SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.
More than half a century ago, Hannah Arendt made an observation about aspects of human nature most people fail to acknowledge or confront. Arendt, a Jew who fled Germany during the Nazi's rise to power, survived to witness the trial of German Nazi Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann. She pointed to wartime atrocities where dutiful administrators like Eichmann become mass murderers with neither regret nor even conscious recognition of the routine horror they inflicted. She called it the "banality of evil" - a systemic evil that had become "terrifyingly normal."
Fascism comes in all shapes and forms. The late comedian George Carlin once pointed out that fascism will not come to America in "brown and black shirts" or "jack boots," but in "Nike sneakers and smiley shirts." With NSA mass surveillance and the recent Senate CIA torture report evidencing murder of innocent people in offshore US prisons, a kind of systematic evil is semi-secretly being carried out within present day society.
The closing weeks of 2014 spelled disaster for US leadership and the rule of law.
During the last two weeks of December, the US countered three different efforts designed to affirm Palestinian rights. It was unfortunate since in doing so the US undercut its stated commitments to uphold the rule of law in international relations and to support a non-violent resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The conflict in Ukraine has been to a large degree about history and how to interpret it. The marches held in honor of World War II Ukrainian leader Stepan Bandera this past Thursday, January 1, 2015, in Kiev marking 106 years to his birth, confirm that understanding the past is essential for making sense of the future. While some have argued there are no fascists in Ukraine and that protesters in Maidan came from a wide gamut of Ukraine's civil society, in the US Congress, difficult questions were asked about US support for the neo-Nazi Right Sector and in Russia, alarm was raised when pictures of protesters wearing Nazi insignia, and later Ukrainian army soldiers with fascist beliefs, were revealed.
The questions of what to make of modern-day Nazis and of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), Organization for Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and Stepan Bandera, suddenly became relevant and highlighted again the importance of understanding history in understanding the present. As one who lost people on both sides of my family to German and Ukrainian fascists, I was very interested in making sense of past as well as present events. To this end, I visited Lviv, Ukraine in December 2014 and read historical articles seeking to understand to what degree Ukrainain fascists were involved in World War II atrocities. This article is a culmination of these efforts.
A heavily redacted Senate Torture Report was released in December. The timing was political - Republican victories in the November election raised the prospect that the Report would not be released after 2014. But was there another political factor in the timing of the release? We know that politicians commonly issue problematic press releases on Friday afternoons to take advantage of the quieter end of the news cycle. In the case of the Torture Report, the pressurized frivolities of the Christmas Holiday and the annual catharsis of the New Year predictably distracted Americans from the details of the report and from their duty for a fundamental moral reckoning. These were not the only distractions.
News of the SONY hack and the absurd controversies that continue to swirl around it quickly refocused media attention and popular discussion from torture to an inane farce that (tortuously) attempts to wring humor from racism, xenophobia, and bodily functions.
In the aftermath of the 2014 mid-term Congressional elections in the United States, there was a widespread perception among the American chattering classes that the Obama administration, confronted by Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate, would become a lame duck in its final two years. Instead, the Republicans in recent weeks have had to confront a relaxed and reinvigorated President very focused upon ensuring that his legacy as a change agent in American politics would be solidified in American history.
On Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014, US led forces formally ended the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history. Some 18,000 foreign troops, and about 10,600 of them American, however, are staying under the terms of two security pacts the Afghan government signed with the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The war formally ended but the war informally continues. Fariba Nawa is an Afghan-American journalist and author of Opium Nation: Child Brides, Drug Lords and One Woman’s Journey Through Afghanistan. She was interviewed by NAM editor, Andrew Lam.
I wanted to write a piece about the most powerful moments in Chicago activism this year, but as I reviewed my photos and thought through what I saw and experienced in 2014, I realized that I can’t quite qualify things in those terms. As an organizer, I have a number of biases that are both undeniable and unavoidable, so I’m going to go ahead and clarify from the start that this is simply a look back at actions that moved me, changed me, or burned themselves into my memory – and in some cases, all three.
Writing and reporting about the Middle East is not an easy task, especially during these years of turmoil and upheaval. Following and reporting on these constant changes without a deep and compassionate understanding of the region will achieve little but predictable and lackluster content that offers nothing original, but recycled old ideas and stereotypes.
From my humble experience in the region, I share these “dos” and “don’ts” as to how the Middle East should be approached in writing and reporting.
What to do about the political mess in the Middle East and the rise of the Islamic State and related political movements?
Shortly after the end of World War II, the Western powers and the whole world began to recognize that the age of explicit colonial domination was over, and dozens of colonies were let go of and took political independence.
It is now past time for the United States and other world powers to recognize that the age of neo-colonial military, political and economic domination, especially in the Islamic Middle East, is decisively coming to a close.
Frida Berrigan sat straight up at the long dinner table. She was 12. Her younger brother Jerry and little sister Kate alternately jabbered and listened respectfully. It was a large table because her home was a community founded by her parents, Jonah House, in a tough neighborhood in Baltimore. Frida was the oldest child, clearly wise beyond her years as she sat eating, daughter of the most famous nonviolent resistance couple in US history except Martin and Coretta King. Before dinner the network news came on in the living room. Frida’s father, Phil Berrigan, waved us all into the small room, and sat down right next to the TV and turned it on precisely as the news started. All was quiet and the broadcast drudged through some latest foreign policy disaster. At the end of the national news, Phil, still sitting next to the TV, reached out and snapped it off, turning to me and meeting my eyes with his famous piercing look, “Shameless, Tom. They’re shameless.” And that was that. Kids knew better than to ask; no more TV until tomorrow evening news.