Sunday, January 30, 2011

Angela Yvonne Davis on Democracy Now 10/19/2010

from Democracy Now, the war and peace report 10/19/2010

AMY GOODMAN: Over four decades, Angela Davis has been one of most influential activists and intellectuals in the United States. An icon of the 1970s black liberation movement, her work around issues of gender, race, class and prisons has influenced critical thought and social movements across several generations. She is a leading advocate for prison abolition, a position informed by her own experience as a fugitive on the FBI’s top-ten most wanted list forty years ago.
Angela Davis rose to national attention in 1969 when she was fired as a professor from UCLA. It was Ronald Reagan who had her fired as a result of her membership in the Communist party and her leading a campaign to defend three black prisoners at Soledad prison. This is a clip from an NBC newscast in 1969 after the UCLA Board of Regents voted to fire her. It begins with then California Governor Ronald Reagan explaining why he pushed for her ouster.
GOV. RONALD REAGAN: Academic freedom does not include attacks on other faculty members or on the administration of the university or speaking to incite trouble on other campuses. Now, I think, once again, in this particular case, we’re talking simply about an issue of whether to hire or not. And this comes up a great many times, and there are many people who are decided not to hire, and it does not become a great case in which publicly there has to be a debate as to why we chose someone else instead of this other individual.
NBC NEWS: While the Regents were voting, Ms. Davis was a few blocks away in a rally, protesting the treatment of black prisoners in Soledad State Prison. She sees her dismissal as a case of political repression, which she may or may not challenge.
ANGELA DAVIS: I’m going to keep on struggling to free the Soledad Brothers and all political prisoners, because I think that what has happened to me is only a very tiny, minute example of what is happening to them. I suppose I just lost that job at UCLA as a result of my political opinions and activities.
AMY GOODMAN: In 1970, Angela Davis was charged with murder after guns used in a botched kidnapping attempt to free the prisoners were alleged to be hers. Davis briefly escaped capture before her arrest here in New York City forty years ago this month. In an interview from prison then, she talked about the role of prisons in the black liberation struggle.
ANGELA DAVIS: There came a point where the revolutionary forces at work in the black community began to express themselves in jails and prisons. However, unlike, say, the campuses, unlike any other area in the society, even the armed forces, the room for any kind of meaningful political activity is so narrow that obviously, as soon as the prison officials became aware of what was happening, they would confront these new developments with the most devastating kind of repression imaginable. And this is why, when I was involved in all of the problems at UCLA surrounding my membership in the Communist party and when I was fighting for my job, I had just become aware of what was happening in the prisons, and I always insisted that people who were supporting me in my fight to retain my job, regardless of what my political beliefs and political activities were, had to look at the prisons.
AMY GOODMAN: Angela Davis, speaking from prison forty years ago. In 1972, she was acquitted of all charges in a trial that drew international attention.
Instead of shying away from public life, Davis resumed her academic work and social activism. Today she is professor emerita of history of consciousness and feminist studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a visiting distinguished professor at Syracuse University. She is founder of the group Critical Resistance, a grassroots effort to end the prison-industrial complex.
Her books include Women, Race and Class, Abolition Democracy, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism, Are Prisons Obsolete? This year she came out with a new critical edition of Frederick Douglass’s classic work Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. She will be appearing with the author Toni Morrison at the New York Public Library on October 27th for an event called "Frederick Douglass: Literacy, Libraries, and Liberation."
Professor Angela Davis joins me now for an extended conversation from Ithaca, New York.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Angela Davis.
ANGELA DAVIS: Thank you very much, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we have just taken not only listeners and viewers, but you, as well, on a journey through your life. It was quite remarkable to see then-Governor Ronald Reagan speaking about you. Why was he so intent on preventing you from taking on your assistant professorship at UCLA?
ANGELA DAVIS: Well, I’ve always thought that it was not so much about me as an individual as it was about discovering a scapegoat who could be targeted in order to frighten people away from the radical movement at that time, and especially the black liberation movement. You know, one of the points that I became aware of after I was arrested was that literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of black women were stopped and arrested. And, of course, not all of them could have looked like me. So, yeah, I think this was a part of a strategy of terror designed to prevent people from getting involved in movements at that time.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, of course, it only mobilized people. He put pressure on the California Regents. They fired you before you could even teach your first class, except you did. What did you have? Something like 150 people enrolled in the class? But 1,500 people came out as you decided to teach it anyway, even though you were fired?
ANGELA DAVIS: Yeah. Yeah, that was really a marvelous display of solidarity. I, myself, was really shocked to see so many people. And it was interesting, because that first class was in a course that I had designed to—a course by the title of "Recurring Philosophical Themes in Black Literature." I was teaching in the Philosophy Department, but we did not have at that time a field called black philosophy or African philosophy or African American philosophy. So I was improvising, attempting to address some issues that would also be relevant for the contemporary period.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to a break, and we’re going to come back. And we want to talk about your life, and we also want to talk about this very interesting new critical edition of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Written by Himself, with essays that—written by you, Angela, as well as your lectures on liberation. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. We’ll be back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: "Angela" by John and Yoko. That’s right, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Plastic Ono Band. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Our guest for the hour is Angela Davis.
Angela, does that song bring back memories?
ANGELA DAVIS: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely, it does, yes. I can hardly believe that forty years have gone by, four decades. And it’s interesting because on October 13th, a couple of days ago, someone said, "Isn’t this the anniversary of your arrest?" And I thought about it, and I said, "Yes." The person said, "Isn’t it the thirtieth anniversary of your arrest?" And I said, "Actually, it is. But it’s not the thirtieth, it’s the fortieth." And I had to explain that I generally remember the date of my liberation, but I try—I think I repress the date of my arrest.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s talk about that. So, you went from, well, first getting a job to be an assistant professor at UCLA to Ronald Reagan, then governor, having you fired, to teaching 1,500 people anyway, because they came out in solidarity, students and professors, to ending up in jail. How did you wind up in jail?
ANGELA DAVIS: Well, while I was teaching at UCLA, I received threats literally every day, death threats. As a matter of fact, someone even came into the Philosophy Department looking for me. I was not there. And they attacked, physically attacked, Professor Kalish, who was the chair of Philosophy Department at that time. So it was necessary for me to have security, and during those days it was armed security. On the campus, the UCLA police accompanied me to each class, and they searched my car each day to make sure there had not been a bomb planted, and so forth. And I also had to have people who were doing security for me in my house and wherever I went. I should say the—I always like to point out that the UCLA police did a marvelous job of doing security on the campus, but they waved goodbye to me every day as I exited the campus. And I used to like to say that UCLA wanted to make sure that I wasn’t killed on the campus; they really didn’t care what happened after I left the campus.
But in any event, I purchased a number of weapons. And people who did security for me used those weapons. One of the persons was the younger brother of George Jackson, Jonathan Jackson. And on August 7th, 1970, he took those weapons and went into a courtroom in Marin County, San Rafael, California. And Jonathan was killed in the process, as were a number of prisoners. You know, Jonathan was very young and very passionately involved with his brother’s situation, George Jackson. He really wanted to see his brother free. And while he was active in the campaign to free him, as many of us were, I don’t think that Jonathan recognized that perhaps we could indeed free them through our activities, organizing activities, the building of a mass movement. In any event, as a result of the event on August 7th, I was charged with murder, kidnapping and conspiracy, because the guns that were used were registered in my name. And after that, of course, I was placed on the FBI’s ten most wanted list. I was underground for several months, until I was arrested in New York City on October 13th, 1970.
AMY GOODMAN: And you were held for more than a year in prison.
ANGELA DAVIS: I was held for sixteen months. I was released on bail before my trial took place. So the whole ordeal lasted about eighteen months. I was arrested in October of 1970, and my trial concluded with an acquittal at the beginning of June, on June 4th, 1972.
AMY GOODMAN: How did your experience in prison and going through what you went through then shape you today and your work in these forty years, in these four decades?
ANGELA DAVIS: Of course, one always creates narratives of one’s life in retrospect. And I do think that the period of time I spent behind bars helped to consolidate an interest which was already there, namely, working around cases involving political prisoners. George Jackson, of course, helped us to understand that it wassn’t just a question of freeing political prisoners, but it was a question of looking at the institution of the prison and its repressive role and its role in shoring up and reproducing a racism.
Actually, I can talk about the fact that my mother was involved in campaigns to free political prisoners. She was a very active member of the National United Committee to Free Angela Davis, but she had been involved as a college student in the campaign to free the Scottsboro 9. So, I had actually, in a sense, followed in the footsteps—
AMY GOODMAN: And the Scottsboro 9? The Scottsboro 9 were...? The young men who were accused of rape.
ANGELA DAVIS: Nine young black men who were accused of rape in Alabama and who were arrested and held in prison for many years, some charged with death. And the last Scottsboro defendant was not released until the 1980s.
AMY GOODMAN: You’ve mentioned your—
ANGELA DAVIS: And so, I was saying that that—
AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead.
ANGELA DAVIS: No, I was saying that, in a sense, that work around political prisoners is, in part, an aspect of the way I grew up. It was, in a sense, in my blood already, when I began to work on cases such as the campaign to free Nelson Mandela, the campaign to free Lolita Lebrón and the Puerto Rican political prisoners, and of course the Attica Brothers and many others.
AMY GOODMAN: You were born, Angela Davis, in Birmingham, Alabama, home of Bull Connor. Interestingly, Condoleezza Rice just came out with a memoir of her time in Birmingham, her civil rights growing up, as she describes it.
ANGELA DAVIS: Yes. We were—we grew up in the same area. I didn’t know Condoleezza Rice. She lived in a different part of the city, and she’s somewhat younger than I. But it’s always interesting to see how trajectories can be so markedly different, even though one had what one might consider to be a similar upbringing.
AMY GOODMAN: Very interesting. And we can have a longer discussion about that. Maybe we’ll have you and Condoleezza Rice on.
AMY GOODMAN: And it would be a very interesting time of reminiscence.
ANGELA DAVIS: I’m not sure about that, but...
AMY GOODMAN: You know, it’s interesting. Recently we had Michelle Alexander on, the author of The New Jim Crow, and she said there are more African Americans under correctional control today, in prison or jail, on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began, which is an interesting way to link your work today around the issue of prisons—the US has more prisoners than anywhere in the world—back to the middle of the nineteenth century, when Frederick Douglass was enslaved, your newest book.
ANGELA DAVIS: Absolutely. And, of course, any of us who are interested in African American history, and particularly the black liberation movement, have to address Frederick Douglass, the system of slavery. And we’ve come to think about the prison-industrial complex as linked very much to slavery, as revealing the sediments and the vestiges of slavery, as providing evidence that the slavery we may have thought was abolished with the Thirteenth Amendment is still very much with us. It haunts us, especially in the form of this vast prison-industrial complex, a prison system within the US that holds something like 2.5 million people, more people in prison than anywhere else in the world, more people per capita, as well. The rate of incarceration, one in 100 adults in the US is behind bars. And that’s really only because of the disproportionate number of black people and people of color whose lives have been claimed by the prison system.
As a matter of fact, it’s very interesting that we think about the history of the prison system in this country as grounded largely in the northeastern penitentiaries, the Auburn system here in New York, not very far from where I am teaching, and the Philadelphia system. And as a matter of fact, Robert Perkinson has written an interesting new book called Texas Tough, in which he argues that the Southern system, which emerged in the aftermath of slavery, which made use of the violent forms of repression that were linked to slavery, is as much a part of the genealogy of punishment in the US as the New York and the Pennsylvania penitentiaries.
AMY GOODMAN: We, by the way—I want to let our viewers and listeners know—have a Facebook page,, where you can post questions for Professor Angela Davis. She’s speaking to us from Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York—and a shout-out to our friends at Ithaca College—and has written a new critical edition that features her lectures on liberation, along with the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. And I would like to go there now with you, Angela Davis, the idea of the plantation-to-prison pipeline. Let’s start from the beginning. And why now, at this point in your work, in your activism, in your life, you’ve chosen to go back to, to bring out once again and give us your critical perspective on Frederick Douglass? Why was he so significant. And tell us about his life, as you respond to that question.
ANGELA DAVIS: Well, Frederick Douglass is, of course, the germinal figure in the history of African American liberation. But Frederick Douglass is also an absolutely central figure in US history. And I think that it is important to understand his contributions, particularly given the fact that we constantly refer to him. And in my introduction, I pointed out that when Barack Obama was campaigning for office, he very frequently referred to that—perhaps the most famous passage in Frederick Douglass’s work, which was a speech that he gave on West Indian Day. And it begins, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress."
I thought that it might be important to think about Frederick Douglass from the vantage point of where we are in the twenty-first century, particularly given the feminist contributions, given the contributions of black feminism, particularly because, historically, the conceptualization of freedom has been linked to manhood, the conceptualization of black freedom to black manhood. And I refer to that passage that everyone who has read Frederick Douglass knows, about his confrontation with the slave breaker Covey. And in the aftermath of this physical altercation, in which Frederick Douglass emerges as the winner, he realizes that he has, in the process, defended his manhood. But that is his way of experiencing the possibilities of freedom. So I ask in that introduction, you know, what about women? What is the trajectory of freedom for women? And in the nineteenth century, of course, at least within the literary genre of the sentimental novel, that trajectory ended with marriage. So marriage was the equivalent form of freedom for women. And I also refer to Harriet Jacobs’ wonderful narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, in which she makes a point of pointing out that her story does not end with marriage, but rather with freedom. So the question is, how can we recognize the masculinist dimensions of our conception of freedom and move on from there here in the twenty-first century?
AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about the significance of Frederick Douglass being enslaved as a youth, as a teenager in St. Michaels? Interestingly, Covey’s property in St. Michaels is called Mount Misery, is now owned by, well, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. That’s his vacation home. He bought it in 2003 to be near his close friend Vice President Dick Cheney. But—
ANGELA DAVIS: Well, it’s very interesting. Go ahead.
AMY GOODMAN: I don’t know if there’s a "but" there, but if you can talk about how Frederick Douglass—what his role in the abolition movement was and how the abolition movement shaped not just Black America, shaped America?
ANGELA DAVIS: Well, Frederick Douglass was the most prominent black abolitionist—the most prominent abolitionist, I would argue, because such an amazing figure as William Lloyd Garrison, the great white abolitionist, also had his problems. And then I would like to perhaps point out that we have still not come to grips with the fact that John Brown was a part of that abolitionist movement. He was during that time referred to as insane, and many people treat him today as if he must have been mentally disordered in order to devote his life in that way to the struggle for freedom for black slaves. Frederick Douglass was the germinal figure of the abolitionist movement.
And abolition—the abolitionist movement is important for us today, because it continues—well, it has its contemporary presence in what we call the twenty-first century abolitionist movement, which attempts to, first of all, of course, abolish the death penalty—and I’m thinking of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is such an important figure in that abolitionist movement—and to abolish the prison-industrial complex. We see the effort to abolish imprisonment as the dominant mode of punishment and to shift resources from punishment to education, to housing, etc., in a way that is very similar to what Frederick Douglass might have argued with respect to the abolition of slavery. And, of course, here, we also have to mention W.E.B. DuBois, who called for—whose notion of abolition democracy is very much an inspiration for those of us who are struggling to abolish the prison-industrial complex today.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break, and then we’re going to come back. Angela Davis is our guest. Professor Davis is now teaching at Syracuse University. She is professor emerita of University of California, Santa Cruz. She is an author and activist. Her latest book is the release of a critical edition of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: Oh, yes, Ma Rainey, here on Democracy Now!, certainly ties in to an earlier book of Angela Davis, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism. Gertrude "Ma" Rainey met Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday. In fact, if we can be a little stream of consciousness here, Angela Davis, our guest for the hour, how would you tie in Ma Rainey with the resistance movement that we’re talking about today?
ANGELA DAVIS: Well, I think that the blues women, blues men, but especially blues women, gave expression to a whole range of social issues from the vantage point of working-class black women. And I came to study women and the blues because I was dissatisfied with what was available in the written archives regarding the history of black women’s feminist approaches. So I made an argument in that book that many of the issues that we claim as feminist issues—violence against women, for example, the relationship between intimate violence and institutional violence—could be discovered in the lyrics of the blues, in the work of Ma Rainey and, of course, Bessie Smith and Victoria Spivey and many others.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Davis, we’ve just gotten a Facebook question. Folks going to Daniel Chard writes, “In your book Abolition Democracy, you briefly discuss the US prison system as a form of state terrorism. In what ways do prisons function as a form of terrorism?”
ANGELA DAVIS: Well, prisons create the assumption that those who are a threat to our safety and security are behind bars, but in actuality, the techniques of violence, the techniques of terror that are most dangerous, are the ones used within the system itself. And I would say that it’s not simply a question of racist repression. It’s also a question of gender repression. It’s also a question of repression of sexualities. You know, one of the—as I’ve been pointing out, one of the most interesting developments within the anti-prison movement looks at the way in which the prison itself serves as a gendering apparatus, looks at the violence inflicted on people who do not identify as male or female in the conventional sense, who identify as transgender or as gender-nonconforming, the violence that is inflicted on people who do not subscribe to compulsory heterosexuality, violence against lesbians, violence against gay men, so that you might say that the prison is this institution that is grounded, in so many ways, in violence.
And the violence of slavery, which we assume was abolished with the Thirteenth Amendment and afterwards, is very much at work within US prison institutions. And because the prison has been marketed on the global capitalist circuit, we discover these prisons, the US-style prisons now, all over the world, in the Global North as well as the Global South.
AMY GOODMAN: How would you like to see them changed? You’re a founder of the Critical Resistance movement in this country. You talk about the abolition of the prison-industrial complex. What would you want to see in this country?
ANGELA DAVIS: Well, I would like to see, as Fay Honey Knopp, who was an abolitionist during the '70s and the ’80s and one of the co-authors of a wonderful book called Instead of Prisons: An Abolitionist Handbook, you know, I would like to see an emphasis on decarceration, an emphasis on ex-carceration. You know, I would like to see us examine the ways in which the criminalization of certain behaviors, such as drug use and drug trafficking, has allowed the prison system to expand the way that it has. The vast majority of women who are behind bars are in prison in relation to a drug charge. I would like to see us decriminalize drug use, for example. I would like to see us engage in a national conversation on true alternatives to incarceration. I'm not speaking about house arrest and probation and parole and so forth. I’m talking about ways of addressing social problems that are entirely disconnected from law enforcement.
And that would mean an emphasis on education. As Frederick Douglass pointed out, education is indeed the way to liberation. Frederick Douglass taught himself how to read and write, because he recognized that there could be no liberation without education. Now there seems to be a greater emphasis on incarceration than education. So we have to say, "Education, not incarceration." And then, of course, healthcare, physical healthcare, mental healthcare. And, you know, even though we should be happy that some kind of healthcare bill was passed, but it doesn’t even begin to address the real problems that people have in this country. Mental healthcare, the prison system serves as a receptacle for those who are unable to find—poor people who are unable to find treatment for mental and emotional disorders. So, in a sense, you might say that the abolitionist movement, the prison abolitionist movement, is a movement for a better world, for a different society, for a world that doesn’t need to depend on prisons, because the kinds of institutions that provide—that serve people’s needs will be available.
And in this sense, we have to return to the notion of abolition democracy. There were those who were struggling to simply get rid of freedom—sorry, there those who were struggling to simply get rid of prisons and assuming that freedom would be the negation of slavery. There were those who were struggling to simply get rid of slavery, assuming that freedom would be the negation of slavery. But there were those who recognized that there could be no freedom without economic equality, without political equality, without educational institutions. And even though we are under the impression that we abolished slavery, we’re still living with those vestiges, the lack of an educational system that serves all people regardless of their economic background, the lack of a healthcare system, the lack of access to housing. And this is in large part the role that the prison has played. It has become a receptacle for those who have not been able to find a place in society. And this is true not only in the US, but literally all over the world. This is why we are experiencing an expansion of the prison system in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in Latin America. And this is very much connected to the rise in global capitalism. So, prison abolition is about building a new world.
AMY GOODMAN: Angela Davis, I wanted to ask you about building a new world and ask you about your thoughts on the eve of the election of President Obama, what you were thinking, the hopes you had at the time, and now, two years later, where we stand today. I mean, November 4th, 2008, this remarkable moment, an African American man elected in a land with the legacy of slavery, you know, the land of Frederick Douglass. Where we came from then and where we are today, Professor Davis?
ANGELA DAVIS: Well, of course, initially, few people believed that a figure like Barack Obama could ever be elected to the presidency of the United States, and because there were those who persisted, and, you know, largely young people, who helped to build this movement to elect Barack Obama, making use of all of the new technologies of communication. And so, on that day, November 4th, 2008, when Obama was elected, this was a world historical event. People celebrated literally all over the world—in Africa, in Europe, in Asia, in South America, in the Caribbean, in the US. I was in Oakland, and there was literally dancing in the street. I didn’t—I don’t remember any other moment that can compare to that collective euphoria that gripped people all over the world.
Now, here we are two years later, and many people are treating this as if it were business as usual. As a matter of fact, many people are dissatisfied with the Obama administration, because they fail to fulfill all of our dreams. And, you know, one of the points that I frequently make is that we have to beware of our tendency here in this country to look for messiahs and to project our own possible potential power on to others. What really disturbs me is that we have failed. Well, of course, I’m dissatisfied with many of the things that Obama has done. The war in Afghanistan needs to end right now. The healthcare bill could have been much stronger than it turned out to be. There are many issues about which we can be critical of Obama, but at the same time, I think we need to be critical of ourselves for not generating the kind of mass pressure to compel the Obama administration to move in a more progressive direction, remembering that the election was, in large part, primarily the result of just such a mass movement that was created by ordinary people all over the country.
AMY GOODMAN: That issue of movements versus a person, that certainly brings us back to Frederick Douglass, while such a significant person within the abolitionist movement, needing that movement to change America, and where you see movements today and also the power of money. We’re just about to come into another election day, midterm elections, with money drowning politics now, unleashed throughout the United States. Also the money and the power of the prison lobby in this country, how prisons stay not because of the logic of prisons necessarily, but because now they are big business, and the privatization of prisons. Can you talk about how movements are affected by money and the power of the corporation today, how you think movements can take on this corporate money?
ANGELA DAVIS: Well, of course, it is far more difficult than it has ever been to engage in and move successfully in the direction of progressive change, and this has to do with the fact that capitalism has really consolidated its influence on so many levels, and as you pointed out, privatization, not only privatization of prisons, but privatization of educations. I think of, you know, Looking for Superman and the move away from struggling for a public education system, which is what we need, that will satisfy the needs of all the people. So, privatization, corporatization, global capitalism, but again, I don’t think that we can assume that we are entirely powerless if we have no access to that money.
AMY GOODMAN: We have fifteen seconds.
ANGELA DAVIS: Again, I would return to the election of Barack Obama. Barack Obama was elected despite that kind of a lobby, despite the power of money. And so, we have to continue the campaign for a better world, drawing upon all of our resources.
AMY GOODMAN: Angela Davis, I want to thank you very much for being with us. We didn’t have enough time. You can go to our website at
ANGELA DAVIS: Thank you very much, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Angela Davis - Abolition Democracy and Global Politics

This is the full-length video of  "Abolition Democracy and Global Politics". A lecture Angela Davis delivered on October 30, 2008 at The Great Hall, The Cooper Union, NYC. This video was created by the Barnard Center for Research on Women.

Angela Davis from BCRW Videos on Vimeo.

We are the Poison (That's Around Us)

what makes us think that we have the right
to take away the freedom of another life.
the land, air and water's more polluted each day.
will it all be gone before we find another way?

we are the poison that's around us.
we become the world that surrounds us.
we are the poison that's around us.
we become the world that surrounds us.

we murder other creatures for greed and delight.
we're laughing with our friends pretending it's alright.
we treat our only home like it's a garbage can;
ignore the harmful impact that our actions have.

we are the poison that's around us.
we become the world that surrounds us.
we are the poison that's around us.
we become the world that's surrounds us.

"Whatever we toss without a thought or deliberately dump into our surroundings doesn't simply vanish or dilute away. Our use of air, water, and soil as garbage dumps means that those emissions and pollutants move through the biosphere, ecosystems, habitats, and eventually our own bodies and cells."

"Environmentalism is recognition of this. We need all people — plumbers, teachers, doctors, carpenters, garage mechanics, businesspeople, artists, scientists — to see and understand the world that way because once we "get it", we treat our surroundings in a radically different way, with the respect that we should have toward our own bodies and loved ones." ~ Dr. David Suzuki

The Cosmic Blueprint

the cosmic blueprint
inside a grain of sand
must humble even
the most brilliant man

with infinity past
and eternity to come
what lives will die
but what is moves on
moves on

what is, is inside
the external without
flowing through time
as a light shines about
shines about

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) on Rush Limbaugh and Receiving Threatening Hate Mail

Last week Rush Limbaugh made fun of Chinese president Hu Jintao by mocking the way he talks, in a manner not dissimilar from how a child who has been raised by racist parents might behave. California state senator and chair of the state Senate Select Committee on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, Leland Yee, took exception to the way Limbaugh acted and issued the following statement:
Today, Rush Limbaugh reached a new low as he mocked the Chinese language and culture.  His classless act is an insult to over 3,000 years of cultural history and is a slap in the face to the millions of Chinese Americans who have struggled in this country and to a people who constitute one-quarter of the world’s population.  His comments belittle the contributions of the Chinese community and are sadly indicative of the bigotry that has often plagued his commentary and lined his pockets.  Mr. Limbaugh owes the Chinese community an apology for this pointless and ugly offense.
Senator Yee has also launched an online petition condemning Limbaugh's remarks and calling on his sponsors to pull their advertisements from his radio program.

A week after Yee demanded Limbaugh apologize for his ignorant and offensive bigotry, his office received the following hate-filled threat:
Today on MSNBC when asked how seriously he takes these threats he responded:
Well, you know, elected officials throughout this country get these threats and it's rather unfortunate but given what happened in Tucson with the shootings there, we do in fact take it a little bit more serious.
The authorities are investigating the threats but what is really important to all of us is what these threats really talk about or what these racial epithets tells us.
And that is that while we have grown and we have come a long, long way, this country elected the very first African-American president and there are many other ethnically diverse elected officials throughout this country, these threats and these epithets being spewed out is a sad reminder we still have a long ways to go. 
It is a very sad reminder indeed of just how much ignorance, violence, racism and hatred still exists in the minds and actions of so many people.

Monday, January 31, 2011
Since last Wednesday, over 10,000 people have signed senator Yee's online petition to boycott Limbaugh.

14 Precepts of Interbeing - Thich Nhat Hanh

  1. do not be bound by any doctrine 
  2. do not think the knowledge you presently possess is changeless; be open minded, truth is found in life not merely in conceptual knowledge
  3. through compassionate dialogue help others renounce narrow-mindedness or harmfulness
  4. always be aware of suffering (the existence and causes of) in the life of the world
  5. do not accumulate while others have not; share
  6. do not maintain anger and hatred - understand the nature of it and what caused it
  7. do not lose yourself in external excitements/activities
  8. do not say words that can create discord
  9. be truthful without having something to gain; have the courage to speak out against injustices even when doing so may threaten your safety
  10. do not use others for personal gain or profit; take a stand against oppression and injustice (especially you religious communities!)
  11. do not live with a vocation that is harmful to other living beings; do not support companies that deprive others of their well-being; select a vocation that helps realize your ideal of compassion
  12. do not kill or let others kill; protect life, prevent war
  13. respect what others have but prevent others from profiting and suffering
  14. treat your body with respect; sex should be an expression of love and commitment; be aware of any future suffering that may be caused; respect others' commitments to one another; be aware of the responsibility of bringing life into the world and meditate on the world into which you are bringing new beings
Thich Nhat Hanh Wikipedia biography

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish - Our Enemy is Our Ignorance

from Democracy Now, the war and peace report, 01/19/2011
AMY GOODMAN: Yesterday marked the second anniversary of the end of Israel’s assault on Gaza. Dubbed "Operation Cast Lead," up to 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the 22-day assault between December 28th, 2008 and January 18th, 2009. More than half the Palestinians killed were civilians, over 300 of them children.
Today we spend the rest of the hour remembering the story of just one Palestinian family behind those numbers. It’s one of the better known tragedies of the attack, in part because it unfolded live on Israeli television.
Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish is a well-known Palestinian gynecologist who has spent years working in one of Israeli’s main hospitals. He crossed into Israel daily through the Erez checkpoint from his home in Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza.
During the assault, Dr. Abuelaish was interviewed regularly on Israeli television and radio. Not even Israeli journalists were able to report independently from within Gaza, making Dr. Abuelaish one of the few Hebrew-speaking witnesses who told of the Palestinian suffering under fire.
On January 16, 2009, a day and a half before the official end of the war, Dr. Abuelaish’s home was shelled twice by Israeli tanks. His three daughters were killed—21-year-old Bessan, 15-year-old Mayar, and 13-year-old Aya—as well as his niece Noor. Another daughter, Shatha, and his brother were also badly injured.
Moments after Dr. Abuelaish discovered the bodies of his children, he called his friend Shlomi Eldar, a correspondent at Israel’s Channel 10 News, for help. Eldar happened to be in the studio at the time. Democracy Now! producer Anjali Kamat narrates the exchange that was broadcast live on Israeli television.
ANJALI KAMAT: On January 16th, when Dr. Abuelaish called Shlomi Eldar of Israel’s Channel 10 TV News, Israeli tank shells had just struck his home. They killed his family, he says. “I think I’m a bit overwhelmed, too.”
He explains that Dr. Abuelaish is a physician at Tel Hashomer Hospital. He always feared his family would be hurt. His daughters were injured. “I want to save them, but they died on the spot, Shlomi. They were hit in the head.”
A visibly emotional Eldar explains that the doctor had unsuccessfully tried to get out for many days and was afraid to even raise a white flag. “A shell hit his home,” Eldar says. “And I have to tell you, I do not know how to hang up this phone. I will not hang up this phone call.”
The anchor calls on the Israeli Defense Forces to allow ambulances to get to the doctor’s family. Shlomi Eldar then excused himself from the show, took off his earpiece and rushed off the set to get help to Dr. Abuelaish.
AMY GOODMAN: That was the live broadcast of Israel’s Channel 10 News on January 16, 2009. No ambulances ever reached Dr. Abuelaish’s home, which was surrounded by Israeli tanks. He and the surviving members of his family walked a quarter of a mile carrying the dead and wounded through the streets. They eventually found an ambulance to take them to the closest hospital. Standing outside, a grieving Dr. Abuelaish kissed the forehead and hands of his children as they were strapped into stretchers. He addressed a news camera at the scene in Hebrew.
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: [translated] What happened? Everybody in Israel knows. They know that I was talking on television and on the radio, that we were at home, that there are innocent people, 25 people, here. Suddenly, today, when there was a hope for a ceasefire, in the last day that I was talking with my children, suddenly they bombed us. That’s how you treat a doctor who takes care of Israeli patients? Is this what’s done? Is this peace?
AMY GOODMAN: Israeli TV correspondent Shlomi Eldar arranged for the evacuation of Dr. Abuelaish and his only surviving daughter, 16-year-old Shatha, who was badly wounded. The next day, Dr. Abuelaish spoke at a news conference at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv. Angry Israelis present at the hospital heckled him while he spoke.
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: I want them to know that I am from Jabalia camp. I am Palestinian. And we can live together. And no difference between Palestinian and Israelis. Within the borders of the hospital, all are equal. Why not to be outside equal? Why not? My children—my children were involved in peace. In peace, they participated in many peace camps everywhere. They were weaponed when they killed them. They were weaponed not by arms; they were weaponed by love.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish speaking two years ago. Of his six daughters, three were killed. One was critically injured, lost her eye. His tragic story has come to symbolize Palestinian suffering during Israel’s assault on Gaza. His story made headlines around the world, and he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Dr. Abuelaish has just published a book. It’s called I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity.
He flew into New York for an interview in our studio from Toronto, Canada, where he has been practicing and teaching. I began by playing for him the tape of the day his voice was broadcast on the Israeli airwaves, and I asked him to remember that day for us.
AMY GOODMAN: It is two years later. As you listen to this, it brings us all back. It’s painful to even play it for you. Tell us about this day two years ago.
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: It’s living with me. It’s not two years. It’s every moment. I see it every day. I feel it. I see my daughters speaking with me every day, to talk to me. They are part of me. And that’s what can I say, as long as I am living. As long as I am breathing, they are with me. I will never forget—the opposite. All of the time, I feel, I am determined, those girls, as other girls of the world, that I believe in their potential—they are asking me, "Do more. Bring us justice, and keep our holy souls holy, and fight with wisdom and good words."
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Abuelaish, tell us what happened that day, on January 16th.
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: January 16th, we were expecting the ceasefire, day before or after. And a human life doesn’t need negotiation. It’s an urgency when it comes to human life. To save, we need to act immediate. And I was supposed to be interviewed live by Oshrat Kotler about women’s health and the situation in Gaza. And we were planning our future. Where can I be with my children? As I was fed up, and it’s time to be with my children, not to travel. I want to see them every day. And that’s the message, what I want to tell everyone. Don’t say "tomorrow." If you can do it today, do it today. Spend as much as you can of your time with your beloved ones. You don’t know if tomorrow is coming or not. We were planning to go to Toronto. And then, after I left their room, the first shell came.
AMY GOODMAN: What time was it?
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Four-thirty p.m. It’s the same time of the time when their mother passed away, afternoon. Just four months’ period, exactly.
AMY GOODMAN: She had died of leukemia?
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Of leukemia. I didn’t imagine it. I thought the shelling from the surrounding, because we were surrounded by shelling everywhere. I didn’t think that it’s my house. But when I saw the smoke, the dusk, the chaos within the house, I went inside the room. Where is Bessan? To see them, I can’t recognize Bessan, Mayar, Aya, Noor. Just to see Shatha in front of me with her eye on her cheek and her fingers. Mayar, I want to see her. Where is her head? Bessan, decapitated, blood, parts. I started to think of saving Shatha, not to see her blind.
AMY GOODMAN: Shatha was how old?
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: She was 17. She was in her high school. And at that moment, I decided either to save her eye, or I am ready to accept her to be with her sisters, but not to be disabled. That’s why I called my friend Shlomi. And it was God’s bless that he was at the studio with Oshrat Kotler, and it was broadcasted live to show the craziness of humanity in the 21st century.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play a clip of when my colleague, Anjali Kamat, and Jacquie Soohen came to Gaza, and you gave them a tour of your house. This is Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish.
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: We are standing in the scene of the tragedy, in the place where four lovely girls were sitting, building their dreams and their hopes, and in seconds, these dreams were killed. These flowers were dead. Three of my daughters and one niece were killed in one second on the 16th of January at a quarter to five p.m. Just a few seconds, I left them, and they stayed in the room—two daughters here, one daughter here, one daughter here, and my niece with them.
The first shell came from the tank space, which is there, came to shell two daughters who were sitting here on their chairs. And when I heard this shell, I came inside the room to find, to look. I can’t recognize my daughters. Their heads were cut off their bodies. They were separated from their bodies, and I can’t recognize whose body is this. They were drowning in a pool of blood. This is the pool of blood. Even look here. This is their brain. These are parts of their brain. Aya was lying on the ground. Shatha was injured, and her eye is coming out. Her fingers were torn, just attached by a tag of skin. I felt disloved, out of space, screaming, “What can I do?”
They were not satisfied by the first shell and to leave my eldest daughter. But the second shell soon came to kill Aya, to injure my niece, who came down from the third floor, and to kill my eldest daughter Bessan, who was in the kitchen and came at that moment, screaming and jumping, “Dad! Dad! Aya is injured!”
The second shell, it penetrated the wall between this room to enter the other room. Look. This is the room with the weapons, where this room was fully equipped with weapons. These are the weapons which were in this room. These are the weapons. These are the weapons: the books and their clothes. These were the science handouts. There, you see, these are her handouts for the courses that she studies, which is stained with her blood. It’s mixed with her blood. These are the books. These are the weapons that I equipped my daughters with: with education, with knowledge, with dreams, with hopes, with loves.
I am a gynecologist who practiced most of my time in Israel. I was trained in Israel. And I devoted my life and my work for the benefit of humanity and well-being, to serve patients, not as someone else that you are delivering or helping choose. I am dealing with patients and human beings. We treat patients equally, with respect, with dignity, with privacy. Politicians and leaders should learn from doctors these values and these norms and to adopt them.
This invasion, from the beginning, I said it’s useless. It’s futile. No one is winning. The innocent civilians, the Gazans, civilians, paid the price of this invasion, no one else.
Military ways proved its failure. We should look for other ways to give each other its rights. We don’t want to speak about peace. Peace is—you know, this word lost its meaning. We should find something else: respect, equality, justice and partnership. That’s what we should look for.
AMY GOODMAN: You have been watching Izzeldin Abuelaish or listening to Dr. Abuelaish, the Palestinian doctor who lost three daughters and a niece on January 16th, 2009: Bessam, 21; Mayar, 15; Aya, 14; Noor was 17, his niece. On this day, two years later, describe what was the Israeli government’s response to your children’s killing. You are well known throughout Israel, a Palestinian doctor who works in Israel. You were updating people on the siege almost every day on television.
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: You know, it took one month to admit their responsibility and to say, "We shelled the house."
AMY GOODMAN: As opposed to...?
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: As opposed to be done immediate, to recognize that and to admit, to take responsibility from the first moment, because they shelled it. It’s not after one month. It’s the first day.
AMY GOODMAN: Right. What did they say had happened?
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: They tried to justify. We don’t need to justify. It’s better—we are human being, and it’s a human to err. But a mistake is a mistake if we didn’t learn from it, not to repeat those mistakes. They started to justify, to say there were snipers, the first day. The second scenario, there were militants. The third day, there were firing. And the fourth scenario, that they took shrapnels from my niece’s wound, and it was coming from Qassam rockets. Why? Please.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s what they said.
AMY GOODMAN: But it wasn’t true.
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Of course. Of course. And it took one month to investigate it. Doesn’t need investigation for one month. It has been shelled, 16th, and it’s known who shelled it. Please. "We made a mistake. We did it. And we are ready for responsibility." This is the easiest way, to have the moral courage to admit responsibility. It will help all to move forward, not to deny.
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about your daughters. Bessam, 21?
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Bessam, I see her in front of me now, with her smile, with her potential, with her love, with her humanity. She was supposed to get her BA a few months later. She was the mother, the sister, the friend, the good person to everyone after I lost my wife. She’s the one who encouraged me to go and to resume my work. She took responsibility. Bessam, the wise person—she doesn’t speak much; she listens. But when she speaks, she says wisdoms. She said, "I learned the academic exams are nothing. It’s the life exams we face in life." She said, "Everything starts small, then becomes big. Everything starts in one place, then goes in different directions." When I sent her to Creativity for Peace camp in New Mexico—
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: In Santa Fe. She said, "There, I realized how similar are we." Can we learn from our children?
AMY GOODMAN: You mean there, Israeli and Palestinian girls.
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish, Christian, Druze. They learned that they are similar. And that’s what we need to learn from our children, and to work for them.
AMY GOODMAN: And tell me about Mayar, who was 15.
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Mayar, the smartest, the brightest girl. After once when I visited the school, she was number one in math in the Gaza Strip. If they have a math problem in their class, the students look at each other. They can’t—they say, "If Mayar was here, she is the one who is for it." She was open-minded. She was the chairman of the students’ parliament, to represent them, to defend those girls. Aya was 14, who had planned to be a journalist, to be the voice of the voiceless, to think of others, to defend others, and to work for them. They were fighters for humanity, for peace. They were connected with others to feel the suffering of other children. And that’s what we need.
AMY GOODMAN: And Noor, your niece?
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Noor, she was 17, 17 years old. She came for her fate. She was at the camp with her mother. But she said she can’t tolerate the life there—in a public space, 50, 60 people in one room, with shortage of everything. It’s intimidation, humiliation. She said, "I want to go there to be with my dad." So she came and stayed with us. Just two days before, she came.
AMY GOODMAN: And yet, your book, Dr. Abuelaish, is called I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity. You have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Your response has been remarkable. The response of Israelis to what happened to you? I mean, your cries for help were heard around the world in that conversation on Israel Channel 10—not conversation, your wailing for your family.
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Those daughters, when I want to bring them justice, I must be healthy. And hate, as every one of us knows, it’s a poison. We don’t want to be injected with it. If you want to achieve a noble goal and cause, you must be healthy mentally, spiritually and physically, to defend your goals.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish’s three daughters and niece were killed in his home in Gaza when it was shelled by Israeli tanks on January 16, 2009, during the 22-day Israeli assault on Gaza. We’ll come back to our conversation with the Palestinian gynecologist in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: We return to my interview with the Palestinian doctor, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish.
AMY GOODMAN: You have sued the Israeli government. Your statute of limitations is out on January 16th, so you have just sued. What are you demanding?
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Because they didn’t leave any alternative for me within two years. I was using and used every possible peaceful way, with Israeli ministers, Knesset members. Please, we need the truth and, to bring those daughters justice, apology, responsibility and the consequences of that. That’s what we want. It will be a new opportunity, a window of opportunity, for both nations, for the leadership to speak about the truth and to have the moral courage to move forward, not to deny. We need to take responsibility. So I asked for that, and I told, human life can’t be valued by money, and it’s time to give, not to take. Any compensation that comes, it will go for a foundation that I established, Daughters for Life, for health and education, for girls and women in the Middle East, including Israel. It’s time for women to take the lead and to practice their full potential and their role. That’s what I am determined. I want to see the plans of my daughters fulfilled by other girls.
AMY GOODMAN: More than 1,400 Palestinians died in the Israeli siege of Gaza. Talk about what happened during that time.
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: During that time, it was a crazy moment. Three weeks, no one knows about what happened. And the world was closing the eyes about what is happening in Gaza. Even for me in Gaza, we don’t know what is happening outside my house. Just with a radio, I used to listen. And Gazans became numbers. Human beings are not numbers. They have faces. They have names. They have hopes. They have dreams. Can we get from there to consider a human being as a human being, not numbers? And that’s what we need. Tell what happened, 16th of January, to open the eyes of the Israeli public, the international community, the Palestinians, that we are killing innocent civilians.
AMY GOODMAN: How does it feel for you to come into the United States, Dr. Abuelaish, at this time? Then, it was the Israeli assault on Gaza. Your children were killed by a military that is armed and financed by the United States.
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: It’s time to face each other and to speak. And it’s important to transmit the message. The Americans, the American Jews, Arabs, Muslims everywhere, we need to communicate and to speak. Words are stronger than bullets. And without communicating, without acting and meeting together, who’s going to solve? And I learned one thing: our enemy is our ignorance. We don’t know. We don’t know. And to know, we need to communicate and to explain face to face.
AMY GOODMAN: The story of your life is remarkable, and you tell it very graphically in your book I Shall Not Hate. If you could just share with us where you were born, tell us in a nutshell, which I think is very much the story of the Palestinian people.
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: I was born, raised and lived as a Palestinian refugee in the Jabalia refugee camp, deprived of what is called a childhood. I never tasted the childhood as millions in this world, which is man-made suffering. And this is the hope. It’s man-made. So we, as a human being, we can challenge those man-made challenges and not to accept it and to change it. I succeeded.
AMY GOODMAN: Your father came from...?
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: From a village called Houg, where Sharon’s farm is established. It’s close to Sderot.
AMY GOODMAN: So, your land, your father, what he has a deed for, is actually known today as the Sharon farm, Ariel Sharon’s farm?
AMY GOODMAN: The prime minister.
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: The Abuelaish land. And in a sudden, to be a refugee, own nothing. But our parents, especially the Palestinian mother—she is the hero. From nothing, they pushed, encouraged the children. We lost everything, but we didn’t lose hope in the Palestinian children to be focused and to be educated.
AMY GOODMAN: You say your family left Houg in 1948—
AMY GOODMAN:—your father afraid there would be an attack.
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: They were exiled to leave, and they were forced to leave. And they were thinking it may take just a few days, and they will go back—these days, months, years, and now six decades. And even in the place where are we now, we are not safe, or we are not free.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you grew up in the Jabalia refugee camp completely destitute.
AMY GOODMAN: Your only escape ultimately was your education, what your parents pushed you to do. And you became a doctor.
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: The Jabalia refugee camp, it’s the place which is close to my heart. I feel the good and the bad times in the Jabalia refugee camp. It’s the memory, it’s the roots, but encouraged me of not accepting this life, this suffering, and that we can change it. I succeeded. From nothing. From nothing. And that’s the message I want others—please, stand up, have hope, have faith, and act.
AMY GOODMAN: How many of you lived in one room?
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: We were—I remember, in the early days, the room, three by three meters, to have six, seven—one by one to be covered. In winter, we are attached together. That’s the life in the camp. We have no life. But we were determined, just breathing.
AMY GOODMAN: Describe what it’s like to go through a checkpoint. I mean, for you as an adult, as a recognized doctor, renowned through Israel as a gynecologist working in Israeli hospitals, describe what it was like for you to go through checkpoints. And where were these checkpoints?
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: These checkpoints, someone, when he sees it from far, he doesn’t imagine it, especially when I leave from Gaza to Israel, to pass through how many checkpoints. It’s intimidation.
AMY GOODMAN: How many?
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Just from the first gate to the last gate, it’s about 20 gates you pass through.
AMY GOODMAN: Twenty checkpoints.
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Twenty gates. From one to the other, within one checkpoint, this is what is called Erez, a checkpoint. And you need to pass through that, electronized, with computerized cameras. You don’t see just doors open, and someone is telling by voice to cross or not. It took me—sometimes, if you are lucky, it may take one hour, two hours. And sometimes ’til the permits and the coordination is ready, it may take me, from Gaza to Tel Aviv, which is 45 minutes, it may take between two hours to four or five hours.
AMY GOODMAN: And you’d even have the Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint asking you for medical advice about birth control and other issues.
AMY GOODMAN: They knew you, and you—still it could take hours.
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: And they know me, and I know them. I understand the security needs, but can we make human life easy, too? Not to intimidate, not to humiliate. That’s what we need. A checkpoint security, I understand it. But it is not in that way, not in that way. When I came from Jordan to my wife, who was gasping—she was dying. I went to see her before she dies.
AMY GOODMAN: She died of leukemia?
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: She died of leukemia. Took me more than 14 hours from Allenby Bridge to Sheba Medical Center.
AMY GOODMAN: And how far is it?
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: It’s one-hour drive. And to move from one checkpoint to the other, we need to put ourselves in the shoe of the other. What are we doing? And why are we doing that? And is it the right way? Or can we change course?
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Abuelaish, newly released classified U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks reveal that Israeli officials openly told U.S. diplomats the aim of the blockade of Gaza was to keep Gaza’s economy on the brink of collapse. According to a November 2008 cable, Israel wanted Gaza’s economy to be, quote, "functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis." Can you describe the conditions?
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Gaza is collapsing. There is no life in Gaza. And that’s—Gaza is stigmatized by everything you like for yourself, but for Gazans, say no—no life, no hope, no work, no employment. And some people—it’s shame to say, we open the borders for food. Human life is not dependent on food. They are hungry for food, for employment, for freedom, for education, to taste their life and to feel that they are free in their life. That’s what we need. What do you think of a person living in a palace, and you provide him with the best types of foods. He doesn’t need the food. He needs the freedom. The most holy thing in the universe is a human being under freedom, freedom of poverty and occupation.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what do you think has to happen right now?
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: What to happen, that—to admit the rights of the Palestinians and to take active steps, and that there will never be a just and good peace just for one. Must be good and just for all, for Palestinians and Israelis. And I think it’s time for the Israeli government and the Israeli people to stand up. We need to translate the resolutions into actions. There is a Palestinian nation and an Israeli nation, and they have to live sharing the land with respect, and that the dignity of the Palestinians equals the dignity of the Israelis. And the freedom of the Palestinians is linked to the freedom of the Israelis from their fears. The security of the Israelis and safety is linked to the safety and the security of the Palestinians, not dependent on the security and suffering of the Palestinians.
AMY GOODMAN: And here in the United States you are. Your message to the American people?
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: We need them to mediate and to take action, to say—
AMY GOODMAN: Your assessment of President Obama?
DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Yes, and that’s what do we need. If we care about each other, even about your friends, if they are making mistakes, tell them, "This is not good for your interest." We need to open their eyes. We may be hard and harsh with our beloved ones, from good will. And that’s what I think. We need to open the eyes of the Israeli public, and even if the Palestinian leadership is not committed to say to them, "This is not for your interest." But also, the road map is the humanity between us, not the territory. You can’t have everything and the other side have nothing. Peace has a price, to be by choice or from the heart. You can, by military ways, succeed for short term; you can force others to accept. But it is not sustainable, and we must look and to find the ways that are sustainable and to protect the future of our children and to put our children as a priority.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish. Three of his daughters and his niece were killed on January 16, 2009, when his home in Gaza was shelled by Israeli tanks. He has just written a book about his life; it’s called I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity. He is currently teaching and practicing in Toronto, Canada, with his surviving children.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - an excerpt from Beyond Vietnam

this is an excerpt from Beyond Vietnam, a speech that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave on April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York:
[John F. Kennedy] said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

William Hartung - Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex Part I

from Democracy Now. the war and peace report 1/20/2011
JUAN GONZALEZ: This week marks the 50th anniversary of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous farewell speech to the nation. It was January 17th, 1961.
PRESIDENT DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: My fellow Americans, this evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Three-and-a-half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. The total—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development, yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
JUAN GONZALEZ: President Eisenhower’s farewell address on January 17th, 1961, excerpt from the documentary Why We Fight. Fifty years after that speech, many argue that the military-industrial complex is stronger than ever.

AMY GOODMAN: Our next guest traces the rise of the military-industrial complex through the story of the nation’s largest weapons contractor, Lockheed Martin. As a full-service weapons contractor, Lockheed Martin receives over $29 billion per year in Pentagon contracts, or roughly one out of every 10 dollars the Defense Department doles out to private contractors.
William Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation—his book is called Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex—joining us here in our studio.
Welcome to Democracy Now!


AMY GOODMAN: The significance of this massive weapons manufacturer in the United States and why you chose to write a book on it?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, I think they’re the largest, they’re the most corrupt, and they have the most political influence. So, for example, they make cluster bombs, which are used in the Middle East. They design nuclear weapons. They make fighter planes. They make combat ships. So they have the full gamut of weapons. But they also have branched out. They work for the CIA, the FBI. They work for the IRS, the Census Bureau. So they’ve become this full-service government contractor, which really is involved in every aspects of our lives. Every time we interact with the government, Lockheed Martin is likely to be there.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I was struck, some of the ones you talked about. The Census Bureau—what does the Lockheed Martin do for the Census Bureau?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, they help count the census. They have these people in little Lockheed Martin, you know, polo shirts who are—they have truckloads of data that they’re processing. They also helped design it. So they’re really in the middle of it. They’re running it, in some sense.

AMY GOODMAN: How did Lockheed get so big?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, the mergers of the '90s were one of the big things. I mean, World War II was the first. Then, when Norm Augustine engineered the Lockheed-Martin Marietta merger, that's when they really became by far the biggest company, and they didn’t have a real competitor at that point.

AMY GOODMAN: Lockheed and Martin Marietta.

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Became one company, yes.

JUAN GONZALEZ: They also branched out, as you note, into services to local governments. For instance, here in New York City, Lockheed Martin had the contract with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to basically develop a surveillance system in the subways.


JUAN GONZALEZ: And so, they increasingly got into this intelligence gathering or in information systems for local governments. Could you talk about how that developed?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, they bought a company that had been involved in a New York City parking violations scandal. And then they branched out into social services in Florida. They tried to get the welfare contract in Texas. As you said, they worked on the New York City subway surveillance system, which was a disaster. They were fired after a $212 million contract. So they went into that for about five years, and they had contracts in 44 states. But they just couldn’t get the job done. Finally, they were fired from so many places, they decided to get out of the business.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the significance of President Eisenhower’s speech, what he meant by the "military-industrial complex" 50 years ago.

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, he was concerned not just about the size, not just about the budget, but that it was going to undermine our democracy. And I think that’s what Lockheed Martin is about in many ways. I mean, they were involved with the Pentagon in doing surveillance on antiwar protesters. They build biometric identification systems for the FBI. The fact that they’re in the IRS makes me kind of nervous. It’s sort of creepy in a way. They’ve got so many kinds of data about us. I’m not sure, you know, a military contractor should really be in that position.

JUAN GONZALEZ: They were the firm that was involved in Total Information Awareness?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: The Counterintelligence Field Activity, which was closely related to that.

AMY GOODMAN: You say that Lockheed Martin makes foreign policy, has its own foreign policy.

WILLIAM HARTUNG: In many ways. I mean, not only were they involved in lobbying for the war in Iraq, but they have people in Liberia helping rebuild the justice system. They’re building refugee camps. They helped run elections in the Ukraine. They helped write the Afghan constitution. So, all kinds of things that you would think of as sort of the soft side of foreign policy, they’re making money from.

AMY GOODMAN: And its role in elections?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, they recruit the monitors who monitor the elections in places like Bosnia.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean here.


AMY GOODMAN: The money that they pour into elections at home.

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Oh, they spend about $12 million per election cycle, either on lobbying or on candidates. And they have people like Buck McKeon, who runs the Armed Services Committee now. They’re the biggest donor to him. They’re the biggest donor to Daniel Inouye, who runs the Appropriations Committee in the Senate.

AMY GOODMAN: So, they get money from the Pentagon, from the U.S. taxpayer, and then decide who they want to elect.

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Essentially, they recycle our money into the political system, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to have to leave it there. It’s a remarkable book. Bill Hartung, director of Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation. His latest book is Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.

William Hartung - Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex  Part II

William Hartung - Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex Part II

from Democracy Now. the war and peace report 1/20/2011
This week marks the 50th anniversary of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous farewell speech to the nation, in which he warned against the rise of a "military-industrial complex." We speak with William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation, who traces the rise of the military-industrial complex through the story of the nation’s largest weapons contractor, Lockheed Martin. Hartung’s new book is Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is William Hartung. He’s the director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation, and he’s written a new book called Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex—very relevant as this is the 50th anniversary of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous address talking about the military-industrial complex.
Talk about, Bill Hartung, the revolving door between Lockheed—and explain again why Lockheed is so important—and the government.
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, the Bush years were a bonanza for the Lockheed Martin Corporation. They had a guy who went to run military space for the Air Force. They had the deputy national security adviser. They had the guy running the nuclear weapons complex. They had the guy who helped run the Homeland Security Department’s procurement program. All coming from Lockheed Martin.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Oh, that’s what I was going to say. When you say they "had" them, they all came from Lockheed Martin.
WILLIAM HARTUNG: They came from the company, so they were on the inside able to help them, yeah.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And when you say that they’re perhaps the most corrupt of the military-industrial companies, what do you mean?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, starting with the cost overruns in the ’60s, they had record cost overruns on their C-5 aircraft. Then they were involved in the bribery scandals of the ’70s, where they bribed, you know, prime ministers in Japan and Italy. They bribed people in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. So basically they were at the cutting edge of many of these, you know, corruption scandals. They helped get government subsidies for their mergers in the ’90s, in a conflict-of-interest deal that involved William Perry.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, were they ever sanctioned for any of this?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, the bribery scandals, a few of their executives had to step down. But no criminal charges were ever brought.
AMY GOODMAN: What was the C-5A scandal?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, they were supposed an aircraft that could go anywhere, basically what they called a flying military base. And it was going to be, post-Vietnam, a way to intervene more quickly. But what happened was they ran a $2 billion cost overrun, and the thing didn’t work. The Air Force tried to cover it up. And Ernest Fitzgerald, the whistleblower, actually lost his job over exposing this. And only when William Proxmire went to his defense was he restored to his job in the Pentagon.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, why does the U.S. government pay for their scandal?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, I mean, basically, there just wasn’t the backbone, you know, among the presidents of those eras to really say, "Look, you know, you’re the one who screwed up here; you should be paying the cost of it." But, you know, because of Proxmire, they did claw back a few hundred million of that $2 billion, but basically the company got off scot-free in many respects.
AMY GOODMAN: There’s a lot of discussion now about President Reagan. His son Ron Reagan is saying in his new book that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s through—well, through the majority of his administrations. But you have a whole chapter on—well, you call it "Reagan to the Rescue."
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, Reagan doubled Lockheed Martin’s contracts in the first three years he was in office. So they were a little bit behind the curve in the Carter years, when spending dropped. And so, this was the era of the $600 toilet seat, the $7,000 coffee maker, rigged Star Wars tests. All these were done by Lockheed Martin during the Reagan era. So, they got a huge boost in their contracts at the same time that they were bilking the government on all kinds of activities, as well as helping to rig the Star Wars program, which helped Reagan push it along at a time when people were saying, you know, "How is this thing ever going to work?"
JUAN GONZALEZ: And how—what kind of influence or largesse did they get from the Clinton administration, and now from the Obama administration?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, Clinton years were good years for them, because that was the merger period. And they got a couple hundred million dollars to help them merge, to close down factories, even to pay executive bonuses for guys like Norm Augustine. We helped pay his golden parachute when he switched from Martin Marietta to Lockheed Martin. You know, so, basically—
AMY GOODMAN: How much?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, he got $8 million, of which we paid $3 million directly and the rest indirectly, because that’s—we’re the only place they get money from, is the taxpayers.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And what about the Obama administration?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, under Obama, you know, so far, so good. I mean, he hasn’t cut military spending. He did stop their F-22 combat aircraft, but he cut $4 billion from that and he added $4 billion to their F-35. So basically that was a wash, even though it was sort of portrayed as getting tough with Lockheed Martin.
AMY GOODMAN: What is Lockheed Martin’s role in interrogating prisoners at U.S. facilities from Iraq to Guantánamo?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, they bought a couple companies involved in that: Sytex Corporation, Affiliated Computer Services. So they were recruiting interrogators and translators for both Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, some of the other prison camps in Iraq. They now have said that they’re out of that business, but there’s no way to document that, because they still own those companies.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And do they have much in the way of international sales? I mean, there’s the big deal now with China, but in other parts of the world? Or is basically the United States, the government, their mainstay?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, there’s a huge upsurge in weapons exports during the Obama years—up to $30 billion a year now, from about $10 billion at the beginning of the Bush years. And Lockheed Martin is right in the middle of that. They sell F-16 fighters. Their new F-35 is going to be built in 18 different countries, so a lot of the production will be done overseas, which is not normally the case in a fighter plane, but it’s been built in to the way this program has been designed.
AMY GOODMAN: So, the production is overseas, and it’s being sold overseas, but the U.S. subsidizes the corporation.
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Exactly. So there will be some jobs here, but many, many fewer than they would be advertising.
AMY GOODMAN: Why, under Obama, has the—have weapons exports so increased?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, some of it is hangover from the Bush years. The deals were struck then, and they’re happening now. Part of it is exports are a huge part of his policy. So, we just concluded a $60 billion deal with Saudi Arabia, which is the biggest deal ever—mostly benefiting Boeing, but also Lockheed Martin as a secondary company. So, you know, I think he really feels that, you know, exports of any kind are a benefit, and so he’s—he hasn’t really had a plan on controlling arms exports.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Sixty billion with Saudi Arabia? What does that entail?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, 80 or so fighter planes, hundreds of Apache attack helicopters, everything from ammunition to guns to bombs. It’s pretty much a, you know, across-the-board kind of arming of the Saudi both internal security and armed forces.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And of course the Saudis have this huge need for all of this stuff, given all the threats from other countries that they have, supposedly?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, they have been using it to go into Yemen and to attack some forces there. But basically, it’s about money and jobs.
AMY GOODMAN: And Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest human rights abusers in the world. I mean, right now we see the revolution taking place in Tunisia, that the U.S. government shored up the dictator there—right?—Ben Ali. And now, yeah, the U.S. got an economy that they felt good about, and they called it a secure country. It is hardly secure, and the people are rising up. What about what’s happening in Saudi Arabia? You’re talking about it also being used for, quote, "internal security"?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Yes, U.S. firms have been training the Saudi national guard for decades. So, if they ever had to go up against the Saudi people, quite possible U.S. contractors would be there on the side of the Saudi government.
AMY GOODMAN: Why is there so little written about Saudi Arabia? I mean, in these WikiLeaks documents on Iran, you know, there’s a great deal of attention to Israel pushing for war with Iran. But what came out in the WikiLeaks documents is countries like and particularly Saudi Arabia was actually pushing to attack Iran.
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, I think part of it is oil. I mean, I think a lot of the media doesn’t really go after them because they’re viewed as sort of untouchable, because the U.S. is not going to change its relationship with them, sort of regardless of what is reported. Part of it, I think, is ideology. You know, Iran—beating up on Iran is better business and better security strategy, if you want to keep large U.S. military budgets, than beating up on an ally. But there’s so much about Saudi Arabia that hasn’t been reporting, including their funding of fundamentalist groups that have ties to terrorism. It’s really one of the bigger outrages of our foreign policy.
AMY GOODMAN: Bill Hartung, just putting our military-industrial complex in a global context, the United States spends nearly as much on military power as every other country in the world combined. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, we spend six times more than the country with the next highest budget, which is China.
WILLIAM HARTUNG: That’s right. And despite that, of course, the Chinese threat is being waved at us as the reason to build new combat aircraft, new combat ships, even though for them to try to catch up with us would take probably half a century. And even then, it’s not clear it would happen, because it’s not like the United States would stand still. So this is really for power projection. It’s military bases all over the world. It’s the ability to intervene on whatever grounds—national security, humanitarian, however they want to dress it up. It’s really about being an imperial power, in many ways.
AMY GOODMAN: And yet, we just concluded—the U.S. government concluded a deal with China selling them how many planes from Boeing? I mean, we’re talking about weapons.
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, 200 airliners. But also, GE is giving them the electronics that can be used in any kind of aircraft—could be used in an airliner, could be used in a military aircraft. So, basically, they’re selling out U.S. technology for the short term and hoping it’s not used against the U.S. in the longer term.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think, as an observer of politics for so long, and particularly focusing on the military and weapons spending—your book, Prophets—that’s P-R-O-P-H-E-T-S—of War, about Lockheed Martin—what do you think has to be done?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, I think we need a president who will cut military spending by a good 20, 30 percent across the board, because then the companies will be in a harder position. You know, it’s one thing to lobby for one weapon system. But if you have to lobby against a 30 percent cut across the board, it’s sort of like putting them on the defensive. And I think, you know, that’s really the kind of thing that has to happen, because a reform here, a reform there, is not going to really undermine their power. But if you cut off their money source, it affects every other thing they’re able to do.
AMY GOODMAN: And yet, they would get fewer campaign contributions, wouldn’t they? Since you pointed out just this one company, Lockheed Martin, poured millions into each election cycle.
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, you know, they would probably try to spend more to head this off. But I think if they were starting from that level, it’d be very hard for them to get back to where they’d like to be, if there was really a serious, serious cut in the top line of the Pentagon budget.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And then, much of this government payments for these weapon systems then become, usually after every war, the basis for the new technologies. Basically, the government subsidizes the development of these new technologies that are then—these same companies—then used for other civilian purposes, right? That it becomes basically sort of a government subsidy for the companies to develop new technological systems to then market to the general population, whether it’s GPS or any of these other systems that we now take for granted, originally developed as a result of military research funded by the government.
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, it’s sort of a free ride for the companies, because they get the government contracts, and then they can spin off all kinds of other products. Now, it’s been harder lately, because commercial electronics, for example, is getting an advance of military electronics. So, the spin-offs are fewer, but the concept is the same. You know, we pay for the R&D, we pay for the weapon systems, we get them set up, and then they can go use that in the commercial markets.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, the privatization of the military. Private military contractors in Afghanistan, they outnumber U.S. soldiers.
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, yes. It’s really become kind of war for profit. And it’s—you know, it’s not just logistic. It’s not just, you know, serving food and doing laundry. It’s not just fixing the weapons. It’s people carrying guns, and some of them near the front line. So, you know, it makes it that much harder—if you want to pull out troops, you know, are you really pulling out your full presence there? You know, how do you ride herd over that when it’s not just the Pentagon, it’s not just the armed forces, but it’s this whole concatenation of private companies that also need to be reined in?
AMY GOODMAN: And USA Today just revealed that because of new rules that say that officers, generals, people who advise the Pentagon, have to reveal other sources of income and who they’re working for, a number have quit, because they don’t want to reveal that.
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, I mean, it’s a huge business to leave the Pentagon and then go into the private sector. As Bryan Bender showed in the Boston Globe, 34 out of 39 generals and admirals immediately leaving the Pentagon went either to defense contractors or defense consulting firms. So some of them, in their retirement, can make more than they made in their entire military service. And so, this is another source of conflict of interest—and corruption. I mean, there’s been people who have gone to jail for the way they’ve helped private companies. When they’re on the inside, they give them a deal, and then on the outside, they go work for them.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think we should still call them "defense" contractors?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, they’re—you know, they’re weapons contractors. They’re—I don’t know what you’d call the broader—essentially, they’re sort of military-industrial-surveillance contractors. They do everything. But "defense" always has been kind of a—you know, I guess a euphemistic term for what they do.
AMY GOODMAN: The Pentagon was originally established as the War Department. We now call it the Defense Department. Do you think we should?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: No. I mean, you know, I think our government would have a hard time swallowing the honesty on that front, but I think it would go a long way towards people understanding what we’re about.
AMY GOODMAN: Bill Hartung, thanks so much for being with us. He works with the New America Foundation. His latest book is called Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex. Thanks so much for joining us.

 William Hartung - Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex Part I