Monday, December 26, 2005


I went to view the remains of Stanley Tookie Williams last week-- he went to Washington high school with my late wife. When I went inside the mortuary’s Slumber Chamber where Tookie’s body lie in repose, there was a lady sitting in the front pew crying, presumably a member of Tookie’s family. It was obvious that the lady was in great pain, so in spite of the fact that I didn’t know her, I offered her my condolences. The chamber was quiet and solemn.  Then I walked out the side door of the mortuary—and into an absolute zoo.    

In the parking lot next to the mortuary there was a crowd of people partying like it was New Years Eve–the music was blasting, one car was on lifters so high that it seemed to be standing on end, and three sisters were dancing in a heated frenzy before a crowd of maybe a hundred people shouting, “Go ba-by! Go ba-by! Go ba-by!” It was unbelievable. But the scene outside the mortuary that night served to reinforce a point of view that I’ve held for many years now--it's time for our people to wake up and sniff the funk, because the fumes are emanating from all around us, and it’s coming at us from every direction.  That goes for the American people in general, but black people in particular.

As black people, we have a beautiful and festive culture, and I realize that in the past that festive spirit has been used to great effect as a defense against pain.  But times are changing in this country, and they’re changing faster and more drastically than we’ve ever known before.  So, if we are to survive as a people, we must adapt to that change--and we’d better do it real fast.

Looking at the United States today, one can’t help but recognize that it’s become reminiscent of Germany during the 1930s, just prior to the rise of fascism.  We have a regime currently in power that’s stolen two elections, and has taken over every branch of government; they invaded a sovereign nation on false pretenses, and they’re saber rattling towards others; They’ve set up concentration camps all over the world, and they’re torturing innocent people.  As we party, they’re not only passing laws that will allow them to spy on American citizens, but arrest those citizens, while denying them rights supposedly guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States.

We’ve got to start thinking the way this government thinks (notice that I didn’t say “the White man”, because if a White man happens to be poor or middle class, he’s in trouble too). We‘ve got to start thinking ahead.  When I was in The Marine Corps way back in 1971, even then, they had me out in Twenty-nine Palms training reservists in desert warfare.  So you see, while we’re living in the moment, this government is thinking ahead.  And when you consider the fact that Bush is now spending 2 billion dollars a week in Iraq, and sending this country into so much debt that it precludes our funding education, Medicare, most entitlement programs, and possibly, even Social Security, you’d better believe they have a game plan in mind.  They have to have one, just to deal with the resulting social upheaval that is sure to result—and they are practicing that game plan in Iraq as we speak.  So it is past time for black people to set our party shoes aside, at least for the moment, and embark on a very serious and sober reassessment of where we stand in this country today.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-America--I Love America.  America has provided me and my family with a way of life, and opportunities, that we might not have found in any other place in the world. But what I love most about America is the American ideal, those ideals that we may not always live up to, but we aspire to.  It is the American ideal that makes America special, and it is the assault on those ideals that makes me very nervous about the Bush administration. Under Bush, we seem to be losing sight of what America stands for. He claims that the terrorist hate us because of the American ideal of freedom, justice, and equality.  But if that is indeed the case, the terrorist are clearly winning this war, because with every day that passes those ideals are being whittled away.

When Bush invaded Iraq in response to 9-11, he demonstrated very clearly his propensity for venting his hostility towards people of color.  In spite of the fact that all available evidence pointed to the fact that Saddam Hussein had absolutely nothing to do with attacking this country, his invasion of Iraq seems to say, “Oh well, one Arab is just like another—they’ll do.”  That is not the American way.

And as a result of that policy, United Press International reported on July 12, 2005 that according to an Iraqi humanitarian organization, 128,000 Iraqis have been killed since the U.S. invasion began in March 2003.  The report goes on to say,  “chairman of the 'Iraqiyun humanitarian organization in Baghdad, Dr. Hatim al-'Alwani, said that the toll includes everyone who has been killed since that time, adding that 55 percent of those killed have been women and children aged 12 and under.”  Thus, according to this report, more women and children are being killed in Iraq than anyone else--and that, is not the American way.

In addition, it has now come to light that the Bush administration has been spying on Muslims in their homes, businesses, and mosques, without warrant, since September 11, 2001. Conservative spin masters try to justify this policy by saying that this fudging of the Constitution only affects
0.1% of the people, so those of us who don’t have anything to hide, don’t have anything to worry about.  But the fact is, these violations set a precedent that sends the nation down a slippery slope that affects us all.  It’s not only a gross violation of an entire community of people, but a corruption of the United States Constitution that places us all in jeopardy. That is not the American way.

So it is clear that our government, under Bush, has no understanding, nor respect, for limits.  Since he's already demonstrated his propensity to paint all people of color with the same brush, it’s not a very big leap from terrorist, to Muslim, to Black Muslim, to black people in general.  While that's not the American way, it's a glaring reality.

So, again, it is past time for the black community to turn down the music for a minute and get serious. The Cabbage Patch can wait, because if there has ever been a time in our history where it is incumbent upon us to focus, educate ourselves, and become politically engaged, it is now. We’ve demonstrated over the years that we can party hardier than any group of people in the world, but at this point in our history, we have nothing to party about.  Tookie’s body should attest to that fact.

Eric L. Wattree
Citizens Against Reckless Middle-Class Abuse (CARMA)

Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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Thursday, December 15, 2005


The December 13th execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams by the state of California was a gruesome example of retribution, political expediency, and institutionalized murder. But in spite of that fact, Brother Williams went out like a Trojan--even to the point of trying to assist the technician to find a vein in which to inject the lethal potion that, moments later, would certainly bring his life to an end.

That scene alone demonstrated that this brother was an exceptional individual. He clearly had more strength of character than any other player in this sad and sorted affair, and therefore, was certainly worth saving.

Of course, there are those who are going to say that he didn’t have so much character that it prevented him from killing four innocent victims in cold blood. But in response to that, remember, it is not at all clear whether or not Mr. Williams committed the crimes in which he was ultimately executed, since he declared his innocence to the very end. What is clear, however, is that this brother had something far less than a fair trial.

As Dr. Firpo Carr pointed out in his piece, Terminate Tookie? Terrible Travesty!, in the December 8th edition of the Los Angeles Sentinel, the irregularities in Tookie’s trial provided more than enough grounds to, at the very least, spare this brother’s life.

First of all, the prosecutor in the case, Robert Martin, made it a point to see that there were no black jurors on Mr. Williams’ case. Secondly, he had the venue of the trial moved from Los Angeles to the predominately white city of Torrance, Ca. Also, this same prosecutor, Robert Martin, was censored by the California Supreme Court for “invidious discrimination” during the prosecution of Tookie’s case. In addition, there was absolutely no physical evidence pointing to Tookie committing any of the crimes in which he was charged, and every witness that testified against him had a vested interest in testifying for the state (such as charges being reduced or dropped for crimes they’d committed). And beyond that, one witness was even allowed to read the police report in his jail cell so he’d know how to testify. So again, to my mind’s eye, all of these irregularities in the prosecution of this brother constitutes more than a compelling reason to, at the very least, not put this brother to death.

But even if Tookie did commit the crimes in which he was convicted, the fact is, that happened a lifetime ago. In the twenty-five years since those crimes were committed Mr. Williams’ life had undergone a dramatic change, and certainly the years that he lived with death as his constant companion (not to mention the last agonizing hours that he spent not knowing whether or not he was going to live or die) should have paid some dividend on that debt. That brother must have died a million times over the years. And beyond that, it wasn’t as though he was going to be freed—he would have still had to face his natural life behind bars.

The most tragic thing surrounding this sad affair, however, is our failure to at least try to drag something positive out this negative situation. Our society was so bent on retribution that once again we’ve missed yet another opportunity to make an investment in our young people—and thus, an investment in our society.

Stanley “Tookie” Williams could have made a tremendous contribution to the curbing of crime and violence on our streets, but once again, this society has allowed its lust for stupidity to overwhelm its dire need for enlightenment. But the black community doesn’t have to follow suit. Let us mark the death of this brother as the beginning of a new era—an era where our passion for enlightenment will overwhelm society's lust for stupidity.

So let us begin our renewed demonstrations now. Let us redouble our efforts to save the next Tookie, while he’s still in the cradle. And let us pray for all our sakes, that the world at large doesn’t judge America, as severely as the state of California judged this proud blcak man.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005


The controversy surrounding the Nine-Eleven tragedy has revealed a glaring blind spot in the thinking of the American people. Every since that horrible tragedy American politicians, generals, educators, theologians, and even little old ladies calling in to talk shows have come forward to express both their righteous indignation with Arab terrorists and their opinions on how we should go about defending our shores against terrorism. But in all of that verbiage not one person has asked the fundamental question that is the key to addressing this issue: What would the American people do if, based on the history of black people in this country, an invincible military power took Texas and gave it to Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam to create a homeland for black people, then propped the new nation up with billions of dollars of foreign aid and military hardware?

If we really want to protect America from terrorism it is imperative that America not only ask that question, but answer it honestly. Because when you're dealing with a foe who takes pride in committing suicide for his cause, there is absolutely nothing you can do to prevent it. Your only line of defense is to try to understand what motivates him.

But the American people are resistant to asking itself this question, because the question requires an honest answer. America doesn’t want to admit that if it were placed in the same position as the Arabs, the American people would do the very same thing that the Arabs are-- right down to declaring its "terrorists" heroes.

As children we learned the old adage that all's fair in love and war. That adage is as true today as it was when we recited it as kids. But since the United States and its allies have equipped themselves with all of the most devastating military hardware, it is to our advantage to attempt to set the rules to war--the most important of which, is that the only approved way of killing people is with the toys that we possess. But that rule leaves most Arab states out in the cold and vulnerable to our whims--like taking their land and passing it out as a gift. So naturally the Arabs have decided to fight the only way that they can, through suicide bombings. Of course, we cry foul, but the Arab response is to thumb its nose at us and say, "So what are you going to do, kill us?"

To think that the world is going to just stand by and allow us to stack the odds in our favor is not only ridiculous, but a monument to our towering arrogance. It is also arrogant to believe that the rest of the world can't see through our alleged concern for the killing of innocent women and children. Every time the Israelis roll their tanks onto, or bomb Arab soil, they kill innocent women and children--and the United States made watching the slaughter of innocent women and children a national pastime during the Viet Nan era, again in Desert Storm, and yet again in whatever they're calling this latest atrocity. Even we described our campaign in Iraq as "Shock and awe". Those terms can only be defined as "terror."

And further, let us not forget that the most unconscionable act of terrorism in the history of mankind was when the United States dropped not one, but two atomic bombs on the women and children of the Japan. In that case, we attempted to justify it by saying it saved countless American lives, but by using that argument we readily admit that terrorism, and the killing of innocent women and children, can indeed be justified under certain conditions.

The American people can be blinded to these issues through the thick fog of patriotism, but the rest of the world is not hindered by our laundered point of view. They see our actions for what they are--terrorism.

But I don't bring these atrocities up to wag my finger at the United States, because in spite of our lapses and tendency towards arrogance, we still represent the greatest social experiment that man has ever known. And in spite of any inferrences that one may draw from my remarks concerning our lopsided policy with regard to the Arab states and the state of Israel, I fully support Israel's right to exist in peace.

But if we want to protect what we have, we've got to learn to think clearly and objectively, and stop trying to delude ourselves into thinking that we're the perfect society. We have a lot of work to do to become the nation that we profess to be, so let us use our energies in trying to reach our professed ideals, instead of wasting that energy in an attempt to prove that we've already arrived.

We need to understand that in order to truly become the nation that we profess to be, we need clear, objective, and unadulterated thinking. That, in turn, requires that we first see reality as it is, and only then, as we would have it. We can start that process by first, recognizing--and admitting--that we're not always right. Secondly, we need to accept the fact that military might can't solve all problems. Third, we should ask ourselves what are we doing to make people want to fly planes into buildings. And finally, we must realize that the only difference between Arab terrorism and American terrorism is that we have a much more efficient delivery system.

Eric L. Wattree

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The Bush administration is in desperate need of warm bodies these days. Young people are dying, enlistment is down, and many of the troops in Iraq are either on their third tour of duty, or on involuntary extension—in spite of the fact that, in the case of many reservist, the military has stopped paying the families they left at home. As a result, the administration is putting out commercials portraying the glamorous and exciting life to be had in the military.

But unfortunately, they’re subjecting our young people to the old bait and switch. They’re showing soldiers in nice, crisp, uniforms, sitting in what looks like computer rooms with everyone playing video games, instead of the very probable truth--lying out in the desert in 125 degree heat, thousands of miles from home, blind, and with a leg or arm blown off. That is the reality of military life under the Bush administration.

This administration proclaims to anyone who will listen that they honor and respect our troops, but as the old folks use to say, “that dog don’t hunt”, and there is ample evidence of that fact on the public record. At this point, for example, the administration finds it expedient to deny that during the run up to war in Iraq they told the American people that Saddam Hussein represented an imminent threat to the United States. Now that weapons of mass destruction were not found in Iraq, they want us to forget the urgency in which they rushed us into this war. But if what they now say is indeed the case, and Saddam didn’t represent an imminent threat, why did the administration needlessly sacrifice the lives of our troops by sending them to war without the necessary protective gear?

If Saddam wasn’t an imminent threat, it would have been in the best interest of our troops to wait until we had all our ducks in a row before we went to war—or at least until we had the necessary equipment. But the Bush administration had other priorities. They had priorities that superceded the welfare of our troops—the need to go to war before the American people had the time to think about what we were getting in to.

Our young people were sent to war with vehicles they had to armor plate themselves, with scrap metal they’d found along the road. In addition, the families of many soldiers had to scrape up the money themselves to buy protective gear for their love ones--and if that wasn’t bad enough, it took an act of congress to get the administration to reimburse these families for their expenses. So just think about it-- here we are, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, and the parents of the troops have to send their children the protective gear from home, to help them stay alive. Then, administration has the nerve to say they honor our troops. I don’t think so. Even the Crips have flack jackets—and their parents don’t have to send them from home.

But nothing demonstrates the arrogance and the cavalier attitude of this administration towards our troops more clearly than remarks made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfelt. While meeting with the troops at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, in response to one of the soldiers’ questions regarding inferior equipment, Rumsfelt responded, “As you know, you go to war with the Army you have.” And then, he went on to say, “And if you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored humvee and it can be blown up.” So in essence, Rumsfelt told the soldier, don’t worry about it, they can blow you up anyway—armor or no armor.

That’s only a couple of many glaring contradictions in the behavior of an administration that claims to love, honor, and support our troops. While they’ve made a mantra of the claim that they honor our troops, their actions grossly belie their assertions—in fact, most of their policies with regard to our military seem to suggest that their only concern for our troops is in using them as human shields against the criticism of a very unpopular and pernicious agenda.

Therefore, this administration would be content to "stay the course" in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries in perpetuity. And why not--they don’t have anything to loose and everything to gain. It’s not their children dying for this dubious campaign, yet the trough of their selected, and bid-protected corporations are overflowing from the swill of war. While our love ones are being blown apart, Haliburton—the company in which Vice President Cheney headed before coming into office—is enjoying unprecedented profits; and as our families are being scarred for life, the children of these chicken hawks are following in their parent’s footsteps--lying back in the lap of privilege and luxury, content to cheer the heroic "little people" from the lobby of exclusive tennis clubs. Then, they tell us that our attempts to end this war, and to get our children out of harms way, is un-American. Well, it seems to me that anyone who buys into that nonsense is not only a non-thinking person, but in point of fact, an absolute idiot.

If these chicken hawks truly had the courage of their convictions (and I emphasize the word "courage"), they’d be encouraging their children to flood the enlistment depots to join in this "noble American endeavor", as just a simple matter of patriotism. But on the contrary, instead, their children are being allowed to follow in the tradition of that great and resolute American, Dick Cheney, and his five deferments.

Yes, it is indeed easy to say "we must stand firm" when your love ones are safe at home, but I’d be willing to bet the few dollars Haliburton has yet to take from America’s treasury that if Bush, or any one of the other chicken hawks, knew for a fact that their child was going to be the very next casualty, their attitude towards this war would undergo an immediate, and drastic change.

This is a war of political and economic expediency–it promotes an agenda that represents everything that conservative ideologues have passionately pursued since the New Deal. First, it was used to shore up Bush’s numbers, which gave him the clout to get the rest of their agenda past the American people. Then the war was used to redistribute the wealth. It not only allowed Bush, Cheney, their cronies, and selected corporations to raid the United States treasury, but along with the huge tax cut for the rich, create a debt that made it next to impossible to maintain social and entitlement programs. The only reason Social Security was spared is because Bush’s numbers began to fall.

The following excerpts from the Downing Street Memo says it all:

The Secret Downing Street Memo
From: Matthew Rycroft
Date: 23 July 2002
S 195 /02
cc: Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Attorney_General, Sir Richard Wilson, John Scarlett, Francis Richards, CDS, C, Jonathan Powell, Sally Morgan, Alastair Campbell
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action . . .

It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force . . .

The Attorney_General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self_defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult . . .
(Rycroft was a Downing Street foreign policy aide)

Thus, when the facts regarding this war is looked at objectively, it becomes clear that these neo-cons were willing to kill and maim thousands of our trusting and brave youth for no other reason than to promote an agenda that they’ve been salivating over since the advent of the New Deal. It’s unconscionable.

So the next time you see Bush or Cheney praising our “brave American troops”, or hear them saying “All we need is a few good men” or “Be all that you can be”, just remember, the first step towards being all that you can be is to avoid being a fool. So ask yourself, where are their kids? Then consider the fact that the United States Senate had to step in and demand that the White House stop charging wounded soldiers $8.10 per day for their hospital meals.

Eric L. Wattree, Sr.

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