Category Archives: Political Commentary

Copied from https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/12/07/spare-me-the-american-tears-for-the-murder-of-jamal-khashoggi/

Oh, and here we go again… Yes, it seems I never get tired of contemplating and pondering the level of criminal shamelessness that accompanies American intervention throughout the world, and its bald-faced lies to shrug off any embarrassing questions.

All an open-minded observer is left with is abysmal contempt for “Amerikkka” and the sincere desire that that pile of putrefaction will collapse upon itself soon… very soon. The following is what I have been trying to express in my own posts recently but Fisk is a professional writer and journalist, hence does a much better job, written and researched, than I could ever do.

My intent in posting such articles isn’t to instill guilt in Americans, Lord knows they already have way more than anyone can bear of that, but to provide much needed information and backgrounders.  With such information one can no longer ignorantly play the official social media game called “Let’s Blame Russia.”

Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi

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Can I be the only one – apart from his own sycophants – to find the sight of America’s finest Republicans and Democrats condemning the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia for murdering Jamal Khashoggi a bit sickening? “Crazy”. “Dangerous”. A “wrecking ball”. A “smoking saw”. These guys are angry. CIA director Gina Haspel, who was happy to sign off on the torture of her Muslim captives in a secret American prison in Thailand, obviously knew what she was talking about when she testified about Mohammed bin Salman and the agony of Jamal Khashoggi.

US government leaks suggest that Haspel knew all about the shrieks of pain, the suffering of Arab men who believed they were drowning, the desperate pleading for life from America’s victims in these sanctuaries of torment in and after 2002. After all, the desperate screams of a man who believes he is drowning and the desperate screams of a man who believes he is suffocating can’t be very different. Except, of course, that the CIA’s victims lived to be tortured another day – indeed several more days – while Jamal Khashoggi’s asphyxiation was intended to end his life. Which it did.

A generation ago, the CIA’s “Operation Phoenix” torture and assassination programme in Vietnam went way beyond the imaginations of the Saudi intelligence service. In spook language, Khashoggi was merely “terminated with maximum prejudice”. If the CIA could sign off on mass murder in Vietnam, why shouldn’t an Arab dictator do the same on a far smaller scale? True, I can’t imagine the Americans went in for bone saws. Testimony suggests that mass rape followed by mass torture did for their enemies in Vietnam. Why play music through the earphones of the murderers?

But still it goes on. Here’s Democrat senator Bob Menendez this week. The US, he told us, must “send a clear and unequivocal message that such actions are not acceptable on the world’s stage”. The “action”, of course, is the murder of Khashoggi. And this from a man who constantly defended Israel after its slaughter of the innocents in Gaza.

So what on earth is going on here? Perhaps the “world’s stage” of which Menendez spoke was the White House – an appropriate phrase, when you come to think about it – where the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia has been no stranger. Yet when at least one recent US presidential incumbent of that high office can be considered guilty of war crimes – in Iraq – and the deaths of tens of thousands of Arabs, how come American senators are huffing and puffing about just one man, Mohammed bin Salman, who (for a moment, let us set aside the Yemen war) is only being accused of ordering the murder and dismemberment of one single Arab?

After all, world leaders – and US presidents themselves – have always had rather a soft spot for mass murderers and those who should face war crimes indictments. Trump has infamously met Kim Jong-un and invited him to the White House. We are all waiting for Rodrigo Duterte to take up his own invitation.

Obama lavished hospitality at the White House on a host of bloody autocrats – from Gambia, Burkina Faso and Cameroon – before we even recall Suharto, whose death squads killed up to half a million people; and Hosni Mubarak, whose secret police sometimes raped their prisoners and who sanctioned the hanging of hundreds of Islamists without proper trials, and his ultimate successor, Field Marshal-President al-Sisi, who has around 60,000 political prisoners locked up in Egypt and whose cops appear to have tortured a young Italian student to death. But Giulio Regeni wasn’t murdered in an Egyptian consulate. This list does not even include Ariel Sharon, who as Israeli defence minister was accused by an Israeli inquiry of personal responsibility for the massacre of 1,700 Palestinian civilians at the Sabra and Chatila camps in Beirut in 1982.

So what is this “clear and unequivocal message” that senator Menendez is rambling on about? The message has been clear and unequivocal for decades. The US “national interest” always trumps (in both senses) morality or international crime. Why else did the United States support Saddam Hussein in his attempt to destroy Iran and his use of chemical warfare against Iran? Why else did Donald Rumsfeld plead with Saddam in December 1993 to allow the reopening of the US embassy in Baghdad when the Iraqi dictator (a “strongman” at the time, of course) had already used mustard gas against his opponents? By the time Rumsfeld arrived for his meeting, more than 3,000 victims had fallen amid Iraqi gas clouds. The figure would reach at least 50,000 dead. Which is, in mathematical terms, Jamal Khashoggi times 50,000.

Yet we are supposed to recoil with shock and horror when Haspel – who might herself have a few admissions to make to senators on other matters – suggests that America’s latest favourite Middle Eastern tyrant knew about the forthcoming murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Does Menendez think that Saddam hadn’t signed the death sentences of thousands of Iraqi men and women – which, as we know from his later “trial”, he did – before meeting Rumsfeld? Or that Duterte, who has compared himself to Hitler, doesn’t sign off on the killing of his murdered drug “suspects”? Or that Suharto had absolutely nothing to do with half a million murders in Indonesia?

It’s instructive, indeed, that the thousands of innocents killed in the Yemen war, an offensive undertaken by Mohammed bin Salman himself with logistical support from the US and UK – and it doesn’t need Haspel to tell us this – hasn’t exactly left US senators shocked. Just another bunch of Arabs killing each other, I suppose. Starvation didn’t get mentioned by the senators emerging from Haspel’s closed hearing. Yet the senators know all about the mosque bombings, wedding party bombings, hospital bombings and school bombings in Yemen. Why no tears for these innocents? Or is that a bit difficult when the US military – on every occasion by accident, of course – has bombed mosques, wedding parties, hospitals and schools in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria?

No, the shock and horror and the need for full disclosure about the Saudis is primarily about Trump, and the need to tie him in to the cruel murder of a Washington Post journalist and US resident whose gruesome demise has been blamed by the American president upon a “vicious world”.

But there is something more than this, the appalling fact – albeit only a folk memory, perhaps, for many with scarcely any institutional memory at all – that 15 of those 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, that Osama bin Laden was a Saudi, that George W Bush secretly flew bin Laden family members out of the US after 9/11, that the Saudis themselves are heir to a blighted, rural, cruel version of Sunni Islam – based on the pernicious teachings of the 18th century Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab​ – which has inspired the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Isis and all the other killer cults whom we have proclaimed to be the West’s Enemy No 1.

Nailing Mohammed Bin Salman to a crucifix – a method of execution favoured by the Wahhabis – is an easy kill for US senators, of course. You hit the president and smash those unhappy historical details all in one fell swoop.

But don’t bank on it. Oil and arms are a potent mix. Old Abd al-Wahhab’s home is protected in a new tourist haunt in the suburbs of Riyadh. Come to think of it, the national mosque of Qatar – hostile to rapacious Saudi Arabia but another recipient of US weapons and a supporter of Islamist forces in Syria and Iraq – has a capacity for 30,000 souls, was built only seven years ago and is named after Abd al-Wahhab himself.

This is the dangerous world in which America and its allies now tread, disdainful of the thousands of Muslims who perish under our bombs and missiles and mortars – proxy-delivered by those we should distrust – ignorant of the religious currents which rumble on beneath our feet and beneath the House of Saud. Even the virtually useless information Haspel learned in the CIA’s “black centres” could have told senators this. If they had bothered to ask.

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Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

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On Communication and Patriotism

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~  by Sha’Tara]

I’ve been “blogging” for a few years now, sometimes intensely, sometimes lackadaisically, but always as I see in retrospect, with intent to both, learn from others and express ideas they seem unaware of.  Some would call that teaching, but I am no teacher nor do I aspire to such a task. I’ve also been called a “contrarian” and in all honesty, that label, given to me by Frank Parker (https://franklparker.com/ – have a peek, there’s some cool stuff there!) does carry validity.  I’m not rejecting it even if often what is thought of as merely contradictory is juxtapositions of ideas to create “food for thought” for those too comfortable in their traditional niche of clubbish patting on back.

Blogging is all about communication. For the most part people share blogs between comfort zones having discovered that attempting to communicate across storm-tossed seas of divergent ideas is difficult and, without a great deal of skill in diplomacy, basically impossible.  When I engaged in social media like Facebook I encountered too many “Donald Trump” type Tweetering.  Ignorant comments by ignorant people. I gave that medium up on short order.

WordPress has a different quality of correspondents. Here you can express your own thoughts and even if they stand at odds with those of another blogger there is space to express, allowance for different opinions, at least most of the time. I, who carry a heavy baggage of non-conformist ideas, certainly do appreciate this rubber-matted sparring room.

That said, I had an unfortunate dialogue with a blogger recently that got me labeled as an “attacker” of another person.  Language problem? Perhaps, but I saw it differently. The issue was political and as with religion, most people exist on the cusp here, holding it together with barely restrained emotions.  I try to approach it from a wider pathway but current political events are carried emotionally and very personally. Political people seem to take any and all non-agreeing discussions as personal attacks even when obviously stated as facts used to clarify an issue, i.e., obviously totally non-personal.  The fact is, I’m not at all interested in personal aspects of individuals, at least not until they stand in my face and claim to be my leader or my master. Then I get very interested, very fast.

OK, let’s get down and dirty.  Most political discussions in this neck of the woods will be about America, Donald Trump, Russia, Vladimir Putin, with peripherals of Syria, Iran, North Korea, Israel and the sleeping dragon, China and Xi Jinping. Americans have their own personal understanding and misunderstanding of these things, based on which “fake news” media or social media they get their information from.  Few social medianites actually put their own boots on the ground to garner up-close personal information about the events they spout on about. In fact most of their “reporters” don’t either so in many cases the buffoon is right about his claims of fake news.

One thing for sure, with fresh air exceptions, is that “America” is declared a good place being vilified by crooked, dirty dealing bad hombres, particularly the current Satanic arch-enemy bogey man Putin.  Putin’s crimes have reached to the very gates of heaven.  But what has he done?  Oh, he has dared intervene with force to stop American-backed regime change in Syria and has put enough fear in the hearts of Zionists and Sunni Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia to prevent the planned invasion of Iran as proxies for the USA war machine and oil lobby.

That however isn’t Putin’s worst crime. His worst crime is that he is accused of interfering in US elections.  True or false? What difference can that make when the USA interferes in elections of sovereign countries all over the planet as a matter of course and when the die still won’t go their way, they concoct a reason for an invasion, or a regime change civil war.  History, folks, repeating and repeating history.

But Americans, like all good patriots, need to deflect the sins of their nation, military, international banking and corporate crimes and impute them on others. They need enemies, preferably of course poorly armed and less technologically advanced so as to suffer the least amount of casualties while inflicting the maximum amount.  Anyone remember the invasion of Grenada under Clown Reagan? Anyone know how big a country Grenada is? Anyone know what Grenada’s military strength consisted of?  Imagine a pack of wolves, say about twenty adults in the pack, planning an attack upon a field mouse’s nest. Surprise, the wolf pack won that “war” and the win filled its newspapers with glowing headlines.  Such heroism, it did them proud, that.

They also need a scapegoat for that imputation to work. Vladimir Putin, the front man responsible to “make Russia great again” in actual fact while the buffoon who claimed same for Amerikkka caused it to go in the opposite direction, just happens to be the right kind of guy to demonize. The propaganda has been rolling off the press full bore now for a couple of years at least and by now I’m sure if we looked closely, Putin has red skin, horns growing out of his forehead and a tail with a spearhead on the end. No? Put on your American Patriot Glasses or “APG’s issued by Homeland Security, then you’ll see it too. Don’t be of those left out of Amerikkka’s Vision.

What’s either sad, funny or amazing, is that most Americans are quite unaware they are participating in this war-mongering scenario, just as the German people were quite unaware at first that supporting Hitler would mean millions of them would die, after they slaughtered tens of millions of others, and all for naught.  Well, not exactly, their elites, just as US-based elites are currently doing, would make zillions from the various killing fronts, hiding and laundering those massive profits which they would then use to create ‘the new world order’ under the American Hegemon.  The German people didn’t know this, and neither do their current imitators, the American people. Why not? Because they prefer propaganda over history, that’s why not.

So I was attempting to explain this to a blogger who, I suspected, was aware of these things. But this person chose to ignore the big picture and focus on lambasting the White House buffoon and his family (deservedly so) and say nary a word about the 50% of total government income handed to the military to do with as it sees fit; to ignore the massive war crimes being committed with US weaponry and tactical aid against Yemen, Palestine, Syria, Lybia (yes, that’s still going on!), Iraq (yes, that too is still going on), in northern Africa (you name it, special forces will be in there destabilizing, creating chaos, blazing a path for multinational exploitation of remaining natural resources and enslavement of the work force), and of course Afghanistan (how old is that endless war again? Is it a war on terror, or on protecting the poppy fields? Hah!) I’m sure US military thought is looking at Pakistan also, and perhaps India… but these have nukes… Oh-oh… owie!

One could laugh at such military ineptness from the world’s most powerful military nation with the world’s greatest export of military arsenal, and the equal ineptness of its sidekicks in war crimes: Britain, France, Canada, and probably dribs and drabs of other benighted and equally stupid European Union members of the NATO coalition.  War is always good business, win or lose, for those who ‘fund’ them and provide the guns and who really rules Western “democracies” huh?

This is where it’s at. So I call that blogger a hypocrite for deliberately ignoring the facts of the matter and choosing instead to demonize Vladimir Putin and turn it all around, making it look as if it’s Putin who is fighting all those wars and the honourable peace-maker in all of this is the USA.  But before I made the call, this person had admitted to knowing these facts as well or better than I do.  I then felt justified in calling a spade a spade.  If you are stuffing your face with apple pie and I say that you are eating apple pie, I’m not attacking you, am I?

But I did not reckon with that mind-blinding sickness called patriotism.  ‘My country, may she be always right, but my country right or wrong.’  Indeed, that is the last cry of the patriot.  Truth, facts, reality, these must play second fiddle to my country’s right to be always “right” and all others who disagree, to be always wrong.  And woe to them if I decide they are wrong: I have the might to punish such temerity and the propaganda machine to make it all seem so legitimate.

Communication, then, must bow to the superior patriotic mind.

The pen is not mightier than the sword at all.  All the pen is allowed to do is promote and extol the sword or stick to making shopping lists.

 

The DNA Industry and the Disappearing Indian DNA, Race, and Native Rights By Aviva Chomsky

Tomgram: Aviva Chomsky, Making Native Americans Strangers in Their Own Land Posted by Aviva Chomsky at 8:12am, November 29, 2018.
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[This is a kinda-sorta reblog, though it really is simply a copy and paste from the Tomgram website. I’ve done this before as I find no way to re-post this otherwise except with the posting of a link which, in my opinion for what it’s worth, isn’t good enough. I think that if I’m hoping someone will read something I find worth reading, I should offer the article, not just the link. Still, the link is there if you prefer reading it on their website, and it is an amazing website at that!  This article is about how “America” – the Hegemon – treats the defeated original inhabitants of these lands (Canada where I reside does NO BETTER, let me make that perfectly clear.]

Begin Tomgram article:  In the 1950s, I grew up in the heart of New York City and had a remarkable amount of contact with Native Americans. As you might expect, I never actually met one in those years. What I had in mind was all the time I spent at the local RKO and other movie theaters watching Hollywood westerns. They were, of course, filled with Indians, and in those films, we — and I don’t mean the 12-year-old Tom Engelhardt, but the blue coats, the stage coach drivers and their passengers, the cowboys, and the pioneers I identified with — were regularly ambushed by those Indians. In the end, with rare exceptions, the natives predictably fell as they circled the wagon train or stagecoach or attacked those cavalrymen, whooping and shooting their arrows. They went down, naturally enough, before the implacable power of “our” weaponry, “our” marksmanship. And here’s the thing: they deserved it. After all, they were attacking us. We never ambushed them. They, that is, were “the invaders” and we, invariably, the aggressed upon.

All of this came to my mind when, in the midst of the 2018 midterm election campaign, Donald Trump labeled as “invaders” a caravan of desperate refugees, including women and small children fleeing their violent, impoverished lands (which the U.S. had a significant hand in making so) for asylum or refuge in this country. And then, of course, he sent almost 6,000 military personnel to the U.S.-Mexico border to protect us (and twiddle their thumbs).

I was reminded then of that celluloid past because Donald Trump, who is only a couple of years younger than me and undoubtedly grew up in the same movie world, felt — I suspect — so comfortable lambasting those refugees as invaders exactly because the term fit perfectly the “history” we had learned in our mutual childhoods. His claim was, in fact, a twenty-first-century version of the way, in our youth, the history of this country was regularly turned on its head, making the desperate and invaded into the nefarious and invasive. And, in truth, even without the helping hand of Donald Trump, that version of our history has never really ended, as TomDispatch regular Aviva Chomsky shows today. Native Americans are still being treated as if they were the invaders in what was once their own land and, like that caravan from Latin America, slapped down for it. Let her tell you how what she calls the DNA industry and various parts of our government, local and national, have been working overtime to recreate, after a fashion, the movie world of my childhood. Tom

The DNA Industry and the Disappearing Indian
DNA, Race, and Native Rights
By Aviva Chomsky

Amid the barrage of racist, anti-immigrant, and other attacks launched by President Trump and his administration in recent months, a series of little noted steps have threatened Native American land rights and sovereignty. Such attacks have focused on tribal sovereignty, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and the voting rights of Native Americans, and they have come from Washington, the courts, and a state legislature. What they share is a single conceptual framework: the idea that the long history that has shaped U.S.-Native American relations has no relevance to today’s realities.

Meanwhile, in an apparently unrelated event, Senator Elizabeth Warren, egged on by Donald Trump’s “Pocahontas” taunts and his mocking of her claims to native ancestry, triumphantly touted her DNA results to “prove” her Native American heritage. In turning to the burgeoning, for-profit DNA industry, however, she implicitly lent her progressive weight to claims about race and identity that go hand in hand with moves to undermine Native sovereignty.

The DNA industry has, in fact, found a way to profit from reviving and modernizing antiquated ideas about the biological origins of race and repackaging them in a cheerful, Disneyfied wrapping. While it’s true that the it’s-a-small-world-after-all multiculturalism of the new racial science rejects nineteenth-century scientific racism and Social Darwinism, it is offering a twenty-first-century version of pseudoscience that once again reduces race to a matter of genetics and origins. In the process, the corporate-promoted ancestry fad conveniently manages to erase the histories of conquest, colonization, and exploitation that created not just racial inequality but race itself as a crucial category in the modern world.

Today’s policy attacks on Native rights reproduce the same misunderstandings of race that the DNA industry is now so assiduously promoting. If Native Americans are reduced to little more than another genetic variation, there is no need for laws that acknowledge their land rights, treaty rights, and sovereignty. Nor must any thought be given to how to compensate for past harms, not to speak of the present ones that still structure their realities. A genetic understanding of race distorts such policies into unfair “privileges” offered to a racially defined group and so “discrimination” against non-Natives. This is precisely the logic behind recent rulings that have denied Mashpee tribal land rights in Massachusetts, dismantled the Indian Child Welfare Act (a law aimed at preventing the removal of Native American children from their families or communities), and attempted to suppress Native voting rights in North Dakota.

Profiting by Recreating Race

Let’s start by looking at how the ancestry industry contributes to, and profits from, a twenty-first-century reformulation of race. Companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe lure customers into donating their DNA and a hefty sum of money in exchange for detailed reports claiming to reveal the exact geographical origins of their ancestors going back multiple generations. “Who do you think you are?” asks Ancestry.com, typically enough. The answer, the company promises, lies in your genes.

Such businesses eschew the actual term “race” in their literature. They claim instead that DNA reveals “ancestry composition” and “ethnicity.” In the process, however, they turn ethnicity, a term once explicitly meant to describe culture and identity, into something that can be measured in the genes. They conflate ethnicity with geography, and geography with genetic markers. Perhaps you won’t be surprised to learn that the “ethnicities” they identify bear an eerie resemblance to the “races” identified by European scientific racist thinking a century ago. They then produce scientific-looking “reports” that contain purportedly exact percentages linking consumers to places as specific as “Sardinia” or as broad as “East Asia.”

At their most benign, these reports have become the equivalent of a contemporary parlor game, especially for white Americans who make up the vast majority of the participants. But there is a sinister undertone to it all, reviving as it does a long-discredited pseudoscientific basis for racism: the notion that race, ethnicity, and ancestry are revealed in the genes and the blood, and passed down inexorably, even if invisibly, from generation to generation. Behind this lies the assumption that those genes (or variations) originate within clearly defined national or geographic borders and that they reveal something meaningful about who we are — something otherwise invisible. In this way, race and ethnicity are separated from and elevated above experience, culture, and history.

Is There Any Science Behind It?

Although all humans share 99.9% of our DNA, there are some markers that exhibit variations. It’s these markers that the testers study, relying on the fact that certain variations are more (or less) common in different geographical areas. As law and sociology professor Dorothy Roberts puts it, “No sooner had the Human Genome Project determined that human beings are 99.9% alike than many scientists shifted their focus from human genetic commonality to the 0.1% of human genetic difference. This difference is increasingly seen as encompassing race.”

Ancestry tests rely on a fundamental — and racialized — misunderstanding of how ancestry works. The popular assumption is that each of us contains discrete and measurable percentages of the “blood” and DNA of our two biological parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents, and so on, and that this ancestral line can be traced back hundreds of years in a meaningful way. It can’t. As science journalist Carl Zimmer explains, “DNA is not a liquid that can be broken down into microscopic drops… We inherit about a quarter of our DNA from each grandparent — but only on average… If you pick one of your ancestors from 10 generations back, the odds are around 50% that you carry any DNA from him or her. The odds get even worse beyond that.”

In reality, such testing does not tell us much about our ancestors. That’s partly because of the way DNA is passed down through the generations and partly because there exists no database of ancestral DNA. Instead, the companies compare your DNA to that of other contemporary humans who have paid them to take the test. Then they compare your particular variations to patterns of geographical and ethnic distribution of such variations in today’s world — and use secret algorithms to assign purportedly precise ancestral percentages to them.

So is there really a Sardinian or East Asian gene or genetic variation? Of course not. If there is one fact that we know about human history, it’s that ours is a history of migrations. We all originated in East Africa and populated the planet through ongoing migrations and interactions. None of this has ended (and, in fact, thanks to climate change, it will only increase). Cultures, ethnicities, and settlements can’t be frozen in time. The only thing that is constant is change. The peoples who reside in today’s Sardinia or East Asia are a snapshot that captures only a moment in a history of motion. The DNA industry’s claims about ancestry award that moment a false sense of permanence.

While whites of European ancestry seem enthralled with the implications of this new racial science, few Native Americans have chosen to donate to such databases. Centuries of abuse at the hands of colonial researchers who made their careers on Native ancestral remains, cultural artifacts, and languages have generated a widespread skepticism toward the notion of offering genetic material for the good of “science.” In fact, when it comes to one DNA testing outfit, 23andMe, all of the countries included in its lists of the geographical origins of those who have contributed to its “Native American” database are in Latin America and the Caribbean. “In North America,” the company blandly explains, “Native American ancestry tends to be five or more generations back, so that little DNA evidence of this heritage remains.” In other words, 23andMe claims DNA as conclusive proof of Native American identity, then uses it to write Native North Americans off the map altogether.

The Ancestry Industry and the Disappearing Indian

The ancestry industry, even while celebrating diverse origins and multiculturalism, has revived long-held ideas about purity and authenticity. For much of U.S. history, white colonizers argued that Native Americans would “vanish,” at least in part through biological dilution. New England’s native peoples were, for instance, systematically denied land rights and tribal status in the nineteenth century on the grounds that they were too racially mixed to be “authentic” Indians.

As historian Jean O’Brien has explained, “Insistence on ‘blood purity’ as a central criterion of ‘authentic’ Indianness reflected the scientific racism that prevailed in the nineteenth century. New England Indians had intermarried, including with African Americans, for many decades, and their failure to comply with non-Indian ideas about Indian phenotype strained the credence for their Indianness in New England minds.” The supposed “disappearance” of such Indians then justified the elimination of any rights that they might have had to land or sovereignty, the elimination of which, in a form of circular reasoning, only confirmed their nonexistence as a people.

However, it was never phenotype or distant ancestry but, as O’Brien points out, “complex regional kinship networks that remained at the core of Indian identity in New England, despite the nearly complete Indian dispossession that English colonists accomplished… Even as Indians continued to reckon membership in their communities through the time-honored system of kinship, New Englanders invoked the myth of blood purity as identity in denying Indian persistence.”

Such antiquated understandings of race as a biological or scientific category allowed whites to deny Indian existence — and now allow them to make biological claims about “Indian” identity. Until recently, such claims, as in Senator Warren’s case, rested on the murkiness of family tales. Today, the supposed ability of DNA companies to find genetic “proof” of such a background reinforces the idea that Indian identity is something measurable in the blood and sidesteps the historical basis for the legal recognition or protection of Indian rights.

The ancestry industry assumes that there is something meaningful about the supposed racial identity of one of hundreds or even thousands of an individual’s ancestors. It’s an idea that plays directly into the hands of right-wingers who are intent on attacking what they call “identity politics” — and the notion that “minorities” are becoming unduly privileged.

Indeed, white resentment flared at the suggestion that Senator Warren might have received some professional benefit from her claim to Native status. Despite an exhaustive investigation by the Boston Globe showing conclusively that she did not, the myth persists and has become an implicit part of Donald Trump’s mockery of her. In fact, any quick scan of statistics will confirm the ludicrousness of such a position. It should be obvious that being Native American (or Black, or Latino) in the United States confers far more risks than benefits. Native Americans suffer from higher rates of poverty, unemployment, infant mortality, and low birth weight, as well as lower educational levels and shorter life spans than do whites. These statistics are the result of hundreds of years of genocide, exclusion, and discrimination — not the presence or absence of specific genetic variations.

Reviving Race to Undermine Native Rights

Native rights, from sovereignty to acknowledgment of the conditions created by 500 years of colonial misrule, rest on an acceptance that race and identity are, in fact, the products of history. “Native Americans” came into being not through genes but through the historical processes of conquest and colonial rule, along with grudging and fragile acknowledgement of Native sovereignty. Native American nations are political and cultural entities, the products of history, not genes, and white people’sassertions about Native American ancestry and the DNA industry’s claim to be able to reveal such ancestry tend to run roughshod over this history.

Let’s look at three developments that have, over the past year, undermined the rights of Native Americans: the reversal of reservation status for Mashpee tribal lands in Massachusetts, the striking down of the Indian Child Welfare Act, and Republican attempts to suppress Native American votes in North Dakota. Each of these acts came from a different part of the government: the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior, the courts, and North Dakota’s Republican-dominated state legislature. But all three rely on notions of identity that place race firmly in our genes rather than in our history. In the process, they deny the histories that turned the sovereign and autonomous peoples of North America before European colonists arrived in “the New World” into “Native Americans,” and imply that Native American historical rights are meaningless.

The Mashpee of Massachusetts finally achieved federal recognition and a grant of reservation land only in 2007, based on the fact that they “had existed as a distinct community since the 1620s.” In other words, federal recognition was based on a historical, not a racialized, understanding of ethnicity and identity. However, the tribe’s drive to build a casino on its newly acquired reservation in Taunton, Massachusetts, would promptly be challenged by local property-owners. Their lawsuit relied on a technicality: that, as they argued in court, reservation land could only be granted to tribes that had been federally recognized as of 1934. In fact, the Mashpee struggle for recognition had been repeatedly stymied by long-held notions that the Indians of Massachusetts were not “real” or “authentic” because of centuries of racial mixing. There was nothing new in this. The state’s nineteenth-century legislature prefigured just such a twenty-first-century backlash against recognition when it boasted that real Indians no longer existed in Massachusetts and that the state was poised to wipe out all such “distinctions of race and caste.”

In September 2018, the Department of the Interior (to which the court assigned the ultimate decision) ruled against the Mashpees. Recently appointed Assistant Director of Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney, the first Native American to hold that position, “paved the way for a reservation to be taken out of trust for the first time since the termination era,” a 20-year period from the 1940s to the 1960s when the federal government attempted to “terminate” Native sovereignty entirely by dismantling reservations and removing Indians to urban areas to “assimilate” them. The new ruling could affect far more than the Mashpees. Some fear that, in the Trump years, the decision portends “a new termination era,” or even a possible “extermination era,” for the country’s Native Americans.

Meanwhile, on October 4th, a U.S. District Court struck down the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA. This is a potentially devastating development as Congress passed that Act in 1978 to end the then-still-common practice of breaking up Native families by removing Indian children for adoption into white families. Such acts of removal date back to the earliest days of white settlement and over the centuries included various kinds of servitude and the founding of residential boarding schools for Indian children that were aimed at eliminating Native languages, cultures, and identities, while promoting “assimilation.” Indian child removal continued into the late twentieth century through a federally sponsored “Indian Adoption Project,” as well as the sending of a remarkable number of such children into the foster care system.

According to the ICWA, “An alarmingly high percentage of Indian families are broken up by the removal, often unwarranted, of their children from them by nontribal public and private agencies and that an alarmingly high percentage of such children are placed in non-Indian foster and adoptive homes and institutions.” States, it added, “have often failed to recognize the essential tribal relations of Indian people and the cultural and social standards prevailing in Indian communities and families.” The Act gave tribes primary jurisdiction over all child custody issues including foster placements and the termination of parental rights, requiring for the first time that priority be placed on keeping Native children with their parents, kin, or at least within the tribe.

The ICWA said nothing about race or ancestry. Instead, it recognized “Indian” as a political status, while acknowledging semi-sovereign collective rights. It was based on the Constitution’s implicit acknowledgement of Indian sovereignty and land rights and the assignment to the Federal government of relations with Indian tribes. The District Court’s ICWA decision trampled on the collective political rights of Indian tribes by maintaining that the act discriminated against non-Native families in limiting their right to foster or adopt Native children. That rationale, like the rationale behindthe Mashpee decision, directly attacks the cultural and historical acknowledgement of Native sovereignty.

Superficially, the assault on Native voting rights may appear conceptually unrelated to the Mashpee and ICWA decisions. North Dakota is one of many primarily Republican-controlled states to take advantage of a 2013 Supreme Court ruling eliminating key protections of the Voting Rights Act to make registration and voting more difficult, especially for likely Democratic voters including the poor and people of color. After numerous challenges, a North Dakota law requiring prospective voters to provide a street address was finally upheld by a Supreme Court ruling in October 2018. The problem is this: thousands of rural Native Americans, on or off that state’s reservations, lack street addresses because their streets have no names, their homes no numbers. Native Americans are also disproportionately homeless.

In the North Dakota case, Native Americans are fighting for a right of American citizens — the right to vote — whereas the Mashpee and ICWA cases involve fights to defend Native sovereignty. The new voting law invoked equality and individual rights, even as it actually focused on restricting the rights of Native Americans. Underpinning such restrictions was a convenient denial by those Republicans that the country’s history had, in fact, created conditions that were decidedly unequal. (Thanks to a massive and expensive local effort to defend their right to vote, however, North Dakota’s Native Americans showed up in record numbers in the 2018 midterm election.)

These three political developments downplay Native American identity, sovereignty, and rights, while denying, implicitly or explicitly, that history created today’s realities of racial inequality. The use of DNA tests to claim “Native American” genes or blood trivializes this same history.

The recognition of tribal sovereignty at least acknowledges that the existence of the United States is predicated on its imposition of an unwanted, foreign political entity on Native lands. The concept of tribal sovereignty has given Native Americans a legal and collective basis for fighting for a different way of thinking about history, rights, and nationhood. Attempts to reduce Native American identity to a race that can be identified by a gene (or a genetic variation) do violence to our history and justify ongoing violations of Native rights.

Senator Elizabeth Warren had every right to set the record straight regarding false accusations about her employment history. She should, however, rethink the implications of letting either Donald Trump or the ancestry industry define what it means to be Native American.

Aviva Chomsky is professor of history and coordinator of Latin American studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts and a TomDispatch regular. Her most recent book is Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Copyright 2018 Aviva Chomsky


Report to Galactic Headquarters

(a short sci-fi story… from Sha’Tara)

For: Leon Battera, Receiver

From: Apia-Di Loro III, Observation ship, OmaTe

Date: Cycle 286-87-1902 per Pleiadian Time Accounting.

Begin:

I have discovered an ancient world sparsely populated by intelligent sentience. Per my orders, I am orbiting this world on six different parameters taking soundings and recordings.

The sentience speaks as-yet unrecorded languages and I have instructed my translator to begin working on it. However, due to the vast confusion of spoken languages, this may take some time.

The world has much water on it but much appears to be non-potable and what should be potable appears to carry unusual amounts of radiation and trace pollutants inimical to the local flora and fauna. Samplings of air quality also reveal high levels of radiation and an unnatural dearth of oxygen.

I have run my findings through my analyzer. This world will require personal investigation as it is obvious it experienced a terrible catastrophe as recently as five to ten thousand years ago. As per my orders I must ascertain whether this unnatural catastrophe was caused by an invasion, or by the locals themselves although at first scan, these people have no technology, certainly nothing capable of such devastation indicated by my scans.

There is evidence of very large cities having once existed, now nothing but ruins. There are no roads. The people, it seems, live in small villages of huts made from mud and grasses; in some places, from twigs or bones.  I have noted smoke rising from the mouth of caves also.

What happened here? My mind is burning with questions. I am leaving my AI in command and taking my lander down to the planet.

Apia-Di Loro: AI, have I taken all necessary precautions and availed myself of proper protection?

AI: All is optimum. Ready for launch.

I am landed in a hidden depression on a broad plain covered in coarse grass. First analysis: radiation poisoning but dwindling. There is a village of sorts some ways from my hidden lander. I am making for it. It is difficult to separate the bipedal humanoid sentients from many other sentients so proceeding with care.

Of important note: I come upon an inscription of sorts on a plaque. The plaque material appears to be some metal alloy and is very old. I set the translator to transcribe what can be seen of the inscription and while it is doing so I wander around, careful to retain my cloaking. I hear an animal bleat and over a small rise comes a young woman leading a dozen animals which my portable unit refers to as “goats”.

Another animal follows the young woman, or girl rather. The animal circles the “goats” and keeps them walking in a specific direction. It is called a “dog”. The woman/girl is known as a shepherdess according to my portable translator. Meaning: she has charge of the animals and the “dog” animal helps her.

I’m in need of some verbal communication to talk to her so I return to my translator by the ancient plaque. This is what the translator shows me:

My name is Do-ald Trum-. I am the Presid–t of the mightiest nat— on e-rth. I have the p-wer to –nihil-te any nation or allian–s of na–on- that chall-nge my -ill. My fing-r is -lways -n th- butt-n. Be afraid, be v-ry -fr-id. -istory wil- r-memb– me as t– gre–est, mos- power-ul man who ever lived- – am mak-ng Amer-c- gr–t agai-

It was enough to formulate a rudimentary understanding of the language. The computer had no problem filling in the missing letters. Accompanied by the translator I return to the shepherdess and her animals. Before I uncloak myself I study her. She is very thin to the point of emaciation and her hair is sparse and dull. Her limbs are obviously deformed, a mutation from the radiation. Her right leg is shorter than the other and that foot has no toes. Her left arm terminates with a few knobs that were meant to be fingers, approximately where the elbow should be. Her clothing is inadequate, little more than patched rags. I feel a great pang of empathetic sadness knowing this would be the case for most of her people.

I try to imagine hundreds of millions of such mutants surviving in the most primitive and terrible of conditions, prone to disease and sudden temperature changes, always hungry, and the worst of it: not knowing why they are thus being “punished”. 

Having some verbal communication ability via the translator, I uncloak myself slowly and pretend I’d been walking towards her, a stranger crossing the prairie. Upon seeing me, she stands abruptly and raises her stick. The dog gives a half-dozen perfunctory warning barks. Fortunately my female form takes some of her fear of me away and she waits, though ready to run. I signal I am unarmed and try a greeting through the translator. She remains mute, obviously uncomprehending. I try other words and I see that she is listening intently but not understanding.

Finally, I point to the plaque and ask who this Donald Trump is, or was. She looks at the plaque as if she never noticed it before and shrugs and shakes her head to indicate she doesn’t know. I realize then that her language has nothing to do with what is on the plaque and in any case she cannot read. I conclude then that these are survivor remnants of some terrible war, for war it had to be as I can easily infer from the contents of the plaque. These people have no history and what language they possess has only immediate survival value.

The girl is still standing, rigid and uncertain, ready to bolt. To help her relax I slowly turn away to disappear in the tall grasses. Ironically the dog creature circles me and coming to the plaque, relieves itself upon it. I think it a very fitting gesture even if the creature does not realize the symbolism of its act.

My dear Leon, I will give you a much more thorough report when I return to the OmaTe. Meanwhile, I need not tell you this is a terrible heart-breaker of a world. Let me know as soon as you can if I should remain in orbit here and if it is necessary for me to make other landings. More importantly advise me, please, on what Galactic Planetary Health Consortium plans to do about this discovery; if it will intervene on behalf of these people. They desperately need our help Leon.

More details to follow soon. I remain, your Apia-Di.

Reblog: The Blue Pill Presidency

I just had to reblog this post from CounterPunch (more links pasted at bottom of this post) This is what I call writing… wow! One little tid-bit: ” We now identify with our captors – at least the ones playing the ‘good capitalist’ role, rather than recognizing that all the players in this absurdist spectacle of ‘Curtains for the Anthropocene’ are complicit profiteers of impending planetary collapse.”

July 19, 2018

The Blue Pill Presidency

by Jennifer Matsui

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Who would have predicted that in 2018, the FBI, the CIA, John McCain, Jeff Bezos, and now the monarchy would be feted as the vanguard of ‘The Resistance’ by the American ‘left’? Suddenly Trump’s presidency makes sense. To paraphrase a leaked Deep Squid memo from the deep swamps of Deep Space: “When they are forced to eat shit sandwiches around the clock, eventually deep fried vampire squid will appear delectable by comparison. Mission almost accomplished. Mwaah ha ha . . . !”

Our cephalopod overlords know us better than we do. After all, they created and control the devices that keep us under surveillance, and the algorithms that accurately predict at what point we will press ‘accept’ on the terms and conditions of a Trumpless, Squid-led world order that builds walls, empowers banks, oligarchs and polluters, while privatizing and militarizing everything that isn’t nailed down. We now identify with our captors – at least the ones playing the ‘good capitalist’ role, rather than recognizing that all the players in this absurdist spectacle of ‘Curtains for the Anthropocene’ are complicit profiteers of impending planetary collapse.

Fighting fascism is a noble and worthy pursuit. Unfortunately, we haven’t quite figured out how to do it. Flaming pitchforks or pussy hats? Collective struggle or individual belief in the power of existing institutions to rein in their own power? (Cue evil laugh track here) Allowing oligarchs, tech billionaires, war criminals, secret police agencies and monarchs to lead the charge is like treating a worsening chronic ailment with skin burrowing predator aliens from a deep space wormhole. Once you let ’em in, they will feast on your organs and prey on everything in their path. Don’t believe it? Just ask your local polar bear, honey bee or independent bookstore owner.

Notice how the Left establishment is suddenly enraged that a ‘classless’ dotard Bingo hall barker doesn’t know how to curtsy all proper-like on his tax-funded tour of Downton Abbey. Fancy that! Ten million slated to die of disease and starvation in Yemen? Whatever . . .

Before we all break out into a Beyonce led chorus of “God Save the Queen – She’s a Stellar Human Being – She Smote the Tangerine – Let’s Put Her Name on a War Ship’s Submarine”, here’s a little reminder: The old lady might look like she’s luring yet another loose cannon lunatic into a Paris tunnel with her super monarch powers, but QE2 would sooner submit to a golden Trump shower before she would relinquish her role in the feudalism that keeps her in jewels and corgis. The oaf in office is just another necessary evil the class system’s crypt keeper has to contend with for the survival of her undead progeny.

Post-Trump, we will never question the tentacled Master Race again, or doubt their wisdom. Eternal warfare and worsening poverty will be viewed through a ‘blue pill’ haze of relief. The nightmare ends. We are none the wiser, having taken the option to forget and move on. An escape back into reality, as the metaphorical ‘red pill’ suggests, would require a brutal confrontation with truth and the permanent discomfiture that comes with knowledge. Instead, we will once again swallow the same pill that transformed George W. Bush a beloved and unfairly maligned statesmen a few short years after his presidency unleashed those still burning hellfires across much of the earth. Her Majesty will once again be properly genuflected to by a visiting American head of state with better hair plugs.

FLOTUS will be decommissioned, disassembled, and sent back to the offshore factory that makes state-of-the-art Living Dolls for moneyed incels. With any luck, she will be rebooted as a life sized Barbie companion for a lonely 12-year girl old in Dubai. Worst case scenario: A shipping invoice mishap will have her sent to Barron on his 30th birthday.

The ceaseless bombing and starvation will continue under a different Twitter feed, and POTUS 46, after proving he can clip on his own tie before launching a nuclear strike on Iran will be embraced by woke folk, arms dealers, spooks and crowned heads of states alike.

After being hogtied and injected with near-lethal doses of absurdity, we find ourselves collectively hallucinating a tinpot tycoon blowing up Twitter one day, a giant orange clown in a diaper floating over London the next. Carefully sowed confusion will give way to an equally orchestrated acceptance of the war-as-usual status quo when the blue pill kicks in. A return to normal will be a much welcome steel-toed boot to the face.

More articles by:Jennifer Matsui

Jennifer Matsui is a writer living in Tokyo.

CounterPunch

Am I Driving?

[thoughts from     ~burning woman~    by Sha’Tara]

There’s an old joke that goes something like this: two old ladies, Amy and Blanche, are out for a Sunday afternoon drive in Amy’s mint 1958 Caddy. As they push on down Main Street, Amy, who’s the passenger today, notices they drove through a red light. She cringes, says nothing and they proceed to go through two more red lights, at which point Amy can’t stand it any longer and says, “Blanche, do you realize you just drove through three red lights in a row?” Blanche looks around and says, “Oh my, am I driving?”

Am I driving? When one is in a car it seems that such a question would be of paramount importance. The funny, or sad, part of this story is, we’re all born ‘in a car’ or maybe better put, in a ship, and really, we’re all supposed to be driving, or piloting. Except for children and those of severely diminished mental capacity, there are no passengers on spaceship earth.

So why are so many of us continually going through red lights and paying no attention? Well, because we’ve come to believe that we could delegate the job of piloting the ship to certain individuals who claimed some sort of right to that position and we’ve grown used to the idea that it isn’t “me” who is driving through that red light, but the one I voted for. If the ship manages to survive as it blasts its way through shoals of meteorites and no real damage ensues, we hail our elected captain as a hero. If there is damage, we can always blame the guy. I’m not driving the ship of state, he is, or she is.

If you voted for those people and put them in power, doesn’t that make you responsible? The answer usually is, well, yes, but only at voting time. After that I’ve got no say in the matter. That’s the deal, you see? If I don’t like the job they’re doing in piloting the ship I get to vote them out next time around.

What if by then they’ve turned the ship into a hulk floating through space with hardly any life support systems working?

Not to worry, it’s never been that bad. It’s a big ship. It’s made it through billions of years, it’s got a lot of mileage left in it.

So, what’s all the bitching about then? What about changing circumstances in and around the ship which some claim could mean the ship is going to run out of fuel; the shielding could fail; life support systems shut down?

I wouldn’t worry about it. We’ve always had the doomsayers and conspiracy theorists. The problem is the Internet and speeded up communication that allows these fear mongerers to spread their sick ideas. There’s nothing wrong with the ship. Those in control say we’re on course and all is well. I for one believe them. I got to believe in something, right?

But isn’t it true that there is a lot more chaos and conflict aboard the ship recently than there was, say, a hundred years ago?

It’s all relative. More people, more conflict. It’s natural see? Nothing to worry about.

If you were voted in as captain of your section of the ship what would you do differently?

Oh, I don’t know. I’d like to see those in power given more power to do what they want to do. As things stand, there’s too much emphasis on diversity. We need more centralized power. More power gives you more control. That’s what I’d want.

I see. More of what you already have, right? Can I quote you on that last bit?

You bet, and you’ve given me an idea: maybe I should take a stab at becoming the driver.

America, what is going on?

I “apologize” to those who follow this blog for periodically “going political” on you but some things need be shown and said. There is a growing problem in America today, and as a Canadian living within a few miles of the longest “friendly” and undefended border on earth, what happens in America concerns me. It should concern the entire world but many are those who, like the German people in the 1930’s simply choose not to believe what is right before their eyes.  Our problem today is, as America increasingly goes rogue and out of control, do we really want Russia and China to be our “Allied” saviours? Wouldn’t that be jumping from the frying pan into the fire? Food for thought as you read the following. I post the entire blog, there is no “re-blog” on Tom Dispatch, but all the links are there.  I’ve also left the bottom of the blog post advertising the books and all that.

If you care or are concerned, take a few minutes to read, then a few more to ponder the consequences.  We’re not in a good place right now.  I’m 71 years old, so I’m not concerned about myself, but what about the children? What about their future? Where will the spend that time between “now” and eternity?

Tomgram: Nate Terani, Being Demonized in Your Own Country

Who could possibly keep up with the discordant version of musical chairs now being played out in Washington? When it comes to Donald Trump’s White House, the old sports phrase about needing a scorecard to keep track of the players pops to mind (though you would need a new one every day or maybe every few hours). The turnover rate of top White House staffers was already at 43%, a record for any administration in little more than its first year in office, before the latest round of exits even began.

Recently, the president nominated Gina Haspel (“Bloody Gina”) to head the CIA.  She had, in fact, been responsible for running one of the Bush administration’s earliest and most brutal “black sites” and had a significant hand as well in destroying evidence of what CIA torturers had done there and elsewhere. Meanwhile, he tapped the Agency’s previous director, Mike Pompeo, a notorious Tea Party Islamophobe and Iranophobe, to replace Twitter-fired Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. Now, another key post is evidently about to be up for grabs. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster is reportedly almost out the door as the president openly considers a replacement for him, possibly former Bush-era ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton. He’s another major Iranophobe, who has called for launching military operations against that country for years. Like the recent replacement of economic adviser Gary Cohn by conservative CNBC commentator Larry Kudlow, all of the president’s new appointments or possible ones seem to have something in common: each is to the right of and significantly more extreme than the person he or she is replacing. Whether it’s the tearing up of the Iran nuclear deal and a possible future war with that country or yet more plutocratic economic policies, Donald Trump now seems intent on creating an ever more extreme administration.

In the context of that growing extremity, including the potential return of torture, the possible refilling of Guantanamo with new prisoners, the intensification of war across the Greater Middle East with a new focus on Iran, and the entrenchment of particularly extreme forms of Islamophobia, let U.S. Navy veteran Nate Terani take you into his own personal hell as a Muslim-American. It’s a hell that remains largely private at the moment, but for how long? Tom

Donald Trump’s America
Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
By Nate Terani

Understand this: I’m an American veteran. I’m also a Muslim-American in a country in which, in these years, that hasn’t exactly been the happiest category to fall into. Now, let me tell you a little story.

Recently, I had an ominous dream. It was noon on a grey, cold January 20th, 2020, and Donald Trump was being sworn in for his second term as president. Massive inaugural crowds cheered him exuberantly as a gentle snow fell upon a sea of MAGA red-hats and TRUMP banners waving in front of the Capitol.

In my dream, however, the Capitol wasn’t quite the same as I remembered it from my days stationed there as a young Navy sailor. It seemed almost war-torn as clouds of dark smoke billowed up on the horizon and the sound of gunfire could be heard somewhere in the distance. In my dream — don’t ask me how — I could also hear the terror-filled voices of people screaming or crying out for help as ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents, clad in black uniforms, stormed local Washington homes and businesses, arresting people and loading them onto large unmarked cargo trucks.

Meanwhile, those inaugural crowds — I have no idea if they were the largest in the history of dreams — were flanked by military Humvees as heavily armed soldiers in unfamiliar camouflage uniforms stood behind the president while he delivered his second inaugural address. I could even hear his words eerily reverberating through the Capitol. “The enemy,” he exclaimed, “has infiltrated our great nation because of weak immigration laws allowed by treasonous politicians!”

At that very moment, he told the exuberant crowd, he was already singlehandedly purging “those terrorists and their enablers from our ranks.” The MAGA banners waved ever more frantically and the crowd roared as he declared, “Law and order are now being restored to our great nation once again!”

I awoke in a cold sweat. Unlike the sort of nightmare I’d normally shake off as a fantasy of slumber, the result perhaps of that late night dose of Ben and Jerry’s I had meant to resist, this one stuck with me and, I’m sorry to say, recurred.

American Fear-scapes

Worse yet, these days I no longer have to drop into some deep, unnerving dream state to experience it. Though few of us are likely to admit it, some version of that dream of mine is, in fact, the secret daily nightmare of millions of my fellow Muslim-Americans. In a moment, when immigrants in this country live in a fear-scape all their own, believe me, so do we. In our living nightmare, an administration that can seem not just ineffective but hapless beyond imagining, plagued by scandal, and stocked with staff members heading for the exits (or being escorted off White House grounds) might nonetheless transform itself into something even more deeply threatening to Americans like us. It might sooner or later consolidate power and, eager to distract the public from its actual plutocratic and other grim policies, turn on us “bigly.” Without dropping into another dream state, I can easily enough imagine how, with the tacit endorsement of Trump’s base, that administration might prepare itself to use a future devastating terror attack, the next Orlando or San Bernardino, to skewer American Muslims or the immigrant community and so pave the way for a true living nightmare.

Such a crisis could take many forms, but imagine, for instance, a “dirty bomb” attack (the use of conventional explosives to spread radioactive nuclear waste materials across a wide area of some urban neighborhood). Just such an attack has certainly been a focus of concern in the U.S. intelligence community for years now. In fact, in 1999, while on active duty as a new member of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the first interagency briefing I attended at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, focused on that very issue.

Should that happen or anything like it, it’s easy enough to imagine how the Trump administration might use it to enhance its own power at our expense. With the public cowering in fear, martial law might be declared. Meanwhile, a Congress that, in the face of the imperial presidency, has already abdicated its constitutional duty to declare war, might grant Donald Trump far greater authority than he already possesses, thanks to the unprecedented post-9/11 powers any president now wields — and the American people (or enough of them, at least) would “rally ’round the chief.”

And then, or so I imagine (and, at least among American Muslims I know, I’m not alone in this), so much worse would begin to unfold and my recurring nightmare would become a nightmarish reality. In the aftermath of such an attack, so much in our world, from the Women’s March to Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, would become distant and forgotten memories. Dissent would be denounced as unpatriotic, perhaps ultimately illegal, and basic human rights might be suspended.

By now, I’m sure you see where I’m going. In my nightmare at least — and I’m talking about the waking one now, the one I live with every day — countless immigrants and American Muslims are in camps awaiting who knows what. It’s not as if there is no precedent for anything like that in America, given the experience of Japanese-Americans rounded up and kept in just such camps during World War II.

In this moment of growing Islamophobia, at a time when a president has a desire to simply ban foreign Muslims and cast American ones as the worst of the worst, it’s just one more step into my fears of the future for me to imagine myself, an American veteran, as well as my family and other members of the Muslim community, sitting inside darkened train cars on our way to internment camps, while we desperately try to convince ourselves that surely the Supreme Court will overturn such an injustice.

And given our world, given the history of racism in this country, it’s not that hard to imagine scores of broken men, women, and children already at our destination as we hurtle down the tracks to join them. Nor is it that hard to imagine the Trump administration dismissing those who protest such treatment as disloyal co-conspirators, and then using militarized police raiders to hunt some of them down, too. I can even imagine mosques being set ablaze and synagogues and churches that attempted to protect citizens fleeing all of this being raided at the government’s orders.

Heading for a Dark Destination

In some dark corner of my mind, given what we know about what we human beings are capable of, I can almost imagine some kind of Muslim-American version of the Holocaust, the ultimate nightmare that immigrants and Muslim-Americans have dreaded since Donald Trump’s election victory in November 2016, but dare not whisper. There’s nothing sadder to say than that such fears do not completely lack historical precedent: the world has, of course, been here before.

If the fate of the millions who perished during World War II, thanks to Adolf Hitler and his minions, doesn’t seem real enough to you, just pay a visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. There, you can witness the haunting images of our human brethren who, by virtue of their faith or background, were destroyed, some by their own countrymen.

Now, I know perfectly well that those of you who aren’t Muslim-Americans are likely to find such fantasies at best extreme; at worst, beyond conception. The reason isn’t hard to imagine, because of course Donald Trump isn’t Adolf Hitler; White House adviser Stephen Miller isn’t Joseph Goebbels; White House Chief of Staff John Kelly isn’t Hermann Göring; and former CIA Director and next Secretary of State Mike Pompeo isn’t Heinrich Himmler.  Yes — but Pompeo, a major Islamophobe in an administration filled with them, has insisted that all Muslims are potentially complicit in terrorism and that “people who deeply believe that Islam is the way” are a “threat to America.”  He has also received the “National Security Eagle Award” from a noted anti-Muslim hate group, ACT for America, and has been interviewed more than 20 times by Frank Gaffney, “the country’s most influential Islamophobe,” on his radio show.  And when it comes to Islamophobia (and Iranophobia as well), in this administration Pompeo is hardly alone.

Still, not even bans, insults, and a visible loathing for those of us who don’t look like and pray like the president and his men, not even torchlight parades by Trump-supporting American neo-Nazis, get you easily to anything like an American Holocaust.  But know, when you read this, that there are those of us out here who, in the dark of night, are indeed haunted by such thoughts anyway and by thoughts as well of those in the 1930s who dismissed the fears of the worst to come as so much hyperbole.

Speaking just for myself, I can’t help but believe that, in our 241-year history that includes a bitter civil war, two world wars, and the Great Depression, this could turn out to be the most crucial moment of all. I can’t help but wonder, at least in my bleaker moments, whether there will be any coming back from the dark destination, whatever it turns out to be, that we, as a nation, now seem headed for. And if not, just remember that no one will be able to say that we didn’t know what we were doing, that there were no warnings as people like me were demonized in our own country.

Whatever hell might still come, for this veteran at least, Donald Trump’s America is already hell enough.

Nate Terani is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and served in military intelligence with the Defense Intelligence Agency. He is currently a spokesperson for Common Defense PAC and regional campaign organizer with Veterans Challenge Islamophobia. He is a featured columnist with the Arizona Muslim Voice newspaper. This is his second TomDispatch piece.  Follow him on Twitter at @NateTerani.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, as well as John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2018 Nate Terani

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Violent American Dower bookThe Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II

World War II marked the apogee of industrialized “total war.” Great powers savaged one another. Hostilities engulfed the globe. Mobilization extended to virtually every sector of every nation. Air war, including the terror bombing of civilians, emerged as a central strategy of the victorious Anglo-American powers. The devastation was catastrophic almost everywhere, with the notable exception of the United States, which exited the strife unscathed and unmatched in power and influence. The death toll of fighting forces plus civilians worldwide was staggering.

The Violent American Century addresses the U.S.-led transformations in war conduct and strategizing that followed 1945—beginning with brutal localized hostilities, proxy wars, and the nuclear terror of the Cold War, and ending with the asymmetrical conflicts of the present day. The military playbook now meshes brute force with a focus on non-state terrorism, counterinsurgency, clandestine operations, a vast web of overseas American military bases, and—most touted of all—a revolutionary new era of computerized “precision” warfare. In contrast to World War II, postwar death and destruction has been comparatively small. By any other measure, it has been appalling—and shows no sign of abating.

 

Splinterlands FefferSplinterlands

Julian West, looking backwards from 2050, tries to understand why the world and his family have fallen apart.

Part Field Notes from a Catastrophe, part 1984, part World War Z, John Feffer’s striking new dystopian novel, takes us deep into the battered, shattered world of 2050. The European Union has broken apart. Multiethnic great powers like Russia and China have shriveled. America’s global military footprint has virtually disappeared and the United States remains united in name only. Nationalism has proven the century’s most enduring force as ever-rising global temperatures have supercharged each-against-all competition and conflict among the now 300-plus members of an increasingly feeble United Nations.

As he navigates the world of 2050, Julian West offers a roadmap for the path we’re already on, a chronicle of impending disaster, and a faint light of hope. He may be humanity’s last best chance to explain how the world unraveled—if he can survive the savage beauty of the Splinterlands.

 

Tomorrow's BattlefieldTomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa

You won’t see segments about it on the nightly news or read about it on the front page of America’s newspapers, but the Pentagon is fighting a new shadow war in Africa, helping to destabilize whole countries and preparing the ground for future blowback. Behind closed doors, U.S. officers now claim that “Africa is the battlefield of tomorrow, today.” In Tomorrow’s Battlefield, award-winning journalist and bestselling author Nick Turse exposes the shocking true story of the U.S. military’s spreading secret wars in Africa.

Shadow Government EngelhardtShadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single Superpower World

In 1964, a book entitled The Invisible Government shocked Americans with its revelations of a growing world of intelligence agencies playing fast and loose around the planet, a secret government lodged inside the one they knew that even the president didn’t fully control. Almost half a century later, everything about that “invisible government” has grown vastly larger, more disturbing, and far more visible.

They Were SoldiersThey Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars: The Untold Story

At 73, having spent years focusing on the civilian toll from Washington’s Afghan War, Ann Jones embedded on an American forward operating base to experience what that war was like for the U.S. troops in the field. The next year, she began following grievously wounded American soldiers from the moment they came off the battlefield all the way back home.  Her journey proved to be nothing short of an odyssey. Despite all the talk in this country about our “wounded warriors,” no other book gives us a more powerful sense of the genuine cost of war to Americans.

 

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