to the end. I remember reading a newspaper article in which he made his opinions of George W. Bush, then the US president, very clear.

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Jimmy Dore Show: US Begins Bombing in Somalia Again, Because Oil Found

April 19, 2017

This is yet another video about the expansion of the American war machine and war propaganda by the Jimmy Dore Show. In this video, he discusses the report that AFRICOM, the part of American High Command responsible for Africa, has decided to put troops back into Somalia after 24 years. The troops are apparently there at the request of the Somalian government, and will be there for training purposes. The article does reveal that American troops have also been deployed several times within that space of 24 years in minor missions, such as scouting for bombing sites.

The US troops are being deployed to help the Somali government against the Islamist group, al-Shabaab. The article states that al-Shabaab, although sharing a similar Islamist ideology with ISIS and al-Qaeda, aren’t actually part of those organisations. Most of the time, they’ve been confined to Somalia. They arose after a long period of stable anarchy ended when a new government fought a war to gain power. It was this war that produced them. On those rate occasions when al-Shabaab has spread abroad, it’s mostly been into Kenya in reprisal for attacks made by the Kenyans and the African Union.

Dore makes the point that they’re not part of ISIS and al-Qaeda, but the American government has claimed that they are so that they can used the license granted to George Bush to fight terrorism. Dore states that this is indeed Orwellian. It’s endless war for endless peace, one of the slogans of Oceania in 1984.

So if al-Shabaab aren’t really an international terrorist organisation, what’s the real reason Trump’s sending troops there? You need to ask! It’s oil. Massive reserves have been found by BP off the country’s coast. In Puntland province, the reserves are sufficient to make the country one of the top 20 oil producing countries. Dore against makes the point that whenever there’s a war in the Middle East or Somalia, it’s all sponsored by Saudi Arabia about the petrodollar.

Dore is joined on the programme by Steffi Zamora and Ron Placone, whose voice can be heard off-screen. They make the point, with Dore, that there is no anti-war party in America. Both Republicans and Democrats are strongly in favour of war. The Democrats so much so, that when anti-war protesters turned up at their convention they turned the lights out and sound cannons on them, and painted them as riotous – throwing chairs around – and misogynist. But as Steffi Zamora reminds Dore’s viewers, the people of America are very strongly opposed to war. But the media does not want to show this. MSNBC, and news anchors like Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes are not going to say anything against more war. Dore also makes the point that YouTube are also trying to drive out those voices on the internet that oppose the war by demonetising them, in order to starve them of the advertising revenue that sustains them. What they’re getting isn’t sufficient to support their show, but they thank everyone who is supporting them. And, faced with silence about the war from the mainstream media, he asks the rhetorical question if it’s any wonder people are now getting their news from YouTube.

The Young Turks: Trump Can’t Work Out Why America Doesn’t Use Nukes

August 6, 2016

This is the strongest argument yet for keeping The Donald well away from the White House, or indeed, civilised society. In this video, Cenk Uygur and John Iadarola discuss how Joe Scarborough, one of the big reporters in America, stated on his programme, Morning Joe, that a foreign policy advisor had told him that three times when he’d been talking to Trump, the coiffured megalomania had asked him, ‘Why don’t we use nukes?’ They state that this is the reason Trump has no foreign policy advisors around him, because they’re horrified by the man’s insane stupidity and bloodlust. Trump is just so round the bend that even General Haydn, whom Cenk Uygur, The Turks’ main anchor, loathes because the man is in favour of torture, mass wiretapping without warrant, and other human rights abuses, was shocked and outraged. The Turks make the point that the system is designed for efficiency, with the American President have the sole authority needed to launch nuclear weapons in the event of a nuclear strike on the homeland. Of course, he could be blocked by the Vice President, but as they point out, the Vice President is legally bound to obey the president. If he doesn’t, he can be sacked, and another vice president appointed who is willing to comply.

They go on to make the point that Trump is so ignorant, he didn’t actually know who the ‘nuclear triad’ was – the West, Russia and China, if I recall, though at least three other countries also have nukes – Pakistan, India, and Israel, although the Israelis strongly deny it. They make the point that arms limitation and the unwillingness of the US or any other country has acted as a powerful incentive towards non-proliferation. However, if other countries feel threatened by the possibility of a nuclear attack, they will seek to acquire nukes to protect themselves. And Trump’s attitude is especially dangerous and irresponsible at this time of international tension and arms build-up between NATO and the Russian Federation. They discuss how Trump in one of his debates stated that he would be willing to use nuclear weapons. He was then asked if he would use them in Europe. No, said Trump, he could see no reason why he would want to use nuclear weapons in Europe. So, said his interlocutor, you’re not going to use nuclear weapons in Europe. Trump denied that as well, and said he wasn’t going to rule anything out. They ask rhetorically how this looks to Europeans and to the Japanese after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This European can answer that it looks extremely terrifying, and I imagine many, many other people over our great continent have the same views, particularly in Germany. The Germans don’t like nuclear power and there is a very strong campaign against the siting of American nuclear weapons in the Bundesrepublik. I can remember the campaign against nukes in the 1980s led by Petra Kelly. As for the Japanese, this must be particularly chilling to them, as they are the only nation to have suffered nuclear attack. It would be particularly interesting to know what the Japanese Christian church makes of this, as the Roman Catholic cathedral was directly underneath the bomb when it exploded. Christians in that particularly city – I can’t remember at the moment which one it was – see themselves as having been particularly martyred by the bomb. Of course, the majority of Japanese are Buddhists or practitioners of Shinto, or both, and I can remember a few years ago when there was a particular strong outcry from Japan against nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear war. Among the peace campaigner were a group of survivors from the attack, terribly scarred by the blast. Japan is also similar to Germany in that America still has bases on its soil – in Okinawa – and its military presence is resented by many Japanese as a continuing occupation.

The Turks also point out that Trump is psychological unsuited to having control of American foreign policy because he is thin-skinned, and reacts with rage to any insult or challenge, real or perceived. And that brings the danger of war even closer.

Here’s the video:

Libertarian Socialist Rants on ‘Why America Must Be Strong’

April 30, 2016

This is another excellent video by Libertarian Socialist Rants. In this piece, he takes apart a video made by the British Conservative historian, Andrew Roberts, for the Right-wing Prager University. Roberts tries to argue that American military power has been a force protecting and advancing freedom around the globe. American military intervention has been crucially important in defending freedom and democracy against the threat of Fascism, Communism and now militant Islam. Roberts further tries to argue that American intervention in the First World War was part of this campaign against Fascism, as the German Empire was a Fascist state. He then goes on to describe Communism as ‘Red Fascism’, and militant Islam as Fascism’s ‘fourth incarnation’. Libertarian Socialist Rants takes these arguments apart one by one.

He starts off by pointing out that in very many cases, America has not advanced the cause of freedom at all by installing in power brutally repressive, Fascist regimes on behalf of American corporations. As for Roberts’ subtly-worded association of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ with the American constitution, LSR shows that at the time it was written, the Founding Fathers were rich, White, slave-owners, and the Constitution included a clause stating that it should protect the opulent minority against the majority.

Roberts argues that Woodrow Wilson entered the First World War thanks to the Zimmerman telegram, which showed that Germany was going to extend the War to America by encouraging Mexico to annex Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The Libertarian Socialist argues that, to the contrary, America only entered the War when Germany proved to be a threat to American commercial interests. For example, much of Haiti was owned by German Corporations. It was only when the Haitians refused to pass a law allowing American corporations to buy up Haitian property, that America invaded and had the law passed at gunpoint. The Americans occupied the country for the next 19 years, during which tens of thousands of Haitians were killed.

Next LSR tackles Roberts’ contention that America stood up for freedom in joining the Second World War against the Nazis. He shows instead that the American elite and big business were pro-German right up to the Second World War, because Hitler was anti-Communist. He also makes the point that America is quite capable of supporting Fascist regimes when it suits them. He quotes the Spanish Anarchist Durutti, who said that when the bourgeoisie feel their power slipping away, they abandon democracy and support Fascism.

The Libertarian Socialist Rants doesn’t defend the USSR and Soviet Communism, because, as he says, he’s not a Leninist. However, Marxist Communism is not the only form of Communism. By this he means Anarchist Communism, such as that advocated by Peter Kropotkin. He also says that while the Soviet bloc was a threat, this was exaggerated by the country’s military-industrial complex.

He then goes on to tackle Roberts’ statement that America is busy defending the world against militant jihadi Islam. Roberts states that radical Islam hates democracy and Christianity, just as Fascism does. Here LSR states that while Mussolini hated Christianity, Hitler was brought up a Roman Catholic, and claimed Nazism was a Christian movement. In fact, the truth here is rather more complicated. Mussolini did hate Christianity, but signed the Lateran Accords with the Vatican, which gave the state of Italy official recognition by the Church in return for Roman Catholic religious education in schools. Hitler was indeed brought up a Roman Catholic, but hated Christianity and said in his Table Talk that he’d wanted to blow up the Mass with dynamite since the age of twelve. He did indeed tried to present Nazism as a Christian movement but Christians had the right to resign from the civil service if they thought their faith was incompatible with the Nazi regime. He also wanted Nazi atheists to infiltrate the seminars to bring down Christianity from within. Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazi ideologue, was shifted away from power by Hitler because he was viciously anti-Christian. And in the eastern districts of the Reich the Nazis persecuted Christianity. However, it is also true that far too many Christians have supported Fascism because they saw it as a threat against Communism, materialism and atheism.

The Libertarian Socialist also points out that in many ways, America has vigorously promoted radical Islam. They supported the mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviets, are close allies of the Saudis, who are hard-line Islamic fundamentalists, and in Pakistan they supported General Zia ul-Haqq. Zia pursued a policy of radical Islamisation, that has turned the country into a hotbed of Islamic radicalism. LSR also points out that America has actually increased support for Islamist regimes through supporting corrupt dictators like Saddam Hussein, and by bombing and invading Muslim countries. In the absence of secular forms of opposition, their rage finds expression in militant Islam.

He ends the video by arguing that war, corruption and exploitation are intrinsic functions of the state, and that only Anarchist movements by the workers, such as those in Spain during the Civil War, can truly be described as standing for freedom. This is the basic Anarchist view of the state. I don’t agree with it, but as the Libertarian Socialist shows, unfortunately there is no shortage of evidence to support it.

As well as being a serious, intelligent deconstruction of Robert’s lecture, the video is at time very funny. There’s particularly hilarious footage of a chinchilla or some other rodent, standing up on its hind legs and looking alarmed when the term ‘Communism’ is mentioned, which goes with the ‘bells and whistles’ the American system makes whenever Communism is mentioned.

I’ve reblogged it because it’s such an excellent demolition of Roberts’ arguments. Roberts is one of Britain’s leading historians, but after watching this, you start wondering why he believes this rubbish. As the Libertarian Socialist himself says, ‘Does anyone else feel they’re being brainwashed watching this?’ Yes, I think they do. Very much.

Moves for Texas to Secede from the US Goes Ahead in Texas Legislature

December 11, 2015

This is The Young Turks’ report and comment on the news that the proposal that Texas should secede from the USA has passed the preliminary proceedings. It was sponsored by the Repug’s Tanya Robertson. Here the Turks’ anchor, Cenk Uygur, calls it what it is: treason.

I’m not surprised that some Texans want to secede for the US. Elements of the American right have been screaming for years that President Obama is a Nazi-Communist-Muslim terrorist, who wants to establish a Socialist dictatorship in their country, and have been demanding that the only alternative is to secede. The TYT reported six months ago that some Texans were afraid that the American military was planning to invade their state after the US army started doing manoeuvres on the border. They promised that if America did invade, they would be met by determined resistance.

This is despite the fact that Texas is part of America. Here’s that report.

This is bearing out something else that The Turks also reported: that in Norway, ‘Texas’, or ‘helt Texas’, is a slang term meaning ‘bonkers’.