Where I’ll put pieces that appeared in Counterpunch.
OR Books (2014)
Available in paperback and as an e-book
Long Nights Journeys Into Darker Days
By John Kendall Hawkins
When I was driving with my family back to England from a day trip to Dunkirk Beach, a French border guard in Calais told us at the Chunnel entry that America was under attack (did I detect a smile?). Later, back in Surrey, we watched the Sky news broadcast of the Twin Towers collapse, as neighbors in our cul-de-sac partied, fireworks and all (were they immune to the situation’s gravity?). Already a longtime ex-pat by then, the distance in time and space led me to respond not with the ululations for vengeance heard across the US mediascape that day but with an echo of my young daughter’s query –”Why?”
As circumstance would have it, almost two years later I visited a friend in lower Manhattan. The reek of horror smoke was still in the air. I wanted to visit Ground Zero, but my friend talked me out of it; maybe, being a psychotherapist, she was sensitive to overexposure to the still-suppurating trauma. In a deft segue of optimism, she said that while not much good had come out of the attack, one silver lining was the kindness New Yorkers were now showing each other, the deference to a shared fragility – the Big Apple, of all locales, had become what G. H. W. Bush had once called for: ‘a kinder, gentler place’.
It’s all out of the bag now, as they say and say: America tortures. Of course, this news has been evident for quite some time. Who was in doubt of the implications lurking in Dick Cheney’s 2001 mumble-snark, “Time to take the gloves off”? In any case, in 2011, OR Books released The Torture Report, which details the deranged doings at Guantanamo, where hundreds of humans have been detained without trial for many years now.
And a couple of years ago, ex-CIA interrogator John Kiriakou belatedly blew the whistle on the Agency, at one point relating how one terrorist suspect was waterboarded so thoroughly that he ended up writing poems to the wife of his tormentor. “They hate us more than they love life,” quoth Kiriakou, and there can be no doubt why – our freedoms – or, at least, our license. (Oops, shouldn’t have said that.)
Self-inflation: the Ultimate Little Blue Pill of Power
Lots of nasty stuff has been written about Henry Kissinger over the many years since he left government service. For me, though, the most telling and direct lead to the essence of his character came in March 1973. He was meeting with President Richard Nixon at the White House and they were discussing an urgent request from Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir to exert pressure on the Soviets to allow Jews to emigrate from Eastern bloc nations. Kissinger, totally aware of Nixon’s ferocious anti-Semitism, might have offered up any number of titbits of advice, but instead our aphrodisiacal maniac offered up vile lickety-split.
“The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy,” a craven Henry tells Tricky Dick on a White House tape released in 2010. “And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern.”
Oh what a difference a weekend doesn’t make.
At one end of the empire the ardent flame of Scottish independence, as if inspired by Mel Gibson’s cheeky Braveheart, was snuffed out by a pre-referendum BBC fear campaign and the pleading of a candid Cameron, the populace realizing it was all only a movie and that the popcorn was bland as styrofoam . Or maybe there was some widespread ‘mischief’, as some observers have claimed. Doesn’t matter. As Russell Brand said before the vote, “I’m not going to turn up and put an X in a box, like an Xbox. It’s like an illusion, it’s a temporary reality. It’s meaningless, it’s pointless. It makes no difference. Give us something to vote for, and then we’ll vote for it.”
Lots of people when they think of journalism have in mind the mum-and-pop variety — car crashes and the latest gossip, local politics, sports, all the little details about “the time the doorknob broke,” to trot out an old Bob Dylan lyric. A step up from this layer of short and punchy news bits is that more ‘literate’ class of journalism traditionally associated with the New York Times and Washington Post, the so-called newspapers of record, which publish only the most polished, scrupulous pieces by the most ethical journalists. Or so the story goes.
I have sometimes wondered how some Johnny Journo, transported back into biblical times, might have reported on, say, the Massacre of the Innocents, or one of the many other atrocities which spice up the prolific stir-fried testaments to depravity that was the human condition prior to the arrival of the Enlightenment and the saving grace of Reason. Of course, most biblical historians now suggest that many of these kinds of atrocities were apocryphal or metaphorical, and somehow designed to push a meme or conceit about ancient justice. It probably never happened, scholars say; they weren’t those kinds of people.