Wednesday, November 29, 2006

FOR THE GOOD OF ALL!!!! –More Concepts Concerning John Katzenbach’s HART’S WAR

In this article, I take a second opportunity to comment on John Katzenbach’s HART’S WAR ( New York: Ballentine 1999). I do this because in the waning chapters of the novel a subtle TERRIFYING portrait of the layered evils and confusion of war is presented by Katzenbach, who’s father had been a U.S. airman in WWII and who had ended up a prisoner-of-war in Nazi Germany throughout most of that war. These final chapters reveal a disturbing picture of the consequences of injustice carried out in the acts of self-preservation. This is subtly mentioned but ever-lurking in the background of both the film version of the novel as well as in the Ballentine publication, itself.

There is latent sense of evil when any man seeks first and foremost for self-preservation. In the film this is seen in the isolation and framing of the black pilot, Lt. Scott of the Tuskagee airman fame. The basic question is: Why should a man, who had not committed a crime, have to die in order to cover up the fact that a whole platoon of men were planning an escape?

Naturally, any soldier knows that such sacrifices in battle are called for from him time-and-again. On the other hand, as the book points out, any officer with men under him (or her) has to make choices as to whom they will send out to attack and whom will most likely get killed, i.e. sacrificing some soldiers to help others succeed in their missions and hopefully lead eventually to shortening the end of conflict—saving some other future generation, i.e. sacrifices “for the good of all”.

However, in both the Hart’s War book and movie version, defendant Lt. Scott’s counselor, Lt. Tommy Hart is also certainly finding himself in a situation to suffer and die for many others. In the film, Hart makes the audacious claim that he should be executed as Scott wasn’t the murder. Hart claims that he, himself, committed a murder in anger. He lies and prepares himself to be sacrificed in order to cover up the major escape attempt taking place at that very moment.

Likewise, in Katzenbach’s novel, Lt. Hart is called upon by events to put himself in a life-endangering situation protecting the escape route as prisoners climb and run out of a man-dug tunnel and hole. Hart does this by standing outside the fence of the prison in a fairly vulnerable position for a lengthy period of time while signaling whether “All was Clear” to nearly 20 other soldiers who managed to escape. However, Hart soon finds himself in a life-and-death struggle with an armed Nazi Officer just a few feet from the escape hole outside the prison fence, where he has been forced to stay for nearly two entire years. Finally, Hart succeeds in killing the officer.

Somewhere during that fight with the Nazi officer on the ground outside the prison camp, Hart had become determined that he wanted more-than-ever to live rather than die. So, despite losing the use of one of his hands in the battle of his life, Hart has been inspired to self-preservation despite having to struggle against a stronger man. Frustratingly for the reader, one observes in Katzenbach’s narration that in the subsequent attempt to take suspicion away from the American camp, Hart slowly moves the dead body of the Nazi officer several hundred meters to a location next to where Russian prisoners were being kept.


It is then in one of the final chapters that Lt. Hart is presented eighty-four hats by the German Officer who runs all of the prison camps in the area. These are Russian hats that Lt. Hart has been given as a reminder of what the killing of one Nazi officer meant in the horrible stage in the war.

In short, Nazis had killed over 84 Russian soldiers in retaliation for the killing of a single Nazi officer. However, because Lt. Hart had laid the body of the dead SS officer on the doorsteps of the neighboring Russian camp, the Nazi’s retaliation was not taken against the Americans soldiers and escapees (as it should have been if life in war were fair).

Instead, the punishment for the “murder” of the Nazi German officer was unfairly dealt to the Russians--those so-called “Untermenschen” of that Nazi regime. In short, Katzenbach has somewhat created a metaphor for the comparatively greater (and unfair level of) sacrifices by the citizens of the Soviet Union in WWII, who as a whole faced the fuller brunt of hate, prejudice, mistreatment, and murder on the Eastern front of Hitler’s greatest mistake in military history.

What is the value of one man? Is it the same as that of another man?

In war this appears to be not the case. This is something important about war that Katzenbach is pointing readers to. In other words, wars are not clean and a lot of actions of one person can lead to many deaths of others.

This is something that needs to be understood by those who support going to war-- whenever and wherever the rationale for it may be.

Alas, most soldiers and citizens have not promoted discussion of what really happens in war. The common public discussions in America seem to be all-too-often “rah-rah-rah” nonsense, similar to the great part of the Hollywood film version of Hart’s War, where all the escapees (but one) get out safely and even blow up a neighboring munitions plant on their way.

But, war is more like the book version of Hart’s War where for every single one enemy officer killed one-hundred others will die—with the majority of these being civilians or innocent of bad intent.


Katzenbach, by focusing on trials and race relations, seems to imply that in war everyone is a killer or potential killer. There is no big deal about this!! Katzenbach seems to state. As one comes to the end of the book and reads his epilogue, it is clear with how people deal with prison and use their war memories that is more important for Katzbach.

If one views the trajectory of the “Greatest Generation”, Katzenbach is more concerned with how people lived their lives after the war. The main character, Lt. Thomas Hart, appears to have thought little about the fact that 100 Russians were executed because he killed a Nazi German officer name Visser. Moreover, he has made his peace with all the others who had mistreated him and his defendant in the dramatic trial. He no longer wants to kill the men who set up his client, Lt. Scott, to be framed and executed for a crime he never committed.

For Hart, truth is not longer the most important or overriding thing that drives his efforts in the world. He has accepted the fact that his hands were dirtied by the bombings he was undertaking (as a navigator of populated cities ) and struggles or battles he fought in the war. That is simply part of the nastiness of war.

However, we readers need to invite ourselves to weigh the facts of history and war more carefully. Those of us who don’t go to war or refuse to go to war should not feel they have to be as confused morally as are the imprisoned soldiers in the military prison camps. We have a duty to recall what really happens in war and to let our children know important facts, such as “collateral damage” is too often equal to either homicide or murder. That is a fact. Let’s admit it before we go to war—instead of trying to forget it long after the battles are over.

Note: This doesn’t mean than all murderers are the same. (“Murderer” means someone who killed someone with some sort of intention.) Those who execute one-hundred Russian soldiers for a crime which they did not commit are guilty of graver crimes than the soldier who tried to save his own skin.

I encourage you readers to discuss this and related topics further. Agreement isn't the important thing but seeking truth and justice counts far more than hyperbolic whitewashing of events related to life and death.


Saturday, November 25, 2006


This month, I've been reading the popular fictional work HART'S WAR(1999) by John Katzenbach . It is more than just a historical thriller that was the basis for a film, which came out a few years back, with Bruce Willis in it. It is a book that asks the reader to understand the basis for which people, especially soldiers, follow orders of their government. It is also about questioning orders and decisions made in the heat of war.

This is very important for us to understand in 2001-2007 America as for the first time in history a popular cry is now being heard for the simultaneous impeachment of both the president and vice-president of the United States.

In Katzenbach's novel, a Lt. Hart is out searching for truth in a world where lies rule the day. At the sametime, another Tuskagee Air pilot named Lt. Scott has become a victim of runaway leadership in the military. He has been charged with a crime that the reader clearly knows from the beginning that Lt. Scott, and African-America, has not committed.

As Lt. Scott is going through courtmartial for premeditatied murder, Lt. Scott confronts one of his persecuters (and prosecuter). He asks why the officer has made up his mind to have him be charged, tried and executed for a crime that he has not committed.

The biased Major Clark is certain he has right, duty and reason on his side and claims in respons to the question as to whether he would or should send an innocent man to his death, "Of course. And so would you if you were in my situation. So would any officer in charge. So you die and we protect a larger good. Why is that so strange for you to understand?" p. 467-468.

From a soldier's perspective, there certainly was some sense in what the major stated. The problem is that fear is the only logic, and fear is the only mantra behind an argument for Americans to sacrifice the lives of both their young and parent-age soldiers around the world in this 2001-2007 period.

Fear and discrimination has taught the U.S. little in the last two centuries. It has led to occupation of the Philipines, Mexico, and Cuba in the past. Fear after 9-11 led to the Middle Eastern debacle today. FEAR without asking WHY people oppose the U.S. abroad is bound to be a losing motivator in American international relations.

Fear leads to fascist trends at home and even crimes of injustice as in the lynchings that marked pre-1960 America for our black brotehrs and sisters--a theme that comes up time and again in Katzenbach's World War II memories painted in the aforemetioned novel. We certainly have seen similar media lynchings of those claimed to be linked with terrorism in the USA after 9-11.

Fear of radical Islam led the Bush and Reagan administration of the 1980s to crawl in bed with Sadam Hussain in selling Iraq arms--even as he massacred his own peopl. It led to support so strong for the dictator that former government official Donald Rumsfeld hugged his good buddy in now famous photos from that era. This friendship also encouraged Saddam Hussain to believe he could take over Iraq in 1990.

Worst of all, FEAR leads to war and endless war--much like the modern Bush neo-cons encourage Americans to accept as the norm for all of us in the 21st century--as if we really have no choice in the matter but to beleive in the "concept of WAR on Terrorism".

The fact is that fear is not the only response to 9-11 nor is war the only option Americans have to terrorism.


Only fear and prejudice can confuse people enough not to see WAR as a form of terrorism!

Howard Zinn, the amazingly popular critique of failed media, politics, and Bush's poor historical analysis, has recently noted,

... [Y]ou know, bizarre thinking is possible when you create fear and hysteria. And we’re facing, of course, that situation today with this whole business of terrorism. And if you added up all the times in speeches of George Bush and his Cabinet and all the times they used the word “terrorism” and “terror,” it’s a mantra they have created to frighten the American people.

I think it’s wearing off. You know, when you -- I think there’s beginning to be some recognition, and that accounts for the fact that public opinion has turned against the war. People no longer believe that we’re fighting in Iraq in order to get rid of terrorism, you know, because the evidence has become so overwhelming that even the mainstream media has reported it -- you know, the National Intelligence Estimate. And this is the government’s own intelligence agencies saying that the war in Iraq has caused a growth of terrorist groups, has increased militancy and radicalism among Islamic groups in the Middle East.

But terrorism has supplanted communism as an attempt to get people to do things against their own interests, to do things that will send their own young people to war, to do things that will cause the depletion of the country’s wealth for the purposes of war and for the enrichment of the super-rich.

Yet, we American still find young men and women siding with the idea that terror is fought by terror: WAR. Older Americans who have served in wars certainly need to explain the concept that both terrrism and war are quite similar and both are HELL.

Why is this not being done? Why don't Americans know that most of the world questions U.S. policies that see only white and black between war and terrorism? They think "What a blind and dillusional world view?"

Non-Americans also claim meanwhile,"I like Americans but the U.S. leadership manipulates them too easily. I hate what the U.S. government is up to. It is so un-American."

They add, "The U.S. government and the private media that supports it are certainly just manipulating Americans who are ignorant of the facts on the ground, in war, and for suffering peoples around the globe."

What have we been teaching our children in U.S. schools in the last three decades since the U.S. bailed out of the Vietnam War? The false wisdom in schools is what I opposed when I loudly questioned the policy of the high school in Kansas (where I taught in from 1990-1991 as the first Gulf War was called out and my student's parents were sent off to Kuwait) allowing U.S. military and National Guard recruiters to wander the hallways and talk to students in the cafeteria. [Naturally, my contract there was not renewed that year although I had received high marks from everyone as an instructor--including the school principle, teachers, and the board members--visiting my classes.]


Zinn adds that he still hears of a handful of people signing up to go to Iraq. Why is this? According to Zinn,

I remember hearing the same thing when a young fellow went off to Vietnam. And a reporter goes up to the young fellow and says, “You know, young man, you’re going off, and what are your thoughts and why are you doing this?” And the young man says, “I’m doing this for my country.” No, he’s not doing it for his country. And now, she’s not doing it for her country. The people who go off to war are not doing fighting for their country. No, they’re not doing their country any good. They’re not doing their families any good. They’re certainly not doing the people over there any good. But they’re not doing it for their country. They’re doing it for their government. They’re doing it for Bush. That would be a more accurate thing to say: “I’m going off to fight for George Bush. I’m going off to fight for Cheney. I’m going off to fight for Rumsfeld. I’m going off to fight for Halliburton.” Yeah, that would be telling the truth.

Zinn is fascinated by the charge Hermann Goering made to a psychiatrist during the Nuremburg trials. The noted psychiatrist reported that Göring said, “Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war? But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy. The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. All you have to do is tell them they’re being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism. It works the same way in any country.

This is exactly what the Madison Avenue media types did to the vast American public right up through mid-2003, when Bush mistakenly declared that America's mission in Iraq had been accomplished. The government in the U.S. had bullied and persuaded the journalists to toe the party-line: (1) Scorn or denounce the pacifists or those looking for alternatives to war and (2)appeal to the people's sense of patriotism.

The government was not even asked by 95% of the U.S. media to go beyond hyperbole and prove that Americans were threatened by an Iraqi created doomsday device. No wonder Goering's advice to would-be government manipulators in this first decade of the 21st century has been so successful!

Most Americans don't see pictures of bleeding Iraqis, crying mothers in Palestine, or decapitated family members in Lebanon on 2006 daily in their local newspapers as the rest of the world does. Otherwise, Americans would have more than a clue that WAR is TERROR.


Nonetheless, I believe Americans are coming to do what reporters should have done. Start from the premise that everything is a lie--whether the words come from the religious leader or from a government. As Howard Zinn noted, this view of official statments used to be standard procedures at journalism school. The procedure is like doing a null-hypothesis in the sciences. It is also what good lawyers and detectives do. Americans have got to stop assuming that everything is truer and closer to reality if the government speakers claim something.

Similarly,in Hart's War, Lt. Thomas Hart is charged with defending as counsel the falsely charged Lt. Lincoln Scott. The case against Scott is highly circumstantial--much like Bush and Cheney's case for invading Iraq--but not quite as far-fetched. Yet, Hart--unlike the majority of soldiers in the book and many FOX News-type reporters-- does not give up on getting the facts to get justice for his defendent. Several times, Hart takes his life into his own hands and fights to the end of the novel to get to the bottom of a series of lies and cover-ups. (Admittedly, unlike in the Hart's War movie, in the actual novel Hart does lie and make innuendos in Katzenbach's book, but only in order to defend his client against the unjust and unfair forces manipulating the trial for their own desires and goals.)


I don't wish to give away the ending to HART'S WAR, the novel. However, as in an earlier work of Katzenbach, The Analyst, the book is about memories, truth, lies, facts, and history. When I showed the film, Hart's War, to my students in class I reminded them that Katzenbach is sharing a piece of American History.

The trial of Lt. Scott is taking place in a prison camp in WWII in Germany. Before that war, the U.S. military was segregated. It would take the end of that war and the continued lynching of black U.S. soldiers coming home to America that led President Harry S. Truman to teafully sign into law an executive order disbanding legal segregation in the U.S. military--a move that predated the successes of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

In short, America of the WWII generation--America's Greatest Generation--was filled with flaws in its living out the American Dream.

With that somber fact in view, Americans need to start cleaning up the checks-and-balance flaws that kept Dick Cheney from being investigated by the GAO back in 2001-2002. In turn, America's grandchildren of future generations will point an accusing finger at our generation if we don't take President Bush to impeachment hearings in the next year for promoting torture and for ignoring dozens and dozens of congressional laws passed even during his own tenure--let alone the constitutional rules he has impeded and abused.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006


This past week I put on a CD with a collection of hits by Don McLean. Although now thirty-plus years old his texts are haunting and timely. McLean is most noted for his song AMERICAN PIE, also the title of the album form which many of McLean's greatest hits came from.

However, the three songs I want the reader to recall are not the classic AMERICAN PIE but the three tunes and lyrics to "By the Waters of Babylon","The Grave Lyrics", and "Everybody Loves Me Baby Lyrics".

Quite obviously, with the tragedies of the Iraq War 2003-2006 so present in our day to day lives "By the Waters of Babylon" with its moaning refrains song in round is what many American and the nation's allies should consider singing out of respect for the victims and survivors of the man-made catastrophe:

By the waters
The waters
Of Babylon.

We lay down and wept
And wept
For thee Zion.

We remember
Thee remember
Thee remember
Thee Zion

Naturally, the text comes basically straight out of the old testament during the Babylonian captivity. Yet, many Americans today certainly feel captive to the rivers of Iraq now. We need to lament--crying tearfully--, and then we need to move on--offering aid to Iraq in non-military forms for decades to come.

The next song, "The Grave", has lyrics that could have come from either WWI or WWII. It still brings tears to my eyes and needs to be sung along and aloud with when listened to.

The grave that they dug him had flowers
Gathered from the hillsides in bright summer colors,
And the brown earth bleached white at the edge of his gravestone.
He’s gone.

When the wars of our nation did beckon,
A man barely twenty did answer the calling.
Proud of the trust that he placed in our nation,
He’s gone,
But eternity knows him, and it knows what we’ve done.

And the rain fell like pearls on the leaves of the flowers
Leaving brown, muddy clay where the earth had been dry.
And deep in the trench he waited for hours,
As he held to his rifle and prayed not to die.

But the silence of night was shattered by fire
As guns and grenades blasted sharp through the air.
And one after another his comrades were slaughtered.
In morgue of marines, alone standing there.

He crouched ever lower, ever lower with fear.
"they can’t let me die! the can’t let me die here!
I’ll cover myself with the mud and the earth.
I’ll cover myself! I know I’m not brave!
The earth! the earth! the earth is my grave."

The grave that they dug him had flowers
Gathered from the hillsides in bright summer colors,
And the brown earth bleached white at the edge of his gravestone.
He’s gone.

I was listening to that song on Armistace Day this November. Despite being set in a rainy land, the words are every bit as poignant for soldiers stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Finally, one last McLean song hits American foreign policy experts--especially neo-cons--at their heart and hubris. McLean was writing to America and Americans of the Vietnam era, but itrings too true today in a post 9-11 world. Americans need to analyze this song and move on.

Everybody Loves Me Baby Lyrics

Fortune has me well in hand, armies 'wait my command
My gold lies in a foreign land buried deep beneath the sand
The angels guide my ev'ry tread, my enemies are sick or dead
But all the victories I've led haven't brought you to my bed

You see, everybody loves me, baby, what's the matter with you?
Won'tcha tell me what did I do to offend you?

Now the purest race I've bred to be to live in my democracy
And the highest human pedigree awaits the first-born boy baby
And my face on ev'ry coin engraved, the anarchists are all enslaved
My own flag is forever waved by the grateful people I have saved

You see, everybody loves me, baby, what's the matter with you?
Won'tcha tell me what did I do to offend you?

Now, no man is beyond my claim when land is seized in the people's name
By evil men who rob and maim, if war is hell, I'm not to blame!
Why, you can't blame me, I'm Heaven's child, I'm the second son of Mary mild
And I'm twice removed from Oscar Wilde, but he didn't mind, why, he just smiled

Yes, and the ocean parts when I walk through, and the clouds dissolve and the sky turns blue
I'm held in very great value by everyone I meet but you
'cause I've used my talents as I could, I've done some bad, I've done some good
I did a whole lot better than they thought I would so, c'mon and treat me like you should!

Because everybody loves me, baby, what's the matter with you?
Won'tcha tell me what did I do to offend you?

Everybody loves me, baby, what's the matter with you?
Won'tcha tell me what did I do to offend you?

Yeah, everybody loves me, baby, what's the matter with you?
Won'tcha tell me what did I do to offend you?


Sunday, November 12, 2006

With the Recent resignation of Donald Rumsfeld, He Will Certainly Be Charged with War Crimes

With the recent resignation of Donald Rumsfeld,I anticipate that he will certainly be charged with war crimes by nearly a dozen peoples and nations around the globe.

But will the prosecution in all seriousness actually be fully carried out? Here below is a discussion of that possiblity from Democracy Now on November 9, 2006.

I suggest you all follow up and see that congressmen in the USA and others around the world do what is right and needs to be done in the name of stopping the promotion of torture!

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Ratner joins us in our studio here in New York. Former CIA analyst Mel Goodman and journalist Bob Parry are still in Washington. Michael, why are you headed to Germany in the next few days?

MICHAEL RATNER: Thank you for having me on this issue, Amy. One of the shocking things really so far about the coverage of Rumsfeld’s resignation, there's not a word in any of it about torture. And here, Rumsfeld is one of the architects of the torture program of the United States. I mean, we have those sheets of paper that went to Guantanamo that talk about using dogs and stripping people and hooding people. We have one of our clients, al-Qahtani, who was in Guantanamo. Rumsfeld essentially supervised that entire interrogation, one of the worst interrogations that happened at Guantanamo. He actually authorized a rendition, a fake rendition of al-Qahtani, where flew him -- put a -- blindfolded him, sedated him, put him on an airplane and flew him back to Guantanamo, so he thought he would be in some torture country. So here you have Rumsfeld, one of the architects, not a word about it.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you know that he personally supervised it?

MICHAEL RATNER: There’s actually documents out there, that there’s part of the log that comes out. The log was published of his interrogation. And then there’s a report called the “Schmidt Report,” which was an internal investigation, in which there are statements in there about Rumsfeld being directly involved in the interrogation of al-Qahtani. So this guy has committed -- without any question, this guy has committed war crimes, violations of the Geneva Conventions.

Now, what do we do now? Well, we went to Germany before. Germany dismissed the earlier case on Rumsfeld, partly for political reasons, obviously. Rumsfeld said, “I’m not going back to Germany as long as this case is pending in Germany.” He had to go to the Munich Security Conference. They dismissed the case two days before. What they said when they dismissed it, what they said was, we think the United States is still looking into going up the chain of command, essentially, and looking into what the conduct of our officials are.

In fact, now, two years later, look where we are. One, he has resigned, so any kind of immunity he might have as a vice president [sic] from prosecution is out the window. Secondly, of course, as, you know, a little gift package to these guys, you know, our congress with the President has now given immunity to US officials for war crimes. They basically said you can’t be prosecuted for war crimes. That’s in the Military Commission Act. Now, that immunity, like the immunities in Argentina and Chile during the Dirty Wars, does not apply overseas.

So, now you have Germany sitting there with -- there’s no longer an argument the US can possibly prosecute him, because within the US, he’s out. So you have Germany sitting there with a former Secretary of Defense and basically in an immunity situation in the United States. So the chances in Germany have been raised tremendously, I think, and the stakes for Rumsfeld, not only in Germany, but anywhere that guy travels, he is going to be like the Henry Kissinger of the next period.

JUAN GONZALEZ: But then, what would you have to do? You would have to re-file the case before -- is it before an international court in Germany or in German courts?

MICHAEL RATNER: We’re actually going on Tuesday. We’re re-filing it in German courts under their law, which is universal jurisdiction, which basically says a torturer is essentially an enemy of all humankind and can be brought to justice wherever they’re found. So we are going to Germany to try and get them to begin an investigation of Rumsfeld for really a left-out part of this picture, which is the United States has essentially been on the page of torture now for five years.

AMY GOODMAN: Mel Goodman, as you listen to this, have you ever seen this, an American official concerned about going abroad -- you mentioned, Michael, Henry Kissinger -- but because they could be prosecuted? And how possible do you think this is, as a former State Department and CIA analyst?

MELVIN GOODMAN: Well, I think the record is quite clear. War crimes have been committed. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld combined to sponsor the memos by John Yoo and Jay Bybee and others to sanction torture. CIA officials have committed war crimes. DOD officials have committed war crimes. If you look at the three decisions of the Supreme Court -- Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Rasul v. Bush -- clearly laws have been broken, serious laws have been broken. And now the Congress is trying to rewrite the laws to launder these charges against these people.

But the ultimate question is, will any international body take on these charges, take on these cases, and really operate against high-level American officials? And I guess I have my doubts that this will be done. But I think what Michael Ratner is doing is important to at least establish the record of this pattern of torture and abuse, secret prisons, renditions and extraordinary renditions. I think it’s unconscionable what America has done in the name of the so-called war against terrorism over the last several years. And, of course, the war against terrorism is now the mantra of this administration, and Bob Gates incorporated it a few times in his very brief remarks yesterday, upon receiving this nomination. So this is a very important issue. I’m not optimistic that a court will take it on, but I think it’s very important to get the record out there for all to see what has been done in the name of the United States. This has been unconscionable behavior.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Ratner, the White House recently proposed changing the War Crimes Act of 1996, that would narrow the scope of punishable offenses. The new list would exclude humiliating or degrading treatment of prisoners. Military law experts believe the Bush administration is effectively rewriting parts of the Geneva Convention, but this is US law. Why do they even have to bother, if they’re granting immunity to officials in the new War Commissions Act of 2006?

MICHAEL RATNER: I’m not sure I understood. They clearly did. They already -- the Military Commission Act --

AMY GOODMAN: They already did it, but they’re also trying to change the 1996 War Crimes Act.

MICHAEL RATNER: They did do that.

AMY GOODMAN: By the new Commissions Act.

MICHAEL RATNER: The new Commissions Act actually modifies -- we have a statute that makes violations of the Geneva Conventions war crimes. Because for five years they had been violating that statute in the belief that Geneva Conventions didn’t apply to the war on terror, and as Mel said, now that the Supreme Court says the Geneva Conventions do apply, these guys are sitting there and they’re not sleeping well. They’re not sleeping well, going back, because they’ve been torturing people or violating Geneva for five years. And going foward, as the President said in that September 6 press conference, we want to continue using CIA sites and doing this to people. So they have been forced to modify the War Crimes Act. That doesn’t affect what happens in Germany, other than the fact that it now says to the Germans, “Look at, you guys, first they violated Geneva, and now they're immunizing themselves.”

JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to ask Mel Goodman, given this situation, one of the things that is clear is that the military, many of even the highest-ranking military officers were in virtual rebellion against Secretary Rumsfeld, and it’s no accident that the major newspapers, the Military Times and Navy Times, just a few days before the election called for his resignation. Now, you have Bob Gates coming in and, as you say, he will try to clamp down on dissidents within the military. But given the situation in Iraq right now and this whole issue of the military being drawn more and more into war crimes through torture, do you expect that there’s going to be success in the civilian leadership led by Gates regaining control over dissent within the military?

MELVIN GOODMAN: Well, I don’t think Gates will have a big role in this. I think the important role has been played by the military lawyers. I think the real heroes in this has been the Judge Advocates Corps, the military officers who serve as lawyers in the military, who have gotten essentially reinstatement of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and a military that is obedient to the Geneva Conventions. So there’s been great progress by the Pentagon here.

I think what Gates will perform for the Pentagon is just representing the relief that all of these officers feel, that they no longer have to face the arrogance and the ignorance of Donald Rumsfeld on a day-by-day basis. So I think Gates will be in there to smooth things down at the Pentagon, in the same way that George Herbert Walker Bush came to the CIA in the 1970s at a very controversial and tendentious point in the CIA’s history, just to calm everything down for awhile, to stop the leaks, to stop the accusations, and essentially to be more loyal to the Bush administration.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask a quick question to Michael Ratner, as we wrap up. We have a new congress, Democrat congress, Democrat senate. Is there any discussion of accountability? Conyers talked about it before, when he was in the minority. Nancy Pelosi just announced impeachment is off the table. What do you want the Democrats to do?

MICHAEL RATNER: Well, the first thing I would want the Democrats to do, the absolute first thing, is restore the writ of habeas corpus to non-citizens both here in the United States and around the world. I would have them -- 48 of them voted to have it restored -- or not restored, but not taken out before. I would like to see them make an effort to do that. What are the chances of this? I think they're very low. I would love to see Conyers open a full investigation into the Iraq war. I would love to see the Intelligence Committee open a full investigation into torture.

from War Crimes Suit Prepared against Rumsfeld,


Friday, November 10, 2006

Book Review on Sleeth’s SERVE GOD, SAVE THE PLANET by Kevin Stoda

Recently, I finished J. Matthew Sleeth’s (M.D.) Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action(Chelsea Green Publisher). On the one hand, it is an epistle to Christians and others in America concerned with the quality of humanity now threatened by modern adverse trends in consumption and lifestyles--stoked by run-away Madison Avenue oriented economic theory and other misguided thinking. He also targets those who mistakenly abuse the study of scripture to condone America’s great consumption of global natural resources. Interestingly, Sleeth does this from a firm evangelical Christian perspective Finally, the book is also fairly practical and provides tips as well as a lifelong methodology for individuals and families to benchmark, measure and change their energy consumption practices in order to both serve God and save the planet.

I must admit that Dr. Sleeth’s literary effort reminded me of my college years living in a Mennonite community in Kansas. I recall in those days reading and using Mennonite cookbooks, like Living More with Less, and other self-health books from Christian authors concerned with living simply and living lives that empower others around the globe. This was during the early 1980s when the seedy side of Christian evangelism had begun to raise its head as media manipulators and as political leviathans. In short, Anabaptist doctrine which had spawned great non-violent fellowships around the global provided an antidote to the mainstream Christianity dominating TV and radio. As I continued to read Sleeth’s focus on stewardship, I thought also of the path of socially responsible investing in which I have been involved in with Mennonite Mutual Aid over the last two decades.

Sleeth is not a Mennonite but he reminds me of many of both the best liberal and best conservative branches of Mennonite traditions on stewardship. The idea of a good leader being a great steward was something the Anabaptist tradition of social conservative leadership had spawned in Europe, the U.S. and Canada over the past few centuries.

In his book, Dr. Sleeth tells of his personal journey as an emergency room physician and administrator who has gained an ever growing joy as over the past decade he moved from the stage in his life where he was: (1) simply uneasy with the failures of the modern world to solve man’s problems and help the majority of the world’s peoples to the stage where he had begun to (2) more fully apply the Biblical lessons of discipline, responsibility, simplicity, and stewardship in order to reduce and avoid further growing national and international calamities in the coming century.


By the late 1990s, Dr. Sleeth, who had been working for over a decade in emergency rooms in the United States, came to understand that something was horribly wrong with the American Dream. The physician had noted that peoples in America were increasingly suffering with asthma, varieties of chronic diseases and cancers. He and his family finally turned to their religious faith for guidance and studied the various growing pathologies. Quickly, the doctor and his wife determined that the earth and its habitants are all in trouble.

This is why Sleeth and other Christians-who-care are beginning to build a new movement in the U.S.A to change how Americans and other concerned world citizens live. He does this by explaining how households can reduce and reign in their material consumption levels and make greater differences—while living ever more positive and rewarding lives. For example, by conserving the family’s expenditures on energy and other needless consumption, the good doctor and his family are able to go to third-world countries and volunteer their medical know-how for more than a month each year

Dr. Sleeth’s narration is developed from various perspectives, e.g. from his perspective as consumer, his experience as a parent, his work as a doctor, his attempts to live out his Christian faith, as an American who recognizes the role Americans play on this planet, and as an international development worker.

For example, as a Christian, parent and as a consumer, Sleeth looks at the story of Jacob and Esau. In his narration, Sleeth paints Jacob as a modern day Madison-Avenue-type who can get his identified customer to buy into anything has to offer. Meanwhile, Esau is painted as a “”now- or “me”oriented teenager who cannot think past his own hunger, desires, or drives. In short, he is like many adolescents. Naturally, under such manipulative conditions, there should be little wonder that Esau is persuaded quickly sign over his “birth-right” for a great bowel of stew. In short, how Americans raise their children and permit them to be conditioned to respond to the world of advertising is facet of a very important process for both serving and saving the planet.

Similarly, using other multiple perspectives, Dr. Sleeth points out to American evangelicals that they must seriously begin talking about birth control and recognize the fact that modern scientific practices for centuries have been manipulating the life and death expectancy of the world’s population. This recognition of man’s ability to manipulate life and death means that as we Americans prolong lives and as the U.S. national population (not-to-mention the global population) grows both larger and older the world’s resources are going to be strained more and more. This straight-talking to evangelical and pro-life readers is particularly timely as the third-largest nation on the globe, i.e. the United States of America, has just passed the 300 million population mark.

Dr. Sleeth makes clear to readers that Americans, especially American Christians, have a responsibility to the entire planet Earth and its inhabitants to significantly reduce their per-capita average energy consumption level. Interestingly, this matter appears to be an-idea-whose-time-has come in America. This current great progress in this growing national paradigm is exemplified by the tremendous concern that more and more average Americans reveal as global warming gases, often produced by man, are being released into the environment each year. Many see this as a national threat on par with terrorism.


In short, Americans as a whole have shown more political and social concern about business-as-usual in terms of energy production and consumption in the U.S. than have government leaders—who under the Bush Administration are very far behind the curve in showing real concern and failing to demand sufficient action at a national level.

In the U.S. Dr. Sleeth is at the forefront of the Creation Care movement. With his book, Sleeth is trying to get evangelicals more and more involved in caring for the planet and being responsible stewards by reducing consumption and by acting as positive role models for children as well as for other adults. He ends his writing by asking the reader to do an energy audit and provides a checklist for doing something. He follows this checklist with an appendix that provides individual tips of his concerning mundane but important items, such as appliances, room lighting, and other facets of consumption.

Sadly, here is where Dr. Sleeth’s book is weak. Quite obviously, a more complete list of ideas would have been much more useful. He certainly should have provided lists of websites that promote better lifestyles. There have certainly been other Christians at the forefront of this sort of responsibility and social awareness campaign for over a century in America. He could have mentioned the various institutes and Christian voluntary organizations that support an promote lifestyle shifts in ways that reduce man’s negative global footprints, e.g. reducing the production toxic chemicals (like red dyes), creating less waste, promoting alternatives to the heavy usage of chemicals and fertilizers in agriculture, etc.

In light of this weakness in an other wise great book, I recommend that you look at some of the following websites from Mennonites and other Christians wanting to making more positive Christian stewardship model for others to follow. Here are some of those websites, including the Koinania Partners and the Land Institute.

Suggested resources are as follows:

Alternative Simple Living,

Koinania Community,

The Land Institute,

Brethren Witness,

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Sunday, November 05, 2006


My mother's a district warden (or leader) for her county in the Democratic Party in Montgomery County in Kansas. One day last summer across the stateline (75 miles south) in Tulsa, Oklahoma my mom was dining with us at a Mexican restaurant when in walked the Rebublican-backed Kansas Representative from her own district.

My mom went up to this true-blue OKIE and challenged this so-called Kansas State representative, named Virgil Peck, to finally move back to Kansas full-time instead of living out of a hut in the small town of Tyro, Kansas only on weekends--so as to claim he is a bonifide resident of the state of Kansas.

Virgil Peck is an example of a certain type of Republican who has been part of the U.S. government-takeover plan dating back several decades. Peck gets a lot of his backing from Oklahoman Republicans as well as Kansas ones.

Peck has actually been working in, around, and out of his large home in Tulsa for decades. According to some Kansans I have talked to, Peck has been in the Kansas House for four years now, but is now referred to in the Topeka State House as "Virgil with his coat of many colors" because of his lies, his distortions and his tendancy to Bible thump--while accepting money from casinos, beer companies and cigarette companies because he needed them for his campaigns.


All across border counties in the United States, I am asking citizens to wake up to the buying off of local political representation by interests from outside each state.

I want to ask you if similar sorts of shennanigens are going on in your neck of the woods in America, too. If so, we should put a stop to it by revealing it once and for all!

Similar to the situation in Eastern Kansas as it stands today, I would not be surprised, for example, to discover that Tom-Delay-type Texas Republicans haven't busy representing folk in Oklahoma, in Arkansas, in Louisiana, in New Mexico, in Colorado or even western Kansas through large amounts of money, free Republican advertising, cover-ups and cronyism.

LET US stop now the sacking of free debate and competition for public voices in the borderlands of American States!!!!! Vote all the BUMS out!!!!!!!!!!!!!