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The Gaza Flotilla and the Blood-Dimmed Tide

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What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? ... You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell. Me, I was part of the nastiness now.


-- Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep



Lately, I find myself reading "noir" crime fiction and thinking about the genre as a way to explain the world. It may have something to do with the fact I'm an American critical of my government and losing hope that positive change is even possible. As hope evaporates, there seems less and less space between political reality and the criminal underworld. Or maybe it's the obverse of a militarist obsession with Tom Clancy and War On Terror thrillers.

The adherents of wealth, power and violence seem so entrenched and in control that those without power become doomed to ineffectual marginalization and, if they poke their heads up too far, in danger of having their intentions and actions criminalized.

This feeling of an amoral tide overwhelming society is hardly new, and for sure, there have been worse times in human history. But knowing that doesn't help when you look around and see exactly what W. B. Yeats was talking about in his famous 1919 poem "The Second Coming":

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The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Right now, a good friend of mine is being treated by several governments as if she were a criminal. She's a retired Army full-bird colonel, and she's the exception to Yeats' nightmare vision: she's a case of the best of humanity not lacking in conviction and passion. Ann Wright [1] and a handful of Americans are still on board The Audacity Of Hope, which has been impounded and is being held at a US Embassy dock under Greek Coast Guard control in Piraeus, a port near Athens. The electricity to the boat has been cut off; the temperature has been around 100 degrees and a Russian grain ship nearby has sent obnoxious dust over the boat.

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The Audacity Of Hope, Ann Wright and Captain John Klusmire in handcuffs by Unknown

The nation of Israel was successful, like the proverbial tail wagging the dog, in getting the United States and other western nations to act as if the honorable people on this boat were somehow potential violent criminals. As has been widely reported, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton effectively gave Israel the right to shoot Wright and others on board if Israeli commandos deemed that necessary. July 1st, the boat attempted to leave Athens harbor to sail to a port in Gaza and was stopped by the Greek Coast Guard. The Captain, John Klusmire, was arrested and charged with illegally leaving port; he was released, but will face trial later.

The standoff can be seen in a video, where SWAT-suited Greek Coast Guardsmen [2] point automatic weapons at the people on the boat. A very obedient Greek Coast Guard officer reads the riot act to Captain Klusmire. The purported issue is "seaworthiness," which Klusmire assures the officer has been properly documented. Everybody knows the seaworthiness issue is a joke, a case of strong-arm politics based on the fact Greece is a highly vulnerable international economic basket-case and putty in the hands of Israel's patron, the United States. The goal of the flotilla was to show how Israel is treating Gaza like a prison province. A spirited demonstration in Athens [3] took up the frustrating plight of the flotilla.

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I am a 65-year-old American who served in Vietnam as a naive 19-year-old kid. From that moment on, I've been studying and re-thinking what US counter-insurgency war means. I live outside of Philadelphia, where I'm a writer, photographer and a video (more...)

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Israel is following in exactly the same direction ... by michael payne on Thursday, Jul 14, 2011 at 7:59:18 PM
This column gets to the core of our problems in th... by Henry Pelifian on Friday, Jul 15, 2011 at 8:31:53 AM
As the Lab said 2000 years ago, about times like t... by Michael Dewey on Friday, Jul 15, 2011 at 8:57:54 AM
hopes we swallow, M.D.  Wake up and join the ... by Gentry L Rowsey on Friday, Jul 15, 2011 at 10:31:49 AM
The adherents of wealth, power and violence seem ... by Michael Dewey on Friday, Jul 15, 2011 at 8:59:12 AM