When Tyrants of a Feather Flock Together

.NEW. The world watches in horror as an act of genocidal war unfolds before our eyes, with Russian president/dictator Vladimir Putin unleashing his country’s full military might against the sovereign eastern European nation of Ukraine, located next door. The Ukrainian people are fighting back bravely for their lives, with no other choice but to confront this modern-day Hitler and his fascist fantasy of a new Russian empire.

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A Supreme Teacher Continues on...

A Native American brother weeps hot tears of rage as he recalls his time in “that mess” that was the American war in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s. “The Creator didn’t put us here for this,” he says, choking back tears. In the space of a couple minutes, he then recites the violent history of the USA better than any history book ever could.

It is August 2002, nearly a year after 11 September 2001, and the Native brother is participating in a sangha, or community, of Vietnam war veterans organized by Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh at Stonehill College, a private Catholic school located in Easton, Massachusetts. Like me, Nhat Hanh was in the United States at the time of 9/11 and saw firsthand the dangerous wave of fear, ignorance and hate that quickly rose up throughout the land: A “war on terrorism” was officially declared, the nation of Afghanistan was soon invaded and now the U.S. government was preparing for a second invasion in Iraq.

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Free Peltier — This Time for Real

Six years ago, I joined with many around the world in appealing directly to Barack Obama, president of the United States, for executive clemency for Native American activist Leonard Peltier — the longest-serving political prisoner in the USA. Our appeal was for Obama to use his power of the presidency to set Peltier free. The legal case that the government of the USA constructed to put Peltier behind bars back in 1977 was marred through and through by incompetence and fraud, to put it mildly. It was time to let Peltier go and draw a close to that sad chapter of history.

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Accolades for the Archbishop

It is early morning somewhere in rural South Africa, the sun not yet rising over the horizon. In the dim morning light, through the slowly lifting fog — or is it smoke from the nearby shacks? — I am walking up some makeshift steps on the side of a steep ravine. I look over at the person walking up next to me and study the lines on his face: It is Desmond Tutu, the revered Anglican Church archbishop of South Africa. He is showing me around here, he explains, because he wants me to see how people in South Africa really live, the poverty they still have to face in the land of apartheid.

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The Great American War Hero Who Wasn’t

News media worldwide are awash now with stories about the recent death of Colin Powell, a towering figure in the world of American military matters and diplomacy, at the age of 84 due to coronavirus-related causes. Past presidents of the United States, not to mention right-wing media and the corporate press in general, are showering the late Powell with praise as a “great American,” a patriot and a war hero in the grand tradition of warmongering in the USA.

But while being respectful toward those who have personally lost a loved one in Powell, let us also spare the niceties here for the controversial public icon: Colin Powell was no war hero. He was, more accurately, a war criminal. And he was in good company, standing alongside other war criminals at the highest levels of the American state. Powell, like the others, was never prosecuted for war crimes in his lifetime and never took responsibility for his role in carrying out those crimes.

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America on Fire — A Moral Reckoning Arrives

In the countryside, mountain wildfires rage out of control, destroying all life in their path for hundreds of miles at a time. The daytime skies are covered with layers of ash and smoke, and in the evening are lit up by a luminescent orange-yellow glow. Meanwhile, in the cities, mostly peaceful public protests boil over, igniting some local buildings in ferocious flames. The orange-yellow-tinted nighttime skies, punctuated by police helicopter searchlights, radiate with rage and the heat of history.

The United States of America, in the summer of 2020, has been a nation on fire, both in the country and in the city. At first glance, these rural and urban blazes across many different locations may seem to have little in common. But in fact, they do: centuries of officially sanctioned neglect, abuse and violence in the USA — against nature in the countryside and against human beings in the cities, especially Black lives. And as this year continues on, those two sets of blazes edge closer and closer toward each other, signaling an even worse fate to come that will not easily be extinguished.

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Butcher, Baker, Dictator, Liberator

Robert Gabriel Mugabe, the former president of Zimbabwe, has died at age 95 in Singapore, while receiving medical treatment there over the past few months. Just as he was in life, Mugabe in death is a highly controversial political figure, with a legacy that is as much celebrated as castigated, as much praiseworthy as unworthy.

Among leaders of various nations, Mugabe’s credentials as a freedom fighter are being touted and memorialized as part of the wave of independence of African nations from European colonialism during the last century. “Under President Mugabe’s leadership, Zimbabwe’s sustained and valiant struggle against colonialism inspired our own struggle against apartheid and built in us the hope that one day South Africa too would be free,” Cyril Ramaphosa, the current South African president, said upon Mugabe’s passing.

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The Ghosts of Tiananmen, Thirty Years On

Like many around the world, I sat glued before the television set, transfixed by the scenes of thousands of people jamming a public square in the Chinese capital of Beijing for weeks on end as they demanded democracy and a more honest, open form of government from their political leaders. It was the spring of 1989, and I was living in a tiny one-room apartment in downtown Osaka, Japan and working as a journalist.

It took my breath away, watching these scenes unfold in a nearby Asian country. My reporter’s instinct kept on nudging me, and for a time, I thought seriously of getting on a plane and trying to file stories from the heart of China’s growing grassroots democracy movement to the outside world.

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A People’s Cry, a Heroine’s Silence

Rhino Records released in 2004 a compilation CD of various artists from around the world coming together for a good cause: “Dedicated to freeing Aung San Suu Kyi and the courageous people of Burma”, as the front cover of the CD boldly noted. This two-disc set, titled For the Lady, featured tracks by the usual fare of socially conscious liberal/leftish artists, plus a few more apolitical types — like former Beatle Paul McCartney and guitarist Eric Clapton — that you normally wouldn’t see on this kind of overtly political music release.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, “The Lady” to whom this CD was dedicated, had been under house arrest by the brutal military regime in the southeast Asian nation of Burma for more than a decade. Buyers of this CD were encouraged to support and get involved in a nonprofit organization called the U.S. Campaign for Burma as a way to show solidarity for the oppressed people of that country. Aung San Suu Kyi was to Asia then what Nelson Mandela was to Africa — a true hero in the struggle for an oppressed people’s freedom.

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A New Media Storyline for MLK (pt. 1)

Today, 16 January, the people of the United States of America will recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday. And just as they have for most of the 31 years that the birthday of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has been a nationally observed holiday, the American news media will basically get the story wrong.

Every year around this time, the storyline of the U.S. press goes something like this:

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