Friday, November 24, 2006


Just when you think we've gone about as far into the heart of darkness as we can go, somebody manages to find an even darker place. That somebody is General William Caldwell, the chief spokesperson in Iraq. Speaking in Baghdad recently, he compared the ongoing war there to a work of art. He said: “Every great work of art goes through messy phases while it is in transition. A lump of clay can become a sculpture. Blobs of paint become paintings which inspire."

Hm. I'm trying to imagine the response to that bizarre statement by the likes of Vincent Van Gogh, or Claude Monet or Pablo Picasso. I actually know quite a few artists. I'm fairly certain none of them have ever killed anyone in order to complete a painting or a sculpture. I don't recall them dropping bombs on cities or burning people alive with white phosphorous. I never heard of them going into private homes and killing all the family members, while in the act of putting the finishing touches on a canvas or a portrait in clay.

I never knew them to torture anyone, or to leave thousands of unspent cluster bombs lying around in Lebanon or Iraq, waiting to be stepped on by a soldier or a civilian, or most likely picked up by a small child, then watching that child lose an arm or seeing her face blown off.

When we reach the point where we are comparing the "messiness" of war to the creating of works of art, surely we have descended into the depths of the unholy and the monstrous. But if bodies are lumps of clay and paint is blood then I suppose what we are doing in Iraq and what Israel recently orchestrated in Lebanon might constitute a macabre renaissance of "art."

Perhaps we should get busy and build some nice museums to house our rarefied new "works." But we already have them, don't we? They're called "mortuaries."

Here's how the British journalist Robert Fisk described the mortuary in Hilla, Iraq, after the American massacre there in 2003. He called it “a butcher's shop of chopped-up corpses.” The victims were farmers, women and children. We killed around 61, and left more than 450 seriously injured.

Film footage at Hilla the next day, the first shot by Western news agencies of what was then happening on the Iraqi front lines, showed babies cut in half, scattered limbs, kids with deep cuts in their faces caused by American shellfire and cluster bombs. In fact, most of the casualties were children. Remember, the majority of Iraq's 24-million people are children.

I wonder how these wounded would feel about being described as potential works of art.

And what about the four to six-thousand Iraqi civilians killed during the November, 2004 U.S. assault on Fallujah? How many Americans even remember Fallujah, let alone care what happened there? Or how about the twenty civilians recently gunned down in Haditha by U.S. Marines? Haditha is now touted as Iraq's "My Lai", even though there are "My Lais" happening in Iraq every day, most of which go unreported in the Western press. Yes, it would appear that we are rather messy artists.

If only we could talk to the young Iraqi girl, Abeer Hamza, fourteen-years-old, citizen of Mahmoudiya, raped, murdered and set on fire in her home by five U.S. Marines. If we could talk to her five-year-old sister, Hadeel, or her mother, Fakhriya, or her father, Qassim, but alas, they, too, were shot dead by those marines.

But if we could talk to them and all the other casualties, the wounded mothers, fathers, children, the dead buried in the rubble of Baghdad and Fallujah, I wonder if it would ease their minds at all to know that they and their families were part of some grand "work in progress" of our American "artists of war"?

And what about our own wounded and dead soldiers, returning day after day to the arms of their mothers and fathers after being thrown into harm's way by the lies of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and Powell, the architects of war?

Perhaps it would comfort them to know that it was all for the sake of art.

--Published in The Lone Star Iconoclast.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

lawrence ferlinghetti HISTORY OF THE AIRPLANE

And the Wright brothers said they thought they had invented
something that could make peace on earth when their wonderful
flying machine took off at Kitty Hawk into the kingdom of birds
but the parliament of birds was freaked out by this man-made bird
and fled to heaven

And then the famous Spirit of Saint Louis took off eastward and
flew across the Big Pond with Lindy at the controls in his leather
helmet and goggles hoping to sight the doves of peace but he did not
even though he circled Versailles

And then the famous Flying Clipper took off in the opposite
direction and flew across the terrific Pacific but the pacific doves
were frighted by this strange amphibious bird and hid in the orient sky

And then the famous Flying Fortress took off bristling with guns
and testosterone to make the world safe for peace and capitalism
but the birds of peace were nowhere to be found before or after Hiroshima

And so then clever men built bigger and faster flying machines and
these great man-made birds with jet plumage flew higher than any
real birds and seemed about to fly into the sun and melt their wings
and like Icarus crash to earth

And the Wright brothers were long forgotten in the high-flying
bombers that now began to visit their blessings on various Third
Worlds all the while claiming they were searching for doves of

And they kept flying and flying until they flew right into the 21st
century and then one fine day a Third World struck back and
stormed the great planes and flew them straight into the beating
heart of Skyscraper America where there were no aviaries and no
parliaments of doves and in a blinding flash America became a part
of the scorched earth of the world

And a wind of ashes blows across the land
And for one long moment in eternity
There is chaos and despair

And buried loves and voices
Cries and whispers
Fill the air

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Look, don't get me wrong. I'm as happy as a pig in shit. It was so pretty to watch Bush fire Donald Rumsfeld the morning after the election, even if he did go right out and replace him with yet another rat. But it was downright refreshing to see him stand there minus the jutting jaw, the swagger, the smirking laugh. Nice to finally see him eat a little crow, to watch his lips draw up, almost as if he'd been forced to wolf down a handful of maggots, like a contestant on Fear Factor.

But the fact is the Dems were handed a gift they did not particularly earn. For the most part, they either sat on their hands and watched or actively assisted and supported Bush in achieving everything he's wanted, from the war in Iraq to the Patriot Act, to warrantless wiretapping, to torture, to throwing out the rule of habeas corpus, even right up to the brink of an invasion of Iran.

They have provided little or no resistance to outright violations of the law, the Geneva Conventions, and the Constitution itself. There are "My Lais" happening in Iraq every day, and we have yet to hear so much as a complaint from them about that, other than to say we should withdraw our troops at some future point. But for the most part, these Dems that we're all crowing about looked the other way while Bush and every member of his team were lying day after day to get us into this war.

For at least six years, the picture that emerges of the Democratic Party has been that of the three monkeys with hands covering their eyes, ears and mouths. Especially their mouths, for even if they were in the minority and therefore powerless to do very much, they certainly could have been speaking out at every opportunity against the excrutiating and wanton excesses of this president, when so often, all we heard out of them was a stark and ghastly silence.

So, at the risk of sounding like a killjoy, there simply has been far too little in the Democrat's behavior up to now that ought to incline us to bet on them to move the country in a real progressive direction. Merely because there are suddenly more of them on the scene doesn't mean their collective spine has grown more vertebrae, or that they are any less apt to be bought off than those that were bought before.

In this euphoric moment, let's remember: Nixon was shown the door for far less crimes than those of Bush and Cheney. Yet, our "feisty" new Democrats have already declared impeachment "off the table." Perhaps a fairly good hint of what lies in store.

I suggest we will have to push these feisty fellows like an old car with a bad starter. Yes, it's nice to be able to clap ourselves on the back and rejoice in this new day. But make no mistake--our real work has just begun.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


American voters have elected a Democratic majority in Congress; and with the help of political activists, bloggers and investigative journalists, progressive organizations, democratic candidates and their staffs, volunteers and donors, this majority has made a moment of renewed promise and accountability possible. Unchecked presidential and executive power has been repudiated by this election. And the republicans' cynical use of bigotry has backfired this time.

We celebrate this political change. We honor those who have spoken out, those who have taken risks, those who have given so much of themselves, who have overshadowed the rest of us, with their sacrifices and moral intensity. We give thanks to them all today.

Americans now have some real expectation that the political extremism of the past 6 years can be addressed. Democrats believe it is time to find a way for our beleaguered soldiers to return home from Iraq. It is time for the Occupation of Iraq to end. From now on, Americans will insist that our domestic tranquility must rest on our tradition of liberties and political checks and balances.

We can again recognize what we most admire in our country. It feels as if we have a new lease on life in this election. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people, still beckons to us. On such a day we can still imagine the illuminating dreams of our country's founders.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


The imperial project is something that most Americans have not taken time to think about; they don't see the nation through that kind of lens. The moral issue of spilling blood to acquire oil--that is to say--the question of empire, has been covered up, under this republican administration. However, Americans have figured out that Iraq is a quagmire; and only Senator McCain (a republican) has endorsed the crackpot idea of sending more US troops into "the valley of death".

No good, present or prospective, can be had by voting republican. If there are places on the ballot where democrats are not enrolled, it is better to vote Green or Libertarian. At this crucial point in our political history, voting republican will push us farther along-- with the party's corporate handshake-- toward fascism.

At this point Americans must vote for the Democrats, to have any hope of bringing US troops home and ending the Occupation of Iraq. I am also reminded that due process of law, habeas corpus, standards of civil rights and basic human rights, are under assault by a republican administration and its rubber-stamping republican Congress.

This is not a political decision to screw around with. I hope to God that the majority of my fellow Americans vote for democrats today. Every day we spend living under this dark, republican cloud, is a day that brings us closer to living in a police state. For instance, there are now proposed "clearance documents" to be issued by Homeland Security, which would present an impassable barrier to some American citizens seeking to re-enter their country, and likewise would block others who might hope to leave. Politically motivated restrictions on travel are in the works.

A perpetual, one-party state, will be the end of our Republic; and those pundits who argue that there is no difference between the major political parties, do not take into account profound cultural struggles which are in play, and only focus on the over-reaching power of our corporations.

Political culture matters. This is the difference between a legitimate electoral process and computer gaming, between free speech and sedition, between closed borders and open ones, between viable legal protections and tyranny.

Please safeguard the liberties we grew up with. Vote for Democrats.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Well, I received a response to my letter below which I wrote to the Smithfield, NC Mayor and City Council members, asking for their response to the CIA torture flights that have been leaving from the Smithfield airport. One lone city council member, Thomas Bell, responded to my inquiry.

And I sent him a reply to his response. Here is his email to me and my email reply. I think we call this "internet activism."
From: Thomas Bell, Smithfield City Council member.
Dear Mr. Harper:

Thank you for your note.

Do you have any evidence to support the allegation that there are laws being broken by Aero Contractors?


* * *

Dear Mr. Bell,

I appreciate your response, the only one I've received from anyone in the Smithfield city government.

The internet is lit up with stories datelined, "Smithfield, NC." According to the Smithfield Herald, twelve members of the North Carolina House of Representatives (none from Johnston Country*) claim that Aero Contractors, under the direction of the CIA, "has flown persons detained in various countries and the U.S., to other countries," where the suspects were "held incommunicado and tortured, using methods that would have been illegal in the U.S."

In an interview on Sept 6, Bush acknowledged the existence of the program.

Trevor Paglen, an expert in clandestine military installations and A.C. Thompson, an award-winning journalist for S.F. Weekly, have spent months tracking CIA flights and the businesses behind them, and have written about it in their book, Torture Taxi: On the Trail Of The CIA's Rendition Flights. They cite Smithfield specifically and nearby Kinston, as two of the towns that host CIA planes and pilots.

According to Paglen and Thompson, plane spotters have been able to connect the dots of planes departing from airfields at certain times in the U.S. to their arrivals at Guantanimo and other CIA sites, and to some of the victims of torture who were on those flights.

On May 31st, the story was covered in detail in The New York Times, by Scott Shane, Stephen Grey and Margot Williams.

According to their story, Aero Contractors is, in fact, a major domestic hub of the Central Intelligence Agency's secret air service. The company was founded in 1979 by a legendary CIA officer and chief pilot for Air America, the agency's Vietnam-era air company, and it appears to be controlled by the agency, according to former employees."

Of course, the CIA has declined to comment on any of these stories. But records filed with the Federal Aviation Administration provide a detailed, if incomplete, portrait of the CIA's aviation wing. The NY Times says the fleet includes a WWII era DC-3 and a sleek Gulfstream V executive jet, as well as "workhorse Hercules transport planes and Spanish-built aircraft that can drop into tight airstrips. The flagship is the Boeing Business Jet, based on the 737 model, which Aero flies from Kinston, N.C., because the runway at Johnston County is too short for it."

"But the facility that turns up most often in records of the 26 planes is little Johnston County Airport, which mainly serves private pilots and a few local corporations."

You ask if I have any direct evidence that the allegation is true, and, of course, you know that I do not. But if it "looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck. . . ."

Given the overwhelming circumstantial evidence that you can read yourself in greater detail than I have room to document in an email, the question is whether you have any real curiosity or interest in getting at the truth? And should you find the truth to substantiate the allegation, what would be your next move?

Best regards, and, Happy Halloween!

Grayson Harper

*Smithfield is in Johnston County.

copeland morris ENTWINED SONNET

Her shaded eyes, her necklace black velvet, onyx. Anguish she spoke; and he carried on, obsessed As only a young man could. An odd harm...