Smoke from Bayji

It’s been ten years since I took this photo. This is the smoke obscuring the sun in Tikrit, Iraq. The smoke is from an oil pipeline fire near Bayji, approximately 15 or 20 km north of where I was standing at the time. These fires were daily and, ten years later, with reports this week of increased fighting around Tikrit, the notion that the fires were apocalyptic in their forboding and foreshadowing is neither hyperbolic or hysterical.

Smoke from Bayji Oil Fire



Ira Hayes

Today is the 70th anniversary of the flag raising on Mount Suribachi on the fourth day of the battle for Iwo Jima in WWII. The battle would last for another month and three of the six men in Joe Rosenthal’s iconic photograph of the second flag raising would be killed within a matter of days of the picture.

The great Johnny Cash immortalized one of the surviving flag raisers, Ira Hayes. Despite the post-war fame, including Hollywood and the White House, Ira never really ever left Iwo Jima and his friends who died on that awful island. Only a couple of weeks after his 32nd birthday Ira would drink himself to death, dying of exposure, in two inches of water in a lonely ditch, as Johnny Cash forever reminds us.

Semper Fidelis Ira.

War Made Easy

Norman Soloman’s incredibly damning documentary on the intersections of our government, war and the media. Produced in 2007, this brilliantly critical examination of the selling of war is essential to understanding today’s perpetual wars. Simply irrefutable and shameful…

My Good Friend Shea

From Myrtle Beach Online, a story on my friend and mentor Shea Brown.















Myrtle Beach Man Embraces Colorful Life

Shea Brown — every bit of 6-foot-2 — has squeezed himself into his racing-modified 1974 Fiat 128 Coupe so many times over the past three years that it has become second nature for him.

He is getting ready to do it again at Florida’s Sebring International Raceway for the 2015 Spring Vintage Classic — a weekend event in connection with the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association, which pits similar cars of the same era against each other on well-known tracks across the nation for wheel-to-wheel racing. The Sebring event runs from Thursday through March 1.

A Myrtle Beach resident and lifelong proponent of world peace, Brown has lived a multifaceted life as, among other things, a musician, tennis pro and perennial student. Getting to know Brown is like peeling back an onion, with each layer revealing a surprising new component. He lives life on his own terms and has experienced many fortuitous moments along the way.

Brown, 63, quit drinking more than three years ago and attributes the forward motion in his life to his sobriety. “It made the most amazing difference,” he said. “I saw so many wonderful changes come about and positive things happening when I decided to stop drinking.”

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“US is arms factory for oppressive regimes, revolutionary movements”

My comments on the President’s authorization for war in Iraq and Syria:


The US provides weapons to organizations bent on continuing wars thus it’s not surprising that this leads to escalation of conflicts instead of resolving them, Matthew Hoh, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, told RT.

RT: President Obama now wants ground troops to fight ISIS. Is this a tacit acceptance that airstrikes weren’t effective?

Matthew Hoh: Yes, it’s the acknowledgement that airstrikes were not successful. I think this is something that most of us who were skeptical of the American reentry into the Iraqi civil war and American entry into the Syrian civil war knew. It was just a matter of time before the president would buckle under and commit to putting American troops back into Iraq and into Syria.

READ MORE: Obama asks for ‘3yrs, no territorial limits’ formal war authority to target ISIS

RT: Obama says authorization for use of military force in the fight against Islamic State is not a request for another ground war. What do you make of that?

MH: I don’t believe that or understand why anyone would believe that. If you look at American policy over the last 15 years, particularly since 9/11 you see one mischaracterization, one blunder after another, all mischaracterized as an attempt to install democracy, to promote stability and peace. And what has occurred throughout the Middle East as a result of American intervention has been more chaos, more bloodshed and more instability. This notion that somehow there is not going to be a ground war is belied by this authorization itself. In that authorization it says there will be no enduring ground troops meaning that there will be no permanent ground troops. And the president can put as many troops into Iraq, into Syria and into any other places where he deems Islamic State is operating with the caveat that they are temporary and not permanent. So really it’s just semantics to hide the fact that the United States is going to find itself again in the Middle Eastern civil wars.

RT: The US President also said he wants to be able to use limited ground troops in certain situations and for a limited time. What does that actually mean?

MH: It means whatever he wants it to mean. Just six months ago he was saying there would be no ground troops and slowly as this war has accelerated and escalated, as airstrikes have not worked, as Islamic State has just gained in strength because of the Americans getting involved in the conflict in basically endorsing the Islamic State’s propaganda, its purpose in being. You’ve seen the administration have to commit now to putting in ground troops. Go back to when the president authorized bombing Syria just 4-5 months ago and he utilized Yemen as a model of success that we were going to base our operations in Iraq and Syria on the Yemeni model which was successful. Of course since then the Yemeni government has been overthrown, the United States has had to evacuate its embassy from Yemen and overall the entire country is in chaos. So you saw how quickly that model fell apart and it never had any semblance of reality toward success.

RT: Islamic State is not only limited to Iraq and Syria – it also has active members in Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. Can you imagine a situation where the US moves against them too?

MH: I don’t believe so. I don’t believe the US has the interest of putting ground troops, mass amounts of ground troops, certainly it will use drones and special operation forces in those countries. But I do think you’ll see the US limiting its ground troops, in the sense of conventional ground troops, battalions and brigades, soldiers, tanks, trucks, those kinds of things to Iraq and Syria.

RT: Well, talking about Yemen, the US has been sending arms to the country to fight terrorism. Now the reports say the equipment is in the hands of rebels. Is it surprising?

MH: It’s not surprising. The US is the largest arms merchant in the world. By some estimates it provides three quarters of the world’s arms. So we are a factory for other oppressive regimes or for these revolutionary movements. And of course when the regimes are overthrown or these movements fail or become scattered, or become more radical, a case in point is what happened in the 1990s in Afghanistan. You have the US providing munitions, weapons, arms to all sorts of organizations that are bent on continuing the wars. It’s not surprising that our weapons we provide to Yemen have ended up in the wrong hands or in hands that are choosing to escalate their conflict further.

RT: Can this policy help to bring peace eventually?

MH: No, it’s certainly not. This is adding kerosene to burning fires. This is a policy that is fraught with moral negligence as well as practical inconsideration. Where this policy has worked where the United States has sent mass amounts of weapons to an organization or to a government or to what we describe as rebel groups that the result has been peace and stability? Almost always it results in greater civil wars, longer escalations. And now we see the US is looking to send arms to Ukraine which will only serve to solidify the regime in Kiev but will do nothing to promote any type of peace or stability or long-term solutions in that conflict.

RT: Why do they keep on trying to resolve various crises around the world by sending arms to then?

MH: I think there are a number of reasons. One of course is the money. This provides billions of dollars every year to the American arms industry. That arms industry, which by some estimates is the second largest export the US has after agriculture, provides a lot of campaign donations for politicians. It provides a lot of support for academics, intellectuals, and people in think-tanks to come up with policies, to promote American intervention abroad which then requires more arms purchases for US military use or sold to other client states… If we are selling arms to one country that means that country is on our side. And for many in Washington DC who simply view the worldin an us-versus-them approach, it’s a way to keep the score of whether or not a certain country is on our side, is a client state, or is opposed to us. So there are a number of reasons for this, none of which serve to promote any form of stability or peace in the world.


Bitter Lake

The simple stories they tell us don’t make sense anymore.

This is superb, maybe the best film I have seen to explain the war in Afghanistan and our post WWII policies that have led to such chaos and death throughout the Muslim world.

It is a bit odd in its editing and sequencing of video clips, but it is brilliant, brave, haunting and, at times, hypnotic.


Full film: