The United States encourages a culture of violence


Our country, with its culture of violence, thinks nothing of intervening violently anywhere in the world and killing whoever we want whenever we want. So why be surprised when such derangement happens here too?

The US is the biggest arms dealer on the planet. Our president and his staff sit in comfortable chairs in the White House and watch live videos of people, who are sometimes noncombatant bystanders, being killed then say anyone killed was a terrorist until proven otherwise, an attitude that approaches moral depravity. Meanwhile, here at home, deranged people also slaughter the innocent.

These facts are directly related. This country was founded in violent revolution. There’s nothing wrong with that of course except that we seem to revel in our culture of violence. Ah yes, the lone gunslinger walking into a dirty town to clean it up makes a fine fantasy but in the real world, he may have been just as sleazy as those in the town and it’s a given that violence begats violence. He shoots the bad guys and their allies will return the favor. We may delude ourselves into thinking that since we have the biggest guns that no one can fuck with us but 9/11 showed the foolishness of that assumption, didn’t it?

The Rand Corporation a while back said the best and perhaps only way to end terrorism at home is to stop invading other countries, a message studiously ignored by our war pigs. Our culture of violence continues to expand. So, is it any surprise we have slaughter of innocents here at home too?

Violence vs nonviolence

I considered writing something with Black Bloc in the title, but does that mean anything at this point? After the latest misadventure by Chris Hedges, “The Cancer of Occupy,” Hedges does a wonderful job of obscuring and misinforming his readers. It’s not often that such a crack reporter gets his very first sentence with his very first fact so horribly wrong:

The Black Bloc anarchists, who have been active on the streets in Oakland and other cities, are the cancer of the Occupy movement.

Whether the tactic causes cancer in movements, I cannot say. But by way of a point of information, there are no “Black Bloc anarchists.” It is a tactic, not a group or an organization. Anarchists don’t even have a monopoly on the use of the tactic. In fact, anarchists didn’t even really come up with the tactic.

But I digress. But instead of treading in the murky waters of Black Bloc, I just wanted to say a few things about the underlying issue: Violence vs nonviolence. I’d hate to know how many people have learned the hard way, like Dr. Michael Parenti and scores of others, that merely putting up your hand when a police officer is bashing your skull in with his baton can result in charges of assaulting a police officer. If someone is hitting you it’s pretty hard not to protect yourself. It’s a basic reaction. And yet that meek act of self-defence is considered violence by the police.

In contrast, when the police surround a group of peaceful Americans,  who are committing no crimes,  in full riot gear, deadly weapons at the ready, and plenty of potentially deadly less lethal weapons ready to be used at the drop of a hat, this is not considered violence. They irrationally bark out demands and no matter how ridiculous or irrational those demands are they are expected to be followed to the T in seconds. Any number of things can set these uniformed thugs off resulting in any number of injuries up to and including death. And yet this is not considered violence. It may be deemed an excessive use of force–interesting phrase. But it will not be deemed violent.

If you think back to Oakland’s latest mass arrest this really stands out. On the one hand you have a group of peaceful Americans marching, protesting, standing together. They are doing nothing wrong. They are in turn surrounded by a paramilitary force that simply announced that they were under arrest and that they should submit to their arrest. Rubber bullets were fired. Flash grenades and tear gas was used. People were beaten. Later as prisoners at the jail they were tortured in various ways. Female arrestees were forced to strip in front of male guards and perform urine tests. People were left with bound hands for hours. And yet the violence we hear about again and again is some minor property destruction.

There are bigger questions than one particular tactic at stake here. Why on earth would we let the 1% frame this debate for us? It’s not violence vs nonviolence. It’s a question of basic self-preservation. They use their media to diminish, demonize, and misinform people about what Black Bloc is; they never mention that police have been caught carrying out so-called Black Bloc tactics. They never mention the people saved from arrest by Black Bloc tactics. 

Do we have the right to protect ourselves? What does that look like? This is the discussion we should be having.

Journalism is not an Attack, Wikileaks is not Warfare

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on Firedoglake or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Wikileaks is under attack!

Journalists and politicians are calling for the criminalization of Wikileaks, or worse, the assassination of its members. The US government is coercing companies into blocking access to Wikileaks, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is normally very strong on internet freedom, has been forced to “evolve” her positions.

If you’re a supporter of Wikileaks, or even a relatively dispassionate observer, you likely find these actions to be offensive, or even downright criminal. How dare the US move so arrogantly, so aggressively, against Wikileaks for what seems to be nothing more than the second coming of the Pentagon Papers? We believe in free speech, in transparency and accountability for our government. It’s outrageous that Washington would move so decisively to crush a project like Wikileaks.

But are Wikileaks’ supporters actually feeding this response from the government? In our rush to rationalize and defend Wikileaks and their actions, have we inadvertently opened the door to attacks by the US government?

The answer can be found in how we’ve chosen to frame the debate so far. Continue reading “Journalism is not an Attack, Wikileaks is not Warfare”

Far right violence and the lack of response from politicians

The lack of condemnation from politicians about far right violence speaks volumes as to their cowardice and duplicity, especially the silence from Democratic politicians. They could use this to their own political advantage if they wanted to. But that would require taking a stand regardless of consequences. So instead, they remain mute. This is beyond contemptible.

Look, I can understand why Republican politicians would be quiet here (either out of embarrassment, not knowing what to say, or secret agreement) but Democrats? They could use this as a weapon against the far right. Hey, I’ve got an idea. Instead of sending campaign contributions to Democrats, let’s all chip in and send them Depend adult diapers. Then the next time they piddle in their pants in fear, it won’t wreck their clothing.

“It’s been quite amazing over the last couple months, but really over the last two years,” said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups and extremism. “I’d date this, in many ways, to the rise to power of Obama. Many people we saw coming with AR-15s to town halls and so on, and all of that. But I do think that it’s gotten even hotter out there. I think the reaction to the stomping of that woman’s head has been quite amazing. The idea that the guy could say that he needed an apology and that he’s not being condemned by the political class from sea to shining sea is astounding.” …

Pablo Escobar’s son: Choose peace

New Europe

He has a $1 million price tag on his head from drug cartels, but Pablo Escobar’s son continues to work for peace and reconciliation in Columbia. This is a brave man who knows more than most of us how violence can spin sickeningly out of control. He could have taken over his father’s billion dollar empire but never wanted it because the violence and madness appalled him.

When did you notice that your life was different to other people’s?

In 1984, when the Minister of Justice died, on the order of my father, my life changed overnight. I was living a normal life and the next day I woke up in Panama, exiled for my father’s crimes.

This is a man who you love, but went from being a young student to a trafficker, what changes did you notice in him?

I think drug dealing, thanks to prohibition, is a way to a path of violence. My father, although he had good intentions to help those who were needy. He build 4,000 houses for people who literally lived in rubbish dumps, he built schools and hospitals and sport centres. But, finally, the violence that was generated by drug dealing really trapped him.

He went mad with violence, especially when a car bomb exploded in front of our house. When he saw the photo of the damage, one single bomb against his family was enough for him to order over 200 bomb attacks, that’s why the violence started growing.

There was one other thing that escalated the violence. The Columbian state also used violence to combat him so he felt that the state’s action delegitimised human rights and my sister and I were in prison. I was 7 and my sister was 2 years old. We were imprisoned because of my father’s crimes. So, increasingly, he found excuses to be violent.

He says Columbia authorities aren’t real interested in peace or of talking about what happened, because the trail would inevitably lead to them to.

You are threatening to expose people?

Absolutely not. I’ve received a number of offers to abuse the position I have, to destroy democracy and I never abused that to damage anyone.

I’m here to build not to destroy. I would shut up all my life, if they leave me in peace.

I have met many more victims of my father. They are ready for reconciliation, to forgive. To forgive is an act of liberation, it is a healing act.

This is what my country needs to get out of the cycle of violence. The Columbian establishment should not be afraid of peace and reconciliation.