57 percent of Americans: the U.S. did the “wrong thing” by “going to war in Afghanistan” [News digest]

A significant fraction of the world includes insects in their diets – a healthy, eco-friendly, and relatively humane source of nutrients. This cultural practice of parts of the developing world is highly adaptive, in contrast to the deeply irrational (except for special interests of course) factory farming of the developed world. And as animals with relatively unsophisticated brains, their harvesting is less ethically objectionable than that of most other creatures with nervous systems. Perhaps the prejudice against insect consumption will go the way of 19th century upper class disdain for eating lobster.


“According to a study published in May by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), entomophagy – the consumption of insects by humans – supplement the diets of approximately two billion people.

More than 1,900 species, found mostly in tropical countries, are edible. Given their high nutritional value, low emissions of greenhouse gases, low requirements for land and the high efficiency at which they convert feed into food, insects can contribute to food security and help with protein shortages, the report said.”

Bogota is a global leader in a key element of rational city planning.


“Bogotá is known as a world leader in bike paths, with 376 km of “ciclorutas” or dedicated lanes – one of the most extensive networks in the world – and 120 km of recreational paths. In addition, car traffic is cut on some streets on Sundays and holidays.

Cantor, a 58-year-old communications specialist, took a break from his daily ride to tell Tierramérica about his experience cycling in the city. “You can go fast, because there’s no traffic; on some stretches I even enjoy the greenery and the quiet,” he said. “There’s a lot of solidarity, and you make friends.”

The Secretariat of Mobility of the Capital District estimates that in Bogotá, a city of around eight million people, local residents make about 450,000 bike trips a day. The largest group of bicycle users are manual labourers and factory workers, followed by students from lower-income families.

The recreational bike paths date back to 1974 and are used by an average of one million people every Sunday.”

Cultural advancement.


“But Imam Daayiee Abdullah – believed to be the only openly gay imam in the Americas – is proud of his story.

He was born and raised in Detroit, where his parents were Southern Baptists. At age 15, he came out to them. At 33, while studying in China, Abdullah converted to Islam, and went on to study the religion in Egypt, Jordan and Syria. But as a gay man in America, he saw that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Muslims had unmet spiritual needs and he became an imam to provide community support.

His first act as an imam? Performing funeral rites for a gay Muslim who died of AIDS.

“They had contacted a number of imams, and no one would go and provide him his janazah services,” he said, referring to the Muslim body cleaning ritual. That pained him.

“I believe every person, no matter if I disagree with you or not, you have the right as a Muslim to have the proper spiritual [rites] and rituals provided for you. And whoever judges you, that will be Allah’s decision, not me.” …

Abdullah told congregants one night during a regular sermon, known as a khutbah, at the Light of Reform Mosque in Washington, D.C.”

The Movement of Mortgage Victims is one of Spain’s strongest movements. Carlos Delclós talks to PAH organizer Elvi Mármol about the key to their success.


“The story of Spain’s economic, social and political crisis is one about property, need and value. And at the heart of that story lies a question that is familiar to the point of cliché: what makes a house a home? It may sound trivial, but in a country where families are sleeping in the street, entire building blocks are devoid of residents, and housing remains out of reach for major swathes of the population (despite the ubiquity of “For Sale” signs in the urban landscape), it is a question that remains largely unanswered by policymakers.

For over four years, the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH or “Mortgage Victims’ Platform”, in English) have pursued a simple and poetic response to this question: people living together, for one another. Their campaign for mutual aid, solidarity and civil disobedience strike at the very core of Spain’s power structure, and despite an often overwhelming institutional blockade, they have received the support of up to 90% of the population.

For insight into the PAH’s spectacular support, radically transformative praxis and the institutional challenges they face, I recently spoke with Elvi Mármol, a PAH activist from the city of Sabadell, just north of Barcelona. Though she worked for several years as an accountant, today she is a self-employed sales representative. This, she says, gives her a considerable amount of time to dedicate to the PAH. She is a member of PAH Sabadell’s Cases Committee and the community manager for their social networks, as well as a member of the Collective Bargaining and International Committees for PAH Catalonia.

EM: The PAH’s success lies in every one of its local assemblies. People arrive at those assemblies looking for a solution to their individual situation, but they quickly realize that through solidarity and civil disobedience, not only can they find solutions to their problems, but also that they are part of a community that is capable of large scale success.

The PAH today is Spain’s most important social movement, but it’s neither perfect nor a panacea to all of the country’s ills. We do a lot of things that were being done many years before, in the neighborhood movements, the squatters’ movements and so on. The platform was born at the right place at the right time, and it has understood how to learn, grow and expand without losing its essence. Perhaps with time, we will be able to bring together all of the different social struggles taking place at this moment in history.”

Academic freedom is not under threat from the ASA’s decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions – the idea that it is very evidently an insincere talking point, a messaging strategy on the part of pro-Tel Aviv organizations designed to muddy the waters as much as possible. For a genuine threat to academic freedom, one that no one is talking about, take a look at what’s happening in Kansas.


In Switzerland dairy cows are each named and farmers go so far as to have helicopters flown in to rescue cows injured up in the mountains. And it goes without saying that they are pasture grazing. Switzerland’s more functional economy has produced a more humane culture.


“This closeness between city and farm means that the culture is less comfortable with treating animals inhumanely, suggests Moser. ‘The bigger the farms are, the less individually animals can be treated,’ he said. ‘This creates a distance between yourself and the other.’ In the 19th century, Swiss agronomists travelling to the US were floored by what the inhabitants were doing with the enormous amount of land available to them, and at the same time shocked by the way animals were treated, Moser said.

In modern Switzerland, those old feelings have translated into strong animal protection laws and direct payments to farmers for treating animals well, along with those for maintaining the landscape — for instance, for taking their cows out into the fresh air.”

The always marvelous John Pilger. International inspiration; the crimes against the aboriginal people of Australia are very much ongoing as a second generation is being stolen.


In 1969, I flew to Alice Springs in the red heart of Australia and met Charlie Perkins. At a time when Aboriginal people were not even counted in the census — unlike the sheep — Charlie was only the second Aborigine to get a university degree. He had made good use of this distinction by leading “freedom rides” into racially segregated towns in the outback of New South Wales. He got the idea from the freedom riders who went into the Deep South of the United States. ….

When the Labor government in the 1980s promised “full restitution” and land rights, the powerful mining lobby went on the attack, spending millions campaigning on the theme that “the blacks” would “take over your beaches and barbies”. The government capitulated, even though the lie was farcical; Aboriginal people comprise barely three per cent of the Australian population.

Today, Aboriginal children are again being stolen from their families. The bureaucratic words are “removed” for “child protection”. By July 2012, there were 13,299 Aboriginal children in institutions or handed over to white families. Today, the theft of these children is now higher than at any time during the last century. I have interviewed numerous specialists in child care who regard this as a second stolen generation. “Many of the kids never see their mothers and communities again,” Olga Havnen, the author of a report for the Northern Territory government, told me. “In the Northern Territory, $80 million was spent on surveillance and removing kids, and less than $500,000 on supporting these impoverished families. Families are often given no warning and have no idea where their children are being taken. The reason given is neglect  – which means poverty. This is destroying Aboriginal culture and is racist. If apartheid South Africa had done this, there would have been an uproar.”

In the establishment journal Foreign Affairs.


“….the Mexican-American War (1846–48) was Washington’s first major imperialist venture. …future U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, who fought in Mexico as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, would come to see it as the country’s most “wicked war.” …

Pro-war fervor spanned the political spectrum: one of its most articulate advocates was Walt Whitman, then a newspaper editor in Brooklyn, who urged his countrymen to “teach the world that, while we are not forward for a quarrel, America knows how to crush, as well as how to expand!” …

Among the many merits of The Wicked War, two are especially impressive: Greenberg’s use of personal testimonies and her portrayal of atrocities committed by U.S. forces — events that have been little reported, even by Mexican writers. Greenberg uses a first-person account, for example, to describe a massacre of Mexican civilians by volunteer soldiers from Arkansas: “The cave was full of volunteers, yelling like fiends, while on the rocky floor lay over twenty Mexicans, dead and dying in pools of blood, while women and children were clinging to the knees of the murderers and shrieking for mercy. . . . Nearly thirty Mexicans lay butchered on the floor, most of them scalped. Pools of blood filled the crevices and congealed in clots.”

Such events troubled many U.S. officers, including Scott. In an 1847 letter to the U.S. secretary of war, Scott reported that men under Taylor’s command had committed crimes that were “sufficient to make Heaven weep.” U.S. militiamen had raped mothers and daughters in the presence of their tied-up husbands and fathers, he wrote, “all along the Rio Grande.” Yet as U.S. forces readied their attack on Veracruz, Scott denied requests by European consuls to allow women, children, and the elderly to evacuate the city. He would mercilessly bombard the city, destroying houses, churches, and hospitals. In a letter to his wife, the U.S. Army captain Robert E. Lee, who was at Veracruz and who would later lead the Confederate army during the Civil War, wrote that his “heart bled for the inhabitants.”

Greenberg argues that U.S. atrocities in Mexico echoed those of the Indian Wars of the 1830s, including a massacre of Cherokees in 1838, in which Scott participated. “When faced with a ‘treacherous race,’ the rules of war did not apply,” Greenberg writes of the attitude of American commanders. The U.S. public seemed to agree. The New York Herald predicted that “like the Sabine virgins,” Mexico would “soon learn to love its ravisher.” But the love never came, the slaughter continued, and Mexican troops made the American invaders pay dearly in blood. Although estimates differ, Greenberg reports that the United States sent 59,000 volunteers and 27,000 regular troops to fight the war; nearly 14,000 of them died. Of course, the price was even higher for Mexican citizens; estimates suggest that as many as 26,000 died during the war. …

In a speech to a crowd of thousands in Lexington, Kentucky, only a few weeks later, Clay condemned Polk’s war of “unnecessary and offensive aggression” and its “dreadful sacrifices of human life.” He also asked Americans to consider Mexico’s point of view. It was Mexico, he argued, that was “defending her fire-sides, her castles and her altars.” Making a comparison closer to the American consciousness, Clay drew a parallel with Ireland and the United Kingdom: “Every Irishman hates, with a mortal hatred, his Saxon oppressor,” he said.

Clay might not have realized just how apt his analogy was. In September 1846, a small contingent of U.S. soldiers, nearly all recent immigrants from Ireland, had actually switched to the Mexican side. They had changed their allegiance after their first battle, motivated by the plight of their fellow Catholics in Mexico and by resentment of their treatment by the Protestant-dominated U.S. military. Today, a plaque in Mexico City marks the site where most of them were executed by other U.S. troops. And Mexicans annually commemorate the Battle of Churubusco, where the soldiers were captured, by listening to a band of bag­pipers, which is meant to represent the Mexican battalion that was largely formed by these American defectors and that was named for Saint Patrick, el Batallón de San Patricio. …

In February 1848, the two countries signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in which Mexico accepted the Rio Grande as its northern border and, in exchange for $15 million, ceded the territories now known as New Mexico and California. Polk wanted to annex Baja California as well, and some called for the annexation of Mexico in its entirety. But Nicholas Trist, a diplomat who represented the American side in the negotiations, explicitly defying Polk’s instructions and then Polk’s orders that he return to Washington, made the final arrangement less harsh. Trist thought Polk’s proposed treaty terms went too far. He believed it was his duty to “protect the people of America from the impossible burden of annexing Mexico.” And most of all, he had seen firsthand the violence inflicted by U.S. soldiers on Mexican civilians, later calling the invasion “a thing for every right-minded American to be ashamed of.” The feelings of Trist, who had intimate knowledge of the war, contrasted sharply with those of the U.S. press. For the editors of The Democratic Review, “the brilliant success of our brave and magnanimous army in Mexico” brought “to mind the victorious struggles of our first armies.””

As is the common pattern when America goes to war, it takes some years for reality to overtake the propaganda. Over a decade after the war which brooked no public dissent was launched, it has now become the majority opinion that it was wrong.


“More than twelve years after the initial invasion, U.S. public opinion of the so-called Good War in Afghanistan appears to be souring.

A clear majority of people in the U.S. say the 2001 decision to attack Afghanistan as a response to the events of September 11th was a mistake and that the current withdrawal of U.S. troops is not moving fast enough, according to an Associated Press-Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung poll (pdf) released Wednesday.

“I’m glad to know the majority of Americans now acknowledge what we’ve been saying all along,” said Suraia Sahar of Afghans United for Justice in an interview with Common Dreams. “This war continues to have disastrous consequences. I can only hope this time a lesson has been learned.”

The poll finds that 57 percent say the United States did the “wrong thing” by “going to war in Afghanistan.”

Based on results from 1,367 adults with a reported margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, the poll finds that 57 percent say the United States did the “wrong thing” by “going to war in Afghanistan.” By contrast, 40 percent said the U.S. did the “right thing.”

Fifty-three percent said the withdrawal of troops is moving too slowly, 34 percent said the pace is good, and 10 percent said it is too fast.”

The opportunistic championing of the plight of Darfur in the late oughts featured the pro-Tel Aviv camp prominently. While the hypocrisy was always evident, the brief passage below tells a poignant single story that captures the whole dynamic as well as anything.


“Adda Ahmed, who runs a computer repair shop, wondered why Africans are treated so differently from the legal foreign workers in Israel — the Filipinos who care for the elderly, the Thais who pick citrus, the Chinese who erect skyscrapers. “Africans do all the jobs that the Israelis don’t want to do,” Ahmed said. “Why not let us stay, at least for a while longer?”

But the non-African immigrants come with legal work permits and employment contracts. They stay in Israel for a set period of time and then go home.

Ahmed has no home to return to. A picture of his village in Darfur hangs on the wall of his shop. But no one lives there anymore. It was one of the more than 3,000 villages damaged or destroyed in fighting between government forces and rebel groups.”

WaPo has published a long and sympathetic article laden with illustrations on the CIA (the NSA helped out too) program of assassinations (but don’t call them that) against FARC leadership in collaboration with the Colombian government. The black project has been conducted independently of the massive Plan Colombia. The article makes clear just how much of a priority Colombia has been for Washington, despite the paucity of attention it receives from the media.


“But White House lawyers, along with their colleagues from the CIA and the departments of Justice, Defense and State, had their own questions to work through. It was one thing to use a PGM to defeat an enemy on the battlefield — the U.S. Air Force had been doing that for years. It was another to use it to target an individual FARC leader. Would that constitute an assassination, which is prohibited by U.S. law? And, “could we be accused of engaging in an assassination, even if it is not ourselves doing it?” said one lawyer involved.

The White House’s Office of Legal Counsel and others finally decided that the same legal analysis they had applied to al-Qaeda could be applied to the FARC. Killing a FARC leader would not be an assassination because the organization posed an ongoing threat to Colombia. Also, none of the FARC commanders could be expected to surrender.”

The trio of US activists Iran had imprisoned inadvertently paved the way for the current constructive negotiations between Washington and Tehran.


“My table companion also probably wasn’t aware that the Associated Press recently reported that it was a series of secret talks between high-level U.S. and Iranian officials, facilitated and hosted by the Sultan of Oman, that paved the road for the historic agreement over Iran’s nuclear program. According to these reports, it was the Omani-led negotiations to free Josh, Shane and me from prison that generated sufficient trust between nations, and put the sultan in a position to help end the U.S.-Iran stalemate.

“Ironically,” said the AP report, “efforts to win the release of the three American hikers turned out to be instrumental in making the clandestine diplomacy possible.””

WSJ factoid of the day: “Warren Buffett made $37 million a day in 2013.” http://on.wsj.com/19jfKpW

Great historical tidbit about the courage of Eartha Kitt in speaking honestly and unapologetically at the White House (GIFs in the link):


“In 1968, during the administration of US President Lyndon B. Johnson, Eartha Kitt encountered a substantial professional setback after she made anti-war statements during a White House luncheon. Kitt was invited to the White House luncheon and was asked by Lady Bird Johnson about the Vietnam War. She replied: “You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot.”

During a question and answer session, Kitt stated:

The children of America are not rebelling for no reason. They are not hippies for no reason at all. We don’t have what we have on Sunset Blvd. for no reason. They are rebelling against something. There are so many things burning the people of this country, particularly mothers. They feel they are going to raise sons — and I know what it’s like, and you have children of your own, Mrs. Johnson — we raise children and send them to war.

Her remarks reportedly caused Mrs. Johnson to burst into tears and led to a derailment in Kitt’s career.””

A striking mural. This is an unusually good report for the NYT on U.S. drone strikes. However, note the tacit assumption that Washington’s top priority is national security – that U.S. officials would only go after militants focused on toppling the Saudi monarchy if they were duped into it. Why make such an assumption? The two governments are vital allies – why might they not kill for each other?


1Mohammed Huwais/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“A mural depicting an American drone in Sana, Yemen’s capital. A strike last week on a wedding convoy killed at least 12 people …

A hail of missiles slammed into a convoy of trucks on a remote desert road, killing at least 12 people.

But this time the trucks were part of a wedding procession, making the customary journey from the groom’s house to the house of the bride.

The Dec. 12 strike by the Pentagon, launched from an American base in Djibouti, killed at least a half-dozen innocent people, according to a number of tribal leaders and witnesses, and provoked a storm of outrage in the country. …

Yemeni government officials and several local tribal leaders said that the dead included several militants with ties to Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, but no one has been able to identify them. Some witnesses who have interviewed victims’ families say they believe no militants were killed at all. ….

But Saudi and American interests diverge in important ways in Yemen. Many of the militants there who fight in Al Qaeda’s name are expatriate Saudis whose sole goal is to bring down the Saudi government.

Because of the program’s secrecy, it is impossible to know whether the American dependence on Saudi and Yemeni intelligence results in the killing of militants who pose a danger only to Arab countries.”

A memorable first-person-account of the biases of the justice system. A white man in a suit finds it remarkably hard to get arrested in NYC.


Headline says it all. “$22.62/Hr: The Minimum Wage if it had Risen Like the Incomes of the 1%”


The right-wing Honduran regime has expanded its witch-hunt against rights advocates internationally to target a Washington DC-based activist.


The incredibly repressive climate for dissidents in Saudi Arabia is well known in a very general sense, yet rarely discussed in any detail. The short portrait by HRW at the link paints a grim picture for activists in the country. Nor is the enormously important U.S. alliance with the monarchy – despite whatever disagreements the two governments may be having recently – much focused on. Massive U.S. weapons sales to the Kingdom occasion a blip noting the official announcement and no more: no follow up, no investigation into the uses to which the armaments are put.


Can someone forward this memo to Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris?


“The implications for atheists? They are notorious for loving to debate and argue, but perhaps they should focus less on trying to convince people that God doesn’t exist, and more on bettering people’s lives all around them. “Strong safety nets is going to be a much more powerful incentive in the long run that will lead to the decline of religion,” says Norenzayan.”

My old boss Lori Wallach on the looming stealth attempt to “install a junta of business leaders” to govern U.S.-European (and Asian) economic relations.


“Since July the European Union and the United States have been negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) or Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), a modified version of the MAI under which existing legislation on both sides of the Atlantic will have to conform to the free trade norms established by and for large US and EU corporations, with failure to do so punishable by trade sanctions or the payment of millions of dollars in compensation to corporations.

Negotiations are expected to last another two years. The TTIP/TAFTA incorporates the most damaging elements of past agreements and expands on them. If it came into force, privileges enjoyed by foreign companies would become law and governments would have their hands tied for good. The agreement would be binding and permanent: even if public opinion or governments were to change, it could only be altered by consensus of all signatory nations. In Europe it would mirror the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) due to be adopted by 12 Pacific Rim countries, which has been fiercely promoted by US business interests. Together, the TTIP/TAFTA and the TPP would form an economic empire capable of dictating conditions outside its own frontiers: any country seeking trade relations with the US or EU would be required to adopt the rules prevailing within the agreements as they stood.

The TTIP/TAFTA negotiations are taking place behind closed doors. The US delegations have more than 600 corporate trade advisers, who have unlimited access to the preparatory documents and to representatives of the US administration. Draft texts will not be released, and instructions have been given to keep the public and press in the dark until a final deal is signed. By then, it will be too late to change.

In a moment of candour, the recently retired US trade secretary, Ron Kirk, said: “There’s a practical reason [for which] we have to preserve some measure of discretion and confidentiality” (2). Secrecy was needed, he said, because the last time a draft text of such an ambitious agreement was released, the negotiations failed. This was an allusion to the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), an expanded version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta); the project, defended by the George W Bush administration, was posted on government websites in 2001. In response, Senator Elizabeth Warren argued that no agreement that could not withstand public scrutiny should ever be signed (3). …

The fate of the MAI, the FTAA and some rounds of the WTO negotiations indicates that attempts to use trade as a sly way to dismantle social safeguards and install a junta of business leaders can be blocked.”

News stories about Tel Aviv’s training of Mandela in the early ’60s in military tactics have been circulating. This passage provides some important context on that.


“In reality, Israeli and American Zionist ties to racist Pretoria were so close that there can be no doubt that Zionism’s leaders were accomplices in apartheid’s crimes, including murderous invasions of Angola and Namibia.

Israel denounced apartheid until the 1973 Yom Kippur war as it sought to diplomatically outflank the Arabs in the UN by courting Black Africa. But most Black states broke ties after the war, in solidarity with Egypt, trying to drive non-African Israel out of the Sinai, part of Africa. Jerusalem then turned towards South Africa.

During WW ll, Britain had John Vorster interned as a Nazi sympathizer. But in 1976 Israel invited South Africa’s Prime Minister to Jerusalem. Yitzhak Rabin, then Israel’s PM, hailed “the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa: the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence.” Both confronted “foreign-inspired instability and recklessness.” Israel, alone in the world, allowed Bophuthatswana, SA’s puppet ‘black homeland,’ to open an embassy.”

Solidarity up close and personal (photo courtesy Naked Capitalism blog):



One thought on “57 percent of Americans: the U.S. did the “wrong thing” by “going to war in Afghanistan” [News digest]

  1. Pingback: Food Ethics and Anthropology | Winston's Journal

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s