If Only They’d Hissed Barack Obama


What a contrast between the French demonstrations and the vast and exciting marches here against proposed immigration laws, as against the limp turnouts against the U.S. war on Iraq!

Across a few explosive weeks the first two series of protests have surged up in numbers and political impact. In France earlier this week there were a million on the streets. Just in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago, half a million. In Paris Dominique de Villepin, the author of the hated law loosening curbs on employers’ right to fire new hires, is fighting for his political life. In Congress, (U.S. senators revised the language of their bill in step with the magnitude and passion of the rallies.

Meanwhile, though two out of three here in the U.S.A. disapprove of the war in Iraq there’s no energetic political leadership from above, no irresistible shove from below.

Reason? There’s no draft. There’s no reason to fear that your number will come up and in a few months you’ll be in a truck on a road outside Baghdad, waiting for some sort of bomb or missile to blow you apart. No draft, hence no burgeoning antiwar movement, going from strength to strength, terrorizing the politicians. What’s the degree of separation between most of us and the 120,000 U.S. military in Iraq? My accountant who has monitored my relations with the IRS for the past 24 years just told me his son, whom I knew to be in the USMC, is in Fallujah, with seven months to go. My friend Bill Broyles’ son David has served two tours there. There are also the parents in Military Families Speak Out I share platforms with.

So how do we narrow the degrees of separation? By vets counseling students against enlisting, by inviting the parents in MFSO to speak locally against the war. Remember, the antiwar movement reached its peak last year because Cindy Sheehan connected millions to the war. Also–this is crucial–her vigil outside Crawford allowed for buildup. She didn’t fold her tent in a day. There was a five-day buildup in Seattle, in the great anti-WTO battles there, in 1998. (Cindy Sheehan will be down at Camp Casey, April 12-16, and says everyone should come on down. UPFJ has a peace rally in New York scheduled for April 29.)

The war’s coming home indeed, in the form of people dreadfully wounded in body and spirit. Thousands of tragedies that will unwind, often violently, for years to come. But for now, for the most part, it’s pictures on TV, not tears and terror on the hearthrug. So the Democrats in Congress aren’t too worried about pressure from their antiwar constituents, even though the mere possibility of a primary challenge by Cindy Sheehan put the wind up Diane Feinstein. The awful six-termer, Jane Harman, faces a primary challenge from Marcy Winograd in southern California, after a couple of unions defied orders and endorsed Winograd. Meanwhile, at the other end of the country in Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman faced a decidedly cool audience at a big Democratic dinner at the end of March and got bailed out by his brother senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, who told the crowd to haul out their check books and make sure Lieberman gets returned for another term.

What kind of a signal is this? Here is Obama, endlessly hailed as the brightest rising star in the Democratic firmament, delivering (at a closely watched political dinner, with Lieberman’s primary opponent, Ned Lamont, sitting in the crowd) a ringing endorsement to his “mentor”, Lieberman, Bush’s closest Democratic ally on the war in Iraq, and overall pretty much a symbol of everything that’s been wrong with the Democratic Party for the past twenty years. What a slimy fellow Obama is, as befits a man symbolizing everything that will continue to be wrong with the Democratic Party for the next twenty years. Every time I look up he’s doing something disgusting, like distancing himself from his fellow senator Dick Durbin for denouncing the torture center at Guantanamo, or cheerleading the nuke-Iran crowd.

How many degrees of separation do I have from people without green cards, people who just come across the border, people awaiting relatives coming across the borders, the guy behind the bar in an Irish pub, the fellow in the gas station, the woman at the cash register ?

It’s a one degree world, same as it is in France, where two-thirds of all French people don’t want a society where the thin end of the wedge is a young people getting the boot as soon as they get within eyesight of some form of job security, and the thick end is the familiar terrain of adult employment in the U.S. job market today in many states: zero protection, zero safety net, zero union representation, zero pension and zero health benefits. It’s why illegal immigration is functional for U.S. capitalism and why, when the Republicans have milked the nativist vote through next November, we’ll see some sort of bracero program in place.

Try to pass a bill–as the House of Representatives is now doing–that makes a significant chunk of the population co-conspirators in the commission of a felony, and you’re going to get some action, and so they did: student walkouts that have put maybe 1.5 million on the streets in the past few weeks. Out of these rallies and marches and tussles with the school authorities and cops will come some of the leaders and organizers of the next twenty or thirty years. This has been their baptism of fire.

The horrible part of the story is that this is a moment when the antiwar movement should be at full effective stretch. A couple of weeks ago Tony Swindell, a newspaper editor in north Texas wrote to me as follows: “Begin paying attention to stories from Iraq like the very recent one about U.S. Marines killing a group of civilians near Baghdad. This is the next step in the Iraq war as frustration among our soldiers grow–especially with multiple tours. I served in Vietnam with the 11th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, and My Lai was not an isolated incident. We came to be known as the Butcher’s Brigade, and we also were the birthplace of the Phoenix Program.”

We’re running in our next CounterPunch newsletter Swindell’s parallel narratives of the U.S. massacres in Vietnam and what he sees happening now. “There’s a numbness in my guts as I see the same nightmares becoming reality again in Iraq and I wonder what’s happened to America’s soul. Is this what we want, another generation suckled on the poison of another renegade leadership? Gooks have become ragheads, every adult male is an insurgent eligible for torture and every Iraqi home filled with men, women and children is a free-fire zone. The atrocities against Iraqi civilians are slipping under the media radar screen, but they’re going to explode in America’s face not too long from now.”

There is some sort of slow motion, semi-mutiny going on in the Democratic Party in bits of the country at the moment, and much of its rather tepid steam comes from the antiwar movement, aghast at the complicity of so much of the Democratic leadership in the war. But set the tempo of this mutiny next to what has been happening in France or on the streets of Los Angeles, and like Swindell one feels numbness in one’s guts. The peace movement hasn’t got fire in its belly. If it had, Obama, the rising star, would have passed up the invitation to go pitch for Lieberman, and two-thirds of the crowd would have hissed him when he did. As things are, they gave the new star a big cheer, instead of treating him the way the folks in Lancashire did Condoleezza Rice.


McKinney Abandoned

Meanwhile, not one Democrat in Congress (and few outside it) would stand up for Cynthia McKinney, victim of racial profiling right in their own hallway. Eventually the Democratic leadership forced her to apologize. It’s not the first time they’ve thrown her to the wolves. The first time was when they backed Majette against her in her own district. Majette repaid the Democrats’ favor by eventually converting to the Republican Party, allowing McKinney to recapture her seat. Then, when she was back in the House, her fellow Dems denied her the appropriate seniority from her previous five terms. The uproar over McKinney’s swat of the Capitol Hill cop with her cell phone after he’s manhandled her was grotesque. Tot up the hours devoted to McKinney, as opposed to the fleeting attention to Republican Rep Duke Cunningham, finally sent to the Joint for taking upwards of $2 million in bribes; or to David Savafian, Bush’s man in charge of procurement at OMB, arrested for corruption as a spin-off of the Abramoff scandal.

CounterPuncher Fred Gardner used to work as San Francisco DA Terrence Hallinan’s press secretary, and had plenty of time at the S.F. Hall of Justice to observe security gates and how they should be supervised. Here’s a letter he sent to the S.F. Chronicle:

The Washington, D.C. cop who grabbed Cynthia McKinney’s arm should not have been assigned to his checkpoint job in the first place. The basic situation is familiar to millions of American workers -metal detectors and i.d. checks for the masses, easy entrée for the regular employees. At the San Francisco Hall of Justice one or, at peak hours, two cops from Southern Station handle the handbag and knapsack inspections while casting an eye over who is whisking in. The job calls for not just a good memory but good judgment, because the regular employees often are accompanied by guests, some of whom are not what you’d call classy-looking. It is INCONCEIVABLE that any of the three SFPD regulars (RIP, Eric R.) would ever come up behind and grab the arm of a woman who had passed through the checkpoint without apparent authorization. Inconceivable because righteous men don’t grab women. Inconceivable because it would only take three quick strides to confront the possible interloper from in front. Blame should go not only to the D.C. cop who failed to recognize Rep. McKinney and then manhandled her, but to the captain who assigned him a job he obviously wasn’t fit to handle.

PS: There’s another respect in which the officers stationed at the entrance to 850 are well suited to the job. They don’t glare. Their demeanor is neither friendly nor unfriendly, it’s neutral. They obviously don’t pump iron, either. They are in no way intimidating. They don’t add to the inherent unpleasantness of the experience (getting searched and entering that dismal building).

Here at CounterPunch we don’t think McKinney handled the affair deftly. Why did she have to appear on talk shows with lawyers? Tom DeLay, who’s got a lot to answer for, confronted the press alone, and never stopped smiling. And why, oh why did McKinney apologize? As Jesse Jackson learned, it doesn’t do any good. You’ve copped a guilty plea and then they say, You didn’t apologize enough! You have to go on apologizing for the rest of your life.


Ben Sonnenberg’s Dream

Ben calls me from New York to tell me he’s had a strange dream. “I saw some rather lovely hands through a triangular window, like the vent window on an old car. Then, into view came a third hand, not mine, holding a stiletto and scored the palm of one of the hands, which a voice tells me belong to Leon Wieseltier. I think there was blood.”

I ask Ben if he’s ever met Wieseltier, who has been the literary editor of the New Republic since 1883. Yes. 1883. It’s been that long. Ben says no, and then adds that “subsequent reflection–what Freud called ‘secondary revision’ — tells me that I was remembering a photograph in my father’s house in Grammercy Square of the hands of Tillie Losch.” Losch was a dancer and choreographer who was very briefly married to Edward James. She was a friend of Ben’s parents.

“Secondary revision” is what happens when your conscious mind starts dealing with, cleaning up, and censoring the dream material. It’s what the New York Times does every day.

Recounting dreams used to be an innocent pursuit at Victorian and Edwardian breakfast tables. My father Claud went to school at Berkhamsted, whose headmaster was James Greene, father of Graham. In his autobiography, In Time of Trouble, my father recalled:


As was the custom of many old-fashioned people at the period, the Greenes used at breakfast innocently to describe to one another anything interesting, bizarre or colourful they had had in the way of dreams the previous night. Mr and Mrs Greene were unaware that their third son, Graham, had at about this time [1916 or so, AC] discovered Freud. He would leave the bacon cooling on his plate as he listened with the fascination of a secret detective. When necessary he would lure them on to provide more and more details which to them were amusing or meaningless but to him of thrilling and usually scandalous significance.

‘”It’s amazing,” he said to me once, “what those dreams disclose. It’s startling–simply startling,” and at the thought of it gave a low whistle.

When he finished describing the dream Ben pressed on to telll me that it was one of the happiest days of his life. He has translated Fernand Crommelynck’s 1920 play Le cocu magnifique , and a splendid array of talented friends had assembled in his apartment on Riverside Drive and given the play a spirited reading. I imagine we’ll being seeing it on Broadway in the not-too-distant future. If you have interpretations of his dream, send them to Ben at harapos@panix.net.


Death Threats

A couple of years back, a rightwing radio talk host made frequent on-air death threats against 3 environmentalists living near Kalispell, Montana. The Gordon Liddy clone called for his listeners to take headshots at the greens and even read out their home address over the air.

Complaints were made to local police and the FBI, but nothing came of them. Contrast this indulgence with the current case against animal rights activist Rod Coronado, a member of the Pascua Yaqui tribe, who was arrested by the FBI last month on charges of inciting eco-terrorism. The charges stem from a speech Coronado gave at the University of California at San Diego in the summer of 2003 where, in response to a question from the audience, he demonstrated how he had madea Molotov cocktail for use in a previous arson for which he had already been convicted and served his time.

It so happens CounterPunch is currently the object of a public death threat, and we’re curious why google is a co-conspirator in this affair.

American Jihad is a site run by George M. Weinert V, of Chicago, Illinois, a 54-year old white male who describes himself as an “internet consultant and programmer”, also as working in the “law enforcement and security” industry. On its homepage for March 28, 2006, beneath the headline “Treason–A Capital Offense” Weinert identifies CounterPunch as a conduit of material he deems treasonous and has this to say:

Many of these ‘essays’ originate at https://www.counterpunch.org/ and
http://www.dissidentvoice.org/ As well as other radical homosexual left wing communist Muslim sucking web sites. All of there pieces are WRITTEN BY TRAITORS WHO HATE AMERICA AND WANT THE ISLAMOFASCIST PIGS TO WIN

Here is the issue:


These vociferous lefty dope-smoking queers are glad to see our brave troops die since they view our enemies as good and the USA AS EVIL–THESE TRAITORS HATE THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The disgusting part is that these same
liberal commie punks don’t have the guts to directly confront US troops or conservatives with baseball bats and tire irons since they know they would get their sissy boy arses kicked so they conceal their dedicated effort to ensure the defeat of the United States of America. The only conclusion is that the folks who operate https://www.counterpunch.org/ and http://www.dissidentvoice.org/ As well as other radical left wing Hippie Commie Muslim Sucking web sites are thus:



Unfortunately, the government does not seem to care since this continues unabated and is killing US Troops so the true American Patriot has only one choice:

HUNT DOWN THE TREASONOUS OPERATORS of https://www.counterpunch.org/ and http://www.dissidentvoice.org/ As well as other radical left wing queer Muslim sucker web sites who are GIVING AID AND COMFORT TO THE ENEMY LIKE THE DIRTY DOGS THEY ARE AND LET THEM MEET A CITIZEN FIRING SQUAD or the END OR A NOOSE!!!

On the evidence of his obsession with “queers” and “arses” and “sucking”, Weinert’s psyche is the usual stew of repression and self-loathing. But he is calling for homicide and we’re surprised that Google, which has the mightiest search engines this side of the NSA, hasn’t picked up the threat with the alacrity that it displays when it thinks clients of its google ad business are churning for business. American Jihad is a subset of blogspot.com, and the registrant of blogspot.com is Google Inc. (DOM-345046), 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View CA 94043.

Dissident Voice, by the way, is run by our friend Sunil Sharma who says he’s left a dark strap-on by his mailbox, in case Weinert can’t figure out which house he’s living in. That should get ole George V excited.
What’s in A Name? The “George Sunderland” Saga

Back on May 10, 2002, way ahead of the two profs from the University of Chicago and Harvard, we published a piece on this site titled “Our Vichy Congress” with the subtitle, “A Congressional Staffer Details Israel’s Stranglehold on Capitol Hill: “We are All Members of Likud Now.” As you’ll see, if you refresh your memory, it was rousing stuff and hugely popular, causing quite a stir. The author called himself George Sunderland, adding that this was a nom de guerre, not his real name.

Now mark the sequel.

From: george.sunderland
Subject: G sunderland
Date: April 3, 2006

As a real George Sunderland I am offended by a clown aasociated with You using my name. Please stop using my name immediately.

George Sunderland, Ft Meade MD

To: Sunderland, George R Mr AAA
Subject: Re: G sunderland

Hi there George, Are you presuming to speak in the name of all the George Sunderlands in Maryland, of whom there are at least two? Personally, I’d be proud to be associated with the author of that fine article. If you want I’ll put a note in my next CounterPunch Diary saying that you are most definitely NOT the G. Sunderland who authored that piece.

Best, Alex Cockburn, co-editor.

From george.sunderland

That will work. I’ve had several people ask me if I was the nut who wrote that. Thanks for your cooperation. Why doesn’t the author use his real name?

To: Sunderland, George R Mr AAA

I’ll put something up next Saturday. Actually that piece — published back in 2002 — was very popular, and certainly not nutty. And the author–a congressional staffer — was not nutty in using a pseudonym, since people publicly criticizing the relationship in Israeli wouldn’t have extensive career prospects on the Hill, or many other places here, like for example Harvard, if you’re following the current row.

Best Alex C

From: “Sunderland, George R Mr AAA”

Thanks. Actually, guess who the other George Sunderland in Maryland is? That’s right, I’m a junior and he’s my father. This issue first popped up when I was under employment investigation with NSA. They kept asking me if I ever worked in the media, didn’t seem to like my answer and I didn’t know what they were talking about. I finally grew tired and decided to stay employed with the Army. A year later, I found your article during a web surf. I now realize, that may have cost me the NSA job. Your staffer probably pulled my name from an Army Audit Agency report on NBC survivability that was featured in Congressional testimony. Unfortunately, that name was given at birth to a real person. So, while you may not have intended to do so, damage was probably done. Please be careful in the future. Lastly, as a Georgetown MPA alum, I am a political policy wonk myself. But, while I was once a Jesse Helms Republican, I am neither left nor right.

George R. Sunderland Jr.

From: alexandercockburn@asis.com
To: george.sunderland

Think of it this way. Maybe we saved you indictment down the road for being part of the illegal NSA eavesdrops! “Sunderland” is no staffer, but submitted his piece under the GS pseudonym through an intermediary. I guess it”s a reason to opt, as Kennan did, for “Mr X”and other more obvious noms de guerre.

Best Alex C


Elie Wiesel and Juliek’s Violin Strings

In my recent piece on Wiesel’s Night I discussed the inherent implausibility of the scene in which a boy called Juliek plays Beethoven on his violin, in freezing temperatures, amid a death march. Now this:

From: DanCas1@aol.com
Date: April 1, 2006 11:52:40 AM PST
To: accockburn@asis.com
Subject: violin strings in zero cold?

a chara:

as a professional; musician, who has played a wide variety of string instruments for 40 years, including “fiddle,” guitar, banjo, and mandolin, i immediately thought “how did the violin strings survive the severely cold temperatures and the long march?”

minor point perhaps, but very improbable, especially since it was 1945 and they are not modern strings. ask any fiddler in eureka.

sounds like literary baloney (béal ónna, silly loquacity, foolish blather.)

jerry de rossa

Footnote: an earlier version of the first item ran in the print edition of The Nation that went to press last Wednesday.



Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined!, A Colossal Wreck and An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents are available from CounterPunch.