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June 25, 2009

The Arts, Politics, and Political Art

(Photo by Robin Holland)

This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with poet W.S. Merwin, who recently won the Pulitzer Prize.

During the taping of the interview, Merwin argued that political poetry rarely makes for good art. He explained:

“Because you start by knowing too much. You have your mind made up, and you know that you’re right. And I think that always the moment you’re right, you’re wrong. Political poetry starts with the assumption, “This is the way it is, and I’m going to persuade you that this is the way it is.” You end up almost always writing propaganda. During the Vietnam war, many poets wrote poetry of protest against the war and poetry of anguish about the war. Most of it was just terrible... I think that poetry and the most valuable things in our life come out of what we don’t know.”

Some have argued that art must be political if it is to be honest. In 1964, Irwin Silber of the liberal folk music magazine SING OUT! wrote an open letter to Bob Dylan criticizing his transition from political songs to more ambiguous subject matter:

“You seem to be in a different kind of bag now, Bob -- and I'm worried about it... You said you weren't a writer of "protest" songs -- or any other category, for that matter -- but you just wrote songs. Well, okay, call it anything you want. But any songwriter who tries to deal honestly with reality in this world is bound to write "protest" songs. How can he help himself? Your new songs seem to be all inner-directed now, innerprobing, self- conscious -- maybe even a little maudlin or a little cruel on occasion... You seem to be relating to a handful of cronies behind the scenes now -- rather than to the rest of us out front. Now, that's all okay -- if that's the way you want it, Bob. But then you're a different Bob Dylan from the one we knew. The old one never wasted our precious time.”

What do you think?

  • Do you agree more with Merwin that political art is “almost always... propaganda,” or with Silber that any artist who “tries to deal honestly with reality in this world” is bound to be political? Why?

  • Can you name some examples illustrating either Merwin’s or Silber’s arguments?

  • Michael Winship: I Can See Tehran from My House!

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    Below is an article by JOURNAL senior writer Michael Winship. We welcome your comments below.

    ''I Can See Tehran from My House!'
    By Michael Winship

    Being a total history geek, I confess that there’s almost nothing as entertaining to me as a good historic house tour. It’s a great way to get a feel for how someone from the past lived his or her life. I realize that this nerdish interest would seem to indicate that conversely, I have no life of my own, but bear with me.

    An hour or two spent at Teddy Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill home on Long Island, or Mark Twain’s rambling riverboat of a house in Hartford, Connecticut, or even Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s home in the Kentish countryside of England, is an ideal portal into the mind of an historic personage and the times in which they lived.

    A large part of a recent weekend in Chicago was spent visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and office in nearby Oak Park, Illinois, and the mansion of a 19th century industrial tycoon whose daughter made miniature dollhouse recreations of homicide scenes, published in a collection titled, “The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death.” You can’t make this stuff up.

    Luckily, my girlfriend Pat and my sister Patricia are as nerd-like as I am, so on a beautiful spring Saturday last month, while visiting my sister upstate, we drove over to the home of William Henry Seward in Auburn, NY.

    Seward served as Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of state – and Andrew Johnson’s, too, that hapless Tennessean who succeeded Lincoln after the assassination and came within a whisker of being convicted in the Senate after impeachment by the House of Representatives.

    On the evening of Lincoln’s murder, Seward also was attacked, targeted for death by one of John Wilkes Booth’s accomplices. He survived a vicious stabbing and lived for another seven and a half years. On display in the Seward House is a tiny scrap of bloodstained bedsheet from the night of the assault.

    The trappings of the home are evidence of an educated and well-traveled man of erudition, imagination and especially foresight, for it was Secretary of State Seward who negotiated the purchase of Alaska from the Russian Empire in 1867.

    He paid $7.2 million for it – almost two cents an acre -- and was attacked by politicians, the media and the public for a foolish waste of government money – a “polar bear garden,” critics called Alaska – “Seward’s Folly” or “Seward’s Icebox.” Of course, now the sound you hear is Seward’s ghost laughing all the way to the Federal Reserve.

    This year marks the 50th anniversary of Alaska’s statehood, and so Governor Sarah Palin arrived for a visit to Auburn and the Seward House just a couple of weeks after we were there. Presented with a picture of Seward negotiating the Alaska deal, the SYRACUSE POST-STANDARD reported Palin said to the surrounding crowd, “They’re looking at a globe and they’re pointing to Alaska in this painting, and I’ll betcha anything what Seward was pointing out was: ‘Lookie there, you can see Russia from Alaska.’”

    More likely, Seward was saying something like, “Now can I go to bed?” The Alaska treaty was quickly negotiated during an all-night session at the State Department when the czar’s ambassador, Baron Edward de Stoeckl, interrupted Seward’s Friday evening whist game to tell him he suddenly had his government’s approval to make a deal. Staffs were hastily assembled and the papers signed by 4 a.m. on March 30.

    I was struck by the speed with which Seward pulled this off, especially in contrast with the deliberate pace President Obama has taken with regard to the Iranian elections. But they’re really not all that different.

    Consider that when Seward and the Russians pulled their all-nighter it was a time when global communications were slower. It would be a while before news of the treaty reached the Russian capital of St. Petersburg. The Transatlantic Cable was finally in place – just -- but communications back and forth with Russia were slow. In fact, a company had just abandoned a scheme to extend telegraph lines from California to Alaska, then across the Bering Straits into Siberia.

    It would be more than a year before the House of Representatives allowed the check for the purchase to be cut. So there was plenty of time to mull over the ramifications of the treaty – and Seward, a knowledgeable and cautious diplomat, had been in talks with Russia about Alaska off and on for years.

    President Obama said about Iran at his Tuesday press conference, “We don't know yet how this thing is going to play out. I know everybody here is on a 24-hour news cycle. I'm not.” In comparison to Seward’s time, news travels in a nanosecond today. All the more reason to consider even more carefully before making decisions, especially ones that could hurt the very democratic cause you support and which will be manipulated by the Iranian government for its propaganda purposes no matter what.

    At a private fundraiser for the Seward House, the Associated Press reported that Governor Palin had “sharp words” for Obama’s national security policy but it was a week before the Iranian elections and she has since had little or nothing to say about the situation there – as opposed to Republican leaders in Congress and other neo-cons who have lashed out at the President’s caution. “He's been timid and passive more than I would like,” said South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham, and Senator John McCain announced, “He should speak out that this is a corrupt, flawed sham of an election, and that the Iranian people have been deprived of their rights.”

    All well and good, but as Suzanne Maloney, a senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution writes, at FOREIGN POLICY’s website, “The fact is, no matter how much Americans like to think they are the ones shaping events in Iran, it's just not true. The dramatic events in Iran have been wholly internally driven. They are the product of three decades of semi-competitive Iranian elections, a sophisticated population that warily guards its limited rights and freedoms, the tensions of a longstanding elite power struggle, and the ever-important force of unintended consequences -- among other factors.”

    GOP leaders who question and challenge President Obama’s Iranian strategy thus far would well remember their late Republican colleague William Henry Seward’s calm prescience in the face of opposition. As an admirer wrote, he was “one of those spirits who sometimes will go ahead of public opinion instead of tamely following its footprints.” That’s how history is made.

    Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Michael Winship are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.

    June 18, 2009

    Creating Change from the Grassroots

    (Photos by Robin Holland)

    This week, the JOURNAL examined the inspiring story of Leymah Gbowee and the extraordinary Liberian women’s movement chronicled in the documentary PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL.

    The film documents how Gbowee courageously and organized the women of Liberia to demand a peaceful resolution to the bloody civil war that for years had torn the country asunder. Risking rape and outright slaughter to protest non-violently, the women became a key force that helped to achieve a tentative peace, the exile of the brutal President Charles Taylor, and the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first elected female president of an African country.

    Reflecting on the women’s movement that helped transform Liberia, Leymah Gbowee said:

    “With these women, one of the things I realized was the untapped power that they had. These were the people who knew when the fighters were going to attack. These were the people who just knew, by sitting at their market tables, strange movements, and they would go to people they trust and say, “Pack your things and leave because danger is imminent.” These are the people that could talk to the fighters. Then again, on the negative front, these were the women who were moving weapons from one community to the other in their bundles, so they knew when the war was coming, they knew how it was going to be, and they knew the fighters. They could stop whatever was happening in the different communities, [but] no one – not the UN, not all of the consulates and the analysts – none of them ever figured that this group of people had what it took.”

    Film producer Abigail Disney said that the story of Gbowee and the Liberian women is consistent with historical non-violent movements and a potent inspiration for those seeking change today.

    “It is really, in effect, a classic example of non-violent resistance in the vein of everything that Gandhi and Martin Luther King ever planned... All they were asking for was something that was essentially kind of conservative, which was “let’s just make these systems work, let’s just hold these systems accountable to the promises they made.” They were just asking people to do their jobs... This classic Gandhi non-violence, where the power equation is flipped in a moment, is so extraordinary, and we’ve seen it in so many places. The more we see it, the more often we’ll see it – making it visible [and] making it available to people will bring it out in places we can’t even begin to imagine.”

    What do you think?

    What lessons can American grassroots movements take from the Liberian women’s movement documented in the film PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL?

    June 12, 2009

    Why Have The Rich Been Getting Richer?

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich about the power of Washington lobbyists and his vision for reforms to make America more prosperous and equitable.

    Reich lamented that the middle class has not shared the benefits of our nation’s economic expansion over the past few decades:

    “The fact of the matter is that, as late as 1980, the top 1 percent by income in the United States had about nine percent of total national income. But since then, you’ve had increasing concentration of income and wealth to the point that by 2007 the top 1 percent was taking home 21 percent of total national income. Now, when they’re taking home that much, the middle class doesn’t have enough purchasing power to keep the economy growing. That was hidden by the fact that they were borrowing so much on their homes, they kept on consuming because of their borrowing. But once that housing bubble exploded, it exposed the fact that the middle class in this country has really not participated in the growth of the economy, and over the long term we’re not gonna have a recovery until the middle class has the purchasing power it needs to buy again.”

    Economist Dieter Braeuninger of Deutsche Bank Research notes that, during the period Reich describes, many developed countries experienced similar increases in income inequality. Braeuninger suggests that technological advances and a surplus of unskilled labor are responsible for this trend:

    “Income inequality has risen in the industrialized world with skilled workers’ incomes rising faster than compensation for low-skilled labor... [Economists] identify the strong pace in technological progress and, in particular, the revolution in [information technology] as the engine of change. The triumphant advance of the microchip, the PC, and the internet kick-started a wave of automation, as well as a transition to flexible and accelerated production processes. This not only boosted productivity, but also resulted in a shift from labor-intensive to capital-intensive production methods. The winners are hence both owners of capital goods as well as the highly qualified labor force... The new technologies allow the replacement of less qualified labor through physical capital, such as machines and computers... The global labor force has risen fourfold since the early 1980s. The supply of basic labor has increased enormously... As long as less-skilled workers cannot shift to more productive tasks, increasing income inequality remains a threat.”

    What do you think?

  • In your view, what are the key reasons for the increasing income inequality in the United States?

  • How does income inequality affect the country?

  • If you think that income inequality should be reduced, how do you suggest doing so? Explain.

  • The Spirit of Thomas Paine, Today

    (Photos by Robin Holland)

    In this week’s JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with historians Harvey J. Kaye and Richard Brookhiser about the complex legacy of Thomas Paine, perhaps the most controversial of America’s founding revolutionaries. (For more about Paine, author of COMMON SENSE, please visit our resources page here.)

    Kaye argued that Paine imbued America with a fundamentally progressive “democratic impulse” that continues in today’s liberal politics:

    “Here’s this guy, essentially off the boat, who picks up on the spirit of America quickly, and he takes that pen of his and figures out how he’s gonna grab hold of that American spirit and turn it in a radical, democratic direction to make a new nation... he took what he recognized in American life, and he inscribes it into the meaning of America, that the democratic impulse would be a model to the world... In terms of the democratic impulse – which never ceased in America – [is that] in every generation progressive movements, from radical to liberal, reached back to the American Revolution... The words they reclaimed were Thomas Paine’s... He did very much look ahead to the idea of economic opportunity, but in a social democratic way, I think.”

    Brookhiser suggested that Paine’s positions on various issues of his time were often impractical, and that his core priorities do not hew to any single political philosophy.

    “[Paine] saw a lot of things that came to be, and he also saw some things that didn’t come to be, and maybe never could come to be... As we see in Paine’s own life, there are problems on this path. In the second revolution he’s involved in, I think he misunderstands what’s going on on the ground in France... Jefferson stuck with the revolution until Napoleon appeared. But then Paine stuck with it after Napoleon appeared... Paine’s visionary quality is both intoxicating and, Paine hopes, transformative... [If Paine were around today and asked about his priorities] I think he would say liberty. I think he would say opportunity and economic opportunity. I think those are the things he would hammer at.”

    What do you think?

    In your view, what is the significance of Tom Paine for today?

    Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: Why Have We Stopped Talking About Guns?

    You know by now that in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, an elderly white supremacist and anti-Semite named James W. von Brunn allegedly walked into the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with a .22-caliber rifle and killed security guard Stephen T. Johns before being brought down himself. He’s 88 years old, with a long record of hatred and paranoid fantasies about the Illuminati and a Global Zionist state. How bitter the bile that has curdled for so many decades.

    You will know, too, of the recent killing, while ushering at his local church, of Dr. George Tiller, one of the few doctors in the country still performing late term abortions. Sadly, this case was proof that fatal violence works. His family has announced that his Wichita, Kansas, clinic will not be reopened.

    You may be less familiar with the June 1st shootings in an army recruiting office in Little Rock that killed one soldier and wounded another. The suspect in question is an African-American Muslim convert who says he acted in retaliation for US military activity in the Middle East.

    Soon, however, these terrible deeds will be forgotten, as are already the three policemen killed by an assault weapon in Pittsburgh; the four policemen killed in Oakland, California; the 13 people gunned down in Binghamton, New York; the 10 in an Alabama shooting spree; five in Santa Clara, California; the eight dead in a North Carolina, nursing home. All during this year alone.

    There is much talk about hate talk; hate crimes against blacks, whites, immigrants, Muslims, Jews; about violence committed in the name of bigotry or religion. But why don’t we talk about guns?

    We’re arming ourselves to death. Even as gunshots ricocheted around the country, an amendment allowing concealed weapons in national parks snuck into the popular credit card reform bill. Another victory for the gun lobby, to sounds of silence from the White House.

    Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, wrote – just days before the Holocaust Museum incident – that “rather than propose concrete action that makes it harder for dangerous people to get firearms – while still respecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners – all Washington can seem to muster after high-profile shootings are ‘thoughts and prayers’ for the victims and their families.

    “For his part, the President has also included sincere expressions of ‘deep sadness’ at these tragic losses – though without any call to change any of our policies to prevent those losses.”

    Yet, as a presidential candidate, Obama pledged “our determination to do whatever it takes to eradicate this violence from our streets, from our schools, from our neighborhoods and our cities. That is our duty as Americans.”

    The fact is, neither party will stand up to the National Rifle Association, the best known front group for the arms merchants. In Virginia, just across the Potomac River from the Holocaust Museum, this week’s Democratic primary for governor was won by state legislator R. Creigh Deeds, a man who supports allowing concealed weapons in restaurants that serve alcohol and opposes limiting handgun purchases to one a month.

    After Wednesday’s shooting, a conservative organization immediately offered those of us in the media a chance to interview the founder of “Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership,” whose expertise, it was said, is in helping people understand why gun control doesn’t belong in a civilized society.

    The e-mail went on to say, “Your audience will appreciate [his] non nonsense common sense talk that will make them wonder why anyone wants to ban guns in the first place.”

    Thanks, but no thanks. And no thanks to his counterparts among Christians and Muslims who use every violent shedding of blood to try to promote the worship of guns. Guns don’t kill people, they say. People kill people. True. People kill people – with guns.

    So let the faithful of every persuasion keep their guns for hunting and skeet, for trap and target practice, for collecting. They can even have a permit for a gun to protect their business or home, even though it’s 22 times more likely to shoot a member of the family (including suicides) than an intruder.

    But please, there are already some 200 million, privately owned firearms in America. Every year there are 30,000 gun deaths and in some years more than 400,000 non-fatal, gun-related assaults. The next time someone wades through a pool of blood to sidle up and champion the preservation of firearms, can’t we just say, no thanks? Enough’s enough.

    June 5, 2009

    Desanitizing Modern Warfare

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    In this week’s JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill about the role played by hi-tech weaponry and private military contractors in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

    Scahill argued that most American citizens have become so removed from the harsh realities of war that further conflicts are becoming increasingly likely:

    “I think that this is sick, where you turn war essentially into a videogame that can be waged by people half a world away... It sanitizes war. It means that we increase the number of people that don’t have to see that war is hell on the ground, and it means that wars are gonna be easier in the future because it’s not as tough of a sell... The United States has created a new system for waging war where you no longer have to rely on your own citizens to sign up for the military and say ‘I believe in this war, so I’m willing to sign up and risk my life for it.’ You turn the entire world into your recruiting ground.”

    What do you think?

  • Do you agree with Scahill that private military contractors and hi-tech weaponry will make it easier for Washington to wage war in the future? Why or why not?

  • If so, how can the true human, financial, and environmental costs of war be brought home to American citizens?

  • POLL: Regarding Iraq and Afghanistan, Is Obama "Old Wine in a New Bottle?"

    In his conversation with Bill Moyers, investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill was critical of President Obama’s use of private military contractors and his war policies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    “I think what we’re seeing, under President Barack Obama, is sort of old wine in a new bottle. Obama is sending one message to the world, but the reality on the ground, particularly when it comes to private military contractors, is that the status quo remains from the Bush era... There’s no question that Obama inherited an absolute mess from President Bush, but the reality is that Obama is escalating the war in Afghanistan right now and is maintaining the occupation of Iraq... You have hundreds of people held without charges. You have people that are being denied access to the Red Cross in violation of international law. And you have an ongoing position by the Obama administration, formed under Bush, that these prisoners don't have a right to habeas corpus... The fact is that this man is governing over a policy that is killing a tremendous number of civilians.”

    We invite you to take our poll and share your thoughts in the space below.

    Making News Better?

    (Photos by Robin Holland)

    This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with media commentators Jay Rosen and Brooke Gladstone about how America’s sensationalistic news media has been covering important issues of our time.

    Jay Rosen said that today’s mainstream journalists often present a narrative that doesn't represent the true range of debate and fail to responsibly referee the arguments that make it through the filter:

    “One of the subtler things that journalists do in our public life is they set the terms of what a legitimate debate is. They marginalize certain people as not a part of it. And they include other people, who perhaps ought to be marginalized, as a central part of it. It's very hard for us to hold them accountable for those decisions, because they are subtler than we sometimes recognize... We don't have a press that's willing to say, 'This is not a legitimate argument this person is making.' We don't have a press that's willing to say, 'This, he said it, but it's completely out of bounds,' or 'it's completely baseless,' or, 'it has no grounding in reality.' We just don't have a group of political interpreters who are willing to say that.”

    Brooke Gladstone pointed to the increasing importance of Internet journalism and suggested that it may lead to better news coverage in the future:

    “We have to be careful in not regarding the media as solely the mainstream media, as solely the mainstream television news outlets, or even the big daily papers. There is a huge, raucous, wide-ranging discussion going out there, and even though it is not the dominant media in this country yet, it will be a far more democratic discussion as we move forward. I am talking about the Internet, I’m talking about all the different conversations – local, national, and global – that are going on outside the realm of these filters.”

    What do you think?

  • In your experience, what does the mainstream media do well, and what should it be doing better?

  • Do you think the Internet will provide better news to a mass audience than is currently available on television and in major newspapers? Why or why not?

  • Is the American mass public interested in thoughtful, in-depth journalism? Explain.

  • Michael Winship: The Privatization of Obama's War

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    Below is an article by JOURNAL senior writer Michael Winship. We welcome your comments below.

    ''The Privatization of Obama's War''
    By Michael Winship

    The sudden reappearance of former Vice President Dick Cheney over the last few months – seeming to emerge from his famous undisclosed location more frequently now than he ever did when he was in office – does not mean six more weeks of winter. But it does bring to mind that classic country and western song, “How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away?”

    Or, maybe, “If You Won’t Leave Me, I’ll Find Someone Who Will.”

    In his self-appointed role as voice of the opposition, Mr. Cheney has been playing Nostradamus, gloomily predicting doom if the Obama White House continues to set aside Bush administration policy, setting the stage for recrimination and finger-pointing should there be another terrorist attack on America.

    Cheney’s grouchy legacy is the gift that keeps on giving. Just this week, THE WASHINGTON POST reported for the first time that while vice president, Cheney oversaw “at least” four of those briefings given to senior members of Congress about enhanced interrogation techniques; “part of a secretive and forceful defense he mounted throughout 2005 in an effort to maintain support for the harsh techniques used on detainees…

    “An official who witnessed one of Cheney’s briefing sessions with lawmakers said the vice president’s presence appeared to be calculated to give additional heft to the CIA’s case for maintaining the program.”

    And remember Halliburton, the international energy services company of which Cheney used to be the CEO? After the fall of Baghdad, Halliburton and its then-subsidiary KBR were the happy recipients of billions of dollars in outside contracts to take care of the military and rebuild Iraq’s petroleum industry. Waste, shoddy workmanship (like faulty wiring that caused fatal electric shocks) and corruption ran wild, Pentagon investigators allege, even as Vice President Cheney was still receiving deferred compensation and stock options.

    Reporting for TomDispatch.com, Pratap Chatterjee, author of the book, HALLIBURTON’S ARMY, writes, “In early May, at a hearing on Capitol Hill, DCAA [Defense Contract Audit Agency] director April G. Stephenson told the independent, bipartisan, congressionally mandated Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan that, since 2004, her staff had sent 32 cases of suspected overbilling, bribery and other possible violations of the law to the Pentagon inspector general. The ‘vast majority’ of these cases, she testified, were linked to KBR, which accounts for a staggering 43 percent of the dollars the Pentagon has spent in Iraq.”

    In one instance, KBR was charging an average $38,000 apiece for “prefabricated living units” on bases in Iraq; another contractor offered to provide them for $18,000. But of a questionable $553 million in payments to KBR that the DCCA blocked or suspended, the Pentagon has gone ahead and agreed to pay $439 million, accepting KBR’s explanations.

    KBR, Halliburton and the private security firm Blackwater have come to symbolize the excesses of outsourcing warfare. So you’d think that with a new sheriff like Barack Obama in town, such practices would be on the “Things Not to Do” list. Not so.

    According to new Pentagon statistics, in the second quarter of this year, there has been a 23% increase in the number of private security contractors working for the Pentagon in Iraq and a 29% hike in Afghanistan. In fact, outside contractors now make up approximately half of our forces fighting in the two countries. “This means,” according to Jeremy Scahill, author of the book, BLACKWATER: THE RISE OF THE WORLD'S MOST POWERFUL MERCENARY ARMY, “there are a whopping 242,647 contractors working on these two U.S. wars.”

    Scahill, who runs an excellent new website called “Rebel Reports,” spoke with my colleague Bill Moyers on the current edition of BILL MOYERS JOURNAL on PBS. “What we have seen happen, as a result of this incredible reliance on private military contractors, is that the United States has created a new system for waging war,” he said. By hiring foreign nationals as mercenaries, “You turn the entire world into your recruiting ground. You intricately link corporate profits to an escalation of warfare and make it profitable for companies to participate in your wars.

    “In the process of doing that you undermine US democratic policies. And you also violate the sovereignty of other nations, because you're making their citizens combatants in a war to which their country is not a party.

    “I feel that the end game of all of this could well be the disintegration of the nation-state apparatus in the world. And it could be replaced by a scenario where you have corporations with their own private armies. To me, that would be a devastating development. But it's happening on a micro level. And I fear it will start to happen on a much bigger scale.”

    Jeremy Scahill’s comments come just as Lt. General Stanley McChrystal, the man slated to be the new commander of our troops in Afghanistan says the cost of our strategy there is going to cost America and its NATO allies billions of additional dollars for years to come. In fact, according to budget documents released by the Pentagon last month, as of next year, the cost of the war in Afghanistan – more and more known as “Obama’s War” – will exceed the cost of the war in Iraq.

    The President asserted in his Cairo speech on Thursday that he has no desire to keep troops or establish permanent military bases in Afghanistan. But according to Jeremy Scahill, “I think what we're seeing, under President Barack Obama, is sort of old wine in a new bottle. Obama is sending one message to the world,” he told Moyers, “but the reality on the ground, particularly when it comes to private military contractors, is that the status quo remains from the Bush era.”

    Maybe that’s one more reason Dick Cheney, private contractor emeritus, won’t go away.

    Bill Moyers Rewind: Tiger Temple (2008)

    This week marked the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, one of the key moments in the struggle for democracy and human rights in the People's Republic of China. Last year, the JOURNAL's Jessica Wang produced this report on state control of speech in China and the story of Chinese blogger Tiger Temple.
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    A Companion Blog to Bill Moyers Journal

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