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Eve's Review

Native Genocide, Native Liberation

Red Nation Rising, From Bordertown Violence to Native Liberation

Nick Estes, Melanie K. Yazzie, Jennifer Nez Denetdale, David Correia

PM Press, 150 pages




Eve Ottenberg

The scope of violence against Native people in the United States is truly staggering. In fact, it would be safe to say the historical genocide never ended. It is ongoing. It is the violence of stolen lands, of stolen children, of dispossession, of police, of payday lenders, liquor stores and pawnshops, of fracking and mining in Native territory. And yet, despite this furious and barbaric onslaught, Native people persist – unbowed.


But the murder, torture and mutilation have been gruesome. Take one statistic, cited in the recently published Red Nation Rising by four writers and activists: the Indian Health Service "sterilized between 25 and 50 percent of all Native women between the years 1970 and 1976." Can you imagine if this had been white women? Howls of outrage would resound from CNN and NBC. Tucker Carlson would scream that the white genocide had arrived. But it's Native women, so there's nary a peep.


The stealing of Native children has long been known to those who look into it. But it was in the news recently. That's when the New York Times reported on June 24 that 751 bodies, mainly children, had been found in a mass grave at a former school for indigenous children in Saskatchawan, Canada. This was only weeks after the remains of 215 children were found at another of these former church-run schools, also in unmarked graves. On June 30, another 182 bodies were found near one of these schools in British Columbia. One wonders how many more will turn up. Certainly, the settler-colonial practice of stealing children was much more malevolent than what those who did it said at the time, namely, that they were helping these children "assimilate" to white society. Assimilate into the cemetery is more like it.


There were also such schools in the United States. This week, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland "said the country would search federal boarding schools," the Times reported, "for possible burial sites of Native American children." What these missionary assimilationists were doing in Canada, they were probably doing here too, namely, raping and killing indigenous children. Though it's unclear how the children died, "some former students of the schools have described the bodies of infants born to girls impregnated by priests and monks being incinerated."


Red Nation Rising touches on these notorious boarding schools, as one of many forms of barbaric cruelty inflicted on Native Americans. Why?  To steal their land, in which Native people have such profound roots. This book also makes clear that Native culture is not capitalist. Indeed the basis of capitalism, private property, is alien to and has been used to dispossess Natives.


 "There is now a monstrous disruption in the force of all relatives who live above and below the surface of the Earth. Today, in our era of life, this monster is known as capitalism, the most threatening and successful force of death and poverty," this book's forward announces. Capitalism wars against life, and one of that war's frontlines is the bordertown. "Bordertowns, as with all imperial borders, are spatial expressions of an intent to murder," this book says. "That is why, from Saskatoon to Santa Fe, bordertowns are always bloody killing fields."


Red Nation Rising argues against defining the ongoing crime against the Indian as one of race. Racism is a problem, no doubt. But the real issue between imperial vigilantes and Natives is land. "The erasure and elimination of the Native…is simply to gain access to land," the authors write. This is why the American 1776 war of independence was catastrophic for Natives, and for Blacks. The book argues that the revolutionary war "was actually a counterrevolutionary war to enslave Blacks and exterminate Indians." All I can say is don't tell this to the know-nothing GOP governors in such a tizzy over critical race theory that they've banned it from public schools. They'll have a fit. In fact, this book is precisely the sort of clear-eyed analysis of power relations within the imperial core that right-wingers aim to eliminate.


The authors mention the arrival of fracking in Native lands and with it, man camps, citing former Congresswoman Deb Haaland voicing concerns about oil and gas workers soliciting Navajo women and girls for sex. Some considered this worry outrageous at the time. But such abuses, along with pollution and destruction of sacred sites, always come with man camps and flourish in bordertowns. "Wall Street is an advanced man camp," the authors write. "The White House is a man camp in miniature. The Bakken oil field is an emergent man camp. The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is an annual man camp. The Ivy League is a federation of man camps."


The authors also critique those who decry police brutality. "Police are Indian killers," they write. Police are per se violent. Lamenting police brutality assumes that there is some acceptable level of violence. Red Nation Rising argues that there is not, that Native people, Blacks and many, many others would be better off without police. "To call for an end of police brutality, therefore, is not to call for an end to police violence; rather it is to call for more 'justified' police violence."


The "bad apples" excuse for police violence, this book argues, is simply a lie. Violence inheres in policing. Why else would cops sport enough military gear for an occupying army? And this occupation is most evident in how police attack and kill Native Americans. "All settler colonial policing begins with the idea that Native peoples have no claim to Native land and, equally important, stand in the way of settler claims to Native land."


So the colonial project means extirpating the Indian; sterilizing women, stealing children and sending them to boarding schools where half of them perish (or maybe more, to judge from the aforementioned ghoulish discoveries of mass graves at such schools in Canada), "policing" men, especially those living on the street, with violence. That's today. It comes after several centuries of outright slaughter and official trickery and machinations to abet that genocide. "The fact that the U.S. government broke every treaty it entered into with Native nations tells you all you need to know about settler law."


And yet Natives survive and persist. This baffles the colonist, even those who claim concern for Native welfare. Indeed, "the 'solutions' the liberal capitalist state offers to white supremacy are the smallpox-infected blankets of ongoing settler colonialism." This book calls for Native defiance, not just one Standing Rock, but many. It also calls for solidarity with others in similar struggles. It's is not a history or anthropology. It is a call to action.


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Lies About January 6

American Fascism

Gary Engler

RED Publishing, 252 pages




Eve Ottenberg

History is being rewritten. The scribes this time around are Republicans; their subject is the January 6 insurrection. Unfortunately for the GOP, this won't fly. In order to successfully rewrite recent history, the apparatchiks in charge need totalitarian control of their country. We learned this from Stalin. The GOP has nowhere near total control of the U.S., and as far as the media is concerned, all it's got is the laughable Fox News. And controlling all media is crucial to any attempt to rewrite recent events.


So, like the January 6 capitol riot itself, this latest attempt to pretend it didn't happen is botched from the get-go. Trump wanted a coup, but with the little reason left him apparently perceived that declaring martial law wouldn't fly. Similarly, GOP history revisionists promote the narrative that the January 6 storming of the capitol was nothing unusual, when every American with a brain knows, and clearly remembers, it was an attempted putsch that would have terminated a democracy already on life-support.


The logical solution here was a bipartisan commission on the January 6 uprising. But due to no doubt Trump-inspired GOP obstruction, such a move was DOA. Now Biden is reportedly considering a presidential commission. But there exist other avenues to truth. According to congressional scholar Norm Ornstein, interviewed in the Washington Post, Biden and the Dems should have the justice department empanel a group to recommend for or against prosecutorial action. Even better, as far as I can see, would be a special prosecutor; though don't expect anything nearly that aggressive from any Biden appointee. The advantage here of either a committee or a prosecutor is justice department subpoena power.


The subpoenas of a mere congressional committee are much more easily disregarded, as we learned during Trump-time. And we want people like House minority leader Kevin McCarthy to testify, under oath and threat of perjury, about his January 6 phone conversation with Trump. You know, the one in which Trump reportedly said of the rioters, "well Kevin, I guess they're a lot more upset about the election than you are." Trump, needless to say, did not volunteer to call off the mob.


It would also be nice to have representative Lauren Boebert and a few others of her QAnon-sympathizing ilk testify under oath and threat of perjury about their text messages to or from the rioters, as they stormed the capitol. Early reports said Boebert was in communication with them. Is this true? If so, with whom? And what exactly were the contents of those messages? Did they reveal the locations of targeted congresspeople? I'm sure her colleagues, and indeed much of the nation, would like to know.


Alternatively, according to Ornstein, Pelosi could cobble together a select committee. Ornstein prefers the justice department approach, but why not both? A select committee would not have to have an even number of members from both parties. It could have a slim majority of Dems, Ornstein says. The problem is that McCarthy "is going to do whatever he can, first, to block a committee, and second, to stack it with members designed to turn it into a farce."


But from my perch in the peanut gallery, it seems that if we had Pelosi's select committee in the House and a justice department empaneled committee of inquiry, or a special prosecutor, the chances of getting convincing results double. A select committee with public hearings would plant Dems in front of the cameras as firmly as Republicans were during the Benghazi hysteria. A special prosecutor with discretion to go public could provide a riveting show trial, though for that don't count on attorney general Merrick Garland, whose underlings defend Trump education secretary Betsy DeVos. Of course, the GOP will fight any of this tooth and nail, just as it's already floating the idiot claim that January 6 was mere tourism. The goal here for Dems should be to Stop the Whitewash. Preferably before fanatics like pardoned felon, general Michael Flynn attempt a coup.


Who can forget TV images of louts crashing into the capitol? No one with a functioning memory. But the GOP seems pretty sure it can lie its way into a reality rewrite for its amnesiac base. Why not? After all, this is the party of QAnon, the party whose anointed propaganda arms – Fox News and Newsmax – reported the boldfaced lie that antifa and Black Lives Matter instigated the attempted January 6 coup. Nope. It was Trump himself who did that, along with his henchman Giuliani, shrieking about "trial by combat." Not a single antifa or BLM soul was in sight that afternoon, though there certainly was a bare-chested weirdo sporting fur and horns and plenty of other flakes destroying and stealing federal property and mugging for selfies, all of whom self-identified as Trump supporters. "I'm here because this is where my president wants me to be," said one rioter.


All this mayhem flooded back to me vividly recently, as I read the words, fictionally put into the mouth of a rightwing former CIA operative: "Undermining governments and elections can take time. Perhaps the point is not to Stop the Steal this election, but to prepare for the next one." This reactionary is one of many who populate American Fascism, Gary Engler's new mystery about a right-wing attempt to minimize the damage caused by the January 6 failed overthrow. The hero, journalist Waylon Choy, writes about the far right, leading him to conclude: "So Stop the Steal could be all about demonstrating to the military, the police, the rich and the powerful how easy it would be to claim the election of someone they didn't like, say a Bernie Sanders or another candidate who might challenge capitalism, was invalid. And enough people would believe them that they'd get away with it."


American Fascism posits the Trump presidency as a turning point. The book does not delve into the lugubrious possibility that the Biden years are Weimar redux, because it doesn't need to. It's obvious. Instead, this mystery zooms in on a right-wing conspiracy to get a reactionary, or even an outright fascist, elected in 2024. In this, the book matches reality.


Because in fact, there is a right-wing plot afoot – it's called voter suppression, a looming shadow over 30 states corruptly gerrymandered to have unbudgeable GOP legislative majorities. And this scheme, already hatched, is being carried out by several of those legislatures, along with Republican governors and U.S. congressmen, to steal the next election for Trump or his anointed successor. More likely his successor. A side benefit is the handy excuse to overturn any unlikely progressive Democratic win at any future date. The bogus Stop the Steal is, serendipitously, a bomb waiting to explode, should any leftist ever come within striking distance of the presidency.


I doubt this is Trump's aim as he bellows the grotesque fib that he, not Joe Biden, won the last election. I suspect, rather, that what is on display here is a massively damaged masculine ego. That's not to say the shadow government isn't drawing its own conclusions, and that those conclusions may spell doom for any future, genuine left electoral victory. But as this novel observes – Trump only cares about what's good for Trump. Also, he may very well have hypnotized himself into believing his tornado of lies.


After all, with Trump it's hard to say which is stranger, truth or fiction.


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Incarcerating Innocents -- Migrants in the U.S.

Blood Red Lines

Brendan O'Connor

Haymarket Books, 323 pages




Eve Ottenberg

Parallels between U.S. abuse of Hispanic migrants and that of Jews in the very early Nazi years are deeply creepy. They were even creepier when Trump was president. That's because he was happy to demonize this Central American and Mexican minority, to deploy the full power of the state against it and to unleash police – ICE and BP – against this population with a ferocity that even the very obtuse could see resembled the Gestapo's. For the millions of people who live in this country but have no civil rights – the undocumented, or "illegals" as right-wing demagogues tellingly refer to them – the Trump years were a nightmare. Had he won reelection, who can doubt that things would have got much worse?


So while it's fine to breathe a sigh of relief, the profoundly sick social structures that cage immigrants in second-class status and in detention camps remain in place. As long as they do, another racist fanatic who roars to power will find the machinery to persecute this group right at his fingertips. And the chances of another reactionary firebrand attaining the presidency are not slim: fascism flourishes after capitalism's crises, with Trump's ascent rooted in the 2008 financial crash. If Biden doesn't significantly expand the social welfare state, who knows what we'll get as a result of the 2020 collapse? It could be another Trump but worse – a competent fascist who can make the trains run on time, not a buffoon.


Meanwhile, how to stop government from stigmatizing the Latinx minority? Because while Biden renounces the most egregious cruelties, like family separation at the border, tons of people remain locked up for what's barely a misdemeanor, the equivalent of driving without a license, namely entering the country without papers. Biden has not shuttered detention centers, and he will likely keep the cap on the number of refugees to be admitted. While ICE and BP might not currently drive tanks through the streets of sanctuary cities, they still receive far more money than the FBI or the DEA. Their sole purpose is to surveil, detain and arrest a minority population that has no rights, and as long as millions of people have no rights, any claim that the U.S. is a free democracy is laughable. This same status quo prevailed in Germany at the start of Nazi rule, when the first laws were passed persecuting Jews.


How did we reach this abysmal state? The answer, simply, is nativism. But of course, how that became a potent mainstream poison is a complicated story, one told by Brendan O'Connor in his new book, Blood Red Lines. O'Connor clarifies the looming catastrophe, quoting Hannah Arendt on how the "denial of the right to have rights" was the precondition "for the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazi Reich. 'A condition of complete rightlessness was created before the right to live was challenged.'"


It is not such a huge step from yanking an infant from its mother's arms forever, or sterilizing a young woman, to killing people. And remember, Trump shrieked that we needed the military at the border. Already, right-wing militias patrolling the southern frontier, armed with semi-automatic weapons, are not around for the aid and comfort of desperate migrants. Kindness has also been criminalized. Those who leave water bottles along desert routes, or who give weary migrants a lift to a way-station, or who provide medical care – they have found themselves in court, facing stiff prison sentences. How U.S. law tangled up like this is a wretched tale, and the anti-migrant snarl has ugly roots. But this country now shamelessly boasts a fearsome legal apparatus that dehumanizes a helpless population. Anyone who watched videos of unaccompanied three-year-olds under questioning in court during the Trump years could not help but conclude the U.S. was complicit in profound evil.


"It became clear to me," O'Connor writes of his encounters with the alt-right, "that these people were fascists…deeply, terrifyingly sincere political actors trying to make their way toward a world where anyone who did not fit into their vision of strength, beauty or worth was eliminated. Nothing would make them happier, I realized, than to see me and my friends dead." These same people got their hands on power for four years; they want to do so again. They thirst for power. Don't mistake their being sidelined for inactivity – the radical right still mobilizes.


Our immigration machinery, O'Connor writes, "is a bureaucratic behemoth that carries the genocidal mania of the settler past into the present." Biden has done nothing to dismantle that machinery, to cripple that behemoth. Don't expect him to. His administration belongs to the Clinton, Bush and Obama family tree. And altogether those three presidents deported 27 million people. They tossed plenty in what's euphemistically called detention, too. But we might as well be honest and call it by its name: prison, or, in some instances, concentration camps.


The other salient adversity here is that undocumented migrants form a helpless and vulnerable strata of the working class. Business lures them north for their cheap labor and for their powerlessness due to being "deportable." The threat of ICE means they can't organize in unions. These immigrants also provide grist for the carceral state mill. So fascist and capitalist policies intertwine with regard to migrants, which is why O'Connor sees the only possibly successful response to be a joint one – labor and antifascists must team up. "One of the functions of fascism, when capitalism is in crisis," he writes, "is the destruction of workers' movements that might genuinely challenge the system."


Blood Red Lines traces the right-wing movements and actions of prominent reactionaries like John Taunton and Peter Thiel, which have propelled us to the current precipice. Yes, labor and antifascists should unite. But a sledgehammer needs to be taken to the legalistic, bureaucratic monster threatening the millions of people whom it has declared have no rights. Though it's unlikely, Biden could still distinguish himself from his predecessors by handicapping that monster and affirming civil rights for migrants – before they lose the right to life. Because that is where we are headed. That is the abyss that yawns before us. And those that think it can't happen here haven't been paying attention.

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A Feminist Revolt

Crossroads, I live Where I Like

Koni Benson

PM Press, 146 pages



Eve Ottenberg

With right-wing hysteria about the feminization of the military landing on our laptops recently, now is a good time to focus on issues dear to the hearts of actual feminists, namely, housing, health and education. These concerns were embraced, very strikingly, by feminists in apartheid South Africa. Toward the end of apartheid, many Black people were homeless and so constructed domiciles out of discarded wood and tin wherever they could. These shacks became communities. One such famous encampment is called Crossroads, on the edge of Cape Town. What caused Crossroads' renown was the fierce political activism of the women who lived there, in their struggles against eviction, for education for their children and for surviving the male violence from the state and from gang members who slaughtered each other. This brutality drove many of the women and their families out of the encampment.


The story of this female struggle to preserve their neighborhood is told in a newly published graphic history, Crossroads, I Live Where I Like by Koni Benson (the title echoes Steve Biko's newspaper column, "I Write What I Like"). The book "narrates the successful campaign to save this community of shack dwellers from imminent destruction," according to the forward.  "Women have been on the front lines of modern enclosure." This community, which still exists, was known in the 1970s and '80s as a place full of Transkei women. It grew from 20 shacks housing 100 people in February 1975 to between 4000 and 7000 people in 1017 shacks in April of that year. Despite eviction notices, progressive lawyers won a victory notable in a country where "apartheid bulldozers…forcibly 'removed' and relocated 3.8 million black people from their homes and neighborhoods between the 1960s and 1980s."


Apartheid's goal at that time was to keep black labor cheap and the cities white. As a result, by 1978, Crossroads was the "only remaining informal settlement for African people in the cape peninsula." When the state moved to demolish it, the women's committee defied the apartheid regime and defended Crossroads. These women literally had nowhere else to go. They had come there because "they fled the bulldozing of their homes in squatters' camps; they were tired of concealing their illegal status in bachelor hotels; they were tired of being arrested for pass violations; they were evicted from 'coloured neighborhoods;' they came directly from the eastern cape; or because they had lost children to starvation in the Bantustans and had no intention of returning."


Men did not easily accept female leadership. In fact, by the 1980s, Crossroads was renamed "the place of the fathers." It took a while, over a decade, but the reconfiguration succeeded "from one symbolized by squatter women's mobilization inspiring international anti-apartheid resistance campaigns to one of corrupt militarized control by vigilantes armed and empowered by the apartheid state." Patronage and patriarchy, this book argues "were mixed into battle against the state" from 1980 onwards. Many women were expelled from Crossroads, especially those who had been leaders, "offices of progressive organizations…were bombed, over 45,000 people were detained without trial and numerous activists died under mysterious circumstances." In 1985, state security started using death squads. Most destructive to people in Crossroads "were the counter-insurgency guerrilla warfare tactics developed in Algeria and modified in Vietnam and Colombia."


But the women of Crossroads weren't done. In the 1990s, while the famous Goldstone Commission pursued its inquiry into public violence under apartheid, the Mothers of Crossroads formed to focus attention on how force and inciting violence were being used for removals. This group prioritized peace. Part of their organizing impetus derived from so many youth being killed in the housing conflict and also from concerns about educating and feeding children. But in 1993, masked gunmen burst into one leader's house, that of Joyce Ndinse, and killed her. This murder "deflated women's mobilizing, as the price of standing out…was clearly very high."


With their focus on health, welfare and education, these women of Crossroads adopted what I would call a realistic feminism, one that accepts the facts on the ground and deals with them. Those facts include the paramount reality that most women, at some point and usually for an extended period, are caregivers. This realistic feminism exerted itself at Crossroads in every way to improve the lot of caregivers, which of necessity implied ameliorating circumstances for those who received care. These women of Crossroads embraced this fight, which included challenging wanton male violence. In this they were the opposite of, how shall we say, patriarchal feminists – perhaps best embodied by a celebrity politician like Hillary Clinton who validates her feminism by how many scalps she collects. The more that belong to bigwigs she helped murder, like Mu'ammar Gaddafi, the better. These patriarchal feminists take it for granted that to break glass ceilings women must imitate men and adopt male values, even when those values are, objectively, perverted. The women of Crossroads never made such mistakes. They knew first-hand how toxic hyper-masculinity is. They had no desire to make themselves over in men's images. But that doesn't mean they didn't want power.


This book argues that for most Black women in South Africa, the 1980s were indistinguishable from war. Things did not immediately improve with the 1994 end of apartheid. Indeed in 1997 at Crossroads, the Women's Power Group (WPG) was founded. It focused on "housing, revamped service charges, missing housing funds, filth of schools and clinics, lack of crèches, inability of the state…to provide security at Crossroads." The WPG organized a sit-in at the city council. In retaliation, some of the protester's shacks were burnt down, family members were killed and the women had to run for their lives. Ten years after apartheid's end, one of these women said: "I can't say that I'm in ten years of freedom. I'm in ten years of struggle."


Crossroads, I Live Where I Like portrays a unique feminist effort, whose leaders struggled for the basics of survival for their families and friends, for which some of them paid with their lives. The book excavates a buried era of feminist politics, otherwise nearly lost to history – as indeed so often is the fate of feminist leadership and revolt.




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American Gulag

We Do This Till We Free Us

Mariame Kaba

Haymarket Books, 240 pages




Eve Ottenberg

The U.S. tops any other country in the world for its number of prisoners – over 2,300,000. China, by contrast, has roughly 200,000 prisoners. But the U.S. general population is only 330 million, while China's is 1.4 billion. American prisoners constitute a much larger percentage of the population than those in any other nation. The U.S. has clung to this dubious distinction for decades.


Equaling the Soviet gulag at its height in the 1950s in numbers of prisoners, the U.S. also locks away 61,000 of them in the torture called solitary confinement and 2700 in the terror called death row. These are not the policies and actions of a civilized society. This is barbarism. As long as this continues, any American politician who climbs up on a high horse about government abuse of citizens in another country is a pathetic hypocrite who deserves to be laughed out of public life.


Privatization of prisons has made things worse. Of federal prisoners, 19.1 percent are in private prisons, as are 6.8 percent of those in state prisons. These privately run hellholes turn a profit by jacking up fees for inmates from everything from phone calls to mail to video-conferencing with a lawyer. They also make money by skimping on decent food and proper medicines and have lots of other ingenious ways to squeeze dollars out of their captives. Politically, private prisons are a reactionary force, promoting, naturally, tougher crime laws and longer sentences. Because that's how they make money – for them, the more prisoners, the better. Private prisons contributed to the 408 percent increase in the U.S. prison population from 1978 to 2014.


Originally, Quakers advanced prisons, as a reform, an alternative to the horrors of corporal and capital punishment. But, as abolitionist Mariame Kaba argues in her new book, We Do This Till We Free Us, prisons became their own kind of nightmare. The introduction quotes Ruth Wilson Gilmore: "We live in the age of human sacrifice." Prisoners are our human sacrifice: people locked away in tiny cages for decades. In response, Kaba would abolish prisons and the police. She advocates transformative and restorative justice, which would impose consequences on those who harm – such as reparations, public apologies, loss of any position of power or privilege, counseling, etc. – but not destroy them. Kaba writes: "Prison is simply a bad and ineffective way to address violence and crime."


Unsurprisingly, her prescriptions would necessitate a social and economic revolution, for which Kaba, who is anti-capitalist, has worked for years. "Harm originates from situations dominated by stress, scarcity and oppression," she writes. "Our punishment system, which is grounded in genocide and slavery and which has continued the functions and themes of those atrocities, can never be made just."


Like many abolitionists, Kaba drew hope from the George Floyd rebellion last summer and joined those calling for defunding the police.  Here's her list of police "reforms" to be avoided: "1) reforms that allocate more money for the police; 2) reforms advocating for more police; 3) technology-focused reforms; 4) individual dialogues with individual cops funded by tax dollars." Instead she supports: "1) reparations to victims and families of police violence; 2) decreasing policing and prison funding and redirecting it to other social goods; 3) elected independent civilian police accountability boards with power to investigate, discipline and fire cops and administrators; 4) disarming the police; 5) simplifying dissolving police departments; 6) data transparency (stops, arrests, budgeting, etc.)"


Kaba is against police or prison reform. She does not describe policing as broken, because that reaffirms reform and undercuts abolition. Police kill about 1000 people a year, she notes, but since 2005, there have been only 110 prosecutions of officers who shot people, with convictions in less than 42 cases. But Kaba also notes abolitionists' successes: removing former Illinois state's attorney Anita Alvarez; helping to win reparations for torture victims during the reign of "infamous police commander Jon Burge in Chicago – a city that has, over the past two decades, become a hub of abolitionist organizing;" and several campaigns to free women imprisoned for self-defense against sexual abusers.


Women's right to self-defense against abuse, whether it's a wife and her husband or a sex worker and a client, is central to Kaba's thinking. In fact, she titled one chapter, "Organizing to End Sexual Violence Without Prisons." She describes the abuse survivor's position thus: "I was hurt. Somebody did it. I want them to know that they did it. I want to see that they have some remorse for having done it." That's a far cry from tossing the abuser in a cage for decades, so that by the time he's free, he's elderly and unemployable.


But the even deadlier consequence of the current criminal justice approach is that women who defend themselves land in prison. "Prosecuting and incarcerating survivors of violence," Kaba writes "puts courts and prisons in the same punitive role as their abusers." Here she reviews several prominent cases, for instance, Cyntoia Brown who, aged 16, "shot and killed Johnny Allen, a 43-year-old Nashville resident who picked her up for sex." Brown explained she shot him in self-defense. She was "tried as an adult and was convicted of first degree premeditated murder and 'especially aggravated robbery.'" With concurrent life-sentences, she would have been eligible for parole after 51 years in prison. However, Brown's case drew much media attention, and she was pardoned. Kaba cites other such cases.


"In 2017, there were 219,000 women in U.S. prisons and jails, most of them poor and of color," Kaba writes, observing that the incarceration rate for black women is double that for white women. She argues that abuse survivors are systematically punished "for trying to protect themselves and their children," that it is "hurt people who hurt other people," and that prison simply should not figure in the equation.


This book recounts terrible stories of women punished for defending themselves, but one, from Florida, presents a very bitter irony: Marissa Alexander fired a warning shot into the air to force her violent husband to back off. For this, she faced 60 years in prison. She would have seemed a likely candidate for Florida's infamous "stand your ground law" – right? But the judge said no, because she had not demonstrated fear. She was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison. (After three years in prison and two under house arrest, she was released, thanks to a national campaign to free her and to some very effective lawyers.)


One cannot help wondering, had Marissa Alexander been male and white, like George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin – how would the judge have ruled then? Would he have let her go, like the judge who let Zimmerman off? Because apparently, at least in Florida, what's self-defense for a man is outright attempted murder for a woman.

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How Washington Has Ruled the World

Washington Bullets

Vijay Prashad

Monthly Review Press, 162 pages



Eve Ottenberg

So far, Biden's foreign policy does not differ seismically from Trump's. Indeed Biden's first move – recognizing the unelected pretender to the Venezuelan presidency, Juan Guaido – was as lousy as anything Trump did. It raises the specter of CIA coups, assassinations, regime changes and Washington-orchestrated color revolutions, which Biden's two dreadful foreign policy appointees, Victoria Nuland and Samantha Power, embraced ardently in the past. Of course, those coups the U.S. sponsors are the antithesis of democracy and have the utterly predictable result of destroying entire countries – but this has been how the U.S. has exercised power in the world (mostly the Global South) since at least the dawn of the twentieth century.


Vijay Prashad documents this shameful U.S. history in his new book, Washington Bullets, whose litany of CIA depredations is enough to cause outright despair. The opportunities lost. Human history thwarted. Virtuous leaders cut down precisely because they were virtuous. Heroes murdered. Plans to improve millions of lives just shattered.  The cumulative portrait is beyond distressing. This portrait, this book is about how the U.S. rules the world, about raw power and how amoral, bloody and criminal such power is. As Evo Morales writes in the introduction, the U.S. has justified its assassinations, coups, and massacres as "the fight against communism, followed by the fight against drug trafficking and now, the fight against terrorism." What will the next fight be? Doubtless something to do with Great Power Competition, something needless and nuclear.


An abbreviated list of U.S. coups and assassinations against assorted socialists and democrats includes the overthrow of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran in 1953, that of President Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954 – for daring to  threaten the profits of a company, United Fruit, in which state department officials held shares; the ouster and subsequent execution of heroic Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba of the Congo in 1961; the overthrow of Prime Minister Abd al-Karim Qasim in Iraq in 1963; the 1964 removal of President Joao Goulart in Brazil and of President Kusno Sukarno of Indonesia in 1965; the ouster of President Juan Jose Torres of Bolivia in 1971; the 1973 overthrow of President Salvador Allende in Chile; and other violent and brutal regime changes.


There were also the murders of leftist leaders such as Mehdi Ben Barka of Morocco in 1965, Che Guevara in Bolivia in 1967 and President Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso in 1987; and this isn't counting the string of coups instigated by the U.S. in Central and Latin America in the early part of the twentieth century. Much later toward the century's end, came the U.S. overthrow of the socialist governments in Grenada and Haiti, the kidnapping of authoritarian Panamanian ruler Manuel Noriega, the invasion of Iraq and dissolution of its government, the destruction of Libya, the invasion of Afghanistan and more. This is merely a portion of U.S. and specifically CIA crimes against foreign governments and people.


"So in this prison house of psychological warfare," Prashad writes, "it is perfectly acceptable for the Free World to claim resources from the colonized world, which should be forced to surrender its wealth for the sake of someone else's freedom." That sums up Western colonialism. And when Western profits are threatened, the CIA and US state department have regime change down to a science, whose nine steps Prashad lists: 1) lobby public opinion; 2) appoint the right man on the ground in country; 3) make sure the generals are ready; 4) make the economy scream; 5) diplomatic isolation; 6) organize mass protests; 7) greenlight the overthrow; 8) assassinate opponents; 9) deny U.S. involvement. Sound familiar? That's because the U.S. currently engages in several of these activities vis a vis Russia, China, Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, Syria, North Korea and other countries.


"The great decolonization process – whose highpoint was in the 1960s and 1970s – became the prelude to poverty and war that now wracks the Third World. Beneath the paving stones in these colonized lands…[lie] the corpses of freedom fighters," writes Prashad. How many corpses? One estimate is seven to ten million dead worldwide from Washington's aggressions since World War II. That includes millions in Southeast Asia, millions in Korea, the million leftists slaughtered with CIA assistance in Indonesia in the 1960s, a million in Iraq and many, many in Latin America and Africa.


One CIA effort alone, Operation Condor in Latin America, killed 100,000 people. In this, the U.S. "worked within the archipelago of military juntas from Argentina to Paraguay to abduct, torture and murder Communists in the continent." The program ran from 1975 to 1989 and also imprisoned half a million people. The U.S. relied on men who can only be described as fascists. "A ruthlessness was let loose upon the earth," Prashad writes, "as the most toxic political ideologies were given full license to kill."


Those toxic ideologies were well summed up in Trump. So while Biden breaks with all things Trump, he has an opportunity to remake foreign policy as well. Wouldn't it be terrific if Biden did not intervene militarily anywhere in the world? If he ended the sanctions that starve ordinary people in countries the U.S. has designated "adversaries," but which really, in most cases, are just trying to remain independent of Washington? If he cut off weapons to dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, so it cannot continue to crush Yemen's bloody corpse? If he left countries like Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela alone, instead of continuing to try to destabilize them for useless ideological reasons? A new presidency is a great time for a new beginning.


But many of Biden's foreign policy appointments are inauspicious to say the least, and again, his first move on Venezuela is awful. Also, he has been ominously silent on Yemen, not uttering a peep about his campaign promise to end U.S. support for the morally disgusting assault on the poorest country in the Middle East. Still, it's just the start of Biden's presidency. He could yet mark out a different course, if he cared to. For the old ways are a failure, as the CIA and government officials who are Prashad's sources readily admit.


Those sources, Prashad writes, are men "who did nasty things, hated talking about them but were honest enough to say toward the end of their lives that they had helped make a mess of the world." Indeed they did. And there is little evidence that those who follow them have learned any lessons from their misbegotten crimes. Whole countries have been pulverized by the U.S., from Iraq to Haiti, whose liberation theologian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the U.S. helped depose TWICE. The second time, Aristide says he was kidnapped by the U.S. and shipped out of the country by plane. If he or someone else from his political party, which actually represents the interests of Haitians, came to power again, who's to say the U.S. would now behave any differently, with any humanity or morality? For those are the two things lacking, for generations, in how the U.S. rules the world. It's past time for a change. The whole world knows it. The gory U. S. assault on justice in the Global South is the scandal of the century – of two centuries. When will Washington stop it?

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The Aftermath of the George Floyd Rebellion

"We Still Here"

Marc Lamont Hill

Haymarket Books, 117 pages




Eve Ottenberg

The media may not cover them much anymore, but Black Lives Matter protests have not died out completely. At their height, last summer, multiple cities convulsed in protest simultaneously. Smaller gatherings still trickle into public parks in cities like Washington, D.C., they have not stopped totally; nor, at all, have the police killings that prompted them. On December 22, a Columbus, Ohio police officer, Adam Coy shot and killed 47-year-old Andre Maurice Hill. The victim was black, the police officer is white. Like other such incidents, Hill did not assault or threaten the officer with a weapon. In plain English – the killing was utterly unprovoked. The body-cam footage confirms this.


According to NPR, the police responded "to a non-emergency call about a man sitting inside a car repeatedly turning it on and off" in a garage. For this, Hill was executed. Columbus mayor Andrew Ginther called for Coy's firing, adding "from what we can see, none of the officers initially at the scene provide medical assistance to Mr. Hill." In other words, they watched him die and did nothing. Also in Columbus, another black citizen, Casey Goodson Jr. was shot by a white sheriff's deputy, Jason Meade on December 4. So much for the bad apples argument regarding the Columbus police department. This is a thing, as we have seen repeatedly. It's how American police departments function – by killing people, disproportionately black people. And that's why the country blew up in the summer and into the fall, because the African American community had enough of it.


There have been over 900 fatal police shootings per year, every year, since 2015 in the U.S. While he does not dwell on individual cases of police brutality, Marc Lamont Hill keeps them ever present in his new book, "We Still Here." Institutional police violence and the George Floyd rebellion it provoked are some of Hill's subjects. He also zeros in on the context – the Covid-19 pandemic: "For perhaps the first time in modern history, a global health pandemic was spread from the privileged down to the poor…Economic power enables social distance…'Sheltering in place' is a luxury of the privileged." Hill also discusses the dangers of getting sick posed by attending crowded protests. But that danger didn't stop thousands of people from pouring into the streets. Nor did it stop the right-wing backlash – from Fox news repeating its sensationalized and sometimes fabricated stories about riots, looters and violence ad nauseam and from armed, radical rightwing terrorists, who swarmed out of the woodwork.


Hill calls for defunding the police. This call began as a "marginal political position held by radical anti-prison activists. Today it has been embraced by influential members of congress." But this is an uphill fight. Centrists Democrats and Joe Biden have already fled from the "defund the police" campaign, convinced that it is a vote-killer, as any observer with a functioning brain knew they would. Biden reportedly recently lectured civil rights leaders against defunding the police at a meeting to discuss something utterly unrelated, namely his agriculture secretary. The president-elect prefers the "there are good-cops and bad-cops" approach to police murders. Meanwhile rightwing media became hysterical about defunding the police, just as that media distorted and lied about BLM protests to bolster Trump's reactionary election campaign.


"We Still Here" links violence against minority communities to covid, citing "Corona capitalism." This term "refers to the economic conditions and institutional arrangements that made the vulnerable more likely to experience premature death during the Covid-19 pandemic…68 percent of Americans said that money would be a factor in their decision to seek care if they had coronavirus symptoms." Another focus is confinement combined with being "death eligible" – as are the over two million people in U.S. prisons, which Hill calls death camps during covid. Rikers in New York City is one of the worst. Hill cites it, observing that "75 percent of people in Rikers are not convicted of any crime. Most are awaiting trial and…cannot afford cash bail." But covid has transformed their cases into death sentences, without "trial, judge or jury."


A related horror of this plague is that before it, 60,000 U.S. prisoners were in solitary. Now – 300,000. The UN has called solitary confinement torture, but these people have been done in by "the politics of disposability." Some prisoners struggle to conceal their symptoms to avoid solitary, while the lucky ones work for pennies to bury covid corpses. As Hill explains, the trap prisoners find themselves in "is a quintessentially American logic: the moment you are no longer exploitable, you become death eligible."


Indeed, for the police in the U.S., whole communities are death eligible. U.S. police, unlike their European counterparts, are prolific killers. Proportionally they kill many more blacks than whites, and this stems from their provenance. Hill quotes Angela Davis that "the practice of modern policing is rooted in early slave patrols," the groups of whites who hunted down escaped slaves. In response, Hill advocates "historicizing policing," i.e., teaching its brief history in schools and making students aware that a society without it not only is possible, but used to exist. Feudal societies lacked police. So did early capitalist ones, until the nineteenth century. Historicizing police could acclimate people to the concept of living without it.


Policing proves Hill's maxim that "there is no such thing as a non-violent state." The state asserts a monopoly on violence. Some protesters challenged that, as of course do rightwing militias. The police, however, have treated those militias as allies, as an extension of police power. And when those right-wingers killed protesters, the police all but blessed their efforts, treating Kyle Rittenhouse, for instance, with kid gloves, in contrast to their "shoot on sight" approach to antifascist Michael Reinoehl. That extrajudicial murder was publicly and criminally advocated and then applauded by Trump, because Reinoehl had allegedly shot a fascist. But Rittenhouse shot BLM protesters, so he was coddled.


So in a sense, the state monopoly on violence includes under its umbrella fascist militias. In these circumstances, it's hard to see how the larger-scale protests won't resume at some point.  They are a human struggle, a human cry against life and death in what Hill accurately calls "a fascist, white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalist empire in decline."

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Maduro's Government and the Left

"Venezuela, the Present As Struggle"

Cira Pascual Marquina and Chris Gilbert

Monthly Review Press, 377 pages




Eve Ottenberg

Nicolas Maduro's government in Venezuela poses a unique dilemma for some on the left. They have criticisms of it, but decided against voicing them too obstreperously now, for the obvious reason that that could aid and comfort a mortal enemy – the most powerful military empire of all time, namely the United States, which appears ready to impose a ruthless, savage, fascist capitalism in its perceived backyard of Latin America. Maduro's government has failings and falls short of the high bar set by his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. But that is irrelevant. Fanatical fascists and radical right-wingers have Maduro in their sights, precisely because he, with his watered-down socialism, is the duly, legitimately elected leader of Venezuela. So leftists see Maduro making mistakes, and they bite their tongues.


Take privatization of state-run enterprises. Take campesino protests. Take workers' struggles to control factories. Take police murders of young men from the barrios. On those counts the Maduro government disappoints the left. It compromises. It cedes ground to the right. But it is under siege. And it's better than the only alternative on offer – a gangster opposition headed by a ridiculous pretender, Juan Guaido, crowned in absentia by regime-change maniacs in Washington.


Maduro does still pursue a form of socialism. And Venezuela's economic crisis is by no means all his fault. The chief cause was the collapse of the price of oil some years back. Had oil remained at $100 a barrel, as it was in Chavez's day, Venezuela could have avoided recession. But then came barbaric U.S. economic sanctions. The Trump regime's effort to kill the Venezuelan economy, to punish it for its socialism, overthrow its elected leaders, install puppets and rob it of its oil, all intensified the damage done by the oil price plunge.


These twin economic catastrophes clobbered average people. Sanctions alone are estimated to have killed tens of thousands of Venezuelans. The Trump regime besieged the country to steal its resources, the biggest oil reserves on the globe and to destroy its example of socialism once and for all – an assault based on creaky, criminal, hubristic, imperial reasoning that famine and destitution will cause Venezuelans to rebel against their leaders. That won't happen. People know who's making their lives miserable: the U.S. empire. And Trump's homicidal sanctions are all the more monstruous, as they come during a pandemic, compelling desperate Venezuelans to scrounge for essential medicines. Biden doesn't look likely to take a more civilized approach, but time will tell. Perhaps the new president will allow humanity to temper policy during the lethal covid plague, and lift Trump's murderous sanctions. Not likely, but one can hope.


Amazingly, the 35 revolutionaries interviewed by Cira Pascual Marquina and Chris Gilbert in their new book, "Venezuela, the Present As Struggle," still find cause for optimism. Some seem eager to work with Maduro's government to promote specific aspects of socialism. Those interviewed include communards, feminists, campesino leaders, internationalists, barrio organizers and intellectuals. All share the interviewers' critical perspective, expressed at the outset: dismay at Maduro's accommodations with capital, "leaving two bleak options on the table: imperialist restoration or bureaucratic stagnation…choosing between the quick versus the slow suffocation of the socialist revolution." But despite this dire choice, they don't succumb to pessimism. Their aim is to nudge the government in a more democratic, more truly socialist direction.


"Venezuela, the Present As Struggle" presents the commune as "the building block for socialism." The authors also argue that Chavismo corrected "Zapatismo's renunciation of state politics," but clearly they want the state responsive to the communes, which "is where the revolution really begins," and which, they hope, ultimately will abolish the state. But this is a time when Venezuela's colectivos, the book argues, are being rebranded by imperialists as terrorist organizations. Faced with this deviously calibrated reactionary slander, the supposedly socialist state sits on its hands. Or worse.


One commune organizer tells the interviewers that government security forces harass the communes, while the government installs "the logic of corruption, bureaucracy and clientelism…doing the work of the Right." Another activist from the Surgentes Collective, a human rights organization, describes a project of 70 farming families who distribute food to over 1200 urban families weekly. It is a great success. It demonstrates how campesino farming benefits the barrios. (It's also worth noting that campesino farming is far more environmentally sustainable than the agro-industry sort.) Other leftists stress the need for economic democracy and decry "the farce of representative democracy." One accuses Maduro's son of trying to criminalize campesino efforts.


A leader of the Campesino Struggle Platform, Andres Alayo, discusses the revolutionary Land Law of 2001. Since then, "oligarchic violence has led to the deaths of some 350 to 400 campesinos." He sees life and the democratization of land on the campesino side and a culture of death and terror on the other, big, land-owning side. Describing how from 2006 to 2010 the state ended the 19th century plantation model by seizing tracts of land, Alayo laments the more recent dwindling and dismantling of state agricultural enterprises. This decline has occurred since Chavez's death. Alayo makes the case against turning state enterprises over to private investors – but that is the trend. He also argues that small farmers and communards have proved "that they can produce and deliver," so why does the state now privilege large capital? Why indeed.


On different topics from varying walks of life, each of these 35 people interviewed warn of capitalism's inroads, encouraged by the government. They all criticize, some less cautiously than others, Maduro's tilt toward capitalism as an exit from the economic crisis. Because the bitter truth is that this inclination is gratuitous. Socialist farming has worked in Venezuela. Socialist factory production has worked in Venezuela. The colectivos have worked. All simply need to be done on a larger scale. There need to be more of them. Privatizing state assets is a failed course of action. And it sabotages socialist gains. Everyone interviewed in this book proposes alternatives to the rush toward capitalist investment.


But all 35 appear to agree, some only implicitly, that with the right-wing resurgent, it is time to close ranks. Half a loaf is better than none. These leaders and intellectuals are willing to sacrifice and support Maduro's government against a rapacious imperial aggressor from abroad, who seeks to foment fascism at home. The government would do well to respond constructively to their concerns. Instead it appears to take such supporters for granted, or, worse, to undermine them.

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Industrial Food Production and the Pandemic

"Dead Epidemiologists, On the Origins of COVID-19"

Rob Wallace

Monthly Review Press, 265 pages




Eve Ottenberg

Covid-19 comes from the primary forest, from bat caves. In a world without industrial agriculture encroaching on that forest, in a world without the corporatization of a wild-food industry, Covid-19 would probably never have left those caves. The pandemic was not caused by small-holder agriculture, and the virus probably did not escape from a lab. As it becomes endemic, it may become unstoppable. But not so the next pestilence. If we revamp our food production system now, maybe the pathogens lurking in primeval forest viral reservoirs will stay there, instead of hopping onto planes to London, New York, Beijing, Moscow and other metropolises.


A new book by Rob Wallace, "Dead Epidemiologists," argues just that. According to Wallace, industrial agriculture pushes "capitalized wild foods deeper into the last of the primary landscape, dredging out a wider variety of potentially protopandemic pathogens." And that's only half the story. The other half traces the threat of avian and swine flus posed by factory farms and their peculiarly unethical forms of monoculture. Wallace focuses on how those monocultures remove immune firebreaks.


This book argues that in addition, factory farms may force "corporatized wild food companies to trawl deeper into the forest," getting new pathogens, "while reducing the kind of environmental complexity with which the forest disrupts transmission chains." So several threats: factory farms themselves; the push into forests for wild foods picks up new pathogens; that push also disrupts a web of life that kept those pathogens in check. And that's before Wallace even touches on the broader topic of industrial crop farming and its planetary destruction.


"Dead Epidemiologists" thus links novel viruses to agribusiness and deforestation, which release them, causing them to spill "over into local livestock and human communities." He cites this happening with Ebola, Zika, Makona, the coronaviruses, yellow fever, avian influenzas and African swine fever, for starters. Many of these "previously held in check by long-evolved forest ecologies are being sprung free, threatening the whole world." For agribusiness, however, "a virus that might kill a billion people is treated as a worthy risk," a cost of doing business paid not by that business, but by humanity at large, aka an externality. The food industry is only too happy to socialize this cost onto the rest of us, to infect and kill millions of people, as it rakes in its privatized profits.


Wallace's solutions include ending monoculture by introducing livestock and crop varieties, and rewilding, as has been done somewhat with buffalo in the American west. That's long-term. In the shorter term, he denounces herd immunity based on letting covid run rampant as "let's do maximum damage," and describes how the staggering U.S. failures to cope with this plague were "programmed decades ago as the shared commons of public health were simultaneously neglected and monetized." Instead of Malthusian herd immunity, "we need to nationalize hospitals, as the Spanish did. We need to supercharge testing…as Senegal has. We need to socialize pharmaceuticals." And I would add, where there are lockdowns, the government should subsidize idled workers and small businesspeople. All of this, of course, is anathema to the Trump regime.


According to Wallace, 40 percent of our planet's ice-free surface is covered with its largest biome, agriculture, while 72 percent of animal biomass is poultry and livestock. He decries the "geologic scale" of industrial agriculture and how it geologically transforms "vast swaths of Earth's surface into solar factories, carbon mines, and manure lagoons, an alien landscape hostile to most life forms outside the interest of capital, save a subset of suddenly opportunistic pathogen and pest stowaways." In short industrial, chemical agriculture takes up too much space, is killing the planet and will ultimately kill us, too.


Wallace observes that three Iowa watersheds, "home to 350,000 people…host the waste equivalent of Tokyo, New York City and Mexico City combined." This phenomenal pollution derives from our livestock and poultry cruelly crammed together in filthy, disease-ridden cages to produce protein for human consumption. When this factory farming produces diseases, standard operating procedure is to blame small holders; that's now part of the agriculture "industry's standard outbreak crisis management package." But of course, it's really the big industrial factory farms, with all their horrors of animal torture, that are to blame.


In this connection, however, Wallace argues convincingly against the extremes some may rush to – lab-grown meat and advocating global veganism. He cites the massive quantities of carbon burned to produce tiny portions of lab-grown meant, so massive as to outweigh any environmental benefit of vegetarianism based upon it. As for veganism, much of the world, the non-first world, is pastoral. People live with their animals and eat some of them. Imposing veganism on pastoral herders is ridiculous, a kind of colonial stupidity.


Instead, this book champions regenerative agriculture based on use value, not food produced as a commodity, and argues that such an approach is incompatible with capitalism. Small farms with variegated livestock and crops, worked by families are what's needed. Wallace advocates the peasant agriculture promoted by the organization, La Via Campesina, and for planning agriculture that self-regulates "in such a way that the deadliest pathogens are far less likely to emerge." He has little use for commercial pesticides and GMO crops. They simply destroy too much of the natural world; besides farming can proceed quite successfully without them.


Before covid, such plans were often dismissed as left-wing fantasy. Now they look like our last chance to save ourselves from collapsing ecosystems, novel, deadly plagues and a fatally warming planet. The official U.S. covid body count is over 226,000. Experts say it's closer to 300,000. It will probably go much higher. The disease, some medical scientists believe, will become endemic and may require a yearly vaccine, like the flu. That vaccine may only be 50 percent effective, like the flu vaccine. So people will be wearing masks for a long time. Better to be inoculated and masked and survive, than suffocate to death from a virus released from a remote bat cave by an out-of-control food production system. We can't bottle covid back up in its subterranean den, but we sure can prevent the next disease from escaping.

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How the U.S. Military Deformed Science


"The Tragedy of American Science"

Clifford Conner

Haymarket Books, 338 pages




Eve Ottenberg

Any discussion of American science includes, perforce, the military. Physics? Nuclear weapons. Biology? Germ warfare. Chemistry? Poison gas. While the wonders of science extend far beyond these blights, the military and its money have distorted scientific inquiry, to say the least. And where the Pentagon hasn't co-opted any given discipline, capitalism has swooped in.


Just compare the U.S. pharmaceutical industry to Cuba's. In the U.S. new drugs are designed solely with an eye to profitability and jacking up the price. The only drug currently approved in the U.S. to treat Covid-19, Remdesivir, costs thousands of dollars. Cuba uses its drugs to treat its covid patients much more cheaply. Similarly with lung cancer – Cuba long ago developed a vaccine, which it sells to foreigners, including desperate U.S. lung cancer victims, for a few hundred dollars. Here in the U.S., pharmaceutical companies won't even develop such a vaccine. They make too much money bankrupting cancer patients with the astronomical costs of chemotherapy. They don't want lung cancer to be easily cured.


"The river of the tragedy [of U.S. science] has two headwaters: corporatization and militarization," writes Clifford Conner in his new book, "The Tragedy of American Science." Conner covers the lies of nutrition science, beholden to Big Sugar and Big Food, the failure of the green revolution to alleviate hunger within the lethal framework of capitalist inequality, the dangers of GMOs, the tobacco industry's abuse of science, Big Pharma's murder of multitudes of Americans with opiods, environmental degradation and the climate crisis brought to us by fossil fuel capitalism, the lies of the nuclear power industry and the catastrophe of storing its radioactive waste, the conflicts of interest in the academic-industrial complex, the dreadful propagandistic power of think tanks, the fraudulent science of economics and more. But much of this book is devoted exclusively to the militarization of science, because it is here that the principles of free scientific inquiry in the public interest have been most thoroughly corrupted. Indeed, jettisoned.


"We must be thankful that most of the trillions of dollars in American military spending have been wasted," Conner observes. The world, he writes, would be better off if all military R&D funds had been flushed down the toilet. But some of that money achieved its goals. Conner considers the example of new, "small" nuclear weapons.


The development of W76-2 nuclear warheads has not made the world a safer place. Though less powerful than their many megaton predecessors, that is the problem. Conner quotes historian James Carroll: This warhead "isn't designed as a deterrent, it's designed to be used." The idea is to use it in regional wars, thus avoiding nuclear holocaust. But Carroll argues that firing off small nuclear weapons "would likely ignite an inevitable chain of nuclear escalation whose end point is barely imaginable." If the military scientists and engineers who birthed the W76-2 warhead claimed they were making the world safer, they lied.


Conner also clarifies that so-called "smart bombs" are in fact stupid, as anyone who has followed U.S. "precision" bombing in Iraq and Afghanistan knows. Nothing could be less precise. Those smart bombs have slaughtered countless civilians. Conner also dissects the work of scientists and engineers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). He mentions DARPA's development of prohibitively expensive prosthetics, whose true purpose, despite public relations stunts, is not to improve injured vets' lives, but to create "humanoid limbs for war-fighting robots."


Any survey of the military's perversion of science would be incomplete without mention of the infamous Operation Paperclip – the CIA program that imported about 1600 Nazi scientists to the U.S., whitewashed their war criminal pasts and employed them in the military industrial complex. Operation Paperclip's legacy "includes ballistic missiles, sarin gas cluster bombs, and weaponized bubonic plague." The most notorious Operation Paperclip bigwig, of course, was Werner Von Braun, who headed NASA. Von Braun had been a high-ranking SS officer, "deeply complicit in the deaths of the thousands of slave laborers who were killed producing his V-2 rockets at the Dora-Nordhausen concentration camp." Other Nazi scientists illegally brought to the U.S. included Walter Dornberger, in charge of V-2 rocket production at Dora-Nordhausen, who became "America's mouthpiece for the urgent need to weaponize space." There was also Arthur Rudolph, whose office at Dora-Nordhausen "had a window that looked directly out onto the assembly line above which executed laborers were hanged to terrify the workforce." Another Nazi, Kurt Debus, became the first director of the Kennedy Space Center, Conner writes. And there were many execrable others – fascists who should have faced war crimes tribunals, instead of wealth and honors in America.


But then, this is the same U.S. government that conducted "at least 239 experiments in at least eight American cities from 1949 to 1969." In Operation Sea Spray, the U.S. navy in 1950 sprayed bacteria "into the air just off the coast of San Francisco, as the wind was blowing ashore." The pathogen Serratia marcescens can "cause a wide range of infectious diseases." A similar bacteriological experiment was carried out in the New York City subways in 1966 with bacillus globigii, later categorized as a pathogen. Conner also covers the "Megadeath Intellectuals," at the RAND corporation.


This book concludes with the present-day Trump regime's closure of the pandemic directorate right before the Covid-19 outbreak. Conner compares the nearly nonexistent U.S. public health infrastructure to Cuba's far more robust and successful one. U.S. public health failures are now on glaring display, for all the world to see. The powerful American empire, which has spent trillions on the science of death, cannot protect its own citizens from a microscopic virus. China can. South Korea can. So can New Zealand. But in the U.S., money flooded into diabolical methods of killing, while the public health system was systematically starved and dismantled since the Reagan regime. Conner's outline of this catastrophe for Americans clarifies that if ever there was a case to be made for switching our scientific priorities, Covid-19 is it. If ever there was a time to make this change, that time is now.


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