Gifting Russia ‘Free-Market’ Extremism

Exclusive: Official Washington’s Putin-bashing knows no bounds as the Russian president’s understandable complaints about U.S. triumphalism and NATO expansion, after the Soviet collapse in the 1990s, are dismissed as signs of his “paranoia” and “revisionism,” writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

If the Washington Post’s clueless editorial page editor Fred Hiatt had been around during the genocidal wars against Native Americans in the 1870s, he probably would have accused Sitting Bull and other Indian leaders of “paranoia” and historical “revisionism” for not recognizing the beneficent intentions of the Europeans when they landed in the New World.

The Europeans, after all, were bringing the “savages” Christianity’s promise of eternal life and introducing them to the wonders of the Old World, like guns and cannons, not to mention the value that “civilized” people place on owning land and possessing gold. Why did these Indian leaders insist on seeing the Europeans as their enemies?

But Hiatt wasn’t around in the 1870s so at least the Native Americans were spared his condescension about the kindness and exceptionalism of the United States as it sent armies to herd the “redskins” onto reservations and slaughter those who wouldn’t go along with this solution to the “Indian problem.”

However, those of us living in the Twenty-first Century can’t say we’re as lucky. In 2002-03, we got to read Hiatt’s self-assured Washington Post editorials informing us about Iraq’s dangerous stockpiles of WMD that were threatening our very existence and giving us no choice but to liberate the Iraqi people and bring peace and stability to the Middle East.

Though Hiatt reported these WMD caches as “flat-fact” when that turned out to be fact-free, there was, of course, no accountability for him and his fellow pundits. After all, who would suggest that such well-meaning people should be punished for America’s generous endeavor to deliver joy and happiness to the Iraqi people who instead chose to die by the hundreds of thousands?

Because Hiatt and his fellow deep-thinkers didn’t get canned, we still have them around opening our eyes to Vladimir Putin’s historical “revisionism” and his rampaging “paranoia” as he fails to see the philanthropic motives of the U.S. free-market economists who descended on Russia after the end of the Soviet Union in the 1990s to share their wisdom about the unbounded bounty that comes from unrestrained capitalism.

That many of these “Harvard boys” succumbed to the temptation of Russian girls desperate for some hard currency shouldn’t be held against these selfless business “experts.” Nor should the reality that they sometimes shared in the plundering of Russia’s assets by helping a few friendly “oligarchs” become billionaires. Nor should the “experts” be blamed for the many Russians who starved, froze or suffered early death after their pensions were slashed, medical care was defunded, and their factories were shuttered. Just the necessary “growing pains” toward a “modern economy.”

And, while these U.S. economic advisers helped put Russia onto its back, there was also the expansion of NATO despite some verbal promises from George H.W. Bush’s administration that the anti-Russian alliance would not be pushed east of Germany. Instead, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush shoved NATO right up to Russia’s border and touched a raw Russian nerve by taking aim at Ukraine, too.

But Russian President Putin simply doesn’t appreciate the generosity of the United States in making these sacrifices. The “paranoid” Putin with his historical “revisionism” insists on seeing these acts of charity as uncharitable acts.

‘Mr. Putin’s Revisionism’

In Tuesday’s Post, Hiatt and his team laid out this new line of attack on the black-hatted Putin in an editorial that was headlined, in print editions, “Mr. Putin’s revisionism: His paranoia shouldn’t blot out the good the West tried to offer,” and online as “After the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. tried to help Russians.” The editorial began:

“President Vladimir Putin recently was interviewed for a fawning Russian television documentary on his decade and a half in power. Putin expressed the view that the West would like Russia to be down at the heels. He said, ‘I sometimes I get the impression that they love us when they need to send us humanitarian aid. . . . [T]he so-called ruling circles, elites, political and economic, of those countries, they love us when we are impoverished, poor and when we come hat in hand. As soon as we start declaring some interests of our own, they feel that there is some element of geopolitical rivalry.’

“Earlier, in March, speaking to leaders of the Federal Security Service, which he once led, Mr. Putin warned that ‘Western special services continue their attempts at using public, nongovernmental and politicized organizations to pursue their own objectives, primarily to discredit the authorities and destabilize the internal situation in Russia.’”

That was an apparent reference to the aggressive use of U.S.-funded NGOs to achieve “regime change” in Ukraine in 2014 and similar plans for “regime change” in Moscow, a goal openly discussed by prominent neocons, including National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman who gets $100 million a year from Congress to finance these NGOs.

But none of that reality is cited in the Post’s editorial, which simply continues: “Mr. Putin’s remarks reflect a deep-seated paranoia. Mr. Putin’s assertion that the West has been acting out of a desire to sunder Russia’s power and influence is a willful untruth. The fact is that thousands of Americans went to Russia hoping to help its people attain a better life. It was not about conquering Russia but rather about saving it, offering the proven tools of market capitalism and democracy, which were not imposed but welcomed. The Americans came for the best of reasons.”

Hiatt and his cohorts do acknowledge that not everything worked out as peachy as predicted. There were, for instance, a few bumps in the road like the unprecedented collapse in life expectancy for a developed country not at war. Plus, there were the glaring disparities between the shiny and lascivious nightlife of Moscow’s upscale enclaves, frequented by American businessmen and journalists, and the savage and depressing poverty that gripped and crushed much of the country.

Or, as the Post’s editorial antiseptically describes these shortcomings: “Certainly, the Western effort was flawed. Markets were distorted by crony and oligarchic capitalism; democratic practice often faltered; many Russians genuinely felt a sense of defeat, humiliation and exhaustion. There’s much to regret but not the central fact that a generous hand was extended to post-Soviet Russia, offering the best of Western values and know-how.

“The Russian people benefit from this benevolence even now, and, above Mr. Putin’s self-serving hysterics, they ought to hear the truth: The United States did not come to bury you.”

Or, as a Fred Hiatt of the 1870s might have commented about Native Americans who resisted the well-intentioned Bureau of Indian Affairs and didn’t appreciate the gentleness of the U.S. Army or the benevolence of life on the reservations: “Above Sitting Bull’s self-serving hysterics, Indians ought to hear the truth: The white man did not come to exterminate you.”

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

US Media Shields Saudi War on Yemen

The U.S. news media always seems to have an excuse for the actions of the Saudi-Israeli alliance, now trivializing Saudi Arabia’s open aggression against Yemen as simply one side of a “proxy war” with Iran, a misleading depiction, says Gareth Porter.

By Gareth Porter

The term “proxy war” has experienced a new popularity in stories on the Middle East. Various news sources began using the term to describe the conflict in Yemen immediately, as if on cue, after Saudi Arabia launched its bombing campaign against Houthi targets in Yemen on March 25.

“The Yemen Conflict Devolves into Proxy War,” The Wall Street Journal headlined the following day. “Who’s fighting whom in Yemen’s proxy war?” a blogger for Reuters asked on March 27. And on the same day the Journal pronounced Yemen a proxy war, NBC News declared that the entire Middle East was now engulfed in a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

It is certainly time to discuss the problem of proxy war in the Middle East, because a series of such wars are the heart of the destabilization and chaos engulfing the region. The problem with the recent stories featuring the term is that it is being used in a way that obscures some basic realities that some news media are apparently not comfortable acknowledging.

The real problem of proxy war must begin with the fact that the United States and its NATO allies opened the floodgates for regional proxy wars by the two major wars for regime change in Iraq and Libya. Those two profoundly destabilizing wars provided obvious opportunities and motives for Sunni states across the Middle East to pursue their own sectarian and political power objectives through proxy war.

Prominent Twentieth Century political scientist Karl Deutsch defined “proxy war” as “an international conflict between two foreign powers, fought out on the soil of a third country, disguised as a conflict over an internal issue of the country and using some of that country’s manpower, resources and territory as a means of achieving preponderantly foreign goals and foreign strategies”.

Deutsch’s definition makes it clear that proxy war involves the use of another country’s fighters rather than the direct use of force by the foreign power or powers. So it is obvious that the Saudi bombing in Yemen, which has killed mostly civilians and used cluster bombs that have been outlawed by much of the world, is no proxy war but a straightforward external military aggression.

The fact that the news media began labeling Yemen a proxy war in response to the Saudi bombing strongly suggests that the term was a way of softening the harsh reality of Saudi aggression.

The assumption underlying that application of “proxy war” is, of course, that Iran had already turned Yemen into such a war by its support for the Houthis. But it ignores the crucial question of whether the Houthis had been carrying out “preponderantly foreign goals and foreign strategies.” Although Iran has certainly had ties with the Houthis, the Saudi propaganda line that the Houthis have long been Iranian proxies is not supported by the evidence.

Far from proving the Iranian proxy argument, the Houthi takeover of Sanaa last year has actually provided definitive evidence to the contrary. U.S. intelligence sources recently told the Huffington Post that before the Houthis entered the capital, the Iranians had advised against such a move, but that the Houthis ignored that advice.

Gabriele vom Bruck, a leading academic specialist on Yemen at the School of Oriental and African Studies, said in an e-mail to this writer that senior Yemeni officials with links to intelligence had told her the same thing weeks before the story was leaked.

The Houthis rejected the Iranian caution, vom Bruck believes, because former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his son Ahmed Ali Saleh (the former commander of the Republican Guard) had indicated to them that troops that were still loyal to them would not resist the Houthi units advancing on the capital unless the Houthis attacked them.

So the Houthis clearly don’t intend to serve an Iranian strategy for Yemen. “Certainly the Houthis do not want to replace the Saudis with the Iranians,” says vom Bruck, even though they still employ slogans borrowed from Iran.

Regional Proxy War?

The NBC story on a “regional proxy war” completely misses the seriousness of the problem. It turns its proxy war concept into an abstract and virtually antiseptic problem of limiting Iranian influence in the region through the U.S. bombing Iraq. It ignores the fact that the regional actors behind the wars in Syria, Iraq and Libya are pulling the region into a new era of unbridled sectarian violence and instability.

The crimes committed by the Syrian regime in the war are unconscionable, but the policies of external countries pursuing a proxy war to overthrow the existing regime have created a far more ominous threat to the entire region.

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius has detailed the process by which Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar competed with one another to create proxy forces with which to overthrow the Assad regime.

Such an unbridled competition in the creation of armies for regime change was by its very essence a reckless and cynical use of power that carried the obvious risk of even worse chaos and violence of the war in Syria. But they have made the costs of proxy war far greater by targeting the most aggressive armed groups they could find as their clients, and their weapons soon “made their way to the terrorist groups,” wrote Ignatius, to which the Turks and Qataris “turned a blind eye”.

Once it became clear that Sunni states were creating a proxy war in Syria that could tip the balance against the Syrian regime, Iran and Hezbollah intervened in support of the regime.

But what the conventional view of the Syrian proxy war leaves out is the linkage between Syria in Iran’s deterrence strategy. Iran is militarily weak in relation with Israel and U.S. military power in the Middle East, and has been the target of U.S. and Israeli military threats going back to the 1990s.

Iran’s deterrent to such attacks has depended on the threat of retaliatory rocket attacks against Israel by Hezbollah from Southern Lebanon – destroying the ability of Hezbollah to retaliate for an attack was the single biggest reason for Israel’s 2006 war against Hezbollah.

The Assad regime was part of the Iranian deterrent as well. Not only did Syria have a force of several hundred missiles that Israel would have to take into account but also, Syrian territory is the shortest route for Iranian resupply of Hezbollah.

The Saudi fixation with bringing down today’s Iraqi Shi’a regime appears to reflect the sentiment that Prince Bandar bin Sultan expressed to Richard Dearlove, then head MI6, before 9/11. “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard,” said Bandar, “when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”

The Saudis have never been reconciled to the establishment of a Shiite regime in Iraq since the United States occupied the country and set up a Shia-dominated government. They began facilitating the dispatch of Sunni extremists to Iraq to overthrow the Shiite regime early in the U.S. war.

After the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, the funding from the Saudis and other Gulf Sheikdoms for Sunni fighters in Iraq and arms moved toward the best organized forces, which ultimately meant ISIS, also known as the Islamic State.

The NATO war for regime change in Libya, like the U.S. occupation of Iraq, opened a path for the regional proxy war that followed. That war took the form of competitive intervention by regional actors leading to worsening violence. This time Qatar and the UAE were competing for power through their support for Libyan expatriates in their own countries.

The Qataris steered their support to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which the U.S. State Department had identified as a terrorist organization as early as 2004. The Sisi regime in Egypt joined the proxy war as the chief sponsor of counter-terrorism. The UAE aligned with that position, while Qatar remained in opposition. The regional proxy war has led to a longer-term structure of conflict.

The recent media stories have offered only anodyne references to the problem of proxy war. What is needed in media coverage is a focus on the nasty realities of proxy war and their origins.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. [This story first appeared at Middle East Eye.]

The War over the Vietnam War

Exclusive: The Pentagon has retreated somewhat from its recent campaign to rewrite the Vietnam War history to push the discredited theory that the military strategy was sound, just undercut by disloyal war reporters and a misled public, a modest victory for truth, as war correspondent Don North describes.

By Don North

Wars are fought twice, once on the battlefield and later in the remembering. In that way, the Vietnam War though it ended on the battlefield four decades ago continues as a battle of memory, history and truth. And the stakes are still high. Honest narratives about important past events can shape our destinies, helping to determine whether there will be more wars or maybe peace.

A few years ago, I was pleased to hear that the Pentagon would be funding a committee for the commemoration of the Vietnam War. I thought maybe, finally, we’ll get the record straight. But I didn’t have to read further than the keynote quote at the top of the new website to realize it was not to be.

Quoting President Richard Nixon, it read: “No event in history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam war. It was misreported then and is misunderstood now.”

I belong to the dwindling ranks of journalists who covered the war. We call ourselves “the Vietnam old hacks” and we got pretty exercised about this quote since it perpetuates the myth that the war would have worked out just fine if not for the discouraging words of some reporters. I wrote a letter to the chief of the commemoration committee, retired Lieutenant General Claude Kicklighter, protesting this slur on the thousands of journalists who tried to honestly cover the war, a slur coming from a U.S. president who was one of the most responsible for misleading the public about the war.

I badgered the committee for months but they were reluctant to take the quote down. I enlisted friends at the U.S. Army Center for History who strongly suggested to the committee that the quote was inappropriate. After six months through clenched teeth, they finally took it down. But many of the myths and falsehoods of the Vietnam War remain on the website.

So what went wrong in Vietnam? One of the prevailing and persistent myths is that the United States was betrayed by disloyal journalists. Even the U.S. Army commander in Vietnam, General William Westmoreland, subscribed to that old saw.

It doesn’t seem to matter how many times historians even Army historians challenge this myth, noting that the U.S. press on balance did a pretty good job covering a complex and dangerous conflict. The myth of the disloyal journalists who supposedly sabotaged what would have otherwise been an American victory just keeps coming back.

My Life in Vietnam

I landed in Vietnam in May of 1965, an eager and enterprising young reporter from Canada. I was like hundreds of other would-be-journalists going into the field to report the war as freelancers, arriving as this counter-insurgency conflict grew into a full-blown Asian war. And like so many of us I initially bought Washington’s rationale for the war to save this little democracy from a Communist takeover and the start of falling dominoes in Asia.

The truth however didn’t take long to learn. At that time, the United States had the benefit of some brilliant journalists who took their craft seriously — and many were on the front lines of reporting about the gaps between the glowing PR and the grim reality.

For example, my late friend David Halberstam of the New York Times told me about an historic battle down in the Mekong Delta in late 1962 when the reality of the conflict was becoming evident. Hundreds of American helicopters had arrived in Vietnam promising great new technological advantages to defeat the Viet Cong.

On the first day of the battle, a few Viet Cong were killed. On the second day, an enormous helicopter assault was launched but nothing happened. On the third day, the same thing happened, no enemy, no battle.

On the way back to Saigon, Neil Sheehan, then with UPI, muttered about the waste of his time. Homer Bigart, an experienced World War II reporter for the New York Times, said, “What’s the matter Mister Sheehan?” Sheehan grumbled about three days spent tramping the paddy fields and no story to write.

“No story,” remarked Bigart, slightly surprised. “But there is a story. It doesn’t work. That’s your story, Mr. Sheehan. “

Indeed, the U.S. strategy in Vietnam didn’t work. It never worked. Not then, not ever. But the price for the folly was staggeringly high. The Vietnamese suffered some two million civilian dead, many killed by the heaviest aerial bombing in history.

In many ways, the young American soldiers, who were dropped into Vietnam, were victims, too, as they found themselves woefully ill-prepared for the rigors and cruelty of counter-insurgency warfare, often fought in villages packed with women and children. Some 58,000 U.S. soldiers died in the conflict and many more were scarred either physically or psychologically.

Nick Turse, who wrote Kill Anything that Moves, recently noted: “Civilian suffering in Vietnam was the essence of a war caused by America’s callous use of power. I question whether the Henry Kissinger’s of today, Washington’s latest coterie of war managers, are any more willing to consider this than Kissinger was.”

Going Back

I have just returned from a three-week tour of Vietnam and Cambodia and found that there are those in Vietnam as well as in America who are still unwilling to hear honest voices about the war. Yet, returning to Vietnam for the fortieth anniversary of the war’s end with the Vietnam old hacks we journalists who covered that lost war was a moving experience and brought back many memories of the war years.

In a war full of surprises, there was no greater surprise for us than the Tet offensive attack on the U.S. Embassy on Jan. 31, 1968. Military analysts say one way to achieve decisive surprise in warfare is to do something truly stupid and the 15 Viet Cong sappers who carried out the daring embassy attack were poorly trained and unprepared, but its effects marked a turning point in the war and earned a curious entry in the annals of military history.

Today the imposing U.S. Embassy that withstood the attack has been torn down and replaced by a modest U.S. Consulate. A small marker stone in a garden, closed to the public, records the names of the seven American Marines and Military Police who died there. Outside the Consulate gates on the sidewalk is a brick monument engraved with names of Viet Cong sappers and agents who also died.

I couldn’t help imagining the scene if somehow U.S. Army PFC Bill Sebast and Viet Cong sapper Nguyen Van Sau, two soldiers who died on opposite sides of the Embassy wall, could return today to marvel at Saigon’s economic progress, with Vietnam and the U.S. having put aside old animosities to become valuable trading partners.

For the first time, the Vietnam Foreign Ministry treated us old hacks like people worth knowing, interested in our knowledge about the bloody war that we once covered. The truth is Vietnam is more concerned these days about its giant neighbor to the north, China, and even looks to the United States as a possible counterweight to China’s tendency to throw its significant weight around.

Judging the Journalists

So what about the recent Pentagon suggestion that we journalists “misreported the war?” Am I satisfied with my own coverage of the Vietnam war? No, I’m not. I think ignorance of Vietnam history and culture at first and the limitations of TV news sometimes made the truth suffer. A minute and a half was about max for an evening news report. Not nearly enough time to describe the complex events of the Vietnam War.

I also found my ABC News editors in New York reluctant to sound negative about the war. Critical stories got brutally edited or just mysteriously disappeared before air time.

The only censorship that I experienced was from my own news company. At the U.S. Embassy when the last Vietcong sapper was killed or captured, I quickly filmed a “standupper.” To conclude my report, I said, “Since the Lunar New Year, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese have proved they are capable of bold and impressive military moves that Americans never dreamed could be achieved. Whether they can sustain this onslaught for long remains to be seen.

“But whatever turn the war now takes, the capture of the U.S. Embassy here for seven hours is a psychological victory that will rally and inspire the Viet Cong. Don North ABC News Saigon.”

But my instant analysis never made it to the air on ABC News. I was accused of “editorializing” and the standupper was killed by some producer on the evening news. Ironically, however, the standupper with other out-takes ended up in the “ABC Simon Grinberg Library” where it was later found by producer Peter Davis and used in his Academy Award winning film, “Hearts and Minds.”

So it’s true that the truth about the Vietnam War often suffered, but not in the way Nixon’s quote suggested. Much of the U.S. media reporting put the war in too rosy not too harsh a light. More accurate journalism would have more consistently challenged what Neil Sheehan later called “A Bright Shining Lie,” the upbeat PR for a misguided war.

And the lessons of Vietnam fruitlessly discussed over the past half century have taught Washington so little that today’s war hawks replicated many of the same Vietnam mistakes in Afghanistan and Iraq — the same hubris, the same over-reliance on technology and propaganda, the same ignorance of complicated foreign cultures.

So what were the real lessons learned about journalism in the Vietnam War? In spite of difficulties, censorship and the fog of war, I believe much of our Vietnam reporting was accurate and has withstood the scrutiny of time. However, has U.S. war reporting today improved any more than American foreign policies?

Mark Twain once wrote of what I think is a major dilemma of our age. He said, “If you don’t read the newspapers you are uninformed. If you do read the newspapers you are misinformed.”

The great reporter A.J. Liebling of the Baltimore Sun once observed, “The Press is the weak slat under the bed of democracy.”

Recently Bill Moyers while at PBS picked up on Liebling’s observations when he wrote: “After the invasion of Iraq, the slat in the bed broke and some strange bedfellows fell to the floor the establishment journalists, neo-con polemicists, beltway pundits, right-wing warmongers flying the skull and crossbones of the ‘balanced and fair brigade.’ And administration flaks whose classified leaks were manufactured lies all romping on the same mattress in the foreplay to disaster. Thousands of casualties and billions of dollars later, most of the media co-conspirators caught in ‘flagrante delicto’ are still prominent, still celebrated, and still holding forth with no more contrition than a weathercaster who made the wrong prediction as to the next day’s temperature.”

And the same sort of “group think” and hostility to dissent that proved so disastrous in Vietnam a half century ago and Iraq a decade ago is ascendant again in Washington today.

The New York Times and Washington Post land on my doorstep every day and I’m appalled to read how “neocon ideology” appears to have seized control of the editorial pages, a development that should concern every American. Inevitably military power is recommended as a first, not a last resort.

Suggestions about seeing a conflict from the other side’s perspective is dismissed as soft-headed and un-American. Instead, it’s easier to talk tough and wave the flag, while squandering the nation’s tax dollars on military hardware and military adventures, even as millions of American families slip beneath the poverty line.

At West Point last May, President Obama observed, “Some of our most costly mistakes come from, not our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures without thinking through the consequences. Just because we have the best hammer, does not mean that every problem is a nail.”

Don North is a veteran war correspondent who covered the Vietnam War and many other conflicts around the world. He is the author of a new book, Inappropriate Conduct,  the story of a World War II correspondent whose career was crushed by the intrigue he uncovered.

Papering Over Extra-Judicial Killings

The Obama administration, like its predecessor, holds that the “exceptional” U.S. has the right to enter other countries to kill “terrorists,” but it would never tolerate, say, Cuba targeting CIA-trained terrorists harbored in Miami, one of many double standards posing as international law, as Coleen Rowley notes.

By Coleen Rowley

Law professor Harold Koh, a former Yale Law School Dean and former Legal Adviser to Hillary Clinton’s State Department, hired by New York University to teach human rights and international law, recently found himself in the crosshairs when NYU law students posted a “statement of no confidence” in him based on the prior actions he undertook to justify, enable and expand the use of Obama’s “extrajudicial killing program.”

A harsh critic of the Bush Administration, Koh is obviously well liked among those who consider themselves in the liberal legal intelligentsia. Unfortunately, instead of defending Koh’s legal rationales for drone killing on the merits, a number of the pro-Koh law professors, led by Koh’s cronies at the State Department, pilloried the NYU students. His backers chose to defend and praise Koh on mostly personal grounds, or for his other legal contributions, almost entirely avoiding discussion of the issues surrounding U.S. high-tech targeted killing.

However, at least two respected law professors, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin (at University of Minnesota Law School) and Philip Alston (Professor of Law at NYU’s Law School, and former UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, 2004-10) criticized their fellow academics’ glossing-over approach since “one can reasonably take the position that the US government and its targeted killing programs breach international and human rights law standards.”

Both lamented their fellow professors’ avoidance of discussing the important issues and sending “a real chill to an important open debate.”

In our op-ed (below) published on April 29, 2015 by the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper (which built upon a related one we wrote in 2012), Robin Hensel and I decided, by contrast, to focus on the illegality of the U.S. high-tech “warfare.” Brainerd, Minnesota, is not far from the Camp Ripley National Guard base that trains military personnel on the “Shadow” and other smaller drones that started out being used for surveillance but have now become weaponized.

Naturally our comments attracted some dissent, a substantive critique coming from Attorney Larry Frost of Paladin Law PLLC, Bloomington, Minnesota, which in furtherance of a robust debate, I’m reposting directly below our piece with Mr. Frost’s permission:

Guest Opinion: The illegality of high tech war

By Robin Hensel and Coleen Rowley on April 29, 2015

Why has the United Nations Special Rapporteur called drone strikes extrajudicial killing?

Why has a Pakistani judge recently filed criminal charges against a former top CIA lawyer who oversaw its drone program and a former station chief in Islamabad over a 2009 strike that killed two people? The Islamabad High Court ruled CIA officials must face charges including murder, conspiracy, waging war against Pakistan and terrorism.

Why is a case being heard in May against the German government on behalf of three Yemeni survivors of a U.S. drone strike? The lawsuit argues it is illegal for the German government to allow the U.S. air base at Ramstein to be used for drone murders abroad, especially after the passage of a resolution in the European Parliament in February 2014 urging European nations to “oppose and ban the practice of extrajudicial targeted killings” and to “ensure that Member States, in conformity with their legal obligations, do not perpetrate unlawful targeted killings or facilitate such killings by other states.”

Why have Sicilians been protesting construction – which in 2013 led to the President of the Region of Sicily temporarily revoking construction authorization – of a US Navy base in their desert which would house Lockheed Martin’s new satellite communications system? Part of the effort to automate war, to entrust the choice of targets to machines, a principal function of the system would be to remotely pilot drones all over the world, ultimately reaching the North Pole.

Closer to home, why have protests arisen of Camp Ripley’s drone training? When Col. St. Sauver, the commander at Camp Ripley, weighed in on the beginning controversy in September 2012, he lauded unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) as being used “to increase efficiency, save money, enhance safety and even save lives.” He hit all the Pentagon talking points. The smaller “Shadow” drones at Camp Ripley were initially used to conduct surveillance and identify people (targets) for the lethal punch of the larger “Reaper” and “Predators.” The smaller drones then served merely as an accomplice in the illegal drone assassination program, also termed President Obama’s “Disposition Matrix” kill list.

The goal of the U.S. State Department was, however, to arm the Shadows with guided bombs weighing under 25 pounds. Cleared for treaty compliance in 2011, Raytheon successfully tested a new 5 pound warhead developed for the Shadow that same year and in 2012, tested a 13 pound warhead. The Marine Corps thereafter sent armed Shadows to Afghanistan as a combat demonstration program.

As a result of this high tech trend, some military officials have become even more effusive in their praise of “federated airpower as small UAVs (like the Shadow) can be bought and operated in numbers that provide far wider battlefield coverage. … When smart networks communicate, almost brain-like systems will emerge.”

Down on earth, however, the short answer to all the questions posed above is that the law may be catching up with the stars in militarists’ eyes. While commentators generally agree UAS technology is not illegal per se (which people often confuse the drone debate as being), when and how it’s being used to extra-judicially kill in our self-declared “global war” is another story.

The following constitutes a consensus of legal opinion:

Outside a war zone, a State can legally kill only where (1) necessary to save a life, and no other option is available, or alternatively (2) it’s the result of fair judicial process [e.g., death penalty after decent adjudication].

So drones – at least those used for targeting killing – are basically not legal unless the looser “law of armed conflicts” (aka international humanitarian law, IHL) applies. IHL only governs in unique, geographically constrained and limited situations, not in a “war of choice” or a “global war.” Even under IHL, you can’t kill civilians (those not operating as forces of a warring State) unless they’re directly participating in hostilities, or in a “continuous combat function.” This may explain why the U.S. has thus far refused to provide information about its strikes. Lastly, under IHL, even if you have a valid target, you still can’t kill that target if the civilian casualties would be disproportionate to the particular objective.

A final problem with how we use our drones is more a problem of angering other nations, increasing enemies and setting bad precedent. Obviously, a foreign country does not have the right to come into the United States and kill people. The guiding document is the U.N. Charter, which doesn’t allow force against a State unless it’s self-defense, or the Security Council authorizes it. So consider if a country, take China for example, decided to someday post drones over U.S. cities and execute people when it determined that people here were fighting against it, knowing civilian casualties are to be accepted, as long as China doesn’t consider our casualties disproportionate to its military objectives.

You don’t have to be a legal expert to understand the terrifying precedent the U.S. is setting.

Robin Hensel is a free speech and peace activist in Little Falls who organizes the annual “Peace Fair” and anti-drone warfare protests there.
Coleen Rowley is a retired FBI agent in Apple Valley who served as Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel from 1990 to 2003.


Counter-argument by Attorney Larry Frost, Paladin Law PLLC, Bloomington, MN

What one ‘spikes’ – leaves out or does not report – is usually far more important than what one says. Colleen Rowley left out two very significant legal points without which the debate is not complete. That leaves us as far or farther from the truth than a complete exposition would.

First, any nation “A” that harbors forces “F” which attack state “B” has an obligation under traditional international law to stop such attacks. If it cannot, or will not stop “F”, then state B may choose either to declare war on state A, or to enter state A’s territory to attack and destroy the hostile forces “F”. The normal rules of war apply (except with respect to the forces of F, more on which in a moment).

That means that if citizens of A are killed during operations against hostile forces F, nation B is not legally in the wrong (if the general rules of due care, proportionality etc are observed). So in many cases, drone attacks are legally justified. Note, state A does not have to know specifically that the target hit was there – it is enough that A knows that forces F are there and is not stopping them. If A even allows F to recruit in its territory, this law applies. This is not new law; it is in fact very old customary international law. A simplified but readable explanation can be found at

Second, Rowley uses the term ‘war zone’. The problem is that legal definitions of war, and ‘war zone’, arose in the context of war between states. War between a state and a non-state actor (in our case terrorists, ‘terrs’) is utterly different, and very poorly covered by either traditional international law. For the terrs, the ‘war zone’ is everywhere their targets exist. If their targets are citizens of a certain state, then the terrs will attack them even in the territory of other nations. The traditional notion of ‘war zone’ simply does not even address the reality of the situation of a war against terrs.

Failing to address this issue – to change the traditional definitions of war to fit a war against global terrs – would be fatal to the civilized West if we followed traditional international law. That is unacceptable. The flip side is that mis-applying traditional law of war concepts leads to declaring the whole world a war zone – and that leads to results we don’t want.

For example, establishing a precedent that China could use to attack targets in the United States – if China decided we were ideologically hostile to the Dictatorship of the Proletariat in China, for example (we are) and that constituted valid cause to attack us. In fact, China is attacking us – by computer – so this is not a foolish example.

Technical war – internet attacks and others, including EMP attacks which can be carried out by detonating high-yield nuclear weapons outside the territory of the target – also fall outside the competence of traditional and current treaty international law. When terrorists are driven by the savage, uncivilized doctrines of a seventh-century mentality, doctrine has to change to deal with that reality. And yes, current US practice is generating ill-will, and that too is a factor to consider in reshaping our policy and the law which governs it.

End of Exchange

Attorney Frost and I actually share some agreement that U.S. drone strikes are generating both bad politics and bad precedent internationally and that the law has not caught up with development of high-tech modes of warfare. I will note, however, that following the McNutt interpretation, outlined by Frost, would allow Cuba to “legally” drone bomb Miami to target for killing those CIA-supported “Bay of Pigs” Cuban-American survivors and other anti-Castro terrorists.

Cuba’s “legal” targets would certainly include Miami resident Luis Clemente Faustino Posada Carriles, a well-known terrorist and former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent who was convicted in absentia of various terrorist attacks and of having brought down a Cuban airliner killing 73 innocent civilians.
The bottom line is that all law, but most importantly international law, which is sometimes called “soft law” due to its lack of formalized international police enforcement, derives its legitimacy and power from principles of reciprocity and equality, not from the double standards that Harold Koh, John Yoo and other war enablers have worked at legalizing inside and outside our government.

International legal principles must therefore not only be rooted in universal Kantian ethics but must also be efficacious and pragmatic, not counterproductive as more and more research is showing is the case with U.S. drone assassination policy that serves to promote and increase terrorism worldwide. To stand the test of time regardless of evolving technology, international law must “work” from all participants’ standpoints, not just those nations which view themselves as most militarily powerful at the moment.

Unfortunately the Nuremberg Principle has largely been forgotten that wars of aggression, aka wars of choice, are the supreme crime because they encompass and lead to all other war crimes, regardless of whether utilizing low-end box cutters or high-end drone and satellite technology.

That is why, when examining how to fix our mistakes, as President Obama rightly urged in recently acknowledging and apologizing for the mistaken drone killing of American and Italian aid workers, he was wrong to call attention, in the same breath, to America’s exceptionalism. Setting ourselves above the law, as Nixon believed he was entitled to do domestically, will only open Pandora’s Box and establish bad legal precedents that will come back to haunt the U.S.

Coleen Rowley is a retired FBI agent and former chief division counsel in Minneapolis. She’s now a dedicated peace and justice activist and board member of the Women Against Military Madness and works with the Veterans for Peace chapter in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The Inhuman Failure of ‘Austerity’

The Framers of the U.S. Constitution said the Government should provide for the “general Welfare,” a mandate to help build a strong and prosperous nation. But the concept has been lost in a wave of anti-government, “neoliberal” propaganda making the Market king, as David William Pear explains.

By David William Pear

Close your eyes and imagine an affluent society with subsonic trains crisscrossing the continent. One that produces unlimited clean energy. Provides basic healthcare for everyone. Values education for its own sake. Cultivates the arts and research to discover beauty and the unknown. An affluent society that responds with compassion to natural disaster. Conserves natural resources and protects the environment. And enjoys more leisure time. Cares about eliminating poverty and illiteracy. That ends racism and prejudice.

Does the affluent society seem like a dream? Is it an impossible goal? The neoliberals think it is. They imagine a world of austerity and a new Gilded Age.

The neoliberals are prisoners of the Eighteenth Century. They have not advanced since the neo-feudal teachings of Adam Smith (1723-1790). Smith is the godfather of economics and wrote the “bible” of capitalism, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Smith was among the first to give much thought about economics.

In Eighteenth Century Great Britain, half the population lived in poverty. They survived, if they did, with disease, famine, illiteracy, lack of sanitation and in slums. It was normal then. Things had always been that way. They thought the poor, starving and ignorant mass of people would always be among them.  They thought their society was according to the law of nature.

Smith was a charitable man. He fretted about poverty, and gave a great deal of thought about wages. With a large pool of the unemployed, the new industrial class only had to pay subsistence wages.

Smith tried to tell the industrialists that people were like cattle. He said if one gave their cows more grass, then they would produce more milk. The industrialists said that if they gave their workers higher wages, then it would come out of profits, and the workers would just produce more children with mouths to feed, leading to greater starvation. The neoliberals still think this way.

Every progressive social project the neoliberals call it socialism, as if that is an obscene word. The only government projects they like are those that benefit the private sector, corporations and the wealthy.

Almost every modern democracy has done better than the U.S. at providing good government for its people. All the evidence proves it. The U.S. consistently ranks far below more progressive countries on the United Nations Human Development Index that measures health, education and equality of income.

On the Social Progress Index, which measures “Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellness, and Opportunity” (see interactive map); the U.S. is ranked sixteenth, and well behind other developed democratic nations. Those countries doing better have not degenerated into totalitarianism, as the neoliberals predict.

The neoliberals see Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin behind every government social program. In the 1940s the neoliberal’s idol, Friedrich von Hayek (1899-1992) wrote a thesis called The Road to Serfdom. It is a simple book in its Eighteenth Century theories about government and freedom. There is a comic book version, courtesy of General Motors. Hayek won the Nobel Prize for it.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) and Hayek were colleagues at the London School of Economics. They had a long-running debate for years over the role of government. Keynes realized that government was important, that it has an active role in the economy. He said the government could do “good” and manage the economy well. Hayek said it was the road to serfdom.

Keynes was an economic advisor for the British government during World War I. He also advised the British during the Treaty of Versailles to negotiate Germany’s surrender. Keynes resigned from his position at Versailles in disgust, saying the harsh austerity the Allies were demanding of Germany and Austria would cause massive poverty and starvation. He said it was inhumane and would result in the rise of fascism and war. He proved to be right. He was not awarded the Nobel Prize.

In the Twenty-first Century, the European Union is imposing harsh austerity on its weaker members. The neoliberals are dismantling Europe’s progressive social programs. We are seeing the rise of fascism again too. So which is more likely to cause fascism and war: Austerity for the people, or progressive government social programs? Hayek said he did not mind a dictatorship, as long as it is neoliberal. The neoliberals like right-wing dictators.

During the Great Depression (1929-1939), President Franklin Delano Roosevelt turned to Keynes for advice about the Great Depression. Keynes wrote a letter to Roosevelt advising him on the need for government social programs to stimulate the economy. Keynes further warned FDR that lowering interest rates and increasing the money supply alone would only bailout speculators, but would not sustain economic recovery.

By contrast, President Barack Obama took the neoliberal advice in the Great Recession and bailed out the speculators. Keynes would have predicted that the result would be anemic economic recovery. He would have been right.

Keynes gave worthy advice that would do the American people well in the Twenty-first Century. The neoliberals keep sabotaging good advice from past sages. Their sabotage is well-funded by corporations, foundations, foreign governments and the wealthy.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) was a genius with Twenty-first Century ideas. Galbraith served as an economic advisor to both FDR and John F. Kennedy.  His most famous book is The Affluent Society (1958), a popular book during the 1960s.

During the Stagflation of the 1970s, the neoliberals allied with the religious-right and racists to purge Keynes’s and Galbraith’s teachings. In the 1980s, the Reagan-Thatcher revolution established neoliberals, corporate hegemony and right-wing extremists in the halls of power.

The first experiment of the neoliberals was in Chile during the 1970s. It led to the rise of Pinochet, fascism and crimes against humanity. Hayek said in a 1978 letter to the Times of London that he personally approved of Pinochet, preferring a dictator to a democratic government without neoliberalism.

Hayek made one excuse after another for Pinochet. He was not even faithful to his own principles, and said Pinochet’s firing squads would transition to democracy. Those on the wrong end of Pinochet’s firing squads would not live to see that miracle. The neoliberals never take responsibility, admit they are wrong, or say they are sorry. (See example, here.)

Galbraith’s discarded ideas had some excellent questions and answers to ponder in the Twenty-first Century. What is our obsession with economic growth and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), when an affluent society already produces all the private goods and services needed, Galbraith asked? And, shouldn’t we be more concerned about what is produced instead of how much? He said there is a “problem with social balance private affluence and public squalor as well as related environmental, aesthetic, and cultural concerns.” He was a man for the Twenty-first Century.

Neoliberals are not against fascist and corporate planning of the economy. Fascists use the firing squad as their economic planning tool. Corporations use monopoly power, public relations departments and political graft. Corporations are hierarchical organizations that meet in secret to decide what to produce and the price people will pay. They spend billions of dollars on advertising to change consumer preferences and move their products off the shelves. Their propaganda has created a privatized culture of consumerism, materialism and gluttony.

The corporations are dictating government programs too. Their oligarchies have taken over governments globally at all levels. They plan the government and the economy for their own profit and greed. Corporate oligarchies and neoliberals attack every social program for the public. They impose austerity on the public sector and the people. The impoverished public sector is in dire need of investment.

Education could use a tsunami of new investment. The lack of investment for education, especially in poor neighborhoods, is glaring. The neoliberals blame “bad teachers.” They want to privatize public schools and hire proctors that will work for the minimum wage, so their hedge funds can make billions of dollars in profits that should be going to education.

Higher education is failing too. Students are condemned to indentured servitude to payoff student loans. Young people have been indoctrinated that the value of education is to learn how to work for corporations and the military.

College graduates discover that there are no jobs for their qualifications. Neoliberals stuck in the Eighteenth Century say the answer is that not everybody needs an education to be a widget or carry a gun. They want other people’s students to enroll in online schools pushed by their hedge funds, while their kids go to Harvard, Yale and MIT.

An affluent society needs educated people. There is a cadre of potential teachers, healthcare workers, nutritionists, scientists, sociologists, historians, artists, engineers and administrators now working at meaningless minimum wage jobs. There is an abundance of opportunity for college graduates in an affluent society.

New community centers could staff professionals to enrich the lives of seniors, teens and children. With people living longer, retired seniors could improve their lives and social activity by taking courses and enjoying the arts. Teens could have tutoring, learn to play chess, take music lessons, cooking classes, creative writing, languages, and have supervised sports. The possibilities for public investments and to improve the quality of life, and provide meaningful jobs are endless. Neoliberals want everybody to sit alone at home and watch TV.

Malnourished and neglected children are unacceptable in an affluent society. The problem is not a lack of resources. It is because of unequal distribution. There is a shameful lack of prenatal care. As a result, infant mortality in the U.S. is higher than every developed nation. It is 30 percent higher than even Cuba, which the neoliberals constantly chastise about its human rights.

New parents could get healthcare, infant care and education in an affluent society. Instead, Eighteenth Century neoliberals want to kill Obamacare, Medicare and Medicaid; and they want to privatize the Veterans Administration. Their greed is insatiable.

Obama promised single-payer healthcare. The public got excited and wanted it. The Eighteenth Century neoliberals killed it in the womb. Long-term health care and homecare goes uncovered by any public insurance. Neoliberals let the old and disabled go without and die, as if those people are just useless eaters. Instead an affluent society would treat the old and disabled humanely; and single-payer healthcare would create more careers and professional jobs.

Twice a day every workday the highways are in gridlock with automobiles idling, burning fossil fuel and polluting the air. Clean, fast and comfortable light-rail and motor coaches would be quicker, more comfortable and use less energy. Building and operating a Twenty-first Century mass transportation industry would make commuting time productive and leisurely; and create more skilled jobs.

An affluent society should not neglect the unemployed. The public sector has the responsibility of full-employment and providing for those unemployed. Employees did not volunteer to be the risk-takers of capitalism. They should not be condemned to their fate because they were unlucky and chose the wrong industry or employer years ago.

Society must also face the reality that some people are permanently unable to work because of social, emotional and health reasons. The unemployed need treatment, counseling, education and care; which would also create more jobs.

These are just a few ideas, some from Galbraith’s The Affluent Society. As Galbraith said in 1958, the private sector is a king; the public sector is a pauper. They can both be royalty.

The neoliberals and their alter-ego, the neocons, do not have any good ideas for the Twenty-first Century. They have caused financial disasters and endless wars, and they tell us not to expect better.

Part of the public sector that is not a pauper but should be is the military. The military-industrial complex is wasting vast resources making machines of death. Society is spending trillions of dollars to send armies to invade other countries. We spend trillions of dollars in order to protect us from imaginary enemies and those that our wars have created. It does not make us any safer. The jobs that it creates do not add any value.

The Eighteen Century neoliberals and the neoconservatives say that government economic planning will destroy our freedom, while they plan the economy for war and financial speculation. The neocons say the American people must give up the Bill of Rights in exchange for safety. The neoliberals say that austerity will bring prosperity. Instead we are less free and more poor. They are leading us down the road to fascism and serfdom.

Let’s open our eyes and stop listening to the neoliberals.

After 40 years, David William Pear retired from investment management and started writing on economic, political and social subjects. He is a regular columnist for The Real News Network and Op Ed News.

Reference Sources:

Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics:  by Daniel Stedman Jones.

Keynes, Hayek: The Clash that Defined Modern Economics by Nicholas Wapshott.

The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith.

Fear and Loathing in Baltimore

Freddie Gray’s fatally broken spine, while trundled up in a Baltimore police van and taken for a “rough ride” to hurtle him around and inflict pain, was just another case of an unarmed black man’s fate in modern America, except that a prosecutor finally took a stand against police brutality, writes Marjorie Cohn.

By Marjorie Cohn

Once again, the nation watches as prosecutors deal with the killing of an unarmed black man.

“[The officers] failed to establish probable cause for Mr. Gray’s arrest as no crime had been committed by Mr. Gray . . . Accordingly, [he was] illegally arrested,” Baltimore state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby declared, as she announced the filing of criminal charges against the six officers implicated in Freddie Gray’s death.

Gray made “eye contact” with Officer Brian Rice. Gray then ran from Rice, and Rice began chasing Gray. It was after Gray surrendered to Officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero that Gray was taken on his fatal “rough ride.”

A “rough ride” is an unsanctioned technique that some officers use to injure arrestees without physically touching them with their hands or weapons. The driver typically takes intentionally rough or rapid turns around corners or makes sudden stops. Since the suspect is handcuffed, he is unable to brace himself so he falls forward, often bashing his head against the inside of the van.

Like so many African-American men before him in this country, Gray was guilty of nothing other than “walking while black.” In his case, Baltimore’s sordid history of racial and class oppression, combined with the war on drugs, made for a deadly combination.

“Probable cause was distorted by the drug war,” David Simon, creator of The Wire, said in an interview with Bill Keller. Set in Baltimore, the award-winning HBO series portrayed the conflict between the police and African Americans in the streets, in a compelling work of historical fiction.

“[T]he drug war was as much a function of class and social control as it was of racism,” Simon added. “The drug war gives everybody permission to do anything. It gives cops permission to stop anybody, to go in anyone’s pockets, to manufacture any lie when they get to district court.”

In short, under the guise of the war on drugs, Baltimore police have been harassing people for years. Simon added, “My own crew members [on The Wire] used to get picked up trying to come from the set at night . . . Driving while black . . . Charges were non-existent, or were dismissed en masse.”

Scholar Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, documented more than 100 years of “federal, state, and local policies to quarantine Baltimore’s black population in isolated slums.”

Rothstein does not think the answer lies in improving the quality of the police. He recognizes the frustration of those who engage in violent protest, as they have been denied the opportunity to become part of mainstream society.

“When disadvantaged children are concentrated in separate schools, as they are in Baltimore, their disadvantages are exacerbated.” Rothstein found, “Baltimore, not at all uniquely, has experienced a century of public policy designed, consciously so, to segregate and impoverish its black population.”

The Supreme Court held in Illinois v. Wardlow that flight in a high-crime area may constitute reasonable suspicion for an officer to briefly detain an individual and determine whether there is evidence of criminal activity.

After Miller and Nero handcuffed Gray, they put him in a prone position with his arms handcuffed behind his back. Gray said he couldn’t breathe and requested an inhaler, “to no avail,” according to Mosby.

The officers found a legal pocketknife in Gray’s pocket. But instead of releasing Gray, they put him back on his stomach and restrained him with a “leg lace” while waiting for the police wagon to transport him.

Miller and Nero loaded Gray into the wagon, which Officer Caesar Goodson drove. At no time was Gray secured by a seatbelt, in violation of Baltimore Police Department (BPD) policy. At Baker Street, Rice, Nero and Miller placed handcuffs and leg shackles on Gray. They then placed Gray on his stomach in the wagon, head first.

“Following transport from Baker Street,” Mosby said, “Mr. Gray suffered a severe and critical neck injury as a result of being handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained inside of the BPD wagon.”

Goodson stopped to check on Gray but “at no point did he seek nor did he render any medical assistance for Mr. Gray.” At another stop, Goodson and Officer William Porter went to the back of the wagon to check on Gray, who requested help, said he couldn’t breathe, and twice requested a medic. “At no point did either [Goodson or Porter] restrain Mr. Gray per BPD general order nor did they render or request medical assistance.”

“Despite Mr. Gray’s obvious and recognized need for medical assistance, Officer Goodson in a grossly negligent manner chose to respond to the 1600 block of West North Avenue with Mr. Gray still unsecured by a seatbelt in the wagon without rendering to or summoning medical assistance for Mr. Gray.”

During still another stop, Officer Alicia White, Porter and Goodson “observed Mr. Gray unresponsive on the floor of the wagon.” White, who was “responsible for investigating two citizen complaints pertaining to Mr. Gray’s illegal arrest spoke to the back of Mr. Gray’s head. When he did not respond, she did nothing further despite the fact that she was advised that he needed a medic. She made no effort to look or assess or determine his condition.”

“Despite Mr. Gray’s seriously deteriorating medical condition, no medical assistance was rendered or summoned for Mr. Gray at that time by any officer,” Mosby added.

Goodson failed to restrain Gray with a seatbelt at least five different times.

“By the time [officers] attempted to remove Mr. Gray from the wagon, Mr. Gray was no longer breathing at all.” A medic, who “was finally called to the scene,” determined that Gray “was now in cardiac arrest and was critically and severely injured,” Mosby stated.

Gray was finally “rushed” to the hospital where he underwent surgery and died seven days later.

The Maryland Medical Examiner concluded Gray’s death was a homicide, “believed to be the result of a fatal injury that occurred when Mr. Gray was unrestrained by a seatbelt in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department wagon.”

Mosby described multiple stops during which Gray was never secured by a seatbelt or provided with medical care. Almost one hour passed before he received any medical attention. The state’s attorney charged six Baltimore police officers as follows:

Goodson: second-degree depraved heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, second-degree negligent assault, manslaughter by vehicle by means of gross negligence, manslaughter by vehicle by means of criminal negligence, misconduct in office by failure to secure prisoner, failure to render aid.

Porter: involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office.

Rice: involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office, false imprisonment.

Nero: second-degree intentional assault, second-degree negligent assault, misconduct in office, false imprisonment.

Miller: second-degree intentional assault, second-degree negligent assault, misconduct in office, false imprisonment.

White: involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office.

In order to secure a conviction of second-degree depraved heart murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, the prosecutor must prove that Goodson killed Gray by acting with a conscious and extreme disregard of a very high risk to Gray’s life. Taking Gray on a “rough ride” while he his arms and legs were immobilized caused his death.

Two other men from Baltimore, Jeffrey Alston and Dondi Johnson, became paralyzed after riding in police vans in two separate cases. Alston settled his lawsuit for $6 million in 2004. Goodson should thus have been on notice of the very high risk to Gray’s life from his “rough ride.”

Professor Alan Dershowitz doubts that prosecutors could secure a conviction of Goodson for second-degree depraved heart murder because “Nobody wanted this guy to die, nobody set out to kill him, and nobody intentionally murdered him.” If Dershowitz were to read the Maryland statute, he would learn that second-degree depraved heart murder does not require the intent to kill.

To be convicted of involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum of 10 years, Goodson, Porter, Rice and White must have unintentionally caused the death of Gray while doing a negligent act or negligently failing to perform a legal duty. Failing to secure Gray with a seatbelt and get medical assistance for him constituted negligent acts, which caused Gray’s death. The officers had a legal duty to protect a prisoner in their custody.

Second-degree assault, which also carries a maximum sentence of 10 years, requires that the officers caused physical harm to Gray as the result of an intentional or reckless act. Failing to secure Gray with a seatbelt and get him medical assistance constituted acts intended to hurt him, causing physical harm (death) to Gray.

Preliminary hearings are scheduled for May 27, but prosecutors have 30 days from the date of the filing of charges to seek a grand jury indictment. There is ample evidence to support the charges against these officers. But whether they are indicted by a grand jury, and if so, ultimately convicted, remains to be seen.

Gray’s family certainly has a good section 1983 civil rights lawsuit for violation of Gray’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, and his Fifth Amendment right not to be deprived of his life or liberty without due process of law.

Sonja Sohn, who portrayed Detective Kima Greggs on The Wire, wrote in the New York Times, “there was a hopelessness on the streets of Baltimore that ran so deep that it seemed to have killed the spirit of the people.” She attributes the recent “violence” to a “public betrayal of trust” as well as “the culture of police brutality that was so pervasive that underserved Baltimoreans accepted it as a fact of life.”

When Mosby announced the charges against the officers who were complicit in Gray’s death, Sohn “sensed something lift. It is a break from the defeat I felt when I had to take a breather from my nonprofit [“ReWired for Change,” that served formerly incarcerated youth in Baltimore]. It’s a reprieve from the despair that I felt all those years ago, struggling to act in the reality of the Baltimore poor.”

The elation felt by hundreds of demonstrators in Baltimore was understandable. If the officers are indicted, they will be tried in a community in which the police have long enjoyed a culture of impunity. But Gray’s death took place in the context of killings of several unarmed black men, including Michael Brown and Eric Garner, by police in high-profile cases around the country.

This may give jurors pause when they consider whether the officers in Gray’s case could have committed these crimes.

Marjorie Cohn is a criminal defense attorney, professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and past president of the National Lawyers Guild. She is co-author of Cameras in the Courtroom: Television and the Pursuit of Justice.

Might Israel Ever Surrender Its Nukes?

Just as apartheid South Africa once secretly possessed nuclear weapons and vowed to hold down its black majority forever, Israel is approaching a crossroads where it must decide if it will accept Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza as citizens and then what to do with its nukes, a dilemma that Joe Lauria explores.

By Joe Lauria

Israel last week sent its first observer in 20 years to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference, which is held every five years at U.N. headquarters in New York. Israel, which is not a NPT member and has never confirmed that it possesses nuclear weapons, also has taken part in five rounds of negotiations in Geneva on establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.

However, the veil fell away for the world’s worst kept secret when the U.S. Defense Department recently released a document making it clear that Israel indeed has the bomb. A 1987 Pentagon document declassified in February unequivocally declares that Israel’s nuclear weapons program was then at the stage the U.S. had reached between 1955 and 1960. It also says Israel had the potential to develop hydrogen weapons.

The document was released just days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his highly controversial March 3 speech to a joint session of Congress in which he argued why Iran had to be stopped from getting the bomb. As the only nuclear power in the region, Israel has an unequaled strategic advantage.

There doesn’t appear to be any scenario in which Israel would willingly give up its nuclear arsenal to fulfill a 1995 Security Council resolution calling for a nuclear-free Middle East. Or is there?

The only country to ever voluntarily relinquish its nuclear weapons is apartheid South Africa. President F.W. de Klerk gave written instructions to that effect in February 1991 (the same month Nelson Mandela was released from prison). When he announced in March 1993 that Pretoria’s six, airplane-borne weapons had been dismantled, De Klerk said it was done to improve South Africa’s international relations. (It was also the first time South Africa had ever confirmed that it had the bomb).

De Klerk’s reason has not been entirely accepted by experts. Speculation has led to various theories. One was that with the Soviet Union gone, South Africa no longer needed its nuclear deterrent. Another was that it no longer needed the bomb as a means of blackmailing the U.S. to come to its defense.

One credible theory is that Pretoria saw the writing on the wall: apartheid was doomed and South Africa would soon be led by a black government. The apartheid rulers concluded that it would be better to ditch the bomb altogether rather than letting it fall into the hands of the African National Congress and possibly shared with other African governments.

A former South African diplomat was quoted as saying Pretoria was “motivated by concern that it didn’t want any undeclared nuclear material or infrastructure falling into the hands of Nelson Mandela.”

De Klerk had already scrapped apartheid laws and released Mandela by the time the bombs were dismantled. When he announced that the nukes had been destroyed, de Klerk said, “This country will never be able to get the nuclear device again, to build one again, because of the absolute network of inspection and prevention which being a member of the NPT casts on any country.”

The parallels between South Africa and Israel are on the rise. After Netanyahu renounced his support for a Palestinian state in the heat of the final days of his re-election campaign (only to try to reverse it immediately afterward), both the United States and the United Nations strongly implied that the alternative would be an apartheid Israel.

“A two-state solution is the only way for the next Israeli Government to secure Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” said Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, on March 18, the day after Netanyahu’s re-election. U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said the same day that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “firmly believes” that a two-state solution and an end to the settlements is “the only way forward for Israel to remain a democratic State.”

Not quite believing my ears, I asked Haq if what he meant was that the alternative was an apartheid Israel. “I’ve said what I said,” he responded.

While many critics of Israel say it is already running a de-facto apartheid system in its rule over 4 million Palestinians without rights, legal apartheid would come with annexation of the West Bank and Gaza. That appears to be the reason annexation has been resisted. But the longer a two-state solution remains a dream, the more a one-state solution becomes possible.

No less than two former Israeli prime ministers have said so. “As long as in this territory west of the Jordan River there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state,” said Ehud Barak in 2010.

Three years earlier, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, “If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.”

A former Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, Alon Liel, put it even more bluntly. “In the situation that exists today, until a Palestinian state is created, we are actually one state. This joint state, in the hope that the status quo is temporary, is an apartheid state.”

Without full Palestinian suffrage, Israel is increasingly facing a hostile international reaction. Israel fears the budding boycott, divestment and sanctions movement could grow to the scale of sanctions that pressed Pretoria to end apartheid.

A one-state solution, in which all Palestinians would have a vote, would almost certainly mean the election of a Palestinian government to rule both Arabs and Israelis, much as a black South African government rules blacks and whites. Despite its violent past, South African has shown how the communities could coexist.

It seems nearly inconceivable today that Israel would become a single state with a Palestinian Arab government. But it was once inconceivable that South Africa would be led by a black government. If that day of a peaceful transition to a single, democratic state to replace Israel should come, is it conceivable that Israeli leaders would allow their nuclear arsenal to be controlled by an Arab government?

Joe Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist based at the U.N. since 1990. He has written for the Boston Globe, the London Daily Telegraph, the Johannesburg Star, the Montreal Gazette, the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers. He can be reached  and followed on Twitter at @unjoe. [A version of this story originally appeared at Middle East Eye.]

Why Iran Must Be America’s Enemy

Though Iran is arguably the major regional bulwark against Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, the Saudi-Israeli alliance insists that Iran is the Mideast’s bête noire, so the Obama administration falls in line with that narrative even as it seeks a peaceful nuclear deal, as Gareth Porter explains.

By Gareth Porter

Since the start of the U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran, both Israeli and Saudi officials have indulged in highly publicized handwringing over their belief that such a nuclear deal would represent a fundamental strategic shift in U.S. policy towards the region at the expense of its traditional alliances with Israel and Saudi Arabia.

But the Obama administration is no more likely to lurch into a new relationship with Iran than were previous U.S. administrations. The reason is very simple: The U.S. national security state, which has the power to block any such initiative, has fundamental long-term interests in the continuation of the policy of treating Iran as an enemy.

Some in the Israeli camp have spun elaborate theories about how the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran represent a strategic vision of partnership with the Iranian regime. Typical of the genre is former Bush administration official Michael Doran’s speculation in February that President Barack Obama based his policy of outreach to Tehran on the assumption that Tehran and Washington are “natural allies”.

The Saudi response to the negotiations has been, if anything, even more extreme. Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former head of Saudi intelligence, who speaks more candidly in public than any other Saudi public figure, told an audience at London’s Chatham House last month, “The Americans and Iranians have been flirting with each other. Now it seems each side is anxious to get over the flirtation and get to the consummation.”

Behind the sexual metaphor lie Saudi fears of a “grand bargain” under which Iran would forgo nuclear weapons in return for ratification of Iranian hegemony over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and the Gulf. But these Israeli and Saudi imaginings are divorced from the reality of the Obama administration’s actual Iran policy.

Far from the Nixon-like fundamental strategic revision, as the Netanyahu camp and the Saudis have suggested, the Obama administration’s diplomatic engagement with Iran over its nuclear program represents a culmination of a series of improvised policy adjustments within an overall framework of coercive diplomacy towards Iran.

Despite Obama’s embrace of diplomatic engagement with Iran as a campaign issue in 2008, when he entered the White House his real Iran policy was quite different. In fact, Obama’s aim during his first term was to induce Iran to accept an end to its uranium enrichment program.

‘Unconditional Talks’

Even as Obama was offering “unconditional talks” with Iran in a letter to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2009, he was already pursuing a strategy of multiple pressures on Iran to agree to that U.S. demand.

Obama’s strategy of coercive diplomacy involved plans for more intrusive and punishing economic sanctions, a secret NSA program of cyber-attacks against the Natanz enrichment facility and political/diplomatic exploitation of the threat of an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities by the Netanyahu government in Israel.

Obama made no serious effort to negotiate with Iran until 2012, when he believed the new sanctions that were about to take effect would force Iran to agree to suspend enrichment indefinitely. He dropped that demand in 2013, only because Iran had increased the number of centrifuges in operation from 4,000 to 10,000 and had begun enriching to 20 percent.

Since the beginning of the negotiations, moreover, senior administration officials have repeatedly affirmed the policy of treating Iran as a state sponsor or terrorism and a “troublemaker” and destabilizing factor in the Middle East.

In his April 7 interview with National Public Radio, Obama said, “I’ve been very forceful in saying that our differences with Iran don’t change if we make sure that they don’t have a nuclear weapon – they’re still going to be financing Hezbollah, they’re still supporting Assad dropping barrel bombs on children, they are still sending arms to the Houthis in Yemen that have helped destabilize the country.”

At a deeper level, the most important factor in determining the policy of the U.S. towards Iran is domestic electoral and bureaucratic politics – not Obama’s personal geopolitical vision of the Middle East. The power of the Israeli lobby obviously will severely limit policy flexibility towards Iran for many years. And the interests of the most powerful institutions in the U.S. national security state remain tied to a continuation of the policy of treating Iran as the premier enemy of the U.S.

Bigger Bonanza

Since 2002 the U.S. Defense Department has spent roughly $100 billion on missile defense, most of which goes directly to its major military contractor allies. That bonanza depends largely on the idea that Iran is intent on threatening the U.S. and its allies with ballistic missiles.

But an even bigger bonanza for the U.S. arms industry is at stake. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf regimes in the anti-Iran alliance have been pouring big money into Pentagon arms contractor coffers for years. A deal with Saudi Arabia for fighter planes and missile defense technology first announced in 2010 was expected to yield $100 billion to $150 billion in procurement and service contracts over two decades. And that tsunami of money from the Gulf depends on identifying Iran as a military threat to the entire region.

These sales are now integral to the health of the leading U.S. military contractors. Lockheed, for example, now depends on foreign sales for as much as 25 to 33 percent of its revenue, according to the Times story.

So the Israeli and Saudi fear of a supposed Obama shift in alliances doesn’t reflect fundamental domestic U.S. political realities that are not likely to change for the foreseeable future.

Gareth Porter is an investigative journalist and historian specializing in US national security policy. [This article first appeared at ]

WPost Blames Obama for Syrian Mess

Exclusive: As Al-Qaeda forces advance in Syria with the help of the Saudi-Israeli alliance  American neocons are shielding themselves from the blame if Damascus falls to the jihadists by preemptively faulting President Obama for not intervening for “regime change” earlier, Robert Parry reports.

By Robert Parry

For the past two decades, American neocons and Israeli hard-liners have targeted Syria for “regime change,” a dream that may be finally coming true, albeit with the nightmarish ending of Al-Qaeda or maybe the Islamic State emerging as the likely winners.

Such an outcome would be disastrous for the millions of Syrian Shiites, Alawites, secular Sunnis and Christians, including descendants of survivors of Turkey’s Armenian genocide a century ago. They would all face harsh repression or, possibly, mass decapitations. An Al-Qaeda/Islamic State victory also would be a major problem for the United States and the West, which would have to choose between a terror central in the center of the Middle East or a military invasion.

So, what we’re now seeing in Official Washington is the beginning of a neocon finger-pointing narrative that promotes the theme that if President Barack Obama had only armed and trained “moderate” rebels and bombed the Syrian military (to create “safe zones” or to punish the government for its alleged use of sarin gas), everything would have worked out just fine.

The reality is far different. Indeed, the neocon baiting of Obama to engage more deeply in Syria was much like the incremental steps that preceded U.S. “regime changes” in Iraq and Libya. First comes the “humanitarian” propaganda portraying the opposition as entirely noble, then there are increasingly coercive demands of the sitting government, followed by military threats and clashes over “no-fly zones,” setting the stage for a violent “regime change” and the murder of the leaders, before the countries descend into bloody chaos as brutal jihadists seize large swaths of territory.

Obama chose not to go down that path in Syria, but he accepted the neocon narrative about the white-hatted “moderate” rebels and black-hatted “evil” government, putting him in a position of calling for “regime change” while dragging his feet on the military component. The reality, as Obama explained to New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman in August 2014, was that the idea that a “moderate” rebel force could achieve much was “always a fantasy.”

The only rational course in Syria and, indeed, in Iraq and Libya would have been to promote realistic negotiations between the existing regime and its political opposition, not simply demands for the government’s capitulation and the leaders, in effect, to sign a suicide pact. Genuine efforts to achieve power-sharing or at least a more diverse governing structure would be imperfect but potentially the most reasonable solution to a fractured society.

While neocons and their “liberal interventionist” allies would surely find such an alternative unacceptable, even laughable, these same political actors are selective in their moral outrage. They never seem to seek “regime change” in the corrupt Persian Gulf monarchies, such as Saudi Arabia, nor do they press very hard for Israel to stop the oppression of Palestinians.

But today’s immediate concern for the neocons is to create a framework for the “who lost Syria” blame-game that would surely follow the collapse of the secular government of Bashar al-Assad and its replacement by a coalition of Sunni jihadists led by Al-Qaeda’s affiliate Nusra Front. Since the neocons still dominate the opinion circles of Official Washington, it’s important to get everyone into a “group think” that blames Obama for not intervening militarily earlier.

Making the Case

Thus, The Washington Post, which has become the neocons’ media flagship, launched this narrative shaping on Sunday with a lead editorial that cheered on the rebel advances, which were made possible by new supplies of advanced U.S. weaponry from Saudi Arabia and other hard-line Sunni states. [See’s “Climbing into Bed with Al-Qaeda.”]

While excited about the prospects for the neocons’ long-desired “regime change,” the Post noted “it could also lead to disaster, if the crumbling regime is replaced by the jihadist forces of the Islamic State or al-Qaeda, as already occurred in eastern Syria.”

The Post then lashed out at President Obama for his failure to do more on the “regime change” front. “Though it is sponsoring military training for a few thousand Syrians, the Pentagon won’t commit to defending them if they are attacked by the Assad forces. Mr. Obama continues to turn aside proposals for a safe zone in northern Syria where moderate political forces could organize; he ignores the Assad regime’s renewed usage of chemical weapons such as chlorine gas.”

Not that the Post would ever think of showing journalistic fairness by including a denial from the Syrian government, but the regime does deny using chlorine gas and the charge is curious since the cited incidents reveal the allegedly crude chlorine bombs to be largely ineffective in killing enemy combatants. Why the Syrian regime after surrendering its entire chemical weapons arsenal would invite international condemnation for the militarily insignificant use of chlorine is hard to explain, but it has become a top neocon propaganda point.

The Post continues with its blame-Obama editorial: “One consequence of this fecklessness has been the defection of Syrian fighters to jihadist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda. Another has been the apparent decision by Saudi Arabia’s new leadership to join with Turkey in providing new support to rebel groups, rather than continuing to wait for U.S. leadership.

“The rebel advances in northern Syria have been made by a coalition including Jabhat al-Nusra and more moderate factions. Though the Islamists say they will not impose their rule on the captured provincial capital, Idlib, they offer a unpalatable political alternative for the majority of Syrians and for the West. it’s clear that a moderate and credible alternative is desperately needed.

“One big reason previous U.S. efforts to foster one have failed is that it has been impossible for civilian opposition leaders to base themselves and organize inside the country. That’s why a U.S.-backed safe zone, along with an expanded military training program, is needed: not to intervene in the civil war but to make an acceptable solution to it possible. A continued refusal by Mr. Obama to act will only increase the chance that as the Assad regime loses ground, that held by terrorists will expand.”

What the Post leaves out is that to establish a rebel “safe zone” or a “no-fly zone” would require a significant U.S. military intervention to first destroy the Syrian air defenses and then the government’s air force. That, in turn, would allow new offensives by Sunni jihadists, who are the most effective and motivated rebel fighters. They have also subsumed many of the “moderate” rebels who have received U.S. military training and weapons.

The real flaw in Obama’s strategy was his unwillingness to engage in give-and-take negotiations with the Assad regime and its Iranian allies. In the last round of talks a year ago, neocon pressure in Washington forced Secretary of State John Kerry to exclude Iran and transformed the “negotiations” into another round of demands that Assad and his supporters capitulate.

With Saudi Arabia and other Sunni hard-line states now supplying Al-Qaeda fighters with highly accurate TOW missiles and other advanced U.S. military equipment, the prospects for a political resolution of the Syrian civil war appear even dimmer. Even if the Assad regime and the so-called “moderates” could reach an agreement, why would the well-armed and well-funded Sunni extremists accept it?

And with Israel indicating that its primary goal is to overthrow Assad and thus hit back at Iran even if that means a victory by Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State the U.S. political/media opinion circles will continue to push the “Assad must go” theme. But what Official Washington seems most concerned about right now is to make sure that — if Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State wins — Obama gets the blame.

[For more on this topic, see’s “Did Money Seal Israeli-Saudi Alliance?”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

Letting Scientific Knowledge into Religion

Ancient religions used myths to explain the mysteries of the universe to primitive people, making up stories that modern humans know to be imaginative but false. The problem, however, is that many people still anchor their world views in these old fables, as Rev. Howard Bess describes.

By the Rev. Howard Bess

The writers of the Bible material had a very primitive understanding of the world and the universe. They did not grasp that the world circled the sun and was spinning constantly. They had no understanding of a universe that was a part of a much larger galaxy that was only one of millions of galaxies.

Writers of Bible material observed the earth and the heavens and were understandably in awe. However, we now know that what they saw was completely beyond their understanding. These special writers had no idea at what they were looking. They came to conclusions about the God of all things based on primitive and incorrect understandings of nature.

Scientific research has pushed far ahead of ancient misunderstandings. Our present scientific knowledge of the expanses of space has left the earth a tiny dot that hosts humbled human beings, who at one time thought the “heavens and the earth” were a commentary about the God who created all things and who continues to have significant control over all things.

This “natural” theology took its place alongside “special” revelations that came through great prophets such as Moses, Abraham, Isaiah and finally Jesus, the common man’s rabbi from Nazareth. Science has brought us new understandings and conclusions about this planet on which we live and the universe that hosts our world.

Unfortunately, many Christians refuse to acknowledge this radical new kid in our intellectual neighborhood.

Does modern science have room for a personal God who loves and cares for us all? If so, are scientific discoveries a reliable commentary on the God of all things? In my ponderings about my Christian faith, I have not been able to sidestep these questions. I firmly believe science and Christian faith can walk hand in hand, though that requires science and Christian faith to listen to one another. I have made a commitment to listen to what scientists are saying.

Scientists have reached two tentative conclusions that impact our conversation. The first is that “nothing is fixed.” All things are in motion; all things are evolving, including human beings. Human beings are not the product of a single creative act by an all-powerful God, rather human beings are always becoming, always arriving. What human beings have become is the result of a long process, which is continuing.

The work of Charles Darwin on biological evolution forced a discussion in Christian theology that will not go away. Alfred North Whitehead took evolution into the world of philosophy. Charles Hartshorne moved the discussion to theology, writing: “Everything, including God, is ceaselessly changing in a dynamic process of creative advance that will never end.”

John Cobb Jr. took up the mantel of Hartshorne and taught for many years at the Claremont School of Theology, which has embraced the exploration of “process” theology more than any other Christian seminary. He forced the subject of process into the curriculum of almost every U.S. seminary. Christianity in an educated world cannot long avoid the scientific adventure with process.

The second conclusion of science is that there is no beginning and there will be no end. I was first faced with the folly of THE beginning by Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish existential theologian. To Kierkegaard a beginning was not relevant. Only the moment was important. He mused, “Beware of the person who says he has found the beginning. He has not found the beginning. He got tired.”

Scientists are now describing the outer limits of space in terms of millions of light years and still expanding at accelerating speeds. Thus, beginnings and endings are no longer relevant concepts. Yet, the Bible writings have a lot of materials about beginnings and endings, and Christian theology offers a widely accepted framework in linear time that has a beginning and an end.

Beyond God creating the heavens and earth in seven days, some Christian churches are filled with “end times” theology. This kind of thinking is terribly outdated and irrelevant in the light of modern science.

What kind of theology can relate to science that embraces life that is never static and always in process? How does theology relate to life that has no beginning and no ending? Science continues to have a great void that scientists can never fill.

What is the meaning of the enormous volumes of facts that are being gathered? The scientist has a desperate need to make sense of their discoveries, and my own Christianity has a desperate need for an honest environment in which to find the full and meaningful life.

When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment he responded with two laws that are begging for embrace. Love God and love neighbor. I find no conflict with our faith’s fundamentals and our search for understanding our living context. I suspect that science is in its infancy. Theology and faith need to be seen as an ongoing, every day joyful experience.

Life is fun and rich when we get religious people and scientists on the same dance floor.

The Rev. Howard Bess is a retired American Baptist minister, who lives in Palmer, Alaska.  His email address is