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Mike Ely @ Kasama: The Thanksgiving Story

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Native Blood: The Myth of Thanksgiving

Posted by Mike E on November 13, 2010

by Mike Ely

[Available as podcast. More history posted here.]

The Puritan colonists of Massachusetts embraced a line from Psalms 2:8.

“Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.”

* * * * * *

It is a deep thing that people still celebrate the survival of the early colonists at Plymouth — by giving thanks to the Christian God who supposedly protected and championed the European invasion. The real meaning of all that, then and now, needs to be continually excavated. The myths and lies that surround the past are constantly draped over the horrors and tortures of our present.

Every schoolchild in the U.S. has been taught that the Pilgrims of the Plymouth Colony invited the local Indians to a major harvest feast after surviving their first bitter year in New England. But the real history of Thanksgiving is a story of the murder of indigenous people and the theft of their land by European colonialists–and of the ruthless ways of capitalism.

This piece is intended to be shared at this holiday time. Pass it on. Serve a little truth with the usual stuffing.

* * * * *

In mid-winter 1620 the English ship Mayflower landed on the North American coast, delivering 102 exiles. The original Native people of this stretch of shoreline had already been killed off. In 1614 a British expedition had landed there. When they left they took 24 Indians as slaves and left smallpox behind. Three years of plague wiped out between 90 and 96 percent of the inhabitants of the coast, destroying most villages completely.

 

In mid-winter 1620 the English ship Mayflower landed on the North American coast, delivering 102 exiles. The original Native people of this stretch of shoreline had already been killed off. In 1614 a British expedition had landed there. When they left they took 24 Indians as slaves and left smallpox behind. Three years of plague wiped out between 90 and 96 percent of the inhabitants of the coast, destroying most villages completely.

 

After the first colonies were establshed — the Pequod war

The Europeans landed and built their colony called “the Plymouth Plantation” near the deserted ruins of the Indian village of Pawtuxet. They ate from abandoned cornfields grown wild. Only one Pawtuxet named Squanto had survived–he had spent the last years as a slave to the English and Spanish in Europe. Squanto spoke the colonists’ language and taught them how to plant corn and how to catch fish until the first harvest. Squanto also helped the colonists negotiate a peace treaty with the nearby Wampanoag tribe, led by the chief Massasoit.

These were very lucky breaks for the colonists. The first Virginia settlement had been wiped out before they could establish themselves. Thanks to the good will of the Wampanoag, the settlers not only survived their first year but had an alliance with the Wampanoags that would give them almost two decades of peace.

John Winthrop, a founder of the Massahusetts Bay colony considered this wave of illness and death to be a divine miracle. He wrote to a friend in England, “But for the natives in these parts, God hath so pursued them, as for 300 miles space the greatest part of them are swept away by smallpox which still continues among them. So as God hath thereby cleared our title to this place, those who remain in these parts, being in all not 50, have put themselves under our protection.”

The deadly impact of European diseases and the good will of the Wampanoag allowed the settlers to survive their first year.

In celebration of their good fortune, the colony’s governor, William Bradford, declared a three-day feast of thanksgiving after that first harvest of 1621.

How the Puritans Stole the Land

Original inhabitants — before the European invasion

But the peace that produced the Thanksgiving Feast of 1621 meant that the Puritans would have 15 years to establish a firm foothold on the coast. Until 1629 there were no more than 300 settlers in New England, scattered in small and isolated settlements. But their survival inspired a wave of Puritan invasion that soon established growing Massachusetts towns north of Plymouth: Boston and Salem. For 10 years, boatloads of new settlers came.

And as the number of Europeans increased, they proved not nearly so generous as the Wampanoags.

On arrival, the Puritans and other religious sects discussed “who legally owns all this land.” They had to decide this, not just because of Anglo-Saxon traditions, but because their particular way of farming was based on individual–not communal or tribal–ownership. This debate over land ownership reveals that bourgeois “rule of law” does not mean “protect the rights of the masses of people.”

Some settlers argued that the land belonged to the Indians. These forces were excommunicated and expelled. Massachusetts Governor Winthrop declared the Indians had not “subdued” the land, and therefore all uncultivated lands should, according to English Common Law, be considered “public domain.” This meant they belonged to the king. In short, the colonists decided they did not need to consult the Indians when they seized new lands, they only had to consult the representative of the crown (meaning the local governor).

Training of the Massachusetts militia, 1637. The means of genocide and theft.

The colonists embraced a line from Psalms 2:8.

“Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.”

Since then, European settler states have similarly declared god their real estate agent: from the Boers seizing South Africa to the Zionists seizing Palestine.

The European immigrants took land and enslaved Indians to help them farm it. By 1637 there were about 2,000 British settlers. They pushed out from the coast and decided to remove the inhabitants.

The Shining City on the Hill

Where did the Plymouth and Massachusetts colonies of Puritan and “separatist” pilgrims come from and what were they really all about?

A self-serving historical lie — The myth of coexistance and love promoted by Thanksgiving

Governor Winthrop, a founder of the Massachusetts colony, said, “We shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.” The Mayflower Puritans had been driven out of England as subversives. The Puritans saw this religious colony as a model of a social and political order that they believed all of Europe should adopt.

The Puritan movement was part of a sweeping revolt within English society against the ruling feudal order of wealthy lords. Only a few decades after the establishment of Plymouth, the Puritan Revolution came to power in England. They killed the king, won a civil war, set up a short-lived republic, and brutally conquered the neighboring people of Ireland to create a larger national market.

The famous Puritan intolerance was part of a determined attempt to challenge the decadence and wastefulness of the rich aristocratic landlords of England. The Puritans wanted to use the power of state punishment to uproot old and still dominant ways of thinking and behaving.

The new ideas of the Puritans served the needs of merchant capitalist accumulation. The extreme discipline, thrift and modesty the Puritans demanded of each other corresponded to a new and emerging form of ownership and production. Their so-called “Protestant Ethic” was an early form of the capitalist ethic. From the beginning, the Puritan colonies intended to grow through capitalist trade–trading fish and fur with England while they traded pots, knives, axes, alcohol and other English goods with the Indians.

Armed settlers arrive with priestly blessings

The New England were ruled by a government in which only the male heads of families had a voice. Women, Indians, slaves, servants, youth were neither heard nor represented. In the Puritan schoolbooks, the old law “honor thy father and thy mother” was interpreted to mean honoring “All our Superiors, whether in Family, School, Church, and Commonwealth.” And, the real truth was that the colonies were fundamentally controlled by the most powerful merchants.

The Puritan fathers believed they were the Chosen People of an infinite god and that this justified anything they did. They were Calvinists who believed that the vast majority of humanity was predestined to damnation. This meant that while they were firm in fighting for their own capitalist right to accumulate and prosper, they were quick to oppress the masses of people in Ireland, Scotland and North America, once they seized the power to set up their new bourgeois order. Those who rejected the narrow religious rules of the colonies were often simply expelled “out into the wilderness.”

The Massachusetts colony (north of Plymouth) was founded when Puritan stockholders had gotten control of an English trading company. The king had given this company the right to govern its own internal affairs, and in 1629 the stockholders simply voted to transfer the company to North American shores–making this colony literally a self-governing company of stockholders!

In U.S. schools, students are taught that the Mayflower compact of Plymouth contained the seeds of “modern democracy” and “rule of law.” But by looking at the actual history of the Puritans, we can see that this so-called “modern democracy” was (and still is) a capitalist democracy based on all kinds of oppression and serving the class interests of the ruling capitalists.

The reality of colonial massacre and enslavement

In short, the Puritan movement developed as an early revolutionary challenge to the old feudal order in England. They were the soul of primitive capitalist accumulation. And transferred to the shores of North America, they immediately revealed how heartless and oppressive that capitalist soul is.


The Birth of “The American Way of War”

In the Connecticut Valley, the powerful Pequot tribe had not entered an alliance with the British (as had the Narragansett, the Wampanoag, and the Massachusetts peoples). At first they were far from the centers of colonization. Then, in 1633, the British stole the land where the city of Hartford now sits–land which the Pequot had recently conquered from another tribe. That same year two British slave raiders were killed. The colonists demanded that the Indians who killed the slavers be turned over. The Pequot refused.

The Puritan preachers said, from Romans 13:2, “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” The colonial governments gathered an armed force of 240 under the command of John Mason. They were joined by a thousand Narragansett warriors. The historian Francis Jennings writes: “Mason proposed to avoid attacking Pequot warriors which would have overtaxed his unseasoned, unreliable troops. Battle, as such, was not his purpose. Battle is only one of the ways to destroy an enemy’s will to fight. Massacre can accomplish the same end with less risk, and Mason had determined that massacre would be his objective.”

The colonist army surrounded a fortified Pequot village on the Mystic River. At sunrise, as the inhabitants slept, the Puritan soldiers set the village on fire.

William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth, wrote: “Those that escaped the fire were slain with the sword; some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so that they were quickly dispatched and very few escaped. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire…horrible was the stink and scent thereof, but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them.”

European colonists attack the Pequot villageMason himself wrote: “It may be demanded…Should not Christians have more mercy and compassion? But…sometimes the Scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents…. We had sufficient light from the word of God for our proceedings.”

Three hundred and fifty years later the Puritan phrase “a shining city on the hill” became a favorite quote of conservative speechwriters.

Discovering the Profits of Slavery

This so-called “Pequot war” was a one-sided murder and slaving expedition. Over 180 captives were taken. After consulting the bible again, in Leviticus 24:44, the colonial authorities found justification to kill most of the Pequot men and enslave the captured women and their children. Only 500 Pequot remained alive and free. In 1975 the official number of Pequot living in Connecticut was 21.

Some of the war captives were given to the Narragansett and Massachusetts allies of the British. Even before the arrival of Europeans, Native peoples of North America had widely practiced taking war captives from other tribes as hostages and slaves.

The remaining captives were sold to British plantation colonies in the West Indies to be worked to death in a new form of slavery that served the emerging capitalist world market. And with that, the merchants of Boston made a historic discovery: the profits they made from the sale of human beings virtually paid for the cost of seizing them.

One account says that enslaving Indians quickly became a “mania with speculators.” These early merchant capitalists of Massachusetts started to make genocide pay for itself. The slave trade, first in captured Indians and soon in kidnapped Africans, quickly became a backbone of New England merchant capitalism.


Thanksgiving in the Manhattan Colony

In 1641 the Dutch governor Kieft of Manhattan offered the first “scalp bounty”–his government paid money for the scalp of each Indian brought to them. A couple years later, Kieft ordered the massacre of the Wappingers, a friendly tribe. Eighty were killed and their severed heads were kicked like soccer balls down the streets of Manhattan. One captive was castrated, skinned alive and forced to eat his own flesh while the Dutch governor watched and laughed. Then Kieft hired the notorious Underhill who had commanded in the Pequot war to carry out a similar massacre near Stamford, Connecticut. The village was set fire, and 500 Indian residents were put to the sword.

A day of thanksgiving was proclaimed in the churches of Manhattan. As we will see, the European colonists declared Thanksgiving Days to celebrate mass murder more often than they did for harvest and friendship.

The Conquest of New England

By the 1670s there were about 30,000 to 40,000 white inhabitants in the United New England Colonies–6,000 to 8,000 able to bear arms. With the Pequot destroyed, the Massachusetts and Plymouth colonists turned on the Wampanoag, the tribe that had saved them in 1620 and probably joined them for the original Thanksgiving Day.

In 1675 a Christian Wampanoag was killed while spying for the Puritans. The Plymouth authorities arrested and executed three Wampanoag without consulting the tribal chief, King Philip.

As Mao Tsetung says: “Where there is oppression there is resistance.” The Wampanoag went to war.

The Indians applied some military lessons they had learned: they waged a guerrilla war which overran isolated European settlements and were often able to inflict casualties on the Puritan soldiers. The colonists again attacked and massacred the main Indian populations.

When this war ended, 600 European men, one-eleventh of the adult men of the New England Colonies, had been killed in battle. Hundreds of homes and 13 settlements had been wiped out. But the colonists won.

In their victory, the settlers launched an all-out genocide against the remaining Native people. The Massachusetts government offered 20 shillings bounty for every Indian scalp, and 40 shillings for every prisoner who could be sold into slavery. Soldiers were allowed to enslave any Indian woman or child under 14 they could capture. The “Praying Indians” who had converted to Christianity and fought on the side of the European troops were accused of shooting into the treetops during battles with “hostiles.” They were enslaved or killed. Other “peaceful” Indians of Dartmouth and Dover were invited to negotiate or seek refuge at trading posts–and were sold onto slave ships.

It is not known how many Indians were sold into slavery, but in this campaign, 500 enslaved Indians were shipped from Plymouth alone. Of the 12,000 Indians in the surrounding tribes, probably about half died from battle, massacre and starvation.

After King Philip’s War, there were almost no Indians left free in the northern British colonies. A colonist wrote from Manhattan’s New York colony: “There is now but few Indians upon the island and those few no ways hurtful. It is to be admired how strangely they have decreased by the hand of God, since the English first settled in these parts.”

In Massachusetts, the colonists declared a “day of public thanksgiving” in 1676, saying, “there now scarce remains a name or family of them [the Indians] but are either slain, captivated or fled.”

Fifty-five years after the original Thanksgiving Day, the Puritans had destroyed the generous Wampanoag and all other neighboring tribes. The Wampanoag chief King Philip was beheaded. His head was stuck on a pole in Plymouth, where the skull still hung on display 24 years later.

The descendants of these Native peoples are found wherever the Puritan merchant capitalists found markets for slaves: the West Indies, the Azures, Algiers, Spain and England. The grandson of Massasoit, the Pilgrim’s original protector, was sold into slavery in Bermuda.
Runaways and Rebels

But even the destruction of Indian tribal life and the enslavement of survivors brought no peace. Indians continued to resist in every available way. Their oppressors lived in terror of a revolt. And they searched for ways to end the resistance. The historian MacLeod writes: “The first `reservations’ were designed for the `wild’ Irish of Ulster in 1609. And the first Indian reservation agent in America, Gookin of Massachusetts, like many other American immigrants had seen service in Ireland under Cromwell.”

Let’s see the reality of Thanksgiving — and the founding of the United States in slavery and genocide

The enslaved Indians refused to work and ran away. The Massachusetts government tried to control runaways by marking enslaved Indians: brands were burnt into their skin, and symbols were tattooed into their foreheads and cheeks.

A Massachusetts law of 1695 gave colonists permission to kill Indians at will, declaring it was “lawful for any person, whether English or Indian, that shall find any Indians traveling or skulking in any of the towns or roads (within specified limits), to command them under their guard and examination, or to kill them as they may or can.”

The northern colonists enacted more and more laws for controlling the people. A law in Albany forbade any African or Indian slave from driving a cart within the city. Curfews were set up; Africans and Indians were forbidden to have evening get-togethers. On Block Island, Indians were given 10 lashes for being out after nine o’clock. In 1692 Massachusetts made it a serious crime for any white person to marry an African, an Indian or a mulatto. In 1706 they tried to stop the importation of Indian slaves from other colonies, fearing a slave revolt.

Celebrate?

Looking at this history raises a question: Why should anyone celebrate the survival of the earliest Puritans with a Thanksgiving Day? Certainly the Native peoples of those times had no reason to celebrate.

The ruling powers of the United States organized people to celebrate Thanksgiving Day because it is in their interest. That’s why they created it. The first national celebration of Thanksgiving was called for by George Washington. And the celebration was made a regular legal holiday later by Abraham Lincoln during the civil war (right as he sent troops to suppress the Sioux of Minnesota).

Washington and Lincoln were two presidents deeply involved in trying to forge a unified bourgeois nation-state out of the European settlers in the United States. And the Thanksgiving story was a useful myth in their efforts at U.S. nation-building. It celebrates the “bounty of the American way of life,” while covering up the brutal nature of this society.

Available online at mikeely.wordpress.com. Send comments to: m1keely (at) yahoo.com

Published: December 2007. Feel free to reprint, distribute or quote this with attribution. This website’s contents are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 U.S. License.

 

Many thanks to Uruknet and Kusama for the article.

 

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Terry Crawford-Browne: To End the Occupation of Palestine, Target Israeli Banks

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A logical strategy for boycotting Israel is to begin with Israeli banks. Worth a read

Terry Crawford-Browne, The Electronic Intifada, 30 June 2010

Targeting Israeli banks will help bring an end to the occupation. (Oren Ziv/ActiveStills)

The international banking sanctions campaign in New York against apartheid South Africa during the 1980s is regarded as the most effective strategy in bringing about a nonviolent end to the country’s apartheid system. The campaign culminated in President FW de Klerk’s announcement in February 1990, releasing Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners, and the beginning of constitutional negotiations towards a non-racial and democratic society.

If international civil society is serious about urgently ending Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights, including ending the occupation, then suspension of SWIFT transactions to and from Israeli banks offers an instrument to help bring about a peaceful resolution of an intractable conflict. With computerization, international banking technology has advanced dramatically in the subsequent 20 years since the South African anti-apartheid campaign.

Although access to New York banks remains essential for foreign exchange transactions because of the role of the dollar, interbank transfer instructions are conducted through the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), which is based in Belgium. So, instead of New York — as in the period when sanctions were applied on South Africa– Belgium is now the pressure point.

SWIFT links 8,740 financial institutions in 209 countries. Without access to SWIFT and its interbank payment network, countries are unable either to pay for imports or to receive payment for exports. In short, no payment — no trade. Should it come to a point where trade sanctions are imposed on Israel, it may be able to evade them. Instead of chasing trade sanctions-busters and plugging loopholes, it is both faster and much more effective to suspend the payment system.

The Israeli government may consider itself to be militarily and diplomatically invincible, given support from the United States, and other governments, but Israel’s economy is exceptionally dependent upon international trade. It is thus very vulnerable to financial retaliation. South Africa’s apartheid government had also believed itself to be immune from foreign pressure.

Without SWIFT, Israel’s access to the international banking system would be crippled. Banking is the lifeblood of any economy. Without payment for imports or exports, the Israeli economy would quickly collapse. The matter has gained additional urgency with the bill now before the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, to penalize any person who promotes the imposition of boycotts against Israel. Another important political factor is that SWIFT is not only outside American jurisdiction, it is also beyond the reach of Israeli military retaliation.

Israel has long experience in sanctions-busting since the 1948 Arab boycotts. Apartheid South Africa was also well experienced in sanctions-busting — breaking oil embargoes was almost a “national sport.” Trade sanctions are invariably full of loopholes. Profiteering opportunities abound, as illustrated by Iraq, Cuba and numerous countries against which for many years the United States unsuccessfully has applied trade sanctions. Iran conducts its trade through Dubai, which happily profits from the political impasse.

Suspension of bank payments plugs such loopholes, and also alters the balance of power so that meaningful negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians become even possible. This is because banking sanctions impact quickly upon financial elites who have the clout to pressure governments to concede political change. Trade sanctions, by contrast, impact hardest on the poor or lower-paid workers, who have virtually no political influence.

SWIFT will, however, only take action against Israeli banks if ordered to do so by a Belgian court, and then only in very exceptional circumstances. Such very exceptional circumstances are now well-documented by the UN-commissioned Goldstone report into Israel’s winter 2008-09 invasion and massacre in Gaza and by the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on 31 May 2010. There is also a huge body of literature from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other organizations detailing Israeli war crimes and violations of humanitarian law.

The Israeli government, like that of apartheid South Africa, has become a menace to the international community. Corruption and abuses of human rights are invariably interconnected. Israel’s long military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, for example, has corrupted almost every aspect of Israeli society, most especially its economy. The Organization For Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported in December 2009 that the Israeli government lacks commitment in tackling international corruption and money laundering.

The international financial system is exceedingly sensitive about allegations of money laundering, but also to any associations with human rights abuses. Organized crime and money laundering are major international security threats, as illustrated by the United States subpoena after the 11 September 2001 attacks of SWIFT data to track terrorist financing. The website Who Profits? (www.whoprofits.org) lists hundreds of international and Israeli companies that illegally profiteer from the occupation.

Their operations range from construction of the “apartheid wall” and settlements to agricultural produce grown on confiscated Palestinian land. As examples, Caterpillar, Volvo and Hyundai supply bulldozing equipment to demolish Palestinian homes. British supermarkets sell fresh produce grown in the West Bank, but illegally labelled as Israeli. Ahava markets Dead Sea mud and cosmetics.

The notorious Lev Leviev claims in Dubai that Leviev diamonds are of African origin, and are cut and polished in the United States rather than Israel. They are sourced from Angola, Namibia and also allegedly Zimbabwe, and can rightly be described as “blood diamonds.” Israeli diamond exports in 2008 were worth $19.4 billion, and accounted for almost 35 percent of Israeli exports. Industrial grade diamonds are essential to Israel’s armaments industry, and its provision of surveillance equipment to the world’s most unsavory dictatorships. Such profiteering depends on foreign exchange and access to the international payments system. Hence interbank transfers are essential, and SWIFT — willingly or unwillingly — has become complicit, as were the New York banks with apartheid South Africa.

Accordingly, a credible civil society organization amongst the Palestinian diaspora should lead the SWIFT sanctions campaign against Israeli banks. And, per the South African experience, it should be led by civil society rather than rely on governments.

Each bank has an eight letter SWIFT code that identifies both the bank and its country of domicile. “IL” are the fifth and sixth letters in SWIFT codes that identify Israel. The four major Israeli banks and their SWIFT codes are Israel Discount Bank (IDBILIT), Bank Hapoalim (POALILIT), Bank Leumi (LUMIILIT) and Bank of Israel (ISRAILIJ).

Such a suspension would not affect domestic banking transactions within Israel and the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip — or international transfers to Palestinian banks that have separate “PS” identities. The campaign can be reversed as soon as the objectives have been achieved, and without long-term economic damage.

What is required is an urgent application in a Belgian court ordering SWIFT to reprogram its computers to suspend all transactions to and from Israeli banks until the Israeli government agrees to end the occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and that it will dismantle the “apartheid wall;” the Israeli government recognizes the fundamental rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and Israel recognizes, respects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees.

The writer is a retired banker, who advised the South African Council of Churches on the banking sanctions campaign against apartheid South Africa. He spent October 2009 to January 2010 in East Jerusalem monitoring checkpoints, house demolitions and evictions, and liaising with Israeli peace groups. He lives in Cape Town.

ei: To end the occupation, cripple Israeli banks

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US & Israel Criminality – and Impunity – Threatens the World with Annihilation

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Israel’s massacre at sea

3 June 2010

The Israeli military’s killing of nine civilians and wounding of scores more on a ship carrying humanitarian supplies in international waters was an act of cold-blooded murder and a war crime.

For millions of people around the world, this military assault on an aid convoy carrying wheelchairs, cement, water purification systems, children’s toys and notebook paper to Gaza—all items barred by Israel’s blockade of the occupied territory—epitomizes the role played by Israel, as well as that of its US sponsor, in global affairs.

As always in the aftermath of such atrocities, the Israeli government has blamed its victims. In a televised speech Wednesday, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu described the aid convoy as a “flotilla of terror supporters” and praised the slaughter on the high seas as an act of self-defense by besieged Israeli commandos.

Those who engaged in self-defense were the passengers on the ship, and they had every right to do so. The fact that nine of them were killed, while the Israel Defense Force (IDF) commandos suffered not a single fatality, is evidence as to who was the aggressor.

This is a regular pattern. The massacre in the Mediterranean comes just a year and a half after Operation Cast Lead, the far greater slaughter that the Israeli regime unleashed against the suffering people of Gaza. Claiming then as now to act in “self defense,” in December 2008 and January 2009 Israel rained bombs, missiles and tank and automatic weapons fire upon Gaza, killing over 1,400 Palestinians, the overwhelming majority of them unarmed men, women and children. This one-sided war by one of the world’s most powerful military machines against a relatively defenseless civilian population claimed just 13 Israeli lives, all but three of them soldiers.

The aid convoy was a response to the barbaric blockade that has subjected an entire population of 1.5 million people in Gaza to hunger, disease and misery.

Since the tightening of the blockade in 2007, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the number of Gazan refugees living in abject poverty has tripled.

The UN reported at the end of 2009 that “insufficient food and medicine is reaching Gazans, producing a further deterioration of the mental and physical health of the entire civilian population since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead against the territory.” Among the starkest expressions of Israel’s deliberate starvation of an entire population was a finding by the Food and Agriculture Organization last year that 65 percent of babies between the ages of nine and 12 months suffer from anemia.

Israel is able to carry out this kind of medieval siege as well as piracy and murder not merely because of its own military might, but thanks to the unwavering patronage and funding of Washington. This latest mass killing has only underscored that—as with so much else—the advent of the Obama administration has effected no significant change in US policy.

While issuing a hypocritical expression of “deep regret at the loss of life,” the Obama administration is doing everything it can to assure that Israel bears neither blame nor consequences for these killings. It quashed any criticism of Israel’s action at the UN Security Council and has implicitly adopted the Zionist state’s justification for the massacre.

Israel’s criminality and Washington’s role as its unconditional enabler both have a long history. It is worth recalling another Israeli attack on a vessel in international waters that took place 43 years ago. In that attack, 34 sailors aboard the USS Liberty were killed by Israeli napalm, missiles and machine-gun fire, while another 171 while wounded—the worst casualties suffered by the US Navy in a hostile action since World War II.

An intelligence ship, the Liberty was attacked off the Sinai Peninsula on June 8, 1967 in the midst of the Six-Day War. While Israel called it a tragic “mistake,” ample evidence emerged that the Zionist state attacked the ship because it wanted to stop Washington from listening in to its communications. Intercepts flatly contradicted Tel Aviv’s claim that it was acting in self-defense and revealed that Israel wanted to conceal evidence of its aggressive intentions as it moved to seize Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights, all of which remain under illegal occupation to this day.

Much of the criticism of this week’s attack on the aid convoy, including within Israel itself, has treated it as a “botched” operation, an excessive use of force and a public relations fiasco. But this is not a matter of a government losing its head. The Netanyahu regime’s policies are directed to a definite socio-political base, composed of religious extremists, right-wing settlers and the most politically reactionary layers within Israeli society. Its orientation is personified by the fascistic background and ideology of its foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

Deeply reactionary and in deep political crisis, the Israeli government is driven more and more to act as a global pyromaniac, threatening renewed wars against Syria and Lebanon and, according to a report in the London Times this week, sending submarines armed with nuclear missiles to the waters off Iran.

The unconditional support and approximately $3 billion in annual aid to Israel bestowed by Washington—and continued under Obama—pose a mortal danger to people across the globe.

This is not a matter merely of a single outlaw regime, but of a general descent of world affairs into a state of criminality and the disintegration of any semblance of international law, with Israel’s main patron setting the pattern.

The Obama administration continues two wars of aggression initiated under Bush and has maintained intact a police state apparatus of unlawful detentions, rendition and torture. It has now earned the ignominious designation as the number one practitioner of “targeted killings”—assassinations—through CIA drone attacks that have killed “many hundreds of people” in Pakistan, according to a United Nations report released Wednesday. The report condemned Washington for claiming a “license to kill without accountability.”

The behavior of the US and other governments as if they were the state incarnation of Murder Inc., acts of state terrorism and piracy like that committed by Israel this week, and the constant threats of new aggression have created a global climate that bears ever closer resemblance to the conditions that prevailed on the eve the Second World War.

These developments are driven by the mortal crisis of world capitalism and will not be reversed by either protests or pacifism. Only by uniting the working class, including both Jewish and Arab workers in the Middle East, in a common struggle to put an end to the profit system can a new global conflagration be prevented.

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Together at Last! Palin & Obama: Drill Baby Drill

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MUST READ:  Obama sheltered BPs Deepwater Horizon rig from regulatory requirement.
BP Spill Threatens Vulnerable Ecosystems with Destruction
SEE ALSO:      Obama Seeks to Contain Anger Over BP Oil Spill
The BP Oil Spill and American Capitalism
Four excellent MUST-READ articles on the World Socialist website http://www.wsws.org reveal:

  1. Obama was the largest single recipient of BP lobbyist $$$
  2. Obama exempted the BP Deepwater Horizon rig from regulation (see #1)

  3. Obama re-authorized offshore drilling in the so-called “climate change” bill (see #1) Endorsed by Sarah Palin…

  4. The oil spill catastrophe will have long term effects on the viability and survival of 1000s of species of birds, animals, plants and ecosystems and may lead to extinctions & billions of dollars of ruined coastlines, and ruined livelihoods

  5. The administration showed no remorse, nor plans to re-think its policy (aka sociopathy, anti-social and inappropriate behavior)

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Kaczinski: From Solidarity to Free Market Shock Doctrine or “Don’t confuse… shock… with broad public sympathy”

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Goodbye Kaczinski

Polish president Lech Kaczynski (1949–2010)—from Solidarity advisor to right-wing politician

By Marius Hauser
13 April 2010

The airplane crash near Smolensk in Russia April 10, which resulted in the death of Polish president Lech Kaczynski, has led to widespread consternation inside Poland. Along with Kaczynski, the accident claimed the lives of some 80 leading members of the country’s political and military elite. They were on their way to a memorial ceremony in Katyn, Russia, where 70 years earlier 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals were murdered by Stalinist thugs.

It would be mistaken, however, in the manner of much of the Polish and international media, to confuse the widespread shock at the crash with broad public sympathy for the figure and politics of Lech Kaczynski. Kaczynski was one of the most unscrupulous representatives of the Polish ruling elite.

The former child film star and advisor to the Solidarity trade union was a leading architect of the restoration of the capitalist free market and so-called shock therapy that commenced in the early 1990s. As president, Kaczynski conducted a series of virulent attacks on the social and democratic rights of the population relying on the support of extreme right-wing parties. According to opinion polls, he had little chance of re-election in the presidential vote scheduled for this autumn.

Lech Kaczynski was elected president in October 2005 with the smallest number of votes ever recorded by a victorious candidate for the post. One quarter of the electorate voted for the conservative politician in the second ballot. Kaczynski was able to win the post with such a narrow base of support only because his predecessors had been so discredited.

The post-Stalinist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) had undertaken an offensive against the Polish welfare state in its four years in government and was involved in numerous corruption affairs. The only serious rival to Kaczynski was the current Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who had announced his own plans for radical cuts and privatization.

In the September 2005 parliamentary elections, his Law and Justice (PiS) party emerged as the strongest parliamentary group and the following month Kaczynski won the presidential election. During the presidential campaign Kaczynski sought to mobilize the more backward layers of the Polish population with a mix of social demagogy, nationalism and calls for a fight against corruption.

Just nine months later he presided over the nomination of his twin brother Jaroslaw to the post of prime minister. The Kaczynski brothers then formed a coalition with two right-wing, overtly anti-Semitic parties, the League of Polish Families (LPR) and Samoobrona (Self-Defence of the Republic of Poland).

In the guise of a struggle against corruption, the Kaczynskis increased the repressive capabilities of the state. At the same time, they increased their own influence by increasing their personal powers and placing political cronies in key posts. One of the first official acts of the Kaczynski government was a change to the country’s broadcasting law allowing the twins direct access to national television and radio.

A key project of their government was the creation of the Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA). The office unites the police, secret police and judicial authorities in an organization that has similar powers to the former Stalinist secret service. Under the direct control of the prime minister, the CBA has been used on a number of occasions by the Kaczynskis to neutralize political adversaries—including members of their own government.

Despite its populist demagogy, the PiS government went on to impose the austerity policies of the preceding government, making merely cosmetic changes. After a brief pause the policy of privatization of state assets was also continued. In the sphere of foreign policy, Lech Kaczynski essentially continued the course of his predecessor Alexander Kwasniewski (SDL), i.e., a strong orientation to American imperialism aimed at expanding the country’s room for maneuver within Europe. Lech Kaczynski’s own bumbling and utterly provincial manner typified the increasing isolation of the country.

In October 2007 the government led by his brother collapsed following fierce internal divisions and Lech began to work closely together with the new Prime Minister Donald Tusk, leader of the rabidly pro-free market Civic Platform (PO).

After nearly five years in office Kaczynski had managed to lose even his narrow base of support. Shortly before his death he was polling around just 20 percent.

In this respect Kaczynski has shared the fate of every Polish head of government and president in the post-Stalinist era, none of whom has ever served more than one term of office—with the exception of Kwasniewski. Since 1990 Polish society has been dominated by politicians who have their roots either in the former Stalinist regime or the opposition Solidarity movement. Both sets of politicians have sought to plunder the country’s resources through a mixture of privatizations and social cuts. When one group in power is sufficiently discredited in the eyes of the population, then the other group takes over. All of this has occurred under the direct jurisdiction of the European Union and its institutions.

Kaczynski played a central role in the restoration of capitalism. After completing his law studies in 1977, he established contact with the “Committee for the Defense of Workers” (KOR). From that time he stood on the right wing of the opposition trade union movement. In 1980 he was one of the advisors to Solidarity and worked closely with its leader Lech Walesa to suppress political demands within the trade union and subordinate the movement to the Catholic Church.

In 1989 Kaczynski was a representative at the so-called “round table,” which organized the restoration of capitalism. The chief task of the round table was to divide power and influence between the new rising layers in Solidarity and the former Stalinist elite, while preparing shock therapy for the population at large. As senator, then member of parliament and eventually co-coordinator for the security and secret services, Kaczynski was directly involved in imposing this “therapy.” The consequences for the population were dramatic and led to a humiliating defeat for the Solidarity-led government in 1993.

At this point Kaczynski withdrew from public politics. It was only after the discrediting of the subsequent post-Stalinist regime after four years in power and the election of a revamped Solidarity (AWS) government in 1997 that Kaczynski returned to the political stage. He took over as Justice Minister from June 2000 until the fall of the government in July 2001. Following a wave of controversial restructuring measures, dismissals and privatizations, the AWS was so unpopular it failed to win enough votes to be represented in the new parliament. At that time Kaczynski’s remodeled PiS also only won 9.6 percent of the vote.

Kaczynski then concentrated on politics in Poland’s capital city and was elected mayor of Warsaw in November 2002. In office he made clear his contempt for democratic rights, in June 2005, for example, banning a gay rights march. At the same time, he allowed neo-Nazis to stage a counter-demonstration. Despite the ban, the gay rights forces assembled and were brutally attacked by the neo-Nazis. Kaczynski later criticized the police because they had protected the assembled gays and their supporters from the attacks launched by the fascists.

Other policy hobby-horses included his demand for the introduction of the death penalty and his proposal that homeless people should be penned in container slums outside of the city limits, so as not to spoil the view for tourists and the city’s well off.

Contrary to statements by leading members of the German Greens, Lech Kaczynski did not “represent the interests of his country,” nor had he “devoted his life to the freedom of Poland and the freedom of Europe” (German chancellor Angela Merkel). He was a representative of the Polish ruling elite and sought to establish authoritarian forms of rule based on reactionary Polish chauvinism.

Chris Hedges on Americans’ Yearning for Fascism

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Hedges: Is America Yearning for Fascism? | News & Politics | AlterNet.

This article first appeared on TruthDig.

The language of violence always presages violence. I watched it in war after war from Latin America to the Balkans. The impoverishment of a working class and the snuffing out of hope and opportunity always produce angry mobs ready to kill and be killed. A bankrupt, liberal elite, which proves ineffectual against the rich and the criminal, always gets swept aside, in times of economic collapse, before thugs and demagogues emerge to play to the passions of the crowd. I have seen this drama. I know each act. I know how it ends. I have heard it in other tongues in other lands. I recognize the same stock characters, the buffoons, charlatans and fools, the same confused crowds and the same impotent and despised liberal class that deserves the hatred it engenders.

“We are ruled not by two parties but one party,” Cynthia McKinney, who ran for president on the Green Party ticket, told me. “It is the party of money and war. Our country has been hijacked. And we have to take the country away from those who have hijacked it. The only question now is whose revolution gets funded.”

The Democrats and their liberal apologists are so oblivious to the profound personal and economic despair sweeping through this country that they think offering unemployed people the right to keep their unemployed children on their nonexistent health care policies is a step forward. They think that passing a jobs bill that will give tax credits to corporations is a rational response to an unemployment rate that is, in real terms, close to 20 percent. They think that making ordinary Americans, one in eight of whom depends on food stamps to eat, fork over trillions in taxpayer dollars to pay for the crimes of Wall Street and war is acceptable. They think that the refusal to save the estimated 2.4 million people who will be forced out of their homes by foreclosure this year is justified by the bloodless language of fiscal austerity. The message is clear. Laws do not apply to the power elite. Our government does not work. And the longer we stand by and do nothing, the longer we refuse to embrace and recognize the legitimate rage of the working class, the faster we will see our anemic democracy die.

The unraveling of America mirrors the unraveling of Yugoslavia. The Balkan war was not caused by ancient ethnic hatreds. It was caused by the economic collapse of Yugoslavia. The petty criminals and goons who took power harnessed the anger and despair of the unemployed and the desperate. They singled out convenient scapegoats from ethnic Croats to Muslims to Albanians to Gypsies. They set in motion movements that unleashed a feeding frenzy leading to war and self-immolation. There is little difference between the ludicrous would-be poet Radovan Karadzic, who was a figure of ridicule in Sarajevo before the war, and the moronic Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. There is little difference between the Oath Keepers and the Serbian militias. We can laugh at these people, but they are not the fools. We are.

The longer we appeal to the Democrats, who are servants of corporate interests, the more stupid and ineffectual we become. Sixty-one percent of Americans believe the country is in decline, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, and they are right. Only 25 percent of those polled said the government can be trusted to protect the interests of the American people. If we do not embrace this outrage and distrust as our own it will be expressed through a terrifying right-wing backlash.

“It is time for us to stop talking about right and left,” McKinney told me. “The old political paradigm that serves the interests of the people who put us in this predicament will not be the paradigm that gets us out of this. I am a child of the South. Janet Napolitano tells me I need to be afraid of people who are labeled white supremacists but I was raised around white supremacists. I am not afraid of white supremacists. I am concerned about my own government. The Patriot Act did not come from the white supremacists, it came from the White House and Congress. Citizens United did not come from white supremacists, it came from the Supreme Court. Our problem is a problem of governance. I am willing to reach across traditional barriers that have been skillfully constructed by people who benefit from the way the system is organized.”

We are bound to a party that has betrayed every principle we claim to espouse, from universal health care to an end to our permanent war economy, to a demand for quality and affordable public education, to a concern for the jobs of the working class. And the hatred expressed within right-wing movements for the college-educated elite, who created or at least did nothing to halt the financial debacle, is not misplaced. Our educated elite, wallowing in self-righteousness, wasted its time in the boutique activism of political correctness as tens of millions of workers lost their jobs. The shouting of racist and bigoted words at black and gay members of Congress, the spitting on a black member of the House, the tossing of bricks through the windows of legislators’ offices, are part of the language of rebellion. It is as much a revolt against the educated elite as it is against the government. The blame lies with us. We created the monster.

When someone like Palin posts a map with cross hairs on the districts of Democrats, when she says “Don’t Retreat, Instead — RELOAD!” there are desperate people cleaning their weapons who listen. When Christian fascists stand in the pulpits of megachurches and denounce Barack Obama as the Antichrist, there are messianic believers who listen. When a Republican lawmaker shouts “baby killer” at Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak, there are violent extremists who see the mission of saving the unborn as a sacred duty. They have little left to lose. We made sure of that. And the violence they inflict is an expression of the violence they endure.

These movements are not yet full-blown fascist movements. They do not openly call for the extermination of ethnic or religious groups. They do not openly advocate violence. But, as I was told by Fritz Stern, a scholar of fascism who has written about the origins of Nazism, “In Germany there was a yearning for fascism before fascism was invented.” It is the yearning that we now see, and it is dangerous. If we do not immediately reincorporate the unemployed and the poor back into the economy, giving them jobs and relief from crippling debt, then the nascent racism and violence that are leaping up around the edges of American society will become a full-blown conflagration.

Left unchecked, the hatred for radical Islam will transform itself into a hatred for Muslims. The hatred for undocumented workers will become a hatred for Mexicans and Central Americans. The hatred for those not defined by this largely white movement as American patriots will become a hatred for African-Americans. The hatred for liberals will morph into a hatred for all democratic institutions, from universities to government agencies to the press. Our continued impotence and cowardice, our refusal to articulate this anger and stand up in open defiance to the Democrats and the Republicans, will see us swept aside for an age of terror and blood.

Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, is a senior fellow at the Nation Institute. He writes a regular column for TruthDig every Monday. His latest book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

© 2010 Truthdig All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/146226/

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Speak of the Devil: “Just ask Dr. Lilly, Drug Dealer and Murderer”

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The Links Between WebMD and Eli Lilly

By MARTHA ROSENBERG in Counterpunch

It is not too hard to find evidence of links between WebMD and drug giant Eli Lilly.

A 2002 article on the gigantic medical site about pain and depression comes right out and says “Lilly is a WebMD Partner.”

An advertising award for the ADD drug Strattera in 2004 went to the FCB “client” Eli Lilly & Co./WebMD–not clients. (ADDs “have trouble sleeping” FCB’s Jan Weinstein told Adweek, so “we used late night, such as Letterman and Saturday Night Live,” for the TV buy.)

Ads for Lilly’s blockbuster antidepressant Cymbalta on WebMD’s home page seemed stationary in 2009, yielding to no other advertiser–and the Washington Post reported Lilly and WebMD to be partners in 2000.

Now Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, is investigating financial ties between Lilly and WebMD Health Corp because of a WebMD TV ad exhorting people to undergo a Lilly depression screening.

You can joke about the need to tell people they are depressed–do people need to be told they have a headache?–but pharma’s screening ruse to recruit new patient pools for the volatile drugs among teens, adolescents and new mothers is not funny.

3,500 news articles about antidepressant linked violence appear on the web site, SSRIstories.com, including 700 murders, 200 murder-suicides, 51 school shooting incidents and 54 postpartum depression cases since 1989.

In addition to WebMD, WebMD Health Corp. includes the web sites Medscape, MedicineNet, eMedicine, eMedicine Health, RxList, theHeart.org, and drugs.com. Original partners and investors says the Washington Post included “Microsoft, DuPont, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (and his Fox TV networks), Silicon Graphics and Netscape founder Jim Clark, drug maker Eli Lilly, and EDS, the computer services company founded by H. Ross Perot.”

Lilly is not the only pharma company receiving unmarked product placement on WebMD.

Last summer, a video featured a woman patient confessing she was fearful of life while a voice over said she needed treatment for “general anxiety disorder” and the camera showed bottles of Forest Pharmaceuticals’ antidepressant Lexapro moving down the manufacturer’s assembly line. Get it? No disclaimer on the video or “sponsored content” appeared.

Another unsponsored WebMD video last summer urged people on antidepressants to remain on their therapy “despite side effects” and a third suggested women concerned about cancer, heart attack and stroke risks of postmenopausal hormone therapy should continue their treatment at lowered doses. Hang in there, valued customers.

A search for Wyeth (now Pfizer) antidepressant Effexor a few months ago on WebMD elicited a JAMA study finding Effexor superior to other antidepressants by a Wyeth funded second author, Graham Emslie, MD. Effexor was the drug Andrea Yates took when she drowned her five children in 2001, a case found on SSRIstories.

Questions about conflict of interest have surfaced at WebMD’s Medscape too which administers many of the lucrative drug company sponsored continuing medical education [CME] courses in the US which doctors must complete to keep their state licenses.

Last year psychiatrist Daniel Carlat, MD–who recounts his adventures as a Wyeth paid Effexor promoter in the New York Times magazine–writes that he received, as a member of Medscape, an envelope with “a brochure from Forest Laboratories advertising Lexapro, and nothing else. It was creepy, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

While Lilly is known for launching the SSRI antidepressant revolution with Prozac, Cymbalta does much of the heavy lifting now with worldwide sales of $3.075 billion in 2009.

Many remember Cymbalta as the drug 19-year-old healthy clinical volunteer Traci Johnson killed herself on, during trials on the Lilly campus in 2004–soon after FDA investigations into suicide/antidepressant links.

Traci had no depression history said Rev. Joel Barnaby, a spokesman for the Johnson family, who called Lilly’s decision to proceed with Cymbalta’s launch as scheduled “offensive” posturing.

Five others suicides occurred during Cymbalta clinical trials, said the FDA and twice the rate of suicide attempts were seen in women prescribed the drug for stress urinary incontinence–also patients with no depression to blame.

Others remember Cymbalta as the drug Carol Anne Gotbaum, daughter-in-law of New York City Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, was taking during her macabre death in police custody at the Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport in 2007.

But now Lilly and WebMD are pushing Cymbalta for pain since it was approved for fibromyalgia in 2008. “Across cultures, patients who complain of pain tend to be depressed,” says the 2002 article which calls WebMD and Lilly partners, a finding from a “huge international study by Prozac manufacturer Eli Lilly and Company.”

“Could your muscle aches be related to depression?” hawks WebMD text under the heading, “Recognizing the Symptoms of Depression.” Next to it is a picture of a depressed women with arrows pointing to the pain in her head and neck, chest and stomach, arms and hands, legs and feet and of course back.

“Print out this symptom diary, and fill it out. Then take it to your doctor to discuss what may be causing your symptoms.”

This content, we’re told, is “selected and controlled by WebMD’s editorial staff” but “funded by Lilly USA.”

Martha Rosenberg can be reached at:martharosenberg@sbcglobal.net


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