Tag Archives: Honduras

Humanity vs. The Rule of Law

It was back in my early undergrad years when I first came to understand the broad reach of US foreign policy. I completed a social work internship in Los Angeles at a safe house in east LA in a largely immigrant community whose goal was economic justice and solidarity with working families. One morning I came down to the kitchen to find two sisters from the Missionaries of Charity sitting at the table with our house administrators. They had a similar home just down the street from us and they were well known for opening it up as a sanctuary for refugees. That day they greeted us with a choice.

A family of refugees from Central America were en route to LA and needed housing since the sisters home was already filled to capacity. Our house admins had already agreed to do this but we would be permitted to go to another program, without judgement, if we were not comfortable with this decision. This was the late 80s and providing sanctuary for people from certain nations in Central America was both controversial and illegal. We were nervous, but young and very eager to do something that seemed radical. Over the following month we learned that the risk we had taken paled in comparison to theirs. Nothing could remotely compare with the horrors they had endured or narrowly escaped; threats of rape, violence and being abandoned to die in agony in the desert, or the uncertain future they faced in a country hostile to their very existence.

I remember the backlash I and others received from several in my class. In their eyes we were subverting the rule of law. But what rule of law were they speaking of? Was it the one that informs virtually all of American foreign policy? The one that trains mercenaries at infamous places like the School of the Americas? The same one that fueled the genocide of 250,000 Mayans in Guatemala in 1954 at the behest of the United Fruit Company? Or the rule of law that created a brothel for US corporate interests in Havana? Or backed the genocide in Indonesia done by rabid fascists? Or supported coups that upended a democratically elected government in Chile? Or the Democratic Republic of the Congo? Or Iran? Was it the one that carpet bombed Cambodia, napalmed North Korea or tested nukes on US soldiers and the unsuspecting inhabitants of the Marshall Islands? Would that rule of law include Indian Removal? Or Jim Crow? Or state sponsored lynchings? Or internment camps for Japanese Americans during WW2? When it comes to the American Empire what rule of law is there outside of that which pertains to the rights of corporations, or the ruling Capitalist class, or the military industrial elite? How many crimes has the global north committed against the global south; and how many of them have been explained away using the sanctimonious parlance of the rule of law?

I fast forward to today and wonder what has changed? US foreign policy certainly hasn’t. It continues to punish Cuba and has not stopped its war mongering against Venezuela. It still promotes the racist “drug war” that makes life a misery for countless people. It still defends industries that pollute the waters and the soil that indigenous peoples depend on, like in the Amazon in Ecuador by Chevron. It still backs rightwing coups like the one recently championed by Hillary Clinton in Honduras which installed a government that terrorizes its population and is ultimately responsible for the murder of scores of Indigenous and environmental activists, like Berta Cáceres who understood well the reach, ramifications and scope of American foreign policy, especially its impact on the lives of those who live on the margins of empire.

And what has changed at the border? The same people terrorized by American foreign policy are still dehumanized, traumatized, deported and even murdered in cold blood when they manage to arrive there hoping for a better life. Even Hillary Clinton advocated for sending undocumented people back as a solution, and Obama is on record for deporting more immigrants than other presidents. But if there is anything that has changed in recent days it is the deepening depravity of such policies. Thanks to Trump’s inhuman policy of separation of children from their parents, the breathless cruelty of the US Border Patrol and ICE produce a virtual Sophie’s Choice every day. Even showing human kindness toward these children is grounds for termination from employment.

So the outrage I have today is not dissimilar to the outrage I felt years ago.  I still see the faces of those refugees I stood in solidarity with several years ago from Guatemala. And when I read about the migrants being detained and sent to cages with foil blankets or hear the recordings of inconsolable cries of children torn from their mother or father, I see their eyes peering through me. And I think of that “rule of law” argument waged by my classmates years ago. The same argument made by Jeff Sessions and Sarah Huckabee-Sanders who then buttressed it with Biblical references. Such a rationale only exists in the minds of those whose humanity has long been gutted. It’s one that has been used generously by scoundrels throughout time to ignore their complicity in creating the turmoil in the first place, and then defending the cruelest of policies against the human beings affected by that misery. And my response to such barbarity remains the same as it was back then: to hell with their rule of law.

 

Kenn Orphan   June 2018

 

 

The Ones I Care About

Today I could not care less about who any American votes for or if they vote at all. Truly. I could not care less about the orange tinted megalomaniac or the Queen of Wall Street Wars. I could not care less about the corrupt duopoly or smug pundits. I could not care less about undecided voters or apathetic hipsters. I could not care less about celebrity festooned galas or rehearsed consolation speeches.

Today I choose to care about people like Berta Cáceres. She was an Indigenous Honduran environmental activist who was savagely murdered in her home by mercenaries of the right wing coup government that Hillary Clinton championed as Secretary of State and still defends to this day after scores of brutal murders like Berta, of Indigenous, environmental, LGBTQ and human rights advocates. She was almost wholly ignored by the US corporate media and virtually ignored by most of the so called progressive, liberal media, but I care about people like Berta today and every day.

berta-caceres-source-gristShortly before her murder Berta spoke these ominous words:

“We’re coming out of a coup that we can’t put behind us. We can’t reverse it. It just kept going. And after, there was the issue of the elections. The same Hillary Clinton, in her book, Hard Choices, practically said what was going to happen in Honduras. This demonstrates the meddling of North Americans in our country. The return of the president, Mel Zelaya, became a secondary issue. There were going to be elections in Honduras. And here, she, Clinton, recognized that they didn’t permit Mel Zelaya’s return to the presidency. There were going to be elections. And the international community—officials, the government, the grand majority—accepted this, even though we warned this was going to be very dangerous and that it would permit a barbarity, not only in Honduras but in the rest of the continent. And we’ve been witnesses to this.”

When I see Clinton’s face I see Berta. When I hear Clinton speak about protecting and advancing the rights of women I hear Berta. And behind her I see millions of other women and others, mostly brown, black and red, who were slaughtered thanks to American imperialistic aggression or enslaved and impoverished thanks to American corporate pillage. I see sweatshop workers in Haiti slaving at their desks for Hanes where the US State Department under Clinton fought against a decent living wage. Or women in Libya attempting to hold their families together following the assault on the sovereign nation that Clinton championed against Gaddafi. The same “intervention” where she ghoulishly celebrated the aforementioned leaders gruesome murder at the hands of a mob. I see Palestinian women who have no voice thanks to decades long Israeli apartheid aided by the American taxpayer, a support which Ms. Clinton has vowed to increase in spades. I hear the faint voices of grandmothers at Standing Rock Sioux who are watching their children put in dog cages and shot with rubber bullets by a militarized police force, while Ms. Clinton remains silent.
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Why do I focus on Clinton? Why not focus on the racist, misogynistic narcissist whose penchant for authoritarianism is legendary? Because American Liberals have given her a pass because she is a woman, or by either incredulously ignoring her obvious and egregious record or for the lie of “lesser evilism.” And because it is Clinton who will most likely ascend the throne of American Empire. That is almost assured. And because her resume is splattered with the blood of neocon aggression and the tears from neoliberal capitalist exploitation. Her agenda has been pre-formed in a chasm of corporate chicanery with war profiteers and earth destroyers calling the shots.

Americans can vote for whomever they wish. I really could not care less anymore since I have made my peace long ago with the fact that the entire thing is a sham anyway. As Green candidate Jill Stein eloquently said, the choices between a “proto-fascist and a corruption queen” are outrageous. And the absurdity of all of this is only the first sign of a dying Empire lashing out and writhing as it succumbs in fits and starts. It is emblematic of a culture of profound pathology corrupted by materialistic consumerism and horrendously disconnected to the ancient wisdom of a now perpetually assailed biosphere.

No matter who is selected for the puppet throne the only way forward now is activism outside the sham and the spectacle and the blood stained halls of Washington. And I choose to look to Berta and my fellow comrades for my inspiration in that regard, rather than the dung heap that is the American political and social class.

berta-caceres

Kenn Orphan 2016

The End of the Charade

This is going to be a sort of political rant, so for those of you who are sick of or hate that sort of thing I encourage you to scroll on.

It is a rant regarding the charade which is finally coming to an end.  It is about the selected puppets of the ruling elite in the American Empire who will be paraded before the world a little more before its subjects are told that they have “chosen” one of them to lead.

Here is the deal.  I should be happy for the absurd theatrics finally being over, right? But the thing is, I’m not. I shouldn’t give a damn either, right? I no longer live in the heart of the most ruthless and powerful Empire the world has ever known. But the thing is, I do.  America IS, in fact, the most ruthless and powerful Empire the world has ever known. And its machinations have effects very far from its contested borders.

trump-vs-clinton-photo-newsweekI guess I fear what I know is coming next.  If Hillary Clinton is crowned those of us on the far Left who weep will be ridiculed, maligned or chided for not celebrating with gusto the first female President and the continuance of American aggression and dynastic rule. If in some bizarre anomaly the orange tinted creep sweeps to the throne those of us on the Left who denounced Clinton’s horrific war mongering and corporate loving record and refused to play the inane game of “lesser evilism” will be pilloried and blamed for enabling it all.

In all truth I will be thoroughly shocked if Clinton is not selected.  Even George W. Bush, the vile war criminal of the previous administration, has given tacit endorsement of Hillary Clinton in a letter condemning Trump. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention, but it is remarkably simple to condemn that repugnant man with fire retardant flesh tone. And this letter speaks volumes because Bush knows full well that it will bolster Clinton in the neocon circles of the oligarchy. Scores of conservative newspapers have lined up endorsing Clinton also. So with Clinton nearly a shoe in, I know what else is coming.

 

With the Obama regime as historical precedent, it is safe to assume that white American liberals will shrug indifferent shoulders and fall asleep once more as their government drones children and grandmothers picking okra in their fields or subverts democratically elected governments in the Middle East or Africa or Latin America.  They will become champions of reactionary nationalism as a Clinton administration leads the nation into open conflicts with nuclear armed Russia.  They will once again turn their heads from the decades long Israeli apartheid regime as Clinton pledges even more support to the hard right despot Netanyahu.  They will stay silent in criticism of Clinton’s promotion of fracking or dismantling of social security, something which can be done without much protest under a Democrat.  But they can continue to post noncommittal memes on Facebook and Twitter expressing outrage or solidarity with black or brown or red people besieged by a racist system without demanding the dismantling of the very system of capitalist exploitation that is the source of their misery in the first place.

They will rest on the laurels in smug slumber since, in that case, a woman with a big “D” will be sitting in the Oval office. And we should all applaud that, right? First woman president of the American Empire and all?  Never mind that a woman named Jill Stein who, while far from perfect, had much greater progressive credentials. Never mind that Margaret Thatcher was also a woman, and one who had a remarkably similar neoconservative resume to Clinton.  Never mind that Ms. Clinton supported (and continues to support) a rightwing coup in Honduras that has taken the lives of scores of indigenous, environmental and LGBTQ people, including indigenous environmental activist Berta Cáceres.  Or pushed Obama into decimating Libya, once the richest state in Africa, and ghoulishly celebrated the gruesome murder of its president. Or in Haiti where she aided in the creation of a sweatshop economy on behalf of American garment corporations upon an already historically oppressed and humiliated people.

But really, who seriously believes that the privileged white Liberal class in America gives a rat’s ass about those foreign black and brown people?  How many white Liberals care about black, brown and red people here, the ones right at home labeled “super predators” by the Queen in waiting only a few years ago, or ignored by her at Standing Rock Sioux?

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protests-against-clinton-in-haiti-photo-source-nytForgive me if I fail to celebrate with the Liberal Class if Clinton is anointed Empress. It is beyond question that Trump is a racist vile creature of narcissism and arrogant stupidity. But if self described “progressives” think the Bloody Queen will promote a left friendly agenda that will stop military aggression, the collapse of the biosphere due to blatant rape of the earth by corporations, and cease support for Wall Street then they have been drinking a Kool-Aid far more lethal than any flag waving, Trump supporting, walking head wound.

In any case, we on the true Left must somehow stomach it all and struggle on against militaristic imperialism for the sake of building a more compassionate and just world while there is still time left.  And I couldn’t be more serious about the “while there is time left” part.  We are running out of that one precious resource rapidly thanks to climate change, the ever present nuclear menace, global pandemic and biosphere collapse.  But after all, if we are still in possession of a conscience what else can we do?

End rant here.

 

Kenn Orphan  2016

The Great Migration

This week Austrian police discovered the bodies of 71 migrants in a truck by the side of the highway outside Vienna. It is widely believed that they had suffocated to death when they were abandoned by their smugglers. One cannot fathom the horror and agony they must have suffered; but it is a story that is fast becoming the norm. Indeed, thousands have perished in their valiant attempts to cross the Mediterranean, well over a 100 just this week.  In the Americas, untold numbers have died on their journeys north out of Central and South America. On the Andaman Sea boats brimming with starving members of the Rohingya community languished in limbo for weeks because no country would admit them. And when they reach the border their ordeals are far from over.

In Macedonia, police forces beat and tear gassed scores of refugees attempting to leave Greece; and hate crimes against undocumented immigrants in the US and Western Europe are on the rise.  None of this should come as any surprise to those of us who have been paying attention; but it does not make what we are seeing any easier. This year a combination of climate change, perpetual war and economic devastation has forced huge surges of people all over the world out of their native lands in their quest for survival. The Great Migration has begun; and I must admit, it has started far sooner than I had ever imagined.

A little girl cries as she tries to take shelter from the rain on Greece's border with Macedonia Photo Reuters

Refugees waiting for hours to cross the border to Macedonia. Photo by Erik Marquardt.

Somali refugees wait at check point. Source UNHCR

Rohingya refugees stranded on a boat off Thailand Photo Source IB TimesOf course, Western leaders are reacting to this unfolding human tragedy in typical fashion. They are either spewing racist vitriol and stoking the most base fears of their constituents, or blathering on with patronizing platitudes about immigrants and their plight. Whether it be US presidential candidate Donald Trump proudly demonizing undocumented immigrants as rapists and murderers to cheering crowds, or German Chancellor Angela Merkel callously explaining to a sobbing 14 year old Palestinian girl, whose family faces deportation to a land that is foreign to her, that “politics is hard sometimes,” the message to migrants could not be clearer: We do not care about you. We will not help you. And we will certainly not take responsibility for the foreign policies, economic exploitation and military assaults we launched on your nations that destroyed your societies and caused you to flee in the first place.

Angela Merkel makes a 14-year old Palestinian girl cry by telling her she is not welcome in Germany Source Mondoweiss

Donald Trump Photo Source Boston GlobeThe disconnect from reality is stunning, but predictable. Indeed, if Merkel or Obama or Clinton were to acknowledge that it was their governments that destroyed and destabilized Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya, their entire house of cards would collapse to the ground in a smoldering, hypocritical heap. And if Trump or Bush were to acknowledge that it has been US neoliberal economic policies that have created the dire circumstances in Mexico,  or in Central and South America, that have forced tens of thousands to flee for survival, their dehumanization of refugees and migrants would be shown for the vile, empty rhetoric that it is.

Central America. A young girl cries as her home and neighborhood are forcefully dismantled in a shanty town after the government claimed that the settlement was illegal. Photo Spencer Platt Getty

Central American refugees seeks shelter. Photo by Elizabeth Ruiz AFP GettyIn truth all Western leaders, politicians and oligarchs alike, sit atop a historic pyramid of oppression and exploitation that is not of their own making. But each successive US president and Western leader has preserved the integrity of this system by faithfully growing the military/police/surveillance state and rewarding the wealthy elite with more and more loot, and bailouts and impunity for their crimes. This scheme, however, is beginning to unravel.  And we need only look to the not so distant past to get an inkling of what lies ahead.

Residents wait on a rooftop to be rescued from the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina on Sept 1, 2005 Photo by STR Reuters

National Guard soldier walks past a covered body at the Convention Center on Sept. 3, 2005, where people took refuge after Hurricane Katrina. Source NOLAThis week marks the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and it should also serve as a wake up call for those Americans, and Westerners in general, who are still under the misconception that their government has their back in disaster. With more millionaires in the Senate, and unlimited money influencing elections, it should be clear to anyone that the United States is effectively an oligarchy with little to no regard for the poor and most vulnerable.

All of this was made plain in the weeks and months following the storm and subsequent floods in New Orleans and the region. Over a thousand lost their lives, tens of thousands more lost their homes and livelihoods. But the majority of those who suffered were poor people of color; and the American Empire had better things to do than dispatch the military in full force for rescue operations of its own citizens, especially when they had little or no money to offer them in return.  After all, they had already over extended themselves in a war, based upon lies, against another group of poor, brown people on the other side of the planet.  Nurse Mary Jo D'Amico fans a patient in the car park of New Orleans Memorial hospital

Woman collapses while residents attempt to rescue her and husband from flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina Photo source AFPI still remember the mainstream media and some politicians calling the victims of Hurricane Katrina “refugees,” a label previously unheard of in the West. They had been abandoned by their government and it should have served as a warning to us all. No matter how much our leaders “otherize” those who are forced to abandon their homes and dire circumstances, they are a reflection of our collective future.

Although climate change will have unpredictable ramifications; it is becoming more apparent by the day what our world will begin to look like in the decades to come. It all but promises a North American West that will become a virtually uninhabitable desert. Rapid glacial melt will see Amsterdam, London, New Orleans and half of Florida submerged under the waves of an ever acidifying ocean, bereft of much of its life except for an abundance of jellyfish, invasive sea grasses, toxic algae blooms and plastic debris. Paris and Tokyo will see heat waves that rival anything we have seen so far in India or Pakistan.  And more and more species of wild life will fall to extinction.  With all of this it is hard to imagine that mass migrations will be a fate assigned only to the poor of the “developing world.”

Drought Induced Wildfires Photo David McNew Getty Images

NYC following Superstorm Sandy Christos Pathiakis Getty ImagesUndoubtedly, there is an epic storm brewing that threatens all life on this planet; and it is building up steam before our eyes. Those of us who tell this painful truth can expect to be labeled “doomers,” or fatalists, or be exiled from the conversation completely.  But there is a point at which this exile from a deluded, shallow and corrupt culture becomes a welcome gift.

The powerful elite have absolutely no plan to address what is coming outside of drumming up racist xenophobia and fear of the other, and continuing on with the “business as usual” paradigm that has driven countless species to their extinction and ushered in the epoch of the Anthropocene. And the conference that is due to convene in Paris this winter is merely a charade to pantomime concern and action.
Barack Obama, Silvio Berlusconi and Dimitry Medvedev share a good laugh at the G20 Summit. Photograph by Dominique Faget AFP Getty. Images

Still from CNN broadcast. Photo source College Humor.Do not expect any ideas from the corporate owned media either. Their job has always been to be a mouthpiece for the wealthy elite and to keep the masses distracted and subdued.  They will continue pouring out celebrity gossip and stoking fears about things that pose no significant threat to the West, like Ebola or ISIS, even as the fires rage and waters rise. Encouraging objectification and mindless consumption is their sole charge.  Considering all this, to look for salvation from those with power and wealth, even the ones who may appear more sympathetic to ordinary people, would be the height of foolishness.

Indeed, the only sane way to approach this storm is by realizing that ignoring it will not make it disappear, acknowledging that no one will be spared its wrath, and banding together in solidarity with others of like minds and souls. Doing this is unlikely to save our civilization as it is, or spark empathy in the powerful.  And it will not stop the unfolding nightmare of climate change and mass extinction.   But it may give us the courage to stop believing the never ending lies of nationalism, and help us to dismantle the artificial barriers that the elite have erected to keep us fearful of each other.  We can begin right now by looking at the immigrant and the refugee as though they were us.  Because, in all truth, they are.

Photo from the Refugee Council of the UK.

Kenn Orphan  2015