Saturday, June 4, 2011

Formula 1 Supports Torture

I don't know if many in the US have noticed, but the premier world-wide auto-racing series has just rescheduled its race in Bahrain for later this year.  It was rather inconveinently scheduled for last March.  But, now that the princes of Bahrain have tortured and beaten and murdered their population into some sort of quiet, F1 has now quickly proclaimed the rescheduling of the race.

Anyone who's ever been around motor racing knows that a race can't take place without a lot of hard work from people who work at the track.  There is both long preparation by the employees of the track before the first race hauler and fan RV arrives at that track, as well as usually a big volunteer effort to staff the track for the race weekend.

The following is an account from the Independent (UK) of how the track workers in Bahrain have been treated. This is what F1 supports.  The beating and torture of the people who work hard to put on a race in order to please some billionaire oil-prince.  Formula One has said quite clearly that only billionaire oil princes count.

'At around 7pm he was told to strip naked and was again beaten severely'

This is the account of one Shia member of staff at the Bahrain International Circuit, which hosts the Grand Prix, who was arrested in April. Still suffering from injuries inflicted by his interrogators, he has now left the country. He wishes to remain anonymous and is referred to as AB throughout:

"AB's ordeal began when three cars full of security forces arrived at the BIC offices on the morning of 7 April. They went floor by floor searching for people whose names were on their list. When they arrived at the floor of AB's office, they called out his name. They immediately took him away, beating him as they went along the corridor. At least 23 other BIC staff were arrested that day, he says.

The motor race employees were blindfolded and handcuffed using electric cable and were taken to Riffa West police station. Once there, they were led to a room where the group were all beaten with sticks and cables for hours. They were accused of having celebrated the fact that the Formula One had been cancelled earlier in the year. AB denies this, saying that as an employee of BIC, he depends for his livelihood on the events held at BIC, particularly the Formula One.

AB was taken to an interrogation room. He was interrogated about the number of times he went to Pearl Roundabout, the centre of pro-democracy protests. He said he had been there twice, but the officer forced him to say that he had been there 20 times. At one point an officer put AB's head between his legs and flipped his body over, and he lost consciousness. Beatings continued.

The verbal abuse he experienced was full of anti-Shia sectarian hatred. The officers called him "son of muta'a" – a temporary marriage permitted in Shia Islam – and "son of a bitch". At around 7pm he was told to strip naked and was again beaten severely. The cable around his hands became extremely tight because of severe swelling.

The police station was over-flowing with at least 20 people sleeping on the floor in one cell with barely enough space to lie down. They were not given blankets and the air-conditioning was kept very low so it was too cold to sleep.

This treatment lasted for three days until they were transferred to Dry Dock prison, beatings continuing all the while. At Dry Dock the situation was much better and there was no more torture. AB was given sun cream and told to sit in the sun so that injuries from his torture wounds could heal.

He was freed after 20 days and told to sign papers banning him from talking to the media.

Today his hands tremble and he suffers from numbness in his arms as well as anxiety attacks and paranoia.

BTW, F1 is planning a return to the US at a new track in Texas in June, 2012. Seems like any who support democracy and who oppose torture and murder should start planning a protest to let them know that we do not want these people in the USA.

(Update: 06-05-11)
Max Mosley is the former head of the FIA, which is the official body that sanctions F1 races as being legit.  This is what he has to say about F1 going back to Bahrain this year.

"Why is this different to running an event in any number of countries where people are oppressed, kept in poverty, held without trial and mistreated (or worse) in prison?

"Surely the line has to be drawn when a sporting event is not mere entertainment in a less-than-perfect country, but is being used by an oppressive regime to camouflage its actions.

"If a sport accepts this role, it becomes a tool of government. If Formula One allows itself to be used in this way in Bahrain, it will share the regime's guilt as surely as if it went out and helped brutalise unarmed protesters."

He continued: "Having carried out these horrific acts, the Bahrain government wants to clean up its image. That's where the grand prix comes in.

"By running the race they hope to show the world the troubles were just a small, temporary difficulty and everything is now back to normal.

"By agreeing to race there, Formula One becomes complicit in what has happened. It becomes one of the Bahrain government's instruments of repression.

"The decision to hold the race is a mistake which will not be forgotten and, if not reversed, will eventually cost Formula One dear."
And that's from a son of wartime British fascist leader who likes to dress up in Nazi uniforms and play S&M games.  Even he sees that this is a horrible mistake.

As an example of what America's image has become in the civilized world, discussions on F1 forums about whether races should be held in country's with less than perfect human rights records invariably mention the United States in the same breath as Bahrain, China, and Singapore as human rights abusers which also host (or will soon be hosting in 2012) F1 Grand Prix.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Our Hearts Would Break

War Against War: A Meditation on Bradley Manning’s Mind by Scott Tucker via

If we contemplated these fields of dead soldiers without illusions, our hearts would break and we might go mad; if we recognized at long last the greed and presumption of the ruling class, then we might hear and know the real burden of these words, which the poet Wilfrid Owen wrote before dying as a soldier and an officer in World War I:
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est,
Pro patria mori.
[Editor’s note: The Latin phrase translates roughly as “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.”]

One example of war, real-time, and shorn of all illusions.  Its rumored that we can see this video because of the actions of Mr. Bradley Manning.

Rally, June 4th, in Leavenworth, KS in support of Mr. Manning.

Back to Scott Tucker's article, I don't know who Susie Day is, but I think I'd like her. :)

Concluding that Manning “was probably not fit for overseas duty” is breathtaking! Yes, this oracular wisdom comes from “progressive” venues such as “Frontline” and The Guardian, and was then paraphrased on Truthdig. As Susie Day, a lesbian writer who is no friend of empire, wrote to me, “The whole fakakta-osity of this b’cast wasn’t only showing Manning as infantilized and unstable; look at the ‘friends’ they got to talk about him—and his father’s the one who belongs in prison; he obviously has such contempt for a kid who, surrounded by such dolts, did well to survive.” Manning has indeed done more practical good in the fight against war and empire than the great majority of “pragmatic” bleeding hearts will ever do by voting as instructed by MSNBC, The Nation and deadbeat Democrats in Washington.

There's so much in that one paragraph. Begin with the small town idiocy of sending a troubled kid into the Army during wartime because "he needed structure." My own personal bias would be that Mr. Manning might have had a much happier life if a hippie bus on its way to a Phish show had wandered into his town and if he'd gotten on that bus and gone far, far away. But then again, because of the path he was pushed along, Mr. Manning did indeed strike the most substantial blow against war and empire of my generation. Or at least that's what the military is telling us. But, since no good deed goes unpunished in this world, because of that he's been psychologically tortured and is now held in a cell in Leavenworth.

Underneath this all lie the concepts of Democracy and Freedom. Those concepts in who's name we bomb Libya, Iraq, and on some days it seems like half the world. Democracy is a guarantee of Freedom. Democracy is the concept that power resides with the people, and thus the people have the power to guarantee their freedom. Democracy requires information. If government officials hide the truth about our wars behind a veil of secrecy, then they are usurping power from the people. When officials decide what the people know and don't know, they become the rulers and make the citizenry ignorant and powerless.

If Mr. Bradley Manning did what he is accused of doing, then he struck a blow for Freedom and Democracy. He enabled our Democracy to have a chance at functioning by letting the people know at least a few of the secrets, and in doing so letting the people have a chance to make democratic decisions about the policies of our nation that they otherwise could not make if the secrets had stayed secret. My own vision of a free and democratic America would be one where Mr. Manning would be receiving our highest awards and medals for his courageous acts in the defense of freedom. Instead, he's locked away in prison.

Scott Tucker's closing words are too good, too true, and too powerful to ignore.

War against war does not mean we volunteer to be shot down by offering the government the provocation of taking up weapons. Violence is an abyss, and we do not show courage by jumping into an open grave. Resistance, however, can take a thousand forms that do not depend on brute force. The war against war must therefore be grounded in ethics, and guided by daily enlightenment. War against war means this government can no longer depend—smugly and brutally—on the uncontested consent of the governed.

A class-conscious struggle against the corporate state is also a struggle against war and empire. If this government makes the free election of real democrats and of socialists impossible, then we, the people, have the right and duty to elect ourselves as public citizens; and to begin creating a new republic founded upon peace, social wealth, ethical obligation, ecological sanity, and the solidarity of labor across all borders. Every workplace is potentially a free council of workers; every street and neighborhood is potentially a public space of freedom.

In Europe, many thousands of working people have already taken to the streets against the austerity programs imposed by parties of the earnest right and the bogus left. What we may call the political warm spring in Europe may yet become a hot summer. In Greece, workers and students waged a general strike, and in Spain they still occupy public squares—recently braving an assault by riot police swinging shields and truncheons against citizens who peacefully linked arms in a mass sit-down protest in Barcelona. We, too, have a history of urban general strikes in this country, and of class-conscious struggles against war and corporate rule. This government depends on our obedience, but our lives depend on open rebellion. Start small and start now.

Remember, the 'anti-war movement' has already won the hearts and minds of America. Depending on the wording of the poll question and the particular war about which its being asked, somewhere between 55% to 70% of Americans want these wars to end as soon as reasonably possible. The problem in America is that our democracy apparently is failing to function, as these beliefs are not reflected in our government. What America needs is not an anti-war movement, but a democracy movement. Are there any cool colors left unclaimed?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Racing Gods?

I seem to be the rare lefty who likes auto racing. My background is engineering, and to me, a major automobile race is a fascinating contest of engineering between large teams. The teams have engineering projects due with a hard and fast deadline. The date and time of the race is set, and the teams have to be ready. A different world from software where being months late on a project seemed to be considered normal.

Thus, I enjoy spending the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend watching the big auto races.

Now, one of the things I do is that I usually root against all the military sponsored cars. NASCAR is the worst, as there are usually multiple cars sponsored by wings of the military. And in IndyCar, there's been a National Guard sponsored car for the last few years.

At Indy this year, the National Guard car was leading the race on the last lap. A rookie who seems to be a very good driver named J.R. Hildebrand looked like he was going to win the Indy 500 on his first try. A rather remarkable feat. But, then in the last corner of the last lap, he made a rookie mistake. And it was one that sent his car crashing into the wall. He was so close to the finish when he hit the wall that he still finished second as his car slid across the finish line.

I feel bad for the kid. But, unless this makes him a head case, he looks good enough that he'll get another chance to win. But, I do have to admit that I had a smile on my face as I realized the National Guard car wasn't going to win.

Then, that night, the NASCAR boys were racing their 600 mile race at Charlotte. And again, in the last lap, the car sponsored by the National Guard was leading the race. And again, in the final corner, the car ran out of fuel and lost the lead. This time Dale Earnhardt Jr was the driver. He was in the lead because he'd gambled on having fuel left when the more prudent drivers had stopped to top up.

But, still, I couldn't help but notice that in both races, a car with National Guard logos on it seemed to be about to win the race, but then suddenly had a problem at the last turn on the track and failed to win.

Could it be that there's a God in heaven looking down? Could it be that this God can see how many young men and women might be lured into joining the military if this car won the race? Can this God see how many are going to die and never come back home? Can this God see how many are going to be maimed and wounded? Can this God see how many will come back psychologically scarred because of what they have to do?

Once was interesting. But to watch two cars sponsored by the National Guard both have sudden problems in the last corner of the last lap of the race does make one wonder if God looked down from heaven and decided that the lives of many young people might just be better off if these cars didn't win these races.

Over the next few weeks, if you see pictures of the winning car of the Indianapolis 500 and the Charlotte 600, what you won't be seeing is a recruiting ad for the National Guard.

Do They Still Believe We Care What They Think?

Who cares in the Middle East what Obama says? by Robert Fisk in The Independent

While Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu played out their farce in Washington – Obama grovelling as usual – the Arabs got on with the serious business of changing their world, demonstrating and fighting and dying for freedoms they have never possessed. Obama waffled on about change in the Middle East – and about America's new role in the region. It was pathetic. "What is this 'role' thing?" an Egyptian friend asked me at the weekend. "Do they still believe we care about what they think?"

And it is true. Obama's failure to support the Arab revolutions until they were all but over lost the US most of its surviving credit in the region. Obama was silent on the overthrow of Ben Ali, only joined in the chorus of contempt for Mubarak two days before his flight, condemned the Syrian regime – which has killed more of its people than any other dynasty in this Arab "spring", save for the frightful Gaddafi – but makes it clear that he would be happy to see Assad survive, waves his puny fist at puny Bahrain's cruelty and remains absolutely, stunningly silent over Saudi Arabia. And he goes on his knees before Israel. Is it any wonder, then, that Arabs are turning their backs on America, not out of fury or anger, nor with threats or violence, but with contempt? It is the Arabs and their fellow Muslims of the Middle East who are themselves now making the decisions.

Gee, I wonder how long it will take the geniuses in Washington to figure out that no one in the Middle East is even listening to them any more. Given the US track record in places like Vietnam and Iraq, probably a long, bloody decade or more. These guys ain't so quick, and they tend to kill lots of people with their mistakes and misconceptions.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day

The War Prayer

by Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener.

It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came -- next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams -- visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation
*God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!*
Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory --

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this -- keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. the *whole* of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory--*must* follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts.


(*After a pause.*) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!"

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

Twain apparently dictated it around 1904-05; it was rejected by his publisher, and was found after his death among his unpublished manuscripts.

 It was first published in 1923 in Albert Bigelow Paine's anthology, Europe and Elsewhere.The story is in response to a particular war, namely the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902, which Twain opposed.

See Jim Zwick's page "Mark Twain on the Philippines" for more of Twain's writings on the subject.
Transcribed by Steven Orso (