The Guesthouse Grapevine

Hummingbird continues…

How very strange to think about now… There was no internet at all when I went on my first ever backpacking adventure in 1992-93. My only communication with the homeland for the seven month period I traveled in Central and South America was through the many post cards I sent and occasional phone calls to my parents. I tried to stay current on international news by translating local newspapers and talking to other backpackers in guesthouses. But in many respects, the guesthouse grapevine seemed an unreliable source of information. The setting alone encouraged people to play fast and loose with the facts. Stories tended to repeat and vary and change from guesthouse to guesthouse and courtyard to courtyard. There was no official source of information to check, no Google to search it or Wikipedia to compare it to. There was only the authenticity of the speaker and the believability of the narrative. Was my young and innocent mind corrupted by the 1992 version of “fake news”? Or was my brainwashed consciousness cracked open by exposure to narratives outside the corporate news propaganda bubble?

When I first heard about the “Highway of Death,” I thought it was a bullshit story. I was in a guesthouse in Managua, Nicaragua in October of 1992. I was a naive and innocent first time traveler then who still believed in the holiness of the US constitution and the inherent goodness of “America.” I was aware of some of “America’s” crimes in Central America and was generally against US military actions overseas but tended to think the bad actions were the fault of certain bad actors or bad administrations (republicans). I certainly did not believe that the US government or the US nation as a whole was “imperialist or aggressive or militaristic.” Instead, I thought that the US was the world’s good guy; spreading democracy, freedom, development and progress to the rest of the world. But I met these two European anarchist dudes and they were not very nice. One was from Austria and the other was from France. They argued with each other about a wide range of subjects in the courtyard of the guesthouse. The only subject they agreed on was their fierce opposition to US militarism. I was the only “American” in the courtyard so they directed their anger at me. I was not really interested in defending militarism but I still felt like I had to defend “America” because “America” was a part of my “persona”. I was an “American.” They started with a rant about the US sponsored contra war right there in Nicaragua and moved on to a diatribe about Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. No it was not the “Vietnam War,” it was “The American War” against South East Asia. Then, they segwayed into Indonesia where “the Americans gave the go ahead,” for the massive slaughter of communists and socialists by mobs of coup supporters. Supposedly the CIA handed out lists of “communist names” to angry mobs and promised money for their murders. Then, in the African Congo, the CIA murdered the newly elected socialist prime minister and thereby started a long bloody civil war. Everywhere you go in the world there is a problem. And that problem is caused by the CIA or the US military… Yeah right sure guys, and the moon landings were fake and JFK was shot by Marilyn Monroe…

Somewhere during their dissertation on the crimes of America, they reached the very recent and still ongoing conflict with Iraq. According to their story, Kuwait was an asset of the United States. Oil wells in Kuwait, controlled by the US, were drilling at a slant underground to steal oil from Iraq. Iraq only invaded Kuwait to stop the US from stealing their oil. The US then used Iraq’s little invasion of Kuwait as a pretext to invade and occupy the whole region. The US military was at the beginning of a long military buildup in order to gain control of all the energy resources in the whole Middle East. They already had puppet regimes on half the peninsula and with the recent collapse of the protector state, the Soviet Union, a whole group of nominally independent states were now ripe for the picking as well. Iraq was first on the list but Lebanon, Syria, Libya and Iran were also supposedly targeted for conquest. The US military’s gruesome performance on the Highway of Death was a purposeful display of viciousness in order to scare the region into submission. The slaughter was ordered from the highest levels of the US government because the US was sending a clear and unequivocal message to the people in the Middle East… Supposedly, more than 50,000 retreating Iraqi conscripts were gunned down over a three day period as they tried to escape the war zone in Kuwait by fleeing along the highway that connected Kuwait City to Basra in Iraq. US warplanes shot up vehicles in order to cause a massive traffic jam and then started shooting the trapped and desperate men like they were fish in a barrel….

“No way,” I interrupted. “The United States military would never shoot at retreating soldiers. That’s not the way America operates. You guys are full of shit.”

“They weren’t even regular Iraqi army,” said the Austrian, “they were conscripts. Farm boys, shopkeepers, day laborers and students that Saddam force drafted into his military to fight his crazy battle. They certainly didn’t want to be there. At the first sign of battle, they dropped their weapons and fled. Some of them even raised white flags of surrender as they staggered helplessly down the Basra highway. But the US attack helicopters and jets didn’t care about any of that. They just opened fire and slaughtered. Most were shot in the back as they were running away. By all accounts, it was a merciless massacre.”

“I don’t believe a word you are saying,” I said defiantly, “slant drilling… yeah right. Farm boys with white flags shot in the back? Not a chance. That would be a war crime. It would be in all the newspapers. I read the New York Times regularly. If something like that happened it would have been on the front page. It would probably be in every newspaper in America. How come I never heard of it before? It can’t be true. You are making it up.”

“It’s true,” they insisted. “The Highway of Death story has been covered in many international publications. There is even a UN report. They want to bring war crimes charges but the US won’t acknowledge the court’s jurisdiction.”

“No way,” I shouted, “you guys are liars. America does not commit war crimes.” I pushed myself away from the table and stomped my way back to my room. I didn’t believe a word they said. How insulting. No wonder there are so many people who are anti-American when some people go around spreading bullshit stories like that….

It was about three weeks after my conversation with the anarchists in Managua that the malaria symptoms began to manifest. The vivid dreams/nightmares that tormented me for several years afterwards first began with that illness. At some point, I began to associate the dreams with the anti-malarial drug Lariam. But I don’t believe it ever occurred to me that the apocalyptic highway in my dream could be in any way related to the “highway of death” story from Iraq. Many years later, I made the connection because I was particularly fascinated by the relationship between “the highway of death”, the American imagination and the power of propaganda. I never did scholarly research on the subject but my anecdotal reality informed me that almost no Americans had ever even heard the story. I, myself, had only heard of it while traveling in Central and South America. For a couple of years after I got back I used to talk about it and ask people about it a lot. Talking about it while drunk always made me sound like a crazy conspiracy theorist. There was almost no mention of it at all in the corporate media so I sometimes wondered if maybe I dreamed the whole thing up. Every once in a while I’d see an obscure reference to “the incident” in a foreign policy story of a “radical publication” and I would confirm that the story was not a complete delusion. And when the Internet became available it was possible to confirm that it was, indeed, a true event. Or, at least, it was a story based on a true event. The anarchists in Managua may have been the first people to tell me about it. But many more travelers told me a similar story later on; including my Canadian friends in Costa Rica… Continue reading

Happy Election Day


Happy Election Day!

I wasn’t even going to watch the debates because I think the whole Presidential campaign is a “reality television” bullshit performance to distract Americans from their monetary slavery and continuous war economy. But I thought it might be mildly entertaining and sociologically interesting so I tuned in to see. What I witnessed and the reaction to what I witnessed was absolutely insane.

She said it live on national television during the second debate. I heard it myself with my own two ears. She favors imposing a no-fly zone on Syria. Anyone with even a limited understanding of international relations is aware that Russia is presently flying missions in Syria on behalf of the Syrian government. Imposing a no-fly zone in Syria is war with Russia. She proposed WWIII on national television as a “campaign promise” and all anyone could talk about afterwards was the mysoginistic clown who stalked her around the stage.

Actually, the historians will probably put the start date for the slowly unfolding WWlll on 9-11-2001. Or maybe they will back date even further to when the Soviet Union collapsed and all those psychotics in the council on foreign relations concocted their crazy plan to take over the whole world (The Project for a New America Century). When it started doesn’t matter. The reality is that the US is already up to its knees in war (Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, the Congo and probably several other “theaters”). During the reign of Obama, the expansion of the US military footprint internationally has increased dramatically. More drones, more bases, more weapons, more special forces and more “private security corporations”. In other words, more war because the people who run the economy know that war is very good for business.

Yeah, I know, a campaign promise is only a campaign promise. She doesn’t necessarily have to start an active hot war with Russia just because she says during a debate that she favors such a thing. But the reality is, regime change in Syria and a warm war with Russia would be really good for the economy. Or, at least, it would be really good for that segment of the economy that financed her campaign. I know that and she knows that. The question is; do the American people know that. Do they know what they are voting for?

But what about Donald? Oh yeah, the Donald. You have to be kidding me? You really think they will let that clown become President? Well then, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I will sell you too. Do I have to spell it out for you? Did you watch the debates? He was so obviously “performing” the part of the bad guy it was ridiculous. Hillary and Donald are not competing against each other in a Presidential election. They are working together to sell you a product. The product they are selling is war and empire. Donald Trump is a metaphorical stand in for Putin. He is acting like an asshole on purpose. He is there to make the opposition to Empire look bad. And when Hillary wins the election in a landslide victory, they are going to use her victory as a mandate for a more aggressive war against Russia in Syria.

Is there any other rational explanation for the nonsense we are witnessing? Does the Empire really think they can “win” a war against Russia? Do they want to destroy the whole planet in a nuclear confrontation? Of course not. No doubt they think they can keep it under control. Smart power is the new catchphrase of the regime changers. The whole lot of them played way too much of the board game Risk as teenagers and it seriously damaged their psyches. Now they think they can roll the dice and win the whole planet. Russia and Vladimir are in their sites. With cyber war and financial war and propaganda war and perhaps some missiles and bombs in Syria, they think they can take out Russia. And this little media dance between the Hill and the Donald is an important part of their propaganda.

If I thought elections were real or legitimate I would vote for Jill Stein because her platform of ideas and policies is the most sensible. I don’t exactly agree with her on some things because she does not yet “see” or seem to understand organic economics but at least she is in the ballpark. I do wonder, however, why a nice lady like her wants to be CEO of the war machine.

Anyway, I say vote for whoever your favorite media outlet tells you to vote for. I don’t care if you choose the mysoginistic clown or the war mongering witch or even the neo-liberal pothead. I’m going to like you all the same. But please, when the election is over and HRC wins in a landslide and the hyped up media campaign segways into a full on drumbeat for war in Syria (a no fly zone) stand up and say no. That is the direction the train is heading. That is the product they are trying to sell us. War and Empire. They want to do to Damascus what they did to Sarajevo, Baghdad and Tripoli. If only there was a way to stop them.