Property Before Life
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered virtually all the city's 1,500 police officers to leave their search-and-rescue missions last week and return to the streets to stop the looting. 
“Three hundred of the Arkansas National Guard have landed in the city of New Orleans,” said Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco. “These troops are fresh back from Iraq, well trained, experienced, battle-tested and under my orders to restore order in the streets. They have M-16s and they are locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill and they are more than willing to do so if necessary and I expect they will.” 
Such tough talk, such uncompromising, principled stands against those who violate the law. Zero tolerance! When do we hear this from our public officials when it comes to the corporations who loot the public treasury and workers’ pensions? Who pollute the air that we all breathe every moment of every day, killing far more people than all the rioters in the United States have ever done. Who raise gasoline prices to the point that people’s normal lives and desires are grievously trampled upon. Wouldn’t we like to see some of those well trained, experienced, battle-tested troops training their M-16s on the likes of CEOs of Enron or World.com or General Electric or ExxonMobil or Halliburton?
The Media’s Assassination Fable
Following the call of The Most Reverend Pat Robertson for the United States to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the media trotted out one of its perennial myths, that political assassination is forbidden by the US government due to the action of former President Gerald Ford. It’s true that Ford issued an executive order in 1976 which stated: “No employee of the United States shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.” But subsequently, presidents Reagan, Clinton, and both Bushes overrode this by issuing authorizations for the CIA and other US government agencies to kill certain named individuals, like Osama bin Laden and his deputies, or certain classes of individuals, like “terrorists”. These presidential authorizations have been designated as “executive orders,” “memorandums of law,” or “intelligence findings.” Reagan went back and forth between banning and authorizing assassination, creating at one point what was actually called by the press, a “license to kill.” 
If any of these White House promulgations were “legal”, it was perhaps only because they were never challenged in any court, domestic or international. But Reagan and his successors have clearly not been acting out of any ethical or legal principle for or against assassination. It's all been realpolitik or public relations, and the actual American policy in the field over the years has never varied to speak of, whatever the “official” message of the day coming out of the White House was.
Robertson will of course not be punished for his words about Chavez, any more than he was punished for his October 2003 remark calling for the nuking of the State Department. (“If I could just get a nuclear device inside of Foggy Bottom [nickname for the State Department],” he said on the radio. “I think that's the answer.”)  But imagine if a Muslim cleric -- or any Muslim -- living in the US had called for the assassination of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, even in a private conversation. Imagine anyone who wasn't an influential conservative Christian or Jew saying the same in this day and age. Imagine the consequences.
Robertson called Chavez a dictator. One of the hallmarks of a dictatorship is the absence of a vigorous opposition media, but in Venezuela the daily press and television networks are largely in the hands of forces vehemently opposed to Chavez. By contrast, in the United States the progressive forces (the only sector worthy of the name “opposition”) has not a single daily newspaper or TV station; they are limited to weekly and monthly print publications and blogs. “In America,” writer Paul Goodman once observed, “you can say anything you want, as long as it doesn’t have any effect.”
Liberal Anti-War Protesters
At Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas and other places anti-war protesters congregate these days the refrain can be heard: We’re against the war but we support our brave soldiers.
Please, people, gimme a break.
In March 2003, a 1000-pound gorilla, without any provocation, attacked a 95-year-old woman in a wheel chair. Lo and behold the gorilla easily subdued her. Does that make the ape brave?
The hunter crouches
in his blind
-- Ogden Nash
Are American soldiers brave because they’re risking their lives every day? No, they’re foolish; foolish to be risking their lives for the awful purposes of this war, which they do not even understand. If I’m opposed to the war because of the thousand kinds of horror it rains down upon the Iraqi people, how can I support those who carry out the horrors?
Al Franken, the humorist who’s the leading host of Air America radio, would like you to believe that he’s against the war, but he went to Iraq to entertain the troops a while back. Does that make sense? Why does the military bring entertainers to the soldiers? To lift their spirits. Why does the military want to lift the soldiers’ spirits? A happier soldier does his job better. What’s the soldier’s job? Raining down a thousand kinds of horror upon the Iraqi people.
And here’s a spokesperson for ANSWER, one of the two leading anti-war organizations active today: “We’re not against the troops. We don’t oppose the troops, we love them. That’s why we want to bring them home.”  There has to be a better way to express that sentiment.
The brave soldiers, the ones I love, are the ones who in various ways have refused to continue in the crimes against humanity, even if it means prison or exile in Canada.
Laughing Off Conspiracy Theories
During the cold war when Washington was confronted with a charge of covert American misbehavior abroad, it was common to imply that the Russkis or some other nefarious commies were behind the spread of such tales; this was usually enough to discredit the story in the mind of any right-thinking American. Since that period, the standard defense against uncomfortable accusations and questions has been a variation of: “Oh, that sounds like a conspiracy theory.” (Chuckle, chuckle) Every White House press secretary learns that before his first day on the job.
I’m reminded of this because of the latest development in the long-running case of the bombing of PanAm 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, which took the lives of 270 people. For well over a year afterward, the US and the UK insisted that Iran, Syria, and a Palestinian organization had been behind the bombing. Washington and London officials insisted they were “confident”, “totally satisfied,” they had “hard evidence” ... until the buildup to the Gulf War came along in 1990 and the support of Iran and Syria was needed. Suddenly, in October 1990, the US declared that it was Libya -- the Arab state least supportive of the US build-up to the Gulf War and the sanctions imposed against Iraq -- that was behind the bombing after all. Since then, those who have questioned this new official version have been branded (choke, gasp) “conspiracy theorists.”
Eventually, two Libyans were formally indicted in the US and Scotland, tried in the Hague, with one, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, being found guilty in 2001 and sentenced to life in prison. The trial was a genuine farce, which I’ve discussed in detail. (“I am absolutely astounded, astonished,” said the Scottish law professor who was the architect of the trial. “I was extremely reluctant to believe that any Scottish judge would convict anyone, even a Libyan, on the basis of such evidence.”) 
The key piece of evidence linking Libya to the crime was a tiny fragment of circuit board, allegedly from a timing device or detonator, which investigators just happened to find in a wooded area many miles from Lockerbie some time after the atrocity. Now, a former Scottish police chief has come forth and admitted that this evidence was fabricated. The CIA planted it, he said. Moreover, a key prosecution expert witness has been called into question after it was reported that three other cases had been quashed because his evidence had been discredited.  But anyone who’s been following the Lockerbie case closely for years doesn’t need these new revelations to make him seriously doubt the official version.
So the next time you hear an administration spokesperson chuckling over someone questioning the government’s explanation for some complex happening, keep in mind that the trivialization of conspiracy theories may itself be a conspiracy.
Based on a careful search of the Lexis-Nexis database, it appears that not one word of these new revelations has appeared in any American newspaper. That’s not a conspiracy. But it does say something about the way the American media works. Examples of widespread suppression in the United States of important news stories originating abroad are numerous and almost always involve matters which reflect negatively on American foreign policy; the recent flap about the Downing Street Memos is another case in point.
Postscript: It’s most ironic that for 15 years the United States has in effect been shielding Iran as the mastermind behind the PanAm bombing. It’s difficult to see how Washington can ever admit to this particular lie that it’s been living, but I imagine that at the appropriate moment something will be “discovered”, like the fragment of circuit board.
And by the way, Libya has never confessed to having carried out the act. They’ve only taken “responsibility”, in the hope of getting various sanctions against them ended.
Saving Japan from Pacifism
“Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
“In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”
-- Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, 1947, words long cherished by a large majority of the Japanese people.
In the triumphalism of the end of the Second World War, the American occupation of Japan, in the person of General Douglas MacArthur, played a major role in the creation of this constitution. But after the communists came to power in China in 1949, the United States opted for a strong Japan safely ensconced in the anti-communist camp. It’s been all downhill since then. Step by step, MacArthur himself ordered the creation of a “national police reserve,” which became the embryo of the future Japanese military. Visiting Tokyo in 1956, US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles told Japanese officials: “In the past, Japan had demonstrated her superiority over the Russians and over China. It was time for Japan to think again of being and acting like a Great Power.”  “[V]arious US-Japanese security and defense cooperation treaties, which, for example, called on Japan to integrate its military technology with that of the US and NATO ... the US supplying new sophisticated military aircraft and destroyers ... all manner of Japanese logistical assistance to the US in its frequent military operations in Asia ... repeated US pressure on Japan to increase its military budget and the size of its armed forces ... more than a hundred US military bases in Japan, protected by Japanese armed forces ... US-Japanese joint military exercises and joint research on a missile defense system ... the US Ambassador to Japan, 2001: “I think the reality of circumstances in the world is going to suggest to the Japanese that they reinterpret or redefine Article 9.”  Under pressure from Washington, Japan sent several naval vessels to the Indian Ocean to refuel US and British warships as part of the Afghanistan campaign in 2002, then sent non-combat forces to Iraq to assist the American war ... US Secretary of State Colin Powell, 2004: “If Japan is going to play a full role on the world stage and become a full active participating member of the Security Council, and have the kind of obligations that it would pick up as a member of the Security Council, Article Nine would have to be examined in that light.” 
One outcome or symptom of all this can perhaps be seen in the present-day case of Kimiko Nezu, a 54-year-old Japanese teacher, who has been punished by being transferred from school to school, suspensions, salary cuts, and threats of dismissal because of her refusal to stand during the playing of the national anthem, a World War II song chosen as the anthem in 1999. She opposes the song because it was the same one sung as the Imperial Army set forth from Japan calling for an “eternal reign” of the emperor. At graduation ceremonies in 2004, 198 teachers refused to stand for the song. After a series of fines and disciplinary actions, Nezu and nine other teachers were the only protesters this year. Nezu is now allowed to teach only when another teacher is present. 
The Dangers of Pot and Water
In early August a 25-year-old, physically fit, Washington, DC police officer died after consuming too much water while training for a bicycle patrol -- hyponatremia, a sodium imbalance caused by drinking excessive amounts of liquid. In 2003, the Washington Post reported that, “at least four marathon runners have died from hyponatremia-related trauma in the previous decade.”  I have also read of someone dying due to consuming too much milk at one sitting.
So where is this leading to? To those people who warn of the dangers of marijuana. They cite the alleged harm caused to some particular individual who used it, without mentioning how much was used and in what time frame. The point to keep in mind is that anything can be harmful if ingested in too much quantity and/or too quickly.
William Blum is the author of: Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire, and West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir. Visit his website: www.killinghope.org. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
All-Too American Tragedy of New Orleans by Paul Street
Other Articles by William Blum
You Need to Know Before the World Ends
Press, September 1, 2005.