Monday, March 30, 2009

Obama's Asian War

I recently posted my Japan notes on the book China, Japan, and the Powers. I chose my notes to support the thesis that the United States of America started a war against Asia and Asians in the 1850s that had gone on intermittently and continues to this day. [See also Asian War]

President Barack Obama's planned escalation of the war against Afghanistan makes sense as part of this long-established historic pattern.

The simplistic analysis applied to the President's decision is that the U.S. military pushed for a major buildup in Afghanistan, but the Vice President said Democrats in Congress would not like that. Somehow only escalating troop levels a little (if 7000 soldiers rampaging about someone else's countryside can be called a little) is deemed a compromise. Taking 7000 troops out could have been a compromise too. The fact is the basic decision was to expand the use of force to obtain U.S. policy objectives in the region. Leaving an open door to further escalation if the Afghan people continue to resist.

In my Japan notes I run against the grain of the book itself. Like almost all America-centric history texts, Powers implied that Japan was, until the end of World War II, an aggressor nation and the U.S. was just playing defense. Because we are the Good Guys.

But you can't write a detailed book about America's history with Asia without mentioning a few things that tend to run against the standard theory. And if you can sit down and analyze the data, and take into account that it is biased to begin with, you can see history in a whole new light. You can see Japan as a country that did not want to be preyed upon by the U.S. and the European imperialists the way they saw the rest of Asia preyed upon. They did not want to become part of the British, Spanish, French, Dutch, Russian, or American empires. They took logical steps to prevent that. I don't condone their over-the-top militarism, but it does not compare to U.S. militarism. Going into World War II the U.S. had a bigger Navy than Japan. They had troops in China. We called that aggression, even though they had puppets invite them to wage war there. We had our puppet in China, so our military support for his militarist regime (his title was Generalissimo) was not qualitatively different.

Japan lost World War II, but they liberated Asia, or most of it, in the process. I doubt the Communist Party could have liberated China if Japan had not tossed out the Europeans and defeated the American puppet Chiang Kai-shek during the war. The people in Indonesia, then called the Dutch East Indies, refused to allow the Dutch to re-establish a colony. Gandhi may have been a pacifist, but it was the Japanese violence freaks who largely made British occupation of India untenable.

The U.S. War Against Asia has paused at times, but never halted. Most famously we tried to stop the nationalist movement of Vietnam from establishing a free and independent nation. Whenever possible we (our ruling class and its government, and whoever goes along with them) have tried to make the leaders of Asian nations into puppets.

And so when a socialist regime was set up in Afghanistan back around 1978, U.S. strategists took note. We were not pleased that the socialists were modernizers, not Islamists. They were clients of the U.S.S.R., a rival empire. And so our CIA armed the Islamists and embroiled Afghanistan in a civil war. When the Russians left in 1989, war lords and clan-based local governments took over most of the country. [See History of Afghanistan for details]

A man very different from Barack Obama decided to do something for his country. He did not have two parents with graduate school educations; he did not go to the finest private colleges in the world. His family was very poor. He fought against the Soviets, losing an eye in the process, and he studied in religious schools (Madrasahs). His only goal was to bring peace and justice to Afghanistan. Mullah Omar, as he became known, gathered a small group of other students of justice (Taliban). His first known act with this group, at that time numbering 30 soldiers (with only 16 rifles between them) was to rescue two girls who had been kidnapped and raped by local war lords. As their reputation for just governance grew, so did the Taliban. By 1996 the Taliban were in effective control of Afghanistan. Which was fine with the CIA and the few other U.S. policy makers who paid attention to such things. The Taliban were not communists, did not like the Iranians (they were in a different branch of Islam), and were not likely to ally with the Chinese. They brought peace to a land that had been at war for 20 years.

It is hard to imagine Barack Obama risking his own life, or even his political career, to save anyone else. But he is perfectly willing to kill Students in Afghanistan if that furthers the interests of the U.S. ruling class that he so happily serves (tea with your billions of federal aid? Perhaps some marmalade with your crumpets, fellows?).

Perhaps some day Americans will stop trying to rule the world. But apparently not under the administration of Barack Obama.

Can we produce millions of rounds of ammunition to kill people in Afghanistan, even when we seem to be unable to build houses or automobiles or schools in America any more?

Yes, We Can!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Obama on Iran

"You, too, have a choice. The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right -- but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization. And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create." That is Barack H. Obama, President of the United States, in an address of March 20, 2009.

Now here is what someone should be telling Obama, the Pentagon, and the American people:

You, too, have a choice. Iran wants the United States of America to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right -- but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the American people and civilization. And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create.

Iran has never engaged in a war of aggression in its modern history. For years it was torn apart as a battleground in the Cold War. Eventually the U.S. installed a cruel dictator, the Shah, who committed unspeakable crimes against the Iranian people. When they rebelled against the Shah they detained his helpers at the American Embassy for a while, then released them. After that the U.S. paid Saddam Hussein, former President of Iraq, to invade Iran. Millions died. The U.S. also shot down an Iranian unarmed civilian air liner (Iran Flight 655). We did all kinds of hurt to the Iranian people. They have never hurt us.

Barack Obama is a fraud. His is a lawyer and politician, which pretty much means he is a liar. When he speaks, save yourself: analyze, don't be gullible. The nice sounding words of the rest of his speech did not hide the usual content: do what the U.S. wants, Or Else. Is not President Obama using arms against Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq right now, and paying Israel to occupy Palestine?

The world cries out for a peaceful America, one that has withdrawn all of its troops from all foreign soils. That won't happen through the criminals in the Republican or Democratic Parties. It might happen through an electoral revolution, with the Green Party or another peace party. It might happen through a socialist or anarchist revolution. But most likely, it won't happen until the economic system collapses because of the cost of imperialism being heaped on the American people (working class tax payers pay the taxes, owners of corporations reap the benefits).

Monday, March 16, 2009

Will the Real Jesus Christ Please Rise Up?

The Spring Equinox falls on March 20 this year. In checking that fact I came across the Egyptian holiday of Sham, which has been celebrated the Monday after Easter since some time during the brief Christian era of Egypt (roughly 325 A.D. to 650 A.D.) Before that it was the Spring Equinox celebration. Of course the legendary rising up of Jesus after his death on the cross had to happen if he was killed by the Jews like an innocent Egyptian child murdered on the Passover. This reminded me I had wanted to see what the Wikipedia consensus on the Ebionites is.

Recently the idea that Jesus is totally mythological has been put forward by a number of celebrity atheists. I don't think this idea holds up to analysis, though it is more plausible than the standard Christian Jesus was God's Only Son idea that implies that God has a low sperm count.

The case against a historical Jesus has two main points. One is that there is no record contemporary record of Jesus, and certainly not of the central points of his followers' creed. He does not appear to have been noted at all by the Romans, the Greeks, or the Jews. Even the writings (or dictations) of Saint Paul (Acts of the Apostles and Letters) don't say much about Jesus the person, as opposed to Christ the deity. The Gospels, of course, fill in many details of Jesus's life, but they were provably written down much later, they frequently contradict each other (they don't even give consistent lists of the Apostles), and they are filled with borrowed myths, notably the Resurrection.

The probability that Jesus was obscure in life, and that his real biography did not match the inventions of the Gospels, should not lead us to the conclusion that he was made up whole fabric. There are several points against this. Which leads us back to those Ebionites.

The Ebionites were Jews who were followers of Jesus. They did not believe he was resurrected from the dead; they did not believe he was a miracle worker. They seemingly believed he was a holy man, rabbi, or messiah of some sort. Non-Jewish Christians who drank the he was God's Son, give all your possessions to the Church (or die: See Ananias and Sapphira) kool-aid did not like the Ebionites. The mainstream Jews did not like them either. The Christians accused them of being a novelty: a group of Jews, descendents of Jews who saw the Resurrected Jesus, who had lost the true faith. That makes no sense whatsoever, but then neither does Christian doctrine.

However, it seems to be an accepted fact that one James, a "brother" of Jesus, and other members of Jesus' family were in charge of the Christian community in Jerusalem until the Jews were expelled by the Romans in 135 A.D. So there you go: Jesus had a family. Being Jesus followers became the family business. But being Jews, they were not willing to graft non-Jewish fantasies onto the religion of their ancestor. Those fantasies were borrowed by Saint Paul and others from both the Greeks and the Phoenicians. In particular, the Jesus of the Gospels, despite being made to fit into Hebrew Old Testament prophesies, is pretty much a dead ringer for the Son of Baal and Astarte.

A particularly funny cultural development was the emergence of Islam as the world's main religion after about 650 A.D. Mohammed had his faults, but he did not claim to be God or the Son of God. He specifically rejected the idea that God was anything but a Unity. And we know that he had many conversations with various religious leaders before he decided to make up his own religion. People who have not read the Koran, or the Old Testament, don't realize that the Koran is mostly recycled Old Testament stories, or apocryphal stories that were widely circulated about Old Testament figures long before Mohammed arrived on the scene. Mohammed appears to have been influenced by Ebionites, who were still to be found in the region. Like them he accepted Jesus as a prophet, but not a God. [See any good history of Islam. I like Washington Irving's Mahomet and His Successors for its narrative style.]

What was the real Jesus like? Perhaps he was a revolutionary, Zealot type. Maybe he was an Essene. Or an ordinary rabbi of the school of Hillel. Possibly he was influenced by Egyptian, Greek, or Phoenician religious men. I would not be surprised if, after his death, he appeared in his follower's dreams. Which would have been the seed of the Resurrection myth, when planted in the soil of a man as obviously dishonest as Saint Paul [See, for instance, The Mythmaker, Paul and the Invention of Christianity by Hyam Maccoby].

Unfortunately most evidence that might help us solve this historic enigma was not only lost with time, it was destroyed. The Christians of the 2nd century A.D. onward believed that any historical record that contradicted them was falsified and needed to be destroyed. While we do have the various "Gnostic" gospels, we don't have a record of the Ebionites' beliefs. Which are probably as close to the truth as we might get. Unless someone finds an early, provably accurate life of Jesus buried in a cave somewhere.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Dutch East Indies, Racism, and World War II

You usually don't hear much about the Dutch East Indies during World War II. There is a good reason for that, and it is not that the fighting in the Dutch East Indies was particularly significant or insignificant.

The Dutch East Indies serves as a litmus test. On the one side you had the U.S. claim that it was an entirely innocent nation fighting against the evil, undemocratic, imperialistic, militaristic, godless Buddha-worshipping transgressors, the Japanese.

On the other hand you have the claim by the Japanese that they were not conquering Asia but liberating it from centuries of domination and exploitation by European nations and the United States of America. This is a claim of which most Americans today are unaware. It was not well advertised to Americans during World War II, either, except to the GIs in the Pacific Theater who heard the likes of Tokyo Rose. After World War II a large number of Japanese were hung for war crimes and crimes against humanity. A puppet government was installed by the U.S. in Japan, then enlisted to join the U.S. in its Cold War against the communist and socialist movements. No scholar who was willing to examine Japanese war time claims objectively could keep a job in academia in either country.

Things have cooled off a bit, over six decades after Pearl Harbor and the dropping of atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It should be possible to get a bit of objectivity on the subject, even in the United States of America.

I ask, does the situation of the Dutch East Indies, before, during, and after World War II support either the Japanese claims, or the American claims?

Japan can certainly claim that it was at peace with the world in the 1850's brought American war ships to its harbors, eventually ushering in an era of modernization, militarization, and westernization [See The U.S. Bullies Japan in the 1850's]. It can claim (dubiously) that its attack on China was by invitation from prominent nationalist Chinese who wanted to liberate China from Western domination, and in particular from the incompetent rule of U.S. puppet Chiang Kai Shek [See Notes from Chiang Kai-Shek by Hollington K. Tong] Certainly the French held Indochina in slavery until the Japanese arrived. Certainly the U.S. had committed genocide in the Philippines and still held the islands as a colony when Japan invaded them shortly after Pearl Harbor.

But the U.S. war propaganda may have had some substance to it. The Philippines were allowed a quasi-independent status after World War II. Truman did not accede to General MacArthur's demand to drop a-bombs on Communist China. Maybe the Japanese "liberation of Asia" was no different than Hitler installing General Petain in France or the U.S. installing any of a number of dictators in Latin American nations over the centuries.

As you might have guessed, the Dutch East Indies was a Dutch colony, or colony of the Netherlands (aka Holland). Its colonization began through trading activities of the Dutch East India Company in the 1600's. In 1800, when the company went bankrupt, it formally became a colonial empire of vast extent claimed by government of the Netherlands. Its many islands and independent tribes and principalities were brought under firmer Dutch control in the 1800s. Throughout this period and into the 19th century there were numerous rebellions against the Netherlands. [See also Dutch East Indies]

When the Japanese invaded in 1942 they dismantled the colonial government. Although Japanese occupied the top of the new government, natives filled most of the positions. For the most part the United States and its allies did not contest these islands during the war, so the Japanese and natives were still in possession when Japan surrendered. [See also Japanese Occupation of Indonesia]

The Indonesians, as they are now referred to, were ready to set up an independent government. If the U.S. was fighting Japan for good reasons, it would insisted that a native, democratic government to be set up in Indonesia.

Instead The Netherlands was allowed to use military force to try to re-establish its colony. The United States gave no aid to the Indonesian independence fighters. After three years of fighting, in 1949 The Netherlands conceded defeat and recognized the independence of Indonesia. This was one of the earliest successful fights for independence in Asia.

If the Japanese had not crushed the Netherlands' military in Indonesia, it is likely that the struggle for independence would have taken much longer. Even to the extent that the Japanese gloss of Pan Asian independence was a cover for Japanese nationalism, it still had the long term effect of liberating the nations of Asia.

The U.S. role in World War II in Asia, in contrast, was motivated only by commercial greed, imperialist pretensions, and racism. The Dutch East Indies litmus test tends to support the thesis that the U.S. went to war with Japan to protect the Euro-American colonialization project in Asia.

Weeks before Pearl Harbor the U.S. had given Japan an ultimatum amounting to an unofficial declaration of war. The U.S. fleet in Pearl Harbor was intended to invade Asia and provide for another century of white racist exploitation of the nations of Asia. The destruction of that fleet by the Japanese Navy was a legitimate act of defense that targeted military installations. In contrast, the U.S. fire bombings of Japanese cities, followed by the annihilation of the civilians of Hiroshima nd Nagasaki, were war crimes and crimes against humanity of the highest order.

This does not excuse the bad behavior of the Japanese military establishment before and during World War II. But as an American, my primary aim is to correct American behavior. We have to admit to our government's war crimes and to our history of racism and imperialism. We also have to admit that most of these war crimes were carried out by the Democratic Party, which is a war-crimes organization that needs to be disbanded along with its sister Republican Party.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Madame Butterfly, Nagasaki and Empire

I don't know much about opera, but I have been intending to see if I can add it to the kinds of music I like (Rock, Folk, Classical, Jazz, World Beat ...). The community theater in Point Arena, California has been one of the theaters showing simulcasts from the New York Metropolitan Opera. Saturday I went and watched Madame Butterfly (aka Madama Butterfly).

Madame Butterfly, as with many operas, it is about love and infidelity. The protagonist is a young Japanese girl who has a marriage arranged with an American Navy Lieutenant, some time in the second half of the 19th century. He never intends it to be a real wedding; it is a method for cheap whoring. But Madame Butterfly falls deeply in love with him. He sails away; she remains true, and gives birth to a son he does not know about. She desperately maintains the fantasy that B. F. Pinkerton really loves her. When he returns to Japan three years later he is married to an American woman, and they take the son. Butterfly kills herself at the ripe old age of 18. The audience cries. I liked it. I might see another opera some day.

What struck me was that Giacomo Puccini chose to set his opera in Nagasaki. Madame Butterfly was first performed in 1904. There was no way Puccini could know that Nagasaki would be one of only two cities on earth, so far, to be vaporized with atomic weapons. He did probably know a lot more than Americans do now about how the U.S. Navy forced itself upon Japan. Since his Japanese characters are not at all westernized, and since the Lieutenant's ship is the Abraham Lincoln, once could conclude that the opera is set around 1870. But that is just artistic license, as it is supposed to be based on an actual event of the 1890s. After 1870 Japan westernized very rapidly. They put together a modern economy, education system, army and navy in less than two decades. In the 1890's they won a war with China, which surprised everyone. A few days before the first production of Madame Butterfly, the Russian-Japanese war began, which Japan won in 1905. This frightened European imperialists almost as much as Anarchism and Marxism. Some powerful Americans began wondering if it had been a good idea, forcing foreign trade upon Japan.

You could see Madame Butterfly as an Italian metaphor for the tragedy of Japan embracing American ways. The Italians, Americans, Russians and Japanese would all be allies the task of dismembering Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire during World War I, but the United States saw Japan as a rival, not a partner, after that.

After the opera ended some of my friends were outside chatting. They are all Democrats. They think they agree with me on most political issues. They say they are for the environment, peace, and social justice. I like to remind them of the differences, but not too often, or we could not be friends.

"What a metaphor. It's like Puccini was a prophet who knew the Democratic Party would drop an atomic bomb on the civilian population of Nagasaki."

A couple of groans, but before they can warn the novices, one asks the automatic I-am-a-brain-dead-liberal question: "What do you mean the Democratic Party dropped the bomb on Nagasaki?"

"The Democratic Party ruled the U.S. at the time. It controlled both branches of Congress and the Supreme Court. The final decision to drop atomic weapons on two civilian urban areas was made by the head of the Democratic Party, President Truman."

"Well, it ended the war early. And the Republicans would have done the same."

"So you think that if mass killings of civilians will further your war aims, like giving you an earlier victory, then killing them is not a war crime?"

Silence. Veins bursting. I was hoping for a "Yes," so I could compare Truman to Hitler and Bush, but failing that I went on.

"According to the record, the only advisor to Truman to oppose the use of atomic weapons against civilians was a Republican. Dwight Eisenhower. He believed soldiers should fight soldiers. He was against committing war crimes to achieve strategic objectives."

"That was then. The Democratic Party is different now."

"That must be why President Obama is sending more troops to Afghanistan. That's why the Democrats continued to vote funds for the wars after they gained a majority in the House in 2006."

"You can't achieve anything by being in the Green Party!" This, though said by a woman, was said in a tone that spat venom.

"You can make it perfectly clear that you are not a war criminal. That you are not part of a war crimes organization."

"The Democratic Party is not a war crimes organization!" She yelled this loud enough that pretty much everyone within 50 yards could hear it. Most of the original group of Democrats have already backed away from our circle.

"I would say that any organization that repeatedly commits war crimes is a war crimes organization."

"The Democratic Party has not repeatedly committed war crimes!"

"If you judge the Democratic Party impartially, by the standards that were used to judge the Japanese and Nazis after World War II, then Vietnam offers multiple instances of war crimes. If you have the afternoon to spare and are too lazy to read a history book, I can outline other Democratic Party crimes against humanity and war crimes for you."

"It's a different party now!"

"No, it isn't. Its filled with people like you who will rationalize and apologize for any American military adventure, as long as it is led by a President who is a Democrat."

At that point this peace-loving, Bush-hating, female Democrat, said "I love Obama! I will never, ever vote for a Green Party candidate. Never ever." And stomped off to her own personal hell.

But hopefully she will feel better by the next time I see her at a community event. Living in the heart of the Democratic Party Empire, I do try to get along people.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Eminent Domain, Israel and Palestine

A couple of years ago Americans were in an uproar about eminent domain. In the state of Connecticut a town had taken (forcibly bought) residences from citizens in order to sell them to a project developer. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that is okay. More typically eminent domain is used to take private land for something like a new road, so it becomes public property. In the U.S. Constitution the power of eminent domain, and the requirement of paying compensation, is recognized in the Fifth Amendment: "nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation." [See also eminent domain at Wikipedia and eminent domain at ExpertLaw.]

Arguments about, and discontent with, eminent domain in the U.S. are more typically about the amount of compensation given for the land the government takes.

Most Americans are big believers in private property. Eminent domain seems to be the exception that proves the rule. We are usually okay with losing our homes to eminent domain when we can walk away with the cash to buy an equivalent or better property. We would be totally up in arms if the government just took our houses without paying for them, whether or not the government kept the property or handed it over to some corporation for development. But we understand that sometimes a road has to be built, and a straight line of a road usually makes a lot of sense.

Most Americans would also agree that everyone in the world should have private property rights, that they are one of the most important human rights. If someone has freedom of speech, but can have their land or personal possessions taken away by government whim, what do they really have?

But there is one big loophole in our world view. We don't give a rat's exit hole about the private property of Palestinians. We don't care if the government of Israel took land in Palestine by eminent domain, paid or unpaid.

Before 1946, when Jewish settlers obtained land in Palestine, Zionists obtained land by buying it. This sometimes created an upset because Arab land title holders would sell land that peasants could have sworn was communal land. Still, the British were still in charge and deemed these transfers to be legal.

Then the terror began, but it began as Zionists killing British officials [See Irgun]. After the United Nations (with no authority beyond its own arrogance) decreed that there should be a semi-autonomous Jewish government of part of Palestine, the ethnic cleansing began. In 1948 large numbers of Palestinians were killed or scared off their lands during what became an war to create the state of Israel. When the war was over the new government of Israel allowed only extremely limited numbers of exiled Palestinians to return to their land inside the new state. A variety of subterfuges were used to confiscate the land. The theft was sometimes cloaked with legitimacy by seizing the land in lieu of taxes. Sometimes private sales were faked and duly recorded by the Israel land office. But mostly the land was just declare to belong to the State of Israel, then sold or parceled out to Jewish immigrants.

If you, as an American, are upset by eminent domain, should you not be upset when a government steals land from people, giving no compensation at all?

The takings have gone on and on, decade after decade. Acre by acre the land of Israel has been stolen. Wouldn't you be mad if you owned land and some government, any government, stole it from you?

It would be nice to see one of the zealous private-property rights organizations in the United States take up the cause of the Palestinians. Where's that Hoover Institute, or the Cato Foundation, when they are needed? Oh, all too busy helping corporate lawyers rape and pillage the world. Too busy to demand that the U.S. government recognize the private property rights of Palestinians.

One of the problems, in getting the United States government to support rights for Palestine, has been the leftist orientation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Had they named themselves the Palestinian Private Property Defense Organization, they might have gotten more sympathy in the U.S.