Bananas are much more than a yellow fruit that goes good with your cereal. Behind the world’s beloved fruit is a multibillion dollar industry that has the power to create and destroy governments.
Many visitors to this site and readers of this blog are no doubt listeners or watchers of democracy now, perhaps the most important 60 min of audio one can consult in the average day. Well last friday’s show is one I had to listen to a second time.
People often fall back on slogans like, “the past is the past” and “its time to move on” whenever you bring up an uncomfortable or unresolved conflict. I hear it very often in both the mainstream media and mainstream political conversations when it comes to impeaching the president. Beyond impeachment, even the demand to arrest the current president of the United States and his inner circle on the charge of mass murder and fraud seems to have become some crazy idea, too far fetched to be worthy of discussion.
Why exactly doesn’t anyone want to talk about it? That part isn’t so clear. People are still dying everyday while carrying out his orders. An entire nation is still living under occupation while their national funds are being held hostage by that same administration. The US itself is, even as I write this, being drained of all its resources, wealth, and young minds, again for the whims of that same president. But perhaps like Eddie Izzard used to say, when one murders tens of thousands it is as if people don’t know what to do with you or how to respond.
Last friday’s democracy now featured the man who led the case against Charles Manson, the infamous American serial killer. He’s now laid out the case against George W. Bush, for the crime of murder; mass murder. To learn the details of the case itself is important and worth your time, so give it a listen.
What I found particularly eye opening was the document called “the manning memo”. This memo, written by a Tony Blair advisor, provided details of the conversations that included Bush, Blair, and Condi Rice among others. In those details it is revealed by Manning, that Bush was worried that the case for war in Iraq was too weak, and he discussed a plan to fly a US air force plane low over Iraq, painted with UN colors and insignias. In doing so it would provoke Iraq to fire, and the plane’s destruction would outrage the international community and further garuntee the desire to go to invade the country.
The evidence of the murders and fraud was already significant, but looking at the manning memo and seeing the premeditated, fraudulent, and blantent thirst for blood, this cabal needs to be arrested and kept from comitting anymore murders or other haneous acts. The world cannot wait for the next election, just as you don’t wait 6 months before picking up a serial killer til he is finished with his current job. This is not a time for moving on, or keeping the past in the past… this is the present and there is a series of criminal acts that got us here, and something must be done about it.
Although I’ve arrived back home in Amsterdam, my mind still drifts regularly back to Cambodia. In conversations with friends and day dreams as I ride my bike around town, I think most about the killing fields and that horrible torture prison known as S-21.
It was last friday that Mr. Lee and I set out on the motorscooter for the 25 or so minute ride out to the killing fields of Choeung Ek. Along the way I caught my first long glimpses of the country side, and the boggy farms that dot the landscape. Mr. Lee chimed in “Mr. Mark, you want go firing range and shoot machine gun?” – I tried to control my laughter and calmy replied, no, no, I’m ok, I don’t need shooting range. Noticing my disdain for the question he redirected, “many tourists like, they come and they shoot the guns.”
Eventually we arrive at the killing fields late that morning, on the way in -oddly enough-, greeting someone I met the night before at the Foreign Correspondents Club. Looking past the modest shrine, that I can already see contains many levels of skulls stored behind Plexiglas, I noticed the covered areas of land. Having heard the stories of the mass graves, of the more than 8,000 people that were killed at Choeung Ek, I knew those covered areas where some of the biggest mass graves. Slowly reading and moving past the wooden boards explaining how people were brought to this plot of land from the S-21 prison, to be slaughtered using various types of weapons and methods, I made my way to the covered areas. There in the pit of muddy water and wild grasses, I could see remnants of fabric, the collar of a shirt, perhaps the edge of a pant leg, almost too hard to tell at that point. Eventually I found myself staring at what could only be pieces of bone, somehow still there, sticking up out of the ground. I kept thinking, nooo.. thats not bone. But Iooking again, yes… yes it was; all that was left of some of these thousands of people killed between 1975 and 1979, the year of my birth.
Whether it was walking quietly and slowly through the killing fields, or staring at the floors and walls of the S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, my mind would not stop trying to recreate the sounds and smells of these places in those days. Prisoners being tortured, guards torturing prisoners out of fear of their own lives and that of their families. The muffled screams as prisoners would only be further punished for crying out. The requirement of all prisoners to ask before drinking water or even just going to the bathroom right there in their own tiny cells. All this within rooms that had originally been built and served as places of knowledge, a high school, a place of great hope for the future.
It was nothing short of humbling to see these places. They alone merit the long journey of anyone anywhere in the world who can afford to come; to see, to learn and remember, to visualize what it was like and think about how something like that can happen, just 28 years ago…. my lifetime.
It is easy to say, never again. Yet how often have people been rounded up, tortured, and mass murdered since 1979? Right at this moment, it is happening. THAT is perhaps more disturbing and horrifing than any former prison or field of death – that people are unable or unwilling to mobilize to stop history from repeating itself. Sadly there will be more S-21’s and more Choeung Ek’s in this world. The lone silver lining one could point to, after having also seen how the Cambodian nation is dealing with both the past and present to some extent, is that they have resolved to never repeat that part of history again.
One year ago this week I was in NOLA, heading down the Gulf Coast seeing how people were dealing with the damage and neglect of the Federal Flood. Here’s an excerpt from one of the posts on the subject of housing in New Orleans,
It was probably my second day in New Orleans and I decided to go visit the common ground legal clinic. I had heard they were providing free legal advice and a mini computer lab for local residents who want to get informed about their rights and perhaps how to manage property issues that have emerged after Katrina. After some nice emailing with one of the spokespeople… I figured going there would be an interesting experience.
As usual I drove around in circles, distracted every five minutes by another neighborhood of abandoned or destroyed houses. Eventually I found the legal clinic on a very lovely and typical new orleans street with the nice trees growing in the middle island that people seem to refer to as neutral territory. A large house with a dry cleaners on the ground floor, as I pulled up I could already see lots of people hanging out using their computers… I knew I had come to the right place.
Fast forward an hour or so, I’m sitting on the front porch sharing a little plastic table with a pretty young lady on her laptop, both of us typing away franticly.
At some point I strike up a conversation. She’s a law student from Seattle… as are many of the volunteers at the legal clinic. They come down in waves whenever they can, and right now it was spring break. When I asked her what tasks she was working on, she held up a stack of photocopied newspaper pages.
“You see these… they look like classified ads don’t they? These are printed in the big local newspaper, the Times-Picayune, everyday. Thing is, they’re not classified ads, they notices of properties that are considered abandoned, warning people that they will be evicted from their property if they don’t do something about it.”
I looked at the tiny print and the neverending list of properties, each one representing a life, or probably a family. Looking up at the young law student, I asked if this was legal?
Read the full text here. The struggle continues.