I first had my moment of illumination about the nature of this society, the moment when it hit me on a gut level what I had known intellectually since the 1960's in 1999, after I had been beating my head against a wall about the plight of the HIV positive inmates at Parchman State Prison in Mississippi since early August of 1997. The HIV positive inmates were being confined in summer temperatures that are lethal to anyone who is debilitated from AIDS, cancer or any other cause. Temperatures at Parchman could reach 99 degrees Fahrenheit, which with the humidity common in the Gulf states, is equivalent to 115 to 120 degrees. Needless to say, five inmates had already died from the heat in the last year and others would die over the next two years while I fought to mobilize support and help for the inmates. The plumbing in the building where the inmates with HIV were segregated from the rest of the prisoners was so bad that, when the toilet in one cell was flushed the toilet in the adjacent cell overflowed and dropped down onto the bedding of the prisoner in the cell below.þþþ
The inmates had to constantly bat flies away from their food in the mess hall and, given the propensity of flies to fly around and alight at random, it was a statistical certainty that some of these flies had been crawling around in the toilet waste from the overflowing toilets before they alighted on the inmates' food. Most of the food was of poor quality and inedible and had become cold by the time it reached the AIDS unit from where it was cooked.
Most of the inmates with HIV/AIDS were not even getting AZT, let alone the three drug regimen with regular viral load monitoring that was the standard of care for HIV/AIDS. There was very little of any other medical care as well. One inmate, Michael Buckley, broke his hand while playing ball. In spite of the prison nurses repeatedly telling one of the two prison doctors that there was something wrong with his hand, the doctor kept saying there was nothing wrong with his hand. He was left in pain and in danger of losing his hand for eleven days until he was finally treated at the University of Mississippi Hospitals. Inmates who had had strokes received no rehabilitative therapy and did not regain the ability to move the parts of their bodies affected by the stroke.
Another inmate, Manuel Carothers, had injured his back in a car accident and the prison doctor told him that he had injured his back before coming to prison and it was his responsibility to treat it. One of the inmates later wrote me that the prison doctors had "criminal medical backgrounds." In other words, the doctors could not get a job anywhere but a prison "medical" facility.
In addition to sending letters of protest to the warden and other prison officials, as well as Governor Kirk Fordice, and later, Governor Ronnie Musgrove, I contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. Amnesty International began having people write the prisoners and publicized their plight. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights can only investigate with the permission of the government that is the subject of the complaint and cannot tell the complainant how his complaint worked out. It took thirteen months for the ACLU to decide to take the case after I contacted them. I also wrote the U.S. Justice Department but they wrote back that they could only intervene if there was "a pattern or practice" of discrimination. When I first learned about this situation, there were over sixty HIV positive inmates so, if that does not constitute a "pattern of practice" I don't know what does. The last time I checked, there were over 150 HIV positive inmates.
The ACLU was eventually able through litigation to get a judge to order that the plumbing be improved and that the inmates receive the three drug treatment and regular viral load monitoring. The guards retaliated against the inmates with what was called "a reign of terror" with beatings, fabricated rule infraction reports and solitary confinement. (Inmates in solitary had to wash their clothes in the toilet. I forgot to ask whether they had to DRINK out of the toilet bowl, although I remember reading in one of the popular, mainstream magazines (Life? Look?) about a Mississippi inmate on death row who did have to DRINK out of the toilet bowl in his solitary cell. I remember reading this sometime in the 1950's.)
The lower court would not remove the class counsel for the inmates and replace him with the ACLU, even though all of the 150 HIV positive inmates asked that the ACLU be their class counsel. The inmates' class counsel, Ronald Reid Welch, had been the inmates' class counsel for twenty years, in one year receiving nearly $100,000.00, while doing virtually nothing for the inmates. The ACLU eventually won on the appellate court level, replacing Ronald Welch. The situation as reported to me by the ACLU lawyer for the inmates, as I contacted her at intervals of several months for updates, was that the Appellate Court ruling had led to the ACLU's achieving a livable solution to all the problems of the HIV positive inmates except for the lack of air conditioning. At best, this means that half the problems of the HIV positive inmates have been solved; at best, with the better plumbing and adequate medical care, only about half as many inmates will die. But with the extreme heat and humidity during the summers at Parchmen, approximately half as many HIV positive inmates will still die. The ACLU counsel for the inmates, Margaret Winter, told me that no court is likely to order the prison to install air conditioning.
I sent letters to Physicians for Human Rights and Amy Goodman of the radio program, Democracy NOW!, at the Pacifica Network in the hope that PHR would be in a publicity campaign to pressure the Mississippi Department of Corrections to take the final step of installing air conditioning and that Amy Goodman would cover the plight of the inmates. But Physicians for Human Rights, which used to have chapters in cities around the country, is now apparently down to one chapter in Boston. The letters to PHR and Amy Goodman were written in December, 2001. I have not received a reply from PHR and when I call their office, the secretary cannot tell me anything. I don't know if the letter to Amy Goodman got lost in the Pacifica bureaucracy and never reached her, but she has not replied to my letter and I don't know if she has covered the story.
But the Parchman situation, at least by 1999, had led to my realization on a gut, emotional level, as opposed to only intellectually, that hey, this Parchman situation REALLY is something going on in this country that is just as bad as the atrocities that went on in the death camps of Nazi Germany and the former Yugoslavia and what happened in those medieval dungeons! Actually, that realization came as soon as I read the letter from Mike (Julius) Neilson, a former resident of Bloomington and then current Parchman inmate to ACT-UP/MINNESOTA asking for help in August, 1997. The additional realization I reached at least by 1999, sometime during the stretch between the District Court's decision and the Appellate Court's favorable decision in the ACLU's appeal, after I had been already been slogging away with this case for two years and having started with the realization that it rested on my shoulders as a single individual to organize a fight against an entire state to win justice for the inmates, was that, having grown up in the 40's and 50's, I had grown up being taught that our government didn't do things like this, that things like this didn't happen in America! I had realized intellectually in the 1960's that our government was not the proponent of unalloyed goodness that I had been taught it was, but now it struck me on a gut, emotional level that our government REALLY was JUST AS BAD as those other governments I had cited. I did not realize the full significance of my realization until a week later while I was listening to the news on the radio and found I was getting excited over the realization that unlike most of the people in the world outside my apartment, I really understood what was happening.
This gut realization that our government REALLY is this BAD was like what people who have mystical experiences have in that it did not give me a special route to knowing new facts, but gave me a sudden new emotional attitude to the facts I already knew. But, this moment of illumination not only threw into high relief facts that I already knew, but brought my attention to facts that I had previously noticed in the back of my mind, facts which I was only peripherally, if at all, aware of.
I said to someone a short time later that I had grown up being taught that our government didn't do things like this and that I expected at least that much. He indicated that my expectation was unrealistic, "especially for late capitalism." I thought about this for awhile; is it true that all human societies must inevitably fall under the control of "power elites?" that it really is too much to expect a government that actually represents the will of the majority of its people, where police only used the minimum of force necessary to subdue criminals, where prison guards only used the minimum of force needed to keep inmates under control, where Departments of Corrections did not preside over death camp like conditions for its inmates, where the government is actually trying to promote freedom around the world instead of supporting dictatorships, etc?
Some of the founders of the United States tried to achieve such a government by establishing a tripartite system of checks and balances - legislative, executive and judicial - and the ACLU has proposed a special prosecutor with his or her own investigative staff to investigate accusations of police brutality since county and state attorneys are reluctant to prosecute the police upon whose cooperation they depend to prosecute criminal cases. A tripartite system prevents any one group from monopolizing power since the other parts of the triad can keep watch over each one. So maybe, by abolishing large concentrations of economic power - i.e. overthrowing capitalism - extending democracy into the economic realm, maintaining free elections, civil liberties, freedom of the press, etc and extending tripartite checks and balances throughout the institutions of our society, we can really have a government and society that is like what we were told we already have. It was within a week of this conversation that the realization that our government REALLY WAS THIS BAD and that we REALLY DID HAVE THE RIGHT TO EXPECT THE KIND OF GOVERNMENT WE WERE TOLD WE ALREADY HAD, that my gut realization solidified.
This experience did not give me a special route to knowing new facts other than the ordinary route of tedious empirical investigation. It did not give me direct knowledge of the existence of God or put me in direct touch with a "ground of being;" in fact, I am still an atheist. I suppose mystics who have a sudden realization of the "basic rightness" of everything would also be an example of acquiring a whole new attitude towards facts already known. But, I would still say that anyone who has an "illumination" of the "basic rightness" of the plight of the HIV positive Parchman inmates, a feeling that everything including the situation at Parchman is "just right," is suffering from an hallucination, even if it is only an attitudinal hallucination.
My experience, incidentally, should only be considered a minor mystical experience in that it was only a realization and new attitude towards the society I am living in; it was not an "A-ha!" experience about the whole universe. I doubt that anything useful would result from an A-ha! experience or attitudinal shift about anything transcending our range of experience and knowledge as the whole universe.
Another example of how the U.S. government REALLY IS THAT BAD is exemplified by the issue of medical marijuana. But first, a basic principle of ethics is that no one has the right to interfere with the behavior of anyone else unless it harms him or her. If you don't like commercial sex or prostitution, then don't participate in it yourself; neither a buyer or a vendor be. But you have no right to interfere if someone else wants to buy or sell sex. This includes supporting laws that make commercial sex illegal. You're out of line, and at least half of the evils of this world are due to people who just won't mind their own business. If you don't like abortion, then neither have or perform one yourself. But mind your own business is someone else chooses to have or perform one. And if you don' t like marijuana (or heroin or cocaine or crystal meth, for that matter), then don't use it yourself and mind your own business if other people use it.
But beside the ethical principle that no one has the right to interfere with behavior that does not affect other people, the government is continuing its drug jihad in the face of evidence that marijuana has important medical uses.
Drs. Steven Sallan and Norman Zinberg published their results demonstrating that marijuana was a superior anti-vomiting agent for patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy in the October 15, 1975 New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. Alfred Chang confirmed these results in the December, 1979 Annals of Internal Medicine. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia conducted studies of the medical efficacy of marijuana before the federal government forced the states to halt their research. The Tennessee study included over 100,000 people and found that 90.4% of the people could control their nausea and vomiting by smoking marijuana but that only 66.7% of the people were successful when they took Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, one of the active ingredients of marijuana, in pill form. As opposed to smoked marijuana, which acts almost immediately, patients suffering from severe nausea and vomiting often had trouble keeping the THC-9 pill down long enough for it to begin to work.
Drs. Robert M. Hepler and Ira M. Frank reported that marijuana is effective in treating glaucoma in the September 6, 1971 New England Journal of Medicine. Glaucoma is a disease in which the build up of severe pressure in the eye leads to blindness. The Proceedings of the First International Conference on the Pharmacology of Cannabis, held in Savannah, Georgia in December, 1974 reported that other cannabinoids in marijuana were more effective with glaucoma than Delta 9 THC. THC 8, for example, was far superior. Drs. Hepler and Frank, along with J.T. Ungerleider, reported on the superior efficacy of marijuana in treating glaucoma in the December, 1987 American Journal of Opthalmology.
Marijuana has also proven superior to the THC pill in the treatment of the muscle spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries. During hearings before Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young of a case brought by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Valerie Cover, who had been confined to a wheel chair because of multiple sclerosis, testified that she was able to resume her normal activities after smoking marijuana for three months and that her symptoms would resume each time she stopped using marijuana. At the end of hearings that took place between 1987 and 1988, Judge Young ruled that marijuana was useful for nausea, glaucoma, muscle spasticity, stimulating appetite, epilepsy, anxiety, depression, pain, asthma, and alcohol and other drug withdrawal.
The Star Tribune of May 29, 2003 (p. D1) reported that about 1.3 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year. Over 1 million end up on chemotherapy. About 70% to 80% experience nausea and vomiting during their treatment. In other words, at least 700,000 people suffer nausea and vomiting each year because of the government's ban on marijuana, which mounts up to millions of sufferers after three years. How many more People With AIDS suffer and have their deaths hastened because they cannot keep their food down or absorb adequate nutrition or because they don't have the appetite to even eat a sufficient amount of food and are denied the appetite stimulating effects of marijuana? How many more are condemned to blindness or confinement to a wheelchair because the government has made the medicine that can help them illegal? But, of course, we are taught that our government wouldn't condemn millions of its citizens to suffering, disability and death. These things don't happen in America!
The right to due process of law has been abolished in many cases because of the government's fanatical drug war jihad. The federal government can now confiscate property worth hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars on the mere suspicion that the property was acquired with money from drug dealing. Even if the victim of the confiscation is acquitted in a criminal trial, he or she must sue the government to recover their property. Yet Amendment V of the U.S. Constitution states that "no person shall... be deprived of life, liberty, or property (my emphasis) without due process of law..." And Amendment VII requires that "In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars (my emphasis), the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of common law." Yet the government can now confiscate property without a trial, even though the U.S. Constitution requires that there can be no confiscation in criminal cases without "due process of law," and, even in civil suits, where "the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved."
We threw out the British for less than this, taxation without representation. But now we have confiscation without trial. We considered it the right of the Serbian people, when they were under the thrall of a tyrannical government, to take to the streets to regain their rights. Should not the citizens of the United States have no less a right? The Serbian revolution was achieved primarily non violently, although the threat of violent means was always there, lurking in the background. Yet our ancestors (at least the ancestors of those of us of European ancestry whose ancestors were in this country before or during the Revolutionary War of 1775 to 1783) even raised armies, i.e. they used violence, and we considered it their right. And Thomas Jefferson said it was the right of the people to alter or abolish their government when it no longer met their needs. Doesn't the present generation of Americans still retain this right?
Furthermore, the courts no longer allow the medical necessity defense, either not allowing the defense lawyers to raise it at all or instructing the jury, if there is one, to not consider it. Yet the necessity defense is generally allowed in most cases, i.e. if you are lost in the woods in thirty below temperatures, you can avoid criminal liability by raising the necessity defense if you break into a cabin and even start a fire in the fireplace and even eat any food that is stored in the cabin. Yet, if you must smoke marijuana to control the nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy and AIDS, avoid blindness from glaucoma, control the muscle spasticity from multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injuries, or for a host of other reasons, you are not allowed to raise the defense of medical necessity because of some legal sophistry.
Also, for a very long time in English common law, juries have had the power to acquit, even if there is guilt according to the laws in force, if they determine that a verdict of guilty would be unjust. Yet, defense lawyers and defendants are not allowed to raise this defense. The defense lawyers would be cited for contempt and lay defendants would be ordered by the judge to stop if they tried to inform the jury that they had this power and the jury would be instructed to disregard what the defendant had said. He or she would be cited for contempt and fined or jailed if she or he continued to inform the jury that they had this power in violation of the judge's orders.
One of the many outrageous cases resulting from this legal tyranny and sophistry is the case of Peter McWilliams, author of "Ain't Nobody' s Business If You Do." McWilliams had been arrested after attempting to control his nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy with marijuana. Upon his conviction and placement on probation, he was told that not only would he be imprisoned if he smoked marijuana but that he would be regularly drug tested and the property which he intended to will to his family would be confiscated. After vainly attempting to control his nausea and vomiting with the inadequate FDA approved drugs, he was found dead. He had died after a severe attack of vomiting. The government had condemned him to die by vomiting his guts out!
The Supreme Court also overturned the referendum passed by the majority of California voters to legalize medicinal marijuana although legislating what substances people choose to put in their bodies is not one of the powers granted to the federal government in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. And Amendment X provides that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."
The U.S. Supreme Court reached a new low in the election of 2000 A.D. when they ordered the vote counting halted before all the votes had been counted. If five generals had conducted a military coup and ordered the vote counting halted, the government thus established would have been illegitimate and illegal. A government established by five black-robed Neanderthals on the Supreme Court is equally illegitimate and illegal. Hence, the government of George II has no more democratic legitimacy than that of George III. And the news media count of all the votes established that Al Gore won under every scenario in which all the votes were counted. Again, when Milosevic stole the Serbian elections, we considered it the right of the Serbian people to take to the streets to regain their rights, and even if their implicit threat of violence had been converted into actual violence to regain their rights, we would have considered it their right. The people of the United States have no less a right.
In Puritan New England, insane women were hanged as witches. We are not further advanced when a Texas woman who drowned her five children, a prima facie indicator of insanity, is sentenced to life in prison.
Another example of how the U.S. government commits acts which REALLY ARE JUST AS BAD as acts committed by the governments of Nazi Germany and in the former Yugoslavia, as well as the acts committed in medieval dungeons, is the immolation of the Branch Davidians. The U.S. government has long had the policy in hostage situations to strike as quickly as possible, using the element of surprise to rescue the hostages and capture or kill the hostage takers. The success of the Peruvian, government in digging a tunnel under the Japanese Embassy where the Shining Path were holding hostages, planting explosives under the floor of the embassy ballroom, which is normally not occupied, setting off the explosives, storming into the Embassy, rescuing all but one of the hostages and killing or capturing the guerillas is an example of the effectiveness of this technique.
Yet in the case of the Branch Davidians, the government drove tanks up to the Branch Davidians' compound, punched holes in the walls and introduced tear gas through the holes, giving the Branch Davidians more than enough time to set their compound on fire and immolate themselves. And Janet Reno, the then U.S. Attorney General, claimed that they had microphones planted on the roof and were able to tell that David Koresh was becoming more and more abusive to the children in the compound and thus knew that they had to act soon. It is very likely that modern listening devices are sensitive enough to pick up normal conversation since they are used to detect the movements of armies miles away. Therefore it is likely that the government listeners could overhear the Branch Davidians making plans to immolate themselves. But even if the government listeners could not overhear the Branch Davidians planning to set their compound afire, and could only pick up Koresh's yells and the children's screams, the first point about the generally accepted need for fast and decisive action in such situations still holds.
And the press mentioned the possibility of the Branch Davidians immolating themselves a number of times before the final holocaust. The few children who were released from the compound, the ones not sired by Koresh, produced drawings of fiery holocausts when they were examined by psychologists and had verbalized these images and this was widely reported by the press. Therefore the U.S. government had ample reason to know about the strong possibility of the Branch Davidians immolating themselves.
We were brought up being told that even in cases where there are criminals holed up, the government doesn't normally permit holed up criminals to burn themselves alive, let alone allow them to burn hostages and small children with them. We were taught that things like that don't happen in America! And the press keeps alternating from reports of evidence that the government caused the fire, to reports that a reexamination of the evidence has cleared the government of starting the fire, to reports that there is evidence the government caused the fire.
Still another example of how the U.S. government commits acts which REALLY ARE JUST AS BAD as the acts of other governments is Ruby Ridge. Randy Weaver, a right wing, racist, fundamentalist Christian, had been entrapped by the government into breaking some law against possessing certain weapons. Weaver and his new wife, also a right wing, racist, fundamentalist Christian, and his teenaged son from another marriage had holed up in a cabin on Ruby Ridge. Federal law enforcement agents had been probing around the cabin for about a year when the final assault began. Weaver's wife was shot in the head by an FBI sharp shooter and killed as she was nursing her new baby. Weaver's fourteen year old son fought with his father in the ensuing gun battle and was killed. Weaver was subdued and received a year or two in prison.
Now we clearly see how the FBI sharpshooter had to shoot Weaver's wife in the head as she was standing by an open window nursing her baby. Why, she might have come charging out of that cabin swinging her baby by the heels and bashed all those FBI agents brains out and killed them all!
The case of Richard Jewel, a guard at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics who realized that a bag lying unattended in the park as the crowd was celebrating might be a bomb and got the crowd moved far enough away so that only one person was injured is another example of the U.S. government's stupidity and dishonesty. When the FBI could not find out who planted the bomb, some of their personnel got the brainstorm that Richard Jewel had planted the bomb so that he could rescue people and have them think he was an hero. They had no evidence for this supposition but leaked the story to the press anyway. Jewel and his eighty something mother were harassed with obscene and threatening phone calls and could not even shop at the supermarket without the media following them around with both TV and non TV cameras. The identity of the bomber eventually became known but the government did not apologize to Jewel, let alone indemnify him and award him the hero's recognition and medal that he deserved. Even after the administration of Bush, Sr. was succeeded by the Clinton administration, the federal government did not award him the apology and medal that he deserved, with the press reporting that Jewel was still persona non grata within the federal bureaucracy. The administration of Bush, Jr. has not coughed up the apology and medal either.
Then there is the case of Wen Ho Lee. When the government was smarting with embarrassment over the Chinese government's coup in obtaining America's nuclear secrets, the government looked around for a scapegoat and picked out Lee out of pure racism. He was Chinese American. Lee was held in solitary confinement for eight months and when brought to the visiting room to see his daughter, he was handcuffed to the table. It took a month before his lawyers were able to get him even allowed a radio in his solitary cell. As the evidence of Lee's innocence mounted and the government became more and more embarrassed as its case came nearer and nearer to collapse, the government finally offered Lee a plea bargain where he would plead guilty to one of the counts the government had trumped up against him and would be released with no further imprisonment. Faced with a government determined to get him and with multi billions to spend prosecuting him. Lee agreed. His career as a government research scientist was destroyed and he now had a criminal record. He was convicted of taking computer tapes about top secret nuclear research home to work with on his home computer. It was a common practice for other government scientists to take computer tapes about secret government research home to work with on their own computers but Lee was singled out. Richard Deutch, who headed the CIA, also took computer tapes about his work home to work with on his own computer, but there had been no effort to prosecute him. In a feeble attempt to lessen its own embarrassment, the government did have Deutch plead guilty to some crime or other a few months later. But Deutch had not had to spend any time imprisoned.
In the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, congressional investigators knew of three other woman whom Thomas had sexually harassed besides Anita Hill. Yet the Senators confirmed Thomas as a Supreme Court Justice after ritually raking him over the coals about Hill. The Democratic Senators went along with this, apparently putting their unwillingness to bring the system into disrepute over the interests of their own party.
Also, the May 29, 1996 Star Tribune (p. E1) printed a review of a book by a Black woman, Rebecca Rice, who had adopted a Black male child. Her son, Jo Jo, was now 23 and had just graduated from Rice University. Yet as he had grown into adolescence, he would return home "bruised, sometimes bloodied, invariably humiliated after being stopped, frisked and roughed up by the police." Rice had found that she could not protect her son from being beaten by the police as he grew into adolescence. The police would explain "He fits the description."
Isn't this an outrage? That in a country that claims to have "liberty and justice for all," that it is accepted as a matter of course that a black male teenager is far more likely to be beaten by the police than he would be if he were white? And that this could be printed in a newspaper off-handedly, as if it were something everybody just knew and took for granted without the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of the citizens DEMANDING that this situation be put right IMMEDIATELY! And the solution to the problem of racial profiling should be obvious to any government. And that is to make it clear that we hired those pigs to protect us from murderers, rapists and robbers, not to work out some racist, sexist or homophobic agenda of their own. And if they will not or cannot do their job the way we want it done, there are plenty of other people who would be willing to do it the way we want it done.
The Civil Service Commission has degenerated from a body that protects workers from arbitrary and unjust firing to a body that makes it virtually impossible to fire a policeman for brutality, even if he has cost the city, as in the case of Mike Sauro, a million dollars in damages! Mass demonstrations and even mass civil disobedience will be necessary to force the replacement of the present Civil Service Commissioners with new Commissioners who will operate under new and reformed rules. And as for racial profiling, the government should make it clear to the police that if you don't have any reason to stop the car or make an arrest if it is a white person involved, then you don't make that arrest or stop that car if the person involved is Black, Brown, Yellow or Red!
There is no excuse for homelessness. The societies of the developed world are richer than any societies that have previously existed on earth. If even primitive hunting and gathering societies can take care of their elderly and infirm, there is ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE for our society not doing it as well!
As for the war in Afghanistan, the pacifist claim that we must let someone kill 3000 people and not retaliate is enraging. If the pacifist chooses not to resort to violence to keep himself or herself from being beaten, raped or killed, that is a personal, albeit stupid, choice. But what if she or he must resort to violence to prevent someone else from being beaten, raped or killed? If he or she is clever enough to prevent another person from being beaten, raped or killed without resorting to violence, we may admire her or his cleverness. But if there is no other way except violence to keep someone from being beaten, raped or killed, it is immoral not to resort to it. Can someone maintain and prove that someone can always prevent assault, rape and murder without resorting to violence?
However, dropping bombs on Afghani cities and killing people indiscriminately is a war crime, the bombs have only a remote chance of landing where Osama bin Laden or his lieutenants are, and can only make Afghanis less likely to cooperate with U.S. forces in capturing bin Laden. Slipping special forces into Afghanistan to capture or kill bin Laden would have and will have far more chance of success. President Bush's policies will only provoke more of the bitter hatred that led to the atrocity at the World Trade Center. The attack on the World Trade Center cannot be justified, of course, since most if not all the victims of September 11 had nothing to do with the U.S. policies that provoked such suicidal retaliation. But then, President Bush's indiscriminate bombing and slaughter are unjustified for the same reason.
Virtually all the commentators in the press assured us when 9-11 happened that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and that, in fact, Saddam Hussein's government and Al Qaeda were hostile to one another. Yet, through constant repetition of the lie that Iraq is responsible for 9-11, the Bush Administration has the majority of Americans believing it. The oft alleged weapons of mass destruction have never been found in Iraq and we can now paraphrase a much earlier proponent of belief without evidence, Saul of Tarsus, and call the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction not "the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen" but as the nonsubstance of things never hoped for and the lack of evidence of things not seen. The much touted weapons of mass destruction have not turned up although chemical and biological weapons manufacturing facilities and both nuclear weapons and their manufacturing facilities are large, bulky and hard to hide. Since one of the President's constitutional duties as Commander In Chief is to keep us accurately informed about dangers to the nation and effectively counter them, the malfeasance in office involved in fabricating false reports of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is an impeachable offense!
The Bush administration has now changed the reason for the war on Iraq to freeing the Iraqis from a murderous dictator. The actions of the first Bush administration in the first Gulf War proves that freedom for the Iraqi people was never a reason for either Bush administration. When the U.S. forces under Bush, Sr. were within 100 hours of toppling Saddam Hussein and presumably "freeing the Iraqi people," U.S. forces suddenly halted their advance, allowing Saddam to remain in power and recover his forces so that he could slaughter the Shiites and other revolting groups.
At the time, the Star Tribune published a cartoon showing the Allied generals facing a map of Europe with only Germany marked as still under Nazi control and saying, "We'll force them back into their own borders so that they'll only be able to oppress their own people." Actually what the United States did in Iraq was far worse, comparable to continuing the embargo on Germany after the War and causing millions of their population to die from starvation and disease. The United Nations estimated that a million Iraqis died from disease because they were not allowed to import chlorine to purify their water. There are undoubtedly Iraqi parents who lost not one but several of their children because of the embargo.
This ought to give us reason to comprehend why there is so much bitter hatred against the U.S. in Iraq and elsewhere around the world that there are people willing to immolate themselves by crashing airliners into the Pentagon and World Trade Center in order to get at us. As I have already said, their actions were unjustified because most if not all the people in the World Trade Center did not have anything to do with the policies that led to a million deaths in Iraq and millions of other deaths around the world. The atrocity at the World Trade Center cannot be justified of course but considering such facts as the deaths of a million Iraqis because the U.S. would not let them import chlorine to purify their water and to import other medicines ought to break through people's naive bemusement as to why people hate us so much that they are willing to burn themselves alive in order to get at us!
And actually, since National Public Radio and other news media played tapes of U.S. ambassador April Glaspie assuring Saddam Hussein that the U.S. would have no objection if he invaded Kuwait, it seems that Saddam Hussein was set up by the U.S. For years before the first Gulf War, the press had periodically ran reports on how Iraq was allegedly months away from obtaining nuclear weapons. The most likely explanation was that the U.S. government had decided that Saddam was a third world client who was getting too big for his britches, even though it was the U.S. who had originally put him in power.
Now, that the U.S. has invaded Iraq for the second time, we need only contemplate the economic advantages of cheap oil from Iraq, especially since National Public Radio has reported that the U.S. is forcing Iraq to sell its oil at below the world market price, and remind ourselves of the views of pundits such as Richard Pearl, who is now part of the Bush Administration and who advocated that the U.S. embark on a course towards empire, to understand why the Bush Administration is now trying to digest Iraq in its attempt to make Iraq the first province in a Twenty-first Century Roman Empire.
Attorney General John Ashcroft and others have been defending the decision to institute military trials (so far, only for non citizens) by arguing that the terrorists are not "entitled" to the protections afforded by due process and civil liberties. But it is not only "merit" that entitles the accused to due process but also the interests of the rest of us. If the accused is not permitted to hear the evidence against him or her and present evidence in her or his own defense, we run the risk of convicting someone who is not guilty. This would leave the person who actually is guilty free and able to inflict another terrorist act on the rest of us. Due process thus defends the rest of us from being victimized again.
Another problem with arguing that the accused is not "entitled" to a fair trial is that before we have had the fair trial, we don't know if the accused is, in fact, guilty of terrorism, so by arguing that he or she is not "entitled" because she or he is guilty, we have begged the question by assuming what needs to be proven.
And finally, we are all entitled to not be convicted of something we didn't do and to live in a society where we don't have to worry about becoming one of the disappeared. The United States has now joined Chile, Argentina, and other dictatorships around the world by acquiring 1100 of the disappeared.
Upon rereading the U.S. Constitution, I could not find any clause authorizing the President to establish military tribunals. Yet the Supreme Court has upheld Presidents acting this way at least as far back as Lincoln abolishing the right of habeas corpus during the Civil War. The Supreme Court has thus been planting the seeds of the destruction of whatever democracy we purportedly have since the Civil War. Wars typically last for years so there is no justification for the argument that we don't have time for due process. But because of past Supreme Court decisions, it will either require an "extra constitutional moment" to remove the black-robed buffoons presently sitting on the Supreme Court and ride them on a rail over the bridge out of the District of Columbia, and to be as safe as we can, constitutional amendments specifically outlawing the establishment of military tribunals by presidential fiat before we are free of the danger from our purported democracy's containing within itself the seeds of its own destruction.
Since my moment of illumination, my realization that the U.S. government REALLY is THAT BAD, I feel like I am privy to a special knowledge about the true nature of U.S. society. But, as I have previously stated, this illumination has not given me an extra empirical way of knowing new facts, only an entirely new outlook on the facts I already know and an extra sensitivity and likelihood of noticing facts whose significance I did not realize before. An analogy might be suddenly deciphering a visual puzzle upon realizing what the puzzle was supposed to represent. Out knowledge about the position and orientation of every line and dot of the picture is exactly the same as they were before; yet the lines and dots have taken on a whole new meaning in a new context.
There is nothing transcendent or supernatural about such an experience. The prominent British Agnostic, Bertrand Russell, once described a mystical experience he had had in Mysticism and Logic. It can also be described as a writ large version of the aha experience involved in telling, or thinking of, someone, "I've just realized how despicable, or admirable, you are!" In my case, the aha experience was writ somewhat larger in that I suddenly realized JUST HOW BAD the U.S. government and ruling class is!
Actually, the only new significance I realized with respect to facts I already Knew was with respect to Ruby Ridge. I had been bothered in the back of my mind by the FBI sharpshooter shooting Randy Weaver's wife in the head. I am embarrassed to say that I only had a vague discomfort about the way Randy Weaver's wife died. One shouldn't have to have a moment of mystical illumination to realize that the government had no reason and should not have killed a nursing mother as she was standing by an open window by shooting her in the head. But we all tend to take habitual injustices for granted until we find a new way of thinking about them. Bush stealing the 2000 election with the aid of five black-robed Neanderthals on the Supreme Court happened after this moment of illumination so, at most, it only helped me realize the full implications of this theft a little sooner than I otherwise would have.