Barry Sanders was methodically recycling and trying to live a "green" life in other ways when he had a "flash" of insight, as he put it in an interview on Oct. 12 -- that the U.S. military is massively polluting the earth.
Sanders looked into the subject and found almost nothing written on it. His research taught him that it's nearly impossible to obtain information on the Pentagon's contamination of the planet and release of climate-changing gases. That information is top secret. In mainstream America, no one challenges how the military spends its money or demands its accountability -- or even questions the amount of money the Pentagon requests. The military always gets what it wants.
Most people recognize that the events of 9/11 were the driving force behind the "War on Terror." Less well recognized is the fact that this borderless war against an ill-defined enemy has expedited economic collapse, driven totalitarian legislation and generated a great deal of animosity against the United States throughout the world. The pain and suffering caused by 9/11 comes with an opportunity, however. Through a better understanding of those tragic events, we can achieve crucial insights that can not only end the wars but might ultimately lead to lasting positive change in human society.
On Sept. 4, at 7 p.m. in the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre in Bloomington, the 9/11 Working Group of Bloomington will sponsor a free presentation by two prominent truth and peace activists. Buddhist scholar and peace studies director Graeme MacQueen will discuss "The fictional basis for the war on terror." Behavioral scientist Laurie Manwell will speak on the social and psychological implications of 9/11 and other state crimes against democracy.
For all of our concern with safety and security -- in our homes, at the airport, and on the border -- our way of life is threatened as never before.
According to national security experts, the threat comes from Islamic extremists, and, to a lesser extent, popular democratic movements in Latin America. For the Tea Party movement, Big Government threatens traditional American values and individual liberties. White supremacist and anti-immigration groups perceive undocumented workers from south of the border as threats to American national identity and culture. Meanwhile, U.S. business interests point to labor and environmental regulations that threaten our competitive advantage in the global marketplace.
And that's just the short list -- the one that plays out on a regular basis in the American news media.
There are many disturbing similarities between the United States’ disastrous war in Vietnam and the growing tragedy of Afghanistan: a corrupt ally unworthy of American bloodshed; a population historically adept at repelling invading forces; a promising presidency weighed down by runaway war spending.
But one difference between Vietnam and Afghanistan is even more disturbing than the similarities. In this war, we Americans are not being asked to take responsibility for the violence waged in our name.
This time, there is no draft to put my teenagers at risk of unwilling sacrifice. This time, we have yet to concede the domestic damage caused by a trillion taxpayer dollars spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
In recent weeks, a handful of seemingly unrelated events -- the BP oil disaster in the Gulf, an Israeli commando raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla, umpire Jim Joyce's blown call that cost Detroit Tiger's pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game and reporter Helen Thomas's abrupt retirement from the White House press corps over her controversial remarks on Israel-Palestine -- offer valuable lessons about taking responsibility for one's actions.
Call it an index of accountability.
Despite conflicting reports over the amount of oil that is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, there is no doubt this is the worst oil spill in U.S. history. To date, BP's efforts to control the leak have failed. And while the extent of the environmental damage is difficult to assess at this time, it is clear that the Gulf's ecosystem is in crisis -- and likely will be so for years to come.
The end of the school year is always a bit hectic: meeting with students, reviewing assignments, tallying final grades and attending commencement ceremonies. Then there's all the head scratching that comes with the feckless decisions university administrators tend to make at this time of year. It all makes it difficult to keep up with the news and current events.
Now, with the semester's work behind me and a busy summer ahead, it's as good a time as any to catch up with the headlines and see what is -- and isn't -- making news of late.
From the Middle East to the Gulf to the Internet to the Tea Party.
The Web site WikiLeaks.org recently released a video of a 2007 U.S. Army attack in Baghdad that included among its victims two Reuters news agency employees, several would-be rescuers of the dead and dying, and two children.
The video depicts U.S. soldiers agitating for permission to shoot, then gunning down civilians and laughing as tanks run over dead bodies. To some, this suggests that prosecution of the soldiers is called for.
Josh Steiber sees it differently.
"I urge you to be slow to judge those who are trapped in these [war] machines and ask yourself if you did or didn't do anything to create this trap," he wrote on the Iraq Veterans Against the War Web site. "The high number of soldiers that I deployed with, including my friends whose voices and images are in this chilling video, wanted to improve the lives of their friends, families and their own futures."
The no-frills YouTube video looks like it could be the chronicling of an ambitious science fair project. Inside a spare Indiana warehouse, a young man launches a thin two-and-a-half-foot black cylinder into the air, where its propeller blades keep it hovering vertically. Then it moves slowly across the warehouse, past the Purdue University and ROTC signs, before easing its way back into the waiting hands of the same young man who launched it.
But this is no schoolboy experiment, and the small flying cylinder is no model airplane. It is the Voyeur UAV, or unmanned aerial vehicle, also known as a "drone." According to the Web site of its manufacturer, West Lafayette-based Lite Machines, Inc., the Voyeur is designed to allow military and law enforcement to conduct surveillance and "human or non-human target acquisition." The Voyeur can travel as far as 50 miles in the air and can hover over and/or touch its target.
The planet contains over 23,000 nuclear weapons, and some 13 countries are on the verge of building them, according to the international activist Web site Avazz.org. Every day the risks of regional nuclear war, nuclear terrorism and catastrophic accidents escalate. The only real solution is for every country to eliminate these weapons.
The United States has used weapons containing depleted uranium in Iraq. Whether Iran possesses nuclear weapons and the materials to manufacture them is a controversial subject.
A panel discussion, "The Nuclear Cloud Over Iraq and Iran," with Cynthia Hoffman, David Keppel and Don Lichtenburg, will explore these issues at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 27, in room 2B of the Monroe County Public Library.
The numbers coming out of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars can be overwhelming and numbing.
First are the financial costs. Weapons contractor Lockheed’s defense contracts in 2008 came to $115 billion, according to Public Citizen.
CODEPINK said in an e-mail that the D.C. city council is considering paying defense contractor Northrop Grumman $25 million in taxpayers’ money to move its headquarters to the District of Columbia. According to a Northrop promotional video, the corporation receives 65 cents out of every $1 the government spends on “defense.”