Letters to the Editor

(January 3, 2005)


NOT the hoi polloi...: See Swans' January 1 Note from the Editor and the Infamous Predictions™

To the Editor:

You write in your Note from the Editor, "What his Highness really meant to convey to the hoi polloi..."

Please forgive this pedant's pedant mentioning this, but you cannot decently say "the hoi polloi" anymore than the "Le Canard Enchaîné" (see the Predictions).

CNN here (Amsterdam) has been carrying breaking news of US forces bringing a few bottles of water to the needy somewhere around the Indian Ocean -- probably from their torture HQ on Diego Garcia. ("Any moment now we expect to see the first bottles of water being unloaded. Let me ask this victim: how does it feel to be homeless, hungry and thirsty? I'm sorry -- we're out of time -- we hope to get back to you -- it makes me proud to be American to see such US AID generosity, especially as JP Morgan is offering your country a loan for the water at only 700 basis points above their prime rate. It's good to know the US is doing its bit for humanity. Yes, it is a pity about the six million or so collaterally killed in CIA covert operations: accidents will happen. These tsunamis sure have a lot to learn from the CIA.")

Best wishes for a peaceful 2005.

Graham Lea
Amsterdam, Netherlands - January 1, 2005


John Steppling's Review of Swans' December 13 Edition

To the Editor:

Michael Doliner's year in review was the highlight of this issue, at least for me. A great issue in almost all respects, yet Doliner sounded a note that seemed perfect. He also referenced a favorite book of mine, one long neglected, and that is Friedrich Percyval Reck-Malleczewen's Diary of a Man in Despair. I read this book some twenty years ago, and Doliner's bringing it back to notice comes at a perfect moment. The descriptions of Hitler do, indeed, fit Bush...but then they also fit so many of the proto-fascist leaders around the world today (is Bush anymore repulsive than Blair or Aznar, say?). That these leaders are so grotesque and so clearly deranged is not talked of much. I guess because it's just not nice to call someone repulsive...and it's not...but in these cases the physical grotesque is worth considering. The obvious emotional desert that lies within these men manifests itself in the ugly exterior we are forced to look at daily. Blair's slack body, his weak rump and moon-pie expressions (feigning a kind of posh superiority) and Bush's knotted gait and putrescent facial flesh -- all repulsive, and repulsive in the same way Reck-Malleczewen describes Hitler. Sexually malignant and void of compassion.

There are a host of other comparisons. Let me quote Doliner a moment...

"As soil for the planting of totalitarianism, the supermanism of the Third Reich suited the era after the fall of the exhausted Austro-Hungarian Empire just as ordinary guyism suits our exhausted democracy. The ubermensch is the German form of the American ordinary guy, a feel-good pseudo-idea that acts as a sort of gluten that binds together the mass. All Teutonic Germans were ubermenschen and all real Americans ordinary guys. Both are ferocious warriors, but nobody is better than anybody else, dirty outsiders excepted. Ordinary guyism is nothing more than what Reck sees as "mass-man apathy." "What appears to be stoicism is merely the expression of the condition of mass man: neither good nor bad, but basically and with a certain satisfaction at being so, nothing." Being nothing, nothing in our lives has any importance, so we feel nothing."

I may not quite agree with this, as I think American ordinary guy-ism is replete with a narcissism of a unique sort. The self love/self hate dynamic in American guyism is actually not about nothing, but is (at least trying) to be about "specialness"...the specialness (or exceptionalism) of the ordinary. There are paradoxes here, and the dialectic of narcissist symptomology might be of real use in analysing this further (where is Ronnie Laing when you need him?). In any event, Doliner's use of Reck-Malleczewen's fine book, and his questions about our collective pathologies, is simply excellent.

Joe Davison's review also examines Bush, and finds similar frightening aspects to our new Supreme Leader. He also examines with great clarity the liberal and (partly) leftist love affair with ABBism. He rightly finds the whole bad theatre of electoral politics to be a way of hiding the real motive forces shaping our ever more desperate and sad planet. It's a very fine review.

Louis Proyect begins his piece where Davison ends...sort of...and this is with the leftish shift of South America. This was what passed for good news this last year...and hey, I guess it IS good news and as long as Hugo [Chávez] stays atop Venezuela, things may continue to shift toward the left. Proyect also mentions, probably as we all should have much more, the environmental catastrophe ahead. (Here in Poland it was the first Christmas in many, many years with no snow whatsoever, and now, of course the catastrophe of the South Asian tsunamis). Louis closes with this: "If the left cannot integrate a Green perspective into its overall message, it might be proven irrelevant. Environmentalism is no longer the province of a pampered middle-class. It is necessary for the survival of humanity."

Ed Herman focuses a bit on the ethnic cleansing being carried out by boon US ally Israel. Herman on this subject has always been excellent, and is again. I wonder, however, about this mention of the next four years being a "holding operation" (at best, he adds). I mean, holding what? This seems a strange, almost wistful fantasy connected to the rodents of the Democratic Party (apologies to all rats). Come on, Ed, the Democrats are the same -- THE SAME -- and Kerry wanted war as much as Bush. The vulgarity and, in places, the rabidness of the neocons IS unique, but give me one democrat with a position worth supporting? Barama? Hillary? Daschle? Feinstein? Biden? Kerry? Gephardt? The ruling corporate class owns both parties, period. Enough, frankly, with even mentioning the Democrats. No solution comes from this corrupt party, or from electoral politics for that matter.

Gerard Donnelly Smith provides some keen insights and reminders in his review, especially on aspects of the unconstitutionality of the Patriot Act. My only complaint is with Smith's notion of "progressive" talk show hosts... I mean, Al Franken...AL FRANKEN? Oh, the guy who invited six gun Bob Kerrey on as his first guest? Yeah, progressive... Well, whatever! This said, however, Gerard is spot on regarding the erosion of civil liberties.

Oh dear, oh dear, Joel Wendland...piece, that is... Well, what can I say? Let me put it this way, in the form of a question: someone explain this statement to me: "...or is the Democratic Party's domination by sections of the capitalist class ultimately that important. Fighting for organization, unity and against the anti-democratic and extremist forces that control the Republicans is more crucial to the long-term strength of the progressive movement and left than who has the final say in the Democratic Party." Is this to imply that extremist and anti-democratic forces don't exist in the Democratic Party? Do we really need to look at statements from the lips of Kerry, Edwards, Lieberman, et al., to see how absurd this reasoning is? Kerry's campaign manager worked for the ruling right wing oligarchs in an effort to unseat Chávez in Venezuela. Look at the Dems on Cuba. Look at them on Milosevic and the Balkans. Look at Clinton and his crime bill -- all those new cops we needed and new prisons, right? Look at Wes Clark, a war criminal par excellence, who (wealthy) marionette Michael Moore promoted for the democratic nomination... I mean, Christ... Joel also mentions extremist appointments......uh......oh...... Okay, from John Ashcroft to Al Gonzales is pretty extreme...and there will be others...but let's harken back to Janet Reno and Ruby Ridge -- or Waco. Is this the look of democracy and tolerance? Give me a small break. It is quite simply delusional to imagine the Democrats as an alternative to Imperialism. D-e-l-u-s-i-o-n-a-l!

Frank Wycoff's short review of the year is excellent, even though I have to mention bringing up the Ukraine. Listen, Frank, the people out in the streets got music, food, and wide screen video courtesy of folks like James Woolsey (Freedom House) and George Soros and the NED, and, and, and -- around US sixty million dollars (almost twice as much as US "committed" relief for the victims of the tsunamis for good sake! -- as of this writing). This isn't malt money, and it goes a long way in the poverty striken Ukraine. Ask yourself what they get for this new democracy? They get NATO bases and US military bases and the former head of the national bank of the Ukraine as an alternative to the Kuchma gang. Not exactly progress to my mind. And Yushchenko's wife used to work in the Reagan white house. Hmmmm?

Philip Greenspan is, as usual, an absolute must read. In fact, I'd refer Joel Wendland to Greenspan's piece... This review is getting a bit long, so I will only say that along with Dolliner, Greenspan is just an inspiration.

Charles Marowitz and Jan Baughman both had fine pieces...and I wish I had more time and space to go into some discussion -- but both were welcome bites of sanity. My man Phil Rockstroh was saying a lot of the things I touched upon...but with more humor and, probably, wisdom. Phil is simply always worth reading, and then re-reading.

Our fearless leader (that would be Gilles d'Aymery) uses his blips section to dissect several issues...but most of his bile is saved for the Chablis left over at The Nation. So much talk about unity and how the Left won't pull together, yada, yada, yada. Well, how can one pull alongside this kind of shit...except in a rowboat. The Cruise Ship Left...or maybe the Love Boat Left, I'm not sure... This was a very good year for Gilles in terms of these blips. Good luck in court, Padrone.

And in Poland, the usual holiday stuff is finally dying down. No snow, weird, fall-like weather.....think London in March....and only passing interest in the tsunami tragedy (one Pole died.....was emphasised in Michnik's Gazeta Wyborcza -- Polski print version of FOX-News). It can only get worse. Still, let's hope for a better 2005.

John Steppling
Krakow, Poland - December 30, 2004
[ed. Steppling is a LA playwright (Rockefeller fellow, NEA recipient, and PEN-West winner) and screenwriter (most recent was Animal Factory directed by Steve Buscemi). He is currently living in Poland where he teaches at the National Film School in Lodz. You can find more about his writing on his personal Swans' cove.]


Wesley Clark, a "liberal"...yeah, sure! -- see Eli Beckerman's 2004: The Lost Year
To the Editor:

I'm appalled by Mr. Beckerman's suggestion in his article that Wesley Clark ran for some senseless reason. Wesley Clark won the war in Kosovo. Wesley Clark is the most liberal person I've ever had the experience of following. Wesley Clark is the future hope of the Democratic Party. Anyone who continues to push this neocon inspired meme that Wesley Clark was a senseless candidate is doing nothing but hurting the Democratic Party.

Maria Wells
Boothwyn, Pennsylvania, USA - December 13, 2004

Eli Beckerman responds:

Dear Ms. Wells, thank you for your comments and for visiting Swans.

It's not that Clark's candidacy was senseless, or even Michael Moore's plea that he run. It was important at that time to get pro-military voices criticizing Bush. But for any anti-war figures, including Moore, to support Clark's candidacy over those of the ostensibly anti-war Democrats who were running was indeed senseless. Clark's role in Kosovo, his role leading up to the Iraq War, and his role once "major combat operations had ended," were all egregiously pro-war, pro-violence, pro-hatred, pro-corporate, and certainly not progressive.

Saying Clark is "liberal" misses half of the appropriate meme, sadly neglecting the "neo" in front.

Best regards.

Not a Happy Year: John Steppling's Empire Of Amnesia, 2004
To the Editor:

When I saw the photos from the torture chambers in Iraq, my world as I knew it came to an end. I couldn't believe that this was really happening in 2004, yet I knew that it could not be more real.

When I told people what I felt about it, the common answer was:  Oh, but it is not happening here. It is so far away, don't take it so seriously.  That response just made it so much worse.

I am afraid that the lack of empathy and the amnesia are greatly maintained by media, entertainment and drugs, be it prescription or recreational; in fact prescription drugs might be the bigger problem.

However, civilization has enjoyed torture for some thousand years; from Colosseum through the dark ages to the French Revolution. Why did I feel so disturbed? Simply because I also suffered from illusion. I thought things were getting better because I hoped so.

I appreciate John Steppling's article and similar articles. Please, keep writing. I would so like a kind of movement for enlightenment, for truly human values. It seems that those divine values are worthless anyway, and I think it is within our capabilities as human beings to develop kindness and empathy. Maybe those intelligent articles like this one are steps on the road; maybe the amnesia is too solid.

Thank you anyway.

Kind regards,

Anne Lysdahl Teilo
Charlottenlund, Denmark - December 14, 2004


To the Editor:

A great rant from John Steppling. It is important that he has a platform from which to speak. We should all thank Swans for that. The progressive/activist op-ed corps have become so tepid lately that it takes someone having a little distance to actually see clearly. It's not what we want to see, for sure, but false optimism at this time is dangerous. I always like to read someone with a different sensibility for the written word to engage in political commentary. It can have a power hard to find in those speaking from a journalistic rut.

Jerry George
Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA - December 14, 2004



Need more be said. I cannot believe we have come to this but there is no denying it. When history judges this nation they will say either we were schizophrenic, drug induced, greedy, hypocrites or blind, deaf and dumb...Yes, dumb and dumber! One recent example is how a group of soldiers are being punished for not following orders: they refused to use contaminated tanks to refuel helicopters and go through a dangerous area unescorted. Then we have the soldiers at the prison camp in Iraq that are being punished for following orders to torture prisoners. I believe a lot of this could have had a chance to air out as far back as 1995, (of course the press wouldn't print anything about it. Never did it appear on any news program. The fourth estate crumbled.) If the case of Sgt. Michael New could have come to light. He refused, as a US soldier to wear UN insignia and badges and take orders from the U.N. The Supreme Court of the United States of America, that bastion of justice, refused to hear his final appeal. The lower court's decision held that he was guilty and the American soldier was at the mercy of a prostrate military. So here we are, a nation of foaming mouthed sports fans more upset over games than the amputees overwhelming our military hospitals and caskets rolling through at Dover. We have all the information anyone could need for a revelation. Still, they sleep, yes, amnesia like... It's just too uncomfortable for them to awaken. Thank you for your editorial.

Sandra M. Ehrlich
New Freedom, Pennsylvania, USA - December 14, 2004


To the Editor:

Good Morning,

I enjoyed reading John Steppling's Dec. 13th article whose URL was posted on Rense.com this morning. There was an error in the portion quoted below:

"...while not seeming to mind that their new golden boy (Yanukovich) is a former member of that same government...the only thing that separates him is a desire to accept Western capital and military bases..."

I believe the gentleman Mr. Steppling wished to refer to was Viktor Yushchenko, who is the pro-western candidate. Mr. Yanukovich is the pro-Russian candidate.

Sincerely, Janet Van Stoat
December 14, 2004

[ed. Mrs. Van Stoat is quite correct. I regret the editing error and thank her for alerting me. Evidently, John Steppling meant Viktor Yushchenko... I made the correction in his text and appended a short ed. note at the bottom of his article.]

To the Editor:

John Steppling's article, Empire Of Amnesia, 2004, contains an obvious error.

"...These same liberals find it "encouraging" that people are protesting the gangster government of Kuchma...while not seeming to mind that their new golden boy (Yanukovich) is a former member of that same government..."

I assume the writer, when referring to "Yanukovich," actually means opposition leader Viktor Yuschenko [sic], who was prime minister of Ukraine from 1999 to 2001.

Viktor Yanukovych [sic] is the current Prime Minister of Ukraine, and the presidential candidate backed by outgoing Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Such obvious factual errors do nothing to bolster Steppling's argument that Ukraine's Orange Revolution is "a US orchestrated takeover ... labeled as a democratic uprising."

Such assertions strike those of us actually in Kiev, observing the mood of the people and talking to protestors from all over the country, as fatuous at best, and perhaps even insulting.

This is a democratic uprising, in the very best sense, in that ordinary Ukrainians have taken to the streets in overwhelming numbers to protect their democratic rights, quite without a thought to whether their actions might fit with US geopolitical goals.

In fact, many of those I have talked to have said they are protecting their right to vote against Yuschenko [sic] in a future presidential election.

After thirteen years living in a mockery of democracy, the Ukrainian people have finally had enough of having their voice ignored. To say that they are merely players in a global conspiracy to spread U.S. domination throughout the world not only ignores the facts and complexities of the situation in Kiev, it is a disservice to both the people of the United States and Ukraine.

As well as getting his basic facts right, John Steppling would do well to study the reports of those observing Ukraine's Orange Revolution firsthand, or perhaps visit himself -- he lives not so far from Kiev -- before seeking to tie events in Ukraine to his grand theories.

Yours faithfully,

Euan MacDonald
Editor, English department, Interfax-Ukraine
Kiev, Ukraine - December 14, 2004

John Steppling responds:

My apologies for the obvious error. Such mistakes occur too often when one is rushing toward a deadline, but the mistake is entirely mine. [ed. err, and this hapless editor's!]

As for describing the orange revolution (sic) as a "democratic uprising in the very best sense of the word" and the fact that Ukrainians don't worry about geo-political concerns, all I can say is that quite obviously the U.S. has involved itself in this election (and the run-up to it) to the tune of about 65 million dollars. With folks like James Woolsey (Freedom House...and former head of the CIA) engaged in things, it's hard to describe this other than in geo-political terms.

Mr. MacDonald seems to think the involvement of US state department is just fine. The NED has a long history of interfering in the affairs of sovereign nations. Perhaps MacDonald should read up on the history of the NED (started, not coincidently by Ronnie Reagan) and see where their sympathies lie... -- clue: not with democracy.

The US agenda here is to encroach on the traditional Russian sphere of influence (Moldava, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia) and to continue the spread eastward of NATO. There is also the question of oil from the Caspian. Mr. MacDonald might want to ask himself why the U.S. is spending such large sums of money on this election (and maybe to check up on what happened with Yugoslavia and Georgia). That the people of Ukraine want change is clear enough, but a change orchestrated by the US Empire is not going to leave those protesting in the streets very happy when they realize what they've gotten.

I am hardly the only writer to make these rather obvious connections (William Blum, Gary Leupp, Lee Sustar, Boris Kagarlitsky, John Laughland, Steve Weismann...all with different conclusions, have been able to see the naked intentions of the US state department -- MacDonald may want to read Peter Schwarz's "The power struggle in Ukraine and America's strategy for global supremacy") and one is hard pressed to not see this as a battle between an older Imperialist power and the current champ.

A democratic uprising? Well, I suspect MacDonald and I have quite different interpretations of that word.

Exporting Death (and DU): See Gilles d'Aymery's little allegory in the Note from the Editor
To the Editor:

Perhaps you judge us too harshly. There has been a bloodless (and virtually invisible to the public) coup in America. There is irrefutable evidence of Election Fraud and voter suppression throughout the United States on Nov. 2, 2004 (and in all previous elections since the introduction of "blackbox voting." Four companies control US vote count and all are hardwired to the Republican leadership.)

You don't have to take my word for it, contact the Head of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers for all the proof you need.

There is a media blackout on most mainstream outlets and those not directly controlled by corporations, supporting this "rogue" American administration, are intimidated by them.

There were demonstrations protesting the election fraud and media blackout in every state capitol in the nation on Sunday December 12th and not one word of it was presented in the media.

Please take that into consideration when forming your opinions.

Best regards,

Billie Wolf
Asheville, North Carolina, USA - December 13, 2004


To the Editor:

Dear Gilles,

Thank you for your delightful and moving reflections on 2004. Thank you for your skilful denouncement of the Bush hegemony -- firm but written in sadness, not malice. Your counterpoint between Bush and Castro speaks to my condition.

One line especially caught my eye -- it stirs one of my tasks: "There are those, you see, who export DU, F16s, 500- 2000 pound bunker-busting bombs...those who export death."

Throughout 2001 it fell to me to unravel the connection between DU and bunker busting bombs eventually compiled in "Mystery metal nightmare in Afghanistan?", Web-published in January 2002. www.eoslifework.co.uk/pdfs/DU012v12.pdf (pdf file).

Later in 2002 a courageous team from Canada collected urine samples from civilians living near US guided bomb targets near Jalalabad. These turned up very high levels of uranium contamination -- up to 400 times background. Radio 4 interviewed the head of UMRC in May 2003 for an analysis programme. They did not broadcast his testimony, nor their interview with Dr Chris Busby -- leading UK researcher into low level radiation hazards.

In October 2002, I wrote to the Prime Minister warning him of the hazards of these weapons and their probable use in Iraq. I also warned him of the growing "Groupthink" developing in the USA over their intended attacks on Iraq. See my second report, "Hazards of Uranium Weapons for Afghanistan and Iraq" www.eoslifework.co.uk/u23.htm

The Pentagon's Shock and Awe plans actually boasted of the 10,000+ guided weapons they intended to use against Iraq. On my analysis up to 1 in 3 of these -- those designed for hard or deeply buried targets -- may use uranium warheads. If so my worst case estimate was for potentially 1500+ tons of new uranium contamination in Iraq. 2 months later the USAF report "By the Numbers" proudly proclaimed that they had used 19,000+ guided weapons in the first month of operations. They have used many more since then, most recently on Fallujah.

What evidence is there? Well could someone explain what the new bombs were that we saw used in Baghdad to destroy Saddam's palaces? -- the ones that created a 500 metre fireball and then left cascades of white stars in the afterglow? These were not traditional high explosives. They represent exactly the effects expected of a uranium cased warhead with thermobaric effects.

Where is the radiation evidence? Well strangely the Coalition forces in Iraq (i.e., the USA with total UK Government support) have refused the IAEA and UNEP permission to conduct radiation testing in Iraq -- for over 18 months now. They did the same after the Balkans war -- a 16 month delay before UNEP inspectors were allowed to visit just 10 targets. These were almost "clean." Later a NATO report conceded that 10 "environmental" teams had been allowed to DU target areas before the UN inspection teams were allowed access. They had been cleaned up.

The job was bigger in Iraq. Convoys of lorries worked for months in 2003 removing topsoil from bomb targets in Baghdad and Baghdad Airport to the desert, returning with clean sand. Possibly the first case of landscaping after a war? A new environmental awareness by US forces perhaps? Except that at least 19 US troops were rushed to Germany with a mystery pneumonia. Joshua Neutsche died there -- of renal failure in addition to the pneumonia. He had been driving trucks from the Palaces and Airport. His symptoms were consistent with exposure to high levels of uranium oxide dust -- toxic as well as alpha radioactive.

17,000 US troops have been medically evacuated from Iraq. After Neutsche's death the military stopped reporting the analysis of medical problems for repatriated troops.

What is the truth about the new generation of bunker buster bombs and missiles developed since Gulf War 1? What is the secret, high density metal that they use to increase penetration effects? Lockheed Martin's US patent 6389977 (Dec 1997) for the Shrouded aerial bomb (the upgraded 2000 lb BLU-109B/116) clearly provides two alternatives: tungsten and depleted uranium.

And the UK MOD website still includes a report of DERA testing on an Anglo French tandem warhead "with DU lined rear charge" (January 1999). This was for a much smaller anti-tank missile. It represents a new generation of comparatively small very high penetration weapon systems used for ground combat in large numbers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

How can we lift the shroud of silence over these new secret weapons? How can we get truly independent field and laboratory testing of civilians, troops and soil and water samples in Afghanistan and Iraq? And how sick has the BBC got that it refuses to report even questions about these weapons, far less the limited field testing done by UMRC (www.umrc.net) and hopefully other groups from Europe and Japan?

Just when will our "free press" start to raise serious questions about these "Shock and Awe Crimes?"

Thank you for Swans. Might this topic be of interest for a future collection? If so what format is preferred? And can you suggest any other ways of raising the question of Uranium weapons again please?

Dai Williams, independent researcher
Woking, Surrey, England - December 13, 2004

[ed. Thank you for the kind words. DU is a tragedy of immense proportion... You may want to keep writing and talking about it. As far as contributing to Swans, please see the guidelines.]

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Published January 3, 2005
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