Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Ah, ye admonitions and warnings! why stay ye not when ye come? But rather are ye predictions than warnings, ye shadows! Yet not so much predictions from without, as verifications of the foregoing things within. For with little external to constrain us, the innermost necessities of our being, these still drive us on.

--Herman Melville, Moby Dick, p.163
Ahab is Ahab; and we have not tried hard enough to throw off the fate that is ready to meet us. How many admonitions and warnings have the people received? At Tholos of Athena, we have tried to put all these cautions into perspective, since we began writing about this war, five years ago. If Melville was right in thinking that “depths outlast heights”; he surely must have meant that the depths of the moral life outlast human prowess. The examined life is superior to the obsession that robs us of our humanity. The idea that God will no longer bless a country that repeats its crimes and abuses, is not a new concept. In only seven years, we have begun to follow Ahab onto the high seas of paranoia. The end is fast approaching in the frenzy of Wall Street, in the criminal complicity of Congress, in the outright criminality of the current president. How many people have to be enslaved, occupied, dispossessed, orphaned, widowed, killed and maimed, before the Empire's House of Cards comes crashing down?

We should remember the admonitions and warnings of Martin Luther King Jr. that are found in his famous speech, Beyond Vietnam-A Time to Break Silence:
...There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor--both black and white--through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such. [...]

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called "enemy," I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor. [...]

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged , cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. [...]

We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word" (unquote).
Americans have been admonished and warned for years now, about the losing position the US military is in, as its forces continue the occupation and brutalization of Iraq. In 1966, the Israeli general, Moshe Dayan, was given permission to tour the American frontlines in Vietnam, and his memoirs serve as springboard for the military historian, Martin Van Creveld. And Creveld sums up the US dilemma well, in a 2004 article, Why Iraq Will End as Vietnam Did.
The...most important reason why I think Vietnam is relevant to the situation in Iraq is because the Americans found themselves in the unfortunate position where they were beating down on the weak. To quote Dayan: "any comparison between the two armies...was astonishing. On the one hand there was the American Army, complete with helicopters, an air force, armor, electronic communications, artillery, and mind-boggling riches; to say nothing of ammunition, fuel, spare parts, and equipment of all kinds. On the other there were the [North Vietnamese troops] who had been walking on foot for four months, carrying some artillery rounds on their backs and using a tin spoon to eat a little ground rice from a tin plate."

That, of course, was precisely the problem. In private life, an adult who keeps beating down on a five year old--even such a one as originally attacked him with a knife--will be perceived as committing a crime; therefore he will lose the support of bystanders and end up being arrested, tried and convicted. In international life, an armed force that keeps beating down on a weaker opponent will be seen as committing a series of crimes; therefore it will end up losing the support of its allies, its own people, and its own troops. Depending on the quality of the forces--whether they are draftees or professionals, the effectiveness of the propaganda machine, the nature of the political process, and so on--things may happen quickly or take a long time to mature. However, the outcome is always the same. He (or she) who does not understand this does not understand anything about war; or, indeed, human nature.
The spread of abnormal American aggression is treated as if it were nothing out of the ordinary in the debate of our presidential candidates. Political Kingmakers in the two parties don't hesitate to bring along another Commander-in-Chief who is willing to "obliterate" smaller countries; while we cross our fingers and hope the new president isn't another psychologically damaged individual. "Talk not to me of blasphemy, man;" says Ahab, "I'd strike the sun if it insulted me." This is exactly the America that the rest of the world dreads.

No sooner had General Petraeus told us that recent security gains were fragile and reversible, than there was a reversal. US collaborator, Prime Minister al Maliki, tried to send Iraq's military to disarm part of the militia of nationalist leader, Muqtada al Sadr. The government soldiers (many of them Shia) tore off their uniforms in Sadr City, and ran, and bugged out of their units when they were sent into Basra.

Leila Fadel of McClatchy Newspapers reports from Sadr City, the Shia enclave in Baghdad, where part of Muqtada al Sadr's nationalist militia is faced off against American troops.
"[Abu Youssef] returned one more time [to his little store] and asked to take the cigarettes to sell and support his family until he could come home.

"Tell him to stop coming here," Bowen said.

Bowen said he didn't feel bad for seizing Youssef's home. "They have the power to stop this shit and no one does. The power is in the people: it's always been with the people, but no one wants to stand up."

Spc. Brodie Berkenbile, 20, of Athens, Tenn., said he'd fire a sniper rifle from his rooftop if a foreign army took over. But this is different.

"We're trying to help them," he said.
US forces have now pulled into the outskirts of Sadr City, where they exchange sniper and small arms fire with Muqtada's Shia militia. American troops have been forbidden, for political reasons, to describe the enemy as al Sadr's people. Higher authority insists that they describe the enemy as "insurgents" or "special groups."

Brian Cloughley, a former UK army intelligence officer, writes about an Egyptian peddler whose boat pulled up "too close" to a [US] Navy contracted ship on the Suez Canal, and was clumsily killed--according to the AP report--"by one of the warning shots".
It doesn't matter that some poor Egyptian, trying to make a few cents by selling trinkets to people on passing ships in his country's Canal (a trade that has existed for over 130 years), is murdered by trigger-happy mercenaries. It's all part of the great con-trick, the idiot "war on terror". And it shows that the Bush-Cheney mentality is alive and thriving throughout the armed forces and intelligence agencies and among those responsible for anonymous brutal attacks which take place in Africa, the Middle East and, especially Pakistan. Members of the special forces are accountable to nobody for what they do.
Have we reached that fateful point where we are saturated with admonitions and warnings? What have we done for our soldiers, who are caught by stop-loss in Iraq and Afghanistan? Some of our professional soldiers and National Guard are on their 4th tour. They have once more been shipped back to this war, to meet occupation duties and demoralizing urban combat. If they could put the bad memories and losses behind them; they would. Where then, is the evidence that Americans support their troops?

The gist of it, is that Ahab is not interested in the petty battles of life, but rather in the grand confrontation, in pursuit of the Leviathan; certainly the wars that have come thus far do not meet his criteria of striking at the embodiment of evil, laying hands at last, on the wholeness of revenge, as the rolling sea subsides and the darkness of blood spreads over it.

But whose blood?--whose lungs washed with salt water?
STEERING now south-eastward by Ahab's levelled steel, and her progress solely determined by Ahab's level log and line; the Pequod held on her path toward the Equator. Making so long a passage through such unfrequented waters, descrying no ships, and ere long, sideways impelled by unvarying trade winds, over waves monotonously mild; all these seemed the strange calm things preluding some riotous and desperate scene.

At last, when the ship drew near to the outskirts, as it were, of the Equatorial fishing-ground, and in the deep darkness that goes before the dawn, was sailing by a cluster of rocky islets; the watch--then headed by Flask--was startled by a cry so plaintively wild and unearthly--like half-articulated wailings of the ghosts of all Herod's murdered Innocents--that one and all, they started from their reveries, and for the space of some moments stood, or sat, or leaned all transfixed by listening, like the carved Roman slave, while that wild cry remained within hearing. The Christian or civilized part of the crew said it was mermaids, and shuddered; but the pagan harpooners remained unappalled. Yet the grey Manxman--the oldest mariner of all--declared that the wild thrilling sounds that were heard, were the voices of newly drowned men at sea.

(Melville, p. 514)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


April 15, 2008

Mayor, Council-members, I always thought there was a difference between saying and doing. . . .

I have come in these past weeks and tried to point out what seem to be outrages committed against the Constitution and the rule of law, by the Bush Administration.

Thus far, neither the mayor nor anyone on the council has challenged me on the facts I've brought before you, other than to express no interest in doing anything about it.

Suppose I'm right, and the Bush Administration has indeed violated laws or otherwise posed a threat to the Constitution? Wouldn't you be obligated to act according to your sworn oath to speak up in defense of the Constitution and the rule of law?

By not acting, by not speaking out, all of you, each of you, appear to say that you can find no violations of law, no usurpation of power by the Bush Administration, no threat or even the appearance of a threat, to the Constitution. Nothing's wrong. Everything's fine.

And you have strenuously argued that you are all people of conscience and that you take your oath to defend the Constitution seriously. . . .

Recently, the National Lawyers Guild voted unanimously calling for impeachment of the President and Vice President, citing the oath they took to defend the Constitution.

"It is time," they said, "for the legal community to rise up in defense of the rule of law."

The American Bar Association, the largest and most conservative legal arm in America, has stated that the Bush Administration has violated the FISA law in its warrantless wiretapping program.

They also called on Congress to override Bush's claim to the right to torture prisoners in U.S. custody.

The American Association of Jurists has said that the war in Iraq is not a war in self-defense, but a war of aggression, thus a violation of the U.N. Charter--which makes it a war crime. Past president of the U.N. Koffi Annan agrees.

George W. Bush himself has claimed, in written documents and public statements, that his administration need not obey the laws passed by Congress, nor be subject to judicial oversight.

But here in Fort Worth, we see no threat to the Constitution, no violations of the law.

In Fort Worth, we believe the National Lawyers Guild is wrong. The American Bar Association is wrong. The Center for Constitutional Rights is wrong. Human Rights Watch is wrong. Koffi Annan is wrong. And Britain's third most senior judge, who called Guantanamo a "monstrous failure of justice". . .is wrong.

And surely no one here would stand by and watch another human being tortured without trying to stop it. Because we're all people of conscience here.

Thank you.

The mayor was absent this day, so I mailed him a copy of the speech with this note attached:

Dear Mr. Mayor,

Sorry not to see you at Tuesday morning's meeting. I knew how sorely disappointed you would be to miss the latest chapter in my project to get you and the Council to do the right thing. So I thought I'd drop it in the mail in the off-chance that you might actually have three spare minutes to read it.

Very best wishes and regards,


Wednesday, April 09, 2008


April 7, 2008

Diane spoke, as well, on both the impeachment issue and on gas drilling. She addressed the safety and environmental threat posed by all the urban drillers, high pressure used in the wells and the very real threat posed by the massive tons of toxic waste pumped into injection wells.

She got the Mayor defensive on gas and I guess I made him pretty defensive by questioning whether the Council has a conscience, since they refuse to move on our proposed resolution.

During the early part of the meeting, Councilman Espino referred to an event celebrating Cesar Chavez, which took place at an elementary school by the same name. I quickly inserted a phrase related to that at the end of my speech, which elicited a smile from Espino.

Mayor, Council members, good evening. Allow me, if you will, to recite the names of towns where conscience still resides:

Amherst, Massachusetts
Santa Rosa, California
Binghamton, New York
Detroit, Michigan
Bristol, Vermont

Oberlin, Ohio
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Tacoma Park,
and Stockbridge, Massachusetts—Norman Rockwell's hometown.

These are just a few of the 86 towns in the country that have passed resolutions calling for the impeachment of George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney.

Why? Why did they do it? In almost every instance where these resolutions passed, some by unanimous vote, the reason most often put forward was simply this: Because all those council members felt that in good conscience, they could not ignore the oath they took, similar to yours, to protect and defend the Constitution.

Your collective indifference on this matter must therefore be viewed alongside those city councils whose members have followed the dictates of conscience—men and women, brave and true, who did not want history to record that they were silent on an issue of such magnitude.

The argument that this is not a local matter is simply wrong. This is a local issue. Citizens from this city may be sent or have been sent to Iraq to fight in an illegal and unjustified war. Some of our people have been killed. Others perhaps will be.

This is a local issue.

More than half our taxes--54%--now go to pay for war and military. Tax funds from this city that we could have spent here have been squandered in Iraq. Money that could have gone for low income housing, for teachers, for universal health insurance—or just to fix all the roads—a huge problem around here.

This is a local issue.

Warrantless wiretapping is happening in every city and town, including ours. A local issue.

When the President vetoes a bill that would have prevented torture, he does so in our name. So torture is a local issue.

And now, they are enlisting the same arguments and lies used to start a war in Iraq to persuade us to attack Iran. If that comes to pass, believe me, that, too, will be a local issue.

You are our most direct body to give credence to the voice of conscience. The fact that Congress has failed to defend the rule of law, the fact that other Texas towns cower in silence, does not absolve you of responsibility. If anything, it places the greater burden on you to step forward and let right be done.

In the name of our mutual hero, Cesar Chavez, I ask you to please let history show that the people of Fort Worth do have a conscience and were not silent during this profound moral crisis.

Thank you.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


April 1, 2008

Mayor, Council members, I appear for the tenth time asking you to pass a simple resolution calling for the impeachment of the President and Vice President of the United States.

In my remarks awhile back, I raised the question of whether you take seriously your oath to defend the Constitution. At which you seemed to take offence. The Mayor spoke for you, so I assume you were all equally offended.

We're all familiar with the husband who loudly protests his allegiance to his wife and children, but then fails to show up when those who depend on him need him most.

And it seems to me that now is one of those times in the life of our Constitution. . . when those who have sworn to defend her can show how seriously they take that oath. Or not.

I think it's safe to say that we are in the midst of a Constitutional crisis. That's how the Watergate era is typically described, and there is no question that the abuses of power of the current regime far surpass those for which Nixon was impeached.

There's a new film now called Taxi To The Dark Side, about an Afghan taxi driver tortured to death by our military. The film has won numerous awards, including an Oscar for best documentary film. This man, this taxi driver, it turns out, was probably innocent of any crime.

The film also shows that this was no isolated incident. Over one hundred prisoners have died in suspicious circumstances while in U.S. custody during the war on terror. We know people have been tortured at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and other places around the world.

Meanwhile, on March 8, George W. Bush became the first American President to use the veto power to preserve the right to torture. And that is just one item on a list that includes warrantless wiretapping of citizens, lying to Congress and the American people, invading a sovereign country for no apparent reason.

You say you take seriously your oath to protect the Constitution, and, again, all I can say is I can't imagine a better opportunity to demonstrate the truth of that statement.

It's easy to get mad at me. The question is why you should find it so difficult to be outraged at those in high places who threaten our Constitution and subvert the rule of law.

Having said that, I wish to add that I have only the utmost respect for all of you and the work that you perform here. It's only because I happen to hold in such high regard your sense of morality and integrity that I bother to come down here at all, and why, even now, I find it so difficult to accept that this cause is hopeless.

Thank you.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

copeland morris SONNET (for Becky)

Fog still holds the haunted. The dull telephone
Wires didn't help us much when we tried to speak,
Years after we parted. And still, sometimes, a phrase
Begins to meet new ink; as if the Muse heard
A trumpet lower its voice to murmur your name.
The cat puts down her chin. The frost gathers
A winter, so long, since I heard your music.

Sweet Valentine, it's been so long since I froze.
A man stopped me, "Could you help me get a little
Food or coffee?" the formal bumps into the informal,
The rave, and the trumpet solo. This silence cries
For jazz in blue's city in blue's land. It needs
A message suddenly from two seagulls out of the fog,
So close you could touch them, and white, like alabaster.

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...