Archive for the ‘Steven Jonas’ Category

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Revisiting ‘9/11’ on its 15th Anniversary, in the Context of the Reichstag Fire

The Reichstag Fire, the Tonkin Gulf incident, events like that were major historical pivots in the 20th century, yet they were all engineered, false flags designed to tighten control over the masses. In the 21st, 9/11 is still the granddaddy of all false flags—so far. Much worse is still to come, unless people get really organized.

The 15th anniversary of the 9/11 Disaster will shortly be observed this year.  No single event in recent history has had such an impact on history itself.  I, and many, many others have been writing on it, and the still un-answered questions about it, from the time almost immediately after it happened.  In the view of many of us, the truth about what really happened has yet to be told.  On September 10-11, at New York City’s Cooper union, Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, the Lawyers Committee for 9/11 Inquiry, the NY State Legislative Action Project for 9/11 Justice, the 9/11 Consensus Panel, and the 9/11 Truth Action Project will be holding the next in the series of “Justice in Focus” symposia on the topic of “9/11 Truth” which have been held annually for some years now.

Hitler’s power grab: The Enabling Act. (March 1933). The Nazis’ payoff for their high-handed false flag which enabled it.

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“9/11” is a subject that I have visited periodically over the years, most recently on The Greanville Post last April, upon the publication of the redacted version of “The 28 Pages.”   This time around I thought to go back to some of my earliest writing on the subject.  It appeared on a long-closed webmagazine called “The Political Junkies.net.” This time around, because the 9/11 disaster and the U.S. Republican government’s response to  it has had such a profound impact on world affairs, the multi-faceted and super-deadly current conflict in the Middle East being just one of them, I thought that it might be useful to re-visit a singular event that occurred a long time ago, that also had a huge impact in subsequent years,  That would be the Reichstag Fire, that occurred in Berlin, Germany, on February 27, 1933, just about a month after Adolf Hitler became the German Chancellor.  There are some remarkable comparisons between the governmental responses to the two events, of which this column will only scratch the surface.  This text is drawn from several columns of mine on the subject of 9/11 and the Reichstag Fire which I have written over the years, the first being done in November, 2001.

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Fascism in the 21st Century

Posted: November 25, 2015 in -, Steven Jonas
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by Steven Jonas, MD, MPH

Reprinted from The Greanville Post


As I said in beginning the first column in this series, “fascism” is a term we hear from all sorts of folk these days, ranging from some of those on the Left over occasionally to some on the Right.  I then presented a “classical” definition of the term (and there surely are a number of useful ones):

“A politico-economic system in which there is: total executive branch control of both the legislative and administrative powers of government; no independent judiciary; no Constitution that embodies a Rule of Law standing above the people who run the government and the executive, legislative and judicial bodies through which they do so; no inherent personal rights or liberties; a single national ideology that first demonizes and then criminalizes all political, religious, and ideological opposition to it; the massive and regular use of hate, fear, racial and religious prejudice, the Big Lie technique, mob psychology, mob actions and ultimately individual and collective violence to achieve political and economic ends; a capitalist/corporate economy; with the ruling economic class’ domination of economic, fiscal, and regulatory policy.”

Fascism has almost always appeared in advanced or moderately-advanced capitalist countries which were hitherto ruled by some sort of “parliamentary democracy.”   Fascism has always been imposed upon a country by the dominant sectors of its capitalist ruling class when that class has come to the conclusion that it can no longer retain control of the political economy through “parliamentary” means.  Note that in the definition above I did not include as part of it the ultimate control of state power by one person, usually known as the “dictator” or “leader”.   Of course it happened that in the two principal 20th century examples of fascist states, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, there was one such person.  As noted in the first column in this series:

“Because of the roles that Hitler and Mussolini played in leading and ruling their respective countries it is often thought that fascismrequires such a singular leader/dictator and the cult-of-personality that was built around each.  In fact Hitler and Mussolini both adopted the term ‘leader’ to describe themselves, ‘führer’ in German and ‘Duce’ in Italian.”

Very strong cults of personality were carefully built around the two men by their respective propaganda apparatuses. For example, after 1938 or so, in Nazi Germany if one did not substitute “Heil Hitler” for the usual “Good Morning,” etc. throughout the day, one might be looked upon with suspicion.  Furthermore, a singular characteristic of 20th fascism was that its institutionalization in a given country was accomplished by the use of violence, of one form or another.

When we are looking at 21st century fascism, in the context of what is happening in certain of the capitalist states, at the present particularly in the United States, it should be noted that it is entirely possible that wholesale violence will not be required for its introduction.  Nor will a maximum leader necessarily be required.  Like the fog in the famous, ultra-short poem by the U.S. person Carl Sandburg, it may well come in “on little cat feet.”

As the history of the last 150 years or so shows us, in most capitalist countries the ruling class would much rather retain its private ownership of the means of production and control of the State apparatus through the aforementioned form of “parliamentary democracy” (as long as it can control it).  There are a variety of reasons for this, one being that it maintains the fiction that the non-owning classes have some real say in the governance of the economy as well as of the State.

But the principal contradictions of capitalism eventually begin to settle in, as is happening right before our very eyes in the United States: the export of capital and the resulting de-industrialization; the declining rate of profit, the necessity of the creation and expansion into unorthodox profit centers like prisons and the educational system; increasing numbers of workers languishing outside of the labor market, and so on and so forth.  Under such conditions—all inherent in capitalism’s dynamics—it becomes less-and-less easy for the ruling class to maintain control.  At that point, some sort of fascism starts to become ever more attractive.  But how to get from A to B?  In a nation like the United States, with Constitutionally-split government authority, that’s easy: through the Constitution.  And so, in the 21st century, in the United States at least, I believe we will eventually arrive at what can be called Constitutional Fascism.

Using the increasingly corrupt electoral system, which the Republicans have been deliberately undermining by gerrymandering, voter suppression, and outright vote-count cheating, they have been taking total control of an increasing number of state governments, upwards of 2 dozen after the 2015 elections.   For the same reasons they will control the House of Representatives for the indefinite future.  If they retain their Senate majority in 2016, they will very likely do away with the filibuster on Jan. 3, 2017.  For a variety of reasons, if they somehow manage to choose the right candidate, they could very well win the Presidency in 2016, for they have managed the very clever trick of forcing President Obama to accept many of their economic/fiscal policies and then getting to blame him for the negative outcomes of same.  Finally, the other side of the Duopoly plays right into this because the Democrats—the other face of the deep corporate state and international imperialism— rarely fight back on the real issues, the issues that matter from a class perspective.

“In the 21st century, in the United States at least…wholesale violence may not be required. Gradually, step by unnoticed step, I believe we will eventually arrive at what can be called Constitutional Fascism.”

So, as we have seen, in this cynical Kabuki, it is the Repubs. who take the lead toward the slaughterhouse, while the Democrats simply follow, by passively eventually assenting to most policies proposed by the “party of business.” Thus, in a systematic way, more and more, the Repubs. are running on and/or intent on implanting most of the central elements of the definition of fascism offered above, through the use of the electoral system, which they can do because A) as mentioned earlier, the limp opposition of the Democratic Party, and B) the non-existence of any sort of mass labor union movement, following the Repubs.’ successful campaign to destroy it, a process that has been going on since the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. (Again a bipartisan project).

None of this would be so outrageously easy in the presence of a functioning, autonomous media that took its duties seriously. That, however, does not exist in the US anymore, if it ever did. The American media, conceits aside, in the complete hands of the corporate plutocracy, are simply one more propaganda platform—perhaps the most effective—to bolster and disseminate the prevailing capitalist ideology.  The true left, minuscule in its media presence, forever fragmented and improvident in strategic regards, has nothing to respond with, no instruments with which to access the public debate.

Combining that with the virtually non-existent labor movement and political parties of labor, is why the fascism mongers may well be able achieve their goals “constitutionally.”  What they will do to the Constitution by amendments (that they are already talking about) once they get full control of the Supreme Court, 40 state governments, 2/3’s of the Congress, and the Presidency will then play itself out.  And the nation will have become fully fascist functionally, without violence, without a maximum leader, with, on paper two political parties offering “choice.” A perfect Orwellian democracy.

If you would like to see how this may well play out, please see my book, The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022 (Punto Press Publishing, 2013).  The original edition was published in 1996, and believe me I didn’t make up any of it.  “The 15% Solution” in the title comes from a voter-suppression program designed by an organization called the “Christian Coalition” in the late 1980s.  I just looked at what the Republicans and their soul-mates in the Religious Right were telling us, back into the 1980s, what they would do if they ever got significant control over the levers of government.  And they are doing it.  Indeed, as the overall economic conditions continue to worsen, and as racism, homophobia, and misogyny, all underlain by religious determinism, continue to expand in their domination of Republican politics, fascism will creep in like Sandburg’s fog, on little cat feet.  But it will be a highly poisonous fog. 

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books.  In addition to being Senior Editor, Politics, for The Greanville Post, he is: a Contributor for American Politics to The Planetary Movement; a “Trusted Author” for Op-Ed News.com; a contributor to the “Writing for Godot” section of Reader Supported News; and a contributor to From The G-Man. He is the Editorial Director and a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine.us.  Further, he is an occasional Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter, BuzzFlash Commentary, and Dandelion Salad.

Dr. Jonas’ latest book is The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A Futuristic Novel, Brewster, NY, Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, and available on Amazon.

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“Bridge of Spies: A Commentary”

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH      

November 2, 2015

Even though the previews indicated that the movie “Bridges of Spies” was going to be a rollicking good spy-exchange story, and even though I remember the “U-2 Incident” on which it is based pretty well, I had been planning not to see it.  I figured that it would be part of the gradual build-up underway in this country of anti-Russian sentiment that has been going on in the context of the current decline in U.S.-Russian relations.  Many U.S. persons have a very hazy knowledge of history and certainly some of them confuse modern-day Russia with the Soviet Union.

Indeed, I noted in a previous column that even a TV news correspondent, commenting on the recent Russian build-up in Syria, twice referred to the country as the “Soviet Union” before, on the third reference, naming it correctly.  So, a historical drama that concerns the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. could easily be confused by some viewers at least as representing what is currently going on between the U.S. and Russia.  (That at its base, quite unlike the U.S./U.S.S.R. conflict, it is what I have termed a “clash of capitalisms” is a matter that I have dealt with elsewhere.)

But, presently, Russia is increasingly described anywhere on a scale from “enemy” to “dangerous rival” to “a nation sticking its nose in where it doesn’t belong.”  (Those references never seem to mention the U.S.’ 750 or so bases around the world nor the U.S. policies that have stimulated violence throughout the Muslim, especially Arab world.  But that is another story).  Russian President Putin generally receives bad media coverage here.  And there seems to be a general build-up of “Russia-is-bad” reporting.  And so, I thought to myself “this one has to be nothing more than a revival of Cold War propaganda, and I do not have to subject myself to that.”

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Well.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I went to see the movie because my wife, who usually doesn’t like movies with such subjects, was intrigued by it.  What a pleasant surprise of a film.  First of all, there are the Spielberg settings.  So authentic, whether in Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, Berlin (East and West), or European cities standing in for Berlin.  Then there is the acting, starring that grand actor-with-great-range, Tom Hanks.  Terrific as an insurance lawyer — the movie doesn’t tell you that he was a counsel to the Office of Strategic Services during World War II (same name, but no relation to “Wild Bill” Donovan, the war-time commander of the O.S.S.), although it does mention that he was part of the prosecution team for the Nuremberg Trials — gradually drawn into becoming a spy-exchange negotiator.  Then there is Mark Rylance, last seen here as King Henry VIII’s hatchet man (literally) Thomas Cromwell in the TV series based on the Wolf Hall novels.  Whether or not the Soviet spy Rudolf Abel was actually as Rylance portrayed him, he certainly could have been.  A superb job.

Most important is the story and the way it is presented, focusing on Donovan, Abel, Francis Gary Powers (the U-2 pilot whose plane was shot down by the Soviet air defense system and who did not, contrary to orders, commit suicide before he could be captured), and the process of the exchange.  Although one knows, even without having any familiarity with the real story, what the outcome is going to be (what big budget film-maker is going to do a movie about a potential spy exchange that fails) the film still keeps you on the edge of your seat.

It is interesting note (at least it is for students of history like me) that several very important political-historical elements/events were left out. First it is made to appear that the spy plane flight by Francis Gary Powers was the first or one of the first of its kind.  Actually, the program had been underway off and on for several years. The Soviets knew about it but had no weapon that could reach the very high-flying U-2s until they had the one that brought down Powers.   Second, no mention was made of the Four Power Summit Peace Conference between the United States, Great Britain, France and the U.S.S.R. that was to have taken place in Paris in May, 1960.

That Summit was intended by both sides to attempt to continue and broaden the first post-World War II opening to “détente” between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers that had been made by Vice-President Richard Nixon’s visit to the Soviet Union in 1959 and the mutual national shows that took place that summer in New York City and Moscow.  (I was lucky enough to have attended the opening of the U.S. show in Moscow and although not knowing it at the time, I was on the other side of a wall in the U.S. model house when the famous “kitchen debate” took place between Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.) The U-2 incident took place just before the Summit was to start and that start quickly become its end.

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President Dwight D. Eisenhower did take public responsibility for the very embarrassing series of events.  However, it is thought in some quarters that the CIA spy-master Allen Dulles purposely arranged the Powers flight, without Eisenhower’s knowledge of that specific one and its timing, with the hope that it would be discovered or even brought down (and the U.S. knew that Soviet air defenses were steadily improving) so that the Summit would be sabotaged.  Dulles, along with his brother John Foster, who had been Eisenhower’s Secretary of State until his death in 1959, from the end of the World War II had at the top of his agenda the eventual destruction of the Soviet Union.  Four Power peace summits were not his cup of tea. And the “peaceful co-existence” that Khrushchev was aiming for (as was John F. Kennedy before he was murdered — see his not-so-famous “American University” speech of June, 1963) was viewed by the likes of Allen Dulles as poison.

But this movie did not require a full treatment of the history in order to make its primary point, which was not, much to my surprise, to paint the Soviet Union in a bad light.  (The German Democratic Republic — East Germany — not so good, but that’s another matter.)  Rather, in my view it had two major points to make.  First, that in the 1950s and 60s in this country there were honorable men, like James B. Donovan the real-life attorney portrayed by Tom Hanks, who firmly believed in the Constitution and the rule of law, even for foreign spies.  (And Donovan’s law firm was what was called a “white shoe” firm, generally conservative and generally Republican.  But there were plenty of Republicans in those days, like the ones who brought down the rabidly red-baiting Senator Joe McCarthy, who the Tea Party/so-called “Freedom Caucus” in the House of Representatives today would be calling “Reds.”)

Second, the movie makes a very John le Carre-like point.  Secret service agents on both sides are generally not nice people (unless, of course, they are Jimmy Cagney in “13 Rue Madeline”).  Spying corrupts (although the Russian spy, “Rudolf Abel,” is portrayed as someone just doing his job), whether they are “ours” or “theirs.”  Neither the CIA guys, nor the KGB guys, nor the Stasi (East German secret police) come across particularly well.  And so while it does have plenty of greater or lesser villains, on both sides, it does have one hero, and that is a classic Honorable Man, James B. Donovan.   He fought the Nazis, and then, before he got involved in the spy-exchange drama, he fought for the U.S. Constitution and the rights it, on paper at least, provides for everyone within the borders of the United States.  What a difference between Republicans like Donovan and Republicans like Cheney and the ilk he has so successfully fostered within his party.

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“Disney, of course, can, and could, have none of this. Which is what, ultimately, makes this movie a fantasy.”
Tomorrowland: Disney Studios in Fantasyland

by Steven Jonas

Walt Disney began his career, or at least first came to major public notice, with the fantasy creature, cartoon character, Mickey Mouse.  While over the years Disney Studios has gone well beyond fantasy, and well beyond Mickey Mouse, it still does like to deal in fantasy from time-to-time.  And so it has done in Tomorrowland, a sort-of science fiction, past-time-present-time-future-time, essay into the future of the Earth and human civilization.  (Actually, The New York Times reviewer, A.O. Scott, took the movie to task for “its blithe disregard for basic principles of science-fiction credibility.”)

The story is complex and I must admit that I wasn’t able to follow every one of its ins and outs.  But it starts in a time past at the 1964 New York City World’s Fair (with, among other things, a good deal of product placement).  It then seems to come forward to just about the present or perhaps just a bit into the future, with the central character, a child science-junkie in 1964, now a grown-up super science/electronics junkie.  And then it goes into two versions of a future place called — you guessed it — “Tomorrowland.”  When it first appears, Tomorrowland is a bustling metropolis, set in the middle of one-is-not-sure where, sometime in the future.  It is all clean and bright and white, occupied by a very diverse population of well-fed, seemingly well-educated, and very busy people.  It bears some resemblance, from a distance at least, to the Disney World Magic Kingdom (my, what a coincidence).

Very importantly, allusions are made to the fact that in our time, more-or-less, the Earth and we are succumbing to climate change, environmental degradation, filth, over-population, water shortages, and so on and so forth, all of which are inevitably leading to the “Sixth Extinction.”  (Pointedly, at least pointedly to me, excluded from the list are Permanent War, which now seems to be permanently with us, and the threat of nuclear war/annihilation and its probable successor, nuclear winter [which seems to be making a comeback as a major threat].) 

As I said, the plot is complex and I wasn’t able to follow all of its twists and turns.  In particular, I was confused by the fact that when we first see Tomorrowland, as noted, everything is working beautifully.  But then when we see it again at the end of the movie, as the setting for the de rigeur mano-a-mano that just seems to be an absolute MUST for such movies, between the hero, played by George Clooney, and the villain (who is a villain, but does not for the most part come across as villainous) played by the well-known British character actor Hugh Laurie, it is, while still white, run-down and deserted, with trash blowing all around.  I’m sure that that state of affairs is explained somewhere, but I missed it. 

At any rate, what we do get that appears in very few post-apocalypse movies (which seem to be growing in number every year — wonder why?) is a very uplifting new beginning: a large, very diverse, group of seemingly very bright, very well-educated, very good-looking, young adults are recruited to go forth in the world, show people the positive way, somehow restore Tomorrowland, and then, I guess, spread the good word and the good works, all around the world (that is assuming that indeed the whole world did succumb to climate change, species extinction, environmental degradation, and so-on-and-so forth). 


Tomorrowland and similar works aptly reflect the pervasive sense of impending doom gripping the world, but as works of artistic creativity they also accurately mirror the complete bankruptcy of capitalist culture and the fact the system cannot even conceive of a rational (let alone moral) way out of the crisis it has itself created.

So.  Very positive.  Very upbeat.  Very supposedly uplifting.  Yes, somehow, the Earth and human civilization will be saved, renewed.  BUT, and it’s a very big BUT, neither the principal cause of the decline and fall of civilization nor what would be needed to create a Tomorrowland that could actually work are mentioned, even in passing.  And that cause of course is capitalism, as the principal form of economic organization in the contemporary world.  As has been said many times, the principal goals of the capitalists are the making of profits from capital and the accumulation of ever-increasing amounts of capital with which to make evermore profit.  The ultimate outcome of capitalism, which depends upon the ever-increasing exploitation of both human and natural resources, is its suicide.

Disney, of course, can, and could, have none of this.  Which is what, ultimately, makes this movie a fantasy.  The on-coming destruction of the Earth as we know it, which is referred to in the movie, is “cause-less.”  It, apparently, just happens.  As for the reconstruction of the Earth, which is to be achieved by the legions of earnest young people recruited at the end of the film, it is seemingly to be achieved without any system of social organization and with no mention of the resources — physical, organizational, economic, and political — which will/would be needed to achieve the desired end.  To say nothing of the fact, that if this reconstruction were to be tried under capitalism, rather than the alternate form of socio/political/economic organization known as communism, exactly the same outcome would eventually be realized.  And that, of course, is the definition of insanity.

Postscript:  The day after I wrote this column, the following item appeared in The New York Times: “Pink Slips at Disney. But First, Training Foreign Replacements.”  At Disney World, Florida, long-time hi-tech U.S. employees have been replaced by lower cost temporary immigrants, coming in on “H1-B” visas.  The latter were originally intended to be used to bring in foreign workers to fill jobs that cannot otherwise be filled in the U.S.  But of course, these particular jobs were already being held by U.S. workers.  Right here in the Magic Kingdom we can see the true “Tomorrowland” at work: capitalism — and profits — over all.


Senior Editor, Politics, Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to his role with The Greanville Post, he is a Contributor for American Politics to The Planetary Movement, a columnist for BuzzFlash@Truthout, a “Trusted Author” for OpEdNews, and the Editorial Director of and a Contributing Author to The Political Junkies for Progressive Democracy.  Dr. Jonas’ latest book is The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A futuristic Novel, Brewster, NY, Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, http://www.puntopress.com/jonas-the-15-solution-hits-main-distribution/, and available on Amazon.

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by STEVEN JONAS

Weren’t the valiant, courageous actions of civil rights advocates a triumph for social justice? Did it not lead to further advances in that struggle? And if you are referring to the movie, is it not a triumph as well, getting a film that portrays one of the signal struggles of the Movement during the 60s with such searing honesty, no holds barred in dealing with the “Which side are you on?” question, applied to this event?

Well, yes, the Selma March was a triumph for the civil rights movement. It played a very important role in getting Lyndon Johnson to support what became the Voting Rights Act. It did lead to further advances in that struggle. The movie is a triumph as well, a brilliantly staged and acted docudrama which, among other things, uses the real Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, as the setting for the re-creation of the real march that took place across it in 1965.

Ironically enough, the bridge is named for a Confederate Brigadier General, who later, operating out of his law office [!], became the leader of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan in Selma, and then went on to become a U.S. Senator from Alabama. This is particularly ironic in the context of the Voting Rights Act and the struggle to enact it. The Ku Klux Klan was founded very shortly after the end of the civil war by an association of ex-Confederate generals, planters, certain Democratic politicians, and other white leadership who wanted to return the civil society in the South as much as possible to what it had been before the Civil War, with the exception of not having the institution of chattel slavery in place.

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MLK with LBJ. Recreating history—truth (l) and simulation (r). How close did the two come in Selma, the film? (Photomontage for Slate Magazine)

One of the principal objectives of the Klan, from the earliest days of its founding, was to prevent the newly freed slaves from exercising the right to vote that had been granted to them by the 14th (1868) and 15th (1870) Amendments to the Constitution. The language of the latter is particularly instructive: “1. the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

But with the power first of the Klan, with the ever-spreading denial of the vote to African-Americans, and then with the institution over a period of some years of what was called the “Jim Crow” laws by the Democratic Party in the South, African-Americans were indeed systematically denied the right to that had being guaranteed to them by the 15th amendment.

The reality that casts a shadow over Selma is that it did not end the struggle for civil and voting rights for people of color in the United States. As I pointed out in recent column, except for the literal abolition of chattel slavery, in terms of its central goals, the South essentially won the Civil War. One the many tragedies of Selma is that one of the two major U.S. political parties still runs in part on racism, just as the old Southern Democratic Party of the time did. The story of how Nixon took the “Southern Strategy” that had been originally invented, but not in a formal way, by Barry Goldwater, and broadly implemented it for the GOP, and how Ronald Reagan cemented it in place need not be re-told here.

Indeed it is also a tragedy that the Voting Rights Act for which so many whites and African-Americans had fought so hard for so many years has been recently been gutted by the Republican Supreme Court. (That is the same Republican Court that may be on its way to gutting the Fair Housing Act as well.) It is a tragedy that indeed Martin Luther King’s words 50 years ago, about segregation and discrimination, about racism, about the lack of economic justice for non-whites (and now, of course, increasingly for many whites as well) still, as the Southern Poverty Law Center points out, cry out for justice to this day. Dr. King’s vision of a civil rights-labor alliance, which has never been achieved, echo down to us today as well. It is a tragedy that off-duty black police officers need to fear white cops just as black young men who “don’t look right,” like New York Times columnist Charles Blows’ son at Yale, do.

It is a tragedy that voter suppression, aimed at African-Americans and other population groups who tend to vote for Democrats, has become an official policy of the Republican Party, under the guise of “battling voter fraud” (which happens to be virtually non-existent, and even if it weren’t could easily be dealt with by offering free, easy-to-obtain voter ID cards). It is a tragedy that lynching, a major tool of black-suppression in the Jim Crow South, which was dying out by the time of “Selma,” has returned to this country in the form of white police officers killing black young men at an astounding rate.

Now let us turn briefly to Selma, the movie. First, of course is the fact that when it came to Academy Award nominations (not the awards themselves), while the movie itself did receive one for Best Picture, the Director, Ava DuVernay, and the lead actor, David Yellow, who had received awards and nominations elsewhere were completely shut out. That is itself a legacy of racism, given the excellence of the film.

Second, in much of the mainstream media discussion of the issues of the movie and how the primary ones remain with us down to this very day because of the policies and politics of one of our two leading parties, got glossed over. They were actually submerged, is more like it, by the flap over whether or not the movie and its writers/director gave credit where credit was due to the role of Lyndon Johnson in bringing forth the Voting rights Act and was a fair representation of the relationship between the President and Doctor King. To me, as my regular readers will know well, this is largely irrelevant. Where exactly LBJ was in the time-line pales before the fact that he did bring the Voting rights Act forward, that he did send federal troops to defend the Selma marchers against the local police/sheriffs. And that he did stand down the racists J. Edgar Hoover and George Wallace.

The bottom line, which really has been lost, is that the South did win the Civil War and one of our two major political parties runs openly and shamelessly on racism (as well as religious authoritarianism and the demonization of various “others”). These are two of the major issues facing this country now just as they were back at the time of Selma. That is the principal tragedy of the movie.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Senior Editor Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for The Greanville Post, he also serves in the same capacity at BuzzFlash/Truthout (http://www.buzzflash.com, http://www.truth-out.org/), and he is the Managing Editor of and a Contributing Author to TPJmagazine.net.

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by Steven Jonas

American Sniper has stirred up the Right (see Fox ”News” and etc.) and it has stirred up the Left. The Right sees the movie as one about a “patriotic American,” “doing his duty to protect our country and the freedoms it stands for.” The Right sees any critic of the film, as a commie, as a traitor, as “un-American,” if not “un-Christian” (for after all, sniper Chris Kyle was fighting the Muslims, wasn’t he?) The Left, and of course I include myself in that group, see the movie in much more complex, much starker terms, which I shall address.

In terms of the standard Right-wing propaganda lines, oddly enough, Kyle didn’t see himself as “fighting to protect the American way of life” at all. Rather, when asked a direct question on a Fox ”News” show, he said that he did what he did in order to protect his buddies. Then, there is the well-discussed historical fallacy that the Iraq War had anything to do with 9/11. The old canard that a representative of Saddam Hussein’s government went to Prague, Czech Republic, to meet with a representative from al Qaeda and that meant that they were hooking up has long since been disposed of as a unproven and unlikely rumor. Do you really think that a secular Hussein, already facing strong threats from the United States, would have formed an alliance with a religiously-based terror organization that had originally been formed in Afghanistan by the same United States? The historical distortions are a minor tragedy, but a tragedy nevertheless.

Then there are the questions that have been raised about the movie’s definition of heroism. There was a great 2001 film about the Battle of Stalingrad (one of very few US films about the Soviet role in winning World War II) called Enemy at the Gates. The hero is a Red Army sniper. The villain is a Wehrmacht sniper. But hero/villain depends very much whose side you are on, doesn’t it? It’s whose side he is on. To many U.S., he’s a hero, but a sniper on the other side he would a wicked villain, killing people with abandon.

Much more importantly, this film can be used to revive the whole argument about the invasion of Iraq, why it was done, what it has cost the U.S. in casualties, money spent, and major disruptions of our society (most of which go unnoticed), and the much, much higher toll of Iraqi dead, injured, and made refugees. What we are seeing now in terms of the turmoil of the Middle East, which was unleashed by the U.S./U.K. invasion. This is one of the major tragedies of our era. We need to re-visit the ultimate villains of the piece, the Bush/Cheney alliance and the people who worked for them. We need to revisit how the Bush/Cheneydrive to create permanent war, which was much more important to them than the drive for oil and bases, has put our nation into the perilous state in which it finds itself, and use the film to help us do that.

Then, another tragedy was of course that while Kyle was an operative, he was also a victim. He suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (who wouldn’t, having gone through what he went through, under orders) as did the vet who eventually murdered him. A majority of the vets of Iraq/Afghanistan suffer from some degree of diagnosed or undiagnosed PTSD. The suicide rateamong them is remarkable, about 22 per day.

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Finally, we should be saying to the Right, “what are you so excited about?” Despite the killing of service members like Kyle, the Middle East is a mess and the U.S. is in the middle of it. Should we really listen to the McCains and the Grahams who, though they won’t say it out loud, really think that the solution is “put more boots on the ground?” After all, before the 2008 elections, and after Bush was forced by the Iraqi government into negotiatingthe eventual U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, McCain was saying that the U.S. should stay there “for a hundred years.” If the U.S. should be “strong,” should be “tough,” just what is it that you on the Right have in mind, other than slogans? Where is the money going to come from? How are you going to convince the majority of U.S. people that it is in the U.S. national interest to go to war on the ground in the Middle East once again? And how many more Kyles and their murderers at home, how many more tragedies do you want to create? How many more people glorified for killing people from a safe, secure perch?

Finally, this is a movie designed to make certain U.S. feel good about the War on Iraq, based on the false idea that it was in response to 9/11 and that, as Kyle was recorded as saying in the movie, the Iraqis are “savages.”  Is it not a tragedy that it has become the best-selling war movie of all time?  Another victory for Cheney/Bush and their War to End All Peace.

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Postscript:  This column drew an unusual number of comments for one of mine, almost all supportive, and many adding important additional perspectives.  If you would like to see them, please go to the published column at:http://www.truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/the-american-sniper-takes-a-shot-at-history-and-turns-it-into-deadly-jingois


This is Dr. Jonas’ Commentary No. 304 for BuzzFlash@ Truthout. Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for BuzzFlash@Truthout he is the Editorial Director of and a Contributing Author to The Political Junkies for Progressive Democracy (http://thepoliticaljunkies.org/), and a Senior Editor, Politics, for The Greanville Post, (http://www.greanvillepost.com/). Dr. Jonas’ latest book is The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A futuristic Novel, Brewster, NY, Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013,http://www.puntopress.com/jonas-the-15-solution-hits-main-distribution/, and available on Amazon.

Torture-on-Trial-Waterboard
Why “Torture Doesn’t Work” Doesn’t Work, Part 1: Torture and the U.S. Constitution

By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH

URL: http://www.planetarymovement.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=915&Itemid=58

As the world that is interested in such matters knows, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee finally released the (redacted) 524-page Executive Summary of its 6000-page report on torture and the CIA. It is entitled: “Panel Faults C.I.A. Over Brutality and Deceit in Terrorism Interrogations.”   But even just the Executive Summary presents a huge amount of horrifying detail about the program. (I need not detail it here; it and a huge amount of commentary has already appeared in The Times and many other news sources, print, electronic and other.  A particularly useful historical analysis has appeared on The Greanville Post.)

 

It happens that a good deal of the information contained in the report has been known, in relative bits and pieces, for quite some time.  What the Senate Committee has done is assemble a huge amount of material in one place, and then put their imprimatur on the information, which it has been collecting in sometimes gruesome detail over the past six years.  The most important conclusion to come away with in examining the Report is the Senate Intelligence Committee’s major finding about the CIA’s torture program:  that is was bad because it didn’t work.  And they produced huge mountains of evidence to support that claim. 

 

The Republicans, who for some time refused to participate in the work of the Committee have reacted in horror, not at the details of the torture itself and the catalog of CIA cover-ups, incompetence, disorganization, amateurism, and what-have-you, but at the fact that they have all been made public.  Most importantly, despite the fact that the Senate Committee assembled an overwhelming amount of evidence, and despite the fact that the Republicans did not avail themselves of it, they claimed that torture does work, in intelligence gathering, and then on, as they so often do, to try to change the subject.  Consider:  “Many Republicans have said that the report is an attempt to smear both the C.I.A. and the Bush White House, and that the report cherry-picked information to support a claim that the C.I.A.’s detention program yielded no valuable information. Former C.I.A. officials quickly began a well-prepared and vigorous public campaign to dispute the report’s findings.”

 

Of course the torturer-in-chief, Dick Cheney, went bananas over the report’s releaseHe argues both that torture works and then (oops!) that what was done wasn’t torture anyway.  So he, and all of his GOP and other cheerleaders, first try to deny reality (just as they do on so many issues, from global warming to racism) and then if that doesn’t work, get the argument onto definitions.  Cheney has also famously said that whatever what was done is or isn’t torture, a), he would authorize it all over again, and b) even if innocent people were picked up and put into the program, that really didn’t matter in the pursuit of its overall goals.  Interestingly enough, I did not hear of anyone asking him, if what the Senate Committee defined as torture wasn’t, what would he define as torture and would he authorize its use if he thought circumstances warranted that intervention.

Demonstrating his complete lack of knowledge of human anatomy and physiology Cheney even claimed that “rectal feeding” was OK, if done for “medical reasons.”  Note to the former Vice-President: the colon a) is not a digestive organ, b) as a physician for over 50 years, I have never heard forced ramming of food into the rectum described as a medical therapy.  Of course if Yoo and Bybee (who defined what the CIA was doing as not torture) were quack physicians instead of quack lawyers they might well have defined “rectal feeding” as a “medical therapy.”   Andy Borowitz tells us (WARNING, satire) that to, in his terms, properly deal with the subject, Cheney has even called for an international ban on the issuance of reports on the use of torture.  Nevertheless, despite what Cheney and his fellow cheer-leaders have said, we know that the CIA has done some very bad things (bad, that is, if you think that torture is bad), fully justified by the Bush Administration.  Indeed, even though the Committee said that it wasn’t, we know, as directly confirmed by Cheney himself, that the program was fully authorized by the Bush Administration.

However, and it’s a big however, the Senate Committee’s whole premise is that: the program was bad because it didn’t work.  Which raises the question: would they have concluded that torture was OK if it had produced useful intelligence?  Uh-oh and Oh my.  If Cheney et al were/are right about the utility of torture, at least as practiced by the CIA, then the Committee’s whole argument against it collapses in a heap.  Indeed by focusing primarily on “torture doesn’t work” for its primary criticism of the program, the Senate Intelligence Committee has let the Republicans and the Right-wing generally off the hook.  For they can simply come back, as they are, as noted, doing vociferously, saying “yes it does.”

The argument should have been based on “it’s wrong,” more importantly, that it violates both domestic and international law, and, most importantly, violates the U.S. Constitution.  The use of torture by U.S. agencies is clearly prohibited by various Federal statutes.   But the central issue here is the violation of Constitutional law.  The use of torture by any signatory to them is found in the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention Against Torture.  The United States is a party to both, and both are signed and ratified U.S. international treaties.  But before considering the Constitutional question, let us consider just what “torture” is, in anybody’s terms other than Cheney’s et al.

The authors of the Geneva Conventions just assumed that everyone “knows” what torture is; they didn’t bother to define it any detail.  The UN Convention defines it in general terms as “Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession . . .”   By exclusion, the U.S. Army Field Manual is rather explicit about it.  The Bush Administration’s quack law firm, Bybee and Yoo, tried to define their way out of the quagmire, that “finding” being what Cheney (who probably dictated it to them, or perhaps it was his hatchet man Addington) falls back on.  But no one outside of themselves and the US Right would agree that what was done to numbers of prisoners of the US was not torture.  And the Senate Committee has certainly concluded that it was and uses the term “torture” over-and-over again.

But then comes the truly inconvenient truth that the use of torture by US authorities is simply unconstitutional. Under article VI of the U.S. Constitution, as treaties signed and ratified by the U.S. government, both Conventions are part of “the supreme law of the land and [further] the judges of every state shall be bound by them.”  This, and its illegality under various U.S. statutes and Codes, are the only arguments that one can make against the use of torture by US agencies that can withstand the “but it works” argument, even if the latter were true.  Thus, torture both doesn’t work and is unconstitutional as well as illegal.

The CIA surely knew the first: they haven’t been able to come up with even one provable example of its effectiveness.  (Further, it should be noted that during the Clinton Administration two attempted terrorist attacks that would have produce much larger death tolls even than 9/11 were thwarted, presumably through the use of conventional intelligence/interrogation techniques. The first was the 1998 “25 airliners” plot and the second was “Millennium Bomb Plot” against Los Angeles International Airport.  This was done apparently without using one torturous twitch.)  But the bottom line is that the use of torture by any U.S. agency is unconstitutional, and that, not “it doesn’t work,” is where the argument against such use should start.  Indeed, “it doesn’t work” just doesn’t work in the battle to ban the use of torture by the US government, which, as it happens, may well be renewed if the next President is a Republican.