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One year into Barack Obama’s presidency, and the U.S. wars and killing of civilians have continued unabated, in direct contradiction to his campaign pledges to put a stop to these. Today, two great videos explore this contradiction, including a Democracy Now! interview with veteran activist Allan Nairn, who explains in the simplest terms how the US continues to kill innocent people under Obama.

But first, “Jake Gyllenhaal Challenges the Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize” by Diran Lyons, a political remix video of scenes from Jarhead and Donnie Darko mixed with Obama’s own words displaying the hypocrisy of power – as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continue to devastate. Check it out! [alex]

And here is the transcript of the Democracy Now! interview with Allan Nairn, entitled “Obama Has Kept the Machine Set on Kill.”

AMY GOODMAN: Well, it’s almost been a year since President Obama’s inauguration and his promise to close the prison at Guantanamo.

For a critical look back over the Obama administration’s foreign policy and national security decisions in the last twelve months, we’re joined here in New York by award-winning investigative journalist and activist Allan Nairn.

In 1991, we were both in East Timor and witnessed and survived the Santa Cruz massacre, in which Indonesian forces killed more than 270 Timorese. The soldiers fractured Allan’s skull.

Over the past three decades, he has exposed how the US government has backed paramilitary death squads in El Salvador, in Guatemala, in Haiti. He also uncovered US support for the Indonesian military’s assassinations and torture of civilians.

He’s joining us now for the rest of the hour.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Allan Nairn.

ALLAN NAIRN: Thanks.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, why don’t you start off with a broad overview, as we move into this first anniversary of President Obama’s inauguration, of his term in office?

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, I think Obama should be remembered as a great man because of the blow he struck against white racism, the cultural blow. And he accomplished that on Election Day. That was huge. This is one of the most destructive forces in world history, and by simply—by virtue of becoming president, Obama did it major damage.

But once he became president, by virtue of his actions, just like every US president before him, just like those who ran other great powers, Obama became a murderer and a terrorist, because the US has a machine that spans the globe, that has the capacity to kill, and Obama has kept it set on kill. He could have flipped the switch and turned it off. The President has—turned it off. The President has that power, but he chose not to do so.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean? Explain more fully.

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, the machine. The US spends about half of all—almost half of all the military spending in the entire world, equal to virtually all the other countries combined. More than half of the weapons sold in the world are sold by the United States. The US has more than 700 military bases scattered across dozens of countries. The US is the world’s leading trainer of paramilitaries. The US has a series of courses, from interrogators to generals, that have graduated military people guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity in dozens upon dozens of countries. The US has a series of covert paramilitary forces of its own that get almost no attention. For example, right now in Iran, there are covert US paramilitaries attacking Iran from within, authorized by secret executive order. This was briefly reported, but it dropped from notice. In addition to that, there are the open attacks, the open bombings and invasions. Just in the recent period, the US has done this to Iran—to, I’m sorry, to Iraq, to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Kenya. Currently in the Philippines, there are US troops in action in the south. And you could go on. This is the machine.

And then, in addition, there’s the support for a series of what the RAND Corporation itself—you know, RAND is an extension of the Pentagon—called US support for repressive non-democratic governments and for governments that commit aggression. There are about forty of them that the US backs. And I could run through the list. And the point is, Obama has not cut a single—cut off a single one of these repressive regimes. He has not cut off a single one of the terror forces. He has increased the size of the US Army, increased the size of US Special Forces. He has increased the level of overseas arms sales. In fact, the Pentagon, his Pentagon, was recently bragging about it. The same thing happened under the Clinton administration with then-Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown. He has tuned it up. But you could just run down the list of countries where civilians are being killed and tortured with US weapons, with US money, with US intelligence, with US political green lights.

ANJALI KAMAT: So, Allan, what would you say is the difference between the preceding eight years under the Bush administration and this past year, as we move forward under Obama? Read the rest of this entry »

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The video is available on Democracy Now! at this address: http://www.democracynow.org/2009/10/9/as_us_continues_afghan_iraq_occupations

Below is the transcript:

JUAN GONZALEZ: President Obama has been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, less than nine months after taking office. The chair of the Nobel Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, made the announcement today in the Norwegian capital of Oslo.

    THORBJORN JAGLAND: [translated] The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.

JUAN GONZALEZ: The Nobel Committee specifically highlighted what it called Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world and his attempts to curb nuclear proliferation. After the announcement, Jagland took questions from journalists.

    REPORTER: If we could just go over that same territory of the fact that he’s not been in office one year yet and has not fulfilled any of his promises, may never do so, and in English, if you could state why you’re so certain that this is a good choice so early in the day.

    THORBJORN JAGLAND: Because we would like to enhance, to support what is he’s trying to do, what is he trying to achieve. And it is a clear signal to the world that we want to advocate the same as he has done, namely to promote international diplomacy, to strengthen the international institutions, to work for a world free of nuclear arms. All these kind of things, which—I mean, it’s a longstanding history of the Nobel Committee that we have tried to promote that kind of attitudes and that kind of policies. And, I mean, I could mention a lot of examples of awarding a prize to a personality that has started that kind of processes in the very beginning.

    REPORTER: Mr. Obama is in the middle of a major decision, as you know, on—and will probably end up increasing troop levels in Afghanistan. How does the committee feel about that at this time?

    THORBJORN JAGLAND: The conflict in Afghanistan concerns us all. And we do hope that an improvement of the international climate and the emphasis on negotiations could help resolve that. I do not claim that it must help or will help, but we could hope that this could help resolving that conflict, as well.

    REPORTER: And what—do you have an opinion about raising the troop levels, increasing the—

    THORBJORN JAGLAND: Well, I could have an opinion, but not the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

JUAN GONZALEZ: President Obama took office less than two weeks before the nomination deadline. He is the third sitting American president to win the Nobel Peace Prize after Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and Woodrow Wilson in 1919.

For more, we’re joined by award-winning journalist and author Naomi Klein. She’s the author of the books The Shock Doctrine and No Logo. She joins us on the line from her home in Toronto.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Naomi.

NAOMI KLEIN: Thank you, Juan.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Your reaction to this surprise announcement?

NAOMI KLEIN: You know, I try not to speak about things before I really had a process—you know, a chance to process it, because my raw reaction is really that this represents—it’s very significant and disappointing, cheapening of the Nobel Prize. And, you know, it’s been cheapened before, and it will cheapen again—be cheapened again, but I think there’s something really striking here. And even just listening to the rationale that, despite overwhelming evidence, they’re giving this prize in the hopes that it will change Obama’s mind or encourage him to do things he hasn’t done—this is a candidate that ran a campaign that was much more based on hope and wishful thinking than it was on concrete policy. So we have hopes being piled on hope and wishful thinking.

Read the rest of this entry »


Harris“Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture”

by Marvin Harris

1974 Random House

Why do Jews and Muslims refuse to eat pork? Why were thousands of witches burned at the stake during late medieval Europe? These and other riddles are explored by famous anthropologist Marvin Harris, and his conclusions are simple: people act within social and ecological contexts that make their actions meaningful. Put another way: cultural ideas and practices that seem strange to us may actually be vital and necessary to the people of those cultures.

Harris is especially good at explaining how societies create elaborate rituals to avoid harming the natural ecosystems they depend on, which clarifies the Middle Eastern ban on pig products. It turns out the chubby animals compete with humans for the same foods. Raising them in large numbers would place great strain on a land made fragile by thousands of years of deforestation and desertification. Better to ban them entirely and not risk further ecological damage.

This logic is then extended to elucidate why the institution of warfare probably first arose as a way to limit population pressure on the environment. In Harris’ words, “In most primitive societies, warfare is an effective means of population control because intense, recurring intergroup combat places a premium upon rearing male rather than female infants.” Since the rate of population growth depends on the number of healthy women, privileging males by making their larger bodies necessary for combat is a way of reducing the need to “eat the forest.” Not that male supremacy and violence is the BEST way to curb population growth, but it’s one ritual that societies have adopted to meet that goal.

This discussion of patriarchy leads to an exploration of class. The emergence of “big men”, chiefs, and finally the State is explained as a cascading distortion of the original principles of reciprocity into the rule of redistribution. “Big men” work harder than anyone in their tribe to provide a large feast for their community – with the only goal being prestige. Chiefs similarly pursue prestige, and plan great feasts to show off their managerial skills, but they themselves harvest little food. Finally “we end up with state-level societies ruled over by hereditary kings who perform no basic industrial or agricultural labor and who keep the most and best of everything for themselves.” At the root of this construction of inequality is the impetus to make people work harder to create larger surpluses so that greater social rewards can be given out to show off the leader’s generosity. But only at the State or Imperial level is this hierarchy enforced not by prestige but by force of arms, to stop the poor and working classes from revolting and sharing the fruits of their labor.

The most provocative sections of the book deal with revolutionary movements that fought for this liberation, within the context of the religious wars of Biblical Judea and Late Medieval Europe.

First, Harris tackles the Messiah complex Read the rest of this entry »


Third and possibly last in the holiday movie series, Cry Freedom features Denzel Washington as Steve Biko, Black South African revolutionary during the 60s-70s. The movie criticizes the Apartheid system which restricted Blacks from moving around their country and having decent jobs and education, as well as giving the privileged race the ability to kill indiscriminately, very similar to the current situation in Occupied Palestine.
(This is just the first segment of the movie, make sure to click the Up-Arrow button to watch the rest!)

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