Thank You for Your–UH-”Service”: Ramon’s 9-11
James Craven/Omahkohkiaayo i’poyi, like every surviving offspring of a mostly successful policy and practice of genocide, can do nothing but continue to exist and be an accusation leveled at a smug society. When I worked at Claremore Indian Hospital in 1989, I saw plenty of people who did that… many of them so deracinated and broken that they had lost any shred of their joie de vive, like the society in which they were stranded was some distant planet with a slow poison in the air.
Jim has done something different, though. His life is one of those stubborn sparks that fans itself in the winds of political struggle. His accusations are not passive. Passive accusation gets invisibilized, like the homeless people we ignore as we pass them on the street. Jim accuses actively with his words and actions. Who better to tell us, as he did recently, that there is something mighty strange when the US press can natter on for days about a resolution on the Ottoman genocide of the Armenians in the grip of the press’ own intransigent amnesia about the very land upon which they stand and natter.
I don’t think Jim is motivated by vengeance or venom, even though his accusations are bitter. He is a committed socialist, which to me means someone who wants to relieve suffering… not impose it. The bitterness of his thoughts and words are the bitterness of a strong medicine that we need. Without trying to excuse or write an equal-sign between the suffering of the oppressed and the suffering of those who are privileged within a system of oppression, I will say — as Toni Morrison did — that the slave bears her scars on her back, and the master pays the cost of a fragmented personality.
This contribution to Insurgent American is Omahkohkiaayo i’poyi doing what he does best; and if it’s bitter, then savor the bitterness. It is good for you.
– Stan Goff October 25, 2007
Thank You for Your–UH-”Service”: Ramon’s 9-11
by James Craven/Omahkohkiaaiipooyii
We’ve all done it. Someone in uniform, military mostly, but also police, firefighters, we say it almost like “Good Morning”; it is “Thank you for your service.” And we mean it. Thank you for being among the few with the courage and sacrifice to put your own life and comforts on the line for a transcendent cause beyond yourself; particularly if that Cause is the safety and liberty of me and mine.
But that begs a thought experiment: Do Germans thank former SS for their “service” that many actually convinced themselves was for the safety and liberty of their system, culture and “own kind”? Can we or should we separate the “service” to a transcendent Cause from the nature of that Cause itself?
This occurred to me further when I got and and immediately digested the new book by Valerie Plame Wilson “Fair Game”. On one level I could respect that she put her life on the line for a transcendent Cause beyond her own self and selfishness and self-preservation; a Cause that she still believes in. But when she is quoted on the jacket of the book that she is “proud to have served my country by working at the Central Intelligence Agency” a chill goes up my spine:
I think of all the books on the CIA written by insiders, never mind the outsider critics, I have read, along with all the released internal files of the CIA, that show what can only be described as organized terrorism and Imperial hubris against innocents. I think as well, about revelations, that, contrary to the hype and spin, almost every covert operation since CIA’s inception, has been/is coming back as “Blowback” with far worse evils coming back and/or ourselves being turned into, than the operation was intended to deal with or prevent. I think of Tim Weiner’s “Legacy of Ashes: The Secret History of the CIA” and Ralph McGehee’s Deadly Deceits” and all that they and so many other histories like it reveal. I think of the rigged elections in Italy in 1948; the overthrow of Mossadeq in 1953 and installation of the brutal Shah; Guatemala 1954; Syria 1956; Tibet 1959; Laos 59-62; South Korea 1962; Cuba 1962; Vietnam 1963; Dominican Republic 1965; Indonesia 1965; and on and on and on–the “blood-and-treasure” count.
But most of all and always first, I think of Ramon. That is a pseudonym for a real person and I dare not use even his alias as I do not know if he is alive or if it might compromise him in some way. Ramon’s own special 9-11 was 9-11-1973 outside Santiago Chile when the democratically-elected Government of Salvador Allende (far fairer election than any of Bush) was violently overthrown by a CIA planned, designed, nurtured, initiated, executed, consolidated and covered-up fascist coup d’etat that installed the brutal fascist dictatorship of Pinochet.
On his 9-11, Ramon was an engineering student working/studying outside Santiago at the copper pits. His wife was an artist who ran a center in Santiago. They were both idealists and progressives, but not members of any organization. Ramon, when attacked by fascist forces on 9-11, at the copper pits, picked up a gun for the first time in his life to defend himself. He was captured and because they thought he was some kind of a leader, he was slated for torture instead of immediate execution.
Ramon was taken initially to the soccer stadium in Santiago. He kept asking where was his wife. His wife was brought into a room with six guards and a “gringo” present, while he was forced to watch his wife repeatedly gang raped and then beheaded with piano wire. Later he had two fingers cut off but in the internment camp a doctor sewed up his hand with horse hairs improvised. While in the internment camp, the Red Cross came and a worker saw him, with TB, and took pity and got him out and to Canada where he became a legal refugee and immigrant.
I was teaching in a tenure-track position at a community college. Some friends approached me and basically asked for my help to do what amounted to the same thing as hiding Jews in nazi Germany. Although these Chilean immigrants were perfectly legal residents, as legal refugees and/or immigrants, they were subject to surveillance, harassment, kidnapping and even assassination (e.g. Orlando Letalier in Washington, DC) as Chilean DINA or national police, were allowed to operate, with the knowledge of the national intelligence services, in countries like the U.S., Canada, Britain, etc.
I was asked to help to set up safe areas for legal refugees fleeing locally-assisted DINA agents looking for them and to do some long-distance photography at the airport baggage pickup. Here, after all they had suffered, they were still not safe as they were hounded against, as legal refugees ,within the countries that had accepted them as refugees.
Last time I heard from Ramon was from a bakery somewhere on the east coast. Just like the Iraqis who got politicized, energized and became straight insurgents against a foreign occupying power, as we celebrate about ourselves doing every July 4th, and they have nothing to do with Al Qaeda, or that kind of ideology, they are not jihadists, so, people like Ramon, got politicized, energized and mobilized to devote their entire lives, and likely shorten those lives, in becoming very political, very radical and very determined. Another Blowback. Ramon got very political, and he became his own kind of counterterrorist against those who had terrorized him and so many like him.
I also found Ms Plame Wilson’s book a bit self-absorbed. Over and over it comes through that, although she believes in all the good stuff, Americanism, Mom, apple pie, the flag, military,etc, her main choices were about her, her need for some thrills and travel, and what interested her personally as ways to make her contribution to the transcendent Causes. When her cover was blown, and other vital jobs were still open, but not in Directorate of Operations, or at least in the field, she chose to pack it in because the jobs did not fit her own personal interests and needs. So much for sacrifice for the ol Transcendent Cause.
Finally, her work, which most certainly was covert, as was her CIA association until she was outed by right-wingers, and her job as Chief of Operations in the Counterproliferation Division, were far beyond the “glorified secretary” portrayed on Fox News (which, apparently, is the network of choice at the CIA and that itself is frightening and revealing about the culture of CIA at the same time). But here is another question: Since nuclear weapons, used by anyone in a conflict, threaten many other nations and even the whole planet–not a parties to any wars between nations–why should any nation be allowed to have nuclear weapons, given their massive letality and global spillover effects? Or, if any nation has nuclear weapons, why does that not give license and precedent of any other nation to have similar so as to have their own deterrence and protect their own national security? And in stopping proliferations of weapons unless authorized by the U.S. Government (like the U.S. arming Saddam Hussein) Ms Plame Wilson seems uncurious and ahistorical as to the implications of any nation, being a sole global superpower, armed with weapons no other nation has, and with no other nations able to hold it to any accountability in law.
We can judge and rank-order systems on the basis of, with what given resources and constraints they deal with questions like: Who are the players? What do they do? How, Where, When, For Whom and Why do they do what they do relative to other systems? When we just look at the line-up of “candidates” for the presidency, historically and in the present, when we think that out of such a vast nation, is this really the “best” we could come up with? That thought experiment alone leads to some radical conclusions. And since all systems must be judged not only by what they really produce, BUT, also, relative to what they had to work with to produce it, and for whom they really produce it, then America is in some deep crap as is the whole world.
I now say “Thank you for your ’service’ when I really mean it and when I do not have to de-link the service from the nature of “The Cause” that was/is really being served.