Saturday, November 25, 2006

Crimes Against Humanity or “Just Following Orders”?

By Frank J. Ranelli
Saturday, November 25, 2006

The moral, ethical, and human conditioning of how we moved in four short years from the idea of “defending a nation” to simply following “unlawful orders.” The human questions we must now ask of ourselves, our leaders, and even our troops.

During the Nuremburg trials, a series of tribunals held to arraign Nazi, World War II war leaders and criminals, during 1945 and 1946, prosecutors and investigators were awestruck at their most chilling finding, in what would be known as the “Nuremburg Defense.” While their comrades were being tried for “crimes against peace” and “waging wars of aggression,” many Nazi co-conspirators tried to defy logic for their acts of unspeakable brutality and cruelty by simply claiming they were, “Just following orders.” This would ultimately become known as the “Nuremburg Principles” or “the defense of superior orders.” Many Germany soldiers would unsuccessfully try to convince the international court to uphold their heinous, inhuman, and unconscionable acts in the indiscriminate killing of millions of Jews and others during World War II.

Adolf Eichmann and Wilhelm Keitel were two of the most famous Nazi war criminals that would fruitlessly attempt this insane justification. As current as the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal, accused and now convicted defendants were unable to dissuade a judge from dolling out punishment using the “just following orders” argument.

In what would eventually help shape the United States Uniform Code of Military Justice, the adjudication of such a fanatical excuse for horrible viciousness was deemed, "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him." While this is in fact written into the U.S. military code, and known as “unlawful orders,” some intriguing examination of whether or not we have failed our own principle of military justice is worth an intellectual probing.

After almost four years now, the United States has engaged in a pre-emptive war of choice in Iraq. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent, hundreds of thousands of lives have been senselessly lost, and two countries – Iraq and ours – are now near hopelessly torn apart. This begets a few queries such as when and if do we start asking our troops to make moral choices against an immoral war? At what point does the military – and therefore the troops themselves – bear some responsibility for following “unlawful orders?” When the military is no longer defending the Constitution, our borders or our people – engaged in an act of a baseless and pointless war – do we ask them to make a “moral choice” and rise up in opposition to the continuance of a crime against humanity?

History is littered with people blindly following orders of erroneously revered leaders – from Hitler in Germany, to Jim Jones in Guyana and the Salem Witch Trials – where people obeyed less-than-altruistic commands for vacuous and insane reasons to kill. In Iraq, with near countless dead, when as a nation do we ask our troops to be human above all things and to value individual life? Should we ask if they have a responsibility to administer the ability to decide which orders are truly rational, lawful ones and which are morally and ethically bankrupt? Following orders, long after a soldier knows they are wrong on every conceivable level seems unacceptable at best and criminal at worst.

Our current President, George W. Bush, engaged in a concerted and unified effort to deceive Congress and the American people. He lied that Iraq was a threat and that Iraq not only possessed weapons of mass destruction, but also their intent was to cause us immediate and pernicious harm. George W. Bush did so willingly, and with great malice. This is a violating of his oath of office and in doing so also violated the Constitution. Even after incontrovertible evidence showed his massive dishonesty, he furthered and continued a "war of choice" and used mass propaganda and lies to ask others to engage in his crimes against the United States and humanity. These actions are tantamount to sedition and treason and can no longer be discussed in the context of dubiousness but irrefutable facts.

In the path of Bush’s treacherous exploitations in Iraq rests the uncomfortable question of whether those that continue to engage in anticipatory warfare, support, justify, or approve of such egregiousness are guilty too of sedition or are they “just following orders?” Where is the proverbial line that must never be crossed – from justifiable defense to transgressions against humanity – and how do we define it? As nation, are we so full of hubris, patriotic pride, and inerrant beliefs in our nation that we cannot see through the eyes of the people of Iraq that we may have already crossed that “proverbial line?” If we cannot at least indulge that thought, we are on a fast track to fascism and more hegemonic, imperialist wars for political and profiteering gain for a chosen, aristocratic few.

The truth is every American – man, women, child, and even soldier – must begin to realize we are more than merely blemished by this war. We are all tainted with blood and guilt – as a communal society – for the needless bloodshed in Iraq. A reassessment of our total and real priorities is needed. Just how many will die for a lie? How do we stand here in America so self-confident that we, as a nation, should ask someone to be the last person to die for a war of choice and a bag full of fabrications? How much do we spend and at what point does "being right" actually say we are "oh so wrong?" How many deposed people of New Orleans do we continue to cast aside while we conduct a war that never had to be fought and continue to fight after we know it should never have been waged in the first place?

When our troops begin to lack any sense of appreciation for human life, often due to and after multiple tours in hell, is it not our place to tell them they do have choices? These soldiers do indeed have a choice. Every human being has the power of choice. Maybe this is waxing philosophically, but if we all stopped believing in the impossible, so much in the world that is possible today simply would not be in existence now. Solemnly, we must now ask this – in the same way that over 3,000 conscientious objectors already have, laid down their weapons and refuse to follow “unlawful orders” – what would happen if “All 140,000 men and women serving in Iraq exercised their right to chose life over mayhem, butchery, and death?” There is nothing cowardice about what this suggests, for it takes far more bravery to stand up to evil and defy it, than to destroy, maim, and kill people. The ability to resist is far more courageous than the compliance to follow orders of liars, criminals, and despots.

War is seldom justified and wars of choice are unequivocally unforgivable, cold-blooded and depraved, whatever the purpose – be it for oil, land, domination or any other object of materialism or political gain. The penalty for not standing up is far greater than the penalty for following immoral, illegal, and inhuman orders to kill and torture and to invade sovereign nations based on a mountain of lies and concocted “proof.” The penalty for not standing up is the loss of our morals, our principles, and our soul as a once proud – but now shameful – nation.

Ask yourself, “Exactly what are we defending in Iraq?” Certainly, we no longer can claim to be honorable and driven by integrity. Can we candidly claim we are offering reverence to those that truly died in vain so this country could exist? Maybe it is simpler than that. Maybe we are failing as a nation and long ago lost in Iraq because we lack modesty and the ability to practice restraint, while ceaselessly longing for victory in the face of assured futility.

Just how much blood will it take, how many more tortured detainees, civilians dumped-on with incendiary white phosphorous, and how many statements of, "just following orders, sir," will it take until we soil the American flag and render it unrecognizable? It’s all about choice and we all have it as long as we have air in our lungs, dreams of the impossible as possible in our minds and the courage to resist tyranny. To resist unprovoked bloodshed, and orders to commit murder in the name of national arrogance and false assertions that we and we alone, must eternally be forever righteous and blameless for our depraved conduct in the world. After all, violence and destruction are easy. Peace and diplomacy are hard.

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For more information, please visit: Not In Our Name

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Lie by Lie: The Mother Jones Iraq War Timeline

From Mother Jones, the magazine:

"In this timeline, we've assembled the history of the Iraq War to create a resource we hope will help resolve open questions of the Bush era. What did our leaders know and when did they know it? And, perhaps just as important, what red flags did we miss, and how could we have missed them? This is the second installment of the timeline, with a focus on how the war was lost in the first 100 days."

Check out the timeline here: The Mother Jones Iraq War Timeline

An Excerpt:

2/1/2003: "I'm not reading this. This is bullshit." - Colin Powell

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Military Brutality at its Worst

Frank J Ranelli

What you are about to watch may shock you. What you are about to watch is not from a video game. What you are about to watch is not a movie. No, it is actually footage of the grotesque and unthinkable brutality that war brings.

When a mechanized military desensitizes its soldiers to kill with deadly precision and exclaim, "Oh, dude!" after a crowd of innocent women and children are blown up, shredded by shrapnel and brutally executed by a sophisticated weapon of the United States military that is no longer defending a nation but perpetuating a war of choice.

Warning: This video may shock the conscience!

Learn more at Not in Our Name -- A website devoted to "A STATEMENT OF CONSCIENCE AGAINST WAR AND REPRESSION."


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Dawning of a New Day in America

By Frank J Ranelli
Thursday, November 09, 2006

Part II of the American dissenter’s voice: Losing our fear, regaining our country. How and why Americans took back their country from a proto-fascist dictator, a smarmy Congress and gained a new sense of courageous optimism.

Ronald Reagan once declared, in his 1984 re-election campaign, that, “Its morning again in America.” During the past six years of the Bush presidency, it has been a cold, dark, and utterly protracted night in America. We were attacked not only by a rogue enemy; but attacked by our own frightened, fellow citizens and our own overly zealous government. We were labeled as un-American, un-Patriotic, and even “coddlers of terrorists” for speaking the truth and demanding answers along with accountability. Now, two days after the historic mid-term elections, which thrust Democrats into power in both chambers of Congress, America should find comfort that it is once again a new dawning of America.

America has been under a gloomy cloud of implicit and defacto tyranny since the 2000 election of George W. Bush. His presidency only came about after a suspicious, pseudo-coronation, by a litigious and divided Supreme Court decision, which gave him the keys to the executive branch. The first eight month of Bush’s presidency were marked by pointless agendas and extended vacations in Texas “clearing brush.” Those few quiet, serene months, synonymous to a “calm before the storm”, would portend an ominous and deadly tempest that would momentarily devastate our will as a people and shock our collective conscience.

Since then, time and again, Bush used a national tragedy to subvert the Constitution, abused his Presidential power, and repeatedly broke his oath of office. Historians, and the Americans who lived through the George W. Bush presidency, will characterize him for his raw, brutal, and egregious attacks on our rule of law. Biographers will describe him as a “Machiavellian man” who undermined the idea we are a nation of laws, not men. This past Tuesday, we resoundingly reminded our president we are not a nation of one man but a nation of many as one.

Laid bare by a constant stream of incompetence, corruption, a decadent, immoral war and largesse paid to a plethora of aristocratic-only acquaintances, Americans developed an indicting dossier on Bush leading to widespread skepticism and vigilance. A once stunned nation, quivering from fear, panic, and paranoia – marching like “the Borg” to a communal submission of minds and wills – beat through all the rhetoric and hollow speeches, the lectern pounding and inculcating messages of alarm and dread. This was a new and now informed electorate that had found hope instead of fear, freedom instead of fascism, and re-born self-sufficiency that demanded democracy over autocracy.

The one-party rule of the republican “boys club” has been exposed as a dismal failure. Neoconservative politics, which stressed imperialism, blind faith, and fundamentalism, proved disastrous. Congressional pre-approval to every whim of the President was found treacherous and deemed a malignant growth of false inerrancy. Fear-mongering, as a methodology to govern a free nation by, establish itself as a monumental mistake. Fear, after the shock wore off, turned to anger; resentment and then action to repel those that would attempt to subdue and rule us through bully tactics, streaming lies and cheap demagoguery. Ideology would now be replaced by realism, facts would supplant faith, and lucidity now outshined postulation and propaganda.

America has outlasted a virulent President and an obsequious Congress that fawned all over a failed frat-boy from Texas propped up by coldhearted corporations, his own father, and Wall Street beggars. America found that even a cold, barren winter turns to a warming spring and icy snows always melt. We learned that at the pinnacle of darkness, there is always a light on the coming horizon and the dawning of a new day brings promise of peace and prosperity. Bush may still hold office for now, but the “dead wood” talking heads, previously littering the halls of Congress, have been cleared away to usher in a new beginning of 21st century American government. Tyranny and fear never persists, but the resolve of the human spirit always triumphs in the face of malevolent and seditious men.

This week, we voted essential adversary back into the system. Democrats did not get their way on Election Day; the America people got their way. The majority spoke and they mandated the government they wanted, not the one George Bush wanted to give us. This is a historic victory not for democrats but for people-powered politics and democracy. “We the People” showed our sharp rebuke of the Bush administration’s radical policies and failures in the Iraq war. This week, the people won and so did our nation. In doing so, Americans showed dissent is truly patriotic, regained our composure, and reclaimed our country.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

On Death and Democracy: Voting for a Cure.

By Frank J. Ranelli
Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The five stages of death of a democracy and how voting can be the miracle cure!

Nearly a half century ago, as a young medical student and physician, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was horrified by the poor treatment and lack of basic empathy for terminally ill patients in hospitals. From these experiences, in 1969, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, wrote the renowned book entitled, “On Death and Dying.” In it, she outlined the five stages of death and bereavement that human beings undergo while facing imminent demise or the certain loss of a loved one. Dr. Kübler-Ross labeled these five stages of grief, sequentially known as, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Today, this pattern of phases, that we have a propensity for when dealing with tragedy, may be a larger metaphor that embodies the past five years of our dying democracy.

Denial, the rejection and rebuffing of irrefutable reality, is categorically how most of us felt on September 11, 2001. We were in awe and awestruck at the images and events that brought crashing down the two towering pillars that was a simile for American pride and power. The abject reality of implausible loss, united with the abysmal failure of our government to thwart such an insidious attack, was eclipsed by silent reverberations of thought and sentiment that echoed, “This can’t be happening here!” America was in shock and the surreal was too much to bear as rational reality.

Disbelief and doubt rapidly were replaced by anger and fury. America is a proud, often hubris nation that never takes kindly to bully tactics let alone assaults on the motherland. No, the “Home of the Brave” was enraged and those responsible must suffer the wrath of the American military might. Obliteration was too well-mannered and annihilation was tantamount to a degrading and crushing victory over the perpetrators who inflicted us with so much pain and mayhem. In swift fashion, American forces overwhelmed and dealt a devastating defeat to the Taliban, which only left America unconvinced and unfulfilled that justice had been served up. Americans lacked satiety; they were ravenous for more blood and retribution, subsequently adding reprisal and vengeance to the menu of resentment.

Insatiable for a reckoning, Americans beat the war drums further; our leaders balked at trust, honor, and integrity while the bidding and bargaining began. We bargained away our birthright, our soul as a nation and our rights. We bartered away individual liberty, trading in those sacred cornerstones of democracy for draconian laws such as torture and the loss of habeas corpus. We swapped freedom for safety and slithered away to hide under a rock, peering out, glinting to see if the mushroom clouds had begun cascading over our heads. Buoyant that substituting consternation over character, safety over sensibility would ensure our survival and existence. We as a nation were no longer proud or brave, but just foolishly afraid, forfeiting away personal independence and national sovereignty. We had bargained away our conscience, our dignity, and our ability to command respect globally in the face of baseless, inculcated talk of fear and dread.

The mushroom clouds never came. The weapons of mass destruction never materialized. Iraq was cleared of any connection with the Taliban. Yet the oppressive set of laws, ostensibly to offer superior security from these false allegations where ushered in with break-neck speed and extemporaneous oversight. America was now depressed and sullen. Most of all, we had defeated ourselves by allowing stories of misconception, myths of artificial antagonists to dominate our consciousness and the warped, grand designs of a government gone awry to deceive us and fracture our will to remain liberated and protected simultaneously.

The first step to recover from any crisis is always identification and acceptance. Shortly after hurricane Katrina, people began to identify with the real truth; the same truth that the Whitehouse had voraciously attempted to hide in a maelstrom of prevarication and unadulterated lies. The truth that we all must accept responsibility for the direction of our country, the injustices we have allowed to be committed in our name and the duty to force a course correction to bring America back from the threshold of tyranny. It is imperative we accept that our democracy may die if we fail to take action to restrain a government that has been treacherously wrestled away from us all. We must all act as guardian citizens to restore the balance of power to its rightful owners – the people of the United States.

Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross died in August of 2004 at the age of 78. Shortly before her death, she conceded to her own mortality, but offered a final piece of profound advice that as we head to Election Day, should not go unheeded – even while dying, healing can occur. November 7, 2006 can be that day, if only we get out and vote for a cure!


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bush Administration "Orwellian Watch"

"I Would ‘Probably Not’ Testify Before Congress, Even If Subpoenaed." --Vice -President Dick Cheney, 11/05/2006

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The Reality of the Failure in Iraq

Glen Greenwald on the Iraq failure:

"We invaded their country, removed their government, disbanded their military, shattered their infrastructure, and -- for the last three years -- all but stood by while the country was taken over by murderous gangs and lawless militias and predictably collapsed into civil war. But it's [somehow] all their fault [the Iraqis]?

Anyone who advocated and defended this war for this long has great culpability. But the inability of so many of them to accept basic responsibility for what they have done -- pretending that it's everyone else's fault other than their own and simply lying about their prior views in order to make it seem like it all would have worked out great if everyone had just listened to them -- is just pathological."

Unclaimed Territory - by Glenn Greenwald


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Two Wrongs: Bush & Cheney!

Two wrong certainly do not make a right!

Watch it!