13 October 2011

Shooting Down Iran Air Flight 655

Source: Iran Chamber Society
Shooting Down Iran Air Flight 655 [IR655]
By: Shapour Ghasemi, 2004

On July 3, 1988, Iran Air Flight 655 (IR655) was shot down by USS Vincennes on the Bandar Abbas-Dubai rout, which resulted in the loss of life of 290 innocent civilian from six nations including 66 children. There were 38 non-Iranians aboard.

On the morning of that disastrous day, 3rd of July, the captain and crew of Flight 655 were at Bandar Abbas airfield in southern Iran, preparing for the second leg of their routine 150-mile flight over the Persian Gulf to Dubai. Flight 655 was a commercial flight operated by Iran Air that flew on a Tehran-Bandar Abbas-Dubai route.

Flight 655, an Iran Air passenger aircraft similar to this Iran Air Airbus A300B2 was
shot down by USS Vincennes, a US Navy cruiser,
in July 3, 1988, killing all 290 passengers and crew from six nations
including 66 children.

The plane, an Airbus A300B2, registered EP-IBU, left Bandar Abbas at 10:17am that day, 27 minutes after its scheduled departure time of 09:50am. It would have been a 28-minute flight. At that same time, the U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser, USS Vincennes, fitted with the AEGIS combat system, was nearby in the Strait of Hormuz, which the commercial airliner, flown by Captain Mohsen Rezaian, would pass over. USS Vincennes was stationed in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war, U.S. presence was intended to escort and defend Kuwaiti oil tankers registered under the U.S. flag; and limit Iranian marine activities as well as the tightening of US imposed embargo against Iran. In command of Vincennes was Commander William C. Rogers III. At the time of the incident, Vincennes, in support of Operation Earnest Will, was within Iranian territorial waters, following combat with and pursuit of Iranian gunboats. The USS Sides and the USS Elmer Montgomery were nearby.

Like most modern aircraft, the Iranian airliner was equipped with an aircraft identification transponder, a modern form of the old "identification, friend or foe" (IFF) system of World War II. When interrogated by a radar signal from a potential adversary, the transponder "squawks" (gives off a specific response signal) in a prespecified, fixed mode.

After taking off from runway 21, Flight 655 was directed by the Bandar Abbas tower to turn on its transponder and proceed over the Persian Gulf. The flight was assigned routinely to commercial air corridor Amber 59, a twenty-mile-wide lane on a direct line to Dubai airport. Owing to the short distance, the flight pattern would be a simple trajectory--climbing out to an altitude of 14,000 feet, cruising for a short time, and then descending gradually into Dubai.

USS Vincennes (CG-49) is a U.S. Navy Ticonderoga class AEGIS guided
missile cruiser well known for shooting down
Iran Air Flight 655 in July 3, 1988 killing 290 innocent civilian from
six nations including 66 children.

Because of the delay in takeoff, it appeared on the Vincennes's radar at 10:17, and at 10:19, the Vincennes began to issue warnings on the Military Air Distress frequency. According to U.S. government accounts, Vincennes mistakenly identified the Iranian airplane as an attacking military fighter. The officers identified the flight profile being flown by the A300B2 as being similar to that of an Iranian Air Force F-14A Tomcat during an attack run. According to the same reports Vincennes tried more than once to contact Flight 655, but there was no acknowledgement. The official ICAO report stated that these attempts to contact Iran Air 655 were sent on the wrong frequency and addressed to a non-existent "Iranian F-14".

The Iranian F-14s at Bandar Abbas have been set to squawk in "Mode II," a mode that would identify to the U.S. ships that the aircraft in question were military, and Iranian. Being a commercial flight, Iran Air 655 was instructed to squawk in Mode III, a signal that identifies civilian traffic. A unique transmission code number, 6760 in this case, was assigned to distinguish this particular flight from others.

During the next three minutes, the Vincennes issued a number of warnings on both military and civil distress frequencies, it (mistakenly) identified the Airbus 320 as a possible Iranian F-14, it (mistakenly) reported hearing IFF squawks in Mode II, and it (mistakenly) reported the aircraft as descending toward the ship when it was in fact still climbing according to its usual flight plan.

At 10:24 am, Captain Rogers, the Commanding Officer of Vincennes ordered to fire two SM-2ER antiaircraft missiles at the assumed F-14 fighter jet. A few seconds later, with the Airbus still on its assigned climb out, and slightly to one side of, but well within air corridor Amber 59, it was intercepted by one or both of the missiles at a range of eight nautical miles and an altitude of 13,500 feet. Flight 655, with some 290 people, tumbled in flames into the Persian Gulf. The whole flight had taken less than seven minutes. There were no survivors. By noon that day, Iranian helicopters and boats began to search the area and recover the bodies. It was not until later in the day that the officers and men of the Vincennes would learn that what they had shot down was not an Iranian F-14, but a commercial, civil flight.

Since the "black box" flight recorder on board the Iranian Airbus has been irrecoverably lost in the waters of the Persian Gulf, we shall never know exactly what her flight profile was, whether the crew ignored the American challenges or simply did not hear them.

However, the Vincennes had a black box of its own. The SPY-1A, Command and Decision, and Weapons Control System computers were all equipped with magnetic tape equipment that tracked and recorded all of the signals received and processed by these key pieces of electronic equipment. Because of this, investigators have been able to verify the timing and nature of all actions.

The situation aboard the Vincennes that day was one of confusion and disorder. The story told by the data tapes is straightforward. Iran Air Flight 655 took off from Bandar Abbas at 10:17 a.m. on the morning of July 3, on a heading of 210 (runway 21). Squawking Mode III, Code 6760 continuously, it kept on a more or less constant heading of 210, climbing steadily to its cruising altitude while gradually gaining speed. Data and testimony from the USS Sides corroborate the flight path and the Mode III IFF squawk. Indeed, the Sides was to identify the unknown aircraft as non-hostile and turn its attention elsewhere only seconds before the Vincennes launched its missiles.

The story told by those inside the CIC aboard the Vincennes is quite different. From the first alerted contact, various personnel began to report a "Mode II" squawk on a code associated with Iranian F-14s. Although none of the data recorders reported any IFF response other than Mode III, Code 6760, those aboard the Vincennes continued to consistently misreport the signal.

As the range closed, the Vincennes began to broadcast increasingly urgent warning messages to the unknown aircraft; at first, these were general challenges on both military and international civil distress nets. But as the notion that the aircraft was indeed an F-14 became fixed in the minds of the key operators, the challenges were made more specific and were addressed only to an unidentified "Iranian F-14." A quick thumb-through of a listing of commercial flights missed the clear listing for Flight 655, although it was on course and nearly on time.

A warning of possible "COMAIR" (commercial aircraft) issued a minute or two later was acknowledged by the CO, but essentially ignored. Commander Lustig, the Anti-Air Warfare Commander (AAWC) new to his post (and generally regarded as inexperienced and a weak leader), de facto leadership fell upon the more junior Tactical Information Coordinator (TIC), who by that time was almost literally shouting about the immediacy and seriousness of the threat.

Captain Rogers did allow the unknown aircraft to close to well within its possible missile firing range before asking for and receiving permission to intercept, and he did so only after repeating the challenge several more times. Only then, convinced that the threat to his ship was too serious to ignore, and under pressure to act quickly to avoid the earlier fate of the USS Stark, did he authorize the firing.

Was Captain Rogers justified in his perception of a real threat to his ship (which was the US Navy's claim)?

Was the whole incident a regrettable, but unavoidable, accident of war (which is precisely what the resulting U.S. attitude was, in the Pentagon, in Congress, and in the press)?

The question to be asked is: Was an error made on the U.S. side at all? The U.S. Navy finally claimed that Captain Rogers of the Vincennes acted correctly in appraising the threat. Others in the United States asserted that such blame as there was attached solely to Iran.

The large-scale technical military system operating in the Persian Gulf on that day, of which the Vincennes was the central feature, was not waging total war, but rather a highly selective engagement in an arena known to be filled with civil traffic on air and sea. This very sophisticated piece of equipment had been placed in a situation for which it had never been designed precisely because it was thought to be most capable of making the kinds of quick and accurate judgments that would be necessary. But it failed.

Throughout its final flight IR655 was in radio contact with various air traffic control services using standard civil aviation frequencies, and had spoken in English to Bandar Abbas Approach Control seconds before Vincennes launched its missiles. Vincennes at that time had no equipment suitable for monitoring civil aviation frequencies, other than the International Air Distress frequency, despite being a sophisticated anti-aircraft warship. Subsequently U.S. Navy warships in the area were equipped with dialable VHF radios, and access to flight plan information was sought, to better track commercial airliners.

The Investigation
The Navy investigation board was convened by Rear Admiral William M. Fogarty at Bahrain beginning on July 6, while the events were still fresh in the minds of the participants. Formal hearings began a week later, and the entire procedure was completed and the report delivered to the Navy on July 28. Even in the cleansed form provided to the public, the report is rich in personal and technical detail. Perhaps the most striking feature is the degree to which the recollections of the participants as to the nature and assessment of the presumptive threat differ, and the variance between what was reported by the SPY-1A computers and what its human interpreters were reporting.

The record shows that the decision to fire was taken more or less calmly and deliberately on the basis of personal advice passed from junior officers to the senior AAWC, and from the AAWC to the CO--in the face of a stream of contrary evidence from the electronics aboard.

Medals awarded
While issuing notes of regret over the loss of human life, the U.S. government has, to date, neither admitted any wrongdoing or responsibility in this tragedy, nor apologized, but continues to blame Iranian hostile actions for the incident. The men of the Vincennes were all awarded combat-action ribbons. Commander Lustig, the air-warfare coordinator, even won the navy's Commendation Medal for "heroic achievement", his "ability to maintain his poise and confidence under fire" having enabled him to "quickly and precisely complete the firing procedure." According to a 23 April 1990 article printed in The Washington Post, the Legion of Merit was presented to Captain Rogers and Lieutenant Commander Lustig for their performance in the Persian Gulf on 3 July 1988. The citations did not mention the downing of the Iran Air flight at all.

The incident continued to overshadow U.S.-Iran relations for many years. Following the explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 six months later, the British and American governments initially blamed the PFLP-GC, a Palestinian militant group backed by Syria, with assumptions of assistance from Iran in retaliation for Iran Air Flight 655. The blame was later shifted to Libya.
Vice President George H. W. Bush (later President of United States of America) declared a month later,
"I will never apologize for the United States of America, ever. I don't care what the facts are."
Newsweek, August 15, 1988
Public Statements on the Destruction of an Iranian Jetliner by the United States Navy Over the Persian Gulf July 3, 1988

US President, Ronald W. Reagan, Statement on the Destruction of an Iranian Jetliner by the
United States Navy Over the Persian Gulf July 3, 1988

I am saddened to report that it appears that in a proper defensive action by the USS 
Vincennes this morning in the Persian Gulf an Iranian airliner was shot down over
the Strait of Hormuz. This is a terrible human tragedy. Our sympathy and condolences
go out to the passengers, crew, and their families. The Defense Department will conduct
a full investigation.

We deeply regret any loss of life. The course of the Iranian civilian airliner was such that
it was headed directly for the USS Vincennes, which was at the time engaged with five
Iranian Boghammar boats that had attacked our forces. When the aircraft failed to heed
repeated warnings, the Vincennes followed standing orders and widely publicized 
procedures, firing to protect itself against possible attack.

The only U.S. interest in the Persian Gulf is peace, and this tragedy reinforces the need
to achieve that goal with all possible speed.

Source: 1988-89 PPPUS 920 (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States:
Ronald Reagan, 1988-89 (book 2), SuDoc: AE 2.114:988-89/BK.2, ISSN: 0079-7626,
LCCN: 58061050, DL, WorldCat}.

Letter US President, Ronald W. Reagan, to the Speaker of the House of Representatives
and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate on the Destruction of an Iranian Jetliner by
the United States Navy Over the Persian Gulf July 4, 1988

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

On July 3, 1988, the USS Vincennes and USS Elmer Montgomery were operating in
international waters of the Persian Gulf near the Strait of Hormuz. (On July 2, the  
Montgomery had responded to a distress signal from a Danish tanker that was under
attack by Iranian small boats and had fired a warning shot, which caused the breaking
off of the attack.) Having indications that approximately a dozen Iranian small boats
were congregating to attack merchant shipping, the Vincennes sent a Mark III
LAMPS Helicopter on investigative patrol in  international airspace to assess the
situation. At about 1010 local Gulf time (2:10 a.m. EDT), when the helicopter had
approached to within only four nautical miles, it was fired on by Iranian
small boats (the Vincennes was ten nautical miles from the scene at this time). The
LAMPS helicopter was not damaged and returned immediately to the Vincennes.

As the Vincennes and Montgomery were approaching the group of Iranian small
boats at approximately 1042 local time, at least four of the small boats turned
toward and began closing in on the American warships. At this time, both
American ships opened fire on the small craft, sinking two and 
damaging a third. Regrettably, in the course of the U.S. response to the Iranian
attack, an Iranian civilian airliner was shot down by the Vincennes, which was
firing in self defense at what it believed to be a hostile Iranian military aircraft.
We deeply regret the tragic loss of life that occurred. The Defense
Department will conduct a full investigation.

The actions of U.S. forces in response to being attacked by Iranian small
boats were taken in accordance with our inherent right of self-defense, as
recognized in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, and pursuant to
my constitutional authority with respect to the conduct of foreign
relations and as Commander in Chief. There has been no further hostile
action by Iranian forces, and, although U.S. forces will remain prepared
to take additional defensive action to protect our units and military
personnel, we regard this incident as closed. U.S. forces suffered no
casualties or damage.

Since March 1987, I and members of my Administration have provided
to Congress letters, reports, briefings, and testimony in connection with
developments in the Persian Gulf and the activities of U.S. Armed
Forces in the region. In accordance with my desire that Congress
continue to be fully informed in this matter, I am providing this report
consistent with the War Powers Resolution. I look forward to
cooperating with Congress in pursuit of our mutual, overriding aim of
peace and stability in the Persian Gulf region.


Ronald Reagan.

Note: Identical letters were sent to Jim Wright, Speaker of the
House of Representatives, and John C. Stennis, President pro
tempore of the Senate. The letter was released by the Office of
the Press Secretary on July 5.

Source: 1988-89 PPPUS 920-921
(Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States:
Ronald Reagan, 1988-89 (book 2), SuDoc: AE 2.114:988-89/BK.2,
ISSN: 0079-7626, LCCN: 58061050, DL, WorldCat}.

Statement by Assistant to the President for Press Relations Marlin 
Fitzwater on United States Policy Regarding the Accidental Attack
on an Iranian Jetliner Over the Persian Gulf July 11, 1988

The President has reviewed U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf, where
our military forces are protecting vital interests of the free world. He
has expressed his complete satisfaction with the policy and reiterated
his belief that the actions of the USS Vincennes on July 3 in the case of
the Iranian airliner were justifiable defensive actions. At the same time,
he remains personally saddened at the tragic death of the innocent
victims of this accident and has already expressed his deep regret
to their families.

Prompted by the humanitarian traditions of our nation, the President has
decided that the United States will offer compensation on an ex gratia
basis to the families of the victims who died in the Iranian airliner
incident. Details concerning amounts, timing, and other matters remain
to be worked out. It should be clearly understood that payment will
go to the families, not governments, and will be subject to the normal
U.S. legal requirements, including, if necessary, appropriate action by
Congress. In the case of Iran, arrangements will be made through
appropriate third parties. This offer of ex gratia compensation is
consistent with international practice and is a humanitarian effort to
ease the hardship of the families. It is offered on a voluntary basis,
not on the basis of any legal liability or obligation.

The responsibility for this tragic incident, and for the deaths of
hundreds of thousands of other innocent victims as a result of the
Iran-Iraq war, lies with those who refuse to end the conflict. A
particularly heavy burden of responsibility rests with the
Government of Iran, which has refused for almost a year to accept
and implement Security Council Resolution 598 while it continues
unprovoked attacks on innocent neutral shipping and crews in the
international waters of the Gulf.

In fact, at the time of the Iran Air incident, U.S. forces were militarily
engaged with Iranian forces as a result of the latter’s unprovoked
attacks upon neutral ships and a U.S. Navy helicopter. The urgent
necessity to end this conflict is reinforced by the dangers it poses to
neighboring countries and the deplorable precedent of the increasingly
frequent use of chemical weapons by both sides, causing still more

Only an end to the war, an objective we desire, can halt the immense
suffering in the region and put an end to innocent loss of life. Our goal
is peace in the Gulf and on land. We urge Iran and Iraq to work with
the Security Council for an urgent comprehensive settlement of the
war pursuant to Resolution 598. Meanwhile, United States forces
will continue their mission in the area, keenly aware of the risks
involved and ready to face them.

Source: 1988-89 PPPUS 934-935
(Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States:
Ronald Reagan, 1988-89 (book 2), SuDoc: AE 2.114:988-89/BK.2,
ISSN: 0079-7626, LCCN: 58061050, DL, WorldCat}.

Independent sources
Independent investigations into the events have presented a different picture. John Barry and Roger Charles, of Newsweek, wrote that Commander Rogers acted recklessly and without due care. Their report further accused the U.S. government of a cover-up. An analysis of the events by the International Strategic Studies Association described the deployment of an AEGIS cruiser in the zone as irresponsible and felt that the expense of the ship had played a major part in the setting of a low threshold for opening fire. On November 6, 2003 the International Court of Justice concluded that the U.S. Navy's actions in the Persian Gulf at the time had been unlawful.

It is worthy to mention that United Arab Emirates, records showed that the Vincennes was actually inside of Iran's territorial waters, not forty miles south (where the ship had been officially ordered by fleet headquarters to stay) as Captain Rogers and government reports had claimed. Furthermore, Flight 655 was directly inside of its commercial flight path, not four miles outside of it--as Rogers and the Vincennes crew also claimed.

Three years after the incident, Admiral William Crowe admitted on ABC Nightline that the Vincennes was inside Iranian territorial waters at the time of the shoot-down. This directly contradicted the official Navy claims of the previous years.

On February 22, 1996 the United States of America under presidency of Bill Clinton agreed to pay Iran and victims of Flight 655 US$61.8 million in compensation ($300,000 per wage-earning victim, $150,000 per non-wage-earner) for the 248 Iranians killed in the shoot-down. This was an agreed settlement to discontinue a case brought by Iran in 1989 against the U.S. in the International Court of Justice. The payment of compensation was explicitly characterized as being on an "ex gratia" basis, and the U.S. denied having any responsibility or liability for the incident.

  1. Admiral William Fogarty; "Formal Investigation into the Circumstances Surrounding the Downing of Iran Air Flight 655 on 3 July 1988". This is an official Navy report on disaster of Flight 655 and so far only partially released (part I in 1988, part II in 1993), a fact criticized by many observers.
  2. Gene I. Rochlin; "Trapped in the Net: The Unanticipated Consequences of Computerization". Chapter 9: Unfriendly Fire; Tragedy over the Persian Gulf; 1998.
  3. Lieutenant Colonel David Evans, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired); "Navigation and Naval Operations II: Crisis Decision Making: USS Vincennes Case Study"; Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Unit, University of Pennsylvania.
  4. The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Digital Library of University of Michigan
  5. The Public Papers of the US Presidents on website of The American Presidency Project [ http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu ]

07 October 2011

Slowly rowing down the river of life

It's a modern day mystery how some people conservatively cling to notions of antiquity known as mythology.  Religious myths will eventually lead to the third world war.

As our minds erode into paranoid ideological pictures of good and evil, our religions alienate and divide us with purely fictional dogma.

04 October 2011

Throw Out the Money Changers


By Chris Hedges
These are remarks Chris Hedges made in Union Square in New York City last Friday during a protest outside a branch office of the Bank of America.

We stand today before the gates of one of our temples of finance. It is a temple where greed and profit are the highest good, where self-worth is determined by the ability to amass wealth and power at the expense of others, where laws are manipulated, rewritten and broken, where the endless treadmill of consumption defines human progress, where fraud and crimes are the tools of business.

The two most destructive forces of human nature—greed and envy—drive the financiers, the bankers, the corporate mandarins and the leaders of our two major political parties, all of whom profit from this system. They place themselves at the center of creation. They disdain or ignore the cries of those below them. They take from us our rights, our dignity and thwart our capacity for resistance. They seek to make us prisoners in our own land. They view human beings and the natural world as mere commodities to exploit until exhaustion or collapse. Human suffering, wars, climate change, poverty, it is all the price of business.

Nothing is sacred. The Lord of Profit is the Lord of Death.

The pharisees of high finance who can see us this morning from their cubicles and corner officers mock virtue. Life for them is solely about self-gain. The suffering of the poor is not their concern. The 6 million families thrown out of their homes are not their concern. The tens of millions of pensioners whose retirement savings were wiped out because of the fraud and dishonesty of Wall Street are not their concern. The failure to halt carbon emissions is not their concern. Justice is not their concern. Truth is not their concern. A hungry child is not their concern.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky in "Crime and Punishment" understood the radical evil behind the human yearning not to be ordinary but to be extraordinary, the desire that allows men and women to serve systems of self-glorification and naked greed. Raskolnikov in the novel believes—like those in this temple—that humankind can be divided into two groups. The first is composed of ordinary people. These ordinary people are meek and submissive. They do little more than reproduce other human beings in their own likeness, grow old and die. And Raskolnikov is dismissive of these lesser forms of human life.

The second group, he believes, is extraordinary. These are, according to Raskolnikov, the Napoleons of the world, those who flout law and custom, those who shred conventions and traditions to create a finer, more glorious future. Raskolnikov argues that, although we live in the world, we can free ourselves from the consequences of living with others, consequences that will not always be in our favor. The Raskolnikovs of the world place unbridled and total faith in the human intellect. They disdain the attributes of compassion, empathy, beauty, justice and truth. And this demented vision of human existence leads Raskolnikov to murder a pawnbroker and steal her money.

The priests in these corporate temples, in the name of profit, kill with even more ruthlessness, finesse and cunning than Raskolnikov. Corporations let 50,000 people die last year because they could not pay them for proper medical care. They have killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis, Palestinians and Pakistanis, and gleefully watched as the stock price of weapons contractors quadrupled. They have turned cancer into an epidemic in the coal fields of West Virginia where families breathe polluted air, drink poisoned water and watch the Appalachian Mountains blasted into a desolate wasteland while coal companies can make billions. And after looting the U.S. treasury these corporations demand, in the name of austerity, that we abolish food programs for children, heating assistance and medical care for our elderly, and good public education. They demand that we tolerate a permanent underclass that will leave one in six workers without jobs, that condemns tens of millions of Americans to poverty and tosses our mentally ill onto heating grates. Those without power, those whom these corporations deem to be ordinary, are cast aside like human refuse. It is what the god of the market demands.

When Dante enters the “city of woes” in the Inferno he hears the cries of “those whose lives earned neither honor nor bad fame,” those rejected by Heaven and Hell, those who dedicated their lives solely to the pursuit of happiness. These are all the “good” people, the ones who never made a fuss, who filled their lives with vain and empty pursuits, harmless perhaps, to amuse themselves, who never took a stand for anything, never risked anything, who went along. They never looked hard at their lives, never felt the need, never wanted to look.

Those who chase the glittering rainbows of the consumer society, who buy into the perverted ideology of consumer culture, become, as Dante knew, moral cowards. They are indoctrinated by our corporate systems of information and remain passive as our legislative, executive and judicial branches of government—tools of the corporate state—strip us of the capacity to resist. Democrat or Republican. Liberal or conservative. It makes no difference. Barack Obama serves corporate interests as assiduously as did George W. Bush. And to place our faith in any party or established institution as a mechanism for reform is to be entranced by the celluloid shadows on the wall of Plato’s cave.

We must defy the cant of consumer culture and recover the primacy in our lives of mercy and justice. And this requires courage, not just physical courage but the harder moral courage of listening to our conscience. If we are to save our country, and our planet, we must turn from exalting the self, to subsuming of the self for our neighbor. Self-sacrifice defies the sickness of corporate ideology. Self-sacrifice mocks opportunities for advancement, money and power. Self-sacrifice smashes the idols of greed and envy. Self-sacrifice demands that we rise up against the abuse, injury and injustice forced upon us by the mandarins of corporate power. There is a profound truth in the biblical admonition "He who loves his life will lose it."

Life is not only about us. We can never have justice until our neighbor has justice. And we can never recover our freedom until we are willing to sacrifice our comfort for open rebellion. The president has failed us. The Congress has failed us. The courts have failed us. The press has failed us. The universities have failed us. Our process of electoral democracy has failed us. There are no structures or institutions left that have not been contaminated or destroyed by corporations. And this means it is up to us. Civil disobedience, which will entail hardship and suffering, which will be long and difficult, which at its core means self-sacrifice, is the only mechanism left.

The bankers and hedge fund managers, the corporate and governmental elites, are the modern version of the misguided Israelites who prostrated themselves before the golden calf. The sparkle of wealth glitters before them, spurring them faster and faster on the treadmill towards destruction. And they seek to make us worship at their altar. As long as greed inspires us, greed keeps us complicit and silent. But once we defy the religion of unfettered capitalism, once we demand that a society serve the needs of citizens and the ecosystem that sustains life, rather than the needs of the marketplace, once we learn to speak with a new humility and live with a new simplicity, once we love our neighbor as ourself, we break our chains and make hope visible.

Chris Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and a weekly columnist for Truthdig. His latest books are "Death of the Liberal Class" and "The World as It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress."

Melting Pot

Yes, it's true.  I'm losing my mind.  Most people hear that they think it's a metaphor.  I wonder what it could be a metaphor for.  There isn't enough space for metaphors.  That's the way it seems to me.  Of course the ones who covet metaphors and innuendo are the one who mask their real feelings at all cost.  How dare someone ask for real compassion in a world of sarcastic love.

My sister fucks every man she goes out with.  She even fornicates with the ones she despises.  She calls them her "bulls".  She likes them well hung and without sentiment.  That's what she tells me.  She says, "Women don't want cry babies for a man.  We want men who are strong, arrogant, and willing to force us into submission.   I like my men to treat me with respect when we're out and then take me erotically and forcefully when we have sexual moments."  Sexual moments she says.  As if I don't know what she's talking about.  I know what she does with men's penises. 

She has her limits, though.  She refuses to see a man more than a dozen times.  Beyond that, she says, it either turns ugly or falsely romantic.   And they say I'm the lunatic in the family.

I dreamed that I had a dinner party.  Only monkeys and donkeys were there, eating and carousing.  As the night was wearing thin, the Dalai Lama walked in with a platter.  On the platter was my sister's head.  I ate her eyeballs.  They popped in my mouth like cherry tomatoes.  I woke up in a sweat with an erection.  After I masturbated, I wondered if my dream meant I was sexually attracted to the Dalai Lama or donkeys or monkeys.   

That's how I know I'm crazy.   I can't get a grasp on what is real and what is fantasy.  That dream is as real to me as the conversation I had with my sister about her "bulls".

The other thing I know about me is that I really am losing my mind.  Ten years ago a stroke flooded my brain with blood.  The left side of my brain is slowly shrinking.  That's the thrill.  That's the thrill of the chase.  I am chasing my own dementia with a bag of gas in one hand and undying flame in the other.

"Time to get down from the counter.  It's time to go."

The woman with the white coat is always taking liberties of me.  But I've got this situation sorted out too.  If you want to hear about it I'm going to write it all down.  I don't really care if you read it or not.  I'm writing it anyway.  For me, you see.  For me.  And that is the only thing that seems to be clear to me.  Because I remember that I used to think my life was for others.  Or maybe they used to tell me it was.  I used to think that my life wasn't my own.  I lived for my parents and the people I associated with because they made me who I was - who I am.

But then I found a secret.   I found out that nothing is as relevant as the effect it has on me.  I don't know if this is a "universal truth" so don't ask me if it applies to you like that pedantic Doctor Kimberly.  He's a goddamn pedophile who'd love to stick his dick into bung hole if I'd bend over for him with my pants down.  That's not compassion, by the way.  Just so you know.  That's rape.

And so my parents their actions affected me.  And my sister's - hers too.  And this here, now in my room, is Jacob.  He's my roommate.  He never tries to rape me.  He's the reason I started writing.  He's my inspiration.  He's got a book.  It's over three hundred pages so far.  It looks like a regular book but there's no writing on the spine.  There's just print on the cover.  It says, "This book belongs to Jacob S."  But Jacob didn't write it there.  It's not his handwriting.  He told me so.

"This says it's my book," he told when I was watching him write.  "I didn't write it.  But it says its mine, not yours.  You can't read it yet.  But when I'm finished with it you can read it." 

That's the way he talks.  But it doesn't bother me.  He makes sense to me.  Even though he told me I could read it later, I didn't want to wait.  I was secretly wondering if my patience could hold out.  And I knew that it couldn't.  Because I also know many of my weaknesses.  One of them is my lack of patience. 

I'll tell you about it.

Jacob doesn't like to be called Jake, so don't think about him as Jake.  One day Brownie spilled some seeds on the floor.  She stood there trying to point it out, "The tile's thieving my seeds!" she yelled.  A newer orderly came a' sweeping.  Jacob was just sitting there staring at him.  "Feet up, Jake, feet up."

Jacob decided to go ballistic: "You goddam jigaboo; you black mambo snack raping and pillaging." he jumped up and started running around.  But no one stopped him.  One of the nurses just was standing by hardly watching.  I stood up because I was going to stop him.  But the orderly he stopped sweeping and put his hand up in front of me.  He didn't say a thing.  He looked at me and back at Jacob.  Jacob wore out and sat down on the floor; the orderly finished sweeping.  Don't worry about the orderly's name right now he'll be back later.  But I think you see that I was not practicing my patience there.  The black orderly practiced my patience for me.  But I'll come back to all of this later.  Right now I want to talk about Jacob's book and how I found myself looking in it.  And I found myself staring right into infinity.

Jacob's book is forbidden to everyone but Jacob.  He writes in it constantly.  He carries the book with him at all times.  It's his number one rule.  The only time he doesn't have it with him is in the shower.  When he showers, he doesn't bring it with him.  Easy enough right.  No, not easy, we share the same shower time.  And there's no way out of that.  I've feigned sickness, tried sleeping through it, tried showering at a different time or swapping shower times.  It was all to no avail. 

Then I devised a plan.  I was impressed with my brain for once.  My shrinking, withering brain.  I came up with an idea.  Naturally I was thinking that if I could just get Jacob out of the way while we were in the shower I could sneak a look in that book. 

That's what started everything in motion.  

This is what I did.  And this is what happened.