Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Brunswick, ME, United States

The collapsing US military & economic empire is making Washington & NATO even more dangerous. US could not beat the Taliban but thinks it can take on China-Russia-Iran...a sign of psychopathology for sure. @BruceKGagnon

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Latest from Regis Tremblay

This episode has photos from today’s over-the-top police assault on the Village of Gangjeong to dismantle a Peace Tent and tower. An update on the progress of the base construction and Joyakgol screening The Ghosts of Jeju around S. Korea.

Also a commentary on the state of US aggression around the globe.

Update from Jeju Island

Catholic Bishop Peter Kang Woo-Il is in Gangjeong (white hair, on the bus beneath the tower)

Longtime Jeju international team member Paco reports:

After 16 hours without food and drink in the freezing cold and wind, the crackdown has ended and the tower is being taken down. However, Bishop Kang has negotiated the following with the police: The people who were arrested earlier will be released and the people who were in the tower have been taken to the police station where they will be questioned and released and not imprisoned. We will see what else happens from now...10 people have been injured. Tent and barricade has been destroyed. 

JungJoo reports:

This is going to be the last update from me. My phone is running out of battery. All roads to outer world are blocked by police. No one is allowed to be out and in again. No water no electricity and no toilet. But we are still okay.

It is clear that the emails to the South Korean military command have helped make it possible for Catholic Bishop Kang to be able to negotiate release of those arrested.  The Korean military knows that people around the world are watching and are outraged.  You can send a message of solidarity with the Gangjeong villagers by writing to the South Korean military command at:

Fracked Up: Radioactive Waste Problem

With the worldwide price of oil continuing to drop, natural gas companies in North Dakota are trying to stay competitive by pushing through changes allowing radioactive fracking waste to be dumped in landfills. Current rules require drillers to transport potentially harmful fracking byproducts to specialized facilities in neighboring states, but with the industry fighting for its survival, cutting corners is just one strategy to remain profitable. RT’s Marina Portnaya examines.

U.S. Supports Nazi's in Ukraine

Ukranian neo-Nazi's pose with photo of Hitler.  These are the people the US-NATO are supporting in their war along Russia's border.  How can the mainstream media across the west keep refusing to cover this glaring truth? How can we in the U.S. deny that we have become a fascist nation? 

The WW II Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini defined fascism as the wedding of corporations and government.  Isn't that just what we have in the U.S. today?

The Women Turn Against Kiev's War

Fort Russ reports:

The women of Velikonovoselo are openly telling Ukrainian soldiers to leave and not bring war to their homes. [Even though there is no English translation on the video you will understand it by the pure emotion.]

The video shows a group of local women assembled at the local military commissariat and demanding to know where their mobilized sons and husbands are. The officers are replying that they are not in the zone of fighting but rather at the permanent bases of units to which they were assigned. This does not seem to placate the women, who only get more boisterous. But it's when the officer says that the Ukrainian troops will leave when [supposedly invading] Russian troops arrive (!) that the crowd explodes.

What’s interesting is that the women are no longer afraid of anything. It’s clear that the mobilization [call for more conscripts because Kiev's US-NATO backed war on eastern Ukraine is not going well] was the proverbial last straw.

Half a year ago ten Right-Sectorites [Kiev's neo-Nazi shock troops] with assault rifles would have quickly restored “order”. Now something is stopping them. Clearly they are afraid. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Reminder: Must Watch

Originally aired on BBC2 in 1992, 'Operation Gladio' reveals 'Gladio', the secret state-sponsored terror network operating in Europe.

Gladio is the core fascist instrument of control that still remains in place - just with a different name.

It's the connection of corporate fascism, organized crime, the military industrial complex, and the international bankers.  It's the dark heart of global capitalist dominance.  Shouldn't we at least recognize it and understand how it works?  Shouldn't we tell others what we face?

Report from Jeju Island

At this moment it is the early hours of Saturday morning on Jeju Island, South Korea.  Police buses are coming into the small fishing and farming village.  The 500 year-old village of about 2,000 people has already been forced to surrender its sacred rocky coastline and the pristine environment offshore where endangered soft coral reefs are found.

The Navy base now under  construction will eventually host US aircraft carriers, nuclear subs, and destroyers outfitted with so-called 'missile defense' interceptors, all to be aimed at China and Russia in that part of the world.  

A call went out for help and people rushed in to join the barricades against the threat to destroy the permanent protest tents that are a symbol of the villagers refusal to give even more precious land for the base.  But the South Korean government, under the forceful direction of the Pentagon, pushes ahead.

The people on Jeju need our solidarity and prayers.  Their spirited and determined eight-year daily struggle at the Navy base gates has spread globally.  Hearts from around the world are in Jeju right now.

You can send a letter to the South Korean military administration at the following email.  Please let them know you support the people of Gangjeong village.  Remind them that the whole world is watching and enraged.  Send message to:  

Our Fascist Friends - Hard to Swallow

A Ukraine military vehicle dressed up for war on their fellow citizens who just happen to share Russian culture due to their living near the border.  Sadly those people become expendable as the US-NATO intend to create chaos inside Russia toward the goal of balkanizing that sovereign nation

Many warn
of the collapse

to extract
the breath
from the living

is afraid
of something
or someone

(fear nothing
fear itself)

becomes scarce

we all suck
the same air
our planet
is hot
and fragile
as our own
life is...

not a free country
many use
the word
when they
look toward Washington

U.S. supports
fascism in
Saudi Arabia
South Korea
United Kingdom
and many

never apologizes
for anything
never admits
when wrong

It gets
stuck in the throat
goes down hard

always difficult
to swallow

Moral Injury from Iraq War Ignored

“I was an American sniper, and Chris Kyle’s war was NOT my war. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the hit movie captures the truth of the Iraq conflict. I should know. I lived it.” A former American sniper in Iraq, Garett Reppenhagen, joins Lawrence O'Donnell to discuss the Clint Eastwood film, “American Sniper,” and his time serving in Iraq.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

McCain: Protesters are 'Low Life Scum'

On Thursday, January 29, CODEPINK protesters spoke out during Senate Armed Services Committee hearing attempting to perform a citizens’ arrest on Henry Kissinger. Holding handcuffs and large signs that read: KISSINGER: WAR CRIMINAL and ARREST KISSINGER FOR WAR CRIMES, activists read aloud a citizens’ arrest [pasted below]. In response, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Committee, called the human rights activists “lowlife scum” and said it was “the most disgraceful and despicable demonstration he had ever seen.”

Call for Help on Jeju

From Jeju Island, South Korea by Fr. Pat:

Urgent call for people to go to Gangjeong this weekend as villagers brace themselves for yet another unleashing of brutal state violence. Gangjeong villagers are on tender hooks as they await the administrative execution of a demolition order by the Ministry of Defence (Saturday Jan 31) against a protest site set up to resist the building of military accommodation in the village center right next to a primary school. The navy are not content with taking over the coastline and destroy marine life with the building of the naval base they now want to irreversibly transform the village into an ugly military camp town. The administrative executive order will apparently be enforced by a bunch of hired thugs and military police from the mainland-apparently numbering up to 900 invaders in total who could descend on the village to stage a brutal show of state violence against defenseless villagers/activists. Please spare a thought for the villagers and activists who continue to resist state violence as they struggle to retain the identity of this once pristine village now blighted forever by an ugly naval base. We stand together and resist together - please help them stop the takeover of their village and the militarization of the island of Jeju!

We Are Killing Each Other Rather Than Going After the Oligarchies

If you watch nothing else see the comments at 2:25 by a self-defense force volunteer.  He says it all.

Now is the Time to Raise Holy Hell!

  • I had a message this morning from Sputnik News/ Ria Novosti News Agency in Russia.  They asked me to comment on the Obama administration decision to seek a base Pentagon budget of $534 billion and another $51 billion for wars when it sends its 2016 spending request to Congress next week.  (Not counted in these numbers are the offline costs of military portion of NASA, Department of Energy nuclear weapons programs, military retirement costs, Homeland Security, secret black budget and more.  Add it all up and the military budget is more than $1 trillion per year.) The article reporting on this is here

I sent my comments right back to Sputnik News:

The 2016 Pentagon funding request by the Obama administration indicates an on-going commitment to empire building and the encirclement of Russia and China.  There will be bi-partisan efforts in Congress to remove the sequestration caps on the military budget as both parties now view the Pentagon as virtually the only federal jobs program. 

Communities across the nation are increasingly becoming dependent on war funding which raises serious moral questions about the ‘soul of America’ that we have to have endless war in order for workers to feed their families.

It is more than interesting that Obama is requesting $51 billion for the war in Afghanistan – a war that the president has said is now over.

The 2016 military budget will continue the process of cutting troop levels and benefits while increasing spending on high-tech weapons programs that are already well over budget.  The weapons corporations, whose stock values have risen in recent years, are driving this expansion of war spending as their profits continue to go up. 

Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank said last September, “To the extent we can shift away from relying on troops and rely more heavily on equipment – that could present an opportunity.”  Ablin oversees $66 billion including Northrop Grumman and Boeing stock shares.

The Navy says their ship building budget is “unsustainable” as they seek to build more aircraft carriers, new nuclear submarines, and high-tech destroyers outfitted with so-called ‘missile defense’ systems – all to be used in the confrontation with Russia and China.  The entire space dominance project of new military satellites, ground stations, launch vehicles, and cyber warfare is punching a hole in the national treasury. 

As a result of this continued expansion of US war spending social progress across the nation continues to be defunded.  Unemployment grows, education funding is collapsing, the physical infrastructure of the nation is falling apart and the people are more depressed than I’ve ever seen them.  They understand that corporations control our government and they feel helpless to do anything constructive about it.  The demonization of Russia and the fear-mongering about ISIS keeps the people afraid and off balance. 

The electoral victory of the left in Greece is a wonderful antidote to this despair and we hope to see more public rejection of the corporate austerity strategy in the coming year.

  •  In a related story last night MB and I attended a local county meeting of the Democratic party who had a speaker addressing the new budget proposal by our right-wing Gov. Paul LePage.  He has proposed to again cut income taxes on the rich in Maine, get rid of the estate tax, and increase sales taxes which disproportionally fall on the poor and the working class.  Our annual state budget is $3 billion per year (population in Maine is about 1.2 million people) and the governor wants to cut $600 million in taxes and replace that with $424 million in sales tax.  So do the math and you see that education, health care, and public infrastructure in Maine will continue to collapse.
The corporate oligarchy is hitting the American people at both ends.  At the national level they are destroying social progress and expanding military spending.  Social program responsibility gets shifted to state and local communities - most of whom can't afford to deal with it.  Then at the state levels the same kinds of cuts are happening as $$$ gets shifted into the pockets of the rich.

Put your ear to the railroad tracks and hear the train coming!

I asked the speaker last night (Garrett Martin from MCEP) what the governor's own party was saying about his budget proposal.  One state elected official in the audience answered that the Republicans in Augusta were "perplexed" since they always oppose increases in sales tax.  Martin said the Democrats were keeping their mouths shut for now - sort of waiting for Godot.

Now is not the time to be quiet and complaint.  The social swamp is being drained.  This is the time to raise holy hell while we still can. It's also way past time to link the national social spending cuts and increases in Pentagon spending to the local and state cuts.  Trying to keep them separate is a losing strategy.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

West's Agri-Giants Snap Up Ukraine

By Frederic Mousseau

OAKLAND, United States - At the same time as the United States, Canada and the European Union announced a set of new sanctions against Russia in mid-December last year, Ukraine received $350 million in US military aid, coming on top of a $1 billion aid package approved by the US Congress in March 2014.

Western governments' further involvement in the Ukraine conflict signals their confidence in the cabinet appointed by the new government earlier in December 2014. This new government is unique given that three of its most important ministries were granted to foreign-born individuals who received Ukrainian citizenship just hours before their appointment.

The Ministry of Finance went to Natalie Jaresko, a US-born and educated businesswoman who has been working in Ukraine since the mid-1990s, overseeing a private equity fund established by the US government to invest in the country. Jaresko is also the CEO of Horizon Capital, an investment firm that administers various Western investments in the country.

As unusual as it may seem, this appointment is consistent with what looks more like a takeover of the Ukrainian economy by Western interests. In two reports - "The Corporate Takeover of Ukrainian Agriculture" and "Walking on the West Side: The World Bank and the IMF in the Ukraine Conflict" - the Oakland Institute has documented this takeover, particularly in the agricultural sector.

A major factor in the crisis that led to deadly protests and eventually to president Viktor Yanukovych's removal from office in February 2014 was his rejection of a European Union Association agreement aimed at expanding trade and integrating Ukraine with the EU - an agreement that was tied to a US$17 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

After the president's departure and the installation of a pro-Western government, the IMF initiated a reform program that was a condition of its loan with the goal of increasing private investment in the country.

The package of measures includes reforming the public provision of water and energy, and, more important, attempts to address what the World Bank identified as the “structural roots” of the current economic crisis in Ukraine, notably the high cost of doing business in the country.

The Ukrainian agricultural sector has been a prime target for foreign private investment and is logically seen by the IMF and World Bank as a priority sector for reform. Both institutions praise the new government's readiness to follow their advice.

For example, the foreign-driven agricultural reform roadmap provided to Ukraine includes facilitating the acquisition of agricultural land, cutting food and plant regulations and controls, and reducing corporate taxes and custom duties.

The stakes around Ukraine's vast agricultural sector - the world's third-largest exporter of corn and fifth-largest exporter of wheat - could not be higher. Ukraine is known for its ample fields of rich black soil, and the country boasts more than 32 million hectares of fertile, arable land - the equivalent of one-third of the entire arable land in the European Union.

The maneuvering for control over the country's agricultural system is a pivotal factor in the struggle that has been taking place over the last year in the greatest East-West confrontation since the Cold War.

The presence of foreign corporations in Ukrainian agriculture is growing quickly, with more than 1.6 million hectares signed over to foreign companies for agricultural purposes in recent years. While Monsanto, Cargill, and DuPont have been in Ukraine for quite some time, their investments in the country have grown significantly over the past few years.

Cargill is involved in the sale of pesticides, seeds and fertilizers and has recently expanded its agricultural investments to include grain storage, animal nutrition and a stake in UkrLandFarming, the largest agribusiness in the country.

Similarly, Monsanto has been in Ukraine for years but has doubled the size of its team over the last three years. In March 2014, just weeks after Yanukovych was deposed, the company invested $140 million in building a new seed plant in Ukraine.

DuPont has also expanded its investments and announced in June 2013 that it too would be investing in a new seed plant in the country.

Western corporations have not just taken control of certain profitable agribusinesses and agricultural activities, they have now initiated a vertical integration of the agricultural sector and extended their grip on infrastructure and shipping.

For instance, Cargill now owns at least four grain elevators and two sunflower seed processing plants used for the production of sunflower oil. In December 2013, the company bought a “25% +1 share” in a grain terminal at the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk with a capacity of 3.5 million tonnes of grain per year.

All aspects of Ukraine's agricultural supply chain - from the production of seeds and other agricultural inputs to the actual shipment of commodities out of the country - are thus increasingly controlled by Western firms.

European institutions and the US government have actively promoted this expansion. It started with the push for a change of government at a time when president Yanukovych was seen as pro-Russian interests. This was further pushed, starting in February 2014, through the promotion of a “pro-business” reform agenda, as described by the US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker when she met with Prime Minister Arsenly Yatsenyuk in October 2014.

The European Union and the United States are working hand in hand in the takeover of Ukrainian agriculture. Although Ukraine does not allow the production of genetically modified (GM) crops, the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union, which ignited the conflict that ousted Yanukovych, includes a clause (Article 404) that commits both parties to cooperate to “extend the use of biotechnologies” within the country.

This clause is surprising given that most European consumers reject GM crops. However, it creates an opening to bring GM products into Europe, an opportunity sought after by large agro-seed companies such as Monsanto.

Opening up Ukraine to the cultivation of GM crops would go against the will of European citizens, and it is unclear how the change would benefit Ukrainians.

It is similarly unclear how Ukrainians will benefit from this wave of foreign investment in their agriculture, and what impact these investments will have on the seven million local farmers.

Once they eventually look away from the conflict in the Eastern "pro-Russian" part of the country, Ukrainians may wonder what remains of their country's ability to control its food supply and manage the economy to their own benefit.

As for US and European citizens, will they eventually awaken from the headlines and grand rhetoric about Russian aggression and human rights abuses and question their governments' involvement in the Ukraine conflict?

~ Frederic Mousseau is Policy Director at the Oakland Institute.

The Word on Kiev Streets

What do Kiev locals think about President Poroshenko's recent call for more war mobilization in Ukraine?

Ukraine is broke and the US-EU are funding the war.  How much more $$$ should be poured down this rat hole?

Your $$ at Work

Discretionary spending is those federal tax $$$ that Congress votes to put in one category or the other.

More Evidence of US-NATO Coup in Kiev

Ukrainian Deputy Oleg Tsarov: US to stage a civil war in Ukraine! This was November 20, 2013 right before Maidan began in Kiev which led to the present chaos and war in Ukraine.  He refers to TechCamp - info available about it here.

Clear evidence that the US-NATO was indeed planning the coup d'etat in Ukraine and for a civil war that would give Washington the chance to draw Russia into military conflict.

This kind of stuff is illegal under international law but since when does the US corporate dominated government give a damn about the rule of law?  The US is into creating chaos, selling weapons, and taking land and resources.  You might call it piracy.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Snow in the Face

Swirling wind
face slapping snow
almost up to knees
I don't fear it
the force of
is fierce
and beautiful
in the moment

the angry
smacks her children's
but still
they pay
no mind

their appetites
are more
than the
can sustain

mother is furious
the brats
care less

Chicago Event Discusses NATO Expansion & Ukraine

At a meeting on January 10, 2015 two speakers discussed the background causes of the Ukraine troubles (now drawing the U.S. and Russia closer to possible military confrontation). Speaking were Dr. John J. Mearsheimer, co-director of Program on International Security Policy at University of Chicago; and Rick Rozoff, manager of the Stop NATO website, and also from Chicago.

Dr. Mearsheimer spoke of the real reason of the crisis: "We are interested in peeling away Ukraine and Georgia from Russia's orbit and making [them] bulwarks of the West, right on Putin's doorstep." Mearsheimer goes on to remind us how sensitive big powers are to that kind of thing with the way the U.S. reacted to the prospect of Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962. American foreign policy, rightly or wrongly, was obsessed with upholding the Monroe Doctrine declaring U.S. hegemony in the Western Hemisphere.

Dr. Mearsheimer and Rick Rozoff fleshed out the three parts to the West's strategy vis-a-vis Russia and its immediate neighborhood in Eastern Europe: 1) NATO Expansion, 2) European Union Expansion, 3) Promote Democracy (meaning putting in power leaders who are pro-Western and anti-Russian).

Rozoff provided the background narrative to the steady march of NATO expansion since the 90s. In 1999 NATO held its 50th anniversary summit in Washington, D.C., while at the same time conducting its first war (to break up Yugoslavia, the first war in Europe since WWII). NATO then went on to conduct wars in three continents. Now, US-controlled NATO has 28 full members and 39 partner countries, nearly half of the nations in the UN.

The April, 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest was followed then by a war between Georgia and Russia in August, 2008, precipitated by plans to make Georgia part of NATO.

"It's clear," Rozoff noted, "that policy makers in the United States and also their NATO allies in Europe were envisioning some sort of continental system in Europe...There's not a single European nation...that has not either been a full member of NATO or a member of the Partnership for Peace program and in many instances several intermediate programs...So what we're talking about is the entirety of Europe being subordinated to a military bloc controlled from the other side of the Atlantic, and nothing less."

Both speakers underlined the sobering implications of NATO expansion. Rozoff ended his talk by saying, "I should let you know that both of us panelists objected to the original title that was proposed for this talk which included words to the effect of 'nuclear war' or something. However I woke up this morning to see that someone not noted for ever having being tremendously confrontational with the West, former Soviet President Michael Gorbachev, talk about just that prospect".

Labor Beat here presents a condensed version of Mearsheimer's and Rozoff's 50-minute discussion. Also, we have generously enhanced the video with news photos and maps. Here is an introduction to the Ukraine crisis, NATO, and relevant political geography touching upon Eastern Europe, Russia and the Black Sea region.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Mothers, Wives Say Enough War to Kiev

  • January 22 - In Cheremhiv village in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of western Ukraine, there are mass protests against the new wave of mobilization, Navigator reports.

According to TV channel NTK, 30 draft notices were sent to the village, but the village council can’t distribute them – women are protesting and do not want to let their husbands and sons go to war.

According to village residents, they reject the mobilization of the men when the country is not at war, and ask why the police, prosecutors and officers of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) aren't sent to the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) first. According to them, even if the men survive in the Donbass, they return disabled and in a poor state.

The village council complains that they have been abandoned; the central authorities do not help, and efforts to argue or persuade fall on deaf ears.

  • There is growing evidence that 7,500 of Kiev's [mostly conscripted] forces are being surrounded in eastern Ukraine by the self-defense forces.  Many of these troops have apparently been killed and many more are reportedly surrendering.  From the Vineyard of the Saker I share the following:

What about the imperial "Axis of Kindness"?

The [US-NATO] Empire is in full combat mode.  After George Soros, the US Commander of NATO ground forces has visited Kiev and the western credit rating agencies have further downgraded Russia even though every single objective economic indicator says otherwise.  Things are a tad more complicated in Europe where the victory of Syriza in Greece will create a major risk for the future of the EU.  Sure, Merkel is more then willing to do the USA's bidding, but her popularity suffers from it and tensions between the EU plutocrats and the European people are only on the rise.  In France the entire Charlie Hebdo psyop has resulted in a chaotic and most volatile situation, the Polish nonsense about Auschwitz being liberated by Ukrainians has damaged the credibility of the russophobic camp and the awareness that the Kiev Junta and its supporters are bona fide Nazis is slowly but inexorably growing everywhere.

As Lincoln is supposed to have said "you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time".  Time is running out for the Nazi freaks in Kiev.

The Saker

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Western Troops in Ukraine

Is he American or British?  Is this a US military or Blackwater mercenary posing as a Ukrainian soldier in their uniform?  How many of these 'trainers' are there now from NATO inside Ukraine?  The evidence is mounting that the US-NATO are expanding their active military role in the Ukraine war along Russia's border.

Do the American people, and the people of Europe, want and support a US-NATO war with Russia?

Historic Victory for Left in Greece

Greece’s radical leftist party, Syriza, is leading the country’s parliamentary election, claiming 36 percent of the vote, and leaving the ruling New Democracy party in second place with 28 percent, according to the preliminary results.

"We murdered some folks" in Guantanamo

By David Swanson 

Murder at Camp Delta is a new book by Joseph Hickman, a former guard at Guantanamo. It's neither fiction nor speculation. When President Obama says "We tortured some folks," Hickman provides at least three cases -- in addition to many others we know about from secret sites around the world -- in which the statement needs to be modified to "We murdered some folks." Of course, murder is supposed to be acceptable in war (and in whatever you call what Obama does with drones) while torture is supposed to be, or used to be, a scandal. But what about tortures to death? What about deadly human experimentation? Does that have a Nazi enough ring to disturb anyone?

We should be able to answer that question soon, at least for that segment of the population that searches aggressively for news or actually -- I'm not making this up -- reads books. Murder at Camp Delta is a book of, by, and for true believers in patriotism and militarism. You can start out viewing Dick Cheney as a leftist and never be offended by this book, unless documented facts that the author himself was deeply disturbed to discover offend you. The first line of the book is "I am a patriotic American." The author never retracts it. Following a riot at Guantanamo, which he led the suppression of, he observes:

    "As much as I blamed the inmates for the riot, I respected how hard they'd fought. They were ready to fight nearly to the death. If we had been running a good detention facility, I would have thought they were motivated by strong religious or political ideals. The sad truth was that they probably fought so hard because our poor facilities and shabby treatment had pushed them beyond normal human limits. Their motivation might not have been radical Islam at all but the simple fact that they had nothing to live for and nothing left to lose."

As far as I know, Hickman has not yet applied the same logic to debunking the absurd pretense that people fight back in Afghanistan or Iraq because their religion is murderous or because they hate us for our freedoms. Hickman will be a guest on Talk Nation Radio soon, so perhaps I'll ask him. But first I'll thank him. And not for his "service." For his book.

He describes a hideous death camp in which guards were trained to view the prisoners as sub-human and much greater care was taken to protect the well-being of iguanas than homo sapiens. Chaos was the norm, and physical abuse of the prisoners was standard.  Col. Mike Bumgarner made it a top priority that everyone stand in formation when he entered his office in the morning to the sounds of Beethoven's Fifth or "Bad Boys." Hickman relates that certain vans were permitted to drive in and out of the camp uninspected, making a mockery of elaborate attempts at security. He didn't know the reasoning behind this until he happened to discover a secret camp not included on any maps, a place he called Camp No but the CIA called Penny Lane.

To make things worse at Guantanamo would require a particular sort of idiocy that apparently Admiral Harry Harris possessed. He began blasting the Star Spangled Banner into the prisoners' cages, which predictably resulted in the guards abusing prisoners who did not stand and pretend to worship the U.S. flag. Tensions and violence rose. When Hickman was called on to lead an assault on prisoners who would not allow their Korans to be searched, he proposed that a Muslim interpreter do the searching. Bumgarner and gang had never thought of that, and it worked like a charm. But the aforementioned riot took place in another part of the prison where Harris rejected the interpreter idea; and the lies that the military told the media about the riot had an impact on Hickman's view of things. So did the media's willingness to lap up absurd and unsubstantiated lies: "Half the reporters covering the military should have just enlisted; they seemed even more eager to believe the things our commanders said than we did."

After the riot, some of the prisoners went on hunger strike. On June 9, 2006, during the hunger strike, Hickman was in charge of guards on watch from towers, etc., overseeing the camp that night. He and every other guard observed that, just as the Navy Criminal Investigative Service report on the matter would later say, some prisoners were taken out of their cells. In fact, the van that took prisoners to Penny Lane took three prisoners, on three trips, out of their camp. Hickman watched each prisoner being loaded into the van, and the third time he followed the van far enough to see that it was headed to Penny Lane. He later observed the van return and back up to the medical facilities, where a friend of his informed him that three bodies were brought in with socks or rags stuffed down their throats.

Bumgarner gathered staff together and told them three prisoners had committed suicide by stuffing rags down their own throats in their cells, but that the media would report it a different way. Everyone was strictly forbidden to say a word. The next morning the media reported, as instructed, that the three men had hung themselves in their cells. The military called these "suicides" a "coordinated protest" and an act of "asymmetrical warfare." Even James Risen, in his role as New York Times stenographer, conveyed this nonsense to the public. No reporter or editor apparently thought it useful to ask how prisoners could have possibly hung themselves in open cages in which they are always visible; how they could have acquired enough sheets and other materials to supposedly create dummies of themselves; how they could have gone unnoticed for at least two hours; how in fact they had supposedly bound their own ankles and wrists, gagged themselves, put on face masks, and then all hanged themselves simultaneously; why there were no videos or photos; why no guards were disciplined or even questioned for ensuing reports; why supposedly radically lax and preferential treatment had been given to three prisoners who were on hunger strike; how the corpses had supposedly suffered rigor mortis faster than is physically possible, etc.

Three months after Hickman returned to the U.S. he heard on the news of another very similar "suicide" at Guantanamo. Who could Hickman turn to with what he knew? He found a law professor named Mark Denbeaux at the Seton Hall University Law School's Center for Policy and Research. With his, and his colleagues', help Hickman tried reporting the matter through proper channels. Obama's Justice Department, NBC, ABC, and 60 Minutes all expressed interest, were told the facts, and refused to do a thing about it. But Scott Horton wrote it up in Harpers, which Keith Olbermann reported on but the rest of the corporate media ignored.

Hickman and Seton Hall researchers found out that the CIA had been administering huge doses of a drug called mefloquine to prisoners, including the three killed, which an army doctor told Hickman would induce terror and amounted to "psychological waterboarding." Over at Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye reported that every new arrival at Guantanamo was given mefloquine, supposedly for malaria, but it was only given to every prisoner, never to a single guard or to any third-country staff people from countries with high risk of malaria, and never to the Haitian refugees housed at Guantanamo in 1991 and 1992. Hickman had begun his "service" at Guantanamo believing the prisoners were "the worst of the worst," but had since learned that at least most of them were nothing of the sort, having been picked up for bounties with little knowledge of what they'd done. Why, he wondered,

    "were men of little or no value kept under these conditions, and even repeatedly interrogated, months or years after they'd been taken into custody? Even if they'd had any intelligence when they came in, what relevance would it have years later? . . . One answer seemed to lie in the description that Major Generals [Michael] Dunlavey and [Geoffrey] Miller both applied to Gitmo. They called it 'America's battle lab."

Sunday Song