Tag Archives: last man

The Big Benghazi Lie

I have avoided writing this article for some time. Not that it hasn’t been tempting. The oblique assault against the President is blatantly and completely partisan, and betrays either the outright complicit nature of the Press or their fundamental ignorance. Not that I’m an apologist for Obama. Though I was happy that he was re-elected, I also feel he is significantly beholden to corporate and money interests. The bottom line here is, I just can’t stand by any longer while the Right parades absolute untruths while the media wallows in blissful banality

Anyone who has been to a US diplomatic facility in an active conflict zones knows they are hardly consulates, let alone embassies. They are not there to spread the message of democracy and freedom. They are not sanctuaries. To the contrary. And how would I know this? I have been there. Well, not to Libya, but in Sarajevo during the siege in 1994.

This story is something of a third rail for the Progressive side; that tiny minority who at least attempts the truth.  but even the professed liberal side of the so-called liberal press has deftly side-stepped the Benghazi attack against a US “consulate.” Not surprising, and admittedly, not a lot of people have been to a consulate in a war zone. and now, two months after the incident, the whole affair is a dark and tangled affair.

First the facts. It was a terrorist attack. 4 Americans were killed. It did happen amid a sudden surge of unrest following the release on YouTube of an anti-Muslim film that saw simultaneous unrest in Egypt, and violence in Pakistan that left a number of Pakistanis dead. Libya was and is still in turmoil, and deeply divided following the civil war. The nation was still dangerous.

In October 1994 I found myself trapped in Sarajevo, with the fighting in the city growing and winter approaching. In the Holiday Inn along Sarajevo’s infamous sniper alley the United States maintained a “consulate.” It seemed logical an American out of reasonable options would look for help at a US Consulate, right?

The Sarajevo consulate was a spy ring, tasked either with collecting or getting intelligence, either on one or more of the warring parties or for the dozen or so other foreign intelligence services active in Bosnia, including the Russians and Iranians. Running a gauntlet of sniper fire to the consulate was a constant. in the hall outside the consulate suite sat a laconic Bosnian kid with an AK-47. He was tasked with keep interlopers out. Truth of it was, he  was just happy to be off the bloody frontlines, and could be cowed with the wave of a US passport and a bit of bravado bordering on arrogance. Once in passing, when he attempted to stop me I literally threw up a hand and said, “Have a seat, son,” with this stern sort of militaristic tone. the heavily armed types inside could hardly scatter from sight, startled by my sudden appearance.

When I pressed the issue of not being able to escape the city, at that point arrested by two different armies attempting to escape, the “officials” did not act as diplomats, but reverted to this sort of black market mentality. Now, I am not accusing who would then become the first American ambassador to Bosnia of corruption, but I will say this. The going rate to the actual Bosnian blackmarket at the time was $5000USD. This future ambassador coincidentally offered his help, and that I would need to pay him…wait for it…$5 grand USD “to rent” a seat on one of the airlift flights.

In 1992 an arms embargo, said to stop the flow of arms into the break up Yugoslavia, was championed by the United States and  later defended by the US. The stated intention was to stop the violence. The reality, and this was no secret to any government, and certainly not a secret on the ground in the war zone, but was a secret nearly everywhere else, was that it was a windfall for international arms dealers. The cost of weaponry skyrocketed to more than 20 times original value. those deals, worth billions in hard  and untraceable cash were rarely if ever handled by arms companies, but by agents of their national governments. and during the wars of the 1990s, everyone wanted to get in on that action.

The point of that story? The consulate in Benghazi, I am certain, was not tasked with diplomacy as its primary mission. And if that is the case, as all reports seem to indicate, whether from holding al qaeda suspects, or that all of these men had significant intelligence and military backgrounds, as well as none of the survivors have been heard from or identified, this was an intelligence outpost in a very unstable place.

Few will ever see that world, but it exists. the mythology is that they are the good guys behind the scenes keeping us all safe. The reality is that a world of international espionage absolutely exists, but they feed the unrest and tragedy of the world, rather than stem or assuage it. They are the problem not the solution. Theirs is a game of arrogant perspective parading as broad visionary strategy. They play that game among one another, but trample upon the rest of us in the process. They are an industry. They work for industry, but in the most cynical and insidious ways. The President and State Department will never cop to any of this. They can’t. No one is going to give up their own spies. They won’t, but that’s the reality, no matter what FOX News and the Right want to pretend

21 days in May: An Occupy novella, part 5

“Occupy Chicago to ‘shut down Boeing’ on May 21” ran the headline by Michelle Dunlop on  heraldnet.com. Across the city  authorities  and activists readied, like two great armies destined for inevitable collision. While one side  readied for violence, the other steeled itself against that looming possibility,  stalwart in their assertion of their constitutional rights, and focused on that better world they whole heartedly believed was possible. One side represented a status quo that had very obviously stopped working for a vast and growing number of Americans. These authorities  had become, by purpose or default the defenders of a system that protected a system corrupted by corporate greed and abuse. Peacefully by resolutely opposing them were students and housewives and grandparents, the employed , under-employed and unemployed, demanding that their government by less accessible and less responsible to corporate interests, and more accessible and more responsible to the people.

A cold fog brought a chill to the city, making the city seem all the more intimate and small beneath that whispering shroud. At Multi Kulti on Milwaukee, just off the downtown, a non-commercial  cultural center, activists were learning basic first aid and urgent care for the protests. There were meeting at the Cermak Loft space about the NATO summit, and open discussions about the future of Occupy Chicago. Sit-ins and occupations continued around the city, bolstered by a stunning achievement in forcing city hall to keep open a mental health clinic in the Woodlawn neighborhood, which the city had slated for closing. There wasn’t a single story about the victory to save a critically needed clinic anywhere in the media.

Indeed, the media continued  a relentless and increasingly assaultive campaign to discredit and mock the movement. Leading that assault was Sean Hannity, who had fixed upon Harrison Schultz, and activist in New York. Shultz had been suckered into an interview the day before by a clever mafia-esque advocate for those siphoning off fortunes from the government, and bleeding the nation by Hannity, whose singular intent was to taunt and paint the Occupy movement as a bunch of confused, lazy freeloaders out to take from hardworking rich people. Hannity, practiced night after night trapped the inexperienced, untrained Shultz into a circular argument…

HANNITY: You’re dirty? You don’t take a shower?

SCHULTZ: Well, no, this is the way your news network is portraying us.

HANNITY: Did I ever say you are dirty or a hippie? Did I say any of that?

SCHULTZ: Yes, in August. You were making fun of my friends.

HANNITY: You mean the ones having sex in public, doing drugs and defecating on cars and those who are in other cities that were actually being violent breaking store windows, cursing out police and all of that? You mean those guys, those guys? Because I have tapes of all of that.

SCHULTZ: No, no, no. Those were the people that the NYPD was sending to the park to discredit us and make us look bad. And actually give your network something to focus on.

HANNITY: So you are in Zuccotti Park.

SCHULTZ: I stopped hanging out right around the NYPD —

HANNITY: Zuccotti Park, “yes” or “no.” Were you at Zuccotti Park?


HANNITY: Why did they have set up a special, protective rape-free zone tent because of the rapes that took place in Zuccotti Park.

SCHULTZ: The NYPD was sending rapists down to the park.

HANNITY: So the NYPD — do you have any evidence about this?

SCHULTZ: This was in the NY Times, New York Times.

HANNITY: I asked you a question — the New York Times said that the police sent rapists to rape women down there?

SCHULTZ: They sent alcoholics. They sent offenders. They sent people who were convicted of rapes.

HANNITY: Do you have any evidence to back it up —

SCHULTZ: I can give testimony. I didn’t bring my files with me, but you can check this out —

HANNITY: The New York Police Department brought rapists in and as a result women were raped so a special rape protective zone was set up?

SCHULTZ: You got to admit, it was a really cynical, really effective tactic on the part of the authorities. They knew that we wouldn’t turn people away because we like to help people, like Christians should — even though most of us are not Christian.

HANNITY: You sound paranoid…*

Meanwhile, the authorities tightened their control over the city and protests. New boating restrictions were announced. Museums would be closed. Lake Shore Drive would be shut down. Protesters it was also revealed would be kept blocks away. The  civilian and military representatives of twenty-eight NATO member nations, an alliance created to protect a free and democratic western Europe  from Soviet invasion would hold secret meetings insulated from the oversight and dissent of their populations. Here the right-wing and corporate media were silent, as NATO had long ago ceased to be a coalition tasked with defending democracy, but were now beholden to a global corporate arms industry. They were the military wing of  a precipitous and dangerous ascension of  corporate power and the profits of war over the needs of people. The right was often heard to demand where the money would come from for entitlement programs, while militaries and subsidies for war industries drained public coffers.



Jack and Eva Murphy walked slowly along the empty beach, swinging little Jeffrey between them. He was giggling, wildly kicking his legs up, trying his best to keep off the sand. Each time Jack and Eva would  dip him lower to the soft sand Jeffrey would howl even louder.  The fog was heavier here, a few miles north of downtown, erasing the city skyline altogether. Even the buildings of nearby Loyola campus were shrouded. Waves tumbled heavily to the shore, rising from the gray lake as ranks of churning white danced over by excitable gulls.  


“I don’t know where all that came from,” Jack told Eva, referring to the strange incident at the bar with Angelo the night before.

“I was so pissed at you,” said Eva. She tempered it with a smile. “See, if you’d stayed home like you were supposed to…”

Jack couldn’t help a smile. He regarded her a moment, still finding her as amazing as the moment he first met her, perhaps more so. Eva’s shoulder length brown hair was pulled across her lovely face by the wind off the lake. Behind broad-framed glasses, her introspective brown eyes found his.  He nodded in agreement and looked to the baby.

“Don’t let it bother you,” she offered. “Forget about him. He’s revealed himself as a nut.”

“But what if he does something, you know? What if he goes off and someone does get hurt. The media would only be too happy to  act as if he represents all of us, and the police are looking for excuses to crackdown on the movement.”

“Tell someone then. Have him banned from the movement. Occupy is supposed to be non-violent.”

Jack nodded thoughtfully. “Ever feel that the whole world is about to come apart?”

“I had a little bit of that feeling last night when I had to do laundry, make supper, clean the house and take care of Jeff by myself,” she scolded playfully.

Jack frowned. They stopped and he lifted the baby into his  arms, kissing him gently on the cheek. Eva touched his arm. The moment felt like a commodity.

“What happens in the world isn’t monolithic, Jack. Every situation, relationships, society, history, all of it are all made up constructs.”

“I just have this feeling of impending doom, and I’m afraid for you and Jeff.”

She touched his face. “You need some sleep. Things will seem better after you’ve gotten rest, you’ll see.”

“Hope so, he said, though all the way home he could not shake the feeling. Jack laid his head down that night to sleep beside Eva. Sleep came grudgingly and with that sense of ultimate foreboding stronger than ever.   




21 days in May: An Occupy Novella, part 2

Chicago was adopting something of a siege mentality as the NATO summit and protests loomed ever closer. It certainly wasn’t the protesters dialing up fear and concern. There had been in recent weeks a purposeful effort to intimidate the population, painting the protests as dangerous and the authorities as protectors. The effort began slowly in February and by the end of April had grown to a near fever pitch. The authorities, state, local, Federal and private corporate interests would manage and stoke that fear with their propaganda wing at FOX, CBS, ABC and even the so-called liberal MSNBC.

It began with leaked reports that downtown businesses would be hiring increased security for the protests, the reports punctuated with images from unrelated riots in Seattle some years earlier. Then came near panicked interviews with police officials clamoring for emergency funding from a cost-overridden city hall to make sure the police all had expensive new protective riot gear. Commuters would be subject to search and trains could be diverted or stopped altogether for “security concerns.” Boats in the harbors would be prohibited as the city became an armed camp. Then, at the end of April the fear was raised to insidious levels, first with front page headlines that downtown Chicago was now considered a “RED ZONE,” and that heavily armed federal agents in riot gear would be guarding strategic  buildings. The next day the local CBS affiliate published a “leaked” memo revealing how Red Cross officials in Milwaukee were preparing for the possible evacuation of Chicago in the event of an insurrection during the NATO summits. No one, in the media at least, questioned the rationale or what possibly would cause a city of eight million to flee en masse, not to the suburbs, nearby Joliet or Gary Indiana in such a catastrophe, but 90 miles North to Scott Walker’s Milwaukee Wisconsin. 

Angelo studied his smartphone, tapping on an MSNBC story emailed to him overnight. His eyes moved across a stunning headline that left him even more conflicted about his part in all this.

  “…agents have arrested five people who were plotting to blow up a bridge near Cleveland, Ohio… Douglas L. Wright, 26, Brandon L. Baxter, 20, and Anthony Hayne, 35, were arrested by members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force on April 30 on charges of conspiracy and attempted use of explosive materials to damage physical property affecting interstate commerce. Also arrested were Connor C. Stevens, 20, and Joshua S. Stafford, 23. Charges are pending… of Hayne, Stafford and Baxter, there were claims that they were affiliated with Occupy Cleveland, which moved swiftly Tuesday to distance itself from the bridge plot… after “we awoke to the news of the arrests,” coordinator Johnny Peskar, 22, told msnbc.com… “We don’t need any implications in this nonsense,” Peskar said… Occupy organizers had seen a few in the plot hanging around earlier events, but their actions were “autonomous,”

He set down the phone and went to the long mirror by the door. Six years in special forces and 4 more as a military contractor with a for-hire firm had placed him is some odd and morally questionable circumstances, but none more than this.  This mission left him awake nights, praying for the respite of nightmares in sleep instead of the nightmare he was living.

He still looked like a college kid, and could pass for his early twenties. Angelo had let his dark brown hair grow long, nearly to shoulder length. His clothes were rough and urban and worn. His cover was a simple one, which was always the best-less to remember that way. Facts and dates were mixed or altered should anyone go prying. He looked the part well enough, but there was something else.

The mission was taking a toll. He appeared haggard and exhausted, which did not lend themselves to a successful mission. But what of the mission? In Afghanistan in a beard and local garb, Angelo passed sufficiently to infiltrate a Taliban group. He tracked a FARC leader in Columbia for  six months without being detected, and was able to worm his way into a Mexican drug lord’s inner circle. Never before had he been asked to spy on fellow Americans, which was bad enough. But this, this mission…

Angelo glanced at the paper he’d been slipped the day before at the protest. He had never seen the contact. The man came and went like a ghost. Now he found himself balanced on a fence, weighing ethics, morality and salvation. They were an operative’s worst obstacles. He thought of the mission once more as he went to the sink and poured a chemical mix over the paper, dissolving it almost instantly. He washed it down the drain with water and recalled the headline from Cleveland that morning.

Nineteen days and it would all be over. Nineteen days and the mission would be complete. Nineteen days and the nation would be forever changed. Angelo steeled himself and nodded resolutely. In the end he made it about the money. He’d made  a shade over a million tax free as a military contractor-the ultimate welfare scheme he sometimes mused to colleagues. Another half million would be deposited in an off shore account for him following a successful conclusion of the mission. Other missions were for country, unit or to bring down truly reprehensible people, but this would have to be about the cash, and that would have to suffice.



The train, bus and three block walk to he and Eva’s bungalow on Chicago’s Northwest side left Jack beaten. Eva wasn’t home yet with Jeffrey. The house was still and comfortable and peaceful. He practically collapsed onto the chair in the front room. He still had on his jacket and hat. The shoulder bag was in his lap, as if he’d striven for that chair with his final ounce of energy.  Morris, their lumbering Boxer/ Boston Terrier mix, normally a pest for attention, seemed to understand well enough. He sort of flopped to the floor at Jack’s feet and laid his head across one shoe with a heavy sigh.

The family still wasn’t completely settled into the place, and a daunting list of projects left Jack all the more spent. The phone rang, and he hardly had the energy to lift it, let alone answer. He hit the speaker key and let it go to voice mail

“This is Jack, lean Left,” came his recorded message. After a short pause Angelo from Occupy replied.

“Hey, Jack, wanted to know if you could get together later. I have something I need to discuss with you. You’ve got the number. Call me back.”

Jack sighed and  let the phone fall to his leg. He’d been meaning to get back into the movement, especially now as the NATO summit neared. He liked Angelo, at least what he knew of the kid.  Every movement attracted its share of oddities; Occupy, Socialist groups, anarchists, The Tea Party, and certainly the Ron Paul devotees. Angelo seemed like a normal fellow, well informed and adjusted and, for as much as Jack could tell, passionate about the cause. He thought about Sarah as he lifted the phone and found Angelo’s number. As it began to ring at the other end, he was already crafting his sincere apology to her.

“Hey, Angelo, its Jack,” he began. “Brutal day at work, sorry I couldn’t pick up before. Still want to get together?”

A Lifetime: The twenty year seige-Part 1

Twenty Years ago I was sitting in the studio of a little old Jewish sculptor, Milton Horn. Eighty-six, the Russian Born artist, and friend to the late Frank Lloyd Wright, was lamenting that he was the last of the “true classical artists.” Upon the table beside me, a posed photograph of his late wife Estelle, resplendent in a silver-tint nude art pose taken many years before. In the musty, languishing air of his studio, light filtering  dull and gray through tall shuttered windows, Horn wagged his finger at me almost scoldingly.

“Get away from Chicago,” he urged. “Get out of America and go to Florence and study the great Masters.”

I was resolved from that moment, but being a greater fan of the modern decided that I would go to Barcelona and study in the home of Picasso, Miro and Dali, whose work I found relationship to Horn’s style. Horn, clearly not an admitted fan of the Modern, scoffed at the idea, but relented grudgingly, conceding(or rationalizing) that I would inevitably pick up classical arts education if nothing else by simply walking the streets of an old European city. 

I would, I resolved. I would pay all my bills in advance, pack my cat, Manhattan, off to my parents, and go off to Europe until my funds were exhausted. But Europe was in transition, and parts of it rushing headlong from the chaos of that transition into complete disaster. The first reports from Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital were only just emerging. Those headlines told of snipers, random shelling, roundups of men and something new called “Ethnic cleansing.” It was a phrase I immediately recognized for what it truly was, a phrase the UN and Western governments seemed all too careful to avoid using: Genocide. Like calling rape “non-consentual intercourse.” 

Reports began to emerge about artists not simply struggling to survive, as food and water became scarcer, and the search for those necessities became increasingly deadly gambles on Sarajevo’s streets. More and more the idea of my studies and explorations in Barcelona and elsewhere in Europe became increasingly inane. Sarajevo, I decided was where I needed to be. I would show solidarity with those stalwart and besieged Bosnian artists. I would place my own existence on the line for what had been, up to that point, merely words and ideals about human rights. And there was something more.

Not  sure if I fully realized it then, but something stronger was drawing me to Bosnia and the war. Hardly satisfied with the media’s oversimplification, and painfully ignorant about Yugoslavia, which Bosnia was seeking to break from, I began to obsess over the culture and history. I devoured the history of Yugoslavia and southern Europe from Russian, Yugoslav, Ottoman, German, Italian and Western sources. I read all of the literature I could find, like Andric and Selimovic, and watched classic Yugoslav movies from a local video store, “When Father was away on business,” and classic war films like “Igmanski Mars,” “March to the Drina,” and “Tito and me.”  

One night, exhausted from work, newspapers and books scattered on the bed beside me, I sketched an illustration about the conflict. It portrayed the haunting image of a young woman standing beside the coffin of a child, the war raging behind them. The Islamic crescent was etched upon the coffin, a Christian cross around the woman’s neck. Little did I realize the faithful place where sketch would lead…

Part 2

The Meaning of Life? I mean, not in a religious or spiritual sense, or even a philosophical way, but what is the purpose for the Universe to allow or evolve towards the animation and consciousness of life from its inanimate particles and molecules, especially in the face of a Universe which is overwhelmingly hostile to that life? The fundamental question from a universal perspective is whether life is a purpose, a consequence, an accident or an illusion of perspective by beings who define themselves as “alive?” From a human standpoint, the question becomes, what do we do with it? Evolutionary Science tells us we are assemblages of otherwise autonomous organisms working in community for common benefit, and that over billions of years surrendered their autonomy as parts of immensely complex beings capable of asking inane questions such as “why?” By that standard, where do we end and community begins, among each other, upon the planet and in the Universe? Is pain and suffering any different? Are we as individuals fortresses or clouds, or a combination of both? Just thinking…

Occupy Nashville action highlights bank’s hypocrisy: Mobilizes effort to keep disabled grandmother and 78 year old Civil Rights activist in her home after JP Morgan Chase threatens foreclosure.

JP Morgan Chase & Co. recently unveiled, “Preserving the Inspiration and Sharing the Passion of Martin Luther King Jr,” designed to better the company’s image by attaching itself to the King Center. While it was promoting its own goodwill and “selfless” benevolence it was foreclosing on, among many others, 78-year-old Civil Rights activist, Hellen Bailey. The foreclosure date is set for February 15th.

But the story is not about JP Morgan Chase, accused in a lawsuit by New York Attorney General  Eric Schneiderman, along with Bank of America and Wells Fargo of deceptive and fraudulent mortgage practices. The story is about Miss Bailey who, on a fixed income, found a buyer that would allow Bailey to remain in her home freely until she dies, but Chase refused to negotiate on the deal, and opted instead to foreclose on her.

Occupy Nashville stepped in to help, collecting more 50,000 signatures and acting to keep Miss Bailey in her home. Kudos to ON. Can anyone think of a single effort by the so-called Tea Party to do anything to help their neighbor on anything approaching the scale of Occupy? 

Occupy My Heart: A revolutionary Christmas Carol, An Occupy Chicago theatrical event, which made national headlines this past Christmas, spoke to this very abuse and inhumanity on the part of TOO-POWERFUL-TO-EXIST banks. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3pTBFNmijU

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