How I wish that Corliss Lamont were still with us, with his passion about the People’s Right To Know! Corliss would have cheered the recent WikiLeaks publication of Iraq and Afghanistan war documents, as he had with Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers, that exposed in 1968, the blatant lies about reasons for, and the U.S. prosecution of, an immoral war in Southeast Asia. The similarity was ever so obvious, when we stood recently at the Times Square Recruitment Center in support of Bradley Manning, the brave and principled WikiLeaker who is now in U.S. custody, charged with the serious crime of releasing classified documents!
There standing, completely oblivious of the pouring rain, was a brilliant hero of both events, then and now; Leonard Weinglass, who had been a defender, along with William Kunstler, of Daniel Ellsberg. He was quite eloquent in his recounting of the significance of the Pentagon Papers, and comparing the importance of this new revelation and this new exposure of the human rights violations in which our government is engaged, all the while asserting that we are promoting democracy.
Take To The Streets?
So, here we go again! What did the People learn previously, about the duplicity, the secrecy, especially the untrustworthiness of their own government, and of its military adventures? Of even more concern: what did we do about it then? And, what are we doing about it now? Here we have, in Bradley Manning, another instance of a very courageous person of conscience, who risks all in the interest of the People’s Right to Know, while the majority of the People themselves seem unconcerned, and are not taking comparable risks in exercising their own Rights to Know, and demanding to learn what is actually taking place in our names. In future inquiries into Human Rights violations, how can we pretend that “we didn’t know?” The people of Germany might give us some advice out of their own experience.
Even the brutalization of our military itself is getting more exposure with the proliferation of shared material via the Internet. A vivid description of the indoctrination and intimidation of soldiers who are new to combat, being queried as to their willingness to risk killing civilians in combat, was posted recently. Those ethical persons who valued human life, and who expressed a reluctancy to do so, were themselves brutalized until they agreed to comply.
Shocking footage of ruthless, even gleeful killing!
On our Human Values Network Web site as far back as July 2004, we had published a link to an atrocity filmed from an Apache Helicopter, in which civilians were gunned down and the vehicle from which they were trying to flee was “smoked,” I believe was the term used. All the while those excited voices in the helicopter seemed as inured to the deaths that they were dealing as if they were playing a video game. It was so shocking and disgusting. Here are the links to that footage that we feel should be preserved. The files have disappeared from several other sites on which they were hosted and we don’t want them to be gone forever, so we’re hosting copies on this server, using the original file names so that they can be more easily located.
Any respect for Human Values and the preciousness of life itself must necessarily be suppressed in the business of killing for fun and profit, and the pursuit of power and empire! So many of our veterans who are lucky enough to come home are suffering, not just the devastation of broken bodies, but with broken spirits and damaged emotions. Some who are well enough pour their pain and frustration into public witness, as in Veterans for Peace and similar organizations. Many are not. The suicide rate among military and veterans is the highest in history. I wonder how many of them have been sacrificed upon this alter of manly machismo?
I remember reading about the military inviting children to have a grown-up adventure and get the feel of firing at a target. Someone, perhaps from public outcry, had the sense to shut down this unethical operation that equated killing with fun.
Dealing with primitive human emotions
The dehumanization that is necessary to for one to consider “other” human beings as simply enemy to be eliminated reverberates in all directions and permeates our society. The simplistic act of name-calling and using derogatory terms for those who are somehow perceived to be different, should have been outgrown in our childhood, or at least have been called into question in a basic psychology class, upon learning of the instinct to identify with one’s own kind and to shun or fear “the other.” This is the very primitive recognition of the difference between us and them, that leads, unfortunately, to simplistic thinking even on the most powerful levels, with statements like: “If you’re not for us, you’re against us!” Sadly, age or experience doesn’t always bring wisdom in these matters, when otherwise normal appearing adults can spew out hate and vengeance toward others that it deems to be the enemy, or worse, a terrorist! Painting “the other” with a broad categorical brush, assuming that all are the same, or dangerous, or have evil motives, is the same trick that causes the inability to distinguish a freedom fighter from a terrorist. Or a Tea Bagger from a true Patriot!
The shameful animosity, even outright hate, that is being vented upon the Muslim group which plans to build an educational and cultural center a few blocks from the World Trade Center Memorial Site, accusing that this Muslim Center will desecrate a “sacred site,” is an example of such ignorance. The use of the term “sacred” gives the issue religious overtones, and implies a kind of exclusivity. People of all races and religions were victims of the 9/11 attack. Many who worked there and died there were Muslims. They have as much right as you and I do, to express their religious freedom. To attribute evil motives to them, as though they as a group were perpetrators or even sympathizers of the terrorist attacks is false. It is insinuated that they are teaching hatred of Americans or Christians or Jews. This also is false; they are community oriented and ecumenical, reaching out to other faiths and actually teaching respect. The accusation is instead, a reflection in the eye of the beholder, those who are actually spewing out and teaching hatred and fear of them.
The need to speak up renouncing allegations of a religious war
I appreciate President Barak Obama’s reminding of our traditional right to religious freedom, but a stronger and more specific affirmation is desperately needed. Those who are screaming hate and fear of Muslims, as though they as a group were the perpetrators of the World Trade Center disaster, and that we are somehow engaged in a holy war, might benefit from a little refresher course in American history about our dealings with the pirates of the Barbary Coast who were creating havoc with American ships. Negotiations culminated in the 1799 Treaty of Tripoli, in which then President Adams signed statements, affirming that we had no enmity against Muslims or “Mohammedans.” Article 11 of the Treaty is as follows:
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,— as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,— and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
The reiteration of this historical statement might go a long way to bring into the consciousness of this Nation the question of why we are bombing Muslims indiscriminately (or collaterally?) in our military campaign of targeted assassination of alleged Al Qaeda leaders. Please Mr. President, if there were indeed an element of revenge in our responses to the attack on the World Trade Center, and you inherited this shameful burden, in the interest of sanity and ethical behavior, and human decency, please Mr. President, let it cease with you! Stop making war! It is counter-productive. If we had in mind to create a terrorist “factory,” so that we had a constant stream of enemies on which to target our war machine, this would be the way to do it. If my village were bombed, and my family members killed, I wonder if I would have the grace to make a fine distinction between the flawed foreign policies of the U.S. and those damn Americans? Walt Kelly may have had it right when he observed that he had seen the enemy and it is us.
What’s our excuse now?
This illogical tendency to lump people together as a class, an ethnic entity, a monolithic religious group or whatever, rather than understanding that they are all individuals, is a very human and simple way of dealing with the unknown. Perhaps more understandable in ancient times than now, but not in this century, when we have at hand the means to research and communicate as never before, and we have access to data that defines our common evolutionary heritage, and our exploration of the cosmos reveals that our Earth is hardly significant in the total scheme of things, much less the center of the universe as the ancients believed. We are indeed all Earth People and how lucky we are to even be here! Picturing our Earth from space was conclusive, in that it showed no artificial boundaries to separate us into numerous varieties of Earthlings. Why is it that so many of the powerful on this Earth persist in promoting a primitive, immature and divisive perspective that asserts that some of us are of more value than others? Perhaps our evolution suffers arrested development?
It’s downright painful to recall the terrible things that we have done to each other in the name of fear and greed and vengeance, and how about chauvinism? Being superior, and above the laws of human decency, is a devastating pitfall. The Nazis called Jews “vermin,” and set about to exterminate them. In our own shameful history in the U.S., slaves were considered less than human, and if they escaped, the return to their rightful owner was required by law. Worse, they were subject to lynching. And in our pioneering push Westward, there was a phrase that reverberated across the plains: “A good Indian is a dead Indian!” How insulting to Native Americans that we had desecrated their own sacred lands, and then had the “nerve” to build upon those same lands, millions of churches that promoted the very faith of the terrorists who had decimated them!
Beware of patriotic and religious zealotry
I’m fearful of the present danger to the People’s Right to Know with this wave of reactionary illogic that seems to be sweeping over the country. I’m seeing a snake-oil huckster selling a cure-all liniment for disparate ailments. Some are in pain over what they see as too much government, while other complainers want more protection and better control. This one-size-fits-all patriotic and religious zealotry will wear thin before election time, and expose itself for the sham that it is. All that it has going for it is a focal point for dissatisfaction and a powerful network mouth that scapegoats and tells outright lies! How I wish that the false allegation that the networks are left-leaning were true. But unfortunately, logic and moderation are not sensational enough; and what is more to the point, they don’t sell enough snake-oil! Ah, would that we more ethical peace persons had our own network! How else can we promote the cooperative efforts that are needed to make productive changes?
How I wish that Corliss Lamont were here to help us promote the People’s Right to Know. Corliss published and promoted needed information that might have remained relatively invisible. The Treaty of Tripoli would be good to publicize. The National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, of which he was Director for many crucial years, became an instrument for pursuing violations of our Bill of Rights. As a champion of Civil Liberties, he would have challenged the so-called Patriot Act, and the abdication of Congress’s responsibility in handing war powers over to the President.
But, Mr. President, your war powers also give you the power to shut it down!
Corliss Lamont would have been thrilled with the potential of this amazing new technology. Imagine, writing a blog that thousands of viewers world-wide will see in a matter of minutes! Internet users, especially students, from all over the world visit his Web site, http://www.corliss-lamont.org/, and learn of his landmark court cases in behalf of civil liberties and his successful challenge of Joseph McCarthy. Corliss would have been pleased to learn that his name is remembered and invoked in behalf of The People’s Right to Know.