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On modern warfare weapons: Actual testing on many pre-emptive wars around the world

Back in 1997, Barbara Ehrenreich went after the human  attraction to violence in her book Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War.

In it, among other brilliant insights, she traced the beginnings of our  modern blood rites not to Man, the Aggressor, but to human beings, the  prey (in a dangerous early world of predators).

In an updated,  adapted version of an afterword she did for the British edition of that book, she turns from the origins of war to its end point, suggesting in her usual provocative way that drones and other warrior robotics may, in  the end, do us one strange favor: they may finally bring home to us that war is Not a human possession, that it is not what we are and must  be.

(To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which  Ehrenreich discusses the nature of war and how to fight against it,  click here, or download it to your iPod here.) Tom

War Without Humans Modern Blood Rites Revisited By Barbara Ehrenreich

For a book about the all-too-human “passions of war,” my 1997 work Blood Rites ended on a strangely inhuman note: I suggested that, whatever  distinctly human qualities war calls upon — honor, courage, solidarity,  cruelty, and so forth — it might be useful to stop thinking of war in  exclusively human terms.

After all, certain species of ants wage war  and computers can simulate “wars” that play themselves out on-screen  without any human involvement.

More generally, we should define war as a self-replicating  pattern of activity that may or may not require human participation.

In  the human case, we know it is capable of spreading geographically and  evolving rapidly over time — qualities that, as I suggested somewhat fancifully, make war a metaphorical successor to the predatory animals  that shaped humans into fighters in the first place.

A decade and a half later, these musings do not seem quite so airy  and abstract anymore. The trend, at the close of the twentieth century,  still seemed to be one of ever more massive human involvement in war —  from armies containing tens of thousands in the sixteenth century, to  hundreds of thousands in the nineteenth, and eventually millions in the  twentieth century world wars.

It was the ascending scale of war that originally called forth the existence of the nation-state as an administrative unit capable of maintaining mass armies and the infrastructure — for taxation, weapons manufacture, transport, etc. — that they require.

War has been, and we still expect it to be, the most massive collective project human beings undertake. But it has been evolving quickly in a very different direction, one in which human beings have a much smaller role to play.

One factor driving this change has been the emergence of a new kind of enemy, so-called “non-state actors,” meaning popular insurgencies and loose transnational networks of fighters, none of which are likely to field large numbers of troops or maintain expensive arsenals of their own.

In the face of these new enemies, typified by al-Qaeda, the mass armies of nation-states are highly ineffective, cumbersome to deploy, difficult to maneuver, and from a domestic point of view, overly dependent on a citizenry that is both willing and able to fight, or at least to have their children fight for them.

Yet just as U.S. military cadets continue, in defiance of military reality, to sport swords on their dress uniforms, our leaders, both military and political, tend to cling to an idea of war as a vast, labor-intensive effort on the order of World War II.

Only slowly, and with a reluctance bordering on the phobic, have the leaders of major states begun to grasp the fact that this approach to warfare may soon be obsolete.

Consider the most recent U.S. war with Iraq.

According to then-president George W. Bush, the casus belli was the 9/11 terror attacks.  The causal link between that event and our chosen enemy, Iraq, was, however, imperceptible to all but the most dedicated inside-the-Beltway intellectuals.

Nineteen men had hijacked airplanes and flown them into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center — 15 of them Saudi Arabians, none of them Iraqis — and we went to war against… Iraq?

Military history offers no ready precedents for such wildly misaimed retaliation. The closest analogies come from anthropology, which provides plenty of cases of small-scale societies in which the death of any member, for any reason, needs to be “avenged” by an attack on a more or less randomly chosen other tribe or hamlet.

Why Iraq?

Neoconservative imperial ambitions have been invoked in explanation, as well as the American thirst for oil, or even an Oedipal contest between George W. Bush and his father.

There is no doubt some truth to all of these explanations, but the targeting of Iraq also represented a desperate and irrational response to what was, for Washington, an utterly confounding military situation.

We faced a state-less enemy — geographically diffuse, lacking uniforms and flags, invulnerable to invading infantries and saturation bombing, and apparently capable of regenerating itself at minimal expense.

From the perspective of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his White House cronies, this would not do. (Meaning from Israel point of view or the “christian” Evangelical Zionists)

Since the U.S. was accustomed to fighting other nation-states — geopolitical entities containing such identifiable targets as capital cities, airports, military bases, and munitions plants — we would have to find a nation-state to fight, or as Rumsfeld put it, a “target-rich environment.

Iraq, pumped up by alleged stockpiles of “weapons of mass destruction,” became the designated surrogate for an enemy that refused to play our game.

The effects of this atavistic war are still being tallied: in Iraq, we would have to include civilian deaths estimated at possibly hundreds of thousands, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and devastating outbreaks of sectarian violence of a kind that, as we should have learned from the dissolution of Yugoslavia, can readily follow the death or removal of a nationalist dictator.

But the effects of war on the U.S. and its allies may end up being almost as tragic.

Instead of punishing the terrorists who had attacked the U.S., the war seems to have succeeded in recruiting more such irregular fighters, young men (and sometimes women) willing to die and ready to commit further acts of terror or revenge.

By insisting on fighting a more or less randomly selected nation-state, the U.S. may only have multiplied the non-state threats it faces.

Unwieldy Armies

Whatever they may think of what the U.S. and its allies did in Iraq, many national leaders are beginning to acknowledge that conventional militaries are becoming, in a strictly military sense, almost ludicrously anachronistic. Not only are they unsuited to crushing counterinsurgencies and small bands of terrorists or irregular fighters, but mass armies are simply too cumbersome to deploy on short notice.

In military lingo, they are weighed down by their “tooth to tail” ratio — a measure of the number of actual fighters in comparison to the support personnel and equipment the fighters require. Both hawks and liberal interventionists may hanker to airlift tens of thousands of soldiers to distant places virtually overnight, but those soldiers will need to be preceded or accompanied by tents, canteens, trucks, medical equipment, and so forth.

“Flyover” rights will have to be granted by neighboring countries; air strips and eventually bases will have to be constructed; supply lines will have be created and defended — all of which can take months to accomplish.

The sluggishness of the mass, labor-intensive military has become a constant source of frustration to civilian leaders. Irritated by the Pentagon’s hesitation to put “boots on the ground” in Bosnia, then-Secretary of State Madeline Albright famously demanded of Secretary of Defense Colin Powell, “What good is this marvelous military force if we can never use it?”

In 2009, the Obama administration unthinkingly proposed a troop surge in Afghanistan, followed by a withdrawal within a year and a half that would have required some of the troops to start packing up almost as soon as they arrived. It took the U.S. military a full month to organize the transport of 20,000 soldiers to Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake — and they were only traveling 700 miles to engage in a humanitarian relief mission, not a war.

Another thing hobbling mass militaries is the increasing unwillingness of nations, especially the more democratic ones, to risk large numbers of casualties. It is no longer acceptable to drive men into battle at gunpoint or to demand that they fend for themselves on foreign soil.

Once thousands of soldiers have been plunked down in a “theater,” they must be defended from potentially hostile locals, a project that can easily come to supersede the original mission.

We may not be able clearly to articulate what American troops were supposed to accomplish in Iraq or Afghanistan, but without question one part of their job has been “force protection.” In what could be considered the inverse of “mission creep,” instead of expanding, the mission now has a tendency to contract to the task of self-defense.

Ultimately, the mass militarist of the modern era, augmented by ever-more expensive weapons systems, place an unacceptable economic burden on the nation-states that support them — a burden that eventually may undermine the militaries themselves.

Consider what has been happening to the world’s sole military superpower, the United States. The latest estimate for the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is, at this moment, at least $3.2 trillion, while total U.S. military spending equals that of the next 15 countries combined, and adds up to approximately 47% of all global military spending.

To this must be added the cost of caring for wounded and otherwise damaged veterans, which has been mounting precipitously as medical advances allow more of the injured to survive.  The U.S. military has been sheltered from the consequences of its own profligacy by a level of bipartisan political support that has kept it almost magically immune to budget cuts, even as the national debt balloons to levels widely judged to be unsustainable.

The hard right, in particular, has campaigned relentlessly against “big government,” apparently not noticing that the military is a sizable chunk of this behemoth.

In December 2010, for example, a Republican senator from Oklahoma railed against the national debt with this statement: “We’re really at war. We’re on three fronts now: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the financial tsunami  [arising from the debt] that is facing us.” Only in recent months have some Tea Party-affiliated legislators broken with tradition by declaring their willingness to cut military spending.

How the Warfare State Became the Welfare State

If military spending is still for the most part sacrosanct, ever more spending cuts are required to shrink “big government.”  Then what remains is the cutting of domestic spending, especially social programs for the poor, who lack the means to finance politicians, and all too often the incentive to vote as well.

From the Reagan years on, the U.S. government has chipped away at dozens of programs that had helped sustain people who are underpaid or unemployed, including housing subsidies, state-supplied health insurance, public transportation, welfare for single parents, college tuition aid, and inner-city economic development projects.

Even the physical infrastructure — bridges, airports, roads, and tunnels — used by people of all classes has been left at dangerous levels of disrepair. Antiwar protestors wistfully point out, year after year, what the cost of our high-tech weapon systems, our global network of more than 1,000 military bases, and our various “interventions” could buy if applied to meeting domestic human needs. But to no effect.

This ongoing sacrifice of domestic welfare for military “readiness” represents the reversal of a historic trend. Ever since the introduction of mass armies in Europe in the seventeenth century, governments have generally understood that to underpay and underfeed one’s troops — and the class of people that supplies them — is to risk having the guns pointed in the opposite direction from that which the officers recommend.

In fact, modern welfare states, inadequate as they may be, are in no small part the product of war — that is, of governments’ attempts to appease soldiers and their families. In the U.S., for example, the Civil War led to the institution of widows’ benefits, which were the predecessor of welfare in its Aid to Families with Dependent Children form. It was the bellicose German leader Otto von Bismarck who first instituted national health insurance.

World War II spawned educational benefits and income support for American veterans and led, in the United Kingdom, to a comparatively generous welfare state, including free health care for all.

Notions of social justice and fairness, or at least the fear of working class insurrections, certainly played a part in the development of twentieth century welfare states, but there was a pragmatic military motivation as well: if young people are to grow up to be effective troops, they need to be healthy, well-nourished, and reasonably well-educated.

In the U.S., the steady withering of social programs that might nurture future troops even serves, ironically, to justify increased military spending. In the absence of a federal jobs program, Congressional representatives become fierce advocates for weapons systems that the Pentagon itself has no use for, as long as the manufacture of those weapons can provide employment for some of their constituents.

With diminishing funds for higher education, military service becomes a less dismal alternative for young working-class people than the low-paid jobs that otherwise await them. The U.S. still has a civilian welfare state consisting largely of programs for the elderly (Medicare and Social Security). For many younger Americans, however, as well as for older combat veterans, the U.S. military is the welfare state — and a source, however temporarily, of jobs, housing, health care and education.

Eventually, however, the failure to invest in America’s human resources — through spending on health, education, and so forth — undercuts the military itself. In World War I, public health experts were shocked to find that one-third of conscripts were rejected as physically unfit for service; they were too weak and flabby or too damaged by work-related accidents.

Several generations later, in 2010, the U.S. Secretary of Education reported that “75 percent of young Americans, between the ages of 17 to 24, are unable to enlist in the military today because they have failed to graduate from high school, have a criminal record, or are physically unfit.”

(Wonderful news: Drop the Gendarme notion of controlling the world)

When a nation can no longer generate enough young people who are fit for military service, that nation has two choices: it can, as a number of prominent retired generals are currently advocating, reinvest in its “human capital,” especially the health and education of the poor, or it can seriously reevaluate its approach to war.

The Fog of (Robot) War

Since the rightward, anti-“big government” tilt of American politics more or less precludes the former, the U.S. has been scrambling to develop less labor-intensive forms of waging war. In fact, this may prove to be the ultimate military utility of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: if they have gained the U.S. no geopolitical advantage, they have certainly served as laboratories and testing grounds for forms of future warfare that involve less human, or at least less governmental, commitment.

One step in that direction has been the large-scale use of military contract workers supplied by private companies, which can be seen as a revival of the age-old use of mercenaries.  Although most of the functions that have been outsourced to private companies — including food services, laundry, truck driving, and construction — do not involve combat, they are dangerous, and some contract workers have even been assigned to the guarding of convoys and military bases.

Contractors are still men and women, capable of bleeding and dying — and surprising numbers of them have indeed died.  In the initial six months of 2010, corporate deaths exceeded military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan for the first time. But the Pentagon has little or no responsibility for the training, feeding, or care of private contractors.

If wounded or psychologically damaged, American contract workers must turn, like any other injured civilian employees, to the Workers’ Compensation system, hence their sense of themselves as a “disposable army.”  By 2009, the trend toward privatization had gone so far that the number of private contractors in Afghanistan exceeded the number of American troops there.

An alternative approach is to eliminate or drastically reduce the military’s dependence on human beings of any kind.  This would have been an almost unthinkable proposition a few decades ago, but technologies employed in Iraq and Afghanistan have steadily stripped away the human role in war. Drones, directed from sites up to 7,500 miles away in the western United States, are replacing manned aircraft.

Video cameras, borne by drones, substitute for human scouts or information gathered by pilots. Robots disarm roadside bombs. When American forces invaded Iraq in 2003, no robots accompanied them; by 2008, there were 12,000 participating in the war.

Only a handful of drones were used in the initial invasion; today, the U.S. military has an inventory of more than 7,000, ranging from the familiar Predator to tiny Ravens and Wasps used to transmit video images of events on the ground.  Far stranger fighting machines are in the works, like swarms of lethal “cyborg insects” that could potentially replace human infantry.

These developments are by no means limited to the U.S. The global market for military robotics and unmanned military vehicles is growing fast, and includes Israel, a major pioneer in the field, Russia, the United Kingdom, Iran, South Korea, and China. Turkey is reportedly readying a robot force for strikes against Kurdish insurgents; Israel hopes to eventually patrol the Gaza border with “see-shoot” robots that will destroy people perceived as transgressors as soon as they are detected.

It is hard to predict how far the automation of war and the substitution of autonomous robots for human fighters will go. On the one hand, humans still have the advantage of superior visual discrimination.  Despite decades of research in artificial intelligence, computers cannot make the kind of simple distinctions — as in determining whether a cow standing in front of a barn is a separate entity or a part of the barn — that humans can make in a fraction of a second.

Thus, as long as there is any premium on avoiding civilian deaths, humans have to be involved in processing the visual information that leads, for example, to the selection of targets for drone attacks. If only as the equivalent of seeing-eye dogs, humans will continue to have a role in war, at least until computer vision improves.

On the other hand, the human brain lacks the bandwidth to process all the data flowing into it, especially as new technologies multiply that data. In the clash of traditional mass armies, under a hail of arrows or artillery shells, human warriors often found themselves confused and overwhelmed, a condition attributed to “the fog of war.” Well, that fog is growing a lot thicker. U.S. military officials, for instance, put the blame on “information overload” for the killing of 23 Afghan civilians in February 2010, and the New York Times reported that:

“Across the military, the data flow has surged; since the attacks of 9/11, the amount of intelligence gathered by remotely piloted drones and other surveillance technologies has risen 1,600 percent. On the ground, troops increasingly use hand-held devices to communicate, get directions and set bombing coordinates. And the screens in jets can be so packed with data that some pilots call them “drool buckets” because, they say, they can get lost staring into them.”

When the sensory data coming at a soldier is augmented by a flood of instantaneously transmitted data from distant cameras and computer search engines, there may be no choice but to replace the sloppy “wet-ware” of the human brain with a robotic system for instant response.

War Without Humans

Once set in place, the cyber-automation of war is hard to stop.  Humans will cling to their place “in the loop” as long as they can, no doubt insisting that the highest level of decision-making — whether to go to war and with whom — be reserved for human leaders. But it is precisely at the highest levels that decision-making may most need automating.

A head of state faces a blizzard of factors to consider, everything from historical analogies and satellite-derived intelligence to assessments of the readiness of potential allies. Furthermore, as the enemy automates its military, or in the case of a non-state actor, simply adapts to our level of automation, the window of time for effective responses will grow steadily narrower. Why not turn to a high-speed computer? It is certainly hard to imagine a piece of intelligent hardware deciding to respond to the 9/11 attacks by invading Iraq.

So, after at least 10,000 years of intra-species fighting — of scorched earth, burned villages, razed cities, and piled up corpses, as well, of course, as all the great epics of human literature — we have to face the possibility that the institution of war might no longer need us for its perpetuation. Human desires, especially for the Earth’s diminishing supply of resources, will still instigate wars for some time to come, but neither human courage nor human bloodlust will carry the day on the battlefield.

Computers will assess threats and calibrate responses; drones will pinpoint enemies; robots might roll into the streets of hostile cities. Beyond the individual battle or smaller-scale encounter, decisions as to whether to match attack with counterattack, or one lethal technological innovation with another, may also be eventually ceded to alien minds.

This should not come as a complete surprise. Just as war has shaped human social institutions for millennia, so has it discarded them as the evolving technology of war rendered them useless. When war was fought with blades by men on horseback, it favored the rule of aristocratic warrior elites. When the mode of fighting shifted to action-at-a-distance weapons like bows and guns, the old elites had to bow to the central authority of kings, who, in turn, were undone by the democratizing forces unleashed by new mass armies.

Even patriarchy cannot depend on war for its long-term survival, since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have, at least within U.S. forces, established women’s worth as warriors. Over the centuries, human qualities once deemed indispensable to war fighting — muscular power, manliness, intelligence, judgment — have one by one become obsolete or been ceded to machines.

What will happen then to the “passions of war”? Except for individual acts of martyrdom, war is likely to lose its glory and luster. Military analyst P.W. Singer quotes an Air Force captain musing about whether the new technologies will “mean that brave men and women will no longer face death in combat,” only to reassure himself that “there will always be a need for intrepid souls to fling their bodies across the sky.”

Perhaps, but in a 2010 address to Air Force Academy cadets, an under secretary of defense delivered the “bad news” that most of them would not be flying airplanes, which are increasingly unmanned.

War will continue to be used against insurgencies as well as to “take out” the weapons facilities, command centers, and cities of designated rogue states. It may even continue to fascinate its aficionados, in the manner of computer games. But there will be no triumphal parades for killer nano-bugs, no epics about unmanned fighter planes, no monuments to fallen bots.

And in that may lie our last hope. With the decline of mass militaries and their possible replacement by machines, we may finally see that war is not just an extension of our needs and passions, however base or noble.

Nor is it likely to be even a useful test of our courage, fitness, or national unity. War has its own dynamic or — in case that sounds too anthropomorphic — its own grim algorithms to work out. As it comes to need us less, maybe we will finally see that we don’t need it either. We can leave it to the ants.

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of a number of books including Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America and Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. This essay is a revised and updated version of the afterword to the British edition of Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War (Granta, 2011).  To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which  Ehrenreich discusses the nature of war and how to fight against it,  click here, or download it to your iPod here.

Copyright 2011 Barbara Ehrenreich

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MP lives on £18 a week food bill, and we love her for it

Gareth On March 1, 2013 REVIEW OVERVIEW

A rare breed.
Could you imagine Boris (Johnson) and DavCam shopping around for food on £18 a week?

That’s why we love Helen Goodman, who did so during parliamentary recess to better understand her constituents.

It’s not often we find an MP we like. More often than not, we’re found frothing at the mouth about some tosspot who’s calling for poor people to be shot, or for millionaires (“wealth creators”) to receive tax cuts – often at the same time.

Wealth creators lavish money upon poors, it’s a well-known fact isn’t it?

But sometimes, we find someone who DOES THEIR JOB, and what’s more, goes beyond it.

Let’s all meet Helen Goodman, then, Labour MP for Bishop Auckland, who decided to live on £18 a week for food during the recent recess.

Yes, while DavCam and Boris were stuffing their porky pink faces full of fondue in Switzerland, one of our MPs was living like her constituents.

While David Cameron was, probably, supping on oysters and complaining about the bits of caviar in between his pearly white, recently treated teeth, Helen Goodman was suffering from headaches due to not having eaten enough.

Shocked at the bedroom tax and the other methods your government is using to basically pay for its millionaires’ tax cut and the RBS bonuses, she did what every MP should –tried to understand what her constituents are going through.

Never mind what we have to say, we could blather on all day about what fuckwits most MPs are – here’s the official extract from the Hansard. In full.

Helen Goodman, MP for Bishop Auckland

I was so shocked when I read what my constituents wrote to me about the implications for them of the bedroom tax, and about how little they would have left to live on, that I decided during the week of the recent recess to see if I could survive on £18 a week, which is what they will be left with to buy their food after 1 April.

That figure of £18 is entirely based on the experiences of my constituents, in particular women on employment and support allowance who are about the same age as me, but who had to stop working owing to chronic health conditions, perhaps after 20 years of working life.

Out of their £71.70 in allowance, they have to find £10 for electricity, £20 for heating—gas or coal—£6 for water rates, £4 for bus fares in the case of those who live in villages and have to get to the main town, and £10 for the bedroom tax, which left them with £23 for weekly living expenses.

That £23 has to cover more than food, of course. We did a calculation, and set aside £5 for all the non-food things everyone has to buy—soap, washing powder, washing-up liquid, toothpaste, loo paper—plus a small amount in order to save £50 a year for clothes or a pair of trainers, or in case the iron breaks. That leaves £18.

I therefore took up the challenge of trying to live on £18, and I want to tell Members what it is like. It is extremely unpleasant. I had porridge for breakfast every morning, as I usually do, but I make my porridge with milk; now I was making it with water.

I had to eat the same food over and over and over again. Single people are hit particularly hard, because cheap food comes in big packs.

I made a stew at the beginning of the week, and I ate the same food four nights a week.

I had pasta twice a week. I had baked potatoes.

I had eggs on six occasions.

It was completely impossible to have meat or fish; that was out of the question. It was also impossible to have five portions of fruit and vegetables a week.

I therefore also have a message for the Under-Secretary of State for Health, Anna Soubry, who is responsible for public health. She was criticising people on low incomes for obesity.

Of course people on low incomes are more likely to have that problem; they have to fill up on toast and biscuits.

I found myself waking up in the middle of the night absolutely ravenous, having to make cups of tea and eat biscuits.

I had a headache for five days in that week, and I was completely lethargic and exhausted by 4 pm.

Some people are on jobseeker’s allowance and are looking for a job. Looking for a job is a job in itself; it takes time and energy.

The people whom DWP Ministers want to do workfare are being expected to work 30 hours a week, yet they are not going to have enough to eat properly.

Most shocking of all was the fact that come Sunday I ran out of food—there was literally nothing left to eat that night.

If Ministers are happy with the notion that 660,000 of our fellow citizens are literally not going to have enough to eat by the end of the week, all I can say is that I pity them because they have no pity and no conception of what they are going to do to the people in our constituencies who will be faced with this bedroom tax.

The Minister has been very free and easy in talking about all these wonderful alternatives, such as the fact that people can move.

In my constituency more than 1,000 people will be affected by the bedroom tax, but there are fewer than 100 smaller properties to which they could move. In my constituency, it is not possible for all these people to increase the number of hours they work, as 7 people are chasing every job;

People are in part-time work because they cannot get full-time work. Government Members have shown their complete ignorance of the benefits system by saying, “You just have to work a couple of hours a week on the minimum wage.

Of course that is not true, because these people would get then into the tapers and the disregards, and their benefits would be cut or they might find themselves paying tax. The numbers simply do not add up.

Of course some individuals or couples have properties that are larger than they need, but the so-called under-occupancy is in one part of the country and the overcrowding is in another.

It simply is not credible to suggest that all the large, over-occupying families in London will move up to Durham, particularly given that the unemployment rate there is more than 9%. What would they be moving to? What would they be moving for?

I made a video diary of my week, so I got a lot of feedback from people affected by this policy. Interestingly, they said, “Yes, this is the reality of our lives. We are not able to survive properly now and things are going to get worse to the tune of £10 a week from 1 April.”

In 2006, I did the same experiment under the previous Labour Government, living on benefits to see what life was like for young people on the lowest rate of income support.

I found that difficult, but there was enough money to get through the whole week. I wish to point out to the Minister that we have reached a new low, because the £21 that people had in 2006 is equivalent to £28 now, and that should be compared with the £18 with which people are going to be expected to feed themselves.

The Minister has made much, too, of the discretionary housing benefits, which many hon. Members have questioned.

In County Durham, £5 million of income will be taken out of people’s pockets and out of the local economy. The size of the discretionary fund is half a million pounds, so once again there is a huge gap between actual need and the resources being given to people to deal with it.

Many hon. Members have pointed out the unfairness of the policy for people who are disabled and need to sleep separately, be they adults or children; people who have children in the Army; foster carers; and separated parents.

This policy is a fundamental attack on the poorest people in this country. People are going to lose between £500 and £1,000 over the course of next year, through no fault of their own.

But the really disgusting thing is that on the same day that the bedroom tax is being introduced millionaires are being given a tax cut that will be worth £1,000—not over the year as a whole, but every single week.

Note: In Lebanon with have No allowance for the needy people: They have to manage any which way

On War, Robot War, Drone War, Electronic War… Stop injustices, Respect human dignity…

It is not possible for a sane person to sincerely promote the killing of another person.

Ask anyone in the front line how he felt before he shot on an “adversary” and how he felt after the “enemy” fell.

Anyone sane is not able to forget “that he did kill someone else”.

The memory is there for the remainder of his life, and life is rotten and very unpleasant.

People like to claim “self-defense” excuse, any kinds of self-defense, thinking that the neighbor will be understanding and forgiving.

What the neighbor can do to you if your soul and mind are unable to erase the fact of having ended the life someone else?

Recently, the Chinese had more than two dozen models in some stage of development on display at the Zhuhai Air Show, some of  which they are evidently eager to sell to other countries.

There was a time in our history when bow and arrows were not yet put to use, not even for shooting down animal to eat. Battles were short and not many died in the field.

People life expectancy was very short, and those fighting were plagued with all kinds of diseases: They needed to rest after a short engagement, and maybe they sat to shoot the breeze, faking that they will get up again to resume the fight. Not a chance.

Killing from a long range is the skill of the coward and the totally useless soldier: Too much shouting for nothing.

If you really need to claim self-defense, engage in close body fight: A few wounds will go a long way into avoiding the promotion of war.

On July 2011, Barbara Ehrenreich published this piece. It is reposted on TomDispatch.

Last week, William Wan and Peter Finn of the Washington Post reported that at least 50 countries have now purchased or developed pilotless military drones.

So three cheers for a thoroughly drone-ified world.

In my lifetime, I’ve repeatedly seen advanced weapons systems or mind-boggling technologies of war hailed as  near-Utopian paths to victory and future peace (just as the atomic bomb  was soon after my birth).

Include in that the Vietnam-era, “electronic  battlefield,” President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative  (aka “Star Wars”), the “smart bombs” and smart missiles of the first  Gulf War, and in the twenty-first century, “netcentric warfare,” that Rumsfeld high-tech favorite.

You know the results of this sort of magical thinking about wonder weapons (or technologies) just as well as I do.

The atomic bomb led to an almost half-century-long nuclear superpower standoff/nightmare, to  nuclear proliferation, and so to the possibility that someday even terrorists might possess such weapons.

The electronic battlefield was incapable of staving off defeat in Vietnam.

Reagan’s “impermeable” anti-missile shield in space never came even faintly close to making it into the heavens. (And the currently deployed steel domes are no better)

Those “smart bombs” of the Gulf War proved remarkably dumb, while the 50 “decapitation” strikes the Bush administration launched against Saddam Hussein’s regime on the  first day of the 2003 invasion of Iraq took out not a single Iraqi  leader, but dozens of civilians.

And the history of the netcentric military in Iraq is well known. Its “success” sent Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld into retirement and ignominy.

In the same way, robot drones as assassination weapons will prove to be just another weapons system rather than a panacea for American  warriors.

None of these much-advertised wonder technologies ever turns  out to perform as promised, but that fact never stops them, as with  drones today, from embedding themselves in our world.

From the atomic  bomb came a whole nuclear landscape that included the Strategic Air  Command, weapons labs, production plants, missile silos, corporate  interests, and an enormous world-destroying arsenal (as well as  proliferating versions of the same, large and small, across the planet).

Nor did the electronic battlefield go away.

Quite the opposite — it  came home and entered our everyday world in the form of sensors,  cameras, surveillance equipment, and the like, now implanted from our borders to our cities.

Rarely do wonder weapons or wonder technologies disappoint enough to disappear.

And those latest wonders, missile- and bomb-armed drones,  are now multiplying like so many electronic rabbits.

And yet there is  always hope. (Like what practical decisions and how to generate such hope?)

 

Vandals under the Banner of NATO: The art of doing War

Manlio Dinucci posted in The Italian  il manifesto http://www.ilmanifesto.it/area-abbonati/in-edicola/manip2n1/20130409/manip2pg/14/manip2pz/338615/

Marie-Ange Patrizio translated this article in French in Mondialisation.ca this April 9, 2013 under: “Vandales sous bannière Otan”

Quand en mars 2001 deux antiques statues de Bouddha furent détruites par les talibans en Afghanistan, les images de l’acte de vandalisme firent le tour du monde, en suscitant une indignation légitime.

Une chape de silence politico-médiatique recouvre au contraire ce qui se passe aujourd’hui en Syrie.

statues-bombardees

Bamian, where the two old Buddha statues were blown out in 2001

Les sites archéologiques sont non seulement endommagés par la guerre, mais saccagés surtout par les « rebelles » qui, à la recherche de bijoux et de statuettes, détruisent souvent d’autres précieux vestiges.

A Apamea ils ont emporté des mosaïques antiques et des chapiteaux romains en se servant de bulldozers.

De nombreux musées, parmi les dizaines épars dans toute la Syrie, y compris celui de Homs, ont été pillés de biens ayant une valeur historique et culturelle inestimable, parmi lesquels une statue en or du VIIIème siècle avant JC et des vases du troisième millénaire avant JC.

En deux années de guerre des témoignages de millénaires d’histoire ont été effacés.

L’appel de l’Unesco pour sauver les biens culturels syriens, faisant partie du Patrimoine mondial, n’est toujours pas entendu.

La raison en est claire : les principaux auteurs de la destruction sont les « rebelles », armés et entraînés par les commandos et services secrets USA/Otan, qui leur concèdent le « droit de mise à sac » et la possibilité de pouvoir emporter les biens culturels hors de Syrie pour les vendre au marché noir international. Pratique désormais bien établie.

Au Kosovo en 1999, des églises et des monastères serbes orthodoxes médiévaux furent d’abord détériorés par les bombardements, puis incendiés ou démolis par les milices de l’Uck, à qui l’Otan donna aussi la possibilité de les mettre à sac, en volant des icônes et d’autres objets précieux.

Par contre, en 2001, quand les talibans détruisirent les deux statues de Bouddha, les premiers à condamner cet acte furent les Etats-Unis et leurs alliés.

Non pas, certes, pour sauvegarder le patrimoine historique afghan, mais pour préparer l’opinion publique à la nouvelle guerre, qui commença quelques mois plus tard quand, en octobre 2001, les forces étasuniennes envahirent l’Afghanistan en ouvrant la route à l’intervention Otan contre les forces des talibans : celles-là mêmes que les USA avaient d’abord contribué à former via le Pakistan et qui, après avoir rempli cet objectif, devaient être éliminées.

En Irak, où pendant la guerre de 1991 au moins 13 musées avaient déjà été mis à sac, le coup de grâce au patrimoine historique a été porté avec l’invasion lancée par les USA et ses alliés en 2003.

Le site archéologique de Babylone, transformé en camp militaire étasunien, fut en grande partie rasé au sol par les bulldozers. Le musée national de Bagdad, laissé volontairement sans surveillance, fut mis à sac : avec la disparition de plus de 15 mille objets, témoins de cinq mille années d’histoire, dont 10 mille n’ont jamais plus été retrouvés.

Pendant que les militaires étasuniens et les contractors participaient au sac des musées et des sites archéologiques et au marché noir des objets volés, le secrétaire à la Défense Rumsfeld déclarait « ce sont des choses qui arrivent ».

Comme aujourd’hui en Syrie, pendant que quasiment tout le « monde de la culture » occidental observe en silence.

Manlio Dinucci is a journalist and a geographer

Could Anti-black racism be related to Arab slave trade?

Confronting anti-black racism in the Arab world

The Arab slave trade is a fact of history, and anti-black racism in the region is something that must be addressed.

Susan Abulhawa posted on Aljazeea this July 7,2013

In response to an essay I wrote recently regarding the “essential blackness” of the Palestinian struggle, I received this reaction, among others: “What about Arab anti-black racism? Or the Arab slave trade?”

The Arab slave trade is a fact of history and anti-black racism is a fact of current reality, a shameful thing that must be confronted in Arab societies. Though I claim no expertise on the subject, I think that applying notions of racism as it exists in the US will preclude a real understanding of the subject in the Arab world.

I spent much of my youth in the Arab world and I do not recall having a race consciousness until I came to the United States at the age of 13.

My knowledge of Arab anti-black racism comes predominantly from Arab Americans. Like other immigrant communities, they adopt the prevailing racist sentiments of the power structure in the US, which decidedly holds African-Americans in contempt.

Migrant workers from African countries often face abusive conditions in the Middle East [AP]

This attitude is also becoming more prevalent in Arab countries for various reasons, but mostly because Arab governments, particularly those that import foreign labour from Africa and Southeast Asia, have failed to implement or enforce anti-discrimination and anti-exploitation laws.

(It is mainly a colonial expression to discriminate among the indigenous people and the colonial people, whether the colonizer is western, Islamic or Chinese. My folks worked and traded in Africa during French colonialism and they brought back the expression “3abeed” (slaves) to mean Blacks)

In many Arab nations, including Kuwait where I was born, workers are lured into menial jobs where their passports are confiscated upon arrival and they are forced into humiliating and often inhuman working conditions. They have little to no protection under the law and are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, including extraordinarily long working hours, withholding of salaries, sexual, mental, and physical abuse, and denial of travel.

The recent case of Alem Dechesa brought to light the horrors faced by migrant workers in Lebanon.

Dechesa, a domestic worker from Ethiopia, committed suicide after suffering terrible mental and physical abuse at the hands of her Lebanese employers, whose savage beating of her in front of the Ethiopian Consulate went viral last year.

Defining beauty

An extension to Arab anti-black racism is an aspiration to all that our former – and current – colonisers possess. Individuals aspire to what is powerful and rich, and the images of that power and wealth have light skin, straight hair, small noses, ruddy cheeks and tall, skinny bodies.

That image rejects melanin-rich skin, coiled hair, broad or pointy noses, short stature, broad hips and big legs. So we, too, reject these features, despising them in others and in ourselves as symbols of inferiority, laziness, and poverty. That’s why the anglicising industries of skin bleaching and hair straightening are so profitable.

And yet, when Palestine went to the UN for recognition of statehood, the vast majority of nations who voted yes were southern nations. The same is true when Palestine asked for admission to UNESCO. In fact, when the US cut off funding to UNESCO in response to its members’ democratic vote to admit Palestine, it was the African nation of Gabon that immediately stepped up with a $2m donation to UNESCO to help offset the loss of income.

It was not Saudi Arabia, or Kuwait, or Qatar, or Lebanon, or Sweden, or France. It was Gabon. How many Palestinians know that, much less expressed gratitude for it?

So concerned are Palestinians with what the European Union and the United States think of us.

So engrossed are we in grovelling for their favour and handouts as they support a system of Jewish supremacy pushing our ancient society into extinction. We dance like clowns any time a European leader spares us a thought. Have we no sense of history? No sense of pride? No comprehension of who is truly standing with us and who is sabotaging us?

In a world order that peddles notions of entire continents or regions as irreducible monoliths, the conversation among Arabs becomes a dichotomous “Arab” versus “African”, ignoring millennia of shared histories ranging from extensive trade and commerce, to the horrors of the Arab slave trade, to the solidarity of African-Arab anti-colonial unity, to the current state of ignorance that does not know history and cannot connect the dots when it comes to national liberation struggles.

Arab slave trade

When I was researching the subject of the Arab slave trade, I came upon a veritable treasure of a website established by The African Holocaust Society, or Mafaa [Swahili for “holocaust”], a non-profit organisation of scholars, artists, filmmakers, academics, and activists dedicated to reclaiming the narratives of African histories, cultures, and identities. Included in this great body of scholarly works is a comprehensive section on the Arab slave trade, as well as the Jewish slave trade, African-Arab relations over the centuries, and more, by Owen Alik Shahadah, an activist, scholar and filmmaker.

Reading this part of our shared history, we can see how a large proportion of Arabs, including those among us who harbour anti-black racism, are the sons and daughters of African women, who were kidnapped from Eastern African nations as sex slaves.

Unlike the European slave trade, the Arab slave trade was not an important feature of Arab economies and it predominantly targeted women, who became members of harems and whose children were full heirs to their father’s names, legacies and fortunes, without regard to their physical features.

The enslaved were not bought and sold as chattel the way we understand the slave trade here, but were captured in warfare, or kidnapped outright and hauled across the Sahara.

Race was not a defining line and enslaved peoples were not locked into a single fate, but had opportunity for upward mobility though various means, including bearing children or conversion to Islam.

No-one knows the true numbers of how many African women were enslaved by Arabs, but one need only look at ourselves to see the shadows of these African mothers who gave birth to us and lost their African identities.

But while African scholars at the Mafaa Society make important distinctions between the Arab and European slave trades, enslavement of human beings is a horror of incomprehensible proportions by any standard, and that’s what it was in the Arab world as it was – or is – anywhere.

There are some who argue that the Arab slave traders were themselves indistinguishable from those whom they enslaved because the word “Arab” had cultural relevance, not racial.

One-way street

This argument goes hand-in-hand with the discredited excuse that Africans themselves were involved in the slave trade, with warring tribes capturing and selling each other. But no matter how you look at it, the slave trade was a one-way street, with Africans always the enslaved victims.

I know of no African tribe that kidnapped Europeans and put them in bondage for generations; nor do I know of an African tribe that captured Arab women for centuries and made them sex slaves.

I think humanity has truly never known a holocaust of greater magnitude, savagery, or longevity than that perpetrated against the peoples of Africa. This Mafaa has never been fully acknowledged and certainly never atoned for – not that the wounds or enduring legacies of turning human beings into chattel for centuries can ever be fully comprehended or atoned for. But one must try, because just as we inherit privilege from our ancestors, so do we inherit their sins and the responsibility for those sins.

Gaddafi’s role

The late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi understood this and he used his power and wealth to try to redeem our shared history. He was the first Arab leader to apologize on behalf of Arab peoples to our African brothers and sisters for the Arab slave trade and the Arab role in the European slave trade.

He funnelled money into the African Union and used Libya’s wealth to empower the African continent and promote pan-Africanism. He was a force of reconciliation, socialism, and empowerment for both African and Arab peoples. Gaddafi’s actions threatened to renew African-Arab reconciliation and alliances similar to that which occurred at the height of the Non-Aligned Movement during the presidencies of Jamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana.

Thus, NATO’s urgency to prevent “massacres” and “slaughter” in Libya was manufactured and sold wholesale. The fear of African-Arab solidarity can be seen in the way the US-backed Libyan insurgency spread rumours that “black African” mercenaries were committing atrocities against Libyans. Gaddafi became an even bigger threat when an agreement was reached with the great anti-imperialist force in South America, Hugo Chavez, to mediate a solution to the uprising in Libya.

Now both of these champions of their people are gone, and the so-called Libyan revolutionaries are executing “black Africans” throughout the country. Gone, too, is NATO’s worry about slaughter in Libya, and another high-functioning Arab nation lies in ruin, waste and civil strife – primed for rampant corporate looting.

I wrote previously that the Palestinian struggle against the erasure of our existence, history and identity was spiritually and politically black in nature. So, too, are other struggles, like that of migrant workers throughout many Arab nations. These are our comrades. They are the wretched, exploited, robbed, and/or, at last, liberated.

I refer to Black as a political term, not necessarily a racial or ethnic descriptor. In the words of Owen Alik Shehadah: “Black People is a construction which articulates a recent social-political reality of people of colour (pigmented people). Black is not a racial family, an ethnic group or a super-ethnic group.

Political Blackness is thus not an identity but a social-political consequence of a world which after colonialism and slavery existed in those colour terms.

The word “Black” has no historical or cultural association, it was a name born when Africans were broken down into transferable labour units and transported as chattel to the Americas.”

But that word has been reclaimed, redefined, and injected with all the power, love, defiance, and beauty that is Africa. For the rest of us, and without appropriating the word, “black” is a phenomenon of resistance, steadfastness – what we Palestinians call sumud – and the beauty of culture that is reborn out of bondage and oppression.

Right to look the other way

Finally, solidarity from Africans is not equivalent to that which comes from our European comrades, whose governments are responsible for the ongoing erasure of Palestine.

African peoples have every reason to look the other way. Ethiopians have every reason to say: “You deserve what you get for the centuries of enslavement and neo-enslavement industry by your Arab neighbours.” African Americans have every reason to say: “Why should I show solidarity with Arabs who come here to treat us like white people do, and sometimes worse?”

Malcolm X once said: “If I was that [anti-American], I’d have a right to be that – after what America has done to us. This government should feel lucky that our people aren’t anti-American.”

We can substitute the word “Arab” for “American” in that sentence and it would be a valid statement. And yet, Africa is right there with us. African American intellectuals are the greatest champions of our struggle in the United States. The impact of solidarity from four particular individuals – Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, Angela Davis and Cynthia McKinney – can never be overestimated.

Last month, the former South African ambassador to Israel refused a “certificate” from Israel confirming the planting of trees in his name. In his letter, he called Israel a racist, apartheid state and said the gift was an “offence to my dignity and integrity”. He added: “I was not a party to, and never will be, to the planting of ’18 trees’, in my ‘honour’, on expropriated and stolen land.”

I would like my countrymen to think long and hard about this until they truly comprehend the humbling beauty of this solidarity from people who have every reason to be anti-Arab. I wish my countrymen could look through my eyes. They would see that black is profoundly beautiful.

They would see that Africa runs through our veins, too. Our enslaved African foremothers deserve to be honoured and loved by their Arab children. And it is for us to redeem their pain with the recognition and atonement long owed.

Arriving at this understanding is a good starting place for reciprocal solidarity with nations and peoples who are standing with us, in heart and in action.

Susan Abulhawa is a Palestinian writer and the author of the international bestselling novel, Mornings in Jenin (Bloomsbury 2010). She is also the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine, an NGO for children.

Follow her on Twitter: @sjabulhawa

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

A Chernobyl type catastrophe in the Amazon – hours left to win!

Joseph Huff-Hannon

Oil giant Chevron dumped billions of gallons of deadly chemicals in the Ecuadorian Amazon, leaving behind rivers full of toxic waste, decimating wildlife and spreading cancer and death in indigenous communities.
The battle between Chevron and Ecuador’s indigenous people has been waged for decades, becoming a landmark case globally.

Over 20 judges in Ecuador and Canada, including the Supreme Courts of both countries, have sided with the Ecuadorians in their pursuit to hold Chevron to account for dumping toxic waste in the water that people drink.

They’ve never cleaned it up!

But Chevron’s impunity could finally end if we persuade just one man to do the right thing, Bill McNabb .

Chevron’s top stockholder is a US retirement fund whose chair has challenged corporate abuse before, and his customers are part of this community!

If we flood him with support in the next 24 hours he could tip a historic vote — at Chevron’s shareholder meeting tomorrow. Add your name now:

Join the Call for Justice for the Amazon’s Chernobyl

A win against Chevron could open a new era where major corporations are finally held accountable for their crimes!

That’s where investor powerhouse Vanguard and its powerful chairman comes in.

Vanguard owns a large share of Chevron, and has just recently voted against management on climate-related resolutions at Exxon/Mobil, criticising executive pay at Viacom and pushing big banks on gender diversity.

With Chevron’s shareholder meeting in days, over 30 major investors are already calling on the company to settle the case. 

Vanguard Chairman Bill McNabb is a father of four who’s called on CEOs to be a “force for good.” Getting him on board could tip the balance toward a majority vote against Chevron’s recalcitrant management!

Add your name now and we’ll deliver our appeal directly to the chairman, right before the meeting:

Avaazers have campaigned against Chevron before, delivering letters to US senators, and filing legal briefings in court cases with partners. This is an incredible opportunity to get Chevron to finally clean up its toxic mess… and open up a new era of investor-driven social change!

With hope and determination,

Joseph, Pascal, Mike, Alice, Emma, Ricken and the entire Avaaz team

More information:

Shareholders Push New Chevron CEO For Answers on Ecuador
http://csrstrategygroup.com/shareholders-push-new-chevron-ceo-for-answers-on-ecuador/

Tell Chevron’s New CEO to Finally Clean up Ecuador! (Amazon Watch)
https://amazonwatch.org/take-action/tell-chevrons-new-ceo-to-finally-clean-up-ecuador

In the Vanguard: Fund giants urge CEOs to be ‘Force for Good’
https://www.ft.com/content/a28203d8-067d-11e8-9650-9c0ad2d7c5b5

Investor Letter on Risks from Ecuador Litigation
http://www.newground.net/Chevron-Investor-Letter-2018.pdf

Exxon Mobil loses support of a powerful voice in climate change policy
https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/31/investing-power-vanguard-votes-against-exxon-mobil-on-climate-change.html

Chevron’s “Amazon Chernobyl” in Ecuador: The Real Irrefutable Truths About the Company’s Toxic Dumping and Fraud (Huffington Post)
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-donziger/chevrons-amazon-chernobyl_b_7435926.html

My adventure to secure 3 unites of blood AB-negative to mother in a second class hospital

My 90 year-old mother fell for the nth time. This time was serious: for the first time, she volunteered to ask me to be dispatched to the hospital. Every time she fell, this tough and light woman Julia managed Not to have any bone broken. Just serious bruises and black spots in many parts of her body, and pains. For days, I would cook for her and feed her in bed.

This time also, we thought Nothing of the matter. The X-rays were Not confirming 100% of any broken bone, but the  newly installed scanner at Beit Chabab did.

Mother is the type of people who refuses to piss in a diapercouche” (those Pampers kinds): she’d rather suffer all kinds of pain in order to reach the bathroom and do it properly. Actually, mother barely drinks on account she will have to go to the bathroom more frequently than necessary

The night before taking mother to the hospital, I installed a potty on a chair in her bedroom. I asked her to holler to me when she needs help. I knew that the “couche” she agreed to wear for the night, because she was in great pain, won’t do: she will try to get up herself and do piss on her own.

My hunch turned correct. The next morning she had used the potty out of the bed. With such feats, who would imagine that she has a broken bone? If it were Not for her first-time insistence of checking at the hospital, I wouldn’t have taken seriously that anything was broken. Though, I had suggested to her to have an X-ray taken anyway.

Actually, a couple of years earlier, she burned her arm, hand and chest and part of her face in the 3rd degree, and she managed for 20 minutes to clean up the kitchen before asking for help.

Mother underwent a 5-hour horror check up in the emergency room for a series of tests, X-rays, scanner, blood extraction… while vomiting from a dizzying travel in the Red Cross van. Every time she saw an equipment that she is wheeled to she gets totally upset and frightened. She was sweating, dizzy and her face pretty yellow.

The last equipment was for checking her heart condition before being taken to her room #306. It was already 9:30 pm. And Cedric showed up to give me a ride home

The operation to replace the head of the hip with a prosthetic is Not difficult and does Not require much blood transfusion, but the surgeon demanded 3 units for any eventual emergency.

We were asked to secure 3 units of Blood AB-negative for the surgery. That was news to me that the family has to go around to find these 3 units of a rare blood type: one in 10,000 donors?

And I had to caught up the cost of the prosthetic in the thousands of dollars since the insurance would Not cover these extra materials. And I had to pay in advance before the administration gives the green light for the operation. Otherwise, the operation will Not take place.

The next day, Marie, a US born and raised citizen, gave me a ride to the Red Cross center in Antelias/Rabiyyat in order to bring the units. Marie had to drop her toddler to the nursery, Garderie (kindergarten) and then to the nearby center. The center had none of such kinds of blood. We called the main headquarter in Spears (Beirut), and they had none. Not even A-, B- or even O-.

Marie said: “I appreciate Lebanon system. It is an opportunity to gather friends and ask for their contribution”

We called the NGO “Donner sans compter”. They told us they will do their best to call upon their volunteers. We received no feedback from them.

We had to wreck our minds for alternative sources. I called Jeanine who works at B7aness hospital for help. Hanane posted a request on her social platform. I posted this demand on FB and Twitter. Victor also posted this request on his list of retired army officers.

Tony suggested that Victor calls the military hospital because once his late mother Therese needed urgent blood transfusion and the former army officer Victor managed to secure the required quantity from volunteered soldiers.

Jeanine called back and said she secured 2 units and they’ll be delivered at 6 pm. Fact is, Nour, Janine daughter,  who is in the headquarter administration of the Red Cross drove to the hospital and delivered 2 units of blood around 9 pm. One of the unit was dispatched from Saida. 

Meanwhile, mother was fretting and hysteric: she was denied any food and drink in the last 24 hours, on account that the surgery is very soon. Actually, mother has been forgetful in the last couple of years. And keeping her in the dark is Not an excellent method of securing her cooperation.

I went to the administration at 1 pm and told them I am taking a decision to transfer mother to another hospital. An hour later, the surgeon called me and said that the operation is scheduled for 2 pm.

The night before the surgery, she woke up at 3 am, sat up, removed all the tubes and syringes, dangled her feet from the bed and waked to the bathroom. After a while, the night guard saw blood all over the room and the bed. They had to tie her up.

After her surgery and waking up from the local anesthesia, mother did it again, and twice within an hour: her eccentric behavior forced her to remove whatever were attaching her to the bed and dangled her feet, and blood running every-which way. And she did it again after things were cleaned up before the Chieftain called me at home, angrily telling me: “We are unable to manage your mother”. And I am thinking: “If an entire hospital is unable to care for a patient after surgery, how am I to care for her when she is back home?”

My conjecture is that Mother antics of constantly trying to stand up before going to the hospital exacerbated a tiny fissure, and made it “observable” with the scanner. Someone said we should have asked for a second opinion. Sure, he is Not the one doing the calling for the Red Cross ambulance and transferring mother to various hospitals for confirmation.

This time around the nurses figured out to tie her wrist to the bed guards, with about 15 cm leeway for mother to move her arms without being able to remove any tube and sit up, instead of wrapping her hands in a boxing fashion. She kept telling the nurses that she has arthritis and her fingers hurt her when wrapped this fashion. I guess they thought she had lost it and there was no need to take her observations seriously.

I explained to mother: You don’t have to go to the bathroom. anymore or have to suffer a couche. After surgery they insert a tube for pissing in a bag. Your behavior is normal after anesthesia since it take a while to recover your normal reflection. And she said: Why didn’t they explain all that to me?

All that time mother was in a limbo and unaware of what was happening and nobody cared to explain anything to her.

The morning after the surgery, the nurses wheeled her to the ground floor for another X-ray to check on the prosthetic status, then they infused a unit of blood and performed many task on mother, without even caring to explain to her every step of what she should expect and why?

Since no one of her relatives was there, mother felt totally disoriented and abandoned and she cried non stop for hours. A couple of visitors showed up around 9:30 am and found her sleeping out of exhaustion.

Apparently, “second class” hospitals, which don’t have the backing of serious health institutions, delay Non-urgent surgeries so that the family of the patient do “the due diligence” in securing the flow of fresh blood to replenish depleted reserves in blood.

Two main institutions in Lebanon can fresh blood supply to hospitals: The army (if connected) and the hospital of “Rassoul A3zam” of Hezbollah. This is a great means to indirectly financially support the resistance forces.

People think that since you live in a catastrophic environment (and also caring for the eldest members in the family), it is your duty to resume this untenable life.

I spent my birthday in the hospital by mother after her surgery. A few visitors demanded that I sleep over the night there to tend to the “dangerous” eccentricities of mother. I refused. They blamed me.

The last of mother’s visitors in the hospital left at 9:00 pm. He said he no longer lives in Konetra where I live. Those who promised to return and pick me up did’t show up. My calls to a couple of Taxis didn’t respond to my call. I walked home, as usual.

Last night at 9:30 pm, I had to walk home from the hospital, about 70 minutes walking at my slow pace. The weather was fresh, but I managed a sweat after all. Someone asked me what I have in my backpack. I replied “Delivery”.

Someone had asked me: Why you didn’t dispatch your mother to a more professional hospital, such as Bhaness, 12 km away. And I’m thinking: and return walking at home from there?

Why most elder people, reacting to local anesthesia after a surgery, need to take off their hospital gown and every syringes attached to their body? They wouldn’t mind removing their skin too.

On se croit plus intelligent quand on devient malade? Do you think sick people, and the terminally ill, exhibit more reflective opinions that are confused with increased intelligence?

Not when you are 90 and physicians and nurses think they don’t need to explain anything to the hapless patients, since they are the professionals and they treating a disease, Not a person.

Note 1: Mother is schedules to vacate this Tuesday and she will be on my sole care. Trying to convince the surgeon to extend her stay so that mother may get the proper training and some physiotherapy. Mother hates sports, and some sport in the hospital will go a long way.

Note 2: Tuesday, May 29, 2018. The hospital claims it has no vacancies to retain mother for a week in order to rehabilitate her. She barely was made to walk a few steps on a walker. Wish me all the luck on my accelerated training in handling mother at home

Note 3: Things are under control, except at night. Mother wake up totally disoriented and try to go the bathroom around 11 pm. She hobbled around the bed, removed her diaper  and fell on the bed weeping from pain and helplessness. I had to keep the light in her bedroom, change her diaper against her will and let her empty her bag of  bitterness.

Note 4: I don’t want a nurse for mother. or around mother. I want a listening ear to mother’s lucubration and divagation. A person with a genuine smiling face who refrain from constantly trying to comprehend what mother is trying to say. Someone who can recount one of the  “mousalsal Ramadani“. Just for a couple of hours in the morning. And occasionally to change her diaper when mother is fretting.

Note 5: Excellent. Two victories for Julia today, Saturday June 2. She used the walker twice today. Used two versions of potty in the bathroom: The elevated fixed one and the one with a void moving chair. She watched a theater of Fairouz on TV. I handed her a batch of bakdouness (parsely for preparing tabouli) to retrieve. She refused on excuse of her hands. I said what your hands have to do with your hips? She did retrieve some, but felt kind of dizzy.


adonis49

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