Friday, July 26, 2013

Letter to Purdue Exponent

It was revealed last week that in 2010, while Governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels requested Howard Zinn’s book, “A People’s History of the United States,” be removed from all Indiana k-12 public schools.  In a series of email exchanges, Daniels described Zinn’s book as an “anti-factual piece of misinformation that misstates American history on every page.”  Having graduated from Purdue in 2003 with a degree in Social Studies education, I find this utterly atrocious. I have not been more embarrassed for Purdue in my life.

Mitch Daniels' comments are a clear example of someone in power seeking to keep themself in power by only presenting their version of history.  K-12 history books are about presidents, generals, and rich individuals. This version of history ignores the vast majority of people who have ever lived and it leaves students feeling small and powerless.  If students are taught that only the rich and powerful are capable of making a difference in the world they will be less likely to question those in power or to participate in democracy.

Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States” offers a different approach to history.  It is written through the eyes of ordinary people, such as workers, slaves, Native Americans, women, immigrants, and civil rights activists.  It is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things to change the course of history.  This version of history is empowering to students, which is exactly what the likes of Mitch Daniels wish to ban.  Howard Zinn is truly the greatest historian of the 20th century.  Students and teachers will continue to read and study his work well into the future, and Mitch Daniels can do nothing about it. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

War in Libya

By Dustin Axe

On March 19th, 2011, the United States government initiated air strikes against the nation of Libya. Military installations have been targeted in an effort to support rebel forces who are attempting to overthrow the current regime headed by Muammar Gaddafi. The rebels have gained control of the eastern part of the country, but Gaddafi promises a “long, drawn-out war” against them, even if they receive aid from the United States and its NATO allies.

President Obama claims the purpose of this war (let’s call it what it is) is to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the north African nation. He says Gaddafi will use military force against the rebels, therefore intervention is needed to prevent a civil war and the massacring of innocent people. The logic is that by killing a small number of people a large number of people will be saved.

There is no evidence to suggest the President is acting to prevent a humanitarian crisis. Africa is full of brutal dictators who butcher citizens and rule with an iron fist, yet the United States does nothing. Anti-government protesters in the streets of Syria are being fired on by regime loyalists, but nothing is done. Why should we believe Libya is any different?

In fact, there is no evidence in all of history to suggest any President of the United States has went to war for humanitarian reasons. During WWII, for example, railroads that led to Auschwitz, where hundreds of thousands of people were exterminated, were not bombed because of other military priorities (empire building) came first.

I am not alone in my questioning of this war. Support for military intervention in Libya is extremely low among Americans, because we've grown tired of endless wars and the siphoning of resources away from human needs, such as healthcare and education. Even members of Congress are suspicious of war in Libya.

Many members of Congress are speaking out, however, they are not asking tough questions. They are not questioning the morality of the situation, but rather the legality. They say the President has no authority to wage war without a vote of approval from them. They say this as if a vote by them is all that’s needed to justify a war. A debate should include, not only the question of legality, but also the morality.

They should be wondering who the rebels are or if they’ll be equally barbarous as Gaddafi. The LA Times reports that rebel forces are going door to door rounding up regime loyalists, torturing them, and imprisoning them in the same prisons once used my Gaddafi. Are these really people worth supporting?

Had this question been asked of Osama bin Laden and his thugs, who the American government supported during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan 30 years ago, the events on 9/11 may not have happened and there would be less violence in Afghanistan today. Perhaps, the government should learn from its mistakes of seeking short term solutions to conflicts, while ignoring the possibility of more severe consequences in the future. One shouldn’t be surprised if one day we are at war with Gaddafi’s successors.

Obama is wrong if he believes this will be a quick and easy war that no one notices. Even if a tyranny is toppled and violence ends, the victory will be short lived. The belief that violence is a solution in this situation will only fuels future conflicts. Violence breeds violence, and what seems to be peace will be a continuation of the very nature that starts war in the first place.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Change We Can Believe In

By Dustin Axe

As I write this, oil is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico 5,000 feet below the surface of the water. For over 10 weeks oil has been polluting the ocean at a rate of 2.5 million gallons per day. Every attempt to contain the oil has failed and a possible long-term solution will not be finished until August. I cannot begin to express how outraged I am over this. It not only illustrates how inefficient and corrupt the United States government is, but it also shows what happens when corporations are allowed free reign with no regulations. Yet, despite the actions of the government and BP, which are no doubt absolutely horrible, true blame lies with you and me.

Barack Obama was elected president with perhaps the best tagline in campaign history, “Change We Can Believe In.” It gave the impression that corrupt and inefficient government (among other things) was a thing of the past. Actions before and after Hurricane Katrina showed just how inefficient the government is and how little it cares for everyday citizens. Obama promised us something different. Gone were the days where government only cared for the interests of the Fortune 500, and here to stay is a new era of peace and prosperity that begins with the working class. While I do not condemn him for offering the notion that change is both needed and possible, the idea that it will come from a president or government agency is nonsense.

Here we are, a year and a half after his inauguration, and the government’s inability to take control of the situation in the Gulf shows just how much things haven’t changed. It would seem the government has the responsibility to use every available resource to stop the leak and protect the shoreline. Surely there is something in the Constitution about protecting the borders of the United States. As of a few weeks ago, the government has officially spent one trillion dollars on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to “keep America safe”, but the government won’t do anything to protect our borders from an immediate environmental catastrophe. This is sickening.

I am also completely appalled by the actions of British Petroleum, but I’m not surprised. What multinational corporation cares for anything other than profit? While I have no doubt its scientists and engineers are doing their best to stop the leak, the arrogance of senior executives illustrates how the company operates as a whole. From the very beginning there has been no effort to acknowledge the severity of the spill. BP has issued false statements and underestimated the amount of oil gushing into the ocean. It clearly has financial interests in underestimating everything.

Obama recently announced that BP is responsible for paying $20 billion to cleanup the shoreline and to compensate people who have lost businesses. I believe BP should be held accountable for its negligence, but I don’t believe all the blame rests solely with them. Each and every one of us should take responsibility; after all, we all use oil.

Perhaps we all should take personal responsibility for all energy related disasters, and if we want them to change we should evaluate our lives and reconsider choices we make on a daily basis. Gandhi said, “You should be the change you want to see in the world.” Until we make an effort to change our habits by consuming less energy and start promoting renewable energy sources we only have ourselves to blame for this spill, not BP.

The same goes for war in Afghanistan. It is officially the longest war in American history and there is no end in sight. The President, under the advice of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Bush appointee, is sending tens of thousands of more soldiers to the region and expanding an ever increasing covert war in Pakistan. War in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan is eerily similar to Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. This is hardly change the President promised, but real change won’t come until enough individuals make a conscience decision to make it happen. If we don’t change our personal lives we only have ourselves to blame and we must accept all consequences, including war.

Michael Jackson famously sang that change starts with the “man in the mirror.” If you want change you can believe in, you must be that change. It’s up to you and me to start taking personal responsibility for the world we live in by standing up and saying enough is enough. It’s up to regular people to refuse to participate. Governments lose their legitimacy without obedient citizens, soldiers and taxes, and corporations cannot survive without workers and consumers.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Obama, Peace is Now

By Dustin Axe

By now it is common knowledge that Barack Obama has won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. Critics are looking for tangible results worthy of this prestigious award. They point out that he has merely delivered speeches and set forth changes to policies established by the Bush Administration, but that there have been no tangible results to date. Asking why he won is a valid question, especially when the President himself questions it, “To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize.” I will attempt to argue the contrary. I will argue that Barack Obama is definitely a valid recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and I will explain that we are living in one of the most peaceful times in history.

I am in no way suggesting that Obama is somehow responsible for world peace. After all, he has had national and global attention for only a couple of years. Even though he rightfully established a time line for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, he has elevated fighting in Afghanistan in order to bring “peace and stability” to the region. Even the morning he won the Nobel Peace Prize, he met with military advisers to discuss the possibility of deploying 40,000 more troops to the region. This will only fuel terrorism and instability in an already unstable country. The philosophy that invading a country will create peace, the so-called Bush Doctrine, is ludicrous. There is a protest sign that reads, “Bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity.”

However, if one has a problem with Obama winning they actually have issue, not with Obama, but with the Prize itself. As it is defined, it is awarded to a person or organization that is in the process of resolving a conflict or creating peace. It is a symbolic award given to someone who ushers inspiration and creates momentum for a set of just causes. Martin Luther King, for example, won in 1964 for advancing equality. In no way was this goal reached in 1964, nor is it accomplished in 2009, but he definitely created momentum for a just cause. Similarly, climate change was not reversed in 2007 when Al Gore brought to light the reality of global warming, but he too created momentum for change.

Obama had taken on many challenges that definitely have not been met, but they are in the process of being resolved. He is establishing a time line for the withdrawal from Iraq, reversing policy regarding climate change, ending torture, and closing Guantanamo Bay. He has also ushered inspiration and changed the hearts and minds of millions of people. The rekindling of international diplomacy has redefined America’s place in the world and changed the attitude people have towards the United States. These are tangible results that are important during a War on Terror where hatred fuels terrorism. Likewise, he has given hope to millions of people in the United States and around the world that the past eight years are finally over; that hatemongering and terror brought to millions of people from the Bush Administration is coming to an end.

Barack Obama, without a doubt, deserves this "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” What is more peaceful than fostering diplomacy and inspiring millions of individual people to make the world a better place? Critics are quick to point out that he has merely delivered speeches, but they forget that Martin Luther King’s accomplishments came from speeches and rhetoric alone, and Al Gore merely delivered presentations. Both of these men, however, are valid recipients, and so is Obama. What more does he have to do? After all, this is the 21st century. Even with George Bush’s War of Terror, the 21st century, put into historical context, is already one of the most peaceful times in recent history.

The Bush Administration’s decision to invade a country that did not threaten America has already cost more than a half million people their lives and millions more have developed deep seeded hatred for the United States, which will only fuel more war. But the reality is war and violent crimes have declined in the past two decades. There is merely a perception that we live in dangerous times, because information technology creates the feeling that somehow each day we are closer to danger and the end is near. We are constantly inundated with information technology that gives us a distorted impression that somehow the world is much more dangerous and violent than it really is. Our daily lives are flooded with headlines from the internet, radio and 24 hour news television. Every international conflict around the world is reported in doomsday fashion, and we hear reports and see images of every storm, child abduction, and shooting from around the nation as if somehow these are the only things taking place.

I am in no way dismissing tragedies in Rwanda, Darfur, North Korea, Tibet, or Saddam’s Iraq as less then horrible. But conflicts around the world today, taken together, do not compare with histories of the past. The events on 9/11 and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 21st century pale in comparison to Germany’s desire for world domination, the Holocaust, Soviet expansionism, nuclear armament, Stalinism, and Maoism of the 20th century. The American Civil War alone made the 19th century more bloody than anything we experience today. Two percent of the American population was killed, which would well exceed 5 million people today.

Throughout most of history societies in the Middle East, Europe, and Asia had an elite warrior class, whose trade was his or her ability to fight. When called upon, a knight or samurai, for example, would have to appear with his soldiers fully armed to defend a lord or vassal state. Likewise, every peasant or serf at one point in his life would have to rise in defense of home and hearth. Many soldiers today, on the other hand, choose to fight, not because they have to, but because they want a jump start in life. Millions of people seek more education and training opportunities by joining the armed forces. They see it as a stepping stone to a better life, not an actual way of life. This, of course, does not include millions of people in war zones who do not have the luxury of choice, such as child-soldiers in Africa. But in general, the warrior class in many societies has been replaced by a middle class that is almost entirely peaceful. Even the middle class base of the conservative party in the United States, despite their drum beating and war chanting, is peaceful. They cheer lead war from the sideline, but they do not fully believe it is worth fighting, otherwise they would join the army.

I once wrote, “We have made no moral progress towards eliminating war. Yet, war has made insurmountable progress towards eliminating us.” After spending the better part of my adult life reading and studying war and its affects on everyday people, especially the poor, I find I must reconsider this statement. Humans have not only made progress towards eliminating totalitarianism, theocracy, and slavery, but there has also been a conscious effort to eliminate war.

Why? I honestly do not have an answer at this time. It may be a positive outcome of two world wars in the 20th century. After World War I Woodrow Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace Price for his efforts in creating a governing body, the League of Nations, designed to prevent war. Wilson was stonewalled by politicians in his own country, so the United States did not join the League, but global efforts were still being made to eliminate war. (This is very similar to stonewalling Obama’s is experiencing with ending torture, closing Guantanamo Bay, etc.) The Second World War was by far the deadliest war in history. Over 100 million soldiers worldwide were mobilized to fight on nearly every continent. Cities were firebombed, million of people were systematically cremated, and atomic bombs were dropped. In all, 60 million people lost their lives in what is known as a ‘total war’, one that completely blurs the distinction between civilian and military life. Following the war, millions of people called for the eradication of war, either through governing bodies, such as the United Nations, or through just plain international consensus.

Perhaps efforts to end war is not due to the effect of two world wars, but rather nuclear armament and high-tech weaponry developed during the Cold War. Perhaps the stockpiling of large arsenals in the last half of the twentieth century and the threat of nuclear proliferation in our time has made war far too dangerous, in terms of weapons and technology, to be treated like it has been throughout all of history. Regardless the reason, there has definitely been a shift in consciousness to end war.

Unfortunately, neo-conservatives and everyday Americans seem to be slow in recognizing this trend. For 30 years, starting with the Regan Administration, neo-conservatives have threatened world peace by recklessly disregarding cultures, traditions, religions, and governments by invading other countries. And too many everyday Americans are easily fooled into thinking these wars are justified. This is party because of the overall lack of understanding of history, particularly of WWII. The greatest consequence of that war is that it gave Americans the perception that somehow war is justifiable and profitable. Most other countries that experienced war firsthand in the 20th century see it as something that should be questioned and opposed. But even in America, war is questioned more and more. The longer Americans experience the new War on Terror, the longer they see it for what it is--bullshit. As Bob Dylan suggests, “times they are a-changin.” Merely 30 percent of Americans continue to support the current occupation of Iraq.

Yes, armed conflict will continue forever and millions of people will perish in war, many of which will be preventable. Nation states will continue to draft and conscript soldiers to create standing armies. Obedient citizens will continue to be misled into supporting war, and private armies and terrorists will continue to kill for personal gain. But more and more people will join millions of regular people who look at war critically. They will ask what we can learn from it and how we can prevent it. They will engage in nonviolent civil disobedience, such as marches, tax refusal, and active refusal to take up arms, and parents will discourage their children from joining an army. The Military Industrial Complex cannot exist without consent or soldiers.

Without soldiers the common defense would be determined by individuals, not corporations or governments. If a nation was threatened by an enemy that directly threatened its citizens it would have no problem fielding an army. Citizens would rally together, train, fight and defend their home. Instead, governments lie to their citizens to gain support for wars that benefit a small number of people and corporations. Of course war existed before the state, but today’s governments are responsible for war by letting special interests of select individuals influence decision making. A truly democratic nation that held its officials accountable for their actions and one that only carried out the will of the majority of the people would not fight in unnecessary wars.

This is why we must oppose government at all costs. But we cannot forget that war is ultimately fought by individuals who make a choice to do so. Individuals have a responsibility to disobey and oppose governments who wage unjust wars. It is up to individuals to not only refuse to participate in war, but to also treat their neighbor with respect and to help those who are less fortunate. Mohandas Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” In other words, it is up to us to create a peaceful world. Obama recognizes this when he graciously accepted the Nobel Peace Prize by saying it is a "call to action” to create peace that does not belong to just him and his Administration; that the responsibility of creating peace does not belong to presidents or governments. It is up to individuals everywhere to make a conscious decision that war and violence is wrong.

Peace is now.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Long Live the King

By Dustin Axe

Michael Jackson is truly one of the most remarkable people to have ever lived. His life was one of flamboyant clothing and hair, bizarre behavior, mystery and controversy, and above all entertainment. His cinematic music videos, jaw dropping dance moves, and unmatched singing makes him superior to all. He really is the King of Pop. Michael Jackson is without a doubt the world’s number one entertainer of all time. Not only is he the best musician of all time, but he’s pretty good at making us laugh. He's the butt of every joke imaginable, and one can’t help from laughing when he adopted a chimpanzee or when he appeared in court dressed in pajamas. To be sure, Michael Jackson’s death came as shock to many people who have been entertained by him for decades.

I remember using a VHS to record and watch the Martin Bashir interviewed of Michael in 2003. When it was over I danced around my room and got lost in his music like I always do. I remember thinking how disturbed he was and how horrible absolute fame and wealth must be. Michael told stories about his childhood and he tried to give us insight to who he really was. He seemed to be a genuine person who lived a tragic, yet magnificent life. It’s hard to understand it.

To really understand someone you must overlook outward appearance and behavior, and instead focus on underline emotions. Michael was abused by his father and denied a childhood. He spent 90 percent of his life as an international superstar. Imagine having no childhood and being a prisoner in your own home. Imagine always being in the limelight and your appearance constantly ridiculed by your father. I’m sure this would create emotional problems for any of us. Now imagine having absolute wealth that allowed you to purchase anything you wanted. The theater, zoo, amusement park, statues, prescription drugs, and continuous cosmetic surgery are nothing more then Michael seeking earthly solutions to underline emotional insecurities.

In a world of materialism, science and money enables any of us to find these “solutions.” Do we not all alter our own appearance in one way or another and take prescription drugs that make us happy? How many of us go to tanning beds, dye our hair, and purchase things that supposedly enrich our lives. All Michael did was do it bigger and better then anyone, something he did in every aspect of his life. He may seem bizarre, but in a way, we are all Michael Jackson.

I have always been a Michael Jackson fan, and I have always defended his bizarre behavior and criminal accusations. He was a self proclaimed Peter Pan who loved binging around children partly because he was denied a childhood, and partly because children didn't ask for money or tell him what to do. We’ll never know for sure if he ever cross the line with those boys, but we do know he tried to help disadvantaged and sick children. This is evident though his music and charity work, and in a sense he was a role model for these children. How many performing artists do illegal drugs, carry guns, and abuse spouses? Michael never did any of this, so let us remember him, not for his faults, but for his intentions.

Michael Jackson’s death is an event people will remember. As I am writing this there are millions of fans waking up all around the world who are hearing for the first time that he is dead. He is one of the most well known people to have ever lived, and people are already comparing his death to Princess Diana's. When I saw an internet headline that read “Michael Jackson goes into cardiac arrest” I immediately thought nothing of it. This is coming from a guy who wears a germ mask, walks under an umbrella no matter what the weather is like, and who sleeps in hyperbaric oxygen chamber. I thought this was Michael being Michael. Unfortunately, he passed way today, June 25, 2009, from cardiac arrest. He was 50 years young. I am absolutely shocked.

The world lost an icon today. I remember growing up watching Michael Jackson videos in the 1980's, and I remember his 1993 Super Bowl halftime show as if it were yesterday. His music career dwindled in the 1990's, because of a personal life full of lawsuits, trials, plastic surgery, divorce, and scandals. I always paid attention to his trials and I kept up on tabloids. I laughed and shook my head at his antics, but I always remained a fan. In 2001, I remember waiting for months for his newest album, Invincible, and hours before it was due out I was dancing to “Billy Jean” and “Smooth Criminal” in my dorm room. I went to Wal-Mart in West Lafayette that night and I had it in my hands at midnight. I had to get employees to open the boxes. I wasn’t alone.

As a good friend of mine, Mark McCormick, put it, Michael Jackson makes music come to life. This is so true. Personally, I have no musical talent at all. I can't sing, dance, or play an instrument, but I always find myself lost in his music, singing and dancing, wishing I had talent like him. I attempt to do the worse moonwalk you’ve ever seen, but it’s fun as hell!

His death comes a few days before a scheduled tour in July 2009. Lets be clear here, this wasn’t a comeback tour. It’s important to remember that MJ has never left. His music has always been here and it always will. There are millions of people all over the world who absolutely love his music and millions more will discover it after his death. He is the most influential and successful entertainer of all time. Michael Jackson will NEVER die.

Rest in peace.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The War on Terror

By Dustin Axe

President Obama has repeatedly regarded Afghanistan as the top priority of his foreign policy agenda. As a consequence, there has been an escalation of fighting in the region and increase concerns about advances by the Taliban into Pakistan, as well as untold civilian deaths. On May 6, 2009, over 100 innocent people, including children, were destroyed by U.S. war plans. Total deaths could reach 200. If so, that would make this single act of terror the most deadliest since the start of the campaign to topple the Taliban in 2001. By shamelessly killing innocent people, the United States has brought nothing but more terror to a country wrecked by war for over 30 years. Author Noam Chomsky wrote, "There is no flag big enough to hide the shame of killing innocent people ."

In his book, The Audacity of Hope, President Obama writes, “I wonder, sometimes whether men and women in fact are capable of learning from history--whether we progress from one stage to the next in an upward course or whether we just ride the cycles of boom and bust, war and peace, ascent and decline." He wrote this just before he expanded the war in Afghanistan, where the armies of Alexander the Great, the British Empire, and the Soviet Union threw in the towel. I agree with the President; Americans are ignorant of history, and so is he.

Just what is the “The War on Terror?” The U.S. spends billions of dollars on high-tech weaponry and it sends soldiers all over the globe to wreck havoc on the world in order to defend itself against loosely organized bands of terrorist. According to FOXNEWS footage, these terrorists train on monkey bars and practice leapfrog, a child’s game. The Bush Administration claimed these individuals hate freedom and democracy. Yet, these terrorists appear to be targeting military and economic symbols of U.S. hegemony around the world--the World Trade Center, embassies in Africa, the U.S.S. Cole, and basically anything associated with the Pentagon, including the Pentagon itself. This should be a clear message that these so-called terrorists do not hate freedom or democracy, rather they hate U.S. global occupation.

Millions of people, not just Islamic fundamentalists, but good-willed people all over the world, dislike America, largely because of our military influence. We are the most militaristic country, above and beyond everyone. Of the 121 nations evaluated for the Global Peace Index in 2007, America is ranked 96, between Yemen and Iran. The United States has 700 military installations throughout the world and over 310,000 military personnel stationed in 120 countries. How did it come to this?

For the last half of the 20th century the Military Industrial Complex was justified by a cold war with the Soviet Union. This included nuclear armament and endangering the world with nuclear proliferation--the U.S. has enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world five times. It also included building bases and stationing troops in satellite nations around the world and fighting wars in Korea and South East Asia.

But a brief review of the history of our new “War on Terror” reminds us that much of our problems in the Middle East are a direct result of twenty-five years of failed foreign policy, dating back to the Reagan Administration. Reagan's cabinet gave billions of dollars in aid and military support to Saddam Hussein when Iraq was actively using chemical weapons against its own people; armed and trained Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan; funded and trained terrorists in Central America; and ended the Iran-Contra scandal by secretly selling weapons to Iran.

The Reagan administration triple the national deficit in only eight years party due to the $2.5 trillion spent on the military, which is more than all the money spent on the military since the end of World War II. Some pundits and historians claims this helped win the Cold War. Though, many believe it was more Soviet reforms then anything. Either way, the Cold War ended and millions of people gained freedom. However, the way it was done has given us our problems today. Not only did the Reagan administration break the law, but it provided arms and created alliances with terrorist networks and brutal dictators all over the world.

Unfortunately, the same men who served under Reagan for eight years, also served under George Bush I, and they serve George Bush II. Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rove, etc. all played major rules. These men and women are opportunists with no moral convictions. They find quick military solutions for the moment, and in the process they recklessly disregard cultures, traditions, religions, and governments of other countries involved, ultimately creating even bigger and more global consequences for the future. Twenty-five years of failed foreign policy has given us new problems involving the same names today: Saddam Hussein, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Osama bin Laden.

U.N. sanctions in the 1990's, implemented by the United States, deprived innocent people of medicine, water, electricity, and basic necessities for life. This cost hundreds of thousands of innocent people their lives in the 1990's under the Clinton administration. The current occupation of Iraq has killed more then a half million people.

Currently, the War on Terror further warrants a massive military budget and global military occupation. America spends well over $400 billion a year just to maintain the military during peace time. Add another $500 billion or more for the War on Terror. For 2008, President Bush requested between $600-$700 billion, including money for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Adjusted for inflation, these current wars have cost more than every war in American history with the exception of World War II.

The War on Terror is based on preemptive war on countries with abundant resources that have little to nothing to do with Islamic fundamentalism. In order to justify war in Iraq the Bush Administration lied to the American people leading up to the war's beginning in March 2003. He repeatedly said there were WMD's in Iraq and a direct link between Saddam and 9/11. Finally, in June 2009 former Vice President Dick Cheney admitted to these were lies by saying, "I do not believe and have never seen any evidence to confirm that [Hussein] was involved in 9/11. We had that reporting for a while, [but] eventually it turned out not to be true."

If the United States was engaged in a “just war” with clear objectives and enemies that were directly threatening its citizens it would have no problem fielding an army pumped up on nationalism. But, instead, these wars are unjust and based on lies, so President Bush had to lie to the American people, as well hire private military companies, such as Xe, formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, to maintain occupation.

In short, the War on Terror has been completely fabricated. It is nothing more then propaganda justifying an interventionist foreign policy all around the world, used by corporations to increase profit and to protect international finance capital. The words, “War on Terror”, are nothing more than propaganda used by leaders to justify an endless war that benefits corporations. Throughout all of history when pharaohs, kings, emperors, caesars, and presidents speak about “national security” and protecting “our interests” they are really talking about protecting the economic interests of the rich. The interests of Haliburton and ExxonMobil are not the same as the interest of average Americans. Michael Moore was right when, during his 2003 Oscar acceptance speech, he said, “We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons.”

Further analysis of the War on Terror reveals that most acts of terror are carried out by domestic terrorists. Ironically, they are often by right-wing, Christian fundamentalists, such as the Ku Klux Klan, which has been terrorizing, lynching, murdering, and intimidating blacks, Jews, and immigrants for over a hundred years. Not only did the government not protect victims of violence from the KKK, but it actually participated in state sponsored racism and violence. Unfortunately, a black president, a poor economy, and continuous non-white immigration has led to more and more domestic acts of terror. In the first half of 2009 a prominent abortion doctor was assassinated in Kansas and a neo-Nazi, white supremacist stormed into the Holocaust Memorial Museum with a rifle and opened fired on guards. These terrorists, along with the likes of Timothy Mcveigh, are from the radical Right, but be sure, the Left has produced domestic terrorists, as well. Ted Kozinski, the Weather Underground, and the Earth Liberation Front are only a few. The point is most acts of terror, both past and present, have been carried out, not by Islamic fundamentalists, but by Americans.

If America chose to work on things humanely and bilaterally, we would be in a position to rule the world--peacefully. If America was a kind "global citizen,” by waging peace on the world, we would no longer be feared and hated; we would be loved and respected. America would have a peaceful say in everything countries do, and we could lead a “community of power” against tyranny and hate. And if Americans chose to rule justly and democratically within our own borders by treating all our citizens with respect we would have less problems here at home. Instead of wasting a 1 trillion dollars in Iraq while levees break in New Orleans, steam pipes break in New York, and bridges collapse in Minneapolis we should insure that all Americans have affordable housing, retirement plans, health insurance, adequate schools, and unemployment relief. This is real national security in a time of economic hardship.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Democracy as Propaganda

By Dustin Axe

Democracy is a form of government where power rests with the people who all have an equal voice in the governing processes. For it to succeed, all men must be seen as equal, and most importantly, all men must be treated as equal. The Founders wrote the words, “all men are created equal,” but they did not truly intend this. Women, slaves, Indians and anyone outside the merchant class were not treated equally or given an equal voice in the government. In fact, Democracy, since its rebirth during the European Enlightenment has been nothing more than convenient way of spreading out power among the rich. During this time, cities grew larger as science and technology improved, and a middle class emerged. More people demanded more power, parliaments grew stronger and Kings grew weaker, until revolutions broke out. Democracy was their answer. It was never meant to free people from an oppressive king or queen, or to hold leaders accountable for their actions. It was merely a convenient way of shifting power from a monarch to a few more wealthy individuals.

Howard Zinn reminds us that the Founders setup a government to protect the interests of merchants, traders, slaveholders, and land owners, to establish law and order, and to prevent rebellion. They did not created a system where power exist with a majority vote; they created a system where power rests with those who have wealth. Sure they established a system of checks and balances so no one person or institution would become too powerful, but they left out the most important element to checks and balance--the people. Real checks and balance exists, not within three branches of government, but with the people checking and balancing the government. The Founders saw this as a threat to their interests, so they created a government that checks the people in order to carry out the interests of the rich. It gave tax cuts to the rich, land to railroad companies, and it used armed forces to displace and kill Indians and Mexicans.

Our founders did not create a democracy, nor did they intend to. The word “democracy” was a bad word in 1776. It does not appear anywhere in the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, or any state constitution. In fact, Democracy was not part of our nationhood until the Great War, when Woodrow Wilson vowed to “make the world safe for democracy.” He was using the notion of democracy as propaganda to unite a country, just as George W. Bush is doing ninety years later. Bush justifies an interventionist foreign policy in the Middle East with the claim that “our aim is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations, with governments that answer to their citizens.” This is nothing more than propaganda used by the ruling class to give everyone a sense of cooperation and togetherness. It gives us a sense of nationality; that we are all in this together. This allows us to see all our interests--those of presidents, multinational corporations, and average Americans--as one and the same. The truth is, when presidents claim to be exporting democracy, whether to Eastern Europe, South East Asia, or to the Middle East, they are actually using it to justifying global military occupation and economic exploitation.

Our own Republic evolved over the course of centuries, how can it be forced onto another country through war? Take the Iraq for an example. Not only will you find no democratic tradition in Iraq, but, with the exception of Turkey, you won't find it anywhere in the Middle East. Democracy engineered by marshal law under these conditions is doomed to fail. Henry Kissinger once said: "Democracy in the West evolved over centuries. It required first a church independent of the state; then the Reformation, which imposed pluralism of religion; the Enlightenment, which asserted the autonomy of reason from both church and state; the Age of Discovery, which broadened horizons; and finally capitalism, with its emphasis on competition and the market. None of these exists in the Islamic world."

The power structure not only uses the idea of democracy as propaganda to create support for wars that benefit the rich, but it also uses it to suppress Americans at home. They give us a false notion that somehow voting will make things better. For example, in 1963 both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations endorsed Martin Luther King and put him at the head of the Civil Rights Movement, because he was advocating nonviolence. By embracing Martin Luther King and his message of passivity, the government was able to channel a violent revolution into a movement that advocated voting rights. Sure enough, thousands of people registered black voters in 1964, and the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. But nothing changed. Voting did not end discrimination, racism, poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, or the war in Vietnam. Voting was not a fundamental solution to any problems, and the power structure used it to divert change.

Activist Abbie Hoffman once said, “Democracy is not something you believe in . . . it's something you do.” Unfortunately, Americans believe in democracy, but they do not practice it. It is an abstract concept, floating in the air. No where is it practiced. More people vote for American Idol every week then those who vote for the President. This is partly because they know their American Idol vote will actually count. It is virtually impossible for votes to get counted in a general election because of disenfranchisement, electronic voting machines, confusing ballots, and gerrymandering. And what is one vote out of 330 million? People also don't participate in democracy because they are watching mindless television or rotting their brain with some new electronic device. Not to mention, people are demoralized and indebted and find themselves with every little time to get in the streets.

Additionally, people do not practice Democracy because it is not taught in our schools. History in general is not taught correctly. George Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act only holds schools accountable for student productivity on reading and math tests, causing other subjects, such as history, to get shorted. What better way to prevent people from thinking about the present then by keeping them ignorant of the past. Adolf Hitler once said, “What luck for rulers that men do not think.” The power structure knows that an educated populace is hard to govern, so there has been a well orchestrated plan to dumb down the public school system. It is much easier to govern when students are indoctrinated with nationalism, forced to recite allegiances and bow to flags, and taught to be mindless consumers in a world where everyone is equal in their ability consume and waste.

* In theory, if all men were treated equally, all men would have a equal voice in the governing process. In reality, all men are created equal, but not all men are treated equally.

* In theory, if power existed with a majority vote, it would shift power and wealth from the rich to the poor, creating a balanced system that benefits everyone. In reality, power does not exist with a majority vote, because in America, the more dollars you have, the more votes you have. This is a systems where the minority rules.

* In theory, if a government was ran based on a system of checks and balance, no one person or institution would become too powerful. But in America, people forget that real checks and balances lay, not between three branches of government, but between the people checking the government. This is not practiced. In fact, political dissent is shunned.

* In theory, if governments were accountable to their people there would be no war, because people do not wage war. Governments, corporation, and the ruling class wage war.

Democracy does have flaws, as the American system has shown, but I still accept it as a way of solving problems. It seems to be a much better way of enhancing society than war or technology. A situation where individuals sitting around a campfire making decisions based on the needs of the many, rather than the few, would be just. If a small group of people did not agree with the decisions made, then they could vote with their feet; they could simply walk away and start another tribe. This, however, would be impossible today. There are too many borders and fences and just not enough freedom for any dissent. We are stuck with our current system until enough people decided that democracy and a more egalitarian system is worth having.

The best thing about true democracy, according to Harry S. Truman, “is that its defects are always visible and under democratic processes can be pointed out and corrected.” Unfortunately, however, America does not have system where the people can simply point out problems and correct them. If this was the case America would not have an interventionist foreign policy. Current polls suggest that nearly 70 percent of Americans are against the occupation Iraq. Democracy would end this war. Likewise, in 1916, Woodrow Wilson said World War I would have never occurred if democracy was practiced: "I am convinced that only governments initiate such wars as the present, and that they are never brought on by people, and that, therefore, democracy is the best preventive of such jealous and suspicions and secret intrigues as produce wars among nations where small groups control rather than the great body of public opinion."

The problem with democracy is that it gives too much power to too many people. This gives hundreds of people in the ruling class the chance to profit from a system designed for them. Democracy cannot exist outside a small town, and it definitely cannot exist in a country with 330 million people. But was it ever meant to exist in the first place? How can someone actually buy into the false sense of democracy in this country? There is no democracy, and the very idea of democracy is a tool used to suppress us. In reality, we live in a country where the few rule the many. Oligarchies are the most common form of government in history, and it does not have to be a bad thing. But it is bad if we live in an oligarchy and we think we live in a democracy. Democracy is propaganda.