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I'm a 68-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 political activist. I have been a member of Veterans For Peace for 30 years. I think America and Americans are living through a complex cultural and economic reckoning we do not fully understand. I'm convinced we, as Americans, need to re-evaluate who we are and, in the process, ratchet down the imperial world policeman role we too often take for granted. A nation of our size must stay engaged diplomatically in the world and protect ourselves from attack. But for our own good and the good of the world, we need to better look after our own nation's problems. I like good writing, good film, good music and good times. I drink alcohol and, yes, smoke a doobie now and then quite responsibly. I say this publicly because I think the Drug War is an abject and hypocritical failure. I taught writing in a Philly prison for 12 years and met too many poor, African American kids stuck in there for some stupid drug crime. I'm a committed pragmatist who actually subscribes to the old right-wing formula: My Country Right Or Wrong. When our government is wrong, which it is a lot of the time, I'm happy to say it. And I plan to stick around.
Jeff Sessions, Jesus Christ and Reefer Madness
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is getting tough on sentencing in an effort to return to the "great" days when mass incarceration was set in motion. This goes against decades of slowly-building reform on a local level. Sessions is especially focused on marijuana, the most harmless of illegal drugs. The absurdity of this is worthy of examination.
Wednesday, May 10, 2017(2 comments)
US Values, Moral Accommodation and Remembering Vietnam
Establishing meaning in the realm of war and peace is a major struggle in America. The power of facts and truth are undermined by the amazing flood of information we are all drowning in. As a Vietnam veteran convinced his war was wrong, the struggle is particularly acute. This essay runs that struggle down.
Saturday, April 15, 2017(8 comments)
President MOABA: Mother Of All Bullshit* Artists
Donald Trump is not preposterous or laughable anymore. The more you learn about him, the more opposing him must transcend satire. As an entertainer, his power comes out of the right brain, not the usual left-brain route of the lawyer, the soldier or the politician. He's a master bullshitter, and bullshit comes out of the right brain. That's where he should be fought.
Monday, February 20, 2017(5 comments)
On Killers and Bullshitters*
Donald Trump told Bill O'Reilly that the United States is not innocent and had a lot of killers in its history, something that angered John McCain. But in this strange case, the master bullshitter himself was telling a profound truth -- though the troubling part is he was not making a moral point that killing is bad.
Saturday, December 31, 2016(2 comments)
Likudist Israel Damned For Pursuing Its Version Of Manifest Destiny
A summary glance at history is good when it comes to Israel and the recent Security Counsel resolution to condemn Likudust Israel for its belligerent settlement policy. While it's world's and centuries apart and the scale is very different, Likudist Israel's desire for land expropriation shares a lot with US crimes of Manifest Destiny.
Friday, December 23, 2016(1 comments)
Morally Surviving America's War On Vietnam
You can look at Michael Uhl's just-published anthology of short works as a tool of memory in the War On Memory in US culture against the real truth about the US war against Vietnam. Donald Trump's Tweets tell us that respect for History is about to hit a new low. Books like this are culturally important.
Sunday, October 23, 2016(1 comments)
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
The recent Encuentro At the Border in Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, called attention to our crazy, tragic militarized border. For me, it was a return to the Arizona/Mexico borderlands where I spent a year in the US Army 48 years ago. As I cruised the borderlands, I pondered some basic history. It's very clear: We need to begin to end the failed Drug War and to humanize our southern border.
Wednesday, September 14, 2016(3 comments)
Digging Up Truth With a Teaspoon
President Obama was called a "son of a prostitute" by the psychopath elected President of the Philippines; more important, he "acknowledged" what many see as US war crimes in Laos. Revealing and undoing US atrocities like Laos and absurd tragedies like the Drug War are not easy. It's often an asymetrical excavation struggle between a teaspoon and a huge dump truck.
Saturday, August 6, 2016(1 comments)
Hypocrisy, The New York Times Version
The New York Times is a great newspaper, but, like Dr. Jekyl had his Hyde, there's the imperial rag side of the Times. It came out in full force in an August 5th editorial trashing President Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. The story is much more complicated -- and much more interesting -- than the Times tells it.
Friday, July 15, 2016
The Post-Dallas Kumbaya Window Begins to Close
After Dallas, there was a moment of coming together, for healing. But it is tested and may not last given the way some commentators like Sean Hannity spew hatred and make war instead of seeking unity. Meanwhile, Dallas Police Chief David Brown's fed-up remarks on how we ask cops to solve our social problems was a rare moment of clarity worth pursuing.
Saturday, July 9, 2016(5 comments)
Killing and Our Current American Crisis
The media treated Dallas with kids gloves, avoiding any hard questions on what it was about as a national crisis, which everybody agreed it was. The roots of the crisis are not pretty and involve things like the Pandora's Box that was the Iraq War. It's time to take a hard look at these roots.
Saturday, June 25, 2016(1 comments)
Omar Mateen: The Answers Are All Around Us
Any effort to suggest gun access, homophobia, mental illness or other things might help us understand Omar Mateen and prevent future crimes like his is met from the right with the magical words "Radical Islam!" This incredible terror of complexity is a major problem for Americans in 2016.
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
PTSD as a Political Football in a Hobbesian Age
Within two weeks of each other, the New York Times published two contradictory stories on new PTSD research. One was based on civilian research and one on military research. War trauma is not dealt with in a political vacuum. In a moment overwhelmed by ISIS fear and mentally-unbalanced shooters citing ISIS connections that are tangential at best, it's not surprising PTSD might become a political football.
Monday, May 16, 2016(3 comments)
Could the Problem of the 21st Century Be the Gender Line?
The current struggle between the reformist Obama government and classic states rights governors over transgender rights has gravitated to public bathrooms. The absurdity of it all is incredible -- as it's quite serious. My question is: Is this an echo of W.E.B.DuBois' notion that the 20th century's problem was the color line. Is the 21st century's problem the gender line?
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
WTF! John McCain Saluting an American Communist?
Senator John McCain wrote an op-ed in the New York Times honoring the last veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain, an "unreconstructed communist" to his last day. As a man who bombed countless "communists" fighting for their liberation against US invaders in Vietnam, what the heck was he thinking in 2016, the year of Donald Trump?
Sunday, March 20, 2016(4 comments)
Shine the Light of Truth on Poor Honduras
Assassinations of advocates for the poor in Honduras are being murdered at an alarming rate. One of the roots of this bloody trend was the 2009 coup that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya. President Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, have a lot to answer for this. Ms. Clinton should be put on the hot seat to answer why she discouraged the return of Zelaya and worked to assemble Latin American acceptance the cou
Thursday, February 4, 2016
Israel Wants to Control Its Artists
The right wing, militarist government in Israel has reached the point of cracking down on ideas and the arts. While not the worst oppressor or the arts, this trend is disturbing for the prospects of a two-state solution or any kind of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Free art and empathy are necessary for peace.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Alienation, Despair and American Greatness
Since Ronald Reagan's City On a Hill trumped Jimmy Carter's Malaise, the discussion of alienation has been purged from our national discussion. This coincided with the rise of so-called neoliberal capitalism. Maybe it's time we re-visited the idea of alienation and despair as part of America's growing problem with murder/suicide.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015(15 comments)
Learning How Not to Rule the World
It's sickening to watch the calls for more bombing in Syria and Iraq after the Paris massacre. It's a replay of the rush to war after 9/11, and it brings back Susan Sontag: "By all means let's mourn together, but let's not be stupid together." There's a better way.
Thursday, September 24, 2015(5 comments)
Pope Francis Drops a Bomb on Washington
Pope Francis delivered an incredible speech to the US Congress, a message that body needed to hear. The roots of the speech amount to a mainstream version of the preferential option for the poor, a key tenet of Latin American Liberation Theology. For me, as an atheist, his expression of Christ's message of compassion and love was extraordinarily powerful.
Friday, September 18, 2015(7 comments)
Wrestlemania and the Return of American Greatness
It's tragic that our leaders are so scared to talk to world leaders they're at odds with. Syria and the refugee debacle reveals the depth of the mess in which the US is deeply implicated, a mess talks can only help resolve. Plus, it's time to quash the siren song of a return to America's "greatness." It's impossible to go backwards in history; all we can do is deal with where we are.
Thursday, August 27, 2015(3 comments)
Sorting Through the Bullshit in America
The 2016 campaign has become the ultimate reality TV show. The final-round winner doesn't get a million dollars; he gets the White House. This is all part of how neo-liberal, free-market capitalism is sucking the respect of ideas and free-thinking from our culture. It's entertaining, but it's no joke.
Thursday, June 25, 2015(5 comments)
Lone Wolf Racist Terror Backfires
If the term means anything, Dylann Roof is a "lone wolf terrorist" -- just as much as if he were attacking people in a marathon race. The matter becomes complicated by US politics and embarrassing coziness with the radicalizing element. The point is to allow this amazing teachable moment to come to fruition. Americans need to keep their eyes on The Prize.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015(7 comments)
The Killer Elite, At Home and Abroad
Elite special ops manhunting is the new war doctrine, according to a New York Times article on SEAL Team Six. Are these killer elite elements unaccountable and out of control? How much to they make us safer, and how much do they actually do the opposite? These are questions that need to be maturely addressed.
The Debacle That Bites Back: Here We Go Again
The drums of war are again beating as ISIS gains more control in Anbar Province and parts of Syria. Bombing to take back Ramadi from ISIS would be following George W. Bush's Iraq debacle with more of the same, and the result will be more of the same psychopathic reaction. It's time for a new approach.
It Takes a Life Cult to Beat a Death Cult
President Obama avoids the religious craziness and insists on calling ISIS a "death cult." He's right, and Sigmund Freud would have understood what he means. Troubled by the carnage of WWI, Freud developed his idea of the life and death impulses that can take over societies. The point is, more death and destruction cannot solve this problem; only a devotion to life can do that.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015(4 comments)
Dirty Harry Goes To Iraq
Clint Eastwood's American Sniper is a very well made, classic film about American violence in the world. It's also a film that corruptly perpetuates the worst dishonest antecedent of the war -- all in the service of an iconic work of hero worship. As late Eastwood cinema, it follows the tried and true formula of early Eastwood's Dirty Harry movies.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
Is the Islamic State Really Such a Psychological Enigma?
Major General Michael Nagata leads a group delving into the psychological enigma of the Islamic State. But is it really such a great mystery when you consider whose invasion and occupation helped inspire the Islamic State? But, then, imperialist never talk about their debacles and what they've wrought. Better to look at it as a great mystery.
Is the Police Reform Movement Getting Legs?
Have the three recent white cop killings of Black males incited enough outrage that it has belatedly given power to a movement to reform police and the criminal justice system in America?
The system is vulnerable, and citizen crowbars need to be applied to these cracks, chipping and wiggled
them open further so the moral issues can seep in and further break down the
Monday, November 17, 2014(3 comments)
Is Lame Duck Obama Now Ready to Fight?
President Obama's China climate deal and his decision not to deport 5 million immigrants following the midterm rout of Democrats raises the question is he now belatedly ready to fight for the left? And what kind of an ex-president might Mr Obama become?
Monday, November 10, 2014
Iraq Veteran Emily Yates vs. the Federal Military Machine: A Veterans Day Story
Last week, Iraq veteran and folk singer Emily Yates was convicted and sentenced for assaulting US park rangers at the Independence Mall area in Philadelphia in August 2013. This was after they had first jumped her from behind and "assaulted" her. It was a pretty clear case of over-zealous federal police power. Yates may have lost in federal court, but she won in the court of Life, Art & Humanity.
Thursday, October 30, 2014(4 comments)
Thomas Friedman Comes In From the Cold War: Vietnam Was About Liberation!
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman just made an incredible discovery after visiting Vietnam. He realized the Vietnam War had never been about stopping communism. That was only an emotional trigger for us. It was about anti-colonialist nationalism and the Vietnamese were really fighting a war of liberation against the US. The American public needs to understand this truth even deeper than Friedman is willing to go.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014(6 comments)
How I Became Radicalized
You hear it all over the media and from politicians. Someone was "radicalized" from a good, normal American or European life to join al Qaeda or ISIS and do violent things. It's a misuse of the term radical. What they mean is to recruit someone to extremism. It gives radical thinking a bad name. Using myself as an example, here's how one responsible American was "radicalized."
Wednesday, October 8, 2014(1 comments)
Troglodytes, Weasels and Young Turks
Lots of people are playing the meaning game these days as the war with ISIS grows. Some are whipping up more war for their own purposes. Some are trying to make sense of it with clarity and humility. And some are just weasels.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014(2 comments)
The War of the Heads
ISIS beheads one-on-one up-close, while we remotely "decapitate" terrorist leaders. Decision are made in secret in "head sheds" of power. It's The War of the Heads. From the vantage point of the couch, this war is the most confusing, exasperating and hypocritical maze of confusion one could imagine.
Friday, September 12, 2014(1 comments)
Going To War With a Vengeance: A Cultural Essay
Vengeance plays a huge part in our current mess with ISIS. A glance at crime fiction and vengeance is interesting. It's also helpful to consider the powerful counter to vengeance, the thinking that goes under the term forgiveness.
Friday, September 5, 2014(5 comments)
The Odor Seeping Out of Our Criminal Justice System
Ferguson shooting of an unarmed black youth by a police officer and the subsequent criminal justice response unleashed a smell, but the exoneration of two half-brothers in North Carolina after serving 340 years in prison has released a pent-up blast of fetid stink that reaches all the way to the US Supreme Court.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Why We Should Not Go To War Over James Foley
The killing of James Foley was an intentionally provocative act in cycle of vengeance that should be broken. Of course, the cycle was boosted to the level of psychopathic response by the US invasion and occupation of Iraq that dis-empowered the Sunnis of Anbar Province. Fueling the revenge cycle with Foley's killing will not help. Future-oriented sanity needs to prevail.
Saturday, August 16, 2014(16 comments)
Warrior Cops Lose a Round in Missouri
The cable news duel between Fox News and MSNBC was interesting to follow as the story in Ferguson, Missouri unfolded through the week. Fox took a retro, pro-police line and MSNBC ran with compelling, live images from social media observers on the ground. As a battle of narratives, we have not heard the last from Ferguson, Missouri.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014(3 comments)
Americans Need to Break the Cycle of War: A Meditation on Peacemaking
It's clear the George W. Bush invasion of Iraq has led to the psychopathic ISIS reaction in Anbar Province in Iraq. Vengeance is no longer the right response; it failed back in 2003 and it will only lead to more killing. How about, this time, we honor John Lennon and just "give peace a chance"?
Sunday, August 3, 2014(1 comments)
Gaza: The Moral Agonies of Asymmetrical Diplomacy
There is a hole in coverage of the Gaza assault and other middle east stories. That is the glib dismissal of suicide bombers. It says something when a culture is driven to the last-stand position of employing humans willing to sacrifice their lives to deliver bombs. While opposing bomb delivery by any means, it's time Americans pondered the fact of suicide bombers.
Sunday, July 13, 2014(1 comments)
Bleedback of a US Imperial Wound
Twenty-five percent of the kids at the center of the current border crisis are from Honduras. We need to look at the history and not pump up the military at the border. We need a more human border.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014(9 comments)
Bad Wars and the Voice of Disillusion
It's the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, a war founded on rotten political leadership and known for the voices of disillusion that came out of the trenches. The legacy of top-down bad leadership and bottom-up voices of disillusion are still with us today from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghansistan.
Thursday, May 8, 2014(1 comments)
The Shame of Clarence Thomas
The recent Supreme Court ruling banning affirmative action in a case from Michigan shines a light on Justice Clarence Thomas, the affirmative action baby on the high court. His degree of hypocrisy is so profound if he any sense of honor he would resign.
Friday, April 25, 2014(1 comments)
LOSING TIM: A Mother Unravels Her Son's Military Suicide
LOSING TIM is a memoir by a well published novelist about her son's suicide in 2004. A veteran Army Ranger, Tim Eysselinck gravitated to the contractor world and ended up in Iraq training de-mining teams at the point that war zone had descended into a moral cesspool. The "moral wound" good men like Tim suffered needs to be better understood by Americans.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014(3 comments)
Balls, Brains and History: The New Crimean War
The downfall of the Ukraine president, Russia's President Putin has acted fast to establish a red line in Crimea. The US right wing has gone ballistic. When you distill it down, the imbroglio is all about three things: History, Brains and Balls. The world is changing and the ol' USA ain't what it used to be.
Friday, February 7, 2014(3 comments)
Philip Seymour Hoffman and Drug War Sanity
Philip Seymour Hoffman led an acting life that one could say was about socially educating the public on the inner lives of his characters. The last thing he would want is his death to be the catalyst for more Drug War madness. In his name, we should reform the Drug War employing the Harm Reduction approach.
Monday, February 3, 2014(1 comments)
"American Hustle" and Prosecutorial Politics
The current film "American Hustle" is, at the same time, a great entertainment and an essay on the state of American politics as far as it's dominated these days by the archetype of the aggressive prosecutor who lives and gets ahead off societal fears.
Friday, January 10, 2014
Thanks to George Bush, Talks With Iran Make Sense
Whose to blame for the current horrors in Iraq, Presidents Bush or Obama? The Obama administration is hardly an anti-war activist's dream, but its recent decision not to bomb Syria and its efforts to negotiate with Iran are good things. It's all about what Thomas Ricks meant when he talked about continuing to eat "the fruit of a poisoned tree."
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Washington Does Not Like Snarky
As someone who once tried to join the Foreign Service Washington Merry-go-round, I send a letter to Jofi Joseph suggesting he ponder what it means to became an insider Twitter gadfly in the Obama administration's national security team.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
It's Time To Feed the Hungry Peace Wolves
John Lennon had it right: Just give peace a chance. As simple and elegant as that lyric is, it is one of the most difficult of human challenges. Is President Obama, after a first term appeasing the militarist beast, finally giving peace a chance?
Sunday, September 15, 2013(5 comments)
Trust and Verify and Vomit
All the criticism of President Obama for "dithering" and President Putin for being a "KGB thug" playing the US president misses the point. Something different is going on. And it's an improvement.
Thursday, September 5, 2013(1 comments)
Who's Hiding Behind the Accountability Mask?
There's an elephant in the room no one wants to talk about when it comes to debating whether or not to bomb Syria. There's more than "accountability" going on here. The elephant is Israel.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013(1 comments)
Once Again, the Answer Is Bombing
Bombing Syria is simply a bad idea that will further exercise the Law of Unintended Consequences. Why not try something different for a change?
Saturday, August 17, 2013(17 comments)
Despite Hand-Wringing, Cairo Massacres Suit US Policy
Let's stop kidding ourselves: The massacres of Egyptian citizens is messy but it conforms perfectly with US desires in the Middle East. Plus, the kleptocratic military institution running amok in Egypt is largely a US creation. We need to honestly recognize our national culpability.
Monday, July 29, 2013(3 comments)
Killers Turned Inside Out
The Act of Killing is an amazing film that tells the story of murders done by death squad killers in Indonesia's counter-insurgency massacre of 1965 in a most novel manner. It's also pretty damning for US police makers at that time who fully supported and aided the killing of 500,000 to 2 million Indonesians. Not America's finest hour.