Friday, March 31, 2006



The way things are today, why on earth would the "big fool lunatics in charge" in Washington ever want another war or maybe two of them. Already they're "waist deep in the Big Muddy" in two out-of-control debacles in the Middle East and Central Asia, and the country is leaching multi-billions we don't have to pay for them. Despite this hopeless chaos, it looks almost certain we're now headed for a new one against another Middle East 4-letter country beginning with the letter "I", and may try to "double our displeasure" by including a "fracas in Caracas." I just learned about an "Operation Bilbao" which appears to be blueprint to overthrow the Chavez government and likely includes in it targeted assassinations starting with the guy in charge.

Do these neocrazies in Washington really think they can pull all this off - wars on four fronts. Don't these guys have anyone around with a sense of history? Forget about morality and such. These folks have none of that. But even kids in high school learn that Hitler was doomed when he decided to wage war on two fronts. And we all know what happened to Napoleon and a few other less notables. It's what happens when your "eyes get bigger than your stomach", and the indigestion that results is called "demise by overreach." It's no different now than a couple of generations ago or a couple of centuries either.


Call it the curse of having too much oil or maybe any. If only they just grew stuff we eat there instead of pumping the stuff our "gas guzzlers" do. Iran and Venezuela have so much of the "black gold" their countries are practically floating on it. But in a world where a predatory USA can't even breathe without it, that makes them public enemies one and two - unless they agree to hand it all over to us. In "Godfather" language, that's called "making an offer they can't refuse." That's the way it works in a world where "only what we say goes and we make all the rules." Any nation unwilling to follow our orders and obey them becomes a target for regime change by whatever means it takes - including by illegal aggression using industrial strength nuclear weapons the US now plans to throw around like hand grenades.

I've written some in other articles about Iran and said then and now I believe things are "hotting up" as my UK friends would say. They're No. one in the target queue, and it could be (nuclear) bombs away at any time. But here I only want to discuss Venezuela because after Iran I have almost no doubt Venezuela is next. The US may even try to make it a twosome in their infinite lunacy. These reckless, lawless fools are often wrong but never in doubt. When you rule the world or want to, you even believe you have the right to blow it up.

To understand what's in the wind, all you have to do is clean out your ears, open your eyes and pay attention. The US war drums are beating a duet, and they're getting louder. Listen up, here's the message on the Venezuelan front. On March 28, the Virginia Pilot of Norfolk, VA (that's where the biggest US naval force is based and where I once lived for a year) reported that the US Navy is sending an aircraft carrier strike group composed of four ships and 60 aircraft to Caribbean and South American waters for a "major" training exercise. All four ships are capable of launching cruise missiles that might and could be armed with nuclear warheads. By my reckoning, that's a provocative and hostile act.

Now combine that with the growing hostile rhetoric coming out of Washington directed at Hugo Chavez. I wrote in a previous article that Latin American expert James Petras wrote (now some months ago) that the US has a strategy to overthrow President Chavez by military force and at the same time destroy the Cuban revolution in a "two step" process - "first overthrow the Chavez government in Venezuela, cut off the energy supply and trade links (to Cuba) and then proceed toward economic strangulation and military attack." He also believed then the US would employ a "triangular strategy" to overthrow Chavez - "a military invasion from Colombia, US intervention (by air and sea attacks plus special forces to assassinate key officials) and an internal uprising by infiltrated terrorists and military traitors, supported by key media, financial and petrol elites."

That's an ominous scenario to consider, but now add to it the kind of Washington rhetoric that makes it all sound possible. Here's some of the language from 2005 to the present, and it's getting meaner. Various US officials including CIA Chief Porter Goss, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and a growing number of others have called President Chavez a "threat to democracy" and an "elected dictatorship", and they said it without even a touch of irony. They accused him of doing "away with the rule of law, (packing) the courts (and) carrying out anti-democratic activities" like a dictator.

It gets worse. The just updated National Security Strategy, published so we can all read it, specifically singles out Hugo Chavez as "a demogogue awash in oil money (who is) undermining democracy and seeking to destabilize the region." The complicit US corporate media echo this venom as often as the Washington lunatics ask them to. And there's lots more of it including a recent US Army report that calls Hugo Chavez "the largest threat since the Soviet Union and Communism", and Don Rumsfeld compares him to Hitler.

And in case you missed it, I'll repeat what John Pilger (one of my great heros) wrote on March 30 on titled: "British Channel 4 paints President Chavez a Dictator -- Hugo to go?" I watched that ugly and appalling piece of rot on March 27, painful as it was to do it. In his article Pilger says "This was a piece seemingly written by the US State Department....." It sure sounded like it, and I've heard enough of it through the years to agree. Here's a choice line from it Pilger quotes: "He (Chavez) is in danger of joining a rogue's gallery of dictators and despots --Washington's latest Latin nightmare." There's so much more of the worst kinds of gross lies and deception in the Channel 4 report, but you get the idea. Read the Pilger article if you haven't yet. Unlike myself, a simple amateur, he's a pro's pro, an honest one, and as good as they come.

All of what I cite above are the clearest signals yet something is up and will happen - the only question is when and precisely what. I only hope but do believe Hugo Chavez is listening and hunkering down for "the inevitable."


It makes no difference to the Washington crowd that Hugo Chavez was democratically elected twice, is loved by the overwhelming majority of his people and has already survived three attempts by the US to oust him. Coming up for sure is number four. Chavez surely knows this and also believes (as do I) that this time the US plan is to kill him. In US perverted logic, they believe - no more Hugo Chavez, no more Bolivarian revolution. Well, President Chavez may have a thing or two to say about the first premise, and the Venezuelan people may have a thought or two about the second, at least the 80% of them who cherish it and will likely fight to keep it.

Readers should understand and never forget that Hugo Chavez gave the people of Venezuela a participatory democracy and an array of essential social programs for everyone, especially the 80% or more poor or desperately poor who never before had them. That's why the majority of Venezuelans love him, will likely fight to protect and keep him, and will never easily surrender the essential services they now have. That's also why the US hates him and will try to remove him. He represents the greatest of all threats to us - a good example, one that may spread to other nations, and we can never tolerate that. It's bad for business. By US rules it's corporations first, second, third, and to hell with the people. We're doing the same thing here in the US so why would we ever care about those dark-skinned Venezuelans - except the rich ones, of course. With them the only color that counts is green.

For the ordinary people everywhere, the virulent undercurrent of racism always surfaces as a key factor in the target countries we choose. Since the beginning of the republic, race hate has been so much a part of our white leaders' DNA that even caucasian Arab people aren't white enough. And the only post-WW II war we've fought that's an exception was the illegal aggression against and breakup of Yugoslavia. In that case, strategic factors outweighed race. The exception, as they say, proves the rule.


I've written several times before that the George Bush junta today is taking the US from a republic to tyranny, and we're already perilously close. This is a man who believes he's "above the law" and the "Constitution is just a goddamed piece of paper." I say this in deadly seriousness, this is not a test, it's real and it's coming unless we find a way and soon to stop it. Is anyone paying attention? All my senses detect it enough to make my skin crawl, and I'm desperately trying to sound the alarm to all I can reach including Hugo Chavez who I respect, admire and can only wish we had someone like him here. We need a lot of Hugo Chavezes and a few more Paul Reveres to echo the alarm, but this time it's not a case of "one if by land and two if by sea." It's coming at us from all directions, and it may be armed with a nuclear warhead abroad and the end of our republic and sacred constitutional rights here with martial law and tyranny replacing them. It's that serious. Is anyone listening?

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at

Thursday, March 23, 2006


WAR MAKING 101 - A USER'S MANUAL - by Stephen Lendman

I've lived through seven decades and can remember the late 1930s before WW II began. In fact, I began my formal education in kindergarten within days of when Hitler sent his Wehrmacht across the Polish border in an act of illegal aggression and began that near six year horror. I was too young to understand it then, and I can barely remember that fateful "first Pearl Harbor" on December 7, 1941. Franklin Roosevelt wanted in on that fight and did all he could to goad the Japanese to attack us. He knew with enough prodding they would, and when it came, we knew about when and where it would happen. We were ready to mobilize and join the battle, we did it, and nothing's been the same since.

FDR at least took the country to war as the Constitution says we must. On December 11,1941 he asked the Congress to make that declaration against Japan and also Nazi Germany in response to Hitler's declaring it against us. It was the last time a US Congress would ever use the constitutional authority it alone is allowed in Article I, Section 8 of that sacred document. The Founding Fathers thought that authority so important they codified it. They believed that on what is the single most important issue a nation ever faces, that awesome power should never placed in the hands of a single person. They wanted only the Legislative Branch to have it and only exercise it after careful, deliberative debate. That Branch still has it if it so wishes, but for the last 65 years it decided in its infinite indifference to abrogate it's authority and allow the President to usurp it and use it at his pleasure and choice. We've seen the result - a mess without end. We've had war after war after endless war (including the ones fought by others we encouraged and financed plus all the CIA covert mischief and abuse) with no end in sight and in every instance since WW II against designated "enemies" that never threatened or attacked us or had any intention to. Doing that by direct intervention based on no provocation, as we have, is called illegal aggression, which is exactly the crime the Nazis were tried for at Nuremburg. In the words of the Tribunal: "To initiate a war of not only an international crime, it is the supreme crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." The worst of those found guilty in that Tribunal were hanged. Think any of our leaders will ever meet the same fate as they should, of course? Fat chance, even though the worst of ours are as guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity as were the worst Nazis.


Here's one definition of a dictator or at least one practicing to become one. It's a head of state able to decide alone with unchallengeable authority whether or not to take a nation to war for any reason. Here's an add-on to that definition. If a leader does it for any reason other than to respond to an attack by another nation or clear evidence an attack is coming, that leader is also a war criminal. Noam Chomsky believes every US president since WW II was and is a war criminal. Ditto, so do I.

This essay will concentrate on the current "war criminal in charge." With some background for the historically uneducated, I'll then fast forward to the present and take you into the heart of the beast we better get to know well and quickly before it eats us alive. I'll lay out what I call a war maker's manual, step by step or rule by rule, from when we were new at this ugly business and still learning to the present. Ready? Here we go.

I can't match the famous Chinese general Sun Tzu who wrote his masterful Art of War 2400 years ago and won't even try. But I've seen the modern day script played out enough times and think I've gotten the hang of it now. First, some basic rules:

A. Get the language right. It's not enough to say Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan or Venezuela are threats to our national security. We have to say or imply it's the new Hitler Saddam, the "crazed Arabs and mullahs" running Iran (sorry - they're Persians, not Arabs, and only changed the country's name to Iran in can call them "crazed Arabs" though, who'll know the difference besides the Iranians), the demonic Taliban who beat up on defenseless women, or the "demagogue" Hugo Chavez "awash in oil money and trying to destroy democracy and destabilize the region"........he happens to have the most vibrant democracy in the Western Hemisphere and is selling the country's oil at a discount to poor nations and poor US communities in need. Think Exxon-Mobil would do that?Now you're getting it.

B. Always pick on a much weaker target country, the weaker the better, preferably defenseless and unable to fight back. It's then best to soften them up in advance by stealth bombing or sabotaging their strategic infrastructure. It's also best to pick on a weak nation of color (we almost always do - Yugoslavia was a rare exception), and best of all is to pick on a Muslim nation of color. Arab nations (and Persia/Iran) qualify as they're not quite white enough, not at least the "crazed Arab ones."

C. When you "pull the trigger", strike the target with overwhelming force. You know the new "Militaryspeak" language - "shock and awe." Who dreams up this stuff? You can bet it's a big PR firm, ad agency or something out of a Hollywood bad dream factory. The target country may be defenseless, and likely is, but you gotta hit 'em like a using a howitzer to kill a gnat even though a strong wind will do the trick. The reason for the "blitzkrieg" approach is it not only grinds your enemy to dust and fast, it also scares hell out of all other nations worried they may be next or in the queue and moving up.

D. There's one other element peculiar to today in the US that's not a rule but a resurrection of sorts from the First Crusade 900 years ago. Back then Pope Urban II, who no doubt believed he got his marching orders from the Almighty, launched his assault against Islam and Muslims in his holy Crusade to regain control of the sacred city of Jerusalem. When his forces finally got into the city they weren't very nice to the Muslims, Jews and even Eastern Christians living there.

It's timely for this essay to note that the Vatican has begun to rehabilitate the Crusaders by sponsoring a late March conference that portrays those holy wars as having been fought with the "noble aim" of regaining the Holy Land for Christianity. I'm sure all Muslims around the world will understand, forgive and forget.

Students of Western Civilization might also recall that Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798 for "glory" (that's French for empire) and to restore Islam to its genuine teachings (I guess meaning to bring those misguided souls back to their Christian roots). The Little Corporal didn't fare much better there than he did at Waterloo or that a latter day Napoleon wannabe is now doing in Iraq. It's a shame he's not still around to explain that to our current "head dreamer of empire." But I doubt it would do much good as below I explain the only authority our warrior president listens to.

The point from my brief history lesson is to connect it to our own present situation. For the first time ever, we now have a president, at least the first one admitting it publicly, who also believes the Almighty speaks to him, tells him what to, and he's just following orders from that higher authority. I don't think he's kidding when he says God told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. I wonder if that same God told him to steal from the poor and give to the rich. I also wonder what God he's referring to. It's not the one I was brought up to believe in and the principles I was taught to think are pretty sacred in the Ten Commandments, especially the core "golden rule" one.


Rule No. 1- Develop a tradition of militarism over time. It takes many years of practice to hone skills and perfect them. The US has followed this practice and incredibly has been at war (real war with mass slaughter) internally and/or abroad every year without exception with one or more adversaries since its inception.

No other nation today is more addicted to war than the US. It seems like it's always been that way, and it has. Of course, you'd never know it from the sanitized history we're taught up to the highest levels in all our schools - even the best of them like the two esteemed universities I was lucky enough to attend. I later understood their mission was to program my mind, teach me acceptable doctrine to "make me a good citizen." It's part of the package called "The American Way." Fill their heads with mush and make 'em believe the sun is out when it's really dark and pouring rain. They did teach me how to learn though, and I've tried to use that skill ever since to discover and understand what they should have taught me but never did.

Militarism and empire go way back to our Founding Fathers including the one we call the Father of the country. Some Father. He referred to the nation as a "rising empire", and he helped build it during and after the Revolutionary War. During that conflict he not only dispatched the British (they really just decided it wasn't worth it and left), he waged a second war against our native Indians, all of whom he thought of as subhumans (American Untermenschen). He called for their total annihilation and sent General John Sullivan and 5,000 troops to attack the noncombatant Onondaga people in 1779 with orders to destroy all their villages, homes, fields, food supplies, cattle herds and orchards. He also stole Indian land from the Onieda people who aided him when he was most in need at Valley Forge. I guess it was his way of showing gratitude. The guy we're taught to revere was a racist and genocidist. With that kind of Father what could we expect from the "offspring." I'll bet they're still teaching George's military tactics to the recruits at West Point and telling these impressionable kids that "Father knew best."

George's tradition was handed down and became more robust over time. Along the way to the present day, we expanded the frontier west and south and slaughtered about 18 million of our native people in the process. Their only offense was they happened live on the land we wanted, so we stole it from them. It didn't matter that they'd been there for about 20-30,000 years. How could we let a "little tradition" stand in the way of "progress" and "development." Once we had it all from coast to coast (including the half of Mexico we also stole), we set our sights offshore for conquests and easily found a few. In our beneficence to our southern "neighbor" we let the Mexicans keep half their country, but only because the majority population was in the southern half, and we didn't want all those dark-skinned people "diluting" our white Anglo-Saxon majority.

As fate would have it we spared Canada. But it was touch and go for our northern neighbor as we coveted their land too, and it may only have been our attention diverted to other "adventures" plus a few cooler heads that kept us from taking it. During our so-called War of 1812, there were those in the US more interested in annexing territory in "British North America" than fighting the British over their naval blockades, interception of our ships and impressment of our seamen. We were humming "O Canada" again in the 1920s, when the "Canucks" as now were friendly allies with no hostile intention toward us or anyone else. We actually drew up serious war plans to invade the country and occupy it. I'm not kidding. Why? The same reason we invaded Iraq or at least one of them. To steal their oil, and back then we had plenty of our own and lots more we'd find. We also had a similar war plan approved in 1919 to attack Mexico and steal their oil too. We want everyone's oil and most everything else they have as well. One day we may change our mind and just declare both countries and all others (or just their resources, markets and cheap labor) US property by an act of Congress or a Presidential directive or decree. Our neighbors (and all other nervous nations) shouldn't worry though. Whenever we conquer or colonize we make it clear we come as friends to help them. In the old days it was to bring them civilization. Now that "help" comes in our special style of "friendship" at the barrel of an M1A1 tank or sights of a cruise missile or nuclear bomb. But "it's for their own good, to bring them democracy and freedom" and the rest of the tired old rhetoric. It was shameless bunk back then just as now.

Fast forward a bit to WW II and its aftermath when the US emerged as the only nation left standing as the world's sole superpower. The Soviets may have developed "the bomb", but the war so devastated them (along with most of Europe and East Asia) it took about 15 years of redevelopment for them to regain even a semblance of normalcy. The US was now free to run amuck and took full advantage. What "amuck" we've run since needs much more space than I have here. So fast forward again to the current era and let Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter explain more recent US policy and its incurable addiction. He did it eloquently when he said "US foreign policy can be defined as follows: kiss my arse or I'll kick your head in." He said that during the Clinton years. He had a lot more to say about the Bush administration in his 2005 Nobel lecture and acceptance speech when he called the invasion of Iraq "a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law." He went on to say the US "quite simply doesn't give a damn about the UN, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant."


That brings us to Rule No. 2 - When you're the meanest, toughest, baddest guy in the neighborhood, you gotta show it by beating up on a weakling occasionally. Otherwise no one will take you seriously, and someone else might try to challenge your supremacy. That's how a local godfather does it in my city of Chicago. It works the same on the global stage as it does on the South Side here.

I can hardly improve on Harold Pinter's eloquence so I'll just add to it by calling the Bush-Cheney administration an unchallengeable practioner of reckless and outrageous policies at home and abroad and being the most reactionary, statist and psychopathic
administration in our history. It stands alone in its brazen uncompromising methods, fanatical extremism, bold and deceptive rhetoric and almost pathological insistence on secrecy. In sum - they're crazy and out-of-control. How's that Harold? It all came out after 9/11 that we now know was an event much different than the official explanation we were given. On that fateful day, the mask came off, the ugly face of a threatening tyranny could be spotted, and the bombs began falling.

So what's going on with us? Was this warped proclivity always there but never understood or quite so visible as now? Or is there something in our DNA that makes us like a modern day out-of-control Sparta? Is it a "bad seed?" Is it curable? Not a chance with the crowd running wild in Washington now declaring they'll throw nuclear bombs around like hand grenades in future wars and are already doing it below the radar in the two we're now fighting - that's right two ongoing wars, the other one being in Afghanistan which in case you hadn't noticed is still "hot" and killing US and other occupying forces. And that one has no end in sight either.


Rule No. 3 - Write it all down clearly and in detail. That way everyone can read it and understand you mean business. What better way to scare shaky allies and intimidate and deter other nations thinking about defying us to forget about it or we'll beat up on them. It works most of the time.

The Bush-Cheney crowd try to make it work every time and since 9/11 have kept practicing to let everyone know they're not kidding. We believe 'em. But just to make sure no one forgets they just updated their September, 2002 National Security Strategy with more belligerent language than the original. The original, in case you didn't know or forgot, lays out an "imperial grand strategy." It's nothing less than a declaration of "preventive war" (the term "pre-emptive" is used incorrectly as that can only apply in a defensive action against a known impending attack) against any nation or force this administration decides is a threat to our national security. It doesn't mean it is, just that we say it is. That threat includes any nation we label "unstable" or a "failed state" (whatever that is). And a little add-on to the original NSS was their FY 04 Air Force Space Command Strategic Master Plan. It laid out a plan to "own outer space" (think the Martians will buy it), weaponize it with the most advanced and destructive weapons and technology including nuclear ones, and develop and place out there unmanned space vehicles to surveille the entire planet.

And there are two more gems everyone should know about. One is the May, 2000 DOD Joint Vision 2020 that outlined a plan for "full spectrum dominance." That's code language ("Militaryspeak" again) meaning total control over all land, sea, air and space and using any means including nuclear war to achieve it and keep it. The other jewel is the Nuclear Policy Review of December, 2001 that claims a unilateral right to declare and wage future wars using first strike nuclear weapons. Anyone nervous? You'd better be because the Bush administration declared a permanent state of war against "bad guys" we call "terrorists." I have my own definition of what each of those terms means and it's lots different from theirs. Dick Cheney gave us his message when he declared a "global war on terrorism" that may last for decades and may include in our target queue dozens of countries (the number keeps changing, but they have plenty in mind and don't plan to run out).


Rule No. 4 - Just in case anyone still misunderstands, ratchet up the rhetoric, make it even meaner and tougher and start beating the war drums to announce you're planning to demonstrate your seriousness. That should get everyone's full attention.

If all this doesn't scare you, then you didn't read the morning papers right after the ides of March (amazing they didn't choose that day when another noted warning was made, went unheeded and led to a bad ending for a guy whose initials were JC - no, the other one). On March 16 we learned that an updated National Security Strategy outlined the first full statement of US strategic goals since the original 2002 document written in the run-up to the Iraq war and which, in fact, was a declaration of war against that country six months before it began. The new Strategy identifies Iran as the "single country" that may pose the biggest threat to the US and reaffirms our unilateral right to take preventive military action against them. It denounced Tehran as an "ally of terror" and "enemy of freedom" along with daily accusations they're trying to acquire nuclear weapons and even use them. It also audaciously claims "we may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran."

Iran never attacked any other nation or even threatened to. It endorses a negotiated settlement (didn't we use that ploy with Saddam) but warns of "confrontation" if that effort fails. Sound familiar? Haven't we heard that song before? The clincher will be when we call the Iranian mullahs and/or President Ahmadinejad "Hitler." And haven't we overdone that one too? Can't we let the old brute stew in his special hell without degrading his ignominy by equating all our other designated "bad guys" with him? And shouldn't the public have caught on to this snake oil sales pitch by now? You're giving them too much credit. They never get it or understand in this nation the renowned author and social critic Gore Vidal calls the "United States of amnesia." The equally renowned author and my fellow Chicagoan, Studs Terkel, calls our malady a "national Alzheimer's disease." Sadly, it's true. The public can't recall last week's headlines let alone the events of months or years past or heaven knows any knowledge or sense of history - the real kind, that is, not the mythology we're fed in school or through the corporate media.

The updated document goes further and claims the right to take preventive action against any nation we designate an enemy state or any undefined terrorist group we say seeks to acquire WMD. Again, it doesn't matter if it's true, only that we say it's true. And we never explain what WMD is, so I will. Only nuclear weapons so qualify, not chemical or biological. The war hawks want you to think all three types do, but all weapons experts know otherwise. The latter two types can only cause havoc over a small area while only the former can really cause mass destruction not only on its target but over a vast area affected by deadly toxic radiation fallout that can never be remediated.

The report goes on to warn us that while al-Qaeda has been "significantly degraded" since the Afghan war it's also been dispersed and decentralized which now poses new challenges. And it claims the "fight in Iraq has been twisted by terrorist propaganda as a rallying cry." I wish someone would explain what that means.
And there's more:

Besides Iran, clearly number one in the target queue, the document also lists North Korea, Syria, Cuba, Belarus, Burma and Zimbabwe as "despotic systems." It specifically labels Syria an ally of terror and enemy of freedom - meaning Israel wants us to do their dirty work by ousting their leader and replacing him with someone more subservient to Israeli and Western interests.

It says the US must "isolate enemy elements" but engage those willing to give up violence (read: they're violent because we say they are, but we'll forgive them if they surrender their national sovereignty to the "Godfather").

It specifically singles out Venezuela and Hugo Chavez as "a demagogue awash in oil money (who is) undermining democracy and seeking to destabilize the region." This stuff is breathtaking, and allow me to translate it. First, though let me thank and commend President Chavez for being one of the few world leaders with the courage and backbone to respond to the reckless US policy and vicious lies about him and all else by pointing his finger at the real king of destabilizers and state terrorists. In comments he made on March 19 during his regular Sunday TV program, Hello, President, for ordinary Venezuelans to call and speak to him directly, ask a question and get his response, he called George Bush "Mr. Danger", the world's greatest terrorist, a coward, murderer, immoral and sick among other things. The man's very perceptive.

Now the translation of the NSS comments on President Chavez. What they're saying is that the Chavez extraordinary reforms bringing the Venezuelan people vital social benefits like free health care and education they never had before; his most vibrant democracy in the Americas; his innovative trade agreements that are fair to all participating countries and his opposition to the US promoted exploitive ones; and his beneficent policy of helping his neighbors, other developing countries, and some poor communities in US cities like selected neighborhoods in my own city of Chicago by selling them discounted oil (or heating oil to US cities - again, think Exxon-Mobil would do that?) are not in the interests of the US or the giant transnational corporations who want the right to exploit the country and every other developing one as well for their own benefit. That means no social programs for the people, just opportunities for US giant transnationals to have open and free access to plunder for profit. We call that "free trade." I call it "the American way." Hugo Chavez and the great majority of Venezuelans justifiably want no part of it. Neither should we.

It also emphasizes the need to enhance the administration's post-conflict capabilities and to create a "civilian reserve corps" to rebuild countries after a war ends - meaning after we destroy them by illegal aggression we'll award big no-bid contracts to the likes of Halliburton and Bechtel to rebuild them......shoddily..... and steal the US taxpayers blind while doing whatever it is they're doing. We do know Halliburton is expert at building US military bases and "torture-prisons."

Finally, it states a policy to promote nuclear power abroad to provide "reliable, emission-free energy." I love this one too. This is a sales pitch for General Electric and all other US corporations that will profit big time if we can convince other countries to let US corporations build nuclear power plants for them and all the rest that goes with them. And, oh yes, these plants most definitely are not emission-free. Where I live in Chicago is testimony to that. I'm surrounded by 11 nuclear power plants, many of them aging (as are most others) and all of them have a disturbing history of safety violations caused by aging and shoddy maintenance (another common problem in many other cities). Even without a serious accident (which will happen one day), these facilities (and all others everywhere including any newly built ones) discharge enough deadly toxic radiation daily in their normal operations to contaminate the food we eat (even organic food), the water we drink and the air we breathe into our lungs. And if one of these plants ever has a core meltdown and metropolitan Chicago is downwind from the fallout, the city and suburbs alone will become uninhabitable for the next 4.5 billion years (forever) and would have to be evacuated quickly with all possessions left behind and lost (including our homes) except for what we could carry in suitcases or in the trunks of our cars if we own one which I don't. This is the kind of madness our government is trying to sell the US public and the world. But no matter. They'll do that and anything else to help their corporate friends......even if it kills us.


Rule No. 5 - After putting your intentions clearly in writing and showing you mean business, the next step is scaring the public by choosing a "target country" and convincing them it threatens our security and welfare. You explain you're trying to reason with it, but if it won't listen, force may be necessary as a last resort. But not to worry. We'll only do this for our own safety and security. If you do this well enough (and these guys are experts, they've had so much practice), you hope the public will go along with your madness even if things don't go well and despite what your real objectives are.

With two out-of-control wars on their hands, why would they ever want to start another one? We don't have enough troops to handle Iraq and Afghanistan, there's growing discontent in the ranks including desertions in the thousands, and our military spending is off the charts and running up massive budget deficits even the new Fed chairman is alarmed about. He and other experts know they're only sustainable by "the kindness of strangers" that one day may become less kind as well as the wholesale shredding of our social safety net to fund wars. For me that's a clinical definition of insanity, but that doesn't deter this crowd. The war drums are beating loudly and the demonizing of our new number one public enemy is clearly Iran. In mid-February Secretary of State Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the US would "actively confront" Iran and asked for an extra $75 million in funding for anti-Tehran propaganda and support for opposition groups outside the country. And she just turned up the heat a notch or two more by accusing Iran of lying about its (nuclear) activities and calling the country "a central banker to terrorism" - an overused false, deceptive and demonizing line she and others have used before.

Of course, this is all part of "the big lie" and prepping of the public for the "fun and games" they have in mind. What's never mentioned and what the sleepwalking public doesn't understand is there's only one "king" and undisputed world champion of "terrorism" (the state-sponsored most deadly kind of all) and central banker of terrorism. There may be a few other bit players around that come and go, but the US for at least many decades has been financing the most widespread and egregious terrorist activities on the planet - mainly its own, but it spreads it around when it can get other willing co-conspirator nations to join in. I'll let some of the worst of them go unnamed, but the reader need only check what nations have become part of our "coalitions of the willing" in victim countries now under the heel of the oppressive US boot. And then they can add a few more to that list like our closest of all allies in the Middle East and a few more in South and East Asia.

The issue with Iran has nothing to do with the furor over that country's wanting to develop its commercial nuclear industry, having the right to enrich its own uranium and even the right to develop weapons to defend itself against really hostile enemies. They'd be crazy and irresponsible not to want to want an adequate defense. Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is in full compliance with it, and has every legal right to enrich its uranium. But that doesn't cut it with the "Godfather" because Iran won't sell out its sovereignty to the US and our oil and other corporate interests. India, Pakistan and Israel, on the other hand, are nuclear outlaws, have known stockpiles of nuclear bombs, and have not signed the NPT. But they know "who's boss", show proper deference, can build and stockpile nuclear bombs (maybe even use a few) and they're valued and trusted strategic allies. It follows that attacking Iran is quite acceptable because the "Godfather" tolerates no disobedient "outliers", and such behavior must be severely punished to oust their leaders, replace them with more "friendly" ones, and deter other nations from showing the same independence or notion of moving that way.


Rule No. 6 - First the rule and then the message from it. The rule is: when you've got 'em, use 'em. Of course, that means using whatever most destructive or high tech weapons you have, especially if the target country only has lesser ones. It also means: what's the point of having 'em if you can't or don't use 'em. The message then is: toxic radiation is good for you. That must be what they're selling because the US has now stated its intent to use industrial strength nuclear bombs in any future wars if it chooses to. Can they really sell this line of sheer madness? They're trying, and I don't hear anyone screaming about it yet.

Waging war by illegal aggression is bad enough, but doing it recklessly in another so-called "shock and awe" attack with so-called "bunker-buster mini-nukes" that aren't mini is reckless and insane. The rhetoric about them is false and deliberately deceptive. These bombs are industrial strength and can be made to any potency and likely would be from one third to two thirds as powerful as a Hiroshima bomb. They're designed to penetrate a designated target and explode underground for supposed protection. The DOD falsely claims this fantasy. They deceptively state that these weapons are safe to use because only the protected target is destroyed while the toxic radiation from the detonation is contained underground. Baloney. This is just another shameless lie. Some of it will be contained, but any bomb this powerful will release most of its toxic and lethal radiation into the atmosphere contaminating a vast area depending only on how many targets are struck, where they are, and by how many nuclear bombs. Let's be clear what will happen if this attack goes ahead as planned or any other like it they may have in mind. It will likely be Hiroshima and Nagasaki x you pick the multiple - anywhere from double to infinity. And the result will be many thousands of innocent people murdered, many more thousands poisoned by toxic, lethal radiation and a vast area irremediably contaminated for the next 4.5 billion years. Think it's worth it, never mind unjustified, egregious and a gross breach of international law.

Should this administration be insane enough to do this (and after the announcement of March 16 it looks more likely than ever), the entire Middle East may boil over, and the US will have descended even deeper into its hellish sinkhole of endless (and now full-scale) nuclear war, massive destruction and killing, and nation bankrupting levels of endless spending with no end in sight. Doesn't this crowd understand this? They must, but that doesn't deter the damn fools. They're often wrong but never in doubt. Haven't they ever heard the great lyrics to folk singer Pete Seeger's Vietnam era ode to the damn fool of that period - "Waste deep in the Big Muddy and the big fool says push on." And don't they remember the memorable Stanley Kubrick 1964 film, Dr. Strangelove, that even I saw back then, and I dislike movies. Kubrick portrayed a nuclear Doomsday Machine. The film's subtitle was "how to stop worrying and love the bomb." Anyone believing that then or now can only love great suffering and large-scale death and destruction instead of life. But you can bet these guys will convince a lot of people it's worth it - for what and whom. Them maybe, but not us.


Rule No. 7 (the last one) - Your manual is almost complete, and you're about to become as expert at this game as the big boys actually playing it. The only step left is to do at home everything you want to do abroad without having to nuke the public to sell it. Scaring hell out of them should do the trick.

We may find out and sooner than we think if it'll work. But this time we may be getting in over our heads and headed for the abyss if the alarm sounded by retired General Tommy Franks proves true. A few months after he retired he gave an interview to Cigar Aficionado magazine (a most unlikely venue - maybe he envisioned the world going up in smoke) and made what to some was an astonishing statement. He said if another terrorist attack occurs in the US "the Constitution will likely be discarded in favor of a military form of government." He went on to say such an attack will result in our losing our "freedom and liberty we've seen for a couple of hundred years......(and that Bush)..... will likely declare martial law......."

Have I ruined your day? Fasten your seat belt, it gets worse. For some time now, a number of US government officials and private "terrorism" experts are on record predicting it's just a matter of when, not if, the US will be struck again. Some say it will be worse than 9/11. And on June 6, 2003, the AP quoted a US government report that "there is a high probability that al-Qaida will attempt an attack with weapons of mass destruction in the next two years." Now I'd never advise anyone believe anything said by any government official. But those of us, including myself, convinced our own government was behind or complicit in the first 9/11 attack, should take this warning very seriously. It means if that conclusion is true (and again, I believe it is) this warning and General Franks' grim assessment may, in fact, be advance word of what's ahead. We should heed that warning and be prepared as best we can. One astute observer I heard comment said in all seriousness that for anyone with enough resources a prudent option today would be to have "a second passport and a little property in Vancouver." He added we should think out our escape route in advance and be ready to take it.


Rule (or reality) No. 8 - The script is written and the plans are ready to go. Here's how it's likely to play out.

I've discussed this scenario before in another essay, but it deserves repeating here with some added embellishment to scare you even more. I began by suggesting we're being set up (as well as being given fair warning if we can read the tea leaves) for a planned major strike against us. I then went on to say.......You know the drill by now. A major attack happens on US soil, the Bush administration and complicit corporate media hype what happened, scare the public and get them mad enough to demand retribution. If they haven't yet attacked Iran, they blame this on them so they now have public and outside support to do it claiming secret intelligence they can't reveal and it's (nuclear) bombs away - and George Bush's approval rating skyrockets just like after 9/11, and the Republicans keep control of both houses of Congress in November. Karl Rove couldn't plan it any better.

And there's one more thing I didn't write before but will add here. Tommy Franks' assessment and vision will become reality, the Constitution will be suspended, martial law will be declared and we'll have crossed the Rubicon and passed from a republic (what's left of it) to tyranny just as it happened in ancient Rome and more recently in Weimar Germany. We're no different or safer than they were. It works the same in every country, and we should understand nothing is more fragile than our sacred freedom and liberty. It can easily be taken from us without our knowledge or with our compliance when we think it guarantees us security. The reputed old Chinese proverb and curse (likely derived from another source) said "May he (or you) live in interesting times." It didn't mean "let the good times roll and all is well in the world." Whether of Chinese origin or not, I'll settle for the curse and say it surely applies to today in this country like never before in our history.

I've tried to use this essay to warn everyone reading it how deadly serious the times we're now living in are. We must understand that, spread the word, enlist the support of others, and desperately try to head off the impending disaster I think lies ahead if we all don't act in time. It's really that serious.

I could end this a lot of ways. I usually do it either inspirationally or with a warning. This time it's the latter because the situation is grave, and the time is short. What's at stake is nothing less than saving the republic (again what's left of it) and our sacred Constitutional rights. Unless enough of us are willing to fight for both and do it soon, there may be nothing left to fight for. Understand the threat, get mad, energized and heed Pogo's advice and wisdom that "we've met the enemy and it's us." Now what are we gonna do about it?" It's our move next.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog address at

Wednesday, March 15, 2006



No, not the one you think, outrageous as it is. I'm referring to the US prison system that's with no exaggeration about as shockingly abusive as the gulag abroad. It qualifies for that label by its size alone - more than 2.1 million as of June, 2004 and growing larger by about 900 new inmates every week. Blacks (mostly poor and disadvantaged) especially are affected. While they make up just 12.3% of the population, they account for half the prison population, and their numbers there have grown fivefold in the last 25 years. Hispanics (also poor) account for another 15%.

About half of those incarcerated are there for non-violent offenses, and half of those (500,000) are drug related. But while blacks make up 15% of ilicit drug users, they account for 37% of drug arrests, 42% of drug offenders in federal prison and 62% in state prisons. And Human Rights Watch reported in 2000 that in one third of the states 75% of all prisoners for drug-related offenses are black. In my home state of Illinois they reported the number to be an astonishing 89%, a total exceed by only one other state. Further, in a so-called free society, below the radar are hundreds of political prisoners, mostly people of color, there only because they represent a threat to the state from their pursuit of justice for their people if they were free.

Today the US shamelessly has more people behind bars than any other nation including China with over 4 times our population. And things have become especially repressive against those in society least able to defend themselves including immigrants of color and our newest head of the queue demon - Muslims. The Bush administration has made a bad situation far worse taking full advantage of their fear-induced "permanent state of war" and sham "global war on terrorism" to target all those seen as a potential threat to their plan for global dominance and full control at home.

Taken as a whole, this is a national disgrace and outrage, but the effect on those targeted is pretty much below the radar, unreported and undiscussed in the mainstream. Who cares about a couple of million mostly poor, mostly people of color (including immigrants, many of whom are undocumented and have no legal rights at all) languishing behind bars out of sight and out of mind. When any of this is discussed, it's to let the (voter eligible) public know our political leaders are "tough on crime" and working to keep us safe. Safe from whom or what? In the words of a great world class journalist, that kind of talk is "what comes out of the rear end of a bull." What's really going on has little to do with public safety but lots to do with controlling a justifiably restive population of poor and desperate people, the inability of those people to afford a proper defense in our so-called criminal justice system stacked against them, and a growing opportunity for big business to profit on human misery. It's a kind of modern day slavery - a growing state and privately run criminal injustice and prison industry using human beings as their product. In this land of opportunity and the "free market", all things (and people) are commodities to be exploited for profit.


The way this country has always treated its least advantaged throughout its history is shameful. British historian Arnold J. Toynbee perceptively understood this in his quote made 46 years ago when he said: "America is today the leader of a world-wide anti-revolutionary movement in the defence of vested interests. She now stands for what Rome stood for: Rome consistently supported the rich against the poor.........and since the poor, so far, have always and everywhere been far more numerous than the rich, Rome's policy made for inequality, for injustice, and for the least happiness of the greatest number." Imagine what Toynbee might say today if he were still living.

Toynbee didn't say it but he might have added that none in America have fared worse than people of color - American Indians, Hispanics, Asians and especially Blacks first brought here as chattel and who remained that way for over 300 years. Even when they were freed by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution and guaranteed the right of life, liberty and property, due process and equal protection under the law by the Fourteenth Amendment they still seldom got it. Throughout the 100 years of Jim Crow justice and even after the civil rights gains in the 1960s, most blacks and other people of color have always been on the bottom rung of society (along with our native people) and denied most of its benefits including equal justice under the law.

There are those today in the US, even from the progressive community, who like to say this country has come a long way from its racist past, and while there are still far too many inequities we're making progress. Are these people living in the same country and on the same planet as I am? In the US the statistics on blacks alone in the criminal justice system make a mockery of any notion of a nation no longer racist. When it comes to the issue of justice, we've never been more racist since the days of legal slavery. The numbers are truly shocking and in a country claiming to be a democracy and a model for the rest of the world. I hope that world makes another choice. There are far better ones than ours, and our imperial adventures abroad and policies at home toward our least advantaged prove it.


Here are some key facts. Nationwide black males over 18 are incarcerated at 9 times the rate of comparable white males, and in 11 states those rates range from 12 to 26 times the rate for whites. In my home state of Illinois the rate is 15 times, and in the nation's capital the rate is an astonishing 49 times. The most current data on incarceration for blacks in the US was 1,815 per 100,000 vs. 609 per 100,000 for Latinos, 235 for whites and 99 for Asians. For adult black males the rate was 4,630 per 100,000, 1,668 for Latinos and 482 for whites. In 1999, 11% of black males in their 20s and early 30s were in prison including one third of black male high school dropouts. Even worse, the statistical model used by the Bureau of Justice Statistics at the turn of the century to determine racial and ethnic differences in their chances for incarceration at sometime in their lifetime predicts a 29% chance of serving prison time for a black male aged 16 in 1996. The comparable chance for a white male in the same age group was 4%. In 2002 the Justice Policy Institute reported there were more black men behind bars than in colleges or universities. It also reported that 30% of black males between 20 and 29 are either in prison or on probation or parole.

From the numbers above we know that one in every 20 black men over 18 is now in a state or federal prison compared to one in every 180 whites. And in some states like Oklahoma, Iowa, Rhode Island, Texas and Wisconsin, the black male incarceration rate incredibly is between 13 -14% of all black men in those states - a devastating blow to the black families and communities there. It's also true that the best predictor of a state's incarceration rate and its total prison population is the size of its black population.

By almost all measure the state of what can only be called the US criminal injustice system is shocking and outrageous. In the last 35 years the total number incarcerated has exploded from less than 300,000 in 1970 to more than 7 times that number now. Today the US is number one not only in its total prison population but in the highest number per 100,000 population imprisoned - 690. Only Russia is a close second with 675 while in South Africa it's 400, England - 125, France - 90, Sweden - 60 and Italy - 40. Would anyone suggest the US is 17 times more non-law-abiding than Italy, or is there a simpler explanation?

It's also true that race is the most prominent reason why states deny voting rights to convicted felons and ex-felons. The greater the percentage of blacks in a state, the more likely it is for that state to disenfranchise its residents who've served time in jail. A prison record in those states means a loss of a citizen's most fundamental democratic right. The laws vary by state, but The Sentencing Project estimates 4.7 million Americans, or 1 in 43 adults, have currently or permanently lost their right to vote because of a felony conviction. And 1.4 million black men, or 13% of all black men, are so disenfranchised, a rate 7 times the national average. Even more shocking, the same report estimates that given the current rates of incarceration, 30% of the next generation of black men will be disenfranchised at some time in their life. And in states that disenfranchise ex-offenders, as many as 40% of black men may permanently lose their right to vote.

Let's be very clear. Based on the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution it can, and I believe should, be argued that all state disenfranchisement laws are unconstitutional. Section 1 of that amendment reads: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous servitude." It remains for a future Congress and/or the courts to address this issue and decide whether we're to be a democracy for all our citizens or just for those we decide are eligible and for the reasons we choose. And this doesn't address the more basic question of whether our right to vote really matters. The public has virtually no voice in choosing the 2 major parties' candidates, and when we cast our votes the new electronic voting machines can easily be programmed or manipulated to ignore our choice and count it for another candidate and even do it multiple times. This is why half the eligible voting public opt out. They don't believe the system is free and fair so why bother. That thought never leaves my mind, and I wonder why I bother. But that consideration awaits another commentary and analysis, a pretty fundamental and important one.


Since the 1970s the prison-industrial complex has exploded in size and continues to grow exponentially. It now exceeds $40 billion annually and rising. On average states now spend 60 cents on prisons for every dollar spent on higher education, up from 28 cents in 1980. And several large states are so hell-bent to lock people up their annual budget for prisons exceed that for education. Also, the overall rate of prison spending growth has greatly exceeded that for education for the past 25 years. It's shocking that the annual per prisoner cost today almost equals a year's tuition at Harvard. And what's all this spending buying us. Not a damn thing except a nation growing more repressive, more racist and more likely to target anyone if they ever run short of their current favorites. But since 9/11 they've tapped a new vein of 1.5 million Muslims. And if they throw in Hindus, Buddhists and a few other easy to demonize miscellaneous sects out of the mainstream they can easily triple that number. Now that's a "strike" that may be too "rich" to ignore. Think of all the new prisons they'll need to lock up a load of them, get them off the streets and help keep a new growth industry growing and prosperous.

Contrary to the "law and order" baloney from our politicians, there's no evidence of a rising trend of criminality, including the violent kinds. Since 1980, the data on the national crime rate has trended slightly up, then down, without any significant change. Still the incarceration rate has skyrocketed reflecting a crime wave that doesn't exist. In the 1990s, thanks to a good economy, crime rates actually fell, but incarceration rates rose dramatically nonetheless. Smell fishy? It sure does to me. And my own view, shared by others, is that this is all part of a sinister effort to control dissent by a combination of a state-induced climate of fear and hard line national security police state tactics to keep a restive population in line. Those most likely to be restive are the ones most deprived, the ones left out over the last 25 years when the wealth gap widened exponentially between rich and poor and continues to unabated. At the same time the social safety net has been and continues to be shredded making conditions intolerable for the poor and also impacting lower and middle income earners and families. Of course, the ones always hurt most are people of color and that means mostly black people. But Hispanics are gaining ground in this race to the bottom as that segment of our population (including undocumented immigrants) is growing the fastest along with those from Asia.


We should have caught on by now. When our political leaders want to scare hell out of us about something, real or imagined (you can bet it's the latter), they declare war on it. It gets the juices flowing and the flags waving. We had the phony "cold war", and now, with "the evil empire" gone and desperate to find new imagined and contrived enemies, we have a "war on terrorism" and a "war on drugs." We also have an unmentioned "war on the climate" as witnessed by the alarming rate of melting of the polar and Greenland ice caps. Maybe one day they'll declare dandruff public enemy number one and declare war on it. Might as well. It would make as much sense as all the others, except for the one real one they never mention caused by global warming.

And, oh yes, there's one other war never mentioned, and it's the most important and dangerous one of all - it's the ongoing and growing war on the Constitution and our sacred Bill of Rights. They're being taken from us right before our eyes, and in our blindness and mental fog we don't even see it happening. Most of us know the Ben Franklin quote about those who would sacrifice their freedom for security deserve neither and will lose both. He also said that "distrust and caution are the parents of security" and reportedly said at the signing of the Declaration of Independence "we must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." Franklin's contemporary, the great German philosopher and writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, just as wisely said that "None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." Franklin, Goethe and many others aren't considered iconic and venerable historic figures for nothing. And if we take the trouble to read them, we have the benefit of their great wisdom. They've warned us with it, and we damn well better be listening and heeding them. If not, we'll awaken one day, find our precious freedoms gone, finally understand what happened, and it'll be too late.

Except for the 2 unmentioned real wars, the others are surreal ones. They're contrived and concocted by devious politicians for their own interests like trying to get reelected or needing a reason to raise defense or homeland security spending. They're also to benefit their corporate allies who profit from them. The more they can scare us the greater the amount of our tax dollars they can divert from vital societal needs to put in the pockets of their corporate friends and fight wars of imperial conquest for their benefit. And the more repressive laws they can pass to destroy our civil liberties, and as discussed above, lock up in cages those most in need and most likely to be restive about it.

The current catchy phrase in the "drug war" was first used during the supposed crack epidemic in the 80s, but we can pin one more rap on Richard Nixon who first declared a "war on drugs" over 30 years ago. But the idea of making some "drugs" illegal goes back much further than that, to the 1930s (and earlier) when prohibition ended and alcohol producing companies may have decided to eliminate the threat of a competing "drug." You'd think we might have learned something from 13 years of violence and corruption under Prohibition that made criminals out of otherwise law-abiding people who may have just wanted a cold beer and also created a new revenue source for organized crime.

But all that was chicken feed compared to today as the UN now estimates the annual take from trafficking elicit drugs is around $400-500 billion. That's double the sales revenue from US legal prescription drugs Big Pharma reported in 2005. Those profiting big time from the illegal ones include more than the "kingpins" and organized crime. The market is so big everyone wants in on it. For many banks, including the major international money center ones, "laundering" drug money is one of their important profit centers. And it's well-known that the CIA was been involved in drug-trafficking (directly or indirectly) throughout its half century existence and then began to profit from it in earnest during the Contra wars of the 1980s to fund their operations. Today the CIA is part of the elicit drug trade in places like Afghanistan working with major criminal syndicates in the huge business of trafficking heroin. The take from this one operation alone is so lucrative it's hard to imagine they'd ever give it up or not want in on all other major parts of the drug trade worldwide. Who'll stop or prosecute them? And what criminal enterprise wouldn't want them as a partner to guarantee them ease of access to the US and other major markets. That's a marriage joined together none of the parties would ever want to put asunder.

And now in this modern Age of (contrived) Anxiety, we have 2 new "super-spook" agencies established to take full surveillance advantage of the Bush administration's unjustifiable "wartime" powers and fear-induced concocted "war on terror" to last for "generations" - The Office of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Wanna bet they're also in the elicit drug biz big time. How could they resist it. They both need every buck they can get to watch all of us, everywhere, all the time - which is what they're now doing. And it's an indisputable fact that all the spy agencies are above the law and can do whatever they please - spy legally and illegally, traffic elicit drugs, torture detainees they control and murder anyone they target including heads of state.

But it's the purpose of this essay to focus on how the so-called drug war has led to a burgeoning prison-industrial complex that adversely affects the lives of millions of society's most disadvantaged who happen to be mostly people of color and most of them black. Just like during Prohibition, otherwise law-abiding people have become criminals and are being locked away for long sentences. The repressive "mandatory minimum" sentences are especially harsh and outrageous. Supposedly established to target "kingpins" and big time dealers, it hasn't turned out that way and likely was never intended to. The US Sentencing Commission reports that only 5.5% of all federal crack cocaine defendants and 11% of all federal drug defendants are "high-level" dealers. The rest are low-level operatives and those caught "possessing." In most cases they're from society's least advantaged and poor, and most of them are black. These convenient targets create a ready supply of bodies to fill prison cells as part of the plan to remove the unwanted from the streets and create a new growth industry at the same time.


First off, coca leaf cultivation in South America has been the cornerstone of the Andean region for 4 thousand years, and its consumption has been part of the culture since before the Incas. It's commonly used by millions of people there including the cocaleros, or coca farmers, as we in this country use coffee, tea, a glass of wine or just a cold beer. Besides drinking coca tea, the leaf is chewed to relieve fatigue, suppress appetite, as a communal activity and to offset altitude sickness. The US Embassy in Peru even recommends it for the latter purpose.

Use of cocaine in the US didn't first begin in the 60s. It's been around recreationally for nearly 150 years for "whatever ailed you" tonics, in cigarettes, ointments and nasal sprays. Its use was perfectly legal until the federal government classified it as a narcotic (which it is not) in 1914. After that it could only be gotten legally by prescription or illegally from a "street dealer."

Cocaine is a powder which in "cooked" form is called "crack." The law treats each very differently. The racist "mandatory minimum" sentencing laws established by Congress in 1986 penalize crack users especially harshly. Defendants convicted of selling 500 grams of powder cocaine vs. 5 grams of crack each receive 5 year sentences. For 5 kilos of powder and 50 grams of crack it's a 10 year sentence. That's a 100:1 ratio. Why? Hold on, there's more.

Simple possession of any amount of powder by a first-time offender is a misdemeanor punishable by a max 1 year sentence. For crack, simple possession is a felony carrying a 5 year sentence. Now to the why. Blacks accounted for 84% of convicted crack offenders in 2000, Hispanics 9% and whites 6%. For powder it was Hispanics - 50%, blacks - 30% and whites - 18%. Now you know. The federal crack laws established 20 years ago were part of the "Reagan revolution" and its racist war against the poor, mainly blacks. It was also intended as a defense against those least advantaged poor and mainly blacks as the "Reagan revolution" began dismantling the social safety net and transferring wealth to the rich and well-off. That transfer has now been ongoing for 25 years with no end in sight. The "war on drugs" and its harsh laws, mainly targeting blacks, were intended to defuse the inevitable pressure that would build among the poor and black community and likely explode again in the streets as it did in the 60s. 2.1+ million people locked in cages is how this nation's leaders address the gross social inequity problem it deliberately created. It's their solution, and it's a national disgrace and outrage.


Surprised? The few who even think about this may be, but even many of them shamefully believe all those locked up deserve the harsh treatment they get. Aren't they sent there to be punished for committing crimes? Did they expect a "country club?" Punishment is what they get big time because prisons everywhere are brutal places, and those sent to them have no rights and it shows in how they're treated - routinely. And let's be perfectly clear about the way it is at all US domestic and foreign based prisons (and most all other countries' as well): No, it doesn't just happen at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram near Kandahar, Afghanistan; and no, it's not just by a few "rogue elements" or "bad apples." What goes on is policy, and it comes right from the top sanctioned and approved. And let's be very clear about one other thing. The real criminals sit in corporate suites and boardrooms or in capitol hill offices while their victims are locked in cages and subjected to unspeakable abuse and brutal torture with no chance to stop it or receive redress.

Prisons, with few exceptions, are not intended for rehabilitation. They are institutions societies use for vengeance and punishment. There are the most gruesome hellholes around the world the US takes full advantage of just in the prisoners it "renditions" for attempted information extraction by some of the worst physical and psychological tortures the human mind can conceive. But this essay is about what goes on in US prisons within our borders, and what you'll read below will sound like reports about Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Get ready to feel your skin crawl.

Everything we saw on TV months ago about prisoner torture at Abu Ghraib (and heard goes on at Guantanamo) happens in our state and federal prison system right here at home and lots more we didn't see or hear about. These are the lessons and techniques first devised and used in US based torture-prisons and then exported for use in our comparable torture-prisons around the world. That's the way things are in all our prisons, and in the language of author Gertrude Stein when she referred to roses: a prison is a prison is a prison. The main difference between San Quentin and Abu Ghraib is their location. What goes on at both and all others includes savage beatings by prison guards; attacks by fierce dogs that inflict real bites; severe shocking with cattle prods and 50,000 volt emitting Taser electro-shock guns often used multiple times that make the victim shake for hours after being struck and can also kill and often do; assaults by toxic chemicals like pepper spray strong enough to inflict severe pain, second degree burns, temporary blindness, and even death in a vulnerable victim; and all this happening at times with prisoners stripped naked including brutal rapes by guards, other prisoners and much more.

A courageous woman activist imprisoned for several months for her actions told me the case of a woman she saw stripped naked in her cell and then bound suspended in spread-eagle form on her prison bars and left there for hours to suffer. The experience devastated her and nearly killed her. And she was another activist being punished for her courageous acts. Hard to believe? You'd better believe it because it goes on every day in all prisons routinely throughout the country - acts of deliberate barbarity and sadism, so severe they can and do kill and often leave their victims an emotional shell when they don't. Whenever you hear reports about prisoners committing suicide, you'd better think hard about it. It's most likely they were murdered by prison guards and reported as suicide. It may be from repeated Taser shocks, from being beaten to death so savagely every rib in their body was broken or just from a body giving out from repeated and brutal maltreatment over a long period with nothing more to look forward to but more of the same. How many can endure the worst of that? No one in a civilized country should ever have to. And no civilized person should believe they had it coming.


International law is explicit and long-standing forbidding the use of any form of torture and inhumane or degrading treatment under any circumstances. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlawed it in 1948. The Fourth Geneva Convention then did it in 1949 banning any form of "physical or mental coercion" and affirming detainees must at all time be treated humanely. The European Convention followed in 1950. Then in 1984 the UN Convention Against Torture became the first binding international instrument dealing exclusively with the issue of banning torture in any form for any reason. And let's be clear on what's meant by torture and inhumane treatment. It includes punching a prisoner or detainee in the mouth or kicking him or her in the stomach or butt.

Except for the non-binding "Universal Declaration", all the others are binding international law, and the US is a signatory to the Fourth Geneva Convention and the UN Convention. And hold on, there's more. The US War Crimes Act of 1996 makes it a criminal offense for US military personnel and US nationals to commit war crimes to include cruel treatment and torture covered under the Fourth Geneva Convention. And virtually every human rights organization is on the record banning all kinds of torture anywhere for any reason.


I must include some important information about one type of torture that may be only going on overseas - for now. Although the US is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention Against Torture, it's routinely ignored and violated them with impunity in US prisons and abroad. Further, the CIA's use of psychological torture was exempted in the UN Convention.

With cover from that exemption, Professor Alfred McCoy's new book - A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation From the Cold War to the War of Terror - exposes the CIA's secret efforts to develop new forms of torture over that period. He explained how they conducted intensive research to crack the code of human consciousness and through much trial and error came up with human devastating psychological and self-inflicting torture techniques - from sensory disorientation or the severe pain from tortures like forced continuous standing for 24 - 48 hours.

The CIA experiments continue now at Guantanamo and other overseas hellhole torture-prisons. But 2 new techniques have been added - cultural sensitivity and individual fears and phobias. This four-fold assault on the human psyche is now being used against prisoners held in overseas prisons, and the detainees affected (most picked up randomly and guilty of no offense) are being used as human "lab rats" in a gruesome, vile and clearly illegal and immoral experiment to devise the most effective psychological techniques to break down a human subject - to break a human being so totally it's near impossible to recover.

I could find no information on if these experiments are now being conducted in US domestic prisons. But that doesn't mean they're not. They may be happening here, but we don't know about them. But the key point is this. Once the use of torture in all forms gains currency, it's inevitable it will spread everywhere. And let's be very clear on one other point. The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (the so-called McCain Anti-Torture amendment) passed in December last year is so full of loopholes and offsets by other legislation that it's worthless and will do nothing to stop the tortures explained above.


Life in prison is a living hell for all those in one as all the victims know who've been there or those of us who've read about it in detail as I have. Being there is like being in one of the 5 levels of Dante's hell where those consigned to spend eternity are doomed to eternal punishment.

All prisons are hellholes. But for those prisoners with any hope of release one day, the second lowest level of Dante's hell is any of the so-called "supermax" prisons. They're supposedly intended to house society's most dangerous, incorrigibly violent inmates, but many sent there aren't that at all like the many political prisoners consigned that fate because the state wishes to bury them alive and keep them isolated. The number in these "special" hellholes are a small but growing percent of the total prison population, and those in them spend their waking and sleeping hours locked in small, often windowless, cells for long sentences of many years. They're deprived of all contact with other inmates and only allowed out for brief periods a few times a week for showers and some solitary exercise in a small, enclosed space. They're deprived of all mental stimulation from human contact, recreation or education, and are nearly always shackled hands and feet and escorted by armed guards whenever they leave their cells. Prisoners who've endured this torture, come out, and spoken publicly about it have described it to be like living in a tomb. And the state inflicted misery they've been subjected to often results in a host of severe emotional problems including insanity. Try locking yourself in your bathroom with a little plain food and water for 24 hours (if you can stand it) and see how you feel. Then multiply that by 20 or more years.

The state and federally sponsored murder factories known as "death rows" are, without a doubt, the lowest and worst level of Dante's hell. Dante might have written his words "Abandon every hope, all ye who enter" for the abandoned souls sent to these barbaric death factories. They only look different than Auschwitz. Those entering never come out (except the few lucky ones DNA evidence exonerate). As of April, 2005 there were 3452 on "death row" in the 37 states with the death penalty including 36 in federal prisons and 7 held by the US military. The vast majority of them are poor or disadvantaged and their racial breakdown is as follows: 45.5% white, 41.7% black, 10.4% Hispanic, 1.2% Asian, 1.2% American Indian and .5% unknown. Nearly all of them, 98.5%, are male.

Most civilized countries have no death penalty, and in the Global North only the US and Japan still do. Japan is very selective in who it executes, unlike the US with its assembly line-like killing operations. The Japanese have executed about 50 inmates in the last dozen years and about an equal number now await execution. Many opponents of the death penalty call these "final solution" acts institutionalized, state-sponsored, ritualistic acts of torture-murder. They say "torture" because often the prisoner is so hated that their executioners "deliberately" try to inflict pain during the process of killing them. And while that alone is inhumane and barbaric enough, all too often the accused is innocent, often the state knows it, and they're still put to death. Most often these are people of color, most likely black, poor and unable to afford a proper defense. They become victims of a system not based on justice but on vengeance along with the belief by elected officials that being "tough on crime" is a good vote getter.

The case of Stan "Tookie" Williams, as much as anyone, stands out for its barbarity and gross injustice. Stan was a co-founder of the Crips street gang as a teenager in South Central Los Angeles in 1969. He was convicted and sentenced to death for multiple murders he said he never committed (I believe him), but never got a proper defense to prove it. Even later when evidence became known that might have exonerated him, he was never given a chance to prove his innocence.

Over a dozen years before his execution in California, Stan changed his life, became an anti-gang activist while on death row, and renounced his former gang affiliation. He co-wrote children's books, worked to convince youths not to join gangs and wrote one of the most compelling books on prison life I ever read called Life in Prison. He did it to show readers what prison life is really like in plain, stark language. He pulled no punches. Anyone reading it will know that prison is no place any human being wants to be.

For his work in prison, Stan received multiple Nobel Peace Prize nominations, in 2004 a feature film called Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story was made about his life, and as his execution date approached, a mass effort I was part of was launched to urge an uncaring and hostile Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to grant clemency. Fat chance. Thousands joined the effort including celebrities, politicians, Nobel laureates and Pacifica Radio, especially on its very special bold and courageous KPFA weekday news and information program Flashpoints Radio (the best program of its kind anywhere). It was all in vein, clemency was denied and Stan was put to death by lethal injection on December 13, 2005 as thousands protested outside the infamous San Quentin State Prison. Stan's death was not easy or painless. It took repeated needle insertions in a process that took nearly 30 minutes of great inflicted pain to complete. Stan's suffering at the end was not an exception. It's common practice, and as mentioned above, is deliberately inflicted by a sadistic staff. As such, even for a prisoner being executed, this is a flagrant violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution that prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment." But who cares and who will act to prevent it when it's inflicted on a condemned black man and on the day the state murders him.


The for-profit side of running a gulag began to explode during the Reagan years when incarceration rates began increasing dramatically. Along with a growing private prisons industry (a small slice of the prison pie still largely a public enterprise), a vast array of private businesses wanted a piece of the action and got it. These include architectural and construction companies; food service contractors; all sorts of equipment, hardware and other suppliers of steel doors, razor wire, communications systems, and health care and medical supplies. There's also a big need for uniforms and assorted weapons including dangerous products to restrain like clemical sprays that can injure, cause severe pain, second degree burns, temporary blindness or worse and taser electro-shock guns that emit 50,000 volts of electricity (enough to flatten an all-pro NFL lineman in peak form) that can and have killed as many as 167 victims from it's use through January, 2006. And there's loads more. The (mal) care and feeding of a couple of million humans takes a lot of supplying to keep the system going. Add it all up and it's big business, and it gets bigger with every new prison and the inmates to fill them. Not to worry. Unlike oil, there's no chance of running out bodies.

The big players in this growing industry are the private companies that run the hellholes. And the ones they run are even more hellish than the public ones. Private, publicly owned corporations with shareholders and Wall Street to please always need a growing revenue and profit stream and strict cost control to maximize the bottom line part of it. That means understaffing, low pay for poorly trained staff, poor and unsafe conditions, little or no life-enhancing or self-help programs like educational opportunities or counseling services to rehabilitate those in need like ilicit drug users, and even worse medical care than the third world kind in the publicly run system. Why bother, they all cost money, reduce profits and constrain shareholder equity. Private contractors can also exploit prisoners as de facto chattel. They're not obliged to pay wages or benefits and can take full advantage of all those bodies free of charge. Why would they ever pass that up. It's one more revenue and profit stream.

The private side of running prisons is still a small part of the total. But it's growing, and as it does, it's darker side may just get darker. Unlike most businesses, quality control is not one of their concerns. If humans suffer to enhance the bottom line, who will care. In running a gulag, you just gotta keep 'em under control locked in cages, and if you use, abuse and lose some along the way, there's plenty more supply to fill the available beds. That's how it works in a nation that commodifies its masses and exploits them. It's what happens in this modern era when social conditions deteriorate enough to produce what Franklin Roosevelt spoke about in the Great Depression years of the 1930s when he said "I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished." It's not that bad yet, but we're heading in that direction. As discussed above, it produces a restive population the state chooses to lock up in lieu of providing vital social services to satisfy essential needs. The result is the US gulag, the shame of the nation. Future historians and others will judge us by the character of our social conscience, especially how we treat our least advantaged and most needy. They'll also judge us by our system of justice and the prisons within it which reflect that conscience. The honest ones won't be kind. The great Russian 19th century novelist, Fyodor Dostoevsky, once remarked that he measured the quality of a society by the quality of its prisons. He might have added by its quantity as well.


The evidence on our criminal injustice system and prisons within it alone shows a nation moving from a republic to tyranny. It's not much different from what happened in ancient Rome when it passed from a republic to an empire under the rule of its emperor Augustus Caesar after Julius ignored his "Ides of March" warning and ended his reign the hard way in the Roman Senate.

Our prison system alone is a stark symbol and reminder of a society based on militarism and imperial conquest abroad, the shredding of our civil liberties at home, and the dismantling of our social contract obligation along with the transfer of wealth to the privileged and powerful. It reflects a nation descending into the hell of tyranny and despotism that threatens to become worse and affect us all except those at the top. We've created the monster of a national security police state (run by the new Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence) to control a growing restive population that will likely grow larger. It will include many more of us as those in need grow in numbers and new demons are easily found, targeted and moved to prison cells to maintain absolute control. That's how it works in all tyrannical states, even ones claiming to be democracies like ours but which, in fact, are not.

It happened in ancient Rome and in more modern times in Nazi Germany after Hitler was appointed Chancellor and ended the Weimar Republic. He called his party the National Socialist German Workers Party (the term Nazi is the short form for National Socialist with a "zi" on the end), but his constituents were the German industrialists and militarists and his ideology was fascist and racist. It wasn't long before he removed his many enemies and tried to create a state for the privileged and Aryian pure. The immortal words of Pastor Martin Niemoller explained it and warns us now when he said they first came for the Jews, then the Communists, then the trade unionists and each time he didn't speak out because he wasn't one of them - until there was no one left and they came for him, and there was no one to speak out to help him.

This essay only addresses the mass incarceration of the most vulnerable among us. I've discussed the other issues in other writings and intend to write solely about our war on immigrants in a future article. But unless we heed Pastor Niemoller's warning, one day, sooner than we think, they'll come for us and who'll be left to help. Based on the evidence I've presented we already have a society out of control with a reckless rogue administration, a "go-along" Congress and "friendly" courts leading us along the road to hell.

The US prison system is its metaphor and clear warning and reflects a repressive state based on harsh and unjust Patriot Act laws that are close to being supplemented by a racist, fascist-style immigration bill passed by the House (the so-called Sensenbrenner anti-immigration bill) and now being considered in the Senate. Its provisions that criminalize undocumented immigrants (targeted at those of color) and all those compassionate enough who help them are right out of the bowels of Nazi hell. It may pass and likely be followed by even more repressive laws that target you and me unless we're one of the privileged. So far, the targets are mostly those on the bottom rungs of society - people of color including immigrants and Muslims. But also in the line of fire is anyone of influence (including Muslim academics falsely labeled terrorists) daring to speak out and oppose state policy. How long will it be before it gets even worse and no one is safe?

Few people know the president has now given himself the sole power to designate anyone he chooses for any reason he decides a "bad guy" - incredibly in that language. Going even further, in January, 2006, George Bush claimed the right to govern as a "Unitary Executive" with the power to abrogate the separation of powers doctrine, bypass the Congress and courts and act as he chooses to "protect national security." This simply means if he decides to ignore the law he'll govern by presidential edict usurping the right of dictatorial power with no constraint. If he's ever brazen enough to do it (and don't believe he won't be) and isn't stopped, he'll have "crossed the Rubicon" and turned the country into a full-blown totalitarian state and the ball game is over for all of us. We're already all in the queue as potential prey, and we'd better understand we're moving up in it fast. Unless Bush-Cheney and those around them are stopped, they'll come for us one day, and then it'll be too late. It makes a shameless mockery of any notion that all citizens, rich and poor, are entitled to the sacred rights and protections guaranteed us by the Constitution. Only the privileged and powerful get that right today, not the rest of us. And if you're black and poor, an undocumented immigrant or a Muslim of color (our latest public enemy No. 1), you have no rights at all. Step right up, they've assigned you a number too, and you'd better keep a bag packed.

We've come a long way in our 230 year history but, except for brief periods of relief and redress, it's been pretty much downhill. If that's "the American way", it's time we retool and find a new path to follow, one based on social, political and economic justice, of caring about all others instead of using and abusing them for the benefit of a privileged few. We may not have much time left, so we better wake up and move fast. If we keep watching Fox News, read the New York Times, listen to NPR and then run to the mall, we're doomed to meet the same fate as all other nations who followed the road we now travel. It's the road to hell, and ours isn't even paved with good intentions.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog address at

Friday, March 10, 2006



Dear Mr. President:

My name is Steve Lendman, and I'm a 71 year old
retired small businessman who might be relaxing and
enjoying my senior years like most others I know my
age are doing. I can't imagine doing it. There's too
much going on in my country, yours, and around the
world that's too important and too dangerous to
ignore. It's become a near obsession with me to
address as much of it as I can, try to arouse a
sleepwalking public, and somehow find a way to reverse
a destructive course led by the leaders of my country
before it's too late.

I hardly need explain all this to you, as you've been
a victim of it 3 times in a ruthless effort to oust
you from office. What right does any country have to
decide who will or will not lead another one,
especially when the people of that country have made
another choice. And what country has any right to
decide how another will be run. Again, that's for the
people there to decide, no one else.

No other leading country in the world today has
usurped the "right to choose" for another, except my
own which always does it (with one other glaring
exception in the Middle East that the US
unconditionally supports and finances). I compare my
country to a crime family's Godfather who demands
strict obedience and tolerates no deviation. Those
who dare go their own way pay dearly. They usually
get no second chance. In my city of Chicago, local
Godfathers rule over "the north side" or "the south
side." The US self-annointed "Godfather" rules over
"all sides" and outer space as well. They've given
themselves that right of total sovereignty over the
planet and universe in their policy papers anyone can
read and shudder.

As I write you the war drums are growing louder
against the current US public enemy No. 1 in their
target queue - Iran. The odds are greater than I care
to imagine that despite the sinkhole horror my country
has already caused in the Iraq, they're getting ready
to expand that conflict across another sovereign
border and attack Iran - which poses no threat to
anyone despite the false and hostile rhetoric to the
contrary. Their written plan calls for it in another
"shock and awe" attack using "big" nuclear weapons -
so-called "mini-nuke bunker busters" that are not mini
but sure are nukes. For the past 15 years they've
already waged and still are waging nuclear war below
the radar in Iraq, Afghanistan and did it against
Serbia/Kosovo in 1999.

Now they plan to remove the mask, upgrade the weapons
to industrial strength and irradiate and destroy
another nation in a new unprovoked attack of illegal
aggression. The bombs they plan to use this time are
between one-third to two-thirds as potent as a
Hiroshima bomb. That ain't "mini", Mr President.
That's big time destruction if they go ahead - and
it's one more massive war crime of aggression.

Not to worry. We're told it's to make the world safe
for democracy and destroy a nuclear threat (that's
non-existent, of course). In the language of a world
renown British journalist covering the Middle East
from his Beirut base - those comments are "what comes
out of the rear end of a bull." Touche.

That comment characterizes everything out of the
mouths of leaders and spokespeople of my government
and their echo chamber chorus in our corporate media.
And, as you know, that hostile chorus is also being
directed against you, your government and your
wonderful Bolivarian revolution. I champion all
you've done and tell people who'll listen if you ever
tire of ruling Venezuela, we can sure use you and your
Bolivarian spirit right here. I've written about your
spirit, achievements and perils several times, and
this web site and others have published all of it.
I'd be honored if you've read any of it, and if not, I
invite you to take a look. You won't find any of it
in the New York Times, Washington Post or my own
Chicago Tribune, not even on a back page.

I know I hardly need to tell you, but I will anyway.
There are many forces and people with serious plans to
try for the 4th time to unseat you including "rogue
elements" in your own government, likely including
some at high levels. The US may even be planning a
special "shock and awe" attack against your country
using nuclear weapons that would cause great
destruction and spread toxic radiation over a vast
area. Please take good care, find them, expunge them
before they can harm you. Insulate and immunize
yourself against any others out to do you, your
government and your people no good. Your spirit and
glorious revolution have become one of my passions.
It needs to flourish, grow and spread like a wonderful
virus infecting and inspiring other nations to emulate
what you've done. That can only happen if you survive
and succeed unimpeded. I hope and pray you will, and
I'll continue to write and speak out in your behalf to
help all ways I can.

Most sincerely,

Steve Lendman
Chicago, IL (