The Meaning of ‘Humanitarian Aid’

A poem by the late Salvadoran radical Roque Dalton helps to clarify what is going on in Venezuela, writes Vijay Prashad. 

By Vijay Prashad
Tricontinental: Institute
for Social Research

As the United States and its allies put pressure on Venezuela, a poem by the Salvadoran radical Roque Dalton (1935-1975) clarifies the structure of politics in Latin America.

Dalton came from one of Latin America’s smallest countries, El Salvador, which he used to call the little finger (pulgarcito). A deeply compassionate poet, Dalton was also a militant of the People’s Revolutionary Army, whose internal struggles claimed his short life. El Salvador, like so many other Latin American states, struggles to carve out its sovereignty from the tentacles of U.S. power. That hideous Monroe Doctrine (1823) seemed to give the U.S. the presumption that it has power over the entire hemisphere; “our backyard” being the colloquial phrase. People like Dalton fought to end that assumption. They wanted their countries to be governed by and for their own people – an elementary part of the idea of democracy. It has been a hard struggle.

Dalton wrote a powerful poem – OAS – named for the Organization of American States (founded in 1948). It is a poem that acidly catalogues how democracy is a farce in Latin America.

The president of my country
for the time being is Colonel Fidel Sanchez Hernandez
but General Somoza, president of Nicaragua
is also the president of my country.
And General Stroessner, president of Paraguay,
is also kind of the president of my country, though not as
much as the president of Honduras,
General Lopez Arellano, but more so than the president of Haiti,
Monsieur Duvalier.
And the president of the United States is more the president of my country
Than is the president of my country,
The one whose name, as I said,
is Colonel Fidel Sanchez Hernandez, for the time being.

Is the president of Venezuela the president of Venezuela or is the president of the United States the president of Venezuela? There is absurdity here.

Collapsed oil prices, reliance upon oil revenues, an economic war by the United States and complications in raising finances has led to hyperinflation and to an economic crisis in Venezuela. To deny that is to deny reality. But there is a vast difference between an economic crisis and a humanitarian crisis.

Most of the countries on the planet are facing an economic crisis, with public finances in serious trouble and with enormous debt problems plaguing governments in all the continents. This year’s meeting of the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, focused attention on the global debt crisis – from the near-trillion-dollar deficit of the United States to the debt burdens of Italy. The IMF’s David Lipton warned that if interest rates were to rise, the problem would escalate. “There are pockets of debt held by companies and countries that really don’t have much servicing capacity, and I think that’s going to be a problem.”

Hyper-inflation is a serious problem, but punitive economic sanctions, seizure of billions of dollars of overseas assets and threats of war are not going to save the undermined Bolivar, Venezuela’s currency.

Eradication of hunger has to be the basic policy of any government. According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, 11.7 percent of the Venezuelan people are hungry. Hunger rates in other parts of the world are much higher – 31.4 percent in Eastern Africa. But the world’s attention has not been focused on this severe crisis, one that has partly generated the massive migration across the Mediterranean Sea.

The picture above, is from the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where – in 2015 – activists laid out the 17,306 names of people who have died attempting that crossing (the number is now close to 40,000 drowned). Members of the European parliament had to walk to their session over these names. They are harsh in their attitude to start a war against Venezuela, but cavalier about the serious crises in Africa and Asia that keep the flow of migrants steady.

Venezuela’s Anti-Hunger Programs

The government of Venezuela has two programs to tackle the problem of hunger:

  1. Comité Local de Abastecimiento y Producción (CLAP). The Local Committees for Supply and Production are made up of local neighborhood groups who grow food and who receive food from agricultural producers. They distribute this food to about 6 million families at very low cost. Currently, the CLAP boxes are being sent to households every 15 days.
  2. Plan de Atención a la Vulnerabilidad Nutricional. The most vulnerable of Venezuelans – 620,000 of them – receive assistance. The National Institute of Nutrition has been coordinating the delivery of food to a majority of the country’s municipalities.

These are useful, but insufficient. More needs to be done. That is clear. Through CLAP, the Venezuelan government distributes about 50,000 tons of food per month. The “humanitarian aid” that the U.S. has promised amounts to $20 million – which would purchase a measly 60 tons of food.

On the issue of “humanitarian aid” to Venezuela, the international media has become the stenographers of the U.S. State Department and the CIA. It focuses on the false claims made by the U.S. government that it wants to deliver aid, which the Venezuelans refuse. The media does not look at the facts, even at this fact – that $20 million is a humiliating gesture, an amount intended to be used to establish the heartlessness of the government in Venezuela and therefore seek to overthrow it by any means necessary. This is what the U.S. government did in the Dominican Republic in 1965, sending in humanitarian aid accompanied by US marines.


Vijay Prashad responds to U.S. economic squeeze on Venezuela on Democracy Now.  


The U.S. has used military aircrafts to bring in this modest aid, driven it to a warehouse and then said that the Venezuelans are not prepared to open an unused bridge for it. The entire process is political theatre. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio went to that bridge – which has never been opened – to say in a threatening way that the aid “is going to get through” to Venezuela one way or another. These are words that threaten the sovereignty of Venezuela and build up the energy for a military attack. There is nothing humanitarian here.

The term “humanitarian” has been shredded of its meaning. It has now come to mean a pretext for the destruction of countries. “Humanitarian intervention” was the term used to destroy Libya; “humanitarian aid” is being used to beat the drum for a war against Venezuela.

Meanwhile, we forget the humanitarian solidarity offered by the Venezuelan government to the poorer nations and to poorer populations. Why is Haiti on fire now? It had received reduced-price oil from Venezuela by the PetroCaribe scheme (set up in 2005). A decade ago, Venezuela offered the Caribbean islands oil on very favorable terms so that they would not be the quarry of monopoly oil firms and the IMF.

The economic war against Venezuela has meant a decline in PetroCaribe. Now the IMF has returned to demand that oil subsidies end, and monopoly oil firms have returned to demand cash payments before delivery. Haiti’s government was forced to vote against Venezuela in the OAS. That is why the country is aflame. If you don’t let us breathe, say the Haitian people, we won’t let you breathe.

In 2005, the same year as Venezuela set up the PetroCaribe scheme, it created the PetroBronx scheme in New York. Terrible poverty in the South Bronx galvanized community groups such as Rebel Diaz Arts Collective, Green Youth Cooperative, Bronx Arts and Dance, and Mothers on the Move.

They worked with CITGO, the Venezuelan government’s U.S. oil subsidiary to develop a cooperative mechanism to get heating oil to the people.

Ana Maldonado, a sociologist who is now with the Frente Francisco de Miranda (Venezuela), was one of the participants in the PetroBronx scheme. She and her friends created the North Star to be a community organization that helped deliver the resources to the very poorest people in the United States. “People had to wear their coats inside their homes during the winter,” she told me. That was intolerable. That is why Venezuela provided the poor in the United States with subsidized heating oil.

The South Bronx and Harlem, the privations produced by racism – all this is familiar territory in Latin America.

In 1960, Fidel Castro came to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly. He was refused a hotel in the city. Malcolm X, a leader of the African American community, came to his aid, bringing the Cuban delegation to Harlem’s Hotel Theresa, whose owner – Love B. Woods – warmly welcomed Fidel and his comrades. Four years later, at a meeting in Harlem, Malcolm X said in connection with his meeting with Fidel, “Don’t let somebody else tell us who our enemies should be and who our friends should be.”

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, journalist, commentator and a Marxist intellectual. He is the executive director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and the chief editor of LeftWord Books.


Malcolm X Warned About These Bourgeois Hustlers

Barack Obama was not an outlier but the norm when it comes to the tokens who are paraded by Democrats to represent faux-progress and counterfeit diversity and Kamala Harris is the next in line, says Teodrose Fikre of the Ghion Journal.

By Teodrose Fikre
Ghion Journal

Growing up, one of my biggest heroes and the person I wanted to emulate when I got older was Malcolm X. This was during my time of militancy and youthful rebellion, when I thought the only way to arrive at justice was through a revolution. The insurgent within me was captivated by Malcolm X’s take no prisoner approach and the way he spoke harsh truths to the status quo.

It was not until I matured and learned through hardship and indigence that I realized Malcolm X’s power was not his fiery rhetoric but his unifying message after returning from Mecca. However, as much as I’ve become an admirer of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz’s latter days, there are still aspects of his earlier reflections that ring true given the times we live in.

What I’m referring to are not his blistering speeches where he would call “white” people devils or his addresses where he echoed the teachings of Elijah Muhammad—Malcolm X himself walked away from that type of demagoguery. Rather, what intrigued me the most was his dissection of the political and social dynamics that kept “black” folks subjugated.

To this day, one of the most compelling arguments that Malcolm X made about the evils of both political parties is found in a speech he gave about the political and economic state of “black” America. He brilliantly exposed the false-distinction between Democrats and Republicans as a choice between the lesser of the same evil.

“Foxes and wolves usually are of the same breed. They belong to the same family—I think it’s called canine. And the difference is that the wolf when he shows you his teeth, you know that he’s your enemy; and the fox, when he shows you his teeth, he appears to be smiling. But no matter which of them you go with, you end up in the dog house.”

It took a mean mugging by reality—one that shook me out of cognitive dissonance—for me to realize that Democrats are no different than Republicans. They differ in their methods, but in the end they feast on us regardless of their gang affiliation. Both parties are subsidiaries of corporations and oligarchs; our entire political system is based on two factions bamboozling their respective bases while manufacturing dissension on all sides.

Gone When They Get Your Vote

Now that I’ve shed my political blinders, I see how this game is played. I’ll be honest here and admit that Democrats irritate me more than Republicans for this one simple reason. I’ve come to expect Republicans to be malicious—there is honesty in their advertisement. However, it’s the Democrats who smile like foxes as they pretend to be our allies only to stab us in our backs the minute they get elected. They have maintained power for decades by successfully treading on the pains of marginalized groups as they concurrently enact legislation and regulations that inflame the very injustices they rail against.

If there is one group that has been leveraged the most by Democrats, it’s the descendants of slaves and “black” diaspora as a whole. For generations, supposed liberals—who now call themselves progressives—have cunningly used the pains of “African-Americans” to further their own agendas. The Democrat’s most loyal voting bloc have time and time again been taken advantage of only to be tossed to the side as soon as Democrats gain power. They talk a good game and pretend to be for us right up until election day, soon as the last ballot is counted, they are nowhere to be found.

It’s on this front that another observation by Malcolm X comes into clear focus. One of the things that really grabbed my attention while I was reading his autobiography is the way Malcolm described the dynamic between the impoverished masses and the black bourgeoisie during the Civil Rights Era.

“There are two types of Negroes in this country. There’s the bourgeois type who blinds himself to the condition of his people, and who is satisfied with token solutions. He’s in the minority. He’s a handful. He’s usually the hand-picked Negro who benefits from token integration. But [it’s the] masses of Black people who really suffer the brunt of brutality and the conditions that exist in this country.”

What Malcolm X was describing was the class hierarchy within the construct of race. He railed against the select few “negroes” who willingly stepped on their own people in order to advance their own selfish ambitions. Malcolm X was against integration for this reason; he realized that a modification of a racist system that benefits a fraction of society while keeping the majority repressed was morally bankrupt. This same realization eventually dawned on Martin Luther King Jr when he confided to his closest advisers that he might have “integrated his people into a burning house.”

Fast forward fifty years and it’s evident that the bourgeoisie “negroes” who Malcolm X talked about have been unleashed by the establishment to work against the interests of their people. As the majority of “African-Americans” suffer economic inequalities and are burdened by financial uncertainties, black politicians, pundits and so-called “activists” are enriching themselves while they pretend to be fighting injustice.

Forget Plymouth Rock, the biggest hoodwink of them all that landed on us was a boulder named Barack. After losing a Congressional primary to Bobby Rush in 2000, Obama’s inner circle realized that he was not embraced by “African-Americans” in Chicago because many did not see him as one of them. He quickly adapted and learned the art of duplicity; Obama perfected his ability to talk eloquently about our issues and suffering as a means to an end. The end was his unabated ego. After he scaled the heights of politics, he ended up enacting policies that exacerbated the wealth gap. For his brazen act of betrayal, Obama was rewarded handsomely.

The Audacity of Trope

Barack Obama was not an outlier but the norm when it comes to the tokens who are paraded by Democrats to represent faux-progress and counterfeit diversity. Kamala Harris is the next black bourgeoisie in line who is hoping to use the plight of African-Americans and the tribulations of “black” folk to win the White House. After spending a career locking up brown and “black” folk with impunity and resurrecting the ugly legacy of penal slavery, she is now shamelessly pretending to be the next coming of Sojourner Truth—hers is the audacity of trope.

Given the fact that too many are conditioned to think in binary fashion, I must take a pause here to clarify one thing. This is in no way to excuse the pernicious nature of Republicans and the vile racism of Donald Trump. After all, not only are Republicans insidious when it comes to the way they treat “African-Americans” and minorities as a whole, the party of Trump uses the same playbook of feigned concern to dupe their respective side. However, the more I observe the rank opportunism of the Democrat front-runners, the more I appreciate the sagacity of Malcolm X.

It’s not only politicians like Barack Obama and Kamala Harris who traffic in this most insincere form of paternalism, there is a whole cottage industry of black opinion leaders and gate-keepers who actively work against our interests while passively speaking against injustice. They abound on TV, in the press and throughout social media; the surest way to make a name for oneself is to be a part of the “woke” intelligentsia who lull their people into collective comas.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that these same bourgeoisie mouthpieces are not only using the pains of the oppressed to advance themselves, they are now employing the injuries of the masses to deflect well-deserved criticism. Identity has been weaponized, instead of addressing the structural nature of racism and sexism, folks like Kamala Harris, Hillary Clinton and identity politics shysters across the political spectrum are turning the victims of systematic oppression into human shields to intimidate anyone who dares to question their record. Enough is enough!

The Talented Tenth

There is a broader problem beyond these two-faced grifters. The truth is that the “black” community has become bifurcated; the bourgeoisie class feeling the blessings of capitalism and enterprise while the vast majority are burdened by consumerism and debt. DuBois once talked about the “talented tenth”, an educated sector of blacks leading the bottom 90% out of bondage. Sadly, the talented tenth has been convinced to seek self-enrichment and forget about collective wellness.

What is true of “African-Americans” is true of society as a whole. In this richest nation, there exists a breathtaking chasm between the few who have much and the many who have little. Keeping this dynamic in place is a pyramid scheme that transfers wealth upward being kept by the greed of politicians and the indifference of the proletariat. We are being swindled by hustlers to keep this most depraved system intact.

I don’t expect leaders to be perfect, very few of us are guilt free when it comes to the iniquities of the status quo. We all have have our battles as we vacillate between our better angels and the allure of our desires. All we can do in life is seek to do better; after all, Malcolm X’s very narrative is one of mistakes followed by atonement. My aim is not to be pious nor pretend purity from people, I have way too many planks in my eyes to demand others act blameless. However, there is a vast difference between those who perpetrate infringements by commission versus the rest of us who transgress through omission.

I would be the first person to applaud Harris, Obama, Trump or any politician who sincerely admit their mistakes and try to make amends. Far from doing so, these con artists pretend to do the right thing as they pour fuel on the fire. There is a reason why hypocrisy is the most egregious sin; it’s hard to be forgiven when the offender is lying about his penance.

Malcolm X is painted by many in mainstream media and academia as a firebrand who preached from the pulpit of exclusion. But those who know his history understand very well that who he was when his journey concluded was vastly different than the caricature of Malcolm X that is presented by the institutions of power he spoke against. It never fails, first kill the messengers then co-opt their message. The truth is that he changed his approach, disavowed divisive rhetoric and embraced inclusive justice.

These were the words uttered by Malcolm X as he spoke against the system of inequality that shackles billions around our planet into lives of servitude and bondage. His decision to pivot from friction and instead seek the light of universal justice is the reason why he was silenced, the status quo rewards charlatans but has a way of killing off unifying voices.

On this front, the status quo has succeeded beyond its wildest imagination. We are now being led by a procession of overseers who pretend to be Moses. This hustle will not work too much longer however, more and more people are waking up to their deception and refusing to be doormats of Democrats, Republicans or anyone else. If we are to find redemption, it will not be from the top nor will the revolution be televised.

As I noted earlier, I’ve come a long way from my days of would-be revolutionary. Malcolm X had an eye-awakening moment in Mecca upon seeing a broad sea of humanity praying in unison. I had my mecca moment by way of shelters and homeless missions and observing a diverse dissection of Americans made invisible by the malice of the gentry and the indifference of society. It’s for this reason that I disavow sectional movements and pray for a day where all of us unite beyond our trivial differences. We have more that unites us than the issues that divide us; when we realize this is the day we will get the change we all have been waiting for. The revolution that matters is not the one of the gun but the one our hearts.

Teodrose Fikre is the editor and founder of the Ghion Journal. A published author and prolific writer, a once defense consultant was profoundly changed by a two year journey of hardship and struggle. Going from a life of upper-middle class privilege to a time spent with the huddled masses taught Teodrose a valuable lesson in the essence of togetherness and the need to speak against injustice. Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama’s South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses.

A Call to Reinvestigate American Assassinations

To mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day a group of academics, journalists, lawyers, Hollywood artists, activists, researchers and intellectuals, including two of Robert F. Kennedy’s children, are calling for  reinvestigation of four assassinations of the 1960s.

On the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a group of over 60 prominent American citizens is calling upon Congress to reopen the investigations into the assassinations of President John F. KennedyMalcolm XMartin Luther King Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Signers of the joint statement include Isaac Newton Farris Jr., nephew of Reverend King and past president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Reverend James M. Lawson Jr., a close collaborator of Reverend King; and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, children of the late senator. The declaration is also signed by numerous historians, journalists, lawyers and other experts on the four major assassinations. 

Other signatories include G. Robert Blakey, the chief counsel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which determined in 1979 that President Kennedy was the victim of a probable conspiracy; Dr. Robert McClelland, one of the surgeons at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas who tried to save President Kennedy’s life and saw clear evidence he had been struck by bullets from the front and the rear; Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower who served as a national security advisor to the Kennedy White House; Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and a leading global authority on human rights; Hollywood artists Alec BaldwinMartin SheenRob Reiner and Oliver Stone; political satirist Mort Sahl; and musician David Crosby.

The joint statement calls for Congress to establish firm oversight on the release of all government documents related to the Kennedy presidency and assassination, as mandated by the JFK Records Collection Act of 1992. This public transparency law has been routinely defied by the CIA and other federal agencies. The Trump White House has allowed the CIA to continue its defiance of the law, even though the JFK Records Act called for the full release of relevant documents in 2017.

The group statement also calls for a public inquest into “the four major  assassinations of the 1960s that together had a disastrous impact on the course of American history.” This tribunal – which would hear testimony from living witnesses, legal experts, investigative journalists, historians and family members of the victims – would be modeled on the Truth and Reconciliation hearings held in South Africa after the fall of apartheid. This American Truth and Reconciliation process is intended to encourage Congress or the Justice Department to reopen investigations into all four organized acts of political violence.

Signers of the joint statement, who call themselves the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, are also seeking to reopen the Robert F. Kennedy assassination case, stating that Sirhan Sirhan’s conviction was based on “a mockery of a trial.” The forensic evidence alone, observes the statement, demonstrates that Sirhan did not fire the fatal shot that killed Senator Kennedy – a conclusion reached by, among others, Dr. Thomas Noguchi, the Los Angeles County Coroner who performed the official autopsy on RFK.

The joint statement — which was co-written by Adam Walinsky, a speechwriter and top aide of Senator Kennedy — declares that these

“Four major political murders traumatized American life in the 1960s and cast a shadow over the country for decades thereafter. John F. KennedyMalcolm XMartin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were each in his own unique way attempting to turn the United States away from war toward disarmament and peace, away from domestic violence and division toward civil amity and justice. Their killings were together a savage, concerted assault on American democracy and the tragic consequences of these assassinations still haunt our nation.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Committee views its joint statement as the opening of a long campaign aimed at shining a light on dark national secrets. As the public transparency campaign proceeds, citizens across the country will be encouraged to add their names to the petition. The national effort seeks to confront the forces behind America’s democratic decline, a reign of secretive power that long precedes the recent rise of authoritarianism. “The organized killing of JFK, Malcolm, Martin, and RFK was a mortal attack on our democracy,” said historian James W. Douglass, author of JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters (2010). “We’ve been walking in the valley of the dead ever since. Our campaign is all about recovering the truth embodied in the movement they led. Yes, the transforming, reconciling power of truth will indeed set us free.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s Calls for Action:

*  We call upon Congress to establish continuing oversight on the release of government documents related to the presidency and assassination of President John F. Kennedy, to ensure public transparency as mandated by the JFK Records Collection Act of 1992. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform should hold hearings on the Trump administration’s failure to enforce the JFK Records Act.

*  We call for a major public inquest on the four major assassinations of the 1960s that together had a disastrous impact on the course of American history: the murders of John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. This public tribunal, shining a light on this dark chapter of our history, will be modeled on the Truth and Reconciliation process in post-apartheid South Africa. The inquest — which will hear testimony from living witnesses, legal experts, investigative journalists, historians and family members of the victims — is intended to show the need for Congress or the Justice Department to reopen investigations into all four assassinations.

* On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we call for a full investigation of Reverend King’s assassination. The conviction of James Earl Ray for the crime has steadily lost credibility over the years, with a 1999 civil trial brought by Reverend King’s family placing blame on government agencies and organized crime elements. Following the verdict, Coretta Scott King, the slain leader’s widow, stated: “There is abundant evidence of a major, high-level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband.” The jury in the Memphis trial determined that various federal, state and local agencies “were deeply involved in the assassination … Mr. Ray was set up to take the blame.” Reverend King’s assassination was the culmination of years of mounting surveillance and harassment directed at the human rights leader by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI and other agencies.

*  We call for a full investigation of the Robert F. Kennedy assassination case, the prosecution of which was a mockery of a trial that has been demolished by numerous eyewitnesses, investigators and experts — including former Los Angeles County Coroner Dr. Thomas Noguchi, who performed the official autopsy on Senator Kennedy. The forensic evidence alone establishes that the shots fired by Sirhan Sirhan from in front of Senator Kennedy did not kill him; the fatal shot that struck RFK in the head was fired at point–blank range from the rear. Consequently, the case should be reopened for a new comprehensive investigation while there are still living witnesses — as there are in all four assassination cases.

A Joint Statement on the Kennedy, King and
Malcolm X Assassinations and Ongoing Cover-ups:

1. As the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded in 1979, President John F. Kennedy was probably killed as the result of a conspiracy.

2. In the four decades since this Congressional finding, a massive amount of evidence compiled by journalists, historians and independent researchers confirms this conclusion. This growing body of evidence strongly indicates that the conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy was organized at high levels of the U.S. power structure, and was implemented by top elements of the U.S. national security apparatus using, among others, figures in the criminal underworld to help carry out the crime and cover-up.

3. This stunning conclusion was also reached by the president’s own brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who himself was assassinated in 1968 while running for president – after telling close aides that he intended to reopen the investigation into his brother’s murder if he won the election.

4. President Kennedy’s administration was badly fractured over his efforts to end the Cold War, including his back-channel peace feelers to the Soviet Union and Cuba and his plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Vietnam after the 1964 presidential election.

5. President Kennedy has long been portrayed as a Cold War hawk, but this grossly inaccurate view has been strongly challenged over the years by revisionist historians and researchers, who have demonstrated that Kennedy was frequently at odds with his own generals and espionage officials. This revisionist interpretation of the Kennedy presidency is now widely embraced, even by mainstream Kennedy biographers.

6. The official investigation into the JFK assassination immediately fell under the control of U.S. security agencies, ensuring a cover-up. The Warren Commission was dominated by former CIA director Allen Dulles and other officials with strong ties to the CIA and FBI.

7. The corporate media, with its own myriad connections to the national security establishment, aided the cover-up with its rush to embrace the Warren Report and to scorn any journalists or researchers who raised questions about the official story.

8. Despite the massive cover-up of the JFK assassination, polls have consistently shown that a majority of the American people believes Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy — leading to the deep erosion of confidence in the U.S. government and media.

9. The CIA continues to obstruct evidence about the JFK assassination, routinely blocking legitimate Freedom of Information requests and defying the JFK Records Collection Act of 1992, preventing the release of thousands of government documents as required by the law.

10. The JFK assassination was just one of four major political murders that traumatized American life in the 1960s and have cast a shadow over the country for decades thereafter. John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were each in his own unique way attempting to turn the United States away from war toward disarmament and peace, away from domestic violence and division toward civil amity and justice. Their killings were together a savage, concerted assault on American democracy and the tragic consequences of these assassinations still haunt our nation.

People who have signed the statement:

Dr. Gary L. Aguilar

Daniel Alcorn

Russ Baker

Alec Baldwin

G. Robert Blakey

Denise Faura Bohdan

Abraham Bolden

Rex Bradford

Douglas Caddy

Rodnell Collins

Debra Conway

David Crosby

Edward Curtin

Dr. Donald T. Curtis

Alan Dale

James DiEugenio

James W. Douglass

Laurie Dusek

Daniel Ellsberg

Karl Evanzz

Richard A. Falk

Isaac Newton Farris Jr.

Marie Fonzi

Libby Handros

Dan Hardway

Jacob Hornberger

Douglas Horne

Gayle Nix Jackson

Stephen Jaffe

James Jenkins

Robert F. Kennedy Jr

Bill Kelly

Andrew Kreig

John Kirby

Rev. James M. Lawson Jr.

Jim Lesar

Edwin Lopez

David Mantik

Dr. Robert McClelland

Mark Crispin Miller

Jefferson Morley

John Newman

Len Osanic

Lisa Pease

William F. Pepper

Jerry Policoff

Rob Reiner

Abby Rockefeller

Dick Russell

Mort Sahl

Vincent Salandria

Martin Sheen

Lawrence P. Schnapf

E. Martin Schotz

Paul Schrade

Peter Dale Scott

John Simkin

Bill Simpich

Oliver Stone

Dan Storper

David Talbot

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend

Adam Walinsky

Benjamin Wecht

Dr. Cyril H. Wecht

Betty Windsora

Published by Spartacus Educational.

RFK and the End of an Era

A just published book on the RFK murder re-examines the evidences and asks what the world might be like if the four 1960s assassinations never occurred.

By James DiEugenio Special to Consortium News

Authors Tim Tate and Brad Johnson begin their new book, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy:  Crime, Conspiracy and Cover-Up – A New Investigation (Thistle Publishingwith this quote from RFK the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed: “What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr’s cause has ever been stilled by an assassin’s bullet.”

Just two months later Kennedy would become the last in a series of four assassinations of American leaders from 1963-68: President John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. The cumulative political impact of those murders is hard to overstate. Toward the end of their bookthe authors try to estimate what that impact was.

Though it’s impossible to say for sure, they conjecture that, at the very least, the Vietnam War would have ended much sooner and would not have expanded into Laos and Cambodia. We know for certain that President Richard Nixon’s decision to expand the war caused the collapse of the government of Cambodia’s Prince Sihanouk, the eventual takeover by the Khmer Rouge and the death of two million people.

The murder of Bobby Kennedy has always seemed to get less attention in the mainstream media than the other 1960s assassinations, perhaps because it’s been considered an “open and shut case.” There were, after all, seventy witnesses to RFK’s murder. But the Los Angeles Police Department decided very early, and quite literally, that what happened in the wee hours of June 5, 1968 would not be another Dallas, as Tate and Johnson say.

It’s not widely known that Sirhan Sirhan’s attorneys did not mount a defense to the charges against him. Instead they resorted to what’s known as an alternative defense called “stipulation to the evidence.” In legal terms this means the defense accepts the testimony and exhibits presented by prosecutor as valid. Therefore, there was no argument in court over the medical, eyewitness or ballistics evidence.

What the trial was really about was Sirhan’s mental state. Since his legal team thought he was guilty, they tried to avoid capital punishment by arguing he was mentally unbalanced at the time. This failed, and Sirhan only escaped electrocution because California later outlawed the death penalty.

As Tate and Johnson show, this defense strategy doomed Sirhan. For example, when coroner Thomas Noguchi was on the stand, lead defense lawyer Grant Cooper actually tried to curtail his testimony by saying, “Is all this detail necessary? I think he can express an opinion that death was due to a gunshot wound.”

Noguchi should have been Sirhan’s star witness, and Cooper should have had him on the stand all day, the authors argue. Noguchi’s 62-page autopsy report proved that all the bullets that hit the senator entered from behind Kennedy. They also entered at extreme upward angles and at close range, i.e. from 1-3 inches.

Sirhan Not Close Enough

Every witness in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel placed Sirhan in front of Kennedy, and at a distance of 2-5 feet. The fatal headshot struck RFK behind the right ear at point blank range, with the barrel almost touching his skin. As the authors note: How could not one single witness recall such a horrifying image? Witnesses put Sirhan in front of Bobby Kennedy and therefore he could not have been close enough to fire the shot that ended Kennedy’s life.

As Tate and Johnson describe, Noguchi was struck by the deep circular powder burns in Kennedy’s hair. He did experiments with pigs’ ears, firing at them from differing close ranges. The only distance at which he could duplicate that imprint was 1.5 inches. This is considered a point blank or contact shot. If Cooper had walked Noguchi through those experiments, the prosecution would have had the steep challenge of countering that evidence. But it never happened.

We know today that the police understood the problem they had. As the authors show, using the LAPD’s own secret exhibits, the authorities had performed three different reconstructions of the shooting. Each one of these reenactments featured certain key witnesses from the Ambassador Hotel pantry. In each of them, at the direction of the witnesses, Sirhan was placed several feet in front of Kennedy. Since the two earliest reconstructions were done in 1968, before the trial, they could have been used as strong evidence for the defense.

Because Noguchi’s testimony was curtailed, his autopsy report was not entered into the trial record. But perhaps worse, because the defense stipulated to the evidence, the work of prosecution witness, DeWayne Wolfer, head of the LAPD crime lab, never underwent cross-examination. One of the most serious problems for the official case is that Sirhan’s handgun held a maximum of eight shots. Yet in addition to the four shots that struck Kennedy there were five other victims. Three bullets hit Kennedy and one passed through his jacket shoulder pad. That’s nine shots and Sirhan could only have fired eight. Here is where Wolfer borrowed a device from the John Kennedy case: a Magic Bullet.

In addition to these nine shots, there was also evidence that there were bullets in door frames, ceiling tiles, and the swinging gate into the pantry. But Sirhan’s lawyer agreed that the prosecution would not have to prove which bullet came from where.

Wolfer said that the bullet that went through Kennedy’s jacket shoulder also hit labor leader Paul Schrade in the middle of his forehead. Yet that bullet was fired from behind the senator and Schrade was walking behind Kennedy. As Schrade told the authors, when he heard that, it was the end of innocence for him on the RFK case.

Schrade said he would have had to be nine feet tall and bending over at his waist for that bullet to hit him in the head. 

Wolfer had an interesting explanation for the bullet that hit bystander Elizabeth Evans. Because the police needed to account for holes in the ceiling tiles, Wolfer said that this projectile went through the tiles, and struck the ceiling behind them. It then ricocheted off that surface, making another hole on the way down, and then struck Evans. Yet, the hospital report on Evans said a bullet hit her in the front hairline traveling upward. In other words, like in a master pool game, this must have been a double bank shot.

Too Many Holes

But even Wolfer’s fertile imagination could not account for the evidence of the multitude of shots fired. This created serous problems because, as the authors describe, these extra bullet holes were witnessed by law enforcement professionals. 

William Bailey was an FBI agent in Los Angeles who had been watching the California primary results on television in which Kennedy had just defeated Eugene McCarthy. After Kennedy proclaimed victory and said, “On to Chicago, and let’s win there,” Bailey fell asleep. He was awakened when a fellow agent knocked on his door and said they were assigned to the Ambassador to interview witnesses.

Bailey and his partner were there for a good part of the next two days. During that time, Bailey said he saw at least two bullet holes in the center divider of the swinging gate leading into the pantry. He also added that there appeared to be the base of two bullets in the holes. He was certain they were not nail holes.

Martin Patrusky, a waiter and crime scene witness, later said police told him there were two bullets that were taken out of the divider. In addition to this, there were two policemen who saw a bullet hole in the doorframe leading into the pantry. When the late Vincent Bugliosi, a lawyer who worked in the LA district attorney’s office at the time, called police officer Robert Rozzi to ask him about this, Rozzi said he saw what appeared to him to be a bullet about a foot and a half from the bottom of the floor embedded in the door frame. Bugliosi then called Sgt. Charles Wright who confirmed that there was a bullet hole in the frame and that it was later removed. This evidence, if true and which was kept out of the trial, appears to indicate that there were more shots in the pantry than Sirhan could have fired.

Co-author Johnson managed to locate an audio recording made by a Canadian journalist as he followed Kennedy from his victory speech in the Embassy Room to the pantry. That audiotape was in the archives of the RFK case in Sacramento. Johnson had it analyzed by Philip Van Praag, a master audio technician. After a long, detailed technical study, Van Praag concluded that there were at least 13 shots on the tape. Further, two pairs of shot sounds are too close to each other to be fired by one man.

As the authors note, the vast majority of the RFK evidence was supposed to be available for viewing after the trial of Sirhan. This did not happen. The fact it did not allowed certain officials involved to misrepresent the facts of the case to the public. Senator Kamala Harris, now the darling of the Democratic liberal establishment, then continued to deny Sirhan’s lawyers an evidentiary hearing while she was California attorney general.

RFK Jr. Visits Sirhan

Robert Kennedy Jr. has now become the first Kennedy family member to openly question the verdict in the murder of his father. A few months ago, he did what what Martin Luther King’s son, Dexter King, did in 1997 when he visited James Earl Ray in prison, leading Dexter to believe in Ray’s innocence in the murder of his father.

A few months ago, Kennedy Jr. quietly visited Sirhan in prison. After months of sifting through the evidence at the behest of Schrade, he came to the conclusion that Sirhan had not killed his father. This startling news was reported by the The Washington Post. Kennedy Jr. supports Schrade’s plea for a new investigation. Kennedy’s son is an experienced attorney who is partly responsible for getting his cousin Michael Skakel out of prison. Kennedy’s book on that case was a powerful exposé of how the justice system failed when it was improperly influenced by outside factors.

Kennedy Jr.’s pronouncement may finally give his father’s case the attention and the serious analysis it deserves. Reading Tate and Johnson’s book shows how poor of a job the mainstream media has done. As late Congressman Allard Lowenstein said:

Robert Kennedy’s death, like the President’s was mourned as an extension of the evils of senseless violence….What is odd is not that some people thought it was all random, but that so many intelligent people refused to believe that it might be anything else. Nothing can measure more graphically how limited was the general understanding of what is possible in America.”

Fifty years later our understanding of what is possible in America may not be so limited after all.

James DiEugenio is a researcher and writer on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and other mysteries of that era. He is the author of The JFK Assassination : The Evidence Today. His most recent book is Reclaiming Parkland.

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My Night with Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali was a complex and imperfect hero who reflected the turbulence of his time, a reality lost in some eulogies after his death but that playwright Stephen Orlov recalls from a night with Ali 46 years ago.

By Stephen Orlov

There will never be another like him. And, in 1970, I had the good fortune of sharing a memorable night with the Champ, the greatest sports figure in modern history, at the height of his boxing prowess and controversial career.

Muhammad Ali was then out on bail for dodging the draft. He had been stripped of his heavyweight title, banishing him from the ring, and he needed money for his legal fees. The Champ was touring college campuses across America, lecturing mostly white students about his Muslim faith and the sins of racism at home and war abroad.

I was president of the Junior Class at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, and Ali was my top choice for our annual class speaker that March of 1970.  From the moment I had first watched the young cocky boxer on the Ed Sullivan Show, skipping rope and brashly spouting in rhyme poetic victory predictions about his upcoming match, he became my sports idol.

His charisma on and off the ring was captivating.  Ali’s stand against racism and the Vietnam War later inspired my activism as a leader of the anti-war strike at Colby, provoked six weeks after his visit to our campus by the National Guard shootings of students at Kent State.

Ali first claimed the heavyweight title with his shocking technical knockout of Sonny Liston in 1964, the same year Dylan released his protest anthem, The Times They Are a-Changin’, and 15 months after, he beat Liston again in nearby Lewiston. By the time Ali came to Colby five years later, a tidal wave of counter-cultural rebellion had engulfed the country, empowering the great social movements of the day — civil rights and black power, anti-war and feminism; Native and Gay rights; the United Farm Workers’ boycott and Earth-Day environmentalism.

The college gym was packed that night, and a crowd of students, professors and town folks who couldn’t get a seat stood outside weathering the cold to hear his talk on outdoor loudspeakers set up for the event. The only problem was I couldn’t find Ali.

The Champ didn’t like flying, so I had been informed by his booking agent, who charged a thousand dollars for the speaking engagement, that Ali would arrive by car at the local Holiday Inn three hours before the evening speech. I went to the hotel, which had lit on its huge neon sign “Welcome Muhammad Ali!”

Thirty minutes ticked off my watch, then 45; finally an hour later, I called the only other hotel in town and sure enough the Champ had just arrived with his entourage of fellow Black Muslim men and women packed into two limousines. I rushed over and met Ali, just as he and his companions were sitting down for a meal at two large round tables.


I must admit I was star-struck sitting across from my larger-than-life hero, barely muttering a few words to “Mr. Ali,” as we dined over a huge meal he ordered for all. When we finished eating, Ali stood up as the hotel manager came over with the bill and said proudly, “I can’t thank you enough for dining at our hotel. It’s been a great honor to serve you.”

The Champ replied with a gracious smile, “It’s been my pleasure,” and promptly walked out without paying the bill. As we departed, I glanced back at the dumbfounded manager, bill in hand, frozen on his spot.

When we arrived at the gym, the crowd was buzzing with anticipation. I knew exactly how I would introduce Ali. I began with a few rarely-quoted lines from Abraham Lincoln’s 1858 Senatorial debate speech in Charleston, Illinois, expressing emphatically that he never believed in equality between the white and black races, and then I simply added, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Muhammad Ali.”

The Champ rose to a rousing ovation and pulled out a speech from his suit pocket, which he never looked at during his hour-long oration, peppered with improvised commentary decrying white racism and preaching the Black Muslim cause.

When I stood up to chair the Q&A, I felt tiny next to the towering 6’3” Champ. After a half hour, with great trepidation I took the liberty of posing the last question. The Autobiography of Malcolm X, based on Alex Haley’s interviews with the dynamic Nation of Islam minister who allegedly had been assassinated on orders of its founder Elijah Muhammad, had a formative impact on my life, and I was determined to ask Ali what he thought of those murder allegations against his leader.

He turned toward me with a scowl and denounced white honky “this and that,” scolding me and the racist media for making such spurious charges. He said, “I loved Malcolm like a brother but he was wrong to turn against our esteemed spiritual leader.” I wasn’t exactly shaking in my boots, but I kept my eye on his clenched right fist.

The 20 or so Black students enrolled at Colby had requested front-row seats. Two weeks earlier, they had occupied the college’s chapel in protest, demanding more affirmative-action policies and the hiring of a Black professor to teach African-American History.

When Ali finished his speech, he agreed to meet with them in a private room. I accompanied the group and sat down among them, until I realized their prolonged silence signaled I didn’t belong. I left without saying a word and waited outside to say goodbye to the Champ.

Hero But No Saint

When they came out a few of the Black male students were visibly upset watching Ali embrace with warm hugs a few of their Black female classmates enamored with the Champ. Ali hopped into his limo and off he went without spending the night.

I never learned any details about their private chat with Ali, but when I later asked one of the more militant of those students how it went, he merely shrugged his shoulder, leaving the impression that it wasn’t quite what he had expected.

Ali went on to claim the heavyweight title a record three times and became a legend in and out of the ring. The man risked years of imprisonment for his beliefs and his principles, sacrificing his championship crown, the most glamorous in all of sports back then, and millions of dollars that came with it; a far cry from so many sports “heroes” today, who’d rather peddle their trademark shoes than comment on the pressing social issues of our day.

The young boxer who threw his Olympic Gold Medal into the river as a personal sign of protest against racism in his country became the greatest sports ambassador in American history. He was the most recognizable person on the planet, a champion of peace, justice and respect for the disabled, inspiring millions across the globe. Like all iconic activists, he provoked society to change toward his call.

Ali was not a saint; he was a complex hero, a product of turbulent times who dared put his career and his freedom on the line to challenge the powerbrokers of his day. Over the years, as his body and his voice deteriorated from Parkinson’s, his social activism continued, marked by a generosity of spirit that spoke eloquently to our humanity. And now in death, his legacy will live on, spanning generations to come.

I’ll never forget my night with Ali, my brief encounter with the greatest of our time.

Stephen Orlov is an award-winning playwright. His allegorical-comedy play, “Freeze,” has just been published by Guernica Press.  And his comedy-drama, “Sperm Count,” will be published this September by Playwright Canada Press in a ground-breaking anthology, Double Exposure: Plays of the Jewish and Palestinian Diasporas, which he has co-edited with Palestinian playwright, Samah Sabawi.

Making Nelson Mandela ‘Safe’

The great tragedy of Nelson Mandela’s life was that his revolution only passed political power to South Africa’s black majority, not economic power, which remained in the hands of the old white ruling classes, both domestic and global. That is a reality now lost, writes Gary G. Kohls.

By Gary G. Kohls

“Now That He Is Safely Dead” is a poignant poem that was written by black poet/musician Carl Wendell Hines soon after Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965. The poem has since been appropriately associated with the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy of nonviolent struggle for black liberation, freedom, equality, economic justice and the pursuit of happiness for all.

The poem reads: “Now that he is safely dead let us praise him, build monuments to his glory, sing hosannas to his name. Dead men make such convenient heroes. They cannot rise to challenge the images we would fashion from their lives. And besides, it is easier to build monuments than to make a better world.”

And now the same thing is happening to Nelson Mandela, the latest black liberation activist-hero whose name has been exalted (but by lip service only) by the very international ruling elites who once tried to obstruct everything that Mandela stood for.

Ever since the frail Mandela became mortally ill a year ago, those same powers-that-be have been “exalting” the man who, we are told by media elites and their paymasters, courageously and almost single-handedly overcame the fascist Apartheid system in South Africa. Those powers have made Mandela into another safely dead prophet who will never be able to contradict the hype that hides much of the real story of Mandela.

Mandela as Barbie Doll

Greg Palast wrote a recent article titled ”The Mandela Barbie,” stating: “I can’t take it anymore. All week, I’ve watched Nelson Mandela reduced to a Barbie doll. From Fox News to the Bush family, the politicians and media mavens who body-blocked the anti-Apartheid Movement and were happy to keep Mandela behind bars, now get to dress his image up in any silly outfit they choose.

“Poor Mandela. When he’s not a doll, he’s a statue. He joins Martin Luther King as another bronzed monument whose use is to tell us that apartheid is now ‘defeated’ – to quote the ridiculous headline in the Times. It’s more nauseating than hypocrisy and ignorance. The Mandela Barbie is dressed to serve a new version of racism, Apartheid 2.0, worsening both in South Africa – and in the USA.

“The ruling class creates commemorative dolls and statues of revolutionary leaders as a way to tell us their cause is won, so go home. For example, just months ago, the US Supreme Court overturned the Voting Rights Act, Dr. King’s greatest accomplishment, on the specious claim that, ‘Blatantly discriminatory evasions are rare,’ and Jim Crow voting practices are now ‘eradicated.’

“‘Eradicated?’ On what planet? The latest move by Florida Republicans to purge 181,000 voters of color – like the stench from the shantytowns of Cape Town – makes clear that neither Jim Crow nor Apartheid has been defeated. They’re just in temporary retreat. Nevertheless, our betters in the USA and Europe have declared that King slew segregation, Mandela defeated apartheid; and therefore, the new victims of racial injustice should just shut up and stop whining.”

‘Pained Legacy’

Palast then discusses the unspoken reality of Mandela’s “pained legacy,” which is “a corroded South Africa still ruled by a brutal economic apartheid. Today, the average white family has five times the income of a black family. Welcome to ‘freedom.’

“The US and European press have focused on Mandela’s saintly ability to abjure bitterness and all desire for revenge, and for his Christ-like forgiving of his captors. This is to reassure us all that ‘good’ revolutionaries are ones who don’t hold anyone to account for murder, plunder and blood-drenched horror – or demand compensation. That’s Mandela in his Mahatma Gandhi doll outfit – turning the other cheek, kissing his prison wardens.

“Mandela’s circle knew this: You can’t forgive those you defeat until you defeat them. And, despite the hoo-hah, Mandela didn’t defeat apartheid with ‘nice’ alone. In the 1980sSouth African whites faced this reality: The Cubans who defeated South African troops in neighboring Angola were ready to move into South Africa. The Vietnamese who had defeated the mighty USA were advising Mandela’s military force.

“And so, while Mandela held out a hand in forgiveness – in his other hand he held Umkhonto we Sizwe, a spear to apartheid’s heart. And Mandela’s comrades tied a noose: an international embargo, leaky though it was, that lay siege to South Africa’s economy.

“Seeing the writing on the wall (and envisioning their blood on the floor), the white-owned gold and diamond cartels, Anglo-American and DeBeers, backed by the World Bank, came to Mandela with a bargain: black Africans could have voting power . . . but not economic power.

“Mandela chose to shake hands with this devil and accept the continuation of economic apartheid. In return for safeguarding the diamond and gold interests and protecting white ownership of land, mines and businesses, he was allowed the presidency, or at least the office and title.

“It is a bargain that ate at Mandela’s heart. He was faced with the direct threat of an embargo of capital, and taking note of the beating endured by his Cuban allies over resource nationalization, Mandela swallowed the poison with a forced grin. Yes, a new South African black middle class has been handed a slice of the mineral pie, but that just changes the color of the hand holding the whip.

“In the end, all revolutions are about one thing: the 99% versus the 1%. Time and history can change the hue of the aristocrat, but not their greed, against which Mandela appeared nearly powerless.”

Racist Inequality

So I expect that the core of Mandela’s legacy (his decision to reject the violent overthrow of the state, the healing potential of the Truth and Reconciliation commissions and the obtaining of the vote for blacks) will continue to be minimized while the fascist economic system of racist inequality continues to thrive.

With powerful resistance from white conservatives, America did posthumously award Dr King a number of monuments and a national holiday that never seems to go beyond King’s admittedly powerful, anti-racist “I Have A Dream” speech. But it seems to me that the annual commemorations usually ignore King’s powerful antiwar, anti-fascist, economic justice themes of the later movement.

Those post-1963 messages have been watered-down, subverted and ignored by governments, the media and the churches (with some exceptions). Even the King Center in Atlanta seems to minimize the Jesus-inspired core principles of Christian nonviolence that were so central to King’s black liberation movement.

Officialdom tolerates the re-enactments of King’s Dream speech (and the fact that Mandela became South Africa’s first black puppet-president), with the assurance that the memorial events will remember (falsely) a “less militant” and more benign King rather than the aggressive Christ-like prophet who had to be “disappeared” in both word and deed.

So we can expect that the upcoming 2014 MLK Anniversary Day will safely pass into memory with very little attention being paid to the radical gospel source of King’s inspiration, the nonviolent social justice movement invented, taught and faithfully practiced by Jesus of Nazareth.

The Dark-Skinned Palestinian Jew

I believe that it is useful at this point to acknowledge that Jesus was just as dark brown/”black”-skinned as was the Asian Indian Mohandas Gandhi, although he was not as deeply brown/black as King or Mandela.

Jesus was a First Century Palestinian Jew who, anthropologists tell us, probably looked more like a short Yasser Arafat than a tall Barry Gibbs (of BeeGee “fame”). For more on the skin color issue, see:

Jesus, Gandhi, King and Mandela were all, at one time or another, feared and then demonized by white-ruling elites who ordered them hunted down and neutralized by white racist soldiers and white civilians who were beholden to their white paymasters.

There are hundreds of monuments and statues dedicated to Gandhi as there are to King all over the world. Most of the national governing bodies – even India’s Hindu temples – pay only lip service to the messages and mission of Gandhi.

Similarly, America’s governing bodies and churches, with few exceptions, ignore the radical antiwar messages of King and Jesus (who also has no lack of monuments, buildings, crucifixes and other objects of adoration that immortalize his name but evade his central teachings).

Peace and justice-seekers who have read the Hines’ poem feel that it applies also to all the other martyred, left-wing champions of the down-trodden. And that includes the whistle-blower Jesus, who taught and practiced the sacred obligation to relieve human suffering.

Jesus’s teachings of the unconditional, nonviolent love of friends and enemies was largely responsible for the dramatic growth of the early church that occurred despite the terrible persecutions that it suffered for the two or three centuries after his political assassination. Sadly, today, the implementation of the Sermon on the Mount ethics can only be found in a few remnants of the original form of Christianity.

Dr. King was in the stream of one of those remnants that echoed the original voice of Jesus and had the courage to both preach and practice those dangerous revolutionary truths that ruling elites seem to fear so deeply. Dr. King had a deep faith in the power and practicality of the radical good news about love that was so clearly articulated in the Sermon on the Mount and the Golden Rule.

Purging the Prophets

But the voices of the prophets always seem to get silenced in racist, militarized, corporatized societies – and it isn’t by accident. Both ancient and modern powers-that-be recognize dangerous whistle-blowers when they see them, and they usually don’t waste much time ordering contingency plans to be set up for their disappearances or “silencing.”

Initially, the tellers of inconvenient truths are just ridiculed (or ignored) until the messenger gains a following; then they and their followers are violently opposed; and then (rarely, it seems to me), the prophetic truths are ultimately accepted as self-evident (as per the 19th century German philosopher Schopenhaurer who famously wrote: “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”)

In our more complex era, Schopenhauer’s dictum still holds, but now there are more sophisticated ways to discredit prophetic voices (by rumors; by infiltration of the prophet’s movement by agents provocateur; by death threats to the victim or family; by subversion by cunning right-wing think tanks that spread disinformation to the media; by harassment; by arranging murders that look like accidents or suicides; or by extra-judicial assassination by some “deranged” patsy).

And so it goes. Being a prophet is hazardous duty. King characterized it as “a vocation of agony.” Whistle-blowers such as Jesus, Mandela, Gandhi and King, while they were still alive, knew very well that they were going to pay a heavy price for their refusal to bow down to authority. They knew that they would have to endure the death threats, the character assassinations and the murder attempts if they didn’t shut up.

Modern whistle-blowers like Wellstone, Ellsberg, Assange, Manning and Snowden probably recognized that they, like King, might not “reach the promised land” (where justice was always served and peace was always sought). These patriots, willing to have lover’s quarrel with their nation, were simply, because of their intact consciences, trying to expose the fascism, racism, militarism, sexism, xenophobia and economic oppression that was slowly destroying the souls of their homelands.

Getting to the promised land is not up to the prophets; it is up to the followers and the true believers in the grand vision.

Dr. Kohls is a retired physician who writes about peace, justice, militarism, religion and mental health issues.