Archive for March, 2011

Praise Songs For A People’s Poet!

Posted in Cultural Matters with tags , , on March 29, 2011 by playthell

Poet Jessica Care Moore: Mistress of Ceremonies

 

The Arts Community Honors a Cultural Hero

Abiodun Oyowale is a very special man: Poet, Teacher, Cultural Entrepreneur, Father, Activist, and Man of the people.  As a founding member of “The Last Poets” he is also the creator of a new style of writing and reciting poetry.  To create an art style, a new aesthetic within a well defined tradition, is the Holy Grail of artistic invention.  Alas while many are called to this task by a cynical Muse; very few are chosen.  First of all style is a function of mastery, one must not only master the techniques of the form but also be conversant with the tradition.  Only then is innovation possible…but even so, victory is not assured.

With so many creative minds inquiring into the secrets of an art form, the chances of discovering a new way of doing things which enriches the tradition rather than profanes it are slim and none! Yet that’s precisely what happened when Abiodun joined forces with Filipe Luciano and Gyland Caine to form “The Last Poets.”  Using conga drums and voices they spouted revolutionary poems and were generally looked upon by political activists as the radical cultural voice of the black liberation movement.

In this regard they were heirs to the tradition of black magic revolutionary verse spouted by the likes of Larry Neal, Amiri Baraka, Yusef Rachman, Askia Muhammad Toure, Sonia Sanchez, Jayne Cortez, Amus Moore, Stanley Crouch, Calvin Hernton, et al.  In poems like “I got The Blues,” “Niggers Are Scared of Revolution,” “When the Revolution Comes,” Jibaro, My Pretty Nigga!”  “My Jones Coming Down!” “Black Thighs,” etc “The Last Poets” offered their take on the agit-prop movement in poetry begun by Baraka’s “Spirit House Movers,” the first group of  black revolutionaries who wrote poems that conjured up a will to fight for the right.

Mao Tse Tung used poetry to buck up the esprit de corps of the Red Army on the Long March to the Mountains of Yenan; where he read his poems and held literary discourses that have become world famous as”Discussions at the Yenan forum on Literature and Art.”  I know that the Last Poets were inspired by the wisdom which flowed from this forum…because they were revolutionary artists.  Just like Mario Andrate, Amilcar Cabral and Augustino Neto – revolutionary poets who led the long bloody liberation struggle in Portuguese Africa – the Last Poets turned poetry into a weapon.  A cardinal point of Mao’s theory of revolutionary art is:”In order for art to succeed as propaganda it must first succeed as art!”

This in a nutshell explains the enormous influence of “The Last Poets” in shaping the sensibility of their generation of black Americans, for they were wildly popular for serious poets. It also explains the astounding success of its incorrigible progeny: Hip Hop.  Whether or not we like all that we get from these precocious street poets – who cavalierly dip into the rich reservoir of bawdy Afro-American folk lore that was the common pleasure of the folks before radio, and television and movies – they are keeping it real.  So long as they tell us about life as they live it and the world as they see it.  That’s what The Last poets did and shocked the nation! It was a performance worthy of sustained applause.

The younger poets who are prominent in the “Spoken Word” movement were generous in giving up props to the “Last Poets.” They know Abiodun’s contribution to what they are doing, and they showered their artistic Elder and teacher – who had extended a helping hand to many of them as tutor in the art of poesy and also provided them a place to perform – with joyful panegyrics worthy of a culture hero. Although I didn’t know any of them from from the women in the moon, they really wiped me out with their dynamic speakology.  And I look forward to seeing them perform again. Among those who rocked the house reciting their verse was: Brother Earl, Tai Allen, Sista Zock, Scityl, AJA Monet.  Ngoma, ItsrealLight, J-Ivy, Autumn Asante, Al Be Back, Ali and Ade.  Taking us on a wild ride through their world of reality, these young word sorcerers really set it off!

The impetus for this long overdue tribute was the fact that Abiodun – like many longtime Harlemites – is facing an eviction proceding from his beautiful spacious Morningside Drive Apartment perched on a Hill overlooking his beloved Harlem. Most of us learned about the poet’s ordeal in a Daily News feature story and were horrified.  Many of the people in attendance had performed at soirees in that apartment, and all of us – this writer included- attended his marvelous New Year’s Eve parties. For years, no matter where I spent the Christmas holidays, I returned to New York in order to make Abiodun’s parties.

Aside from beautiful black ladies hanging from the rafters and getting jiggy with the music – which was always right on the money – there was food fit for a King!  Not only was the cooking contributions limited to those with obvious gifts in the kitchen; it was abundant!  As was the spirits and cannabis sativa – Grog and pot!   But midnight was show time; that’s when the poets began to read.  Some read original poems written for the occasion…while others read published pieces.  But they all got down!  There was nothing like it in New York, and all the culturally hip people were there.  That’s why they all turned out on Sunday; we felt like we were about to lose a cultural shrine if our High Priest of poetry lost his home.

Filipe Luciano Droppin Science

Extolling the Value Of Education

 

Venerable Cultural Warriors Embrace

Phillipe Luciano and Abiodun

 

The Magic Power Of Spoken Words

Pride and Passion!

 

The Last Poet!

He Spat Rhymes with Reason and wisdom in Free Verse!

 

The Congero Kept Time

With the Thump, Thump of the Tom Toms!

 

 

Together They Wove A Spell

Of Intoxicating Rhythms and Uplifting Words

 

There Were Troubadours

Who Sang Abiodun’s Praises

 

And Politicians Sang Praises Too!

Congressman Charles Rangel Presented A Plaque to Abiodun

 

After Praising the Poet with Flawless Eloquence

The Ever Elegant  Charlie Rangel Left the Stage

 

The Joy Of the Occasion

Beamed from his Incandescent Smile

 

There Were Young Poets Spitting Sacred Fire

AJa Monet  – on left – Paid  Homage to the Ancestors

 

Mr. Leslie Wyche Da “Mayor” Of Harlem Was In da House

Paying Homage to the Last Poet and Cold Chillin!

 

 

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Black, Brown and Beige Beauties Were Everywhere

Elegant And Daring!

 

Mocha Chocolate Caliente!

In Generous Proportions!

 

 

Sophisticated Ladies

Sipped wined and discussed the Arts

 

This Poet Gave Us food for Thought…

…And Provided a feast for the Eyes!

 

It was a Bootilicious Affair!

Exhibit A!

 

 

There Were Vintage Lovelies

The Elegant Judy: Abiodun’s Lady!

 

 

And Round Tha Way Girls

Rockin Hip Hop styles!

 

 

There Were Silver Foxes Too

Rockin Old School Cool!

 

 

And Trendsetters Too!

Doing their Own Thing!

 

 

Old Friends Reunited

Camaraderie permeated the Ambience

 

 

There Was Wine and Song

A Reluctant Bartender?

 

 

And Fabulous Food Too!!

It Was Finger Lickin Good!

 

 

The Whole Affair Was a Blast!

Rejuvenation through Joy!

 

 

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem New York

March 29, 2011

March Madness Redux!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , on March 23, 2011 by playthell

A Mighty Us Aircraft Carrier Off the Lybian Coast

 

Is This De Ja Vous All Over Again?

 

Most people may not remember it now, but the invasion of Iraq also began in March. I remember it well because the college basketball tournament was under way, and the frenzy generated by fans of various teams is collectively known as “March Madness!”   Back then, when I watched the military analyst with their charts, maps, projection screens and pointers gleefully explaining the destructive power of our weaponry,  I thought:”This is madness!”  I then sat down and wrote a commentary, titling it “March Madness!”  I get the same feeling as I watch the present parade of military “experts” prattle on ad-nauseum about America’s military might. De Ja Vous?

The parade of retired military officers approaches the Libyan invasion with the usual air of authority and esprit de core, and they appear to be experiencing something of a collective orgasm as they immerse themselves in the pornography of war.  From the ecstatic look on his face I swear I thought one of these dudes was busting a nut when he described the smart targeting abilities of a Tomahawk missile; which, by the way, cost a million and a half dollar to fire!  These hyped up military mouthpieces speak in grandiose terms about the expected outcome of America’s latest military action; but I continue to think of “Shock and Awe!”

Shock and Awe!

Baghdad Burning!

Televised in real time and living color, the attack was quite a show of America’s deadly fireworks…. but despite the hoopla it didn’t achieve its stated goals. We are still fighting there eight years after George II pronounced victory!  And I have my doubts whether the present mission will succeed it its objectives, or turn out to be as quick and tidy an affair as the President has promised.  The video footage and print reports from the front testify to the military successes of the US led coalition forces, but that’s the easy part.

Until we are sure just what America’s broader objectives are, there is no standard by which we can measure the success or failure of this mission.  And the ambiguity about objectives can lead to what the generals call “mission creep,” which means the objectives keep changing and the war expands beyond the original mission.  It is clear from the chatter around Washington that there is a real danger the Libyan mission could expand.  In view of this possibility, it is instructive to take a look at the consequences of past military expeditions of this sort.

The history of American interventions in third world conflicts is one of dismal failures.  This is largely because after World War II the nature of warfare changed from stationary battles between armies in a defined theater of combat, to protracted peoples wars where the enemy is elusive – often indistinguishable from the civilian populace.   And the generals were prepared to fight the last war.   However they were faced with a new kind of war where the enemy is hard to distinguish from friends…or just innocent bystanders going about their business.  “A revolutionary must swim among the people like a fish in the sea” says Mao Tse Tung, whose treatise “On Protracted War” is the bible of insurgents everywhere.  But Ralph McGhee – one of the first CIA operatives on the ground in Vietnam – tells us in his classic expose “Deadly Deceits: My 25 years in the CIA,” the generals hadn’t read Mao and were clueless as to how the Asian revolutionaries had organized their people for protracted war.

Since US military doctrine is based on Von Clausewitz’s axiom “war is an extension of politics,” military objectives are difficult to define .  And nobody has come up with a strategy to defeat a protracted people’s war. We lost in Korea, where we first encountered that strategy, and we lost in Vietnam where it was applied in one of the most impressive demonstrations of the art and science of protracted war that we have yet seen.  And we are losing in Iraq and Afghanistan!  With a record like this, I see no reason for optimism in our newest war.

American Eagles Command The Sky!


An American aircraft carrier is the most destructive weapon in the world

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, new York

March 21, 2011

On Operation Odyssey Dawn

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, Playthell on politics on March 20, 2011 by playthell
American Fighters will patrol Libyan skies

 

Blundering Into Yet another Mid-East War! This Time Its Libya!

The swiftness of the coalition attack on Libya last Saturday caught me by surprise, although I have been following the situation closely.  While I argued against this invasion of Libya – yet another Islamic country that has committed no offense against the United States – I knew it could happen. As I listened to president Obama solemnly announce his decision to commit the American military to enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya in conjunction with England, France and the Arab League – which would be an unambiguous act of war – I was sure I had heard it all before.

First there is the profession of reluctance; we don’t really want to go to war but there is tyrant out there oppressing his people – who are always democracy loving ‘freedom fighters,” even if, as in this case, we don’t really know who the fuck they are or what they are about.  Then there is the question of our cherished values being violated, and since our values are “universal” we must defend them wherever they are under assault in the world.  And finally there is the hackneyed canard that no international effort against foreign tyrannies can succeed without “American leadership.”  We have all heard that one before; most recently before the Bushman launched “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”  A war of choice from which we have yet to extricate ourselves, although it has now gone on longer than World War II.  And judging by the title they have bestowed on this invasion “Operation Odyssey Dawn,” who can say what the ultimate objective of this new war with Libya is?

Already we hear Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman on State of the Union this morning expanding the mission.  Hence “Mission Creep” is rearing its ugly head.  “It is clear that we are in for a longer war,” says Lieberman, a proto-Zionist who wants to destroy any Islamic nation who cannot be brought under American control because he views that as the only way the security of Israel can be secured.  Needless to say, given the consequences of our one sided pro-Israel policy in the region, a reassessment of or national interests in the Middle East ought to be undertaken and our policies should be adjusted to the realities we face, not the wishful thinking of ideologues.  John McCain’s take on the invasion is entirely predictable, he’s Gung Ho!  Big Bad John is already to rumble, especially in a Third world country.

His cavalier dismissal of Libya as “a fourth rate military power” reflects the same attitude he had when he swaggered into Vietnam – another “fourth rate military power” by American standards.  But when his million dollar fighter plane was blown out of the sky by an enemy with no air-force, then captured and subjected to the will of these little brown rebels for a couple of years – where he spilled his guts and sang like a canary – he has suffered a deep sense of failure that he wants to assuage by a victory over some similar Third World force.  This issue however, is beyond the scope of the present commentary, anyone who is interested in my argument regarding McCain’s mindset should read my commentary – “General Clarke is Right: John McCain is Unfit to be Commander-In-Chief” – which was written during the presidential campaign when McCain’s military experience was being touted as the reason we should vote for him over Barack Obama.  Suffice it to say that the “Mack Man” is a psychologically disturbed war monger looking for a chance to salve his wounded pride, and any war will do.  Hence we should seek no counsel from him on matters of war and peace!

John McCain’s Capture by the Vietnamese after Downing his Plane
A defeated soldier still looking for a victory?

The problem with these kinds of decisions – whether or not Americans should ride to the rescue of beleaguered people with armed force – is that the public, reflecting the shallow jingoism of much of the mass media, generally have far too simple a conception of the problem.  For me, reaching a decision on whether the US should participate in an armed intervention of Libya involved consideration of many factors.  First of all there is the question of whether it is in the national interests of the US to participate in launching another war against an Arab nation.  This is a question that must be considered from several angles.  The discussion must begin with the simple questions: What are the paramount American interests in the Middle East?   And how has American policy evolved to protect those interests?

What, for instance, were the Bush administration’s objectives in the region and how did that influence their decision to invade Iraq – an act which many historians consider the biggest diplomatic blunder in history.  Most people think it was all about gaining control of the Iraqi oil reserves, which are abundant because they share some of the same pools as the Saudi’s.  However this was not the only motive for the American invasion, it was also just as much the product of the flawed theories of Neo-Con eggheads led by Paul Wolfowitz, a puppet of “Dirty Dick” Cheney’s, about creating a “unipolar world” under American domination – a Pax Americana based on the Pax Romana of the ancient Roman Empire.

I will soon post a detailed analysis of how this happened so I won’t belabor the issue here.  It will be an excerpt from a 110 page reflection on my debate about the Iraq war with Christopher Hitchens – the same treatise from which the commentary “On Racism and the Arabs” was culled.  The point here however, is that it is a mistake to attribute the Bushman’s invasion of Iraq to control of the oil reserves of those nations. That might be the concern of the oilmen in government and their shills, but for Senator’s McCain and Lieberman – the odd couple of American politics and a rare instance of bi-partisan cooperation in Congress – there are other issues that matter more in their heart of hearts.  And it may yet turn out that these impassioned ideologues will be more influential than the skeptics because they are so convinced of their cause and simplistic in their arguments.

Yet they have failed to adequately consider the innumerable things that can go wrong once the bombing starts, or the cost to the US in treasure …if not blood too.  And at a time when our economy is in the tank and the Obama Administration has frozen the wages of underpaid public servants, and Republican governors are abrogating the rights of American workers to collectively bargain with their government employers, the last thing this nation needs is another war anywhere…and certainly not in the Arab world.   It is conventional wisdom among historians of Empire that imperial nations crumble when the burdens of defending the empire bankrupts their treasury and leads to economic decline.

Of course Americans refuse to accept that we are an imperialist nation because we don’t have colonies based on the classical model of European nations.  That’s because the structure of the American empire bears a closer resemblance to the ancient Roman model. The great British historian Dr. Arnold Toynbee, one of the most learned men ever to write on the history of western civilization, demonstrates this in his book “America and the World Revolution.” Professor Toynbee pointed out that the Romans didn’t physically colonize weaker peoples through settlements and land alienation; they extracted treaties from them that gave them title to portions of their territory on which the Romans could construct military garrisons.  And it was from these strategically located military bases that the Romans imposed their will on the nations in the Roman spheres of influence.  It does not require formidable intellectual resources in order to see the similarities between the role of foreign bases in Ancient Rome’s domination of the ancient world, and the American imperial system that dominated the twentieth century.  That’s why American forces were able to assemble off the shores of Tripoli so rapidly.

For many years Americans had the burden of reconciling their armed proselytizing about the universal right to freedom and democracy for white people in Europe, suffering under fascism or communism, with the fact that they were practicing a fascist like tyranny over African Americans at home, and supporting the non-democratic police state tactics which was the standard operating procedure of their European colonialist allies.   Although few Americans recognize it, powerful pressures from the international arena created by the Cold War with the Soviet Bloc greatly influenced the willingness of racist backward white Americans to finally scrap the legal racial caste system that prevailed for over three quarters of US history.  Now that we have an African American President with an Arabic name, irrefutable evidence that the de jure caste system is history, many Americans believe the US can assume the role of moral policemen of the planet without being accused of white domination.

I have my doubts.  Our reputation is so bad in the Muslim world many people can be easily persuaded to believe the worst about Americans even if our intentions are honorable…as I have no doubt our President’s motives are.  Already we see Mummar Khadaffi screaming about the American invaders and their flunkies attacking another sovereign Arab government, with the self-avowed intention of removing a head of state from office.  And as in the other cases this government has conducted no hostile action against the US.  And he has the advantage of truth on his side in making the allegation.  Hence when he expands this to charge that Americans are waging war against Islam he will find many open ears on the “Arab street” that are greedy for his message.

The fact that Gadaffi has been a relentless foe of the Islamicist – as was Hosni Mubarek and Sadam Hussein – will be obscured by the anger and resentment of Muslims toward the “Great Satan,” who is killing Muslims in still another Muslim country.  I think we have stumble around and initiated another war that will be much harder to end than anyone associated with this decision is willing to admit.  While the Defense Secretary, the top Generals and the National security Advisor expressed skepticism about this military adventure and counseled restraint, the lady hawks – Hillary Clinton, Dr. Susan Rice and Professor Samantha Powers of Harvard – got into the president’s head and swayed him to their side.  Now that the dogs of war have been unleashed, let’s hope those who predict that this will be a walk in the Park because Gadaffi will quickly surrender in the face of the American led assault.  Let’s hope and pray that their prognostications are right…but I have serious doubts.  Sounds like SOS – the same old shit – to me!!  I will follow these developments with interest.  Stay tuned!

 

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

March, 20, 2011

 

What If Indian Point Melted Down?

Posted in On Foreign Affairs with tags , , on March 17, 2011 by playthell

The Atomic Genie is out of the bottle…What Now?

A Valuable Lesson from Japan

As Japan teeters on the brink of an unspeakable nuclear disaster, most Americans are going about their business and paying but scant attention. Even among those who are watching the tragic spectacle on TV few are saying “There but for the grace of God go I!”  Yet there but for the grace of the Gods go we.  Alas we have several nuclear plants which are vulnerable; virtual accidents waiting to happen. And none is more dangerous than the nuclear reactor at Indian Point, just 35 miles up the Hudson River from New York City.

I base my assessment of the danger posed by Indian Point on two incontestable facts: It is the oldest operating nuclear plant in the nation, and it is built above a geological fault that can produce an earthquake. of th  And it can happen at a moment’s notice!  This will no doubt come as a surprise to most New Yorkers, who believe we are on solid ground. Yet  a little shift in the Tectonic plates of the earth’s crust  and Indian Point can come melting down.  If that happened it would be necessary to evacuate New York City – and by some estimates it would be 8,000 years before we could return!

However the more immediate problem for New Yorkers would be surviving the evacuation.  Given what New York is – a highly populated urban area filled with strangers divided by class, race and ethnic antagonisms – and what Americans are – gun totin narcissistic individualist programmed to look out for number one, and cavalier or contemptuous of the public interests – it would be hard to imagine a greater nightmare.  Here is where we can learn the greatest lesson from the Japanese in their time of trial.  It is a representative anecdote that enlightens us about the Japanese concept of community.

The whole world marvels at the decorum of the Japanese people in the face of the multi-faceted disaster that has beset them.  Several days into this crisis there has been no sign of the kinds of anti-social dog eat dog  behavior which, I believe, would be commonplace elsewhere in the world; not the least of all here in New York City.

If we suddenly experienced an earthquake, and while still in a daze from the earth dancing under our feet as buildings crumble around us, we were told that the plant at Indian Point was in danger of melting down, I believe something akin to chaos will ensue. The Japanese are facing all of this, plus five newly reported outbreaks of Swine Flu, yet they are handling it stoically.

Grace in the Face Of Death

What, one wonders, is the source of the marvelous calm and respect for order displayed by the citizens of Japan?  From whence come the many displays of altruism and magnanimity we see?  It is summed up in a single word – Akatsuki which symbolizes a combination of intestinal fortitude, altruism and honor. This concept is drilled into Japanese citizens from the earliest age; it is a fundamental part of the socialization process.

It also accounts for their valor as soldiers and their excellence in the industrial arts. It is this idea that inspires a commitment to the defense of the nation that finds it’s highest expression in the Samurai and the Kamikaze. We are witnessing the deeply rooted values embodied in the word at work now; it is manifested in the disciplined way the Japanese people are calmly going about their lives, helping each other while remaining unfailingly courteous.  It is wondrous to watch; the essence of what I think of as civilization.  And we would do well to emulate it.

 

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

March 17, 2011

Apocalypse In the Ring Of Fire!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs with tags , on March 12, 2011 by playthell
Japanese Nuclear Plant In Danger of Meltdown

What the Japanese Disaster Portends for Modern Civilization

For years now I have been arguing with my West coast friends about whether it is safer to live in the Florida hurricane zone or on the edge of the Pacific rim, that area of the globe geologist call “the ring of Fire” because the earth’s tectonic forces are constantly pushing up molten rock toward the surface. And sooner or later it will explode with a murderous fury.  Although many people may view the choice as a matter of picking your poison, I definitely prefer the hurricane zone.  Even if I’d had a shadow of a doubt about it, after witnessing the devastation of the Japanese Tsunami it would have evaporated faster than Sammy Davis Jr. could draw his guns!

Although they may be equally destructive, as Katrina demonstrated, compared to the sudden terror of a Tsunami, hurricanes are rather mild affairs.  I have lived through six hurricanes, five on land and one at sea, and each time I had enough warning to get to a safe place on high ground; except when at sea, which was the most frightening of the six.  It was when I discovered that I was a true atheist, because everybody on the ship was praying but me…even the old head salty dogs.  But even then we knew it was coming, we just couldn’t out run it; I was on an oil tanker, a working ship that didn’t have the speed of military or luxury vessels, which allowed them to evade storms at sea.

Point of Impact: The Tsunami Hits!

The Awesome Power of Mother Nature

Sweeping away all our prized possessions In her path

Tsunamis, however, explode upon land with virtually no warning!  That’s because they are generally trigged by volcanic eruptions beneath the sea.  These undersea eruptions are caused by the shifting of massive plates of earth at the bottom of the ocean.  When this happens the shock waves ripple across the surface of the sea and pick up velocity.  Although it is hardly noticed by ships at sea when they Crash into the shore it becomes a wall of water.  The wave that hit Japan was about three and a half stories high; tons of water moving at the speed of a jetliner washing away everything in its path. And this can happen suddenly on a bright sunshine filled day

The people who survived the horrifying ordeal talk as if they have been to hell and back, and nearly a thousand have already been pulled from the wreckage, and as I write the Japanese Prime minister Naoto Kan is estimating that it will take weeks before we know how many lives were lost!  It will also be weeks, if not longer to restore Japan to where it was before the Tsunami altered the course of their history.  The extent to which this alteration proves true depends at the moment on whether Japanese atomic scientist can prevent a meltdown at their nuclear plants.  This unthinkable disaster is becoming a real possibility.  So if you are inclined to pray, fall on your knees and get to it because the Japanese people need all the help they can get from everywhere.

Aftermath of the Apocalypse!

Many Japanese survivors are now homeless

If they have a meltdown of the core at one of the damaged nuclear plants we will witness a disaster on a scale that we have only witnessed once in the history of the world in peacetime: The nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl Russia.  The atomic attacks on Japan by the US were a worse disaster, but that was an act of war intended to bring Japan to her knees.

The Fire Last Time

Nagasaki Japan, 1945Autographed by bomber pilot

 

Chernobyl: After the meltdown

Still uninhabitable a generation later

It is great historical irony that the Japanese should be facing a nuclear disaster just over half a century after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were obliterated by atomic bombs.  And this time the disaster will result from the peaceful use of atomic energy to generate electricity.  It wasn’t even a question of human error, which is always a danger; it was the forces of nature. Even if the Japanese are able to prevent a meltdown, their near miss poses a serious question for modern civilization: Is it sustainable without nuclear power? We know the oil will run out eventually…some believe within the next 50 years, and then what?   Is the benefit of nuclear energy worth the risk?  To be, or not to be, a nuclear nation, that is the question.

Given the present state of energy technology we would be forced to consider reducing our level of consumption, which has become virtually the only measure of our living standard. In the economically overdeveloped west, which has created the ultimate consumer society, such a choice would produce widespread anxiety in people forced to decide.   Yet this is the choice that must be made.  But even so, I can conceive of no argument that can persuade emerging economies like China, India and Brazil to abandon atomic energy; it is their passport into the modern world.  So there we have it.

Ever since I served in the 91st Strato-bomber Wing of the United States Strategic Air Command, where I enjoyed a “Top Secret” security clearance, I have been skeptical about the use of atomic power.  I fear the great hazards associated with it even for peaceful purposes.  And it goes without saying that I consider the continued maintenance of nuclear weapons stockpiles to be not only a manifestation of collective paranoia masquerading as patriotism, but also a crime against humanity.

I’d love to share the optimism of the novelist William Faulkner who, despite witnessing the Nazi holocaust and the atomic bombing of Japan a few years earlier, confidently declared in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech: “man will endure.”  But given what we know for sure about human beings – especially our propensity for avarice, malice and murderous folly, or just honest errors – now that the nuclear Genie is out of the bottle and afoot in the world…I have my doubts.

 

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

March12, 2011


On The King Hearings

Posted in Playthell on politics on March 10, 2011 by playthell

Congressman Pete King: A former apologist for Irish Terrorist

Legitimate Business or Witch Hunt?

Do we need hearings on the threat of domestic terrorism in the USA? Well, given our recent experience with terrorist attacks, an investigation of their sources to assess the level of danger faced by unsuspecting, law abiding, American citizens is certainly a legitimate function of government.  However to be effective such an investigation must be broadly based and driven by the known facts.  Measured by this standard the present hearings being conducted by Peter King – a right-wing Republican ideologue, bigot and shameless hypocrite who refused to criticize IRA terrorism – does not measure up.

According to an extensive 2009 report on the sources of domestic terrorism in the US issued by the Department of Homeland Security: “Right-wing extremists have capitalized on the election of the first African American president, and are focusing their efforts to recruit new members, mobilize existing supporters and broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda, but they have not yet turned to attack planning.”

The report goes on to say, “The current economic and political climate has some similarities to the 1990s when right-wing extremism experienced a resurgence fueled largely by an economic recession, criticism about the outsourcing of jobs and the perceived threat to U.S. power and sovereignty by other foreign powers.”  In view of this assessment, compiled by the most knowledgeable authorities the nation has on this question, why is Congressman King confining his inquiry to the Islamic community?

How does one justify holding a hearing on the sources of domestic terrorism that does not even deal with the clear and present danger emanating from armed radical right-wing Christians, who are forming militias and using our President’s picture for target practice, recruiting members from combat veterans of wars in the Muslim world, and planning attacks against the institutions of our government –which they consistently portray as the enemy of the American people.

There is nothing that Al Qaeda has said about our President that these white racist radicals have not also said…and far worse!  The comedian Wanda Sykes made this point brilliantly when she performed at the annual White House Correspondents Ball and noted that Rush Limbaugh’s wish for our President to fail echoed the objectives of Osama bin Laden.

Thus while I think those who argue against any investigation of the activities of radical Muslim Jihadists are dangerously naïve – because the Jihad is real and we are their favorite target for understandable historical reasons – I am also certain that the white racist armed fanatics on the right pose a clear and present danger to the internal security of this country.  for all we know there could well be  legions of lost souls like Timothy McVey hovering about in the shadows waiting to make their move.

These paranoid wingnuts – whom the intelligence community calls “lone wolves” – are being incited by the rancid rhetoric of hate and paranoia emanating from the verbal arsonists in right-wing media: Fatty Limbaugh, Greasy Head Sean, Potato Head Beck, et al.  Any investigation that does not examine the symbiotic relationship between these mass media provocateurs and violent political actors is a farce.

Since the very Republicans who denounced the Homeland Security Report’s fingering of these right wing white American nuts now applaud the King Committee’s investigation of Muslin extremist, the rest of us must look at this biased charade with a jaundiced eye.  Prudence dictates that we treat the event like circus performers who hold their nose and kiss a pig because they can’t stop the show.

 

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

February 11, 2011

Gomer Pyle Goes To Washington

Posted in On Right Wing Pundits and Bloviators, Playthell on politics with tags , , on March 10, 2011 by playthell

A country slick bunko artist playing the long rage con

An Open Letter to Mike Huckabee

What tha fuck Huck?  Do you really think we are dumb enough to believe that hokum you are spouting about how you misspoke when you said President Obama grew up in Kenya, and that that experience determines his political policies as President of the USA?   Do you actually think you can convince anyone who is not a moron, or close to it, that you really meant to say Indonesia?  It doesn’t surprise me if you actually believe you can pull this off because you spend most of your time talking to morons.

Didn’t yo mamma ever tell you that if you lie down with dogs you will get up with fleas?  What that means knuckle head is that if you spend all of your time consorting with charlatans, and preaching to imbeciles, it will eventually erode your capacity to construct logical arguments.  Hanging out with ignorant paranoid buffoons can so distort your perception of things you may begin to believe that you can fool all the people all the time!

As I watched you try to explain away your perfidious folly in television interviews two things came across my mind: first an image then the lines.  I kept thinking “I know I’ve seen this guy somewhere before.”  Then it hit me: you are a dead ringer for Gomer Pyle Huck, the hilarious hayseed with the golden voice.  I concluded that the main difference between you and Gomer is that he sings and you play bass guitar; Gomer was for real – what you see is what you get – and you are a phony baloney!  What the Italian wise guys call a “Fugazy!”  I know you think you are a real smart cookie; slick as cow shit, the way they say down in your neck of the woods.  But if you were half as smart as you think you are Huck, you would have better sense than to be telling us the kind of dumb shit you are telling us.  Either you are a shameless liar or you are a damned fool.

However you have a record of accomplishment that belies your attempt at naiveté.  Nobody who is as successful as you are could have made the kind of mistake that you are claiming.  Your entire thesis about President Obama’s world view was based upon the fact that President Obama hates the Anglo-Saxon dominated US because he hates the “British Imperialists.”  This hatred, according to you, was fueled by the fact that when young Barack was “growing up in Kenya” he heard his grandfather and father tell stories of how the “Mau Mau” – an African resistance movement – fought the hated the “British imperialists.”

Yet the same thing could be said of your grandfather if you go back far enough Huck!  Have you forgotten that the USA was born in a bloody revolution against British imperialist?  And the war of 1812, the last time foreign troops were on American soil, was also fought against the British imperialist.  You are parroting spurious prattle advanced by Denish De Sousa, that shameless little right-wing Coolie hack: a ubiquitous, obsequious, Gunga Din who will tell you Pukka Sahibs any kind of BS he thinks will buy your favor.  The joker even wrote a panegyric to that over praised air head Ronald Reagan.  Deni is a silver tongued bunko artist who plays you silly right-wing ideologues like a fiddle.  He knows how desperately you need a “Third World” colored man to defend the superiority of “western civilization.”  Incidentally, the founder of his country Mahatma Gandhi was an enemy of British imperialists too!  And if Deni Dimwit doesn’t support Gandhi’s struggle against the British he is an Indian version of Benedict Arnold!

Since you are genuinely ignorant of modern African history it is conceivable that don’t really know what you are talking about on this issue, yet there is no doubt that your argument rest on the fact that it was the British imperialist that you were referring to.  Otherwise your entire polemic makes no sense, since Indonesia is an Asian, not an African country and was colonized by the Dutch!   Hence we are left with two possibilities Huck: You are even dumber than you look, or you are lying yo ass off!  In the first instance you would be far too stupid to be President, like your girl Silly Sarah, or you are a BS artist who lack the integrity to hold that high office!

If you are willing to lie on television about a relatively picayune issue like this, how can you expect the nation to entrust you with the grand issues you will have to address as President.  As a voter I wouldn’t think of voting for such a person as you, even if we were in the same political party.  This is going to really hurt you with educated people, especially college grads looking for a leader of integrity who at least tries to tell the truth.   Is that why you are going for the white “non-college educated” demographic; the Joe The Plumber and Dumb Dora crowd?  Well that ground has been well prepared for you by the Alaskan Barbarian, whose main contribution to our political discourse is to make ignorance fashionable.  So if Silly Sarah doesn’t run you got them covered.

But beyond the fact that you insult our intelligence and play us cheap Huck, it is clear to anybody whose head is not stuck so far up their ass they can neither see nor hear, that you are also a racist.  You are are a resentful closet bigot just like most white southerners who flocked to the Republican Party after the Democrats became the party of “Civil Rights,” passing the 1964 Omnibus Civil Rights Bill that destroyed the de-jure apartheid system by which white supremacy was enforced;  Casting your beloved “southern way of life” in the dust bin of history…where it belongs!

You may be able to fool many of these silly white folks that you are a Teddy Bear, with your cuddly demeanor and cornpone southern charms, but I see you for what you are: an unreconstructed Neo-Confederate.  You are cut from the same sheet as Haley Barber, Trent Lott, Strom Thurmond, the new Governor of Virginia, and all the southern Republican Neo-Confederates who still refer to the Civil War as “the war of northern aggression” and deny that slavery had anything to do with that war.

In this Barnum and Bailey version of American history the Civil War was fought about “State’s Rights,” not the preservation of slavery.  Just like your attempts to avoid enforcing federal rulings on de-segregation, and other progressive issues like federally mandated health care, is miscast as a matter of state sovereignty.  You redneck ass holes are still trying to come to terms with the fact that yhall lost the war and the former slaves are free to be whatever they want to be.  And your worst nightmare, the thing that drove the racist fascistic apartheid system in the American south was the hysterical fear that an African would have his way with your white woman; a fear which the brilliant white southern female writer Lillian Smith – in whose honor a major literary prized is named – exposed as fear of payback southern white males suffer from in her revealing book “Killers Of the Dream.” Since you and I both grew up under that perverse system, we know she is telling the truth!

The truth is Huck, you, and all your demented Southern redneck Republican posse of a certain age, hate Barack Obama because his mother is a white woman – and a far prettier and accomplished one than yo mama or yo wife! – and his daddy is a black African of the “deepest dye” – as the early American scientist and surveyor of Washington D. C. Benjamin Banneker once described himself to Thomas Jefferson. In sum, Barack is your worst nightmare: The fruit of such a union has become President of the United States, a position you covet with all your heart and soul…and one you will never, ever, get!  Hence it just kills you, a “type A” Anglo-Saxon male who was raised to think yourself superior all men of color, that Barack Obama is the most powerful man in the world and you are a mere television clown!

That’s why you understand white racists so well Huck; yhall think alike!  And I believe that you are also acutely aware of the growing intensity of anti-black hatred in this country just now.  The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery Alabama, the keenest observers of organized racial animosity in the South, has documented the dramatic rise in both racist white militias and incidents of anti-black discrimination.  According to their calculations: “The number of hate groups increased by 22 percent. The number of hate crimes stood at 1,753 in 2009, then jumped to 2,145 a year later. Many of the new groups are radical right wing groups. Their numbers grew to 1,000, the highest number reported since SPLC began counting such groups in the 1980s.”   According to the standards of the U.S. Department of Justice, “A hate crime is intended to hurt and intimidate because of race, color, religion, sexual orientation or disability. A hate crime is driven by prejudice.”

I’m sure that none of this comes as any surprise to you Huck.  Like everybody else, you have seen the racist signs liberally sprinkled throughout the crowd at Tea Party rallies.  Yhall pretend it’s all right to portray the President of the US as a bone-thru-the-nose-savage; just a few good old boys who want their country back letting off steam.  Yet if Barack Obama was a Jew and you held up signs showing him cast in the worst anti-Semitic stereotypes, there would be no question about either their odiousness or the danger they portend.

How Huckabee’s Tea Party Portrays Our President

Are these signs racist?

All the above explains how a man as smart as you could be out here on radio and television spouting the “birther” line; an argument that you know to be bullshit!  Although you know better, and have said as much in writing, you are willing to adopt the Tea Party line about Barack Obama having been born and raised in Kenya.  You shamefully encourage the belief that our President – a charming, brilliant, humane, hip, really cool husband and father, the personification of the American dream – is in reality a secret Muslim and alien other, who somehow conned the American people about who he really is and his intention to destroy America.

Your motive is transparent and unmistakable.  Everybody knows that Barack Obama had a far closer relationship to his mother’s family.  He spent formative years with his middle American grandparents from Kansas, and his uncle that fought the Nazi’s with General George Patton was far closer to Barack than his Kenyan father, whom he only met once or twice, or his Kenyan grandfather, whom he never met at all!  Yet you never mention them…I’d love to hear your explanation of how you came to believe that these good solid American white folks had less influence on Barack’s character than the Kenyans who he didn’t even know.  Unless you believe that African blood is omnipotent, like the “one drop rule” you southern white boys came up with, whassup with the Kenyan father yang? You are either a charlatan, a fool, or a bit of both Huck.  I believe the third possibility to be true

That’s why neither honor, duty nor love for your country restrains you from recklessly promoting the idea that President Obama is a deceptive miscreant who has usurped power and is running a Chicago style “gangster government” – as your fellow Tea Party star Michelle Bachman never tires of saying.  Is this what you really believe Huck?  Don’t shit me now… Cause like my main man Bubba Duck Jackson used to say: “Before I’d shit you I wouldn’t even fuck wit you!”  Now, if you have a different point of view Huck, if I have misrepresented your views in any way, then stand up and like a man and say it ain’t so…and in the name of Jesus, your professed Lord and savior, denounce these damned lies!   I double dare you like a dog!!!!!

 

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Playthell Benjamin

February 10,  2011

Harlem, New York

The Khemetic Community Speaks Out!

Posted in Cultural Matters with tags , , on March 6, 2011 by playthell

Brother Tunde Ra

 

Preserve The Ancient Sacred Egyptian Treasures!

I t was not your ordinary press conference.  The visual richness was striking, as the Khemetic community began with an ancestor veneration ritual.  The speaker chanted ancient Egyptian sacred incantations and bade the audience to call out names of honored ancestors who had danced to that mysterious land beyond this world.  Then he read out a long list of scholars and cultural institutions that have served the black community and sang their praises.  It reminded me of the ancient Yoruba Igun Igun ritual, which testifies to the cultural unity of Africa celebrated by Dr. Shek Anta Diop.

Displaying the Sacred Ankh

Avatars of The Khemetic Community

Queen Afua’s Dance

Sacred Movements!

The first speaker to follow the MC was Queen Afua, a natral healer and writer who has practiced the Ancient Egyptian healing arts for more than a quarter century.  She has written books addressed to African peoples on ancient Egyptian culture and sacred beliefs. After anointing the audience with warm salutations, she performed a sacred dance for us.  She was followed by Tunde Ra, who gave the official position of the Khemetic community regarding the present uprising and the responsibility of all parties to protect the ancient treasures of Egypt.  He pointed out that while they hold special meaning to them, these treasures are the heritage of all mankind..

Then the keynote speaker, Baba Samahj Se Ptah, took the podium and read an erudite letter written by himself to the Curator of Egyptian Antiquities at the world famous Metropolitan Museum of Art.  .

Samahj Se Ptah

Mother and Son Listen to The Father’s Words

The letter was spurred by the decision of the MMA to return some ancient art treasures to Egypt.  “I read in the World News section of the Wall Street Journal the intent of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to return nineteen antique artifacts to the United Arab Republic of Egypt.  This sets an awful precedent. The Western world has been at the forefront of preserving artifacts from ancient antiquity. With regard to Egyptian antiquities in particular, “he writes,” had it not been for the Frenchman Augustus Mariette, the founder of the Cairo Museum, the ancient artifacts of Egypt would have been plundered and sold to private collectors by illiterate grave robbers whose very culture encourages the collection of booty (treasure).  The internecine religious conflict in the Middle East does not bode well for the preservation of ancient artifacts fashioned by “Infidels.”

Although Samahj does not mention them by name it is obvious that it is the Muslim Arabs he is referring to. His comments demonstrate a sophisticated knowledge of history and religion that is often absent in Afro-American nationalist; many of whom have been influenced by the Nation Of Islam.  And others identified with Orthodox Islam as a way of rejecting their western Christian heritage – especially high profile Jazz musicians like Ahmad Jamal, Yusef Lateef, Shib Shihab, et al – which they rightly viewed as the religion of their slave masters.

Yet blacks who became Muslims failed to see that what was true of white Christians is also true of white Arabs, Turks, Persians, et al.  However the justification for the enslavement of Africans by the Arabs or the Europeans – Christian or Jew – was the polytheistic nature of African religions: Whether Egyptian or Yoruba! Just as monotheism is characteristic of Semitic cultures, polytheism is characteristic of African cultures.

The danger posed by militant Muslims to the artifacts produced by “Pagan” cultures was recently demonstrated by the Taliban in Afghanistan, who dynamited the colossal Buddhist statues in that counter.  Baba Samahj recognized this danger: “The fate of the Buddha in Afghanistan is a harbinger of what awaits the Pyramids of Giza as well as the Temples, Oblisks, Stellas and sculpted images of ancient Kings, Queens and other ancient African Nobles of the Nile.”  He went on to declare; ‘The Arabs are the last of the rapists of that great civilization of the Nile…they drove out the Romans from that holy Land and have squatted there ever since plundering, desecrating and stealing until curbed by western man.  THE WEST OWES THEM NOTHING!”

Baba Samahj went on to admonish the MMA to “please remind Mr. Hawass of the Arab Republic of Egypt that he has no claim to these artifacts; that his religion prohibits the fashioning of beauty and artistry which his nomadic ancestors were incapable of producing anyway.  The west must not allow the proclivity for violent solutions practiced by fundamentalist believers to intimidate or coerce you into giving up treasures which your ancestors have risked their very lives crawling on their bellies with pick and shovel through rat and bat dung to bring to the light of day.”

This statement is easily the most interesting that I have heard on the question of preserving ancient Egyptian treasures, and after news reached the outside world that these priceless treasures were being desecrated and pillaged. However Mr. Samahj was not finished; he also had a word to say about the historical role of westerners in the pillaging of Egyptian art treasures.  “I never in my wildest dreams guessed that I’d be defending western man.  Many of whom were also plunderers of African ancestral treasures with fancy titles such as anthropologist, Archeologist and Egyptologist.” But then in a magnanimous gesture he said:  “Yet in all fairness we ascendants of those Africans of the Nile must be grateful to those honest westerners who wrestled with nomadic thieves to preserve ancestral crafts in museums where we people of African ascent in particular, and humanity in general can go to receive inspiration.”

Supernova…..

Son Of Samahj and Afua

Baba Semahj Se Ptah was followed by his son, who went to great lengths to try and disprove long established facts about ancient Egypt – such as the fact that they were polytheistic.  This is a curious argument, since all indigenous African religions are polytheistic – it is what distinguishes them from the Semites.  We are told to ignore the voluminous volumes of scholarship by well trained Egyptologist, when in fact these folk know what they know about Egypt because of these scholars…whose contribution the father had already admitted. The Son’s argument was unconvincing.  And he never tells us why we should believe them except that he claims a direct racial connection to the ancient Egyptians.  It was the model of spurious argument.  Before he was done he even professed to be a “follower of Christ,” although he denied being a Christian.

One of the most curious contradictions that ran through their discourse is the attraction/repulsion theme.  Islam and the Arabs are denounced as racist who desecrated African shrines on the one hand, and extolled as brothers on the other. Baba Samahj pointed out that the destruction of the great colossi in Afghanistan was committed by Muslim fanatics; then they praised “Allah.” Yet Islamic theology cannot be reconciled with the beliefs of ancient Egypt.

Ali Torian


The future Of the Khemetic community

Tunde Ra

Convener Of The Conference

Like all spiritual belief systems or sacred theology, the Khemetic community’s interpretation of ancient Egyptian religious beliefs may or may not accord with the historical record.  But that is of no matter here, because the beliefs of Christians, Jews and Muslims are equally ahistorical.  Which is to say that there sacred narratives do not meet the standard of evidence established by professional historians, who are best equipped to teach us about what actually happened in the past.  Those who deny this do so because they are ignorant of the modern scientific method of resurrecting history.

It is easy enough to silence these critics simply by challenging them to explain their method and to present a body of scholarship based on that methodology, then compare it to the vast scholarship of the traditional academic Egyptologist.  But this is a superfluous exercise because they are about the business of making myths, not teaching history, and the only test that matters for believers in any theology is whether it serves their needs. And the theology – which simply means “God talk” – constructed by the Khemetic community serves their purposes well.

Although many who adhere to Khemetic theology may not be aware of this fact, but they belong to a tradition of African centered Black Nationalism that goes back a couple of hundred years in the US.  It began in the 18th century and by the middle of the 19th century it was the dominant ideology of the black community.  However the place of Egypt in African American nationalist ideology has a curious history. Whereas twentieth century nationalism is Egyptocentric, the leading nationalist thinkers of the 19th century; the founding fathers of contemporary Black Nationalist thought, despised ancient Egypt and considered it a wicked place.

This is because most serious nationalist thinkers were Christian clergymen who were deeply knowledgeable of biblical texts, and as a people who were enslaved in America the US president was a modern Pharaoh and the US a reincarnation of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage.  Hence they viewed the ancient Egyptians as a nation of godless idol worshippers who enslaved the Jews…whom their Bible said were “God’s chosen people.”  Men like Bishop Alexander Crummel, who went and lived in Liberia after earning a degree in philosophy from England’s Cambridge University, or the erudite Presbyterian clergyman Edward Wilmont Blyden, who hailed from the Danish Virgin Islands – which was also the native country of the early twentieth century black radical intellectual Hubert Harrison.

The point here is that the nationalist ideology embraced by contemporary black Americans is diametrically opposed to that of their ideological ancestors in the 19th century on the question of Egypt. It is important to understand this because it provides a historical perspective from which we can better understand the function of Black Nationalist ideology today. If one listens carefully to the arguments of the Khemetic community, it is clear that they are motivated by a desire to create a classical   antiquity for black folk that rivals, if not surpasses, the Greco/Roman  civilization of Europe.

The impetus for this however, is the same as that which motivated the “African Redemptionists” of the 19th century.  These men – and the major thinkers were all men – sought to identify a “golden age” of black civilization to counter the racist propaganda of whites who claimed that black people where incapable of building a great civilization.  This claim was no picayune matter; it was the basis for their justification of the enslavement of black people, it allowed them to engage in the most barbaric practices against us and yet claim that “all men are endowed by their creator with the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Historically the rise of Black Nationalism was a response to the aggressions of white nationalism, and whether or not it is apparent to those who practice African cultural nationalism today, this remains their fundamental motivation.  In the end, as I listened to Baba Samahj’s son recount the good works the Khemetic temple is performing, their work sounded just like the work of the Christian church and the Muslim Mosque in the US: uplifting the race! It is called salvation among the Christians. And the approach of the Khemetic community is using to accomplish their mission 100% American!

king Tut

Irreplaceable at any price!

 

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

March 6, 2011

Gadaffi Vows to Fight to the Death!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs on March 2, 2011 by playthell

Portrait Of a Madman

What Should America Do?

As the fighting spreads in Libya, Colonel Mummar Gadaffi, the strong man who has ruled that oil rich country with an iron fist for the last four decades, digs in and vows to fight to the end.  From the way things look at the moment, with the country divided between rebel forces and the government, Libya appears to be headed for a bloody and destructive civil war.  As is usually the case when there is a crisis in the world, a swelling chorus of impassioned voices are calling for American intervention.  One military man observed, “Everybody denounces the US military…until they get in trouble.”  Based on the comments of the Secretary of State, it appears that the Obama Administration is considering answering the call to action.  Yet I remain convinced that a unilateral American intervention in the Libyan conflict would be a blunder of major proportions!

Although old Republican war mongers like John McCain are ready to order American forces into the fray; even though we know little of the opposition forces,   it is not hard to understand why we should take no unilateral action in Libya. First of all Americans must finally reject the dangerous idea that we are the world’s gendarmes, riding to the rescue whenever and wherever a crisis erupts. This conception of America’s role in the world – that we alone must guide the world’s people because of “American Exceptionalism “ – keeps us constantly at war. Aside from questions of international law and moral conviction, we can no longer afford the cost in blood or treasure.

Already we are bogged down in two wars in the Muslim world with no satisfactory conclusion in sight, and we may yet be drawn into a very bloody conflict with a nuclear armed Pakistan – which will become inevitable should the Islamic fundamentalist appear about to seize control of the state.  Beyond these considerations, the US should avoid unilateral intervention because people like the President of Yemen, a former ally against Al Qaeda, is now charging that the US organized and is controlling all of the uprisings in the Arab world – which is as crazy as Qadaffi’s charge that Al Qaeda is controlling events with hallucinogenic drugs.

Yet, given the madness running rampant in the Muslim world, who knows how this kind of misinformation can be employed to bolster support for the embattled despots.  Not to mention the mischief Al Qaeda could make of it!  We need look no further than the last Congressional elections in the US, a country with two centuries of practicing at participatory democracy, to see the extent to which the untutored mob can be convinced to act against their best interests.

Then there are the real grievances of the Muslim peoples against the US, which makes relations between Americans and Muslims a combustible situation that can explode at any time.  Even as I write several American soldiers have been shot in Germany by a lone assassin who is described as “a devout Muslim born and raised in Germany of Muslim parents from Kosovo, ” a people we saved from genocide at the hands of the Serbs.  Screaming “Allah u Akbar!” he opened fire with an automatic assault rifle on unarmed American soldiers traveling to the airport by bus; killing a couple of them.   The guy worked at the airport where American troops depart for Iraq and Afghanistan.  It is the latest warning that so long as we are engaged in the business of slaughtering Muslims in their homelands, they will slaughter Americans everywhere!

Even so, I am not opposed to intervention when a government is committing crimes against its populous.   I have said repeatedly that national sovereignty should not be used as a shield behind which governments can commit atrocities against their citizens with impunity.  While I am not opposed to intervention as a general principle in international relations, armed force should be employed as a last resort. Force should be pursued only after the issue has been put before the UN, and the invading force should be multi-national.  Otherwise it should be undertaken by regional organizations like NATO for Europe, the OAS for the Americas, and ECOWAS should handle the present succession crisis in the Ivory Coast; which threatens to deteriorate into a civil war that has the potential to spread to other nations in the region.

Ideally, the Europeans should take the lead in checking the violent excesses of the Gadaffi clique.  After all, they had a hand in creating the peculiar ethnic mix that makes up the country and they are the main consumers of Libyan oil.  America’s role should be limited to enforcing a no fly zone, however according to Secretary Gates “this would be a big operation because Libya is a big country.”  And both Secretary Gates and the Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff have pointed out that establishing a “No Fly” zone is no simple mission: It begins with a military assault on Libya…which is universally regard as an act of war!   That’s why I am only in favor of taking this action as part of a joint military operation sanctioned by the United Nations.  Depending upon how events unfold I might be willing to amend my position, but it is hard for me to envision a situation that could change my mind on this.

It is imperative that we begin to restore our nation’s respect for international law and institutions.  After all, failure to do so under the Bush crowd led us into the disaster in Iraq.  Hence under no circumstances should the President allow even well meaning and bright Democrats like Senator Kerry, who wants the US to declare a no-fly zone on our own, to talk him into taking unilateral military action.  Even as American warships steam to the Libyan coast with their horrifying firepower, we remain in a sustained economic crisis here at home.   And Republicans are using this crisis to launch an amoral assault on the public interests and force the poor and working classes – the people who actually fight these wars – to pay the price for the blunders of the ruling elite.

What Americans crave is peace and prosperity; the last thing we need just now is another war to add to the three trillion dollars that economist Joseph Stieglitz, Nobel Laureate and Columbia professor, has calculated as the total cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars.  When you consider the fact that the society of Civil Engineers has estimated that we could have rebuilt the entire infrastructure of the United States – high speed trains and all – for two trillion dollars!

The Republicans will fight tooth and nail to prevent this type of investment in modernizing our country, although it is the key to commanding the future alas.  Yet the Grand Obstructionist Party will not hesitate to spend three trillion dollars on a war of choice, and a bungled war of necessity in some backward corner of the world.  It is a prescription for the end of American leadership in the world, and if followed we will witness the decline of American civilization in the 21st century!

Iconography Of A Meglomaniac

Gadaffi and his Harem Of Body Guards

 

 

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

March 2, 2011

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