From Pol Pot to ISIS
Imperialism, War Crimes, and Blowback
In transmitting President Richard Nixon's orders for a "massive" bombing of Cambodia in 1969, Henry Kissinger said, "Anything that flies on everything that moves". As Barack Obama ignites his seventh war against the Muslim world since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the orchestrated hysteria and lies make one almost nostalgic for Kissinger's murderous honesty. As a witness to the human consequences of aerial savagery - including the beheading of victims, their parts festooning trees and fields - I am not surprised by the disregard of memory and history, yet again. A telling example is the rise to power of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, who had much in common with today's Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They, too, were ruthless medievalists who began as a small sect. They, too, were the product of an American-made apocalypse, this time in Asia. According to Pol Pot, his movement had consisted of "fewer than 5,000 poorly armed guerrillas uncertain about their strategy, tactics, loyalty and leaders". Once Nixon's and Kissinger's B52 bombers had gone to work as part of "Operation Menu", the west's ultimate demon could not believe his luck. The Americans dropped the equivalent of five Hiroshimas on rural Cambodia during 1969-73. They levelled village after village, returning to bomb the rubble and corpses. The craters left monstrous necklaces of carnage, still visible from the air. The terror was unimaginable. A former Khmer Rouge official described how the survivors "froze up and they would wander around mute for three or four days. Terrified and half-crazy, the people were ready to believe what they were told... That was what made it so easy..
Elements of Resistance
Warriors of Peace
There have always been individuals who have sought to understand the root cause of oppressive violence and injustice, and who have tried, some successfully and some not, to counteract the violence of their culture with a nonviolent and pacifist alternative. Three such individuals stand out in the past few centuries as great leaders of resistance movements: Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Each of these men and the struggles they led are commonly held up as examples of nonviolence at work. They are often brought up in conversations about nonviolent vs. violent tactics as proof that "Nonviolence works, right! I mean, India is independent, South Africa is no longer under Apartheid rule, and Black people in the US no longer have their own water fountains! How can you argue with that logic?" There are two major ways that we are duped into seeing 'The changing of the masks' as social progress; a) By not understanding that every successful nonviolent movement had a violent counterpart that was crucial to the success of the overall struggle; and b) By not understanding the way that oppression simply changes forms, methods, and definitions while maintaining or increasing the actual level of oppressive violence. We will closely examine the lives of these three men and the movements they represented and try to more accurately understand the roles that nonviolent and violent resistance has shaped the course of history in an attempt to learn from their mistakes and successes, so that we may hopefully make our resistance more effective.
An Interview with Son of Baldwin
I think this awakening started in my childhood. I grew up during the 70s, 80s, and 90s-a child of both Black Southern Baptist and Nation of Islam traditions-in a section of Brooklyn called Bensonhurst (infamous for the racist attack against and murder of Yousef Hawkins in 1989). Bensonhurst, at least at that time I grew up there, was a neighborhood of primarily Italian and Irish first- and second-generation immigrants. In this neighborhood, I lived in a housing project of mostly black and Latin@ peoples right in the middle of things. We were thus surrounded, if you will, in hostile enemy territory. This made everything tenuous. As a child and a teen, I had to plot routes home from school that would help me avoid running into the mobs of white children, teens, and adults who--with bats in hand, violence in heart, and death in mind--made a regular ritual of chasing kids of color back to the projects. What was different for me when I got back to the projects, having often but not always escaped the battering from racists, is that the battle didn't end there. I had to then contend with the other black and Latin@ peoples who wanted to pound on my head because they perceived me as gay. When you are not safe in any of the worlds you inhabit, you sort of don't have a choice but to become politicized. You kind of don't have a choice but to "wake up" because if you don't, you'll be murdered. Reading the works of authors like Baldwin..
The Killing Class
Police Impunity and the 2014 Summer of Death
Maryam Monalisa Gharavi
Late last year I started a series called "The Thick Blue Line," based on documented, widespread, and ongoing police impunity in the United States. At the end of each month (here are the first,second, and third installments) I compiled national "no charges against police officer" cases verbatim from reported incidents. A one-person operation, the sheer register of unchecked violence at the hands of police-assault, rape, battery, killing-became logistically and spiritually overwhelming. That such wanton state violence goes unchecked indefinitely-forever ever, forever ever ?-remains among the most taxing facts of modern life. Of course I was far from the only person to keep a register, as such efforts include a 2011-2013 statistical summary of "police involved shootings," a crowdsourced national database of police killings, and a more recent database of police-involved shootings. And efforts to organize legal, psychological, and medical support to victims of police violence are innumerable and severely underhyped; let them not go unmentioned here. While the headlines and press accounts are jackhammered into history with the tone of "objective" reporting (encounter it enough times and "no charges against police officer" morphs from reportage into eery command) the details of single incidents slink darkly into your consciousness.