Recently in War Category

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Leo Borchard (b. March 31, 1899, Moscow - d. August 23, 1945, Berlin)


On this day in 1945 the conductor Leo Borchard was killed by an American sentry in occupied Berlin while the musician was being driven home after conducting a concert of the Berlin Philharmonic. His British driver had misinterpreted the sentry's hand signal to stop.*

Three months earlier the artist had been appointed to replace the somewhat-compromised, and now-exiled Wilhelm Fürtwangler as musical director of the orchestra. At the time of Borchard's death he had conducted 22 hugely-welcome and greatly-acclaimed concerts, wining the affections of the traumatized population of the shattered city.

Born in Moscow to an ethnic German family in 1899, Borchard grew up in St. Petersburg, studying there before moving to Berlin, after the Russian Revolution, in 1920. In the German capital he was enjoying an increasingly important conducting career, which included promoting the music of young composers, when he was declared undesirable by the Nazi regime in 1935, for protecting Jewish musicians and for being "politically unreliable".

He remained in the city, hiding his identity, and gave music lessons in his apartment. He also became a member of the German resistance, and, along with his stunningly-beautiful partner, the author Ruth Andreas-Friedrich, formed the humanitarian resistance group, Onkel Emil ("Onkel Emil" was their warning signal), a secret network which committed sabotage, destroyed Nazi propaganda materials and broadcast their own leaflets - and those of the tragic "White Rose". They expertly created fake medical certificates which would enable the bearer to avoid military service. They rescued war resisters, political enemies of the regime and, above all, Jews, finding hiding places, procuring food, supplying false identity cards, and supporting families which would otherwise be without resources or protection..

I first heard about Borchard years ago while reading the memoirs of various members of the Widerstand, some of whom referred to him, always with love and admiration - for both the man and his art. At the time I could find very little information about either. Although even now very little has turned up, there are a precious few recordings, and at least one video.

I've also learned about the two memoirs** written by Andreas-Friedrich, one about her experience during the war, the other about Berlin in the years immediately following. I expect to read them both.


*
Borchard wasn't the only victim of American security forces in Europe that year: Anton Webern was killed three weeks later in Mittersill, near Salzburg, on September 15th. The composer had gone there from Vienna to be safe, but that night, just before the military curfew, when he stepped outside his house in order to smoke a cigar, he was shot by an American Army soldier, in circumstances which are not really clear to this day..


**
"Berlin Underground, 1938-1945", and "Battleground Berlin: Diaries 1945-1948"


[image from Discogs]

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detail of Stampflehmbauweise (rammed-earth process) wall


Berlin's Kapelle der Versöhnung (chapel of the reconciliation) was built on the exact site of the Versöhnungskirche, which had survived the Anglo-American bombings of Berlin but not the pathology of the GDR. The 1895 church was destroyed in 1985 in order to improve the security of the wall standing adjacent to it. The history is a little complex, making the story of the new chapel, and its construction, even richer than it might be otherwise.

Today the Kapelle is a part of the Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse.

The image at the top shows pieces of various materials (which here or elsewhere include stone, tile glass) which came from the rubble of the original church.

This is a view of the entire chapel, the rammed-earth wall can be detected behind the vertical square-section raw wood slats:

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Over the years I've made my take on the campaign to allow gays in uniform (or on the wedding cake) pretty clear, arguing that a truly progressive Queer rights movement has been highjacked by the most conservative of agendas. When DADT was finally dumped, I had hoped we could all finally stop talking about it and move on to more serious stuff, but the recent online fuss over the prosecution of its poster boy Dan Choi has again brought gay warriors out of the woodwork.

Yesterday my friend Bill Dobbs sent around an email with some reflections on the historical frenzy over DADT, and its continuing fallout today. Dobbs is always worth listening to, and I have his permission to print his letter in its entirety here:


When I heard people had chained themselves to the White House fence I figured a powerful protest was afoot. Turns out it was the same-sexer pro-war crowd who wanted to be part of the US military, Lt. Dan Choi et al. For his participation in the protest Choi faced federal charges and opted to go to trial. The link at the end of this post will tell you more about that.

Choi was just a part of a much larger, successful campaign to overturn Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) which means anti-gay discrimination against those serving in the military is coming to an end. It is also an example of a gay agenda item helping to damage progressive organizing and ideals. The campaign invoked patriotic themes, the "takeaway" from that effort is -- war is no big deal, signing up for the military is now a fine choice for youth, sexual minority and otherwise. Military recruiters and training programs are now back on campuses.

That the anti-war and gay movements walked arm and arm together for some decades is lost down the rabbit hole of history. The advancement of "equality" in the narrow gay sense means self-identified same-sexers can operate drones, blowing people to smithereens in service of the world's lone superpower.

The gay agenda and all those sillyass equal signs should NOT be confused with progress. That's a message that straight people in particular need to absorb; those organizing for peace stood mostly mute during the DADT-repeal effort.

And watch out for the mantra of "diversity" - the Pentagon has long been one of the most diverse workplaces in the country. The US military, of course, is far more than a workplace. There's the slight matter of war but that point got lost in the narrow discussions about DADT.

-Bill Dobbs


[the link Dobbs refers to above is Thursday's Washington Post story on Dan Choi's conviction]


[image from Against Equality ("queer challenges to the politics of inclusion")]

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ADDENDUM: May Day 2012 actions specific to, or related to, OWS Arts & Labor initiatives


It's in the nature of these events that not everything planned around them can, or should, be known in advance, but the OccupyWallStreet site has extensive information on both 'permitted' and 'unpermitted' actions anticipated in New York City this Tuesday, May Day 2012.

It also includes a link to known actions in some 125 cities around the country.

I don't have a link for actions outside the U.S., but there is this link to an interactive map showing 1400 Occupations across the globe.

All of this of course is just for starters. Expect a very interesting day. The 1% is on the run.


[I can't credit the origin of the flier I photographed and uploaded here, except to describe it as the most minimal - and commanding - of several available in one of the cooler galleries participating in the very cool Dependent Art Fair two months ago]

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(at dusk, after the police-mini-riots on Saturday) a sign is propped up at the edge of Liberty Plaza; it faced a lineup of hundreds of uniformed police which for hours threatened the eviction of #OccupyWallStreet from the park


For anyone who can make the trip, I can't recommend strongly enough a real, physical visit to the Liberty Plaza encampment of #OccupyWallStreet [OWS]. And if you get there you should definitely stay for a while.

For anyone interested in the issues and arguments identified with the movement, of course the site should be a draw anyway, but for anyone still hopeful of and interested in the possibility of an acceptable future for the U.S., anyone curious about or starved for the opportunity of experiencing a pure democratic process, and anyone who wants to watch the birth of a movement and a new politics, it's a must. It's also completely engaging and quite beautiful. The people are mostly young and some are very young (who else has the energy, the stamina, the relative invulnerability, or the idealism?), but in the park you will find little kids and folks of all ages (early this week I watched two octogenarians make their way from one long side to the other, and the man was using a walker).

For some reference, see below the three posts published since September 18.


And now a thought about what may be happening inside Liberty Plaza, in the outreach, in the marches and zaps that are likely to continue for some time, and in the minds and hearts of those who are listening to the message which this encampment embodies.

I can't help musing on both the New Deal and real revolutions these days, including the French 1789 model. I didn't come up with this either-or proposition, but it's worth repeating: The 99 percent should make the 1 percent understand that from this moment we could go with either the French model or the American; that it's really up to them.

On that note, I occasionally find myself puzzled by and a bit frustrated with the surprising mildness of the message often being expressed by people associated with #OccupyWallStreet; then I only have to remind myself that that approach is less likely to turn people off to what they (OWS) are saying and doing; that they operate totally by consensus; and that, whether its current political expression is genuinely mild or not, the movement will undoubtedly take on a life of its own, not unlike the French or every other revolution: After all, in 1789 the demand was only that the king rule better.

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woman and child at the Wall, waving from West to East, 1961 (from a video on a stele at the Wall Memorial)


ADDENDUM: two images have been added within the original set below [on August 21, 2011]


I find myself nearly choking up as I write this. Yes, it's been a very long time since I've blogged anything on this site, but my emotion has nothing to do with having been absent so long from a "post". The reason I'm feeling a bit fragile right now is that I've been looking lately at a lot of images attached to the history of the Berlin Wall, memorialized yesterday exactly 50 years after it was installed. There are also my own memories of the Wall, and of Berlin, which begin in late spring of 1961, a few months before it even existed.

I returned to Berlin several times during the years the wall stood (but not often enough, as I still regret), and I've been back three times since it was torn down in 1989.

I suppose it's natural that at this time there should be more and more attention being paid to this piece of German and Western history, more perhaps than that currently being focused on the Nazi regime and its so much greater horror. At least two generations have been born since 1945, and Germans today are well-educated about the country's darker legacy, and fully-conscious of both the origins and the deeds of the twelve-year regime which ended in a Berlin bunker. Over 65 years later Germany is a very different country, the Germans a very different people, and almost no one survives today who could be said to have played an important role in the horrors which accompanied the first half of the last century.

The story of a divided Germany, a divided Berlin, however remains very much alive - and insufficiently known or documented. It's also the story of a divided people, and much of that division remains today. Both victims and tormentors survive, certainly in numbers sufficient to attract the curious social observer or documentarian.

Peter Schneider wrote in the Times two days ago that when he first began investigating the Wall 30 years ago his progressive friends thought his interest was weird, that the subject should be of interest to the Right: "The left held that the split was the price Germans had to pay for the crimes of the Third Reich." I can back him up: I was aware of something like that attitude among the Germans I knew decades ago.

Even today it seems there's not even the beginnings of a consensus about what happened between 1961 and 1989, or how it happened.

The Wall was one of the last remnants of a social and political struggle which began before 1933 and continued after 1945; it was a part of a much broader panorama of German history, and not just a product of an East/West Cold War (which had been germinating for several generations, not merely years). Much of the suspicion and passion of the struggle which created the wall is still with us, even if disguised and diffused.

I have been obsessed with German history all my life, and especially with the 25 years fateful years of the Weimar and National Socialist eras, but in the last decade or so I have become increasingly interested in the story of divided Germany, and especially divided Berlin (subjects my teachers would have called "current events"). Part of the reason for my fascination and hunger for information could be the fact that Barry and I have stayed, on our last two visits, in what had been East Berlin. There is nothing like affection for an adopted neighborhood - even a temporary one - and proximity to the subject to inspire interest in its history. But I'm sure I would find the subject fascinating even at a greater distance, and it offers virtually unlimited opportunities for discovery.

I took these pictures while we were in Berlin in May of this year. I'm using, welcoming, the anniversary of the Wall as the occasion and an inducement to publishing them here now. We stayed just one street away from the Berlin Wall Memorial, which begins roughly at the Nordbahnhof, on Gartenstrasse, and runs along Bernauerstrasse. The memorial service held yesterday was held one street in the other direction from our apartment. These photographs were captured in half-light, as we returned to our base on our first full day in the city.


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The S-Bahn stop, Nordbahnhof, closed between August 13,1961, the day the Berlin Wall went up, and September 1, 1990, is at the southwestern edge of the Bernauerstrasse section of the Wall Memorial; it includes an extensive, and evocative, "ghost stations" exhibit; this same building, by Richard Brademann, was constructed in 1936 and survived war (bombs, flooding), the postwar division of the city, and finally the Wall which destroyed its function


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looking not unlike a street in Pompei, the archeological remains of Bergstrasse, showing the curb, paving stones and stumps of metal fence poles which were a part of the wall system


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a section of one of the last surviving pieces of the Wall, on Bernauerstrasse, showing the small international Denkmalplakette, or monument emblem, established by the 1954 Hague Convention to identify "movable or immovable property of great importance to the cultural heritage of every people," to be protected in the event of armed conflict.


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a view of one of a section of the concrete "Grenzmauer 75" (restored to its original condition), and in the left foreground the edge of the steel side wall designed by the memorial architects, the Stuttgart firm Kohlhoff & Kohlhoff, so that the polished surface of one of its sides would give an impression, artistically and optically, of the sheer length of the original barrier, most of which does not survive; the Gedenksttte has not yet been completed in its entirety


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two Berlin youths visiting the still-under-construction Memorial Grounds on Bernauerstrasse, at dusk; we were near them while they watched one of the video screens imbedded in a stele, and when then-Brgermeister Willy Brandt was seen speaking to the crowd at the wall, only three days after the closure (criticizing what he described as President Kennedy's empty rhetoric, asserting "Berlin expects more than words. It expects political action"), one of the two uttered respectfully - and affectionately, "Der Willy," in the way Germans often modify a friend's given name.


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an image included in the wall of memorial materials located along Ackerstrasse, about one kilometer east of where this crowd of happy, stunned(?) East Berliners crossed to the West from Eberswalderstrasse into Bernauerstrasse the morning of November 11, 1989, through the first new street opening



More on the Wall, pictures and texts, from German sites, in English:

Germany marks 50 years (Deutsche Welle)

Before and After Photos of Germany's East-West Border (Der Spiegel)

'West Berliners Felt Abandoned and Powerless' (Der Spiegel)


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stills from 2007 video posted by Wikileaks showing a US Apache helicopter firing on civilians in Baghdad


Are we doing the government's own, dirty work?

I just now got it. I'd searched my mind for weeks, probably months, trying to figure out why the U.S. government (and the British terrier) has come down so hard on Bradley Manning and Julian Assange. Sure, no institution wants its endemic practices of deception to be broadcast to the world, and there is no institution more powerful than the U.S. government, but the aggressive offensive it has launched on these two men appears to be all out of proportion to what it might gain from any likely outcome.

While lying in bed this morning listening to the BBC I was pondering if or when we will learn the story behind the UN resolution which approved foreign intervention in Libya: How did the most gung-ho elements in the most gung-ho countries arrange it? That is, how did they ensure that no members of the Security Council would vote nay (including two with absolute veto power)? And why? I mean, what do they think is in it for them? Then, as my mind went back to Bradley Manning's parlous plight in a Marine Brig,* I realized that we may never know more than we do now; the leaks may have been fixed, the taps plumbed tight.

I don't think the U.S. has any intention of trying and sentencing either Bradley or Assange. Aside from the fact that it would be too messy, for many reasons (including more revelations?), our entrenched oligarchy, that brutal mob, already has what it wants. It's frightened the whistle blowers.

This is all part of an full-out war on open government.

The extraordinary damage Manning has done to exposing the lies of the war regime in Washington, beginning shortly before the world saw the Apache helicopter video, can't be reversed now, but he's certainly not going to be handing over more evidence. As for Assange, our government doesn't even really have to have him physically in its hands: The role of the WikiLeaks editor is to hand off to other media, and publish on his own site, information furnished him by others, and even if Assange now has some worthy imitators, anyone who might be thinking of leaking to the public more information about illegal and criminal government acts of any kind will now be reconsidering the cost of acting with moral integrity and fighting for open government. The lesson seems to be: Don't fuck with the military; don't cross the bosses. You're not going to survive the war.

So it would seem to follow that when we write about and demonstrate against what has been done to Bradley Manning we are doing what the anti-whistleblowers want: Warning of the dangers in working for truth and open government.

But that would be true only if they are expected to win, and we can't let that happen.


*
Manning has been imprisoned without trial, shackled, tortured and drugged, for almost ten months. He was not charged with any crime until 7 months after he was locked up. He has undergone prolonged isolated confinement and total idleness, and he is now forced to go naked inside his tiny cell much of the time and during daily inspections by his guards while standing outside of it. He is subject to sleep deprivation because of repeated nighttime physical inspections, and not permitted to sleep during the day. He is constantly drugged with antidepressants. He is unable to exercise in any ordinary way and never in his cell, but only after being moved to an empty room where he is allowed to do nothing other than walk in circles or figure eights for one hour (or less, if he decides to stop). Manning's cell has no window or any natural light. He is permitted no pillow or sheets and his "blanket" sounds like it's a stiff carpet (can't be fashioned into a noose). He has been stripped of the glasses he needs to read, and is shackled whenever he leaves the cell. No trial has been scheduled. I can't imagine how he could survive intact as a human being.


[image from BoingBoing]

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surely we can hold ourselves to a higher justice than that which condemned them


The Six core members of Die Weisse Rose (The White Rose), a non-violent resistance group in Nazi Germany, were arrested by the Gestapo, tried and executed in 1943. Some of the male members had been activated for military service and been witness to atrocities, both on the battlefield itself and against civilian populations. The group had become known over the eight months prior to the arrests for an anonymous leaflet campaign describing what the government was doing and calling for resistance. The text of their sixth and final leaflet was smuggled out of the country and copies of it were dropped over Germany by Allied planes.

Today the members of the White Rose and others who opposed the Nazi regime, including those inside the government and the military who revealed the plans of the Nazis to other governments both before and after the war began, are honored as some of Germany's greatest heroes. They acted from conscience and spoke truth to power; almost all of them paid for it with their lives.

Pfc Bradley Manning is their heir. Having learned about government and military lies, official war crimes, and having even been asked to contribute to them, he could not claim ignorance, or deny his moral responsibility to expose and to put an end to the hypocrisy and the atrocities.

Manning is the real thing.

Manning is a hero, not merely for what he did, which is only what morality and codes both command, but because doing it is still today an exceptional act for anyone within government or the military. He is also a hero because he is being punished horribly for doing it - by the real criminals themselves. Finally, and perhaps most discouragingly, he is a hero because, although he has not been tried or convicted of any crime, most Americans seem to believe he is a traitor, or much worse.

The shy young army private did precisely what all members of the armed forces are supposed to do, and have been instructed to do, at least since the 1946-1947 Nuremberg Trials. Those processes established that the traditional military defense of just following orders, the "Superior Orders" plea, isn't enough to escape punishment.

These trials established the "Nuremberg principles," which provided the basis for all subsequent prosecutions, anywhere in the world, for crimes against the peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. They continue to stand even if most Americans do not believe this sort of thing could apply to them. They are encouraged in maintaining this perverted self-deception by their most exalted leaders: When he was asked about the possible prosecutions for American torture practices, our current President says he's "a strong believer that it's important to look forward and not backwards."

In fact, most of us share directly in the guilt for American crimes at home and abroad. We've been waging wars on the other side of the planet - shamefully - for almost ten years. My partner Barry ended a 2007 post on American electoral politics: "Americans didn't exactly reject the Bush administration in 2004, when we had all seen the images of Abu Ghraib, and knew that they had no legitimate evidence of Iraqi WMDs. When Americans . . . say the people of countries like Germany under the Nazis were guilty, what does that say about us?"

Any individual or group choosing to describe and oppose criminal U.S. policy on ethical or moral grounds is without honor in this country today, this in the nation which was so instrumental in destroying Nazism and creating the document which set guidelines for determining what constitutes a war crime. Manning's experience confirms this.

The most salient muckraker in the country today is now the least visible to his fellow citizens.

Manning remains locked in solitary confinement, ten months after being arrested for allegedly passing a mountain of digital "U.S. secrets" to WikiLeaks. He awaits his kangaroo court. Meanwhile, inside the Marine brig he is subject to no-touch-torture regimens which include being stripped naked each night and forced in the morning to stand outside his cell naked for "inspection." After the revelations about American prisoner treatment over the last ten years, I think we know what that's all about.

Meanwhile the real criminals, inside government, corporations, or the military, are free to continue the practices which were the subject of Manning's whistle-blowing (no 5 am naked inspections for them). Those at the top have flourished and become rich, but those who would point out their crimes are ignored, punished, or imprisoned (and in at least one extraordinary case, fired for speaking out).

Ours may be the least responsible government in the West. Its elected (a generous adjective) officials do not pursue even in the most general terms the policies which the voters enjoin on them, and the mainstream media doesn't cry foul. It's the height of idiocy for citizens of a modern republic to believe in the first place that they could trust the paid officers of an unrepresentative and irresponsive oligarchy to know what is best for them, but to permit them to properly administer the affairs of the citizenry in secrecy is more dangerous still. The secrets, in any event, belong to the people. Bradley Manning is the agent of their retrieval. He is our tribune.

We know that as a nation we've been bad, very bad; an impenetrable cocoon of silence at the top means that no one with any political power will admit it; but worst of all, too many "good Americans" also refuse to admit that we might be guilty of anything.

Surely we've never engaged in optional wars, tortured the state's "enemies," or killed incalculable numbers of innocents in the nations we've invaded. Nor have we enslaved many of our own people, or placed others in concentration camps solely on the basis of race, and we've never corrupted our own constitution or judicial systems in the name of "national security."

Or if we have done those things (we have, and we're still doing some of them today), maybe we stay silent because we didn't do them on a Nazi scale. Or maybe it's because we think our shit don't stink.


David House

David House is Manning's support team. He is a friend, and a computer scientist now a researcher at MIT, who visits him in jail twice a month, one of the very few people permitted to do so. On December 23, 2010, House appeared on MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan Show, guest-hosted by Jonathan Capehart, to describe his latest visit. I transcribed a section of his statement in a video shown on Firedoglake (FDL), specifically, Firedoglake TV:

After commenting that there are laws protecting whistel blowers in the United states, Capehart asked House, "Do you think Bradley Manning did anything wrong?" He replied: "If the allegations against Bradley Manning are true, I think he is an ethical giant of our generation. I think perhaps in this case America has judged him in the press much too quickly, and we should really reconsider why we keep alleged whistle blowers locked up in solitary confinement."

When he was asked if he holds Assange resposnsible for the situation in which Manning finds himself, House responded that he would have to have information about whether they had a relationship, adding that all information to that effect is coming out from one very unreliable source [Adrian Lamo]. "So I don't think that's something I could speculate on now." Capehart then suggested they talk about House's thoughts on what Assange has done with the information that he has released via WikiLeaks. House: "So I think that the underlying principles of the WikiLeaks organization are actually principles which are very much in line with most American ideals, the principles of open government, the principles of government transparency; so at least from an abstract, 30,000 foot perspective, I think the actions of WikiLeaks are very much in line with the principles of the American people.

I can't imagine a better spokesperson. House is awesome.



EXPOSING WAR CRIMES IS NOT A CRIME!, reads the banner on the home page of the Bradley Manning support site. There are demonstrations of support planned for Manning all over the world tomorrow, March 20. The site has information for all of them. The gathering in New York will be at 2 pm in Union Square. Clothing optional.


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supporters of Army Pfc Bradley Manning at a rally at the State Department March 14th
(SF activist Logan Price, in the pink sign, writes on FDL about why he got naked)



APPENDIX I: Manning was, and still is, a very young man (only 21 when he first started transferring classified data into his personal computer). He was not a sophisticated undercover agent. It seems to me that he was in the place where he found himself, where he had incredible access to government documents, because he was smart and because he was a techie, in fact a computer geek. I also can't help noticing that, since Manning is gay (openly for I don't know how long), the army may have chosen neither to ask nor to tell; there just may not be enough straight men who answer that description and are also willing to serve their country, as Manning was when he enlisted (and is now more than ever, as we see). But all of that, including the impact upon Manning's story of DADT is the subject for another discussion altogether.


APPENDIX II: [This account of how Manning met House is taken from the Wikipedia entry for Manning] While he was at Fort Drum in New York, Manning regularly traveled to the Boston area to visit his then boyfriend, Tyler Watkins, who was studying neuroscience and psychology at Brandeis University. At Brandeis he "was introduced to Watkins's network of friends, and the university's hacker community, as well as its ideas about the importance of information being free. He visited the university's "hackerspace" workshop, and met David House, the computer scientist and MIT researcher who has been allowed to visit him in jail twice a month, the only person apart from his lawyer with permission to do so."


[first image from Wikipedia, the second from Jay Marx's Zimbio photostream]


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today in Tahrir Square, "Egyptian people greet selves as liberators"*


While the victory of the Egyptian people is a major problem for authoritarian governments throughout the Middle East, it's a bonanza for virtually everyone else, one which could be world-changing: Last night I heard Ayman Mohyeldin, speaking on Rachel Maddow's show (before the announcement of the resignation of Mubarak), say that their success was Osama Bin Laden's worst nightmare:

It might take a day or two or a week or two. They have already won. But this scene of winning peacefully the way they have, this is Bin Laden's nightmare. What we're seeing here is Bin Laden's nightmare.

If the Egyptian protests are copied elsewhere, and successfully, it would not only put Bin Laden out of work, it would put an end to his and others' hopes for the world governed by Sharia law which they envision.

And President Obama couldn't see that? Actually, he may still not see it.

I propose that even now the Egyptian Revolution may be viewed by our own government as a disaster, regardless of the tardy words of support and congratulation coming from Washington. Mohamed ElBaradei, in an Op-Ed piece published in today's New York Times, also before Mubarak's resignation, makes this comparison:

The United States and its allies have spent the better part of the last decade, at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars and countless lives, fighting wars to establish democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now that the youth of Cairo, armed with nothing but Facebook and the power of their convictions, have drawn millions into the street to demand a true Egyptian democracy, it would be absurd to continue to tacitly endorse the rule of a regime that has lost its own people's trust.

The Americans in possession of enormous power and access to the ordinary taxpayer's money (or mortgaged futures) did not engage in these foreign wars in order to bring about the kind of world which the peaceful and triumphant Egyptians are about to carve for themselves after over half a century of military dictatorship and heroic exertions over the past weeks. It's hard to imagine even the least astute of our dull politicos having any illusions about the efficacy of Imperial American war policies in planting freedom and democracy by force and intimidation.

I'm often tempted to think of almost all of our post-war foreign policy as just a game played by boys who never grew up, but it's probably more useful to understand it as the work of a military industrial and media complex, in it for the money and the power; its lip service to freedom and democracy was always cant, and talk of a communist, and later a fundamentalist threat, only a cover.

May the Egyptians now safely secure the awesome accomplishment of popular revolution - and incidentally save Americans from themselves.


*
The phrase in quotes was tweeted by David Waldman today, in negative tribute to Dick Cheney's 2003 prediction that the Iraqis would welcome us with open arms and greet us with flowers (or some such words) when we invaded their country.


[image (uncredited on the site) from Huffington Post]

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a complicated relationship*


Egyptians have a complicated relationship with the army. While we are told over and over that it occupies a high status within Egyptian society, largely because of perceived (early) success in the Yom Kippur War, if we take a longer look, it's clear that it has a problematic history when it comes to the welfare of the Egyptian people. Today as well, while vaunted for its restraint over the last two weeks, the army has not been truly impartial.

While we are still awaiting events, even in a first draft, the 2011 Egyptian Revolution may already be writing the most definitive statement of the army's position within Egyptian society.

We've been hearing for weeks that the enemy of the popular protests isn't the army, that the army is close to the people, that the army would not turn on the people, and that the conscripts, at the very least, are identified with the people and have the same interests as the people.

At the beginning of the Egyptian street demonstrations these sentiments and judgments were being expressed in a context which showed that the police, on the other hand, were not close to the people, would turn on them, were not conscripts and therefore not identified with the people in the streets - or their interests.

Today concern with both the physical presence and threat of the police has been overshadowed, even replaced by considerations of the army, lower ranks of which now share, sometimes even intimately, the spaces occupied by the protesters. Today it is the posture of the army that is being discussed. Early on, when the more reflective protesters talked about the army not being the enemy I always suspected that much of their expression of comfort was strategic, with the object of helping to engage the support of the military, at all levels.

All of this is the context which will determine how the revolution will respond to a possible military replacement for Mubarak - and Suleiman, even it is described as temporary.

In the end Egyptians will make that call (and perhaps they have already). Even the youngest revolutionaries are almost certainly aware of the army's chronicle, at least starting with the end of the Muhammad Ali Pasha dynasty and continuing to this week.* *

It was a cadre of high military officers who staged the coup which brought down King Farouk in 1952, and every president since then has been a high military officer, as has virtually every key figure in every government, including the one currently disintegrating.

If Mubarak steps down, and Suleiman exits as well, turning over authority to the army, absolutely nothing will have been accomplished by the revolution. The army will merely be continuing its almost 60-year ascendancy. I'm sure the streets know this.

I saw this re-tweeted on Mona Eltahawy's feed this morning:

To All Egyptian youth: It's YOUR country ,YOUR revolution NOT the army's. GO CLAIM YOUR RIGHTFUL TROPHY


*
The published caption reads:

An Egyptian civilian kisses an army soldier after troops took position at major junctions in central Cairo on January 29, 2011 as thousands of anti-regime demonstrators continue to pour onto Cairo's streets, demanding President Hosni Mubarak stand down the day after the veteran leader ordered the army to tackle the deadly protests.


* *
Egypt is five to seven thousand years old, but in its modern history as a state (from 1805) it has had only two regimes: the Muhammad Ali Pasha dynasty, and that of the generals. The generals have been operating under a state of emergency since 1952 (and not 1981, as the media reports).

It is interesting that the "state of emergency" (emergency for whom?) was originally provoked by a successful military coup (eliminating King Farouk and installing Naguib and then Nasser, both high military officers), and fully-institutionalized by the assassination of one president (Sadat, a high military officer), also by military officers (an army major, a lieutenant and four enlisted men) and the succession of another high military officer, Mubarak.

So what is the current regime talking about when the say they fear the disruption of the state from below, and warn they will call upon the military to protect that state? I think everyone now knows the answer.


[image by Mohammed Abed - AFP/GETTY IMAGES from NewsObserver]

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