Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Grass is Greener: A Radio Interview

A big thanks to Harry Targ for doing our show, the Grass is Greener on Riverwest Radio.

Text Box:

The Grass is Greener-2017-09-16 Harry Targ Returns by wxrw

The Grass is Greener-2017-09-16 Harry Targ Returns Purdue University professor and heartland radical Harry Targ...

Give a listen and feel free to share it around as much as you wish.

We did run out of time to announce the upcoming program this week. 

My apologies. Gary sends his too, but he just wanted to get his last two 

questions in. Well, enjoy. 



The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Tuesday, September 12, 2017 1:00 am

Harry Targ

Harry Targ is a professor of political science at Purdue University in West Lafayette.

Hurricane Harvey touched down on the coast of Texas on Aug. 25.
On Aug. 31, Indiana leaders – government, the corporate sector and higher education – issued a statement announcing establishment of the Applied Research Institute: “ARI will facilitate and manage collaborative research teams to pursue major federal grants and contracts and perform corporate-sponsored research that will generate technology transfer and commercialization in military defense and other sectors of Indiana's economy.”

ARI will have access to research facilities and personnel valued at $1 billion: laboratories and personnel from corporations, the military and the two major public universities, Indiana and Purdue.

The board of directors of ARI include the governor, the presidents of Indiana and Purdue, the president of Defense Aerospace at Rolls-Royce and the technical director of the Naval Surface Warfare Center. The project was launched in 2015, according to the article, with the help of a Lilly Endowment Grant of $16 million.The Lilly Endowment chairman said he was pleased ARI “...has assembled a board of directors of this caliber and distinction.”

The ARI announcement emphasized development of computer technology, products that would have commercial value and advances in military security. The news release listed initial projects including “trusted microelectronics technology and security; multi-spectral data fusion and security (cyber); high density power storage and management; and advanced material science.” ARI research will accelerate “technology commercialization that supports economic prosperity.”
In a related development, in a letter to the Purdue academic community, President Mitch Daniels celebrated the university's developing research collaboration with Microsoft, Eli Lilly, Rolls-Royce, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division and Infosys. He also praised Purdue's acquisition of for-profit online Kaplan University and the creation of the new so-called “Purdue New U.”

Indiana workers
The Indiana Institute of Working Families issued its Labor Day report on Sept. 1. It found that there were parallel declines in union membership and Hoosier workers' income in the 21st century. Indiana workers' real income peaked in 1999 and has been in decline ever since. The Institute cited Advisor Perspectives, a market advisory firm, which called Indiana a “21st Century Loser.”

Compared to the other 49 states, Indiana has experienced the ninth-largest drop in mean income. Lowered incomes and wages have been exacerbated by declining union membership, passage of a right-to-work law in 2012, and the end to the common construction wage in 2015. The report said “Indiana's median household income grew so little compared to other states that our income ranking dropped from 34th to 36th in the nation. Indiana now has the lowest median wages of any of our neighbors, including Kentucky. If there are benefits to undercutting Indiana's labor standards, they aren't showing up in the average Hoosier's paycheck, or even in employers' ability to find a skilled workforce.”
Who benefits

These disparate reports were distributed while Texas was experiencing one of the worst hurricanes in U.S. history. Hurricane impacts were linked not only to climate change but also to unregulated growth in Houston. In addition, the announcement about ARI was made at a time that:
Gaps between rich and poor grow and smaller numbers of corporations and banks control more and more of the economy.

Major universities, such as Indiana and Purdue, have become extensions of big corporations and the military.

Racism and white supremacy have been fueled by opportunistic politicians and ignored by the rest. The tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia are just one recent example.
Massive wealth and power have become ever more concentrated in economic and political elites.

And all of these changes in American society are going on below the radar screen while the media and mainstream politicians concentrate on the follies of politics in Washington. To borrow from Naomi Klein's idea of the shock doctrine, the Trump presidency is the shock, while new institutions like ARI, mostly invisible, are creating a new American reality that does not address the real needs for economic and social justice in Indiana and the nation at large.
In sum, Hoosiers might conclude that the beneficiaries of projects such as ARI, are big corporations, universities and the military – not Indiana workers.

Saturday, September 2, 2017


Friday, September 2, 2016


By Harry Targ,

The original essay appeared in The Rag Blog / September 9, 2010

 (Since the issues and context of 2016 are uncomfortably similar to what was written about 2010, it seemed appropriate to repost this essay making revisions adapted to 2016. The essay substitutes the Trump campaign for the then, but not deceased, Tea Party movement. In addition, the call for a broad-based movement to elect progressive candidates at all levels of government in 2010 parallels the Sanders campaign and his initiation of a grassroots organization called Our Revolution).

The working class built this country: Now we must mobilize to transform it

I want to add my voice to the thousands of essayists and bloggers who have been contemplating the 2016 elections, the media “framing” of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, the role of progressives in the elections, and mobilizing for the last two months before the elections.

First, I think elections still matter. Since most people see politics and elections as equivalent and some of them actively participate in the electoral process, progressives need to be there as well.

In addition, in states and communities decisions will be made about how government money for local school corporations is to be allocated, about workers compensation for victims of asbestos related workplace injuries, so-called Right to Work laws, rules governing bargaining and organizing, support for women’s health,  and how congressional and state legislative districts will be redesigned.

At the national level, policy decisions about such critical issues as jobs, climate change, education, military spending, and judicial appointments will be affected by election outcomes.

Second, most of these issues have not been the main narrative. The media have framed the fall elections around personalities, particularly the inarticulate, bizarre, racist, and personality attacks of the Trump candidacy.

Third the “liberal” media, while more sophisticated and entertaining in its coverage of election year stories, over-emphasizes “making fun” of the outlandish Trump candidacy and his spokespersons and supporters.

In response, Trump staffers have decided to do two things: forget about trying to put together logical, coherent plans for an alternative set of policies. When they are occasionally challenged by enterprising reporters, they just walk away or the potentially embarrassing reporters are ejected from rallies.  Since the media is the enemy, for most Trump supporters, incoherence and evasiveness resonate well with a disillusioned public.

Fourth, part of the context for the unstable politics of the fall, 2016, is the continued economic crisis that grips working people. Unemployment, declining real wages, indebtedness, crumbling public services remain all too real, an actuality or a fear for the majority of Americans.

In addition, the Obama administration has failed to propose an economic stimulus program that could bring millions of un- and underemployed workers back to work, making livable wages. A massive green jobs program to create a well-paid workforce that would rebuilt the American infrastructure while shifting away from an economy based on fossil fuels never materialized as many had hoped. Meanwhile, the political system at all levels has failed to address institutional racism: police brutality, grotesque inequality, and political marginalization.

Having said all this, the administration since 2009 has forestalled return to depression with a modest economic recovery program, “saved” the U.S. auto industry, and has secured the passage of an inadequate health care reform bill but one which may stimulate movement toward a single payer system in the future.

A little history

A high level of distrust of government, low regard for politicians, and periodic active anger at our public institutions is a characteristic feature of American history often reflected in voting against political incumbents and supporting candidates who are most vocal against government programs.

For example, the American National Election Studies (ANES) prepared an index of Trust in Government made up of several questions reflecting the points just raised. Looking over time the level of trust in government was at a score of 49 in 1958, 52 in 1964, 27 in 1980, 29 in 1992, 36 in 2000, and declined to 26 by 2008. Only twice in the Johnson years, did the Trust Index reach a score over 60 and six times since 1958 the index score was below 30.

In addition, a constant feature of political life has been active and extremist politics. For example, the American Party of the 1850s, or “Know Nothing Party,” got its name from members being instructed when asked about the party to say “I know nothing.” While short-lived they elected several national and state office holders before the civil war.

Throughout U.S. history so-called “nativist” groups formed and mobilized against waves of immigrants: Catholics, Germans, the Irish, Chinese, Jews, and Latinos. Armed Klan organizations terrorized the South and the Midwest in the 1880s, 1920s and 1930s and dominated the political life in many states in these eras. The Klan and white nationalist groups have been reenergized in recent years.

Of course, extremist movements, often organized and funded by corporations and wealthy individuals, scared the American people during the dark days of anti-Communism in the 1940s and 1950s. Red Channels, a small but well-funded political organization, published lists of suspected Communists in the entertainment industry and pressured the new television corporations and advertisers to purge actors and actresses, with views supportive of labor, racial integration, and peace, from the airwaves. Their activism paralleled and reinforced Congressional reactionaries who used investigative committees to hound individuals and groups.

Alternatively, for all of Labor’s flaws, the history of the American labor movement has been central to social progress in the United States: from the demands for an eight hour day, skilled trades controls of the pace of work, health and safety at the work place, a fair wage, programs of health and retirement benefits, and, after much internal conflict, support for the struggles against racism and sexism. The civil rights, women’s, gay rights, environmental, and peace movements also have contributed to improvements in the quality of life in the United States.

There is no question that workers mobilizing in struggles such as “The Fight for Fifteen,” and young people of color in mobilizations like Black Lives Matter, represent the most powerful forces in today’s society resisting neoliberalism, state violence at home and abroad, the privatization of public institutions, deregulation of the economy, and attacks on the  environment.

A progressive campaign program

So what to do now? We live in a time of enormous distrust of government and corporate support for campaigns to undermine progressive government and pro-worker policies (the Koch brothers for example). In addition, racism, Islamophobia, and fear of foreigners run deep in American political culture and is being fueled by reactionary political candidates. Therefore, progressives have only one choice for the next two months: work to elect political candidates from the city council to the Congress of the United States who support an anti-racist “working people’s agenda.”

American political history tells us that the Tea Party and grassroots support for a candidate such as Donald Trump are not new. While the concern and anger reflected among those grassroots activists who participate in rallies and marches is usually sincere and motivated by fear of strange times and economic crises with no seeming resolution, its leaders offer no program, no vision, and no coherent agenda.

Progressives cannot argue with the Trump supporters. But, they can campaign, not just for individual candidates or just for a party but for an anti-racist “working people’s agenda,” that includes rebuilding America’s schools, roads, and energy systems; expands support for the maintenance of state and local public services; puts all people who want to work in jobs that need to be done; and regulates banks more effectively so that they are required to support local projects that create businesses which will create jobs. Also institutions at the local and state level must be controlled by the communities of people that these institutions are supposed to support.

Most important, progressives must work in their communities and in solidarity with workers, people of color, and youth to elect progressive candidates to public office and to monitor their conduct once they are elected. It must be made clear to all that the progressive majority is not engaged in politics to support candidates or parties but to transform America.

Thursday, August 31, 2017


Harry Targ

Reverend William Barber and his co-workers in the emerging Poor People’s Campaign visited Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 28, at the Saint Gabriel’s Church of God. After inspirational singing, introductory remarks by Rev. Liz Theoharis, head of the Kairos Center in New York City, and testimonials representing Black Lives Matter in Minneapolis, and the Fight for Fifteen, and Veterans for Peace in Milwaukee, Reverend Barber gave an uplifting speech announcing the forthcoming Poor People’s Campaign.
Moral Mondays Campaigns

Reverend Barber was instrumental in working with North Carolinians for over a decade to build a multi-national, multi-generational, multi-issue movement to oppose racist, exploitative, and sexist policies that became law when reactionary forces gained control of the government of  North Carolina in 2012. He and his co-workers also helped launch Moral Mondays movements, modeled after the North Carolina struggle, in several other states in the South, the Midwest, and the Southwest. In Indiana, that state’s Moral Mondays movement adopted an agenda to advocate for policies endorsed in North Carolina. These included:
Securing pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that insure economic sustainability;

Providing well-funded, quality public education for all;
Standing up for the health of every Hoosier by promoting health care access and environmental justice across all the state's communities;

Addressing the continuing inequalities in the criminal justice system and ensuring equality under the law for every person, regardless of race, class, creed, documentation or sexual preference;
Protecting and expanding voting rights for people of color, women, immigrants, the elderly and students to safeguard fair democratic representation.

In his Saturday, September 20, 2014 speech to the 400 people rallying at the Indiana State House, Rev. Barber said he was told by his son, an environmental physicist, that if he ever got lost in mountainous territory he should walk to higher ground. This is necessary, Barber reported, because in the lowlands snakes congregate but if one climbs above the “snake line” snakes, being cold-blooded creatures, cannot live.
Referring to the snake line metaphor Barber declared:

There are some snakes out here. There are some low-down policies out here. There’s some poison out here. Going backwards on voting rights, that’s below the snake line. Going backwards on civil rights, that’s below the snake line. Hurting people just because they have a different sexuality, that’s below the snake line. Stomping on poor people just because you’ve got power, that’s below the snake line. Denying health care to the sick and keeping children from opportunity, that’s below the snake line.
Rev. Barber urged the newly formed Indiana Moral Mondays coalition to “go to higher ground,” where poverty is ended, everybody can vote, children can be educated, the sick can be healed, and everyone is respected.

Moral Mondays campaigns in various states, including Indiana, achieved some successes. They mobilized multiple constituencies: white and black, gay and straight, men and women, young and old, religious and non-believers to fight back against emerging reactionary Tea Party/Koch Brothers policies and politicians. In his home state of North Carolina, Moral Mondays campaigners were able to oust the reactionary governor in the 2016 election. And Reverend Barber, himself, has gone on to become a national spokesperson for progressive policies.
Theory and Practice of Moral Mondays

Barber has grounded the Moral Mondays movement in history and theory. As to the former, Barber has talked about three reconstructions in United States history. The first, after the US Civil War, was based upon a vision and practice of Black/white unity and the struggle for democracy and equality in the nation. It was crushed by the resurgence of the white supremacist planter class in the South, their political collaborators in the North, and the institutionalization of racial segregation. The second reconstruction began metaphorically with Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954 and spanned the decade of successful struggle against segregation in the South in the 1960s. It too was sidetracked, this time by candidate and President Nixon’s so-called “southern strategy” to bring white supremacy back to the South and the nation. We are living through the third reconstruction, Reverend Barber suggested, signified by the two elections of Barack Obama president and the emergence of social movements to finally create racial and economic justice in America.

Today, 2017, he said, the struggle has reached a pivotal stage, with an ethical crisis so deep that a national moral campaign based on fusion politics is needed. Fusion politics, the theoretical underpinning of Moral Mondays, argues that all the issues and policies that have inspired action against the exploitation of workers, institutionalized racism (Black, Brown, Muslim, anti-Semitic, and anti-immigrant), patriarchy, homophobia, environmental devastation, and war are interconnected. The struggle against one is and has to include the struggle against all the others. Fusion is a conceptual tool that requires thinking about the interconnection of issues and a mobilizing tool that sees the interconnections of social movements.
The Twenty-First Century Poor People’s Campaign

The twenty-first century Poor People’s Campaign, around which Barber and his co-workers are organizing, takes the Moral Mondays campaign to another level. Moral Mondays was about state level issues. It concentrated on domestic policy. It awakened progressives to the critical idea that most of the anti-people policies of the last decade supported by reactionary billionaires like the Koch Brothers, were instituted at the state level. Therefore Moral Mondays began, appropriately, as a series of state campaigns. Now, Barber suggests, there is a need to take the struggle to the entire nation. Local, national, and international issues are connected. Anti-racist, antisexist, anti-worker policies at the state level are connected to similar developments at the national level. AND, all these issues have global dimensions as well.
This new necessity led naturally to reflections on the last project initiated by Dr. Martin Luther King in the spring of 1968, a Poor People’s Campaign. This was a national campaign organized by and for the poor in America, today representing about 40 percent of the population. The specific program was to organize a march/rally/occupation of Washington D.C. to demand an end to poverty in America. Dr. King, in his famous speech at Riverside Church one year earlier articulated the fundamental interconnections, the fusion, of three primary structural problems in America: poverty, racism, and militarism.

Sixty years later, Reverend Barber is calling on progressives to join in a common struggle, led by the poor and oppressed, to challenge these three evils. Rev. Barber, therefore, has been traveling across the United States beginning a conversation about and training for a 2018 Poor People’s Campaign. He is calling upon 1,000 people from each of 25 states and the District of Columbia to commit to train for and engage in civil disobedience to bring the triad of evils to the attention of the public. And he emphasizes repeatedly that the campaign is not just about changing attitudes but changing institutions and policies.
The optics of the rally at the Saint Gabriel’s Church of God reflected the movement Reverend Barber is building. Attendees were Black and white, young and old, women and men, and religious and secular. As to the latter point Barber cited scripture for the religious and the better parts of the US constitution for the secularists.

Finally, Reverend Barber's speech on August 28 emphasized that there cannot be freedom without equality. There cannot be human rights without access to health care and education. And there cannot be economic justice at home while there is militarism overseas.
The twenty-first century Poor People’s Campaign grounds today’s struggles in history; links democracy to economic change; connects social and economic justice; and connects a humane future in the United States to an end to war and the preparation for war. As Barber has written:

The fights for racial and economic equality are as inseparable today as they were half a century ago. Make no mistake about it: We face a crisis in America. The twin forces of white supremacy and unchecked corporate greed have gained newfound power and influence, both in statehouses across this nation and at the highest levels of our federal government. Sixty-four million Americans make less than a living wage, while millions of children and adults continue to live without access to healthcare, even as extremist Republicans in Congress threaten to strip access away from millions more. As our social fabric is stretched thin by widening income inequality, politicians criminalize the poor, fan the flames of racism and xenophobia to divide the poor, and steal from the poor to give tax breaks to our richest neighbors and budget increases to a bloated military
(William J. Barber II, “Rev. Barber: America Needs a New Poor People’s Campaign,” thinkprogress, May 15, 2017.



Thursday, August 24, 2017


(originally posted: July 22, 2010)

Harry Targ

"We continue to send a message to the North. There is another way. There is a way that can benefit the people of the North," Mrs. Clinton said alongside Mr. Gates on Wednesday, as they stood just feet away from leering North Korean soldiers stationed across the North-South border. "But until they change direction, the United States stands firmly on behalf of the people and government of the Republic of Korea." (Jay Solomon, Wall Street Journal, July 22, 2010).

In a political about-face, a South Korean commission investigating a century of human rights abuses has ruled that the U.S. military's large-scale killing of refugees during the Korean War, in case after case, arose out of military necessity.

Shutting down the inquiry into South Korea's hidden history, the commission also will leave unexplored scores of suspected mass graves believed to hold remains of tens of thousands of South Korean political detainees summarily executed by their own government early in the 1950-53 war, sometimes as U.S. officers watched.

The four-year-old Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Korea probed more deeply than any previous inquiry into the country's bloody past. But a shift to conservative national leadership changed the panel's political makeup this year and dampened its investigative zeal.
The families of 1950's victims wanted the work continued. (Charles J. Hanley and Hyung-Jin Kim, Associated Press, July 11, 2010).

Back to Korea

I keep coming back to the Korean War. Maybe it is an occupational hazard of those who teach foreign policy. Perhaps it is because virtually every administration since World War II has made their narrative of the events on the Korean peninsula a centerpiece for justifying United States foreign policy. And, from the standpoint of those of us who view United States foreign policy from a critical perspective, the Korean War represents a model of what that policy continued to be ever since the 1940s.

I wrote recently about “our forgotten war,” the Korean war, arguing that the U.S. commitment to “defend” the Korean regime south of the 38th parallel militarily opened the door to massive increases in military spending, the unquestioned commitment of the United States to a global anti-Communist agenda, defense of the reactionary Chinese on the Formosa Islands, the total funding of the French effort to crush Vietnamese anti-colonial forces, and the rapid expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Also, with the Korean War, domestic repression of dissent was broadened and deepened, unleashing the FBI, Congressional and state legislative investigative committees, and moves to standardize American popular culture.

I thought I had written enough on Korea for a while until I read a July 11 wire service story announcing that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission established five years ago in South Korea was terminated. The Commission was created to investigate charges that the U.S. puppet government in South Korea before and during the war was responsible for the rounding up and incarceration of hundreds of thousands of anti-government dissidents in the South (with U.S. military support). Also the Commission was to examine claims by historians that South Korean president Syngman Rhee may have slaughtered 100,000 or more of his own citizens in the early stages of the Korean War because they were deemed unsympathetic to the anti-Communist regime in Seoul.

Then on July 21, Secretaries of State and Defense Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates visited the 38th parallel which has divided the Korean peninsula for over 60 years. Photo images of Clinton peering North with binoculars underscored the definition of North Korea as mysterious and demonic. To support the imagery she announced that sanctions against the “Stalinist dictatorship” would be escalated. The North, she claimed, was responsible for the destruction of the South Korean warship, Cheonan, on March 26, killing 46 sailors. She accepted this interpretation from official South Korean government sources.

The Hidden History

I had read many books over the years on the Korea War but just recently took I.F. Stone’s The Hidden History of the Korean War off my shelf. As one of the first definitive studies of the onset of the Korean War, published by Monthly Review, in 1952, it tells a story of how that war started that is radically different from the official story: “the evil communists in the North invaded the democratic South on orders from the Soviet Union and China.” Even for me, the I.F. Stone narrative was shocking about Korea then (and now). Most troubling were the suggestions about how lies, deceit, messianic ideology, and personality disorders along with imperial structures and processes may have affected United States foreign policy in general. Reflecting on these foreign policies led me to realize that their impacts have included the deaths of millions of people, mostly people outside the Anglo-Saxon world.

Stone’s narrative highlights the interests, behavior, ideologies, and personalities of a handful of players who had most to do with creating and prosecuting the Korean War. Most central was General Douglas MacArthur, commanding officer of the U.S. occupation of Japan, headquartered in Tokyo. MacArthur saw himself as the future leader of all of Asia, bringing Christianity, capitalism, authoritarian democracy and his own historic destiny to the region.

His partners including John Foster Dulles, key Republican spokesperson on foreign policy, former representative to the United Nations and U.S. negotiator of the Japanese Peace Treaty which welcomed back that country into the “family of democratic nations.” Dulles had a long legal career, working with corporations and banks that did business with Nazi Germany. He regarded the rise of Communism as a manifestation of the anti-Christ.

Other partners in the Korean War drama were Syngman Rhee, dictatorial president of the South Korean regime who was on the verge of being ousted from power after his party lost parliamentary elections and Chiang Kai Shek, leader of the anti-Communist forces who were defeated by the Chinese Communists in a thirty-year civil war. Chiang’s Koumintang was forced to retreat from the mainland of China to the Formosan islands and he was desperately seeking a commitment from the United States to defend his beleaguered armies on the islands.

The narrative, of course, includes defense department officials and military contractors who remained, even in 1950, under the yoke of fiscally conservative legislators. They wanted a justification for massive increases in military spending such as those recommended in the secret document National Security Council Document 68.

In addition, Republican politicians were looking for an issue to finally end the twenty year domination of the Democratic Party in national political life. Issues such as the “fall of China,” “the spread of Communism,” the “lack of attention to Asia,” and “subversion inside the State Department” became part of their public agenda. And President Truman, his Secretary of State Dean Acheson, and other key advisers saw the need to expand U.S. military reach to Asia as well. With “the fall of China” Japan and the Korean peninsula were central to the geo-political expansion of US empire and the institutionalization of vibrant capitalist systems in Asia to challenge Communism.

Everybody Has an Interest in War

After describing the central characters in the Korean War drama, it becomes clear that they all would benefit from a massive and irrevocable U. S. military commitment to the anti-Communist regime in South Korea. Such a war would cap the distinguished military career of MacArthur, bring Christianity to Asia, shift foreign policy influence to missionary Republicans such as Dulles and others who wanted to expand U.S. domination to all of Asia, and would save the faltering political fortunes of the dictators in South Korea and Formosa who lacked support among their own people. Last, and not least, a Korean War would institutionalize, militarize, and globalize a United States foreign policy that would bring capitalism and democracy to the world.

The story Stone then tells is of lies and deceit designed to threaten and entice the North Koreans into making war on the South, changing the United States/United Nations response from defending the territory below the 38th parallel to expanding the war to the North, and doing whatever could be done to scare the Chinese into entering the war in full combat. Stone’s narrative shows how desperately the Chinese resisted all-out military response and how MacArthur’s headquarters at every turn resisted peace overtures.

The Stone narrative is long and complicated. Of course many have written about the Korean War since. But what so impacted me reading the book almost 60 years after its publication was the plausibility of the descriptions about how broad economic and political forces shaped and encouraged key decision-makers to act in despicable ways to serve their own interests, as well as United States empire. I am afraid that the United States approach to the Korean peninsula and foreign policy in general has not changed much since.

Any Way Out?

The best alternative to current U.S. foreign policy toward Korea and the world was recently expressed by the Veterans for Peace President Mike Ferner in a press release remembering the 60 year anniversary of the Korean War:

The recent unfortunate sinking of the South Korean warship, Cheonan, should not be used as an excuse by any parties to renew the armed conflict that the armistice was supposed to address on July 27, 1953. Rivers of blood, mountains of pain and a permanent war economy in the U.S. are the true costs of this conflict. This sad anniversary renews VFP's commitment to abolish war as an instrument of national policy.

The press release concluded:

As we observe the 60th anniversary of the Korean War of 1950-1953 today, it is time to end this tragic war, not re-ignite it. We urge all concerned parties in the Korean War--both Koreas, the United States, and China--to begin negotiations for a peace treaty and an official end to the war.

Sunday, August 6, 2017


Harry Targ

Continued study and research into the origins of the folk music of various peoples in many parts of the world revealed that there is a world body-a universal body-of folk music based upon a universal pentatonic (five tone) scale. Interested as I am in the universality of (hu)mankind-in the fundamental relationship of all peoples to one another-this idea of a universal body of music intrigued me, and I pursed it along many fascinating paths. Paul Robeson, Here I Stand, 1959.

America’s destiny required the U.S. “…to set the world its example of right and honor…We cannot retreat from any soil where providence has unfurled our banner. It is ours to save that soil, for liberty, and civilization….It is is racial. God has not been preparing the English-speaking and teutonic peoples for a thousand years for nothing but vain and idle self-contemplation and self-admiration. No! He has made us the master organizers of the world to establish system where chaos reigns. He has given us the spirit of progress to overwhelm the forces of reaction throughout the earth.” Senator Albert Beveridge, Indiana, Congressional Record, 56 Congress, I Session, pp.704-712, 1898).

In these early August days we reflect on the decision to drop atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the summer of 1945. The official explanation for the use of these horrific new weapons was that they were required to end the World War in Asia. But subsequent historical research has indicated that the United States chose to drop the bombs to threaten the former Soviet Union and as a result to facilitate the United States construction of a post-war world order that would maximize its economic and political vision.

United States foreign policy over the last 150 years has been a reflection of many forces including economics, politics, militarism and the desire to control territory. The most important idea used by each presidential administration to gain support from the citizenry for the pursuit of empire is the claim that America is “exceptional”. 

Think about the view of “the city on the hill” articulated by Puritan ancestors who claimed that they were creating a social experiment that would inspire the world. Over three hundred years later President Reagan again spoke of “the city on the hill.” Or one can recall public addresses by turn of the twentieth century luminaries such as former President Theodore Roosevelt who claimed that the white race from Europe and North America was civilizing the peoples of what we would now call the Global South.  Or Indiana Senator Beveridge’s clear statement: “It is elemental….It is racial.” From the proclamation of the new nation’s special purpose in Puritan America, to Ronald Reagan’s reiteration of the idea, to similar claims by virtually all politicians of all political affiliations, Americans hear over and over that we are different, special, and a shining example of public virtue that all other peoples should use as their guide for building a better society and polity.

However, the United States has been involved in wars for 201 years from 1776 to 2011. Ten million indigenous people had been exterminated as the “new” nation moved westward between the 17th and the 20th centuries and at least 10 million people were killed, mostly from developing countries, between 1945 and 2010 in wars in which the United States had some role. In addition, world affairs was transformed by the use of the two atomic bombs; one dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 instantly killing 80,000 people and the other on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945 killing another 70,000.

Comparing the image of exceptionalism with the domestic reality of American life suggests stark contrasts as well: continuous and growing gaps between rich and poor, inadequate nutrition and health care for significant portions of the population, massive domestic gun violence, and inadequate access to the best education that the society has the capacity to provide to all. Of course, the United States was a slave society for over 200 years formally racially segregated for another 100, and now incarcerates 15 percent of African American men in their twenties.

Although, the United States is not the only country that has a history of imperialism, exploitation, violence, and racism US citizens should understand that its foreign policy and economic and political system are not exceptional and must be changed.

Finally, a better future and the survival of humanity require a realization, as Paul Robeson suggested, that what is precious about all people is not their differences but their commonalities. Exceptionalist thinking separates people and facilitates decisions like the dropping of the bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Sharing what we have in common as human beings, both our troubles and our talents, is the only basis for creating a peaceful and just world.