Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In the US, Mass Child Killings are Tragedies. In Pakistan, Mere Bug Splats

By George Monbiot
Barack Obama's tears for the children of Newtown are in stark contrast to his silence over the children murdered by his drones.

What If Children Mattered No Matter Where They Lived–and Died?

By Peter Hart

We do not live in a world that treats all life equally. Not even close.

Remember All the Children, Mr. President

By Bill Quigley

These tragedies must end.

Sympathy from the Devil

By William Norman Grigg

The government that impudently presumes to rule us has made Sandy Hook-style massacres routine for residents of Pakistan. 

Israel Is Set To Receive 5,000 US Bunker Buster Bombs After Delaying Its Attack On Iran

By Michael Kelley
The U.S. Department of Defense notified Congress of a $647 million agreement to provide the Israel Air Force with 10,000 bombs — more than half of which are bunker-busters.

Obama’s War on Syria and Its Implications

By Shamus Cooke

The Obama administration has already declared war on Syria, even if it isn’t “official” yet. Consider the facts, all of them acts of war:

Massacre At Aqrab
Video Exposes Anti-Syrian Government Propaganda


The Syrian crisis has been plagued by disinformation, especially when it comes to the Mainstream Media (MSM) and its lies about the Syrian conflict to suit their governments' agendas. 

The Visible Government
How the U.S. Intelligence Community Came Out of the Shadows

By Tom Engelhardt

In the past, American presidents pursued “plausible deniability” when it came to assassination plots like those against Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba, Cuba’s Fidel Castro, and Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem.  Now, assassination is clearly considered a semi-public part of the presidential job.

Obama, Biden are war criminals under UN Charter: Analyst

By Dave Lindorff

US authorities, including President Obama, are engaged in an “ongoing criminal conspiracy under international law” both to cover up and protect criminals like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, and to continue the commission of war crimes by the US government.

Banking on Criminality:
Drug Money and the Above-the-Law Global Banking Cartel

By Andrew Gavin Marshall

Welcome to the world of financial criminality, the “international cartel” of drug money banks and their political protectors. Continue

Noam Chomsky: US Intellectual Class Is Morally Degenerate

By Noam Chomsky and Eric Bailey
Democrats and Republicans alike embrace torture and assassination policies that are an attack on 800 years of civil law.

Government Allowed 9/11 : Sibel Edmonds

Video - Abby Martin Interviews Sibel Edmonds

National Security Whistleblower, Sibel Edmonds, talks about her story as a whistleblower and the erosion of civil liberties in a post 9/11 America.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

American Militarism Threatening To Set Off World War III
The Condition of Human Rights at the International Setting

By Professor Francis A. Boyle

Text of speech by Professor Francis A. Boyle at the Puerto Rican Summit Conference on Human Rights - University of the Sacred Heart - San Juan, Puerto Rico - December 09, 2012

December 10, 2012 "Information Clearing House" - 

Historically this latest eruption of American militarism at the start of the 21st Century is akin to that of America opening the 20th Century by means of the U.S.-instigated Spanish-American War in 1898. 

Then the Republican administration of President William McKinley stole their colonial empire from Spain in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines; inflicted a near genocidal war against the Filipino people; while at the same time illegally annexing the Kingdom of Hawaii and subjecting the Native Hawaiian people (who call themselves the Kanaka Maoli) to near genocidal conditions. 

Additionally, McKinley’s military and colonial expansion into the Pacific was also designed to secure America’s economic exploitation of China pursuant to the euphemistic rubric of the “open door” policy. 

But over the next four decades America’s aggressive presence, policies, and practices in the so-called “Pacific” Ocean would ineluctably pave the way for Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 194l, and thus America’s precipitation into the ongoing Second World War. 

Today a century later the serial imperial aggressions launched and menaced by the neoconservative Republican Bush Junior administration and the neoliberal Democratic Obama administration are now threatening to set off World War III.

By shamelessly exploiting the terrible tragedy of 11 September 2001, the Bush Junior administration set forth to steal a hydrocarbon empire from the Muslim states and peoples living in Central Asia and the Middle East and Africa under the bogus pretexts of (1) fighting a war against “international terrorism” or “Islamic fundamentalism”; and/or (2) eliminating weapons of mass destruction; and/or (3) the promotion of democracy; and/or (4) self-styled humanitarian intervention/responsibility to protect (R2P). 

Only this time the geopolitical stakes are infinitely greater than they were a century ago: control and domination of the world’s hydrocarbon resources and thus the very fundaments and energizers of the global economic system – oil and gas. 

The Bush Junior/ Obama administrations have already targeted the remaining hydrocarbon reserves of Africa, Latin America (e.g., the Pentagon’s reactivization of the U.S. Fourth Fleet in 2008), and Southeast Asia for further conquest or domination, together with the strategic choke-points at sea and on land required for their transportation. Today the U.S. Fourth Fleet threatens Cuba, Venezuela, and Ecuador for sure.

Toward accomplishing that first objective, in 2007 the neoconservative Bush Junior administration announced the establishment of the U.S. Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) in order to better control, dominate, steal, and exploit both the natural resources and the variegated peoples of the continent of Africa, the very cradle of our human species. 

In 2011 Libya then proved to be the first victim of AFRICOM under the neoliberal Obama administration, thus demonstrating the truly bi-partisan and non-partisan nature of U.S. imperial foreign policy decision-making. 

Let us put aside as beyond the scope of this paper the American conquest, extermination, and ethnic cleansing of the Indians from off the face of the continent of North America. 

Since America’s instigation of the Spanish-American War in 1898, U.S. foreign policy decision-making has been alternatively conducted by reactionary imperialists, conservative imperialists, and liberal imperialists for the past 115 years and counting.

This world-girdling burst of U.S. imperialism at the start of humankind’s new millennium is what my teacher, mentor, and friend the late, great Professor Hans Morgenthau denominated “unlimited imperialism” in his seminal book Politics Among Nations 52-53 (4th ed. 1968):

The outstanding historic examples of unlimited imperialism are the expansionist policies of Alexander the Great, Rome, the Arabs in the seventh and eighth centuries, Napoleon I, and Hitler. 

They all have in common an urge toward expansion which knows no rational limits, feeds on its own successes and, if not stopped by a superior force, will go on to the confines of the political world. This urge will not be satisfied so long as there remains anywhere a possible object of domination–a politically organized group of men which by its very independence challenges the conqueror’s lust for power. 

It is, as we shall see, exactly the lack of moderation, the aspiration to conquer all that lends itself to conquest, characteristic of unlimited imperialism, which in the past has been the undoing of the imperialistic policies of this kind….

The factual circumstances surrounding the outbreaks of both the First World War and the Second World War currently hover like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of all humanity.

Since September 11, 2001, it is the Unlimited Imperialists à la Alexander, Napoleon, and Hitler who have been in charge of conducting American foreign policy decision-making. 

After September 11, 2001 the people of the world have witnessed successive governments in the United States that have demonstrated little respect for fundamental considerations of international law, human rights, or the United States Constitution. 

Instead, the world has watched a comprehensive and malicious assault upon the integrity of the international and domestic legal orders by groups of men and women who are thoroughly Hobbist and Machiavellian in their perception of international relations and in their conduct of both foreign affairs and American domestic policy. 

Even more seriously, in many instances specific components of the U.S. government’s foreign policies constitute ongoing criminal activity under well recognized principles of both international law and United States domestic law, and in particular the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg Judgment, and the Nuremberg Principles, as well as the Pentagon’s own U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 on The Law of Land Warfare, which applies to the President himself as Commander-in-Chief of United States Armed Forces under Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution.

Depending on the substantive issues involved, these international and domestic crimes typically include but are not limited to the Nuremberg offences of “crimes against peace”—e.g., Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, and perhaps their longstanding threatened war of aggression against Iran. 

Their criminal responsibility also concerns “crimes against humanity” and war crimes as well as grave breaches of the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the 1907 Hague Regulations on land warfare: torture, enforced disappearances, assassinations, murders, kidnappings, extraordinary renditions, “shock and awe,” depleted uranium, white phosphorous, cluster bombs, drone strikes, etc.

Furthermore, various officials of the United States government have committed numerous inchoate crimes incidental to these substantive offences that under the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles as well as U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956) are international crimes in their own right: planning, and preparation, solicitation, incitement, conspiracy, complicity, attempt, aiding and abetting. 

Of course the terrible irony of today’s situation is that over six decades ago at Nuremberg the U.S. government participated in the prosecution, punishment, and execution of Nazi government officials for committing some of the same types of heinous international crimes that these officials of the United States government currently inflict upon people all over the world. 

To be sure, I personally oppose the imposition of capital punishment upon any human being for any reason no matter how monstrous their crimes, whether they be Saddam Hussein, Bush Junior, Tony Blair, or Barack Obama.

According to basic principles of international criminal law set forth in paragraph 501 of U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10, all high level civilian officials and military officers in the U.S. government who either knew or should have known that soldiers or civilians under their control (such as the C.I.A. or mercenary contractors), committed or were about to commit international crimes and failed to take the measures necessary to stop them, or to punish them, or both, are likewise personally responsible for the commission of international crimes. 

This category of officialdom who actually knew or should have known of the commission of these international crimes under their jurisdiction and failed to do anything about them include at the very top of America’s criminal chain-of-command the President, the Vice-President, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, Director of National Intelligence, the C.I.A. Director, National Security Advisor and the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff along with the appropriate Regional Commanders-in-Chiefs, especially for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).

These U.S. government officials and their immediate subordinates are responsible for the commission of crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes as specified by the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles as well as by U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 of 1956. 

Today in international legal terms, the United States government itself should now be viewed as constituting an ongoing criminal conspiracy under international criminal law in violation of the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg Judgment, and the Nuremberg Principles, because of its formulation and undertaking of serial wars of aggression, crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes that are legally akin to those perpetrated by the former Nazi regime in Germany. 

As a consequence, American citizens possess the basic right under international law and the United States domestic law, including the U.S. Constitution, to engage in acts of civil resistance designed to prevent, impede, thwart, or terminate ongoing criminal activities perpetrated by U.S. government officials in their conduct of foreign affairs policies and military operations purported to relate to defense and counter-terrorism.

For that very reason, large numbers of American citizens have decided to act on their own cognizance by means of civil resistance in order to demand that the U.S. government adhere to basic principles of international law, of U.S. domestic law, and of the U.S. Constitution in its conduct of foreign affairs and military operations. 

Mistakenly, however, such actions have been defined to constitute classic instances of “civil disobedience” as historically practiced in the United States. 

And the conventional status quo admonition by the U.S. power elite and its sycophantic news media for those who knowingly engage in “civil disobedience” has always been that they must meekly accept their punishment for having performed a prima facie breach of the positive laws as a demonstration of their good faith and moral commitment. 

Nothing could be further from the truth! 

Today’s civil resisters are the sheriffs! The U.S. government officials are the outlaws!

Here I would like to suggest a different way of thinking about civil resistance activities that are specifically designed to thwart, prevent, or impede ongoing criminal activity by officials of the U.S. government under well‑recognized principles of international and U.S. domestic law. 

Such civil resistance activities represent the last constitutional avenue open to the American people to preserve their democratic form of government with its historical commitment to the rule of law and human rights. 

Civil resistance is the last hope America has to prevent the U.S. government from moving even farther down the path of lawless violence in Africa, the Middle East, Southwest Asia, military interventionism into Latin America, and nuclear confrontation with Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, Russia, and China.

Such measures of “civil resistance” must not be confused with, and indeed must be carefully distinguished from, acts of “civil disobedience” as traditionally defined. 

In today’s civil resistance cases, what we witness are American citizens attempting to prevent the ongoing commission of international and domestic crimes under well-recognized principles of international law and U.S. domestic law. 

This is a phenomenon essentially different from the classic civil disobedience cases of the 1950s and 1960s where incredibly courageous African Americans and their supporters were conscientiously violating domestic laws for the express purpose of changing them. 

By contrast, today’s civil resisters are acting for the express purpose of upholding the rule of law, the U.S. Constitution, human rights, and international law. 

Applying the term “civil disobedience” to such civil resistors mistakenly presumes their guilt and thus perversely exonerates the U.S. government criminals.

Civil resistors disobeyed nothing, but to the contrary obeyed international law and the United States Constitution. 

By contrast, U.S. government officials disobeyed fundamental principles of international law as well as U.S. criminal law and thus committed international crimes and U.S. domestic crimes as well as impeachable violations of the United States Constitution. The civil resistors are the sheriffs enforcing international law, U.S. criminal law and the U.S. Constitution against the criminals working for the U.S. government!

Today the American people must reaffirm their commitment to the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles by holding their government officials fully accountable under international law and U.S. domestic law for the commission of such grievous international and domestic crimes. 

They must not permit any aspect of their foreign affairs and defense policies to be conducted by acknowledged “war criminals” according to the U.S. government’s own official definition of that term as set forth in U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956), the U.S. War Crimes Act, and the Geneva Conventions. 

The American people must insist upon the impeachment, dismissal, resignation, indictment, conviction, and long-term incarceration of all U.S. government officials guilty of such heinous international and domestic crimes. That is precisely what American civil resisters are doing today!

This same right of civil resistance extends pari passu to all citizens of the world community of states. 

Everyone around the world has both the right and the duty under international law to resist ongoing criminal activities perpetrated by the U.S. government and its nefarious foreign accomplices in allied governments such as Britain, the other NATO states, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Georgia, Puerto Rico, etc. 

If not so restrained, the U.S. government could very well precipitate a Third World War. Here in Puerto Rico we saw the stunning example of the most courageous civil resistors against Yankee Imperialism on Vieques.

The future of American foreign policy and the peace of the world lie in the hands of American citizens and the peoples of the world—not the bureaucrats, legislators, judges, lobbyist, think-tanks, professors, and self-styled experts who inhibit Washington, D.C., New York City, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Civil resistance is the way to go! This is our Nuremberg Moment now!

Thank you.

Francis A. Boyle teaches law at the University of Illinois. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago and Harvard Law School. He has advised numerous international bodies in the areas of human rights, war crimes, genocide, nuclear policy, and bio warfare. He received a PHD in political science from Harvard University.


Bashar al-Assad, And The Truth About Chemical Weapons

By Robert Fisk
Bashar’s father Hafez al-Assad was brutal but never used chemical arms. And do you know which was the first army to use gas in the Middle East?

'No Confirmed Reports' Syrian Govt Preparing To Use Chemical Weapons – UN Chief

Washington's continuous claims of Syrian preparations of chemical weapons are based on strategy, not real concerns. Continue

Former Powell Adviser ‘Skeptical’ of ‘Politicized’ US intelligence on Syria

Syria will never use chemical weapons against its own people, Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired US Army Colonel who was Chief of Staff to Colin Powell told RT. Instead, the reality is that US is “preparing the ground to intervene in Syria.” Continue

A Pretext for Deeper US Intervention In Syria

By Ben Schreiner
Preparing the American public for the very real possibility of yet another US-led military intervention in the Middle East has begun in earnest.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

"We dream of a normal life, in freedom and dignity.”
By Noam Chomsky

An old man in Gaza held a placard that reads:  “You take my water, burn my olive trees, destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, imprison my father, kill my mother, bombard my country, starve us all, humiliate us all but I am to blame: I shot a rocket back.” [1] 
The old man’s message provides the proper context for the timelines on the latest episode in the savage punishment of Gaza. They are useful, but any effort to establish a “beginning” cannot help but be misleading. 

The crimes trace back to 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled in terror or were expelled to Gaza by conquering Israeli forces, who continued to truck them over the border for years after the official cease-fire. 

The persecution of Gazans took new forms when Israel conquered the Strip in 1967. From recent Israeli scholarship we learn that the goal of the government was to drive the refugees into the Sinai, and if feasible the rest of the population too. . . 

Monday, December 03, 2012

Bradley Manning: A Tale Of Liberty Lost In America

By Glenn Greenwald

The US does nothing to punish those guilty of war crimes or Wall Street fraud, yet demonises the whistleblower.

December 01, 2012 "The Guardian" --  

Over the past two and a half years, all of which he has spent in a military prison, much has been said about Bradley Manning, but nothing has been heard from him. That changed on Thursday, when the 23-year-old US army private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks testified at his court martial proceeding about the conditions of his detention.
The oppressive, borderline-torturous measures to which he was subjected, including prolonged solitary confinement and forced nudity, have been known for some time. 

A formal UN investigation denounced those conditions as "cruel and inhuman". 

President Obama's state department spokesman, retired air force colonel PJ Crowley, resigned after publicly condemning Manning's treatment. 

A prison psychologist testified this week that Manning's conditions were more damaging than those found on death row, or at Guantánamo Bay.

Still, hearing the accused whistleblower's description of this abuse in his own words viscerally conveyed its horror. Reporting from the hearing, the Guardian's Ed Pilkington quoted Manning: "If I needed toilet paper I would stand to attention and shout: 'Detainee Manning requests toilet paper!'" And: "I was authorised to have 20 minutes sunshine, in chains, every 24 hours." Early in his detention, Manning recalled, "I had pretty much given up. I thought I was going to die in this eight by eight animal cage."

The repressive treatment of Bradley Manning is one of the disgraces of Obama's first term, and highlights many of the dynamics shaping his presidency. 

The president not only defended Manning's treatment but also, as commander-in-chief of the court martial judges, improperly decreed Manning's guilt when he asserted in an interview that he "broke the law".

Worse, Manning is charged not only with disclosing classified information, but also the capital offence of "aiding the enemy", for which the death penalty can be imposed (military prosecutors are requesting "only" life in prison). 

The government's radical theory is that, although Manning had no intent to do so, the leaked information could have helped al-Qaida, a theory that essentially equates any disclosure of classified information – by any whistleblower, or a newspaper – with treason.

Whatever one thinks of Manning's alleged acts, he appears the classic whistleblower. This information could have been sold for substantial sums to a foreign government or a terror group. Instead he apparently knowingly risked his liberty to show them to the world because – he said when he believed he was speaking in private – he wanted to trigger "worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms".

Compare this aggressive prosecution of Manning to the Obama administration's vigorous efforts to shield Bush-era war crimes and massive Wall Street fraud from all forms of legal accountability. Not a single perpetrator of those genuine crimes has faced court under Obama, a comparison that reflects the priorities and values of US justice.

Then there's the behaviour of Obama's loyalists. Ever since I first reported the conditions of Manning's detention in December 2010, many of them not only cheered that abuse but grotesquely ridiculed concerns about it. Joy-Ann Reid, a former Obama press aide and now a contributor on the progressive network MSNBC, spouted sadistic mockery in response to the report: "Bradley Manning has no pillow?????" With that, she echoed one of the most extreme rightwing websites, RedState, which identically mocked the report: "Give Bradley Manning his pillow and blankie back."

As usual, the US establishment journalists have enabled the government every step of the way. Despite holding themselves out as adversarial watchdogs, nothing provokes their animosity more than someone who effectively challenges government actions.

Typifying this mentality was a CNN interview on Thursday night with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange conducted by Erin Burnett. It was to focus on newly released documents revealing secret efforts by US officials to pressure financial institutions to block WikiLeaks' funding after the group published classified documents allegedly leaked by Manning, a form of extra-legal punishment that should concern everyone, particularly journalists.

But the CNN host was completely uninterested in the dangerous acts of her own government. Instead she repeatedly tried to get Assange to condemn the press policies of Ecuador, a tiny country that – quite unlike the US – exerts no influence beyond its borders. 

To the mavens of the US watchdog press, Assange and Manning are enemies to be scorned because they did the job that the US press corps refuses to do: namely, bringing transparency to the bad acts of the US government and its allies around the world.

Bradley Manning has bestowed the world with multiple vital benefits. But as his court martial finally reaches its conclusion, one likely to result in the imposition of a long prison term, it appears his greatest gift is this window into America's political soul.

Glenn Greenwald is a columnist on civil liberties and US national security issues for the Guardian. A former constitutional lawyer, he was until 2012 a contributing writer at Salon. He is the author of How Would a Patriot Act? (May 2006), a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power; A Tragic Legacy (June, 2007), which examines the Bush legacy; and With Liberty and Justice For Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

“15 years, 250 tours and 2,484 passengers – 
I hope I’ve passed the apprenticeship!”
     ("Lemon Juice" Bruce, Intrepid Vietnam tour group leader, October 2012)

To celebrate this milestone, the company organized a dinner at Quan Cuc Gach in Saigon's District 3 on Tuesday October 23.  This is an interesting local restaurant dined in by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.  As you can see, we had a few other unexpected VIPs join us for our photo shoot - including Karl Marx, Lenin (not John, the other one!), living legend General Giap, no-longer-living legend Le Duan, and none other than the eternal Uncle Ho himself.  I felt very humble in such company!

Now, fully retired and pensioned off, or semi-retired? . . . 
I don't mean me; I am referring to my old green backpack, fondly known as the "Green Monster".  This has been my trusty travelling companion all these years in Viet Nam (and many more besides), but it has now been replaced by a brand new "Blue Draggin'" wheely case, compliments of the company.  I wonder if it will last as long?. . .

  * * *

250 trips and 2484 Intrepid travellers

intrepidexpress | real life experiences | Thursday, 22 November 2012 

Bruce McPhie in Vietnam In October, Bruce McPhie clocked up 15 years full-time tour leading with Intrepid, making him the longest-serving Intrepid Group Leader in the world! This means that since 1997, ‘Lemon Juice’ Bruce has led 250 Intrepid trips, and shared the wonders of Vietnam and Cambodia with some 2,484 travellers from all around the world. In his words “I hope I’ve passed the apprenticeship”…

“When I first joined Intrepid I had no idea how long this new adventure would last. Looking back, I am amazed at how quickly the years have passed, how many diverse and interesting people I have met along the way, and how many incredible experiences I have had. It still feels surreal just to be here, still living this amazing life, and I have no wish for it to ever end!

I have had the privilege and opportunity to travel through exotic cultures, tumultuous history and stunningly beautiful landscapes. Every day can still be a learning day, for me and my fellow travellers. There is still so much misinformation and ignorance about Vietnam and Cambodia crying out to be corrected. The whole world can benefit from learning these truths, and discovering the real magic of Indochina.

Many times I have been moved to tears when sharing both the joys and the pains of local people, who so easily become new friends. I have been able to sponsor children through school, relieve friends from crippling debt, assist local charities to help people in genuine need, and help local friends start up small businesses to improve their lives. One cannot be a passive bystander. Such is life in my adopted home of Vietnam.

My previous lives in Australia seem worlds away, as indeed they are. I have been lucky to have been able to follow a somewhat unconventional lifestyle. My first life was in Melbourne where, among other things, I was passionately involved in the peace movement against the war in Vietnam, including resistance to military conscription.

Deciding to ‘drop out’ of teacher training college to work full time for peace, Vietnam obviously made a life-changing impact on my youth. Today, opposing war remains critical for the survival of the planet and the dignity of humanity. This truth is driven home every day when you live and work in a land still suffering from the ongoing effects of past wars.

For my second life, I ‘went bush’ to the beautiful Cassilis Valley in far northeast Victoria for an alternative rural lifestyle experience, where more lifetime friends were made. Vietnam was and is my third life. My fourth life? I have no idea!

Throughout all my lives, I have had an eclectic range of jobs, coincidentally following Uncle Ho’s idea of combining and respecting both mental and physical labour. Sometimes I have worked to live, but mostly I have lived to work, and always I did the things I wanted to do and felt needed to be done.

Fortuitously, this continues in my current life as an Intrepid Group Leader, in a company committed to responsible travel and a better world. For me, there is no real line between work and personal life; it is my lifestyle, and what I do. What a special privilege!

Way back in 1996, I was a novice traveller on Intrepid’s Vietnam Adventure tour, which I thought was just part of my first Asian holiday experience before returning to Australia. However, miraculously, from the moment I arrived in Vietnam I felt completely at home, as if I had been here in some previous life! Less than one year later, I was back in Vietnam with a brand new job – this time working for Intrepid Travel as a Group Leader. Incredibly, Vietnam had dramatically changed my life for a second time!

Intrepid party for Bruce McPhie in Vietnam How much longer? Who knows the future? Hopefully there are many more tours ahead for me with Intrepid, and many more travellers to introduce to ‘my Vietnam’. As they say, time flies when you’re having fun. Or, as a frog might say, time’s fun when you’re having flies!”

* photos of Bruce on one of his 200+ visits to Halong Bay and a party with the Intrepid Vietnam team in Bruce’s honour.

To find out more about travelling with Intrepid and for your chance to WIN a trip in every edition, subscribe to Intrepid Express, our free e-newsletter. 
Plus you can become a fan of our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter!

You can add comments / read comments 
by linking to this article on Intrepid Express Blog:

 * * *

From David Mannix, General Manager, PEAK Adventure Travel Vietnam, October 2012:

15 years and still going... the incredible adventures of Bruce McPhie

“15 years, 250 tours and 2,484 passengers – I hope I’ve passed the apprenticeship!” says Mr Bruce, and no one is surprised that he knows to a person exactly how many lucky travellers have joined him during his time as a tour leader in Vietnam. 

Bruce is the longest serving tour leader in the history of Intrepid and, to our knowledge, the longest serving leader in the PEAK world. An incredible achievement from one of the most inspiring people you could ever hope to meet.

Bruce’s Vietnam odyssey began way back in 1996. Venturing through Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand on his very first holiday to Asia, Bruce then moved on to Vietnam, where he was booked as a passenger on an Intrepid trip. It was that first night in Hanoi that was to change his life forever. 

Wandering on his own through the maze of alleyways near the train station, Bruce immediately felt like he had been here before and that in some strange way, it felt like home. He was moved to the point of tears when the tour left Hanoi and felt this same overwhelming connection in every place he visited in Vietnam. It was an attachment that he had never felt anywhere else travelling the world.
Returning to Australia after the tour, he told his friends that he would be back in Vietnam within the year. The problem was, he had no idea how he was going to get back there! In his mid 40’s, with little money to spare, Bruce considered all his options on how he could return to the country he loved. 

Whilst studying an English teaching course, Bruce applied for a job as a tour leader with Intrepid, having thought as a passenger that his leader had the best job in the world! Believing he had little chance of securing the leading job, Bruce was pleasantly surprised to see that the interview was to be conducted by none other than Jacquie Burnside (who is still with PEAK), who was on Bruce’s Vietnam trip as a leader trainee. 

During the second round interview, Tom Beadle (also still with PEAK) asked Bruce how long he thought he might be a leader for. Bruce replied that he wasn’t sure, it could be 5 months or 5 years, which prompted Tom to tell him that he must be joking because no one ever lasts 5 years as a tour leader! 

True to his word, Bruce returned to Vietnam within the year as promised, making it back just 3 days before his deadline. 

His first training trip with Intrepid happened to coincide with a trip being run by the legendary Intrepid leader Bill Raymond and Bruce had the good fortune of being taken under the wing of Mr Bill on that trip and was shown the ins and outs of running tours in Vietnam – an experience Bruce will never forget. 

Thus began 15 years and counting of living and working in Vietnam. It is obvious to anyone who
has the good fortune to meet Bruce that his affection for this country is at a very deep level. Very few Westerners have the in-depth knowledge of Vietnam’s history, culture and people that Bruce does and his passion for sharing this knowledge with his passengers is what makes Bruce such an outstanding tour leader. 

Bruce remains one of PEAK Vietnam’s top performing leaders and his recent work as our Responsible Travel Co-Coordinator has breathed new life into this role, with a long list of accomplishments aimed at protecting and nurturing the country he calls home.

I was interested to know what it is that keeps Bruce going, what the key was to his success and how he keeps his enthusiasm after 15 years on the road. Bruce responded that he still finds every day challenging. Every trip and every group is different and he tries to put himself in their shoes by looking at each place as if he were experiencing it for the first time. 

For example, this man has been to Halong Bay over 200 times but he still gets a thrill in seeing people so overawed by its beauty. He never gets bored, still feels there is a lot to discover and to this day Bruce refused to go to sleep on a bus or train ride during the day for fear of missing something he hasn’t seen before. 

It’s that natural curiosity, combined with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, that keeps Bruce at the top of his game and just a cursory read of his passenger feedback leaves little doubt that he has changed the lives of many of his passengers too.  

Congratulations Bruce on this incredible milestone. You are an inspiration to myself, the leaders and all the staff of PEAK Vietnam and those that know you from our other offices. We have the utmost respect for your achievements, your incredible work ethic and most of all, your determination to live the life that you want to live. I still reckon you have at least another 15 years in you so we look forward to sharing this journey with you in the years to come.

15 years and still going... the incredible adventures of Bruce McPhie.

To celebrate this monumentous achievement, we took Bruce out to Cuc Gach restaurant in Saigon
with a number of staff, leaders and local guides and a great night was had by all as we reflected
on Bruce’s incredible career. 

Earlier, Bruce was taken out shopping to select a brand new suitcase to replace (in typical Bruce fashion!) an old green backpack that he had purchased back in 1982 and was still using on every trip. It was time to say goodbye to the ‘green monster’ and even though Bruce told us that parting with it felt like chopping off his arm, he does believe that this new suitcase with wheels is a very exciting thing that represents a new way of travel and will make him look less like a backpacker! 
And we can’t ask for anything more than that Bruce.  

From David Mannix, General Manager, PEAK Adventure Travel Vietnam, October 2012.
Intrepid Travel is a proud member of the PEAK Advenure Travel Group Limited, the global leader in delivering outstanding adventure travel experiences. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

“Becker  gives us the most sharply focused and penetrating analysis we have of the real dynamics at work in the continuing persecution of the Palestinian people. He calls for international unity among all people to end this tragic injustice. Hear his call and join in the struggle.” 
 Ramsey Clark, former U.S. attorney general, former litigation attorney for the Palestine Liberation Organization.

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Comprehensive Book on Palestine: 
Palestine, Israel and the U.S. Empire 
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Palestine book cover We encourage everyone to get a copy of this important book, Palestine, Israel and the U.S. Empire, by Richard Becker, West Coast Coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition.

This book is a must read
. Over 233 pages, it breaks through the media's lies and distortions about the Palestinian people's decades-long struggle for their homeland.

This book from PSL Publications provides a sharp analysis of historic and current events in the struggle for Palestine—from the division of the Middle East by Western powers and the Zionist settler movement, to the founding of Israel and its regional role as a watchdog for U.S. interests, to present-day conflicts and the prospects for a just resolution.

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“Becker gives us the most sharply focused and penetrating analysis we have of the real dynamics at work in the continuing persecution of the Palestinian people. He calls for international unity among all people to end this tragic injustice. Hear his call and join in the struggle.” 
Ramsey Clark, former U.S. attorney general, former litigation attorney for the Palestine Liberation Organization

Click here to view the Table of Contents.

Click here to read an excerpt of the first section.
Click here to read about the author

Click here to read testimonials about the book from activists and scholars

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

By Chris Floyd

To all those now hailing the re-election of Barack Obama as a triumph of decent, humane, liberal values over the oozing-postule perfidy of the Republicans, a simple question:

Is this child dead enough for you?

This little boy was named Naeemullah. He was in his house -- maybe playing, maybe sleeping, maybe having a meal -- when an American drone missile was fired into the residential area where he lived and blew up the house next door.

As we all know, these drone missiles are, like the president who wields them, super-smart, a triumph of technology and technocratic expertise. 

We know, for the president and his aides have repeatedly told us, that these weapons -- launched only after careful consultation of the just-war strictures of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas -- strike nothing but their intended targets and kill no one but "bad guys." 

Indeed, the president's top aides have testified under oath that not a single innocent person has been among the thousands of Pakistani civilians -- that is, civilians of a sovereign nation that is not at war with the United States -- who have been killed by the drone missile campaign of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
Yet somehow, by some miracle, the missile that roared into the residential area where Naeemullah lived did not confine itself neatly to the house it struck. Somehow, inexplicably, the hunk of metal and wire and computer processors failed -- in this one instance -- to look into the souls of all the people in the village and ascertain, by magic, which ones were "bad guys" and then kill only them. 

Somehow -- perhaps the missile had been infected with Romney cooties? -- this supercharged hunk of high explosives simply, well, exploded with tremendous destructive power when it struck the residential area, blowing the neighborhood to smithereens. 
As Wired reports, shrapnel and debris went flying through the walls of Naeemullah's house and ripped through his small body. When the attack was over -- when the buzzing drone sent with Augustinian wisdom by the Peace Laureate was no longer lurking over the village, shadowing the lives of every defenseless inhabitant with the terrorist threat of imminent death, Naeemullah was taken to the hospital in a nearby town. 
This is where the picture of above was taken by Noor Behram, a resident of North Waziristan who has been chronicling the effects of the Peace Laureate's drone war.  When the picture was taken, Naeemullah was dying. He died an hour later.
He died.
Is he dead enough for you? 
Dead enough not to disturb your victory dance in any way? 

Dead enough not to trouble the inauguration parties yet to come? Dead enough not to diminish, even a little bit, your exultant glee at the fact that this great man, a figure of integrity, decency, honor and compassion, will be able to continue his noble leadership of the best nation in the history of the world?
Do you have children? Do they sit your house playing happily? Do they sleep sweetly scrunched up in their warm beds at night? Do they chatter and prattle like funny little birds as you eat with them at the family table? Do you love them? Do you treasure them? Do you consider them fully-fledged human beings, beloved souls of infinite worth?
How would you feel if you saw them ripped to shreds by flying shrapnel, in your own house? How would you feel as you rushed them to the hospital, praying every step of the way that another missile won't hurl down on you from the sky? 

Your child was innocent, you had done nothing, were simply living your life in your own house -- and someone thousands of miles away, in a country you had never seen, had no dealings with, had never harmed in any way, pushed a button and sent chunks of burning metal into your child's body. 

How would you feel as you watched him die, watched all your hopes and dreams for him, all the hours and days and years you would have to love him, fade away into oblivion, lost forever?
What would you think about the one who did this to your child? Would you say: "What a noble man of integrity and decency! I'm sure he is acting for the best." 
Would you say: "Well, this is a bit unfortunate, but it's perfectly understandable. The Chinese government (or Iran or al Qaeda or North Korea or Russia, etc. etc.) believed there was someone next door to me who might possibly at some point in time pose some kind of threat in some unspecified way to their people or their political agenda -- or maybe it was just that my next-door neighbor behaved in a certain arbitrarily chosen way that indicated to people watching him on a computer screen thousands of miles away that he might possibly be the sort of person who might conceivably at some point in time pose some kind of unspecified threat to the Chinese (Iranians/Russians, etc.), even though they had no earthly idea who my neighbour is or what he does or believes or intends. I think the person in charge of such a program is a good, wise, decent man that any person would be proud to support. Why, I think I'll ask him to come speak at my little boy's funeral!"
Is that what you would say if shrapnel from a missile blew into your comfortable house and killed your own beloved little boy? You would not only accept, understand, forgive, shrug it off, move on -- you would actively support the person who did it, you would cheer his personal triumphs and sneer at all those who questioned his moral worthiness and good intentions? 

Is that really what you would do?
Well, that is what you are doing when you shrug off the murder of little Naeemullah. You are saying he is not worth as much as your child. You are saying he is not a fully-fledged human being, a beloved soul of infinite worth. You are saying that you support his death, you are happy about it, and you want to see many more like it. 

You are saying it doesn't matter if this child -- or a hundred like him, or a thousand like him, or, as in the Iraqi sanctions of the old liberal lion, Bill Clinton, five hundred thousand children like Naeemullah -- are killed in your name, by leaders you cheer and support. You are saying that the only thing that matters is that someone from your side is in charge of killing these children. 

This is the reality of "lesser evilism."
Before the election, we heard a lot of talk about this notion of the "lesser evil." From prominent dissidents and opponents of empire like Daniel Ellsberg and Noam Chomsky and Robert Parry to innumerable progressive blogs to personal conversations, one heard this basic argument: "Yes, the drone wars, the gutting of civil liberties, the White House death squads and all the rest are bad; but Romney would be worse. Therefore, with great reluctance, holding our noses and shaking our heads sadly, we must choose the lesser evil of Obama and vote accordingly."
I understand that argument, I really do. I don't agree with it, as I made plain here many times before the election. I think the argument is wrong, I think our system is so far gone that even a "lesser evil" is too evil to support in any way, that such support only perpetuates the system's unconscionable evils. 

But I'm not a purist, not a puritan, not a commissar or dogmatist. I understand that people of good will can come to a different conclusion, and feel that they must reluctantly choose one imperial-militarist-corporate faction over the other, in the belief that this will mean some slight mitigation of the potential evil that the other side commit if it took power.  

I used to think that way myself, years ago. Again, I now disagree with this, and I think that the good people who believe this have not, for whatever reason or reasons, looked with sufficient clarity at the reality of our situation, of what is actually being done, in their name, by the political faction they support. 
But of course, I am not the sole arbiter of reality, nor a judge of others; people see what they see, and they act (or refrain from acting) accordingly. I understand that. But here is what I don't understand: the sense of triumph and exultation and glee on the part of so many progressives and liberals and 'dissidents' at the victory of this "lesser evil." 

Where did the reluctance, the nose-holding, the sad head-shaking go? Should they not be mourning the fact that evil has triumphed in America, even if, by their lights, it is a "lesser" evil? 
If you really believed that Obama was a lesser evil -- 2 percent less evil, as I believe Digby once described the Democrats in 2008 -- if you really did find the drone wars and the White House death squads and Wall Street bailouts and absolution for torturers and all the rest to be shameful and criminal, how can you be happy that all of this will continue? Happy -- and continuing to scorn anyone who opposed the perpetuation of this system? 
The triumph of a lesser evil is still a victory for evil. 

If your neighborhood is tyrannized by warring mafia factions, you might prefer that the faction which occasionally doles out a few free hams wins out over their more skinflint rivals; but would you be joyful about the fact that your neighborhood is still being tyrannized by murderous criminals? 

Would you not be sad, cast down, discouraged and disheartened to see the violence and murder and corruption go on? Would you not mourn the fact that your children will have to grow up in the midst of all this?
So where is the mourning for the fact that we, as a nation, have come to this: a choice between murderers, a choice between plunderers?

 Even if you believe that you had to participate and make the horrific choice that was being offered to us -- "Do you want the Democrat to kill these children, or do you want the Republican to kill these children?" -- shouldn't this post-election period be a time of sorrow, not vaulting triumph and giddy glee and snarky put-downs of the "losers"? 
If you really are a "lesser evilist" -- if this was a genuine moral choice you reluctantly made, and not a rationalization for indulging in unexamined, primitive partisanship -- then you will know that we are ALL the losers of this election. 

Even if you believe it could have been worse, it is still very bad. You yourself proclaimed that Obama was evil -- just a bit "lesser" so  than his opponent. (2 percent maybe.) And so the evil that you yourself saw and named and denounced will go on. 

Again I ask: where is the joy and glory and triumph in this? Even if you believe it was unavoidable, why celebrate it? 

And ask yourself, bethink yourself: what are you celebrating? This dead child, and a hundred like him? A thousand like him? Five hundred thousand like him? 

How far will you go? What won't you celebrate?
And so step by step, holding the hand of the "lesser evil," we descend deeper and deeper into the pit.


This article was originally posted at Chris


CIA Demands Drones Despite 80% Civilian Death Rate  The news comes just a day after the Pakistani Interior Minister quoted statistics suggesting 80 per cent of people killed in US drone attacks have been civilians.  (From RT)