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1 September 2021   Leave a comment

US President Biden gave a speech yesterday announcing the end of the US role in the war in Afghanistan. It was probably an unnecessary speech since the news reports and videos since 14 August have thoroughly documented the exodus of Americans, Afghans, and allied citizens from the country. The politics of the end of an unsuccessful war are complicated and subject to the strong desire to forget the war as soon as possible. When Saigon fell in April 1975, then President Ford did not give a speech but rather issued a statement that was incredibly brief given the passions surrounding the war:

“During the past week, I had ordered the reduction of American personnel in
the United States mission in Saigon to levels that could be quickly evacuated
during an emergency, while enabling that mission to continue to fulfill its duties.

“During the day on Monday, Washington time. the airport at Saigon came under
persistent rocket as well as artillery fire and was effectively closed. The
military situation in the area deteriorated rapidly.”

“I, therefore. ordered the evacuation of all American personnel remaining in
South Viet Nam.

“The evacuation has been completed. I commend the personnel of the Armed
Forces who accomplished it, as well as Ambassador Graham Martin and the
staff of his mission who served so well under difficult conditions.

“This action closes a chapter in the American experience. I ask all Americans
to close ranks, to avoid recrimination about the past. to look ahead to the
many goals we share and to work together on the great tasks that remain to
be accomplished.”

President Biden’s speech today was an aggressive attempt to defend his decision to withdraw US troops by 31 August. The tone of the speech was admittedly defensive. His critics have made some serious charges about the decision to withdraw: that he abandoned Afghan allies and Afghan women and girls, placed US troops in jeopardy, blindsided NATO allies with the abruptness of the withdrawal, dishonored the sacrifice of the soldiers who were killed or wounded in the war, provided the Taliban with state of the art weaponry, and destroyed the credibility of US commitments in the future.

There was no reason for President Biden to be defensive. Losing a war is a difficult passage for any state, but the war in Afghanistan was lost many years ago and Biden made few decisions that were consequential in the conduct of the war. Given that his predecessor had already agreed to withdraw US troops in exchange for a promise by the Taliban not to attack US soldiers, there was very little Biden could do except break Trump’s agreement and renew combat with the Taliban. Dexter Filkins was interviewed by Terry Gross on National Public Radio in March 2021 and made these comments:

“FILKINS: The deal itself is simple, but it kind of sets off this cascade of other things which are not so simple. But the deal basically says the Taliban won’t kill any Americans, and we won’t attack the Taliban. And if all goes well and the Taliban agree not to support any kind of terrorism against the United States or not to allow terrorists in the country or any kind of bases, the United States will leave and go to zero and take out all of its forces by May 1…..

“And so the whole thing was kind of unconventional, but there’s an agreement. It was signed in February of last year, February 2020. And it says that the United States will pull out all of its forces by May 1. And what’s remarkable about it is that since February 2020, no American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan. So the Taliban have, in fact, held to their word.”

Trump enjoyed the cessation of hostilities but made no preparations to avoid any of the negative consequences experienced by Biden in the last two weeks. Thus, when critics of the Biden decision make the point that continuing the US presence in Afghanistan was relatively costless. they are ignoring the special circumstances of that armistice. It is true that Biden could have ripped up the Trump agreement, but that would have meant the return of hostilities and the commensurate risks to American troops.

President Biden made the correct decision to withdraw before the Taliban resumed hostilities. And he should be applauded for getting 5,000 Americans and 124,000 Afghans out under horrific conditions. Ending the war was unquestionably in the US national interest and, given the total collapse of the Afghan government, in the Afghan national interest. Afghanistan was never destined to become a liberal state under a military occupation and it was, and is, foolish to pretend otherwise.

Posted September 1, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

20 August 2021   Leave a comment

We have been flooded with news reports on the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the apparent victory of the Taliban in taking control of the country. I have been struck by how many “experts” have emerged with a number of fanciful “what should have happened” scenarios in the face of a genuine humanitarian crisis. Over time we will learn more of the decision-making process of the Biden Administration and whether the President made a flawed decision to withdraw US forces precipitously.

I will wait for much more evidence before I determine how accurate these assessments are. But I am not at all reluctant to think that these assessments are less important than the more important question of why the US invaded and occupied Afghanistan in 2001. All the Sturm und Drang over Biden’s decision obscures the central fact that the US effort at “nation-building” was a colossal and expensive failure. What makes this fact so disturbing is that the US should have learned that lesson in the Vietnam War.

There once was a recognition that the failure should not be repeated. Colin Powell articulated the conditions necessary to support and sustain a military intervention in the future so that the US military would never find itself in a no-win situation. Powell outlined what came to be known as the “Powell Doctrine“. In Powell’s own words:

“In time, just as I came to reexamine my feelings about the war, the Army, as an institution, would do the same thing. We accepted that we had been sent to pursue a policy that had become bankrupt. Our political leaders had led us into a war for the one-size-fits-all rationale of anticommunism, which was only a partial fit in Vietnam, where the war had its own historical roots in nationalism, anticolonialism, and civil strife beyond the East-West conflict. Our senior officers knew the war was going badly. Yet they bowed to groupthink pressures and kept up pretenses, the phony measure of body counts, the comforting illusion of secure hamlets, the inflated progress reports. As a corporate entity, the military failed to talk straight to its political superiors or to itself. The top leadership never went to the secretary of defense or the president and said, “This war is unwinnable the way we are fighting it.” Many of my generation, the career captains, majors and lieutenant colonels seasoned in that war, vowed that when our turn came to call the shots, we would not quietly acquiesce in halfhearted warfare for half-baked reasons that the American people could not understand or support.”

The Powell Doctrine had the following questions to answer before the US would intervene in the future:

1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?

2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?

3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?

4. Have all other nonviolent policy means been fully exhausted?

5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?

6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?

7. Is the action supported by the American people?

8. Do we have genuine broad international support?

The problem with the Powell Doctrine was that these conditions were so strict that it would be highly unlikely that the US would use military force in the future and that outcome proved to be unacceptable to those who wished to keep the US military and to those who wished to profit from military spending.

After the US invaded Iraq in 2003 and overthrew its leader, Saddam Hussein, the US found itself in the position of determining a strategy to guide its operations in Iraq. Essentially, the invasion vitiated the precepts of the Powell Doctrine and the US found itself in the position of trying to rebuild Iraq. General David Petrae­us (whose Princeton Ph.D. dissertation was entitled “The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam”) rewrote the counterinsurgency manual for the US Army: “He took up the task of rewriting the military’s counterinsurgency manual. The new manual, which was published last month, presents a thoroughly researched and innovative rethinking of counterinsurgency in the post-Sept. 11 world — a reassessment of strategy based on the history of counterinsurgency stretching from ancient Rome to the French debacle in Algeria to America’s experience in Vietnam.” One can read the entire manual which is entitled “The Field Manual on Counterinsurgency Operations“.

Andrew J. Bacevich, writing in The Atlantic, highlights the significance of the shift from Powell to Petraeus:

“A leading voice in the Conservative camp is Colonel Gian Gentile, a Berkeley graduate with a doctorate in history from Stanford, who currently teaches at West Point. Gentile has two tours in Iraq under his belt. During the second, just before the Petrae­us era, he commanded a battalion in Baghdad.

Writing in the journal World Affairs, Gentile dismisses as ‘a self-serving fiction’ the notion that Abrams in 1968 put the United States on the road to victory in Vietnam; the war, he says, was unwinnable, given the ‘perseverance, cohesion, indigenous support, and sheer determination of the other side, coupled with the absence of any of those things on the American side.’ Furthermore, according to Gentile, the post-Vietnam officer corps did not turn its back on that war in a fit of pique; it correctly assessed that the mechanized formations of the Warsaw Pact deserved greater attention than pajama-clad guerrillas in Southeast Asia.

“Gentile also takes issue with the triumphal depiction of the Petrae­us era, attributing security improvements achieved during Petrae­us’s tenure less to new techniques than to a ‘cash-for-cooperation’ policy that put ‘nearly 100,000 Sunnis, many of them former insurgents, … on the U.S. government payroll.’ According to Gentile, in Iraq as in Vietnam, tactics alone cannot explain the overall course of events.

“All of this forms a backdrop to Gentile’s core concern: that an infatuation with stability operations will lead the Army to reinvent itself as ‘a constabulary,’ adept perhaps at nation-building but shorn of adequate capacity for conventional war-fighting.

The Petraeus Doctrine guided US operations in Afghanistan almost perfectly. And therein lies the humanitarian tragedy we are witnessing in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan was likely the nation less amenable to US influence, or, to be more precise, to any outside influence. In 2017 Akhilesh Pillalamarri wrote:

“Afghanistan is a notoriously difficult country to govern. Empire after empire, nation after nation have failed to pacify what is today the modern territory of Afghanistan, giving the region the nickname “Graveyard of Empires, ” even if sometimes those empires won some initial battles and made inroads into the region. If the United States and its allies decide to leave Afghanistan, they would only the latest in a long series of nations to do so. As the British learned in their 1839-1842 war in Afghanistan, it is often easier to do business with a local ruler with popular support than to support a leader backed by foreign powers; the costs of propping up such a leader eventually add up. The closest most historical empires have come to controlling Afghanistan was by adopting a light-handed approach, as the Mughals did. They managed to loosely control the area by paying off various tribes, or granting them autonomy. Attempts at anything resembling centralized control, even by native Afghan governments, have largely failed.”

Since 2001 the US has invested the lives of many soldiers and civilians and likely more than $1 trillion in an effort to build an Afghan army capable of resisting the Taliban. But those efforts were a spectacular failure as evidenced by the quick collapse of the Afghan national army. Some argue that the Afghan military folded because the Afghan government abruptly fled the country. There is some truth to that explanation but the soldiers in the Afghan army certainly knew that their government was not nearly as bad as the Taliban. Kori Schake explains the reason for the US failure:

“But our efforts to train foreign militaries also fail because of shortcomings particular to American policy choices. The U.S. tends to undertake large-scale train-and-equip programs when we don’t want to do the fighting ourselves; that has been the story in Iraq and Afghanistan. But sending that signal heartens adversaries and weakens the very forces we’re attempting to help. We convey the limits of our intentions.

“The same message is transmitted by assigning the training task solely to the military. The surges of military forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan were supposed to have civilian counterparts. Remember General Stanley McChrystal claiming that we were bringing “government in a box” to Afghanistan when he took over command of allied forces there? Neither surge, in Iraq or Afghanistan, delivered on its aims to strengthen civilian governance, which is essential for military training programs not to outpace and thereby undermine their civilian counterparts.”

We have known for some time that the training program was not going to be successful. In 2019 The Washington Post published what have come to be known as the “Afghanistan Papers” (using the Vietnam Pentagon Papers as an analog). Craig Whitlock describes the conclusions of those documents:

“A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.

“The documents were generated by a federal project examining the root failures of the longest armed conflict in U.S. history. They include more than 2,000 pages of previously unpublished notes of interviews with people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials.

“‘We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,’ Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015. He added: ‘What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.

“’If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction . . . 2,400 lives lost,’ Lute added, blaming the deaths of U.S. military personnel on bureaucratic breakdowns among Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department. ‘Who will say this was in vain?

“Since 2001, more than 775,000 U.S. troops have deployed to Afghanistan, many repeatedly. Of those, 2,300 died there and 20,589 were wounded in action, according to Defense Department figures.”

Ultimately, the emptiness of the US program led to the success of the Taliban. Douglas London, the CIA’s Counterterrorism Chief for South and Southwest Asia until 2019, outlines the US failure, not the Taliban’s victory:

“And in grading their own homework, the U.S. defense establishment only exacerbated the problem. While it’s little surprise the Department of Defense was unwilling to objectively evaluate the resolve and capacity of those they trained, equipped, and advised to resist a forthcoming Taliban offensive, their rose-colored depictions of achievement over 20 years flew in the face of reality, and was consistently challenged by the CIA’s more gloomy, albeit realistic projections.”

I would rather point to the US belief in American exceptionalism as the main cause of the failure. That belief, and the parochialism of the American perspective, was captured in the speech given by former President George W. Bush in his State of the Union Address in 2002. Bush celebrates the US ideology as universal, ignoring the long and distinguished history and culture of the Afghan people:

“America will lead by defending liberty and justice because they are right and true and unchanging for all people everywhere.

“No nation owns these aspirations, and no nation is exempt from them. We have no intention of imposing our culture. But America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity:  the rule of law; limits on the power of the state; respect for women; private property; free speech; equal justice; and religious tolerance.”

This belief was maintained by subsequent Presidents Obama. Trump, and Biden. Until the US divests itself of the self-serving assumption that everyone in the world wants to be an American, it is likely that the mistake of Afghanistan, like the mistake of Vietnam, will be forgotten.

Posted August 20, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

15 August 2021   1 comment

The Taliban have taken control of Kabul and Afghan President Ghani has reportedly fled the country. Thus ends the US invasion of Afghanistan which started in October 2001 during the Presidency of George W. Bush in response to the terror attack on the US on 11 September 2001.

The collapse of the Afghan government was precipitous and, one suspects, unforeseen by the Biden Administration which had relied on military reports that the Afghan military was strong enough to delay the collapse for a period of time. President Biden was asked about the troop withdrawal and whether the Afghan government could resist the Taliban in his press conference on 8 July:

Q    Is a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan now inevitable?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, it is not.

Q    Why?

THE PRESIDENT:  Because you — the Afghan troops have 300,000 well-equipped — as well-equipped as any army in the world — and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban.  It is not inevitable.

Q    Do you trust the Taliban, Mr. President?  Do you trust the Taliban, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  You — is that a serious question?

Q    It is absolutely a serious question.  Do you trust the Taliban? 

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I do not.

Q    Do you trust handing over the country to the Taliban?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I do not trust the Taliban. 

Q    So why are you handing the country over?

Q    Mr. President, is the U.S. responsible for the deaths of Afghans after you leave the country?

Q    Mr. President, will you amplify that question, please?  Will you amplify your answer, please — why you don’t trust the Taliban?

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s a — it’s a silly question.  Do I trust the Taliban?  No.  But I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped, and more re- — more competent in terms of conducting war. 

But the Afghan army has completely dissolved without putting up any fight at all given the small number of casualties so far.

To be fair to President Biden, he was simply parroting what his advisers had told him, and he was likely assured that the eventual takeover by the Taliban could be delayed for what Henry Kissinger had hoped for when he signed the peace agreement with North Vietnam in 1973: a “decent interval” between the American withdrawal and the collapse of the South Vietnamese government. Moreover, Biden was constrained by the agreement between the US and the Taliban brokered by the Trump Administration that US troops would leave Afghanistan by 1 May 2021. Dexter Filkins, writing for the New Yorker, describes the attitude of the Trump Administration toward Afghanistan:

“But, as Americans have lost patience with the war, the U.S. has reduced its presence in Afghanistan, from about a hundred thousand troops to some twenty-five hundred. Seven months before Koofi went to Doha, officials in the Trump Administration concluded their own talks with the Taliban, in which they agreed to withdraw the remaining forces by May 1, 2021. The prevailing ethos, a senior American official told me, was “Just get out…..”

“Trump was clearly desperate to make a deal that would allow him to say that he had ended the war. When the Taliban refused to include the Afghan government in the talks, the U.S. did not insist. The senior American official told me, ‘The Trump people were saying, ‘Fuck this—the Afghans are never going to make peace anyway. Besides, who cares whether they agree or not?’’ As the talks progressed, Trump repeatedly announced troop withdrawals, depriving his negotiators of leverage. ‘He was steadily undermining us,’ a second senior American official told me. ‘The trouble with the Taliban was, they were getting it for free.’ In the end, the two sides agreed not to attack each other, and the Americans agreed to withdraw.

“The Taliban had to meet a list of conditions, including preventing terrorists from operating out of Afghanistan and refraining from major attacks on the country’s government and military. But the prospect of insuring a total pullout was appealing enough that the Taliban began rooting for Trump to win reëlection. In one of the odder moments of the U.S. campaign season, they issued an endorsement of his candidacy. ‘When we heard about Trump being covid-19-positive, we got worried,’ a senior Taliban leader told CBS News. (The group subsequently claimed that it had been misquoted.)”

The Taliban have apparently kept their end of the deal–they seem to be willing to allow the US to evacuate American citizens from the country. Whether they will allow Afghans who worked with the Americans to leave the country remains to be seen. More than likely, the Taliban regard these individuals as traitors and might wish to make an example of them in order to coerce compliance as they seize control. That outcome would amplify the tragedy of the war but it is impossible for me to see how it can be avoided. It is difficult to predict the future for Afghanistan, but the Taliban have already announced the creation of the an Islamic Emirate which suggests that its earlier pattern of a strict, conservative Islamic regime is likely. Richard Haas provides his scenario of the future:

“Biden was working from a script inherited from the administration of Donald Trump, which in February 2020 signed an accord with the Taliban (cutting out the government of Afghanistan in the process) that set a May 2021 deadline for the withdrawal of US combat troops. The agreement did not oblige the Taliban to disarm or commit to a cease-fire, but only to agree not to host terrorist groups on Afghan territory. It was not a peace agreement but a pact that provided a fig leaf, and a thin one at that, for American withdrawal.

“The Biden administration has honored this deeply flawed agreement in every way but one: the deadline for full US military withdrawal was extended by just over three months. Biden rejected any policy that would have tied US troop withdrawal to conditions on the ground or additional Taliban actions. Instead, fearing a scenario in which security conditions deteriorated and created pressure to take the politically unpopular step of redeploying troops, Biden simply removed all US forces.

“As was widely predicted, momentum dramatically shifted to the Taliban and away from the dispirited government after the announced (and now actual) US military departure. With the Taliban taking control of all of Afghanistan, widespread reprisals, harsh repression of women and girls, and massive refugee flows are a near certainty. Preventing terrorist groups from returning to the country will prove far more difficult without an in-country presence.”

The chorus of policy wonks has already decided that Biden should bear the burden of being the President who “lost Afghanistan”. Biden certainly shares some blame, but the more accurate conclusion should be that the US invasion was doomed to fail when the objective shifted from destroying al Qaeda in Afghanistan to trying to build a liberal, Western-style government as an alternative to the Taliban. Such an objective was not only illegitimate, it was also a fool’s errand, a lesson that should have been learned in Vietnam. The American people decided not to question the US role in Afghanistan since relatively few American soldiers died in the conflict and no one had to pay higher taxes to pay for it.

The Taliban will have a difficult time governing Afghanistan. It will have two neighbors, Iran and Pakistan, who have genuine fears about Taliban rule and India under the rule of the BJP will have strong reservations about an Islamic state. The Taliban will have some support from China and Russia, but they, too, have reasons to fear Taliban rule, particularly the Chinese who will watch carefully if the Taliban choose to support the Uighurs in their quest for greater autonomy from Beijing. Most European countries will find it difficult to work with the Taliban if human rights, particularly the rights of women, are ignored.

The only good possible outcome of this tragedy will be an American assessment of its role in world politics. If the Americans divest themselves of the belief that only liberal states are legitimate and that military power can compensate for political weakness. Those lessons were not learned in the Vietnam War; I can only hope that the American people are educable.

Posted August 15, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

9 August 2021   Leave a comment

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued its Sixth Assessment Report on the state of the planet’s climate. The previous reports have been very guarded in assessing the role of human action on the global climate, but this year the IPCC is very direct: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.”

One should hope that this assessment should put to rest any doubts articulated by climate deniers, but, given the financial interests of the fossil fuel industry, that outcome is unlikely.

The BBC lists the key conclusions of the report:

  • Global surface temperature was 1.09C higher in the decade between 2011-2020 than between 1850-1900.
  • The past five years have been the hottest on record since 1850
  • The recent rate of sea level rise has nearly tripled compared with 1901-1971
  • Human influence is “very likely” (90%) the main driver of the global retreat of glaciers since the 1990s and the decrease in Arctic sea-ice
  • It is “virtually certain” that hot extremes including heatwaves have become more frequent and more intense since the 1950s, while cold events have become less frequent and less severe

The report does not consider the worst outcomes of climate change as inevitable. The New York Times summarizes the range of alternative futures:

“The report laid out five climate futures, in which humans take varying steps to reduce the emissions that cause warming. Under all of them, the world will reach 1.5 degrees — the more ambitious of the targets set by the Paris climate change agreement in 2015 — by 2040 or sooner.

“Under most of the scenarios discussed in the report, warming will continue well beyond 2040, through the remainder of the century. In the worst cases, where the world does little to reduce emissions, temperatures by 2100 could be 3 to 6 degrees Celsius (5.5 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. That would have catastrophic consequences.

“But the report shows that aggressive, rapid and widespread emissions cuts, beginning now, could limit the warming beyond 2050. In the most optimistic scenario, reaching “net zero” emissions could even bring warming back slightly under 1.5 degrees Celsius in the second half of the century.

“Such a scenario would be a mammoth and expensive undertaking for the world. It would also require a level of political will that most governments have so far been unable to muster.”

The difficulties in achieving effective action are profound:

“UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called the report a ‘code red’ for humanity, adding that it ‘must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy the planet.’

“The US government’s Climate Envoy, John Kerry, said the IPCC report shows that ‘we cannot afford further delay,’ adding that ‘climate change is transforming our planet in unprecedented ways, with far-reaching effects that we are already seeing – making heatwaves, extreme rainfall, fire weather, and droughts more frequent and severe.'”

Posted August 9, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

31 July 2021   Leave a comment

Wildfires are burning in large parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Many are aware of the wildfires in the western parts of the US including Oregon, Idaho, and California. National Public Radio conducted an interview between Scott Simon and Lauren Sommer which details the extent of the damage so far in the US:

“SIMON: We talk about fires in the West now almost routinely. Last year was record-breaking. Is this looking to be the same kind of season?

“SOMMER: Yeah. It’s been a very busy fire season already because many of the fires have been so fast-moving. You know, in southern Oregon, the biggest wildfire in the country, the Bootleg Fire, has burned more than 400,000 acres. In California, the Dixie Fire is burning not far from where the Camp Fire burned in 2018, which destroyed thousands of homes. So residents are on alert yet again.

“Compared to last year at this time, wildfires have burned three times more acreage already in the state. And the worst of fire season hasn’t hit yet, which is typically August, September, October.”

The western fires are so intense that the smoke from them are affecting the air quality on the US East Coast.

But the US is not the only country to be so seriously affected. There are large wildfires burning in Siberia, Canada, Sardinia, Sicily, Lebanon, Greece. and Turkey.

Most analysts agree that global warming is largely responsible for the intensity of these fires. CNN reports:

“‘The fire season is getting longer, the fires are getting larger, they’re burning more intensely than ever before,’ said Thomas Smith, an assistant professor in Environmental Geography at the London School of Economics.

“Many factors, like poor land management, play a role in wildfires, but climate change is making them more frequent and intense. Most of Europe, the Western US, southwest Canada and some regions of South America experienced drier-than-average conditions in June, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, making tinderboxes of forests.

“The wildfires in Yakutia have consumed more than 6.5 million acres since the beginning of the year,​ according to figures published by the country’s Aerial Forest Protection Service. That’s nearly 5 million football fields.”

Posted July 31, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

21 July 2021   Leave a comment

When I was teaching World Politics, I always had a section of the course on global environmental issues. In that section, I referenced the work of Dennis and Donella Meadows who were among the first to attempt to model the global environment. Their work, entitled The Limits to Growth, was incredibly controversial for two reasons. First, they used computer simulations which relied upon techniques and processes with which most people were unfamiliar, and many challenged the data and assumptions that underpinned the analysis. Second, the books suggested that the world would suffer a catastrophic crisis in the mid-21st century because economic activity, and the political; and social institutions that supported that activity, were unsustainable. and many found that conclusion far too pessimistic given how humans have managed through similar crises in the past.

The discussions on the topic were always intense and difficult, particularly as the global debate on climate change became more visible to a larger audience. But the evidence continues to mount that the predictions of the Limits to Growth were not at all far-fetched. The recent floods in Europe, the wildfires in the US West and Northwest, the floods in central China (note that the Global Times article does not mention climate change), and the extraordinary heat waves in various parts of the world all suggest that the Limits to Growth was on target.

Climate change is happening now, but it is inevitable that it will get worse. The New York Times ran an article that forecasts what the climate will likely be in 2090.

“What does the future hold?

“It’s a simple and deadly formula: The greater our emissions of heat-trapping gases, the higher the temperature rise and the greater the health risks. Claudia Tebaldi, an earth scientist and climate modeler at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, told The Times this month that as a general rule, for every one-degree increase in global average temperature, extreme temperatures will rise by up to twice as much.

“Last year was the warmest on record, effectively tying with 2016, with the past seven years the hottest years ever recorded. And that has created conditions that have made extreme summer heat more frequent. Among other things, it is weakening the jet stream and causing weather patterns, like the recent heat dome that sat over the Pacific Northwest, to remain stuck in place for days.

“About 12,000 Americans die from heat-related deaths each year. Under a climate scenario in which heat-trapping gas emissions continue to rise, that number would increase by 97,000 deaths in the United States by the year 2100, according to a recent study. If only modest progress is made in constraining emissions, those deaths are projected to rise by 36,000. With aggressive emissions reductions, deaths would go up by 14,000.”

The Times has some really shocking graphics about what is possible if efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions do not become stronger and more robust.

Posted July 21, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

14 July 2021   1 comment

Happy Bastille Day!!!

Posted July 14, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

8 July 2021   2 comments

US President Biden gave a speech today defending his decision to pull US combat forces out of Afghanistan. The decision is in a very real sense not surprising: Presidents Obama and Trump also wanted to end US combat operations in Afghanistan, but neither had the will to pay the political price for the decision. Both feared the charge that has haunted US foreign policy throughout the Cold War and post-Cold War periods: “Who lost China? Who lost Cuba? Who lost Vietnam? The fear of losing a war has been one of the most insidious drivers of American foreign policy since 1945, a fear rooted in a misbegotten legacy of Neville Chamberlain’s “loss” of Czechoslovakia as one of the catalysts for the Second World War.

Prime Minister Chamberlain and Chancellor Hitler at Munich in 1938

This fear also motivated US decision makers to prop up dictators in Guatemala, Nicaragua, the Congo (now Zaire), Iran, Grenada, and numerous other countries lest they be accused by their political opponents of being soft on the “enemy” whether the enemy be Communist, terrorist, or Islamist. And these decision-makers made decisions that they knew were self-defeating. President Lyndon Johnson, for example, continued the war in Vietnam even though he believed that it was not in the national interest. Here is an excerpt from a transcript of a telephone discussion between President Johnson and his National Security Adviser, McGeorge Bundy, in 1964:

Johnson: I will tell you the more, I just stayed awake last night thinking of this thing, and the more that I think of it I don’t know what in the hell, it looks like to me that we’re getting into another Korea. It just worries the hell out of me. I don’t see what we can ever hope to get out of there with once we’re committed. I believe the Chinese Communists are coming into it. I don’t think that we can fight them 10,000 miles away from home and ever get anywhere in that area. I don’t think it’s worth fighting for and I don’t think we can get out. And it’s just the biggest damn mess that I ever saw.

Bundy: It is an awful mess.

Johnson: And we just got to think about it. I’m looking at this Sergeant of mine this morning and he’s got 6 little old kids over there, and he’s getting out my things, and bringing me in my night reading, and all that kind of stuff, and I just thought about ordering all those kids in there. And what in the hell am I ordering them out there for? What in the hell is Vietnam worth to me? What is Laos worth to me? What is it worth to this country? We’ve got a treaty but hell, everybody else has got a treaty out there, and they’re not doing a thing about it.

Bundy: Yeah, yeah.

Decision-makers were also motivated by the illusion that non-Americans would naturally wish to live within political and economic institutions that were similar to those in the US–that representative democracy and market capitalism were inherently desirable. The attitude is generally described a a belief in American exceptionalism and Professor Stephen Walt does a nice job of eviscerating the myth. But Stanley Kubrick savages the myth in the film Full Metal Jacket.

One can easily detect in the speech President Biden’s fear of being tagged as the President who “lost” Afghanistan and I am certain that some will make that accusation if Biden runs again for President in 2024:

“The status quo was not an option.  Staying would have meant U.S. troops taking casualties; American men and women back in the middle of a civil war.  And we would have run the risk of having to send more troops back into Afghanistan to defend our remaining troops.

Once that agreement with the Taliban had been made, staying with a bare minimum force was no longer possible.

So let me ask those who wanted us to stay: How many more — how many thousands more of America’s daughters and sons are you willing to risk?  How long would you have them stay?”

President Biden made a crucial distinction between what happened in October 2001 in Afghanistan and what is happening now, a distinction that separates realism from idealism:

“As I said in April, the United States did what we went to do in Afghanistan: to get the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and to deliver justice to Osama Bin Laden, and to degrade the terrorist threat to keep Afghanistan from becoming a base from which attacks could be continued against the United States.  We achieved those objectives.  That’s why we went.

“We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build.  And it’s the right and the responsibility of the Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country.   

That distinction is critical if one is to engage in a discussion about what winning and losing in Afghanistan actually meant. When the US invaded the country in 2001, the only objective stated by then President George W. Bush was the realist objective of eliminating an imminent threat to the US national interest:

“And tonight the United States of America makes the following demands on the Taliban.

“Deliver to United States authorities all of the leaders of Al Quaeda who hide in your land.

“Release all foreign nationals, including American citizens you have unjustly imprisoned. Protect foreign journalists, diplomats and aid workers in your country. Close immediately and permanently every terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. And hand over every terrorist and every person and their support structure to appropriate authorities.

“Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps, so we can make sure they are no longer operating.

“These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion.

“The Taliban must act and act immediately.

“They will hand over the terrorists or they will share in their fate.”

Unfortunately, these objectives morphed into a far more ambiguous and ill-informed set of objectives that reflected virtually no understanding of the history or culture of the peoples who inhabit the territory that was shaped by the imperial desires of Britain and Russia in the nineteenth century into an ersatz nation-state called Afghanistan in 1921. After 100 years, Afghanistan still defies the Western template of a nation-state and whatever happens after the US pull-out will reflect, one hopes, the disparate interests of the people who live within that territory.

The Taliban already control large swathes of territory and it may eventually topple the Afghan central government. But that eventuality would occur in the context of a civil war whereas the war is now an international war. I am not sure that the difference between and international and a civil war is particularly meaningful to the innocents who are always the victims of war. And then the Taliban would have to figure out how to govern and it is not clear that it has the capability to govern any more effectively than the current central government, particularly since there are not many states that would subsidize the Taliban more than the US was willing to subsidize the current government. So I would expect the violence to continue whether the US stayed or left.

There are two groups, however, which will suffer disproportionately. First, those who supported the US and allied operations, such as translators and local contractors, will likely be targeted by the Taliban as traitors. It appears as if President Biden is aware of the US responsibility to protect these people:

“We’re also going to continue to make sure that we take on the Afghan nationals who work side-by-side with U.S. forces, including interpreters and translators — since we’re no longer going to have military there after this; we’re not going to need them and they have no jobs — who are also going to be vital to our efforts so they — and they’ve been very vital — and so their families are not exposed to danger as well.

“We’ve already dramatically accelerated the procedure time for Special Immigrant Visas to bring them to the United States.   

“Since I was inaugurated on January 20th, we’ve already approved 2,500 Special Immigrant Visas to come to the United States.  Up to now, fewer than half have exercised their right to do that.  Half have gotten on aircraft and com — commercial flights and come, and the other half believe they want to stay — at least thus far.

“We’re working closely with Congress to change the authorization legislation so that we can streamline the process of approving those visas.  And those who have stood up for the operation to physically relocate thousands of Afghans and their families before the U.S. military mission concludes so that, if they choose, they can wait safely outside of Afghanistan while their U.S. visas are being processed.”

It is incredibly important that the American people hold President Biden to keep that solemn promise.

The second group who will suffer disproportionately from the American withdrawal are the Afghan women who took advantage of the opportunity to educate themselves and to prepare themselves for positions in the workplace. The earlier Taliban regimes brutally repressed these aspirations and it is likely that there remain strong elements within the Taliban who wish to continue such policies. But there are some women in Afghanistan who believe that at least among the urban elite, some of these gains may persist. I remain pessimistic on this score and hope that any future US humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, which I regard as a moral imperative, will try to protect the interests of women and girls in Afghanistan.

There is no path forward in Afghanistan that does not create some profound elements of tragedy after a US withdrawal. But there is also no path forward in Afghanistan with continued US presence that does not also involve other profound elements of tragedy. President Biden’s final calculation is something to consider soberly:

“So let me ask those who wanted us to stay: How many more — how many thousands more of America’s daughters and sons are you willing to risk?  How long would you have them stay?

“Already we have members of our military whose parents fought in Afghanistan 20 years ago.  Would you send their children and their grandchildren as well?  Would you send your own son or daughter?

“After 20 years — a trillion dollars spent training and equipping hundreds of thousands of Afghan National Security and Defense Forces, 2,448 Americans killed, 20,722 more wounded, and untold thousands coming home with unseen trauma to their mental health — I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.

“The United States cannot afford to remain tethered to policies creating a response to a world as it was 20 years ago.  We need to meet the threats where they are today.”

Posted July 8, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

5 July 2021   Leave a comment

Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” July 5, 1852, in Corinthian Hall, Rochester, New York, addressing the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society.

Mr. President, Friends, and Fellow Citizens:

He who could address this audience without a quailing sensation, has stronger nerves than I have. I do not remember ever to have appeared as a speaker before any assembly more shrinkingly, nor with greater distrust of my ability, than I do this day. A feeling has crept over me, quite unfavorable to the exercise of my limited powers of speech. The task before me is one which requires much previous thought and study for its proper performance. I know that apologies of this sort are generally considered flat and unmeaning. I trust, however, that mine will not be so considered. Should I seem at ease, my appearance would much misrepresent me. The little experience I have had in addressing public meetings, in country schoolhouses, avails me nothing on the present occasion.

The papers and placards say, that I am to deliver a Fourth [of] July oration. This certainly sounds large, and out of the common way, for it is true that I have often had the privilege to speak in this beautiful Hall, and to address many who now honor me with their presence. But neither their familiar faces, nor the perfect gage I think I have of Corinthian Hall, seems to free me from embarrassment.

The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, the distance between this platform and the slave plantation, from which I escaped, is considerable — and the difficulties to be overcome in getting from the latter to the former, are by no means slight. That I am here today is, to me, a matter of astonishment as well as of gratitude. You will not, therefore, be surprised, if in what I have to say I evince no elaborate preparation, nor grace my speech with any high-sounding exordium. With little experience and with less learning, I have been able to throw my thoughts hastily and imperfectly together; and trusting to your patient and generous indulgence, I will proceed to lay them before you.https://ffcd44e898173d0e745595e4f87cdaee.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the Fourth of July. It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, is what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day. This celebration also marks the beginning of another year of your national life; and reminds you that the Republic of America is now seventy-six years old. I am glad, fellow-citizens, that your nation is so young. Seventy-six years, though a good old age for a man, is but a mere speck in the life of a nation. Three score years and ten is the allotted time for individual men; but nations number their years by thousands. According to this fact, you are, even now, only in the beginning of your national career, still lingering in the period of childhood. I repeat, I am glad this is so. There is hope in the thought, and hope is much needed, under the dark clouds which lower above the horizon. The eye of the reformer is met with angry flashes, portending disastrous times; but his heart may well beat lighter at the thought that America is young, and that she is still in the impressible stage of her existence. May he not hope that high lessons of wisdom, of justice and of truth, will yet give direction to her destiny? Were the nation older, the patriot’s heart might be sadder, and the reformer’s brow heavier. Its future might be shrouded in gloom, and the hope of its prophets go out in sorrow. There is consolation in the thought that America is young. Great streams are not easily turned from channels, worn deep in the course of ages. They may sometimes rise in quiet and stately majesty, and inundate the land, refreshing and fertilizing the earth with their mysterious properties. They may also rise in wrath and fury, and bear away, on their angry waves, the accumulated wealth of years of toil and hardship. They, however, gradually flow back to the same old channel, and flow on as serenely as ever. But, while the river may not be turned aside, it may dry up, and leave nothing behind but the withered branch, and the unsightly rock, to howl in the abyss-sweeping wind, the sad tale of departed glory. As with rivers so with nations.

Fellow-citizens, I shall not presume to dwell at length on the associations that cluster about this day. The simple story of it is that, seventy-six years ago, the people of this country were British subjects. The style and title of your “sovereign people” (in which you now glory) was not then born. You were under the British Crown. Your fathers esteemed the English government as the home government; and England as the fatherland. This home government, you know, although a considerable distance from your home, did, in the exercise of its parental prerogatives, impose upon its colonial children, such restraints, burdens, and limitations, as, in its mature judgment, it deemed wise, right, and proper.

But, your fathers, who had not adopted the fashionable idea of this day, of the infallibility of government, and the absolute character of its acts, presumed to differ from the home government in respect to the wisdom and the justice of some of those burdens and restraints. They went so far in their excitement as to pronounce the measures of government unjust, unreasonable, and oppressive, and altogether such as ought not to be quietly submitted to. I scarcely need say, fellow-citizens, that my opinion of those measures fully accords with that of your fathers. Such a declaration of agreement on my part would not be worth much to anybody. It would, certainly, prove nothing, as to what part I might have taken, had I lived during the great controversy of 1776. To say now that America was right, and England wrong, is exceedingly easy. Everybody can say it; the dastard, not less than the noble brave, can flippantly discant on the tyranny of England towards the American colonies. It is fashionable to do so; but there was a time when to pronounce against England, and in favor of the cause of the colonies, tried men’s souls. They who did so were accounted in their day, plotters of mischief, agitators, and rebels, dangerous men. To side with the right, against the wrong, with the weak against the strong, and with the oppressed against the oppressor! Here lies the merit, and the one which, of all others, seems unfashionable in our day. The cause of liberty may be stabbed by the men who glory in the deeds of your fathers. But, to proceed.

Feeling themselves harshly and unjustly treated by the home government, your fathers, like men of honesty, and men of spirit, earnestly sought redress. They petitioned and remonstrated; they did so in a decorous, respectful, and loyal manner. Their conduct was wholly unexceptionable. This, however, did not answer the purpose. They saw themselves treated with sovereign indifference, coldness, and scorn. Yet they persevered. They were not the men to look back.

As the sheet anchor takes a firmer hold, when the ship is tossed by the storm, so did the cause of your fathers grow stronger, as it breasted the chilling blasts of kingly displeasure. The greatest and best of British statesmen admitted its justice, and the loftiest eloquence of the British Senate came to its support. But, with that blindness which seems to be the unvarying characteristic of tyrants, since Pharaoh and his hosts were drowned in the Red Sea, the British government persisted in the exactions complained of.

The madness of this course, we believe, is admitted now, even by England; but we fear the lesson is wholly lost on our present ruler.

Oppression makes a wise man mad. Your fathers were wise men, and if they did not go mad, they became restive under this treatment. They felt themselves the victims of grievous wrongs, wholly incurable in their colonial capacity. With brave men there is always a remedy for oppression. Just here, the idea of a total separation of the colonies from the crown was born! It was a startling idea, much more so, than we, at this distance of time, regard it. The timid and the prudent (as has been intimated) of that day, were, of course, shocked and alarmed by it.

Such people lived then, had lived before, and will, probably, ever have a place on this planet; and their course, in respect to any great change, (no matter how great the good to be attained, or the wrong to be redressed by it), may be calculated with as much precision as can be the course of the stars. They hate all changes, but silver, gold, and copper change! Of this sort of change they are always strongly in favor.

These people were called Tories in the days of your fathers; and the appellation, probably, conveyed the same idea that is meant by a more modern, though a somewhat less euphonious term, which we often find in our papers, applied to some of our old politicians.

Their opposition to the then dangerous thought was earnest and powerful; but, amid all their terror and affrighted vociferations against it, the alarming and revolutionary idea moved on, and the country with it.

On the second of July, 1776, the old Continental Congress, to the dismay of the lovers of ease, and the worshipers of property, clothed that dreadful idea with all the authority of national sanction. They did so in the form of a resolution; and as we seldom hit upon resolutions, drawn up in our day whose transparency is at all equal to this, it may refresh your minds and help my story if I read it. “Resolved, That these united colonies are, and of right, ought to be free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown; and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, dissolved.”

Citizens, your fathers made good that resolution. They succeeded; and today you reap the fruits of their success. The freedom gained is yours; and you, therefore, may properly celebrate this anniversary. The Fourth of July is the first great fact in your nation’s history — the very ring-bolt in the chain of your yet undeveloped destiny.

Pride and patriotism, not less than gratitude, prompt you to celebrate and to hold it in perpetual remembrance. I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.

From the round top of your ship of state, dark and threatening clouds may be seen. Heavy billows, like mountains in the distance, disclose to the leeward huge forms of flinty rocks! That bolt drawn, that chain broken, and all is lost. Cling to this day — cling to it, and to its principles, with the grasp of a storm-tossed mariner to a spar at midnight.

The coming into being of a nation, in any circumstances, is an interesting event. But, besides general considerations, there were peculiar circumstances which make the advent of this republic an event of special attractiveness.

The whole scene, as I look back to it, was simple, dignified, and sublime.

The population of the country, at the time, stood at the insignificant number of three millions. The country was poor in the munitions of war. The population was weak and scattered, and the country a wilderness unsubdued. There were then no means of concert and combination, such as exist now. Neither steam nor lightning had then been reduced to order and discipline. From the Potomac to the Delaware was a journey of many days. Under these, and innumerable other disadvantages, your fathers declared for liberty and independence and triumphed.

Fellow citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men too — great enough to give fame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots, and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.

They loved their country better than their own private interests; and, though this is not the highest form of human excellence, all will concede that it is a rare virtue, and that when it is exhibited, it ought to command respect. He who will, intelligently, lay down his life for his country, is a man whom it is not in human nature to despise. Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country. In their admiration of liberty, they lost sight of all other interests.

They were peace men; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. They were quiet men; but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forbearance; but that they knew its limits. They believed in order; but not in the order of tyranny. With them, nothing was “settled” that was not right. With them, justice, liberty, and humanity were “final;” not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men. They were great in their day and generation. Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times.

How circumspect, exact, and proportionate were all their movements! How unlike the politicians of an hour! Their statesmanship looked beyond the passing moment, and stretched away in strength into the distant future. They seized upon eternal principles, and set a glorious example in their defense. Mark them!

Fully appreciating the hardship to be encountered, firmly believing in the right of their cause, honorably inviting the scrutiny of an onlooking world, reverently appealing to heaven to attest their sincerity, soundly comprehending the solemn responsibility they were about to assume, wisely measuring the terrible odds against them, your fathers, the fathers of this republic, did, most deliberately, under the inspiration of a glorious patriotism, and with a sublime faith in the great principles of justice and freedom, lay deep the cornerstone of the national superstructure, which has risen and still rises in grandeur around you.

Of this fundamental work, this day is the anniversary. Our eyes are met with demonstrations of joyous enthusiasm. Banners and pennants wave exultingly on the breeze. The din of business, too, is hushed. Even Mammon seems to have quitted his grasp on this day. The ear-piercing fife and the stirring drum unite their accents with the ascending peal of a thousand church bells. Prayers are made, hymns are sung, and sermons are preached in honor of this day; while the quick martial tramp of a great and multitudinous nation, echoed back by all the hills, valleys, and mountains of a vast continent, bespeak the occasion one of thrilling and universal interest — a nation’s jubilee.

Friends and citizens, I need not enter further into the causes which led to this anniversary. Many of you understand them better than I do. You could instruct me in regard to them. That is a branch of knowledge in which you feel, perhaps, a much deeper interest than your speaker. The causes which led to the separation of the colonies from the British crown have never lacked for a tongue. They have all been taught in your common schools, narrated at your firesides, unfolded from your pulpits, and thundered from your legislative halls, and are as familiar to you as household words. They form the staple of your national poetry and eloquence.

I remember, also, that, as a people, Americans are remarkably familiar with all facts which make in their own favor. This is esteemed by some as a national trait — perhaps a national weakness. It is a fact, that whatever makes for the wealth or for the reputation of Americans, and can be had cheap! will be found by Americans. I shall not be charged with slandering Americans, if I say I think the American side of any question may be safely left in American hands.

I leave, therefore, the great deeds of your fathers to other gentlemen whose claim to have been regularly descended will be less likely to be disputed than mine!

My business, if I have any here today, is with the present. The accepted time with God and his cause is the ever-living now.

Trust no future, however pleasant,
Let the dead past bury its dead;
Act, act in the living present,
Heart within, and God overhead.

We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future. To all inspiring motives, to noble deeds which can be gained from the past, we are welcome. But now is the time, the important time. Your fathers have lived, died, and have done their work, and have done much of it well. You live and must die, and you must do your work. You have no right to enjoy a child’s share in the labor of your fathers, unless your children are to be blest by your labors. You have no right to wear out and waste the hard-earned fame of your fathers to cover your indolence. Sydney Smith tells us that men seldom eulogize the wisdom and virtues of their fathers, but to excuse some folly or wickedness of their own. This truth is not a doubtful one. There are illustrations of it near and remote, ancient and modern. It was fashionable, hundreds of years ago, for the children of Jacob to boast, we have “Abraham to our father,” when they had long lost Abraham’s faith and spirit. That people contented themselves under the shadow of Abraham’s great name, while they repudiated the deeds which made his name great. Need I remind you that a similar thing is being done all over this country today? Need I tell you that the Jews are not the only people who built the tombs of the prophets, and garnished the sepulchers of the righteous? Washington could not die till he had broken the chains of his slaves. Yet his monument is built up by the price of human blood, and the traders in the bodies and souls of men shout — “We have Washington to our father.” — Alas! that it should be so; yet so it is.

The evil that men do, lives after them, The good is oft-interred with their bones.

Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation’s sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation’s jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the “lame man leap as an hart.”

But, such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. — The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, lowering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable ruin! I can today take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.”

Fellow-citizens; above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, today, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then fellow-citizens, is AMERICAN SLAVERY. I shall see, this day, and its popular characteristics, from the slave’s point of view. Standing, there, identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this Fourth of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery — the great sin and shame of America! “I will not equivocate; I will not excuse;” I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.

But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, it is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, and denounce less, would you persuade more, and rebuke less, your cause would be much more likely to succeed. But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the antislavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia, which, if committed by a black man, (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgement that the slave is a moral, intellectual, and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. When you can point to any such laws, in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, then will I argue with you that the slave is a man!

For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver, and gold; that, while we are reading, writing, and cyphering, acting as clerks, merchants, and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators, and teachers; that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hillside, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives, and children, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian’s God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!

Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look today, in the presence of Americans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively, and positively, negatively, and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding. — There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven, that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.

What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employments for my time and strength than such arguments would imply.

What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is passed.

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, today, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

Take the American slave-trade, which, we are told by the papers, is especially prosperous just now. Ex-Senator Benton tells us that the price of men was never higher than now. He mentions the fact to show that slavery is in no danger. This trade is one of the peculiarities of American institutions. It is carried on in all the large towns and cities in one-half of this confederacy; and millions are pocketed every year, by dealers in this horrid traffic. In several states, this trade is a chief source of wealth. It is called (in contradistinction to the foreign slave-trade) “the internal slave trade.” It is, probably, called so, too, in order to divert from it the horror with which the foreign slave-trade is contemplated. That trade has long since been denounced by this government, as piracy. It has been denounced with burning words, from the high places of the nation, as an execrable traffic. To arrest it, to put an end to it, this nation keeps a squadron, at immense cost, on the coast of Africa. Everywhere, in this country, it is safe to speak of this foreign slave-trade, as a most inhuman traffic, opposed alike to the laws of God and of man. The duty to extirpate and destroy it, is admitted even by our DOCTORS OF DIVINITY. In order to put an end to it, some of these last have consented that their colored brethren (nominally free) should leave this country, and establish themselves on the western coast of Africa! It is, however, a notable fact that, while so much execration is poured out by Americans upon those engaged in the foreign slave-trade, the men engaged in the slave-trade between the states pass without condemnation, and their business is deemed honorable.

Behold the practical operation of this internal slave-trade, the American slave-trade, sustained by American politics and America religion. Here you will see men and women reared like swine for the market. You know what is a swine-drover? I will show you a man-drover. They inhabit all our Southern States. They perambulate the country, and crowd the highways of the nation, with droves of human stock. You will see one of these human flesh-jobbers, armed with pistol, whip, and bowie-knife, driving a company of a hundred men, women, and children, from the Potomac to the slave market at New Orleans. These wretched people are to be sold singly, or in lots, to suit purchasers. They are food for the cotton-field, and the deadly sugar-mill. Mark the sad procession, as it moves wearily along, and the inhuman wretch who drives them. Hear his savage yells and his blood-chilling oaths, as he hurries on his affrighted captives! There, see the old man, with locks thinned and gray. Cast one glance, if you please, upon that young mother, whose shoulders are bare to the scorching sun, her briny tears falling on the brow of the babe in her arms. See, too, that girl of thirteen, weeping, yes! weeping, as she thinks of the mother from whom she has been torn! The drove moves tardily. Heat and sorrow have nearly consumed their strength; suddenly you hear a quick snap, like the discharge of a rifle; the fetters clank, and the chain rattles simultaneously; your ears are saluted with a scream, that seems to have torn its way to the center of your soul! The crack you heard, was the sound of the slave-whip; the scream you heard, was from the woman you saw with the babe. Her speed had faltered under the weight of her child and her chains! that gash on her shoulder tells her to move on. Follow the drove to New Orleans. Attend the auction; see men examined like horses; see the forms of women rudely and brutally exposed to the shocking gaze of American slave-buyers. See this drove sold and separated forever; and never forget the deep, sad sobs that arose from that scattered multitude. Tell me citizens, WHERE, under the sun, you can witness a spectacle more fiendish and shocking. Yet this is but a glance at the American slave-trade, as it exists, at this moment, in the ruling part of the United States.

I was born amid such sights and scenes. To me the American slave-trade is a terrible reality. When a child, my soul was often pierced with a sense of its horrors. I lived on Philpot Street, Fell’s Point, Baltimore, and have watched from the wharves, the slave ships in the Basin, anchored from the shore, with their cargoes of human flesh, waiting for favorable winds to waft them down the Chesapeake. There was, at that time, a grand slave mart kept at the head of Pratt Street, by Austin Woldfolk. His agents were sent into every town and county in Maryland, announcing their arrival, through the papers, and on flaming “hand-bills,” headed CASH FOR NEGROES. These men were generally well-dressed men, and very captivating in their manners. Ever ready to drink, to treat, and to gamble. The fate of many a slave has depended upon the turn of a single card; and many a child has been snatched from the arms of its mother by bargains arranged in a state of brutal drunkenness.

The flesh-mongers gather up their victims by dozens, and drive them, chained, to the general depot at Baltimore. When a sufficient number have been collected here, a ship is chartered, for the purpose of conveying the forlorn crew to Mobile, or to New Orleans. From the slave prison to the ship, they are usually driven in the darkness of night; for since the antislavery agitation, a certain caution is observed.

In the deep still darkness of midnight, I have been often aroused by the dead heavy footsteps, and the piteous cries of the chained gangs that passed our door. The anguish of my boyish heart was intense; and I was often consoled, when speaking to my mistress in the morning, to hear her say that the custom was very wicked; that she hated to hear the rattle of the chains, and the heart-rending cries. I was glad to find one who sympathized with me in my horror.

Fellow-citizens, this murderous traffic is, today, in active operation in this boasted republic. In the solitude of my spirit, I see clouds of dust raised on the highways of the South; I see the bleeding footsteps; I hear the doleful wail of fettered humanity, on the way to the slave-markets, where the victims are to be sold like horses, sheep, and swine, knocked off to the highest bidder. There I see the tenderest ties ruthlessly broken, to gratify the lust, caprice, and rapacity of the buyers and sellers of men. My soul sickens at the sight.

Is this the land your Fathers loved,
The freedom which they toiled to win?
Is this the earth whereon they moved?
Are these the graves they slumber in?

But a still more inhuman, disgraceful, and scandalous state of things remains to be presented. By an act of the American Congress, not yet two years old, slavery has been nationalized in its most horrible and revolting form. By that act, Mason and Dixon’s line has been obliterated; New York has become as Virginia; and the power to hold, hunt, and sell men, women, and children as slaves remains no longer a mere state institution, but is now an institution of the whole United States. The power is co-extensive with the Star-Spangled Banner and American Christianity. Where these go, may also go the merciless slave-hunter. Where these are, man is not sacred. He is a bird for the sportsman’s gun. By that most foul and fiendish of all human decrees, the liberty and person of every man are put in peril. Your broad republican domain is hunting ground for men. Not for thieves and robbers, enemies of society, merely, but for men guilty of no crime. Your lawmakers have commanded all good citizens to engage in this hellish sport. Your President, your Secretary of State, our lords, nobles, and ecclesiastics, enforce, as a duty you owe to your free and glorious country, and to your God, that you do this accursed thing. Not fewer than forty Americans have, within the past two years, been hunted down and, without a moment’s warning, hurried away in chains, and consigned to slavery and excruciating torture. Some of these have had wives and children, dependent on them for bread; but of this, no account was made. The right of the hunter to his prey stands superior to the right of marriage, and to all rights in this republic, the rights of God included! For black men there are neither law, justice, humanity, not religion. The Fugitive Slave Law makes mercy to them a crime; and bribes the judge who tries them. An American judge gets ten dollars for every victim he consigns to slavery, and five, when he fails to do so. The oath of any two villains is sufficient, under this hell-black enactment, to send the most pious and exemplary black man into the remorseless jaws of slavery! His own testimony is nothing. He can bring no witnesses for himself. The minister of American justice is bound by the law to hear but one side; and that side, is the side of the oppressor. Let this damning fact be perpetually told. Let it be thundered around the world, that, in tyrant-killing, king-hating, people-loving, democratic, Christian America, the seats of justice are filled with judges, who hold their offices under an open and palpable bribe, and are bound, in deciding in the case of a man’s liberty, hear only his accusers!

In glaring violation of justice, in shameless disregard of the forms of administering law, in cunning arrangement to entrap the defenseless, and in diabolical intent, this Fugitive Slave Law stands alone in the annals of tyrannical legislation. I doubt if there be another nation on the globe, having the brass and the baseness to put such a law on the statute-book. If any man in this assembly thinks differently from me in this matter, and feels able to disprove my statements, I will gladly confront him at any suitable time and place he may select.

I take this law to be one of the grossest infringements of Christian Liberty, and, if the churches and ministers of our country were not stupidly blind, or most wickedly indifferent, they, too, would so regard it.

At the very moment that they are thanking God for the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty, and for the right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences, they are utterly silent in respect to a law which robs religion of its chief significance, and makes it utterly worthless to a world lying in wickedness. Did this law concern the “mint, anise, and cumin” — abridge the right to sing psalms, to partake of the sacrament, or to engage in any of the ceremonies of religion, it would be smitten by the thunder of a thousand pulpits. A general shout would go up from the church, demanding repeal, repeal, instant repeal! — And it would go hard with that politician who presumed to solicit the votes of the people without inscribing this motto on his banner. Further, if this demand were not complied with, another Scotland would be added to the history of religious liberty, and the stern old Covenanters would be thrown into the shade. A John Knox would be seen at every church door, and heard from every pulpit, and Fillmore would have no more quarter than was shown by Knox, to the beautiful, but treacherous queen Mary of Scotland. The fact that the church of our country, (with fractional exceptions), does not esteem “the Fugitive Slave Law” as a declaration of war against religious liberty, implies that that church regards religion simply as a form of worship, an empty ceremony, and not a vital principle, requiring active benevolence, justice, love, and good will towards man. It esteems sacrifice above mercy; psalm-singing above right doing; solemn meetings above practical righteousness. A worship that can be conducted by persons who refuse to give shelter to the houseless, to give bread to the hungry, clothing to the naked, and who enjoin obedience to a law forbidding these acts of mercy, is a curse, not a blessing to mankind. The Bible addresses all such persons as “scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites, who pay tithe of mint, anise, and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith.”

But the church of this country is not only indifferent to the wrongs of the slave, it actually takes sides with the oppressors. It has made itself the bulwark of American slavery, and the shield of American slave-hunters. Many of its most eloquent Divines. who stand as the very lights of the church, have shamelessly given the sanction of religion and the Bible to the whole slave system. They have taught that man may, properly, be a slave; that the relation of master and slave is ordained of God; that to send back an escaped bondman to his master is clearly the duty of all the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ; and this horrible blasphemy is palmed off upon the world for Christianity.

For my part, I would say, welcome infidelity! welcome atheism! welcome anything! in preference to the gospel, as preached by those Divines! They convert the very name of religion into an engine of tyranny, and barbarous cruelty, and serve to confirm more infidels, in this age, than all the infidel writings of Thomas Paine, Voltaire, and Bolingbroke, put together, have done! These ministers make religion a cold and flinty-hearted thing, having neither principles of right action, nor bowels of compassion. They strip the love of God of its beauty, and leave the throng of religion a huge, horrible, repulsive form. It is a religion for oppressors, tyrants, man-stealers, and thugs. It is not that “pure and undefiled religion” which is from above, and which is “first pure, then peaceable, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” But a religion which favors the rich against the poor; which exalts the proud above the humble; which divides mankind into two classes, tyrants and slaves; which says to the man in chains, stay there; and to the oppressor, oppress on; it is a religion which may be professed and enjoyed by all the robbers and enslavers of mankind; it makes God a respecter of persons, denies his fatherhood of the race, and tramples in the dust the great truth of the brotherhood of man. All this we affirm to be true of the popular church, and the popular worship of our land and nation — a religion, a church, and a worship which, on the authority of inspired wisdom, we pronounce to be an abomination in the sight of God. In the language of Isaiah, the American church might be well addressed, “Bring no more vain ablations; incense is an abomination unto me: the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth. They are a trouble to me; I am weary to bear them; and when ye spread forth your hands I will hide mine eyes from you. Yea! when ye make many prayers, I will not hear. YOUR HANDS ARE FULL OF BLOOD; cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment; relieve the oppressed; judge for the fatherless; plead for the widow.”

The American church is guilty, when viewed in connection with what it is doing to uphold slavery; but it is superlatively guilty when viewed in connection with its ability to abolish slavery. The sin of which it is guilty is one of omission as well as of commission. Albert Barnes but uttered what the common sense of every man at all observant of the actual state of the case will receive as truth, when he declared that “There is no power out of the church that could sustain slavery an hour, if it were not sustained in it.”

Let the religious press, the pulpit, the Sunday school, the conference meeting, the great ecclesiastical, missionary, Bible, and tract associations of the land array their immense powers against slavery and slave-holding; and the whole system of crime and blood would be scattered to the winds; and that they do not do this involves them in the most awful responsibility of which the mind can conceive.

In prosecuting the antislavery enterprise, we have been asked to spare the church, to spare the ministry; but how, we ask, could such a thing be done? We are met on the threshold of our efforts for the redemption of the slave, by the church and ministry of the country, in battle arrayed against us; and we are compelled to fight or flee. From what quarter, I beg to know, has proceeded a fire so deadly upon our ranks, during the last two years, as from the Northern pulpit? As the champions of oppressors, the chosen men of American theology have appeared — men, honored for their so-called piety, and their real learning. The Lords of Buffalo, the Springs of New York, the Lathrops of Auburn, the Coxes and Spencers of Brooklyn, the Gannets and Sharps of Boston, the Deweys of Washington, and other great religious lights of the land have, in utter denial of the authority of Him by whom they professed to be called to the ministry, deliberately taught us, against the example or the Hebrews and against the remonstrance of the Apostles, they teach that we ought to obey man’s law before the law of God.

My spirit wearies of such blasphemy; and how such men can be supported, as the “standing types and representatives of Jesus Christ,” is a mystery which I leave others to penetrate. In speaking of the American church, however, let it be distinctly understood that I mean the great mass of the religious organizations of our land. There are exceptions, and I thank God that there are. Noble men may be found, scattered all over these Northern States, of whom Henry Ward Beecher of Brooklyn, Samuel J. May of Syracuse, and my esteemed friend (Rev. R. R. Raymond) on the platform, are shining examples; and let me say further, that upon these men lies the duty to inspire our ranks with high religious faith and zeal, and to cheer us on in the great mission of the slave’s redemption from his chains.

One is struck with the difference between the attitude of the American church towards the antislavery movement, and that occupied by the churches in England towards a similar movement in that country. There, the church, true to its mission of ameliorating, elevating, and improving the condition of mankind, came forward promptly, bound up the wounds of the West Indian slave, and restored him to his liberty. There, the question of emancipation was a high religious question. It was demanded, in the name of humanity, and according to the law of the living God. The Sharps, the Clarksons, the Wilberforces, the Buxtons, and Burchells, and the Knibbs, were alike famous for their piety, and for their philanthropy. The antislavery movement there was not an anti-church movement, for the reason that the church took its full share in prosecuting that movement: and the antislavery movement in this country will cease to be an anti-church movement, when the church of this country shall assume a favorable, instead of a hostile position towards that movement. Americans! your republican politics, not less than your republican religion, are flagrantly inconsistent. You boast of your love of liberty, your superior civilization, and your pure Christianity, while the whole political power of the nation (as embodied in the two great political parties), is solemnly pledged to support and perpetuate the enslavement of three millions of your countrymen. You hurl your anathemas at the crowned headed tyrants of Russia and Austria, and pride yourselves on your democratic institutions, while you yourselves consent to be the mere tools and bodyguards of the tyrants of Virginia and Carolina. You invite to your shores fugitives of oppression from abroad, honor them with banquets, greet them with ovations, cheer them, toast them, salute them, protect them, and pour out your money to them like water; but the fugitives from your own land you advertise, hunt, arrest, shoot, and kill. You glory in your refinement and your universal education yet you maintain a system as barbarous and dreadful as ever stained the character of a nation — a system begun in avarice, supported in pride, and perpetuated in cruelty. You shed tears over fallen Hungary, and make the sad story of her wrongs the theme of your poets, statesmen, and orators, till your gallant sons are ready to fly to arms to vindicate her cause against her oppressors; but, in regard to the ten thousand wrongs of the American slave, you would enforce the strictest silence, and would hail him as an enemy of the nation who dares to make those wrongs the subject of public discourse! You are all on fire at the mention of liberty for France or for Ireland; but are as cold as an iceberg at the thought of liberty for the enslaved of America. You discourse eloquently on the dignity of labor; yet, you sustain a system which, in its very essence, casts a stigma upon labor. You can bare your bosom to the storm of British artillery to throw off a threepenny tax on tea; and yet wring the last hard-earned farthing from the grasp of the black laborers of your country. You profess to believe “that, of one blood, God made all nations of men to dwell on the face of all the earth,” and hath commanded all men, everywhere to love one another; yet you notoriously hate, (and glory in your hatred), all men whose skins are not colored like your own. You declare, before the world, and are understood by the world to declare, that you “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; and that, among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;” and yet, you hold securely, in a bondage which, according to your own Thomas Jefferson, “is worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose,” a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country.

Fellow-citizens! I will not enlarge further on your national inconsistencies. The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretense, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad; it corrupts your politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing, and a bye-word to a mocking earth. It is the antagonistic force in your government, the only thing that seriously disturbs and endangers your Union. It fetters your progress; it is the enemy of improvement, the deadly foe of education; it fosters pride; it breeds insolence; it promotes vice; it shelters crime; it is a curse to the earth that supports it; and yet, you cling to it, as if it were the sheet anchor of all your hopes. Oh! be warned! be warned! a horrible reptile is coiled up in your nation’s bosom; the venomous creature is nursing at the tender breast of your youthful republic; for the love of God, tear away, and fling from you the hideous monster, and let the weight of twenty millions crush and destroy it forever!

But it is answered in reply to all this, that precisely what I have now denounced is, in fact, guaranteed and sanctioned by the Constitution of the United States; that the right to hold and to hunt slaves is a part of that Constitution framed by the illustrious Fathers of this Republic.

Then, I dare to affirm, notwithstanding all I have said before, your fathers stooped, basely stooped

To palter with us in a double sense:
And keep the word of promise to the ear,
But break it to the heart.

And instead of being the honest men I have before declared them to be, they were the veriest imposters that ever practiced on mankind. This is the inevitable conclusion, and from it there is no escape. But I differ from those who charge this baseness on the framers of the Constitution of the United States. It is a slander upon their memory, at least, so I believe. There is not time now to argue the constitutional question at length — nor have I the ability to discuss it as it ought to be discussed. The subject has been handled with masterly power by Lysander Spooner, Esq., by William Goodell, by Samuel E. Sewall, Esq., and last, though not least, by Gerritt Smith, Esq. These gentlemen have, as I think, fully and clearly vindicated the Constitution from any design to support slavery for an hour.

Fellow-citizens! there is no matter in respect to which, the people of the North have allowed themselves to be so ruinously imposed upon, as that of the pro-slavery character of the Constitution. In that instrument I hold there is neither warrant, license, nor sanction of the hateful thing; but, interpreted as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT. Read its preamble, consider its purposes. Is slavery among them? Is it at the gateway? or is it in the temple? It is neither. While I do not intend to argue this question on the present occasion, let me ask, if it be not somewhat singular that, if the Constitution were intended to be, by its framers and adopters, a slave-holding instrument, why neither slavery, slaveholding, nor slave can anywhere be found in it. What would be thought of an instrument, drawn up, legally drawn up, for the purpose of entitling the city of Rochester to a track of land, in which no mention of land was made? Now, there are certain rules of interpretation, for the proper understanding of all legal instruments. These rules are well established. They are plain, common-sense rules, such as you and I, and all of us, can understand and apply, without having passed years in the study of law. I scout the idea that the question of the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of slavery is not a question for the people. I hold that every American citizen has a right to form an opinion of the constitution, and to propagate that opinion, and to use all honorable means to make his opinion the prevailing one. Without this right, the liberty of an American citizen would be as insecure as that of a Frenchman. Ex-Vice-President Dallas tells us that the Constitution is an object to which no American mind can be too attentive, and no American heart too devoted. He further says, the Constitution, in its words, is plain and intelligible, and is meant for the home-bred, unsophisticated understandings of our fellow-citizens. Senator Berrien tell us that the Constitution is the fundamental law, that which controls all others. The charter of our liberties, which every citizen has a personal interest in understanding thoroughly. The testimony of Senator Breese, Lewis Cass, and many others that might be named, who are everywhere esteemed as sound lawyers, so regard the Constitution. I take it, therefore, that it is not presumption in a private citizen to form an opinion of that instrument.

Now, take the Constitution according to its plain reading, and I defy the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it. On the other hand it will be found to contain principles and purposes, entirely hostile to the existence of slavery.

I have detained my audience entirely too long already. At some future period I will gladly avail myself of an opportunity to give this subject a full and fair discussion.

Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world, and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long-established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated. Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic, are distinctly heard on the other. The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, “Let there be Light,” has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport, or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen, in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. “Ethiopia shall stretch out her hand unto God.” In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it:

God speed the year of jubilee
The wide world o’er
When from their galling chains set free,
Th’ oppress’d shall vilely bend the knee,
And wear the yoke of tyranny
Like brutes no more.
That year will come, and freedom’s reign,
To man his plundered fights again
Restore.
God speed the day when human blood
Shall cease to flow!
In every clime be understood,
The claims of human brotherhood,
And each return for evil, good,
Not blow for blow;
That day will come all feuds to end.
And change into a faithful friend
Each foe.
God speed the hour, the glorious hour,
When none on earth
Shall exercise a lordly power,
Nor in a tyrant’s presence cower;
But all to manhood’s stature tower,
By equal birth!
That hour will come, to each, to all,
And from his prison-house, the thrall
Go forth.
Until that year, day, hour, arrive,
With head, and heart, and hand I’ll strive,
To break the rod, and rend the gyve,
The spoiler of his prey deprive —
So witness Heaven!
And never from my chosen post,
Whate’er the peril or the cost,
Be driven.

Posted July 5, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

1 July 2021   2 comments

Addendum to the post of 30 June on the responsibility of fossil fuel companies to the climate change crisis. National Public Radio ran a story that indicates that the companies continue to undermine effects to restrict greenhouse gas emissions. The title of the story is “Exxon Lobbyist Caught On Video Talks About Undermining Biden’s Climate Push”:

“Indiscrete comments made by an ExxonMobil lobbyist to undercover activists may figure prominently in upcoming congressional hearings about the role of oil companies in the battle against climate change.

“Video clips released by the Greenpeace investigation project Unearthed show Keith McCoy, the oil giant’s senior director for federal relations, talking frankly about ExxonMobil’s lobbying strategies. Channel 4 from the United Kingdom first reported the comments.

“McCoy was tricked by the activists who said they were job recruiters. He talked about working with ‘shadow groups,’ supporting a carbon tax that he believes will never happen and influencing senators to weaken climate elements of President Biden’s infrastructure plan.

“‘Joe Manchin, I talk to his office every week,’ bragged McCoy to the interviewer. He called the senator from West Virginia a ‘kingmaker’ and discussed how ‘on the Democrat side we look for the moderates on these issues’ in their efforts to stop policies that could hurt the company’s business.”

The Greenpeace story, entitled “Unearthed”, has additional information that demonstrates the incredible cynicism of ExxonMobil and how the Trump Administration was a Godsend to fossil fuel companies:

“A second Exxon lobbyist, Dan Easley – who left the company in January after working as its chief White House lobbyist throughout the Trump administration – laughed when asked by an undercover reporter if the company had achieved many policy wins under Trump, before outlining victories on fossil fuel permitting and the renegotiation of the NAFTA trade agreement.

“’The wins are such that it would be difficult to categorise them all,’ he said, adding that the biggest victory was Trump’s reduction in the corporate tax rate, which was ‘probably worth billions to Exxon’.

These companies enriched themselves by fighting policies based on science. And they are perfectly willing to let others, particularly the poor and vulnerable, to pay the price for their avarice. They need to understand the importance of including a more holistically defined public interest as part of their responsibility, not merely those parts of the public interest that serve their private interests.

McCoy also identified the people in Congress who ExxonMobil targets for help in preventing actions against climate change:

“Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the top GOP member of the Energy Committee, and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the Republican ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

“Other lobbying targets of Exxon include centrist Democrats Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Jon Tester of Montana.

“McCoy also singles out Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, as an important contact because of his close relationship with President Joe Biden.

“Other Exxon contacts are up for reelection in 2022, McCoy notes: Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Mark Kelly of Arizona.

“McCoy also name-checks traditional Republican allies John Cornyn of Texas, Steve Daines of Montana, and Marco Rubio of Florida.”

Addressing climate change is not simply a policy choice–it is the crisis of our age and Congress should understand its responsibility to protect humanity and the environment as urgently as possible.

Posted July 1, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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