– A Song about the Battle of Gettysburg –
The rain is soaking to my shoulders
Falling soft upon the leaves,
Falling on these silent soldiers
Who hide beneath the forest eaves.
I can see it in their faces
All the strain and all the fear,
Months of war has etched their traces
On the boys who huddle here.
Our leaders order us as cattle
And beat our plowshares into swords,
Thus we gird our young for battle
And fill their minds with empty words.
Not for those who give the orders
Any place in this charade,
Safe behind their chartered borders
Not for them the grim parade.
Knuckles whitening, faces paling
Hope that withers with the dark
Hands that falter, courage failing
Waiting for the cannon’s bark.
For yesterday I sent their brothers
Scrambling up this hill to die,
The day before that, were the others.
Who yet on the meadow lie.
I watched them as the battle closes
Amidst the carnage and the din,
Seen their wounds like deadly roses
Blooming crimson on their skin.
I’ve heard them coughing as they stumble
I’ve heard their moaning as they lie,
Heard frightened prayer turn to mumbles,
And final silence as they die.
The dead lie in their awkward slumber,
Having answered glory’s call.
Lying scattered beyond number
Piled like cordwood by the wall.
And as for me I’m sick of sending
These frightened boys to butchery,
I swear that when this day is over,
There’ll be one bullet left for me.
(Note: This article appeared at Foreign Policy In Focus)
A Maltese member of parliament, one Joseph Muscat told the BBC: “What is happening now is of epic proportions. If Europe, if the global community continues to turn a blind eye… we will all be judged in the same way that history has judged Europe when it turned a blind eye to the genocide of this century and last century.”
A continued tightening and militarization 0f European immigration policy – not unlike that implemented in the United States towards it southern neighbors – along with 35 years of World Bank-IMF economic domination/strangulation of Africa have mixed into a toxic cocktail of death and suffering from the growing number of people – men, women, children – trying to escape a dangerous and empty present and a future with no end in sight of war, repression, economic and political collapse in both the MENA countries (Middle East and North Africa) and Africa.
Tens of thousands just pick up and try to reach Europe where they hope to find salvation. They walk across the Sahara from the Cameroon, Mali, Somalia and Southern Sudan to the North African coast or die trying. They leave Syria and Iraq any way they can, by foot through Turkey, by sea to Cyprus and from there hopefully to Europe. But as their overland options have narrowed due to increased security at the Bulgarian and Greek borders and within Turkey itself, migrants increasingly take their chances at sea, trying to cross the Mediterranean to what they hope will be salvation of more often not is simply another version of purgatory.
While Europe’s immigrant crisis is not new – it has been going on for decades and has been the subject of moving films, studies, reports for the past quarter century at least, since the collapse of Communism – the crisis has swelled in the past few years to even more unwieldy – and inhumane – proportions. Conflicts in Syria, Mali, the collapse of Khadaffi’s government in Libya as a result of the NATO-led invasion, along with conflicts of longer duration (Eritrea, Somali) have aggravated an already desperate, and from a European viewpoint, shameful situation. Add to this the deepening public hostility in European countries to immigration that has triggered an increasingly repressive and hostile legal framework and the explosive brew is complete. Read more…
The rewriting of the War In Vietnam
Shortly after the war in Vietnam ended ignominiously for the United States on April 30, 1975, the efforts to rewrite the history of the war began here in the United States in large measure to sanitize what was a horrific genocidal blood bath of one people, the Vietnamese, by another, the United States. One of the key episodes in this rescripting of history was the trial of Lieutenant William Calley, the officer in charge of “Charlie Company” – the company that had committed the war crimes of killing an entire Vietnamese village, which the Americans referred to as “Pinkville” but the proper name of which was My Lai, this on March 16, 1968. U.S. intelligence – which these days has difficulty discerning an Afghan or Pakistani wedding party from a band of Al Qaeda or Taliban – had determined that My Lai was a village that supported the rebels, the “Viet Cong” as they were called here in the U.S. media. This too proved to be “a mistake.” The village was neutral. And even it was wasn’t…
As the story of the massacre broke in the U.S. media, substantiated by a U.S. Army investigation, Lieutenant Calley was – of 45 military personnel implicated in having committed cold-blooded murder – the only one indicted or tried. Although found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment, after serving three days in prison, Calley was pardoned by President Nixon and sentenced to house arrest. Three years later he was free on parole. Calley’s case made the country realize what the war was about, the outright slaughter of a people – some sources familiar with the war suggest as many as four million Vietnamese lost their lives from 1962 – 1975, the U.S. chapter in that war. The goal in killing so many, destroying so much was to make the price of Vietnamese freedom too high, too painful to pay, to inflict untold suffering to bring the Vietnamese into line with American dictates, or failing to do that, to come close to destroying the country. To convict Calley of war crimes, really was to convict the whole of the United States – and most especially its ruling elite – the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon Administrations – of war crimes. It was the kind of self-indictment which, the greatest world power of the time, simply could not endure. And so Calley was found guilty, slapped on the hands so to speak and let go. Read more…
Once upon a time, about a half century ago, when I was boiling with anger about what my country was doing in a foreign land – the carpet bombing of Cambodia – and ready in moment of uncontrolled anger to blindly strike out “at the system” (I had my own plans at the time) two friends, both dead and gone – but still with me in spirit – brought me to my senses (to the degree that it was possible) and reminded me of the basics: all politics, in the end, is controlled rage. Never forgot that lesson, and as a result, scrapped my plans to set fire to the 18th green of a local country club by igniting a can of gasoline.
It was a personal turning point and I might add – something of an insight. Without the rage – rage against injustice, inequality, bigotry, militarism, frankly there is no movement. Social movements are born in rage. But without the control – which translates into a vision and a program – that rage goes nowhere – it is like a balloon, first blown up and then released in a room – it goes around with no particular direction until it runs out of air, goes poof and falls to the ground, its energy dissipated, wasted. Read more…
The Rise and Fall of the VOC
1594 – Compagnie Van Verre is formed (The Company of Trade With Distant Lands)
1595 – Compagnie Van Verre organizes a four ship fleet for the Orient. It arrives near Jakarta on July 22, 1596. Cornelis de Houtman makes a treaty of alliance with the sultan of Bantam. It is the beginning of the Dutch usurpation of Portuguese control of the East Indies trade.
1595 – Dutch ships begin visiting the harbors of the Greater Antilles.
1598 – Compagnie Van Verre dissolved; new companies formed. 22 ships leave for the Orient of which eight returned loaded with spices to turn a profit of 400%
1598 – Dutch salt traders, unable to secure salt in Portugal, began to exploit the immense deposits around the lagoon at Araya, near Cumaná in Venezuela. According to the Spanish governor, from 1600 to 1606 his province was visited every year by 120 foreign ships, most of which were Dutch salt carriers of an average capacity of some 300 tons. Dutch traders also came to Cumaná bringing cloth and hardware, taking Venezuelan tobacco and Margarita pearls. In 1609 with the truce between the United Provinces and Spain, the old Setúbal (Portugal) trade was resumed and the Araya voyages disappeared.
1600 – Amsterdam has a population of 50,000
1601 – Now 65 ships left for the East Indies…of those 11 were completely lost with a great number of crew perishing. Portuguese competition essentially crushed.
1601 – The English established their own English East Indies Company, a chartered company. The same year, a French expedition reached Bantam and a French East India Company was formed in 1604.
1601 – A Dutch fleet of only five vessels intervened and drove off a Portuguese fleet of 28, when in December of 1601, the latter came to try to reclaim their control over Bantam.
1602 – on March 20, 1602 to be exact, after months of wrangling, the Estates General, governing body of the United Provinces, passed legislation with the strong support of different investors, merging the efforts of the different Dutch merchants trading in the East Indies into one company, a chartered company, a company that was named the Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie (V.O.C.) or as it is more commonly known in English: The Dutch East Indies Company. (DEIC) Read more…
Negotiating With Iran: Gary Sick, Ibrahim Kazerooni, Rob Prince on KGNU (1390 AM and on-line at www.kgnu.org) – on “Connections” Friday Morning (April 17, 2015) at 8:30 AM, hosted by Dr. Joel Edelstein
Friday morning at 8:30 – KGNU Boulder (1390 AM) recent Korbel PhD graduate Ibrahim Kazerooni and Korbel Lecturer Rob Prince will join Gary Sick for a one hour program on P5+1 negotiations with Iran hosted by long-time political commentator and former CU-Denver Professor of Political Science, Joel Edelstein.
They will appear on the weekly “Connections” program which lasts one hour and can be heard at 1390 AM or by tuning in to www.kgnu.org and listening by computer.
Gary Sick, a scholar at Columbia University, served on the National Security Council under Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and was the principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis. Kazerooni and Prince are a part of a regular monthly program on Hemispheres (KGNU – Tues at 6:00) “Middle East Dialogues” hosted by Jim Nelson, that has been featured for the past five years.
1. Rouen’s Jews…
Today the Jewish population of Rouen, France is quite small, some 700 people living in a city of approximately 115,000, many of whom are emigres from Algeria and Tunisia, a shadow of its past prominence.(1) Half century ago, when I lived in Rouen for the academic year 1964-65, I had virtually no contact with the city’s Jewish Community. I did not seek them out although, unless memory fails me (possible) the current synagogue on rue de Bons Enfants was there. It had a plaque memorializing Rouen’s Jews sent to concentration camps in Germany where they were exterminated. I would walk by it on my way to the center (near the cathedral) from rue de Renard, where I lived at the time.
Yet all of these years, I wondered about a Jewish presence in Rouen. It had all the historic hallmarks of the kind of urban areas where Jews would tend to concentrate. Despite being inland from the English Channel, access to the Atlantic Ocean, Rouen was an important port, center of commerce and long distance trade, reminiscent of other urban areas which in the past had a sizeable Jewish presence: Amsterdam, Salonika, Granada, Tunis come to mind. Rouen, a city founded by the Romans and originally known as Rothomagus (and later Rodom, Roan) sits about halfway along the Seine River between Le Havre and Paris. The river was navigable as far as Rouen and even during the year I lived there ocean-going ships docked at its port area, which I frequently visited, the Seine being deep and wide enough to accommodate them.
As Jewish communities, long involved in commerce and trade on the one hand, and desirous of the presence of a river for sacramental purposes on the other, looked for such a place, I have wondered about if Rouen wasn’t yet another example of some lost Jewish history, yet another place where Judaism thrived for a long historical moment, before the forces of bigotry and greed suddenly turned on them, once again, purging their populations and obliterating, or near obliterating their cultural traces. Does the contemporary light touch of Rouen’s Jewish presence hide a more historically flourishing past?
The answer turns out to be – yes, very much so. The traces of that history, hints of a vibrant Rouennaise Jewish past, have long been there. An old street in the center of town was named “rue des Juifs” (Jewish Street). Researching old Normandy maps revealed many other “rue des Juifs” in surrounding areas. Brief, but not insignificant citations like the mention of a monk named “William the Jew” (forcibly converted like others?) who lived in a nearby abbey as well as other references, some suggesting that early Jewish population of London hailed from Rouen, having been encouraged to do so by William The Conqueror after his 1066 victory over the English monarchy which changed the country’s history. Read more…