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The white-Left Part 1: The two meanings of white

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The 2nd Amendment: An Even Closer Look

Seth Meyers, I loved your piece on the 2nd Amendment in the wake of two horrific mass shootings in less than a week:

But its even worst than you said. 

We have to look at where the 2nd Amendment came from to really understand it.

After they made the US Constitution in 1788 , a number of  deficiencies were noted and a call for amendments went out in 1789. Virginia submitted an amendment that it said was a deal-breaker, and would be edited into becoming the 2nd Amendment. It was eleventh on their list. It read like this:
11th. That each state respectively shall have the power to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining its own militia, whensoever Congress shall omit or neglect to provide the same. That the militia ...shall be subject only to such fines, penalties, and punishments as shall be directed or inflicted by the laws of its own state.
It was not to support an individual's right to bear arms. It was to assure that the slave owning states would have to right to maintain armed militia for the purposes of catching runaway slaves and putting down slave revolts. As Thom Hartmann pointed out in his piece on the 2nd Amendment:
In the beginning, there were the militias. In the South, they were also called the "slave patrols," and they were regulated by the states.
Patrick Henry saw why they needed that amendment to correct "deficiencies" in the new Constitution:
"If the country be invaded, a state may go to war, but cannot suppress [slave] insurrections [under this new Constitution]. If there should happen an insurrection of slaves, the country cannot be said to be invaded."
He told James Madison, who drafted the amendments,
"In this situation, I see a great deal of the property of the people of Virginia in jeopardy, and their peace and tranquility gone."
This is the context that explains the arcane language of:
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
When this amendment says "free State," read "slave State," because that's what Virginia was, so read the first part as follows:
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a slave State,"
The second part:
"the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Is the assurance the slave states were demanding, with Virginia in the lead, that a more liberal federal government would not take away their "right" to employ the armed violence necessary to maintain their slave-based system. 

How about mandatory gun owner's insurance?

I also liked your comparison between the requirements of car and gun ownership, pointing out drivers have to pass tests, get licenses, etc. But you left out one "feature" of car ownership that may point the way forward for those that prefer a purely capitalist road to gun control—in most states, car owners have to buy insurance.

So, suppose gun owners had to buy insurance on every gun they own? After all, they are using a machine capable of doing great damage, even if by accident.

With auto insurance, rates vary according to the number of miles you drive. With guns it might be the rounds of ammo purchased or expended. Auto insurance also varies according to the type of car. It costs more to insure a Vet than a Honda Civic. Also, other factors about the driver are taken into account.

So, the owner of one or two hand guns or shotguns for home defense that only occasionally expends rounds for practice might pay a very nominal rate, whereas the militia member who owns an arsenal of AR-15 like weapons, and regularly practices Capitol assaults in the woods with live ammo, might pay a significantly higher rate.

Clay Claiborne

Saturday, March 20, 2021

From the Arab Spring to Black Lives Matter: My ten year journey

As so many 10-year Anniversaries of the Arab Spring go flying by—January 14, 2011, Ben Ali, president of Tunisia for 23 years flees the country; February 11, 2011, Hosni Mubarki, president of Egypt for 30 years resigns; 17 February 2011, the revolution in Libya officially kicks off; 15 March 2011, the days of rage in Syria begin; it seems like a good time to remember how those events led me to where I am today.

Ten years ago, I was busy working on the sequel to my very successful Vietnam War documentary, Vietnam: American Holocaust. It was being promoted by Veterans for Peace in the US, and the Vietnamese government in Vietnam. It had been shown to the International Tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and a theater in Hanoi. Even Russian Today was paying me well to air it internationally. So, I was doing what every filmmaker does once he's produced a successful film. I was working on a sequel, Vietnam: People's Victory.

And I was blogging at the Daily Kos, mainly on questions of Internet freedom and open source software. My most recent diary was Keith Olbermann, You Can't Give Those People an Inch! 9 January 2011, and I probably couldn't have pointed to Tunisia on a map with no lines.

Then I received a wake-up call about the Arab Spring. Not from the many Left, and anti-imperialist news sources I subscribed to, but from my friends in the open source software community. Checking my email as usual before I started editing film, I read an urgent message from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It reported that the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia was tracking anti-government Tunisia bloggers that were using websites with insecure login pages to track freedom fighters in cyberspace, and then showing up at their doors to arrest them in the real world. I instantly recognized that the Daily Kos was one of those insecure sites, changed my plans for the day, and posted EMERGENCY: DKos Must Act Now to Protect Tunisian Bloggers!, 14 January 2011. I still haven't gotten back to that sequel.

The next day Tunisian President Ben Ali was fleeing to Saudi Arabia, and this was only the beginning of the Arab Spring. I was already familiar with the hacker group Anonymous through my Linux community contacts. Because they had Tunisia hackers in their ranks, they were way ahead of the game with regards to what would come to be known as the Arab Spring uprisings. They had already publicly announced their OpTunisa on 2 January 2011. I hooked up with them, especially Bob Barrett, and soon became part of their public face as a member of the Anonymous Dkos group. Soon, the information was flowing. 17 January, I published this photo in the Daily Kos under the heading: Tunis: This Photo was Taken 66 Minutes Ago:

((( i ))) #Anonymous #Tunisia - #Libya #SidiBouzid Tunisia #jasminrevolt #optunisia #oplibya

When I looked around to see what my Left sources were saying about these events, I found almost nothing. If it was about the Middle East at all, it was about Palestine. I thought, the ground is shifting under your feet, and you don't even know it. Even after Ben Ali fell, a commentator at the Huffington Post was predicting. What happened in Tunisia most likely will stay in Tunisia.” Not!

My focus on the Arab Spring struggles at the Daily Kos gained notice, and soon I was recruited to the staff of WL Central, a new news website established in 2010 by Wikileaks supporters, with Canadian human rights activist Heather Marsh as its editor. 

Although WL Central enjoyed close ties to Wikileaks, was widely perceived as an official Wikileaks news site, and, as we were to find out only after “the take-over,” actually ran on Wikileaks servers, it was formally an independent organization. Most importantly, it was editorially independence. There was never any doubt about that until after the Occupy Wall St. movement had peaked and Julian Assange laid siege to WLC, but I'm getting ahead of my story.

WL Central at the time was a hub of activity and information in support to the Arab Spring. North Africa, including Egypt, was my beat. To this day, I think we played a critical role in thwarting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's attempts to install his security chief, Omar Suleiman, as his successor. Mubarak had never appointed a vice-president, but as the protests in Tahrir Square (Freedom Square in Arabic), and elsewhere spread, he appointed Suleiman as his Veep. At WL Central, we saw an opening. 

From published and unpublished Wikileaks files, we had quite a bit of information on Suleiman, particularly his collaboration with the US and Israel. We made his exposure our mission, and every day for weeks we published hit piece after hit piece on Suleiman. Coming from Wikileaks, what we wrote would get picked up by the western media, and being in the western media, meant that it would be reported by regional press. Soon Omar Suleiman was damaged goods. The only role he had left to play was to announce Mubarak's resignation before resigning himself.

So much information was flowing through WL Central in this period, I thought: This must have been what it was like to be on the staff of Iskra during the Russian Revolution. I once played a role in getting a critical message from activists in Alexander to Tahrir Square in Cairo, via my apartment in Venice, California. France 24 was asking my permission to reprint photos I had posted on the struggle in Algeria, photos I had received from activists on the ground. The Internet was reshaping the role international activists could play in supporting local struggles.

Libya erupts next

Muammar Qaddafi hailed Wikileaks for exposing US hypocrisy in December 2010, but after its 'Cablegate' exposures supported the overthrow of Ben Ali in neighboring Tunisia, he began singing a different tune. Anonymous established #OpLibya days after the first protests around housing developed in mid-January 2011 to support the growing struggle in Libya. Many expected the locus of the Arab Spring to shift to Libya after Tunisia, and before Egypt, but that's not what happened. Things only heated up in Libya after Mubarak was taken down on 11 February, but then they got going even before the planned 17 February protests. Qaddafi met the initially peaceful protests with live ammunition, so it took just a matter of days before it escalated to a full-on armed struggle against his regime.

The real truth of the uprising against Qaddafi is that the thuwar (Libyan revolutionaries) were mostly ordinary working class Libyans that, under the influence of what was happening in neighboring countries, had finally had it with living under a 42-year dictatorship that claimed to be “anti-imperialist,” and “socialist” and “green” all while selling people into slavery, women into prostitution, disappearing opposition into the night, and ruling with fear and torture, all while robbing the Libyan people of their natural oil wealth hand over fist. They were joined by a good section of the Libyan military that choose country over charismatic leader, and taught them how to fight.

I started wordsmithing in support of their struggle early on. In the next year I would post more than 50 pieces on the Libyan struggle. My work was read around the world, and especially in Libya where my Tweeter account was followed by both ShabaLibya [Libyan Youth Movement], and the Transitional National Council [TNC] Labor Ministry.

I've always felt that if the western leftists that came to oppose the Libyan revolution had been paying attention earlier, they would have taken a different attitude about the NATO no-fly zone. By the time French warplanes intervened to stop Qaddafi's armor from doing to Benghazi what they had already done to the much smaller Ajdabiya, the people's war against him had been going on more than a month with NATO's forbearance. He had killed thousands of Libyans, including more than 700 young unarmed protesters one evening in Green Square on 21 February, in what became known as Tripoli's Long Night.

Remote support

You think you can't play a direct role in supporting a people's armed struggle without being there? You couldn't during the Vietnam War of liberation. The Internet changed all that. For example, there was this high school kid from Georgia that produced a whole series of field manuals for the cadre fighting Qaddafi. Weapons manual, manuals on medical procedures, name it. He'd find the info on the Internet, write it up, get others to translate, get others involved. Anonymous, and other hackers enhanced or disrupted communications, as necessary. One war story I heard: A group of thuwars were trying to take out a battery of Qaddafi's rockets that had been ravaging their town. They were pinned down, but they did have a sat phone. They got on the phone to someone in London that knew the limitations of that particular rocket system, and the info provided allowed them to stop that battery from raining death down on their town.
Had western anti-imperialists been aware of the courage of the Libyan Youth Movement confronting the regime and defacing Qaddafi posters all over Tripoli; seen the resistance of the ordinary people of Benghazi as they stormed and took Qaddafi's armory, practically with their bare hands to get their first weapons; or known the soldiers he sent to suppress the rebellion who patriotically choose country over fearful leader, and joined the rebellion instead, they may have taken a different attitude towards NATO's decision to stop opposing the uprising, and instead protect it, and see it end quicker rather than later, so that the light-sweet Libyan crude so essential to certain European refineries would began flowing again. But they knew none of this because in their white-centric world, the Libyan struggle wasn't even on their radar until NATO intervened. Then they had no need to learn any of these things. They only needed to know that if NATO was for one side, they were on the other. So, they threw their support behind the Qaddafi dictatorship and called the brave Libyans who opposed him tools or fools. They adopted the same attitude towards the uprising in Syria soon after it kicked off in earnest on 15 March 2011.

These “anti-imperialists” were okay with the Arab Spring movements in Tunisia and Egypt that opposed dictatorships supported by the United States, but when it came to the Moscow-backed dictatorships in Libya and Syria, they swung to the side of the Putin-back dictators that made a show of supporting the Palestinian cause.

NATO countries never intervened on the ground. They provided air support for the revolution, and then they flew away. They had their own reasons for doing this, as I have written elsewhere. NATO's Operation Unified Protector was a European show, for which the US has received too much credit or blame. The US flew less than 17% of the strike missions, and dropped ordinance only 132 times from the start till the day that number came out in an AFRICOM statement on 29 June 2011. 

Where are the US Left voices that were so loud in their opposition to the NATO no-fly mission, now that it has been revealed that Eric Prince, apparently with Trump's approval, had been selling arms and sending mercenaries to fight alongside of Russian mercenaries, in a joint imperialist project to put a new strongman in charge of Libya?

Julian Assange never had any input into our editorial decisions at WL Central, but because my writing on Libya ran counter to white Left orthodoxy in the wake of the NATO attack, they were being used to attack Assange. Not only was he being “blamed” for things I wrote, he was being blamed for things I quoted other people as saying. This led to pressure on me to moderate my support for the struggle against Qaddafi, and pressure on others at WL Central to publish at “alternate” perspective on Libyan events. I didn't know it at the time but this was a harbinger of things that would lead to dramatic changes at WLC, and my parting of ways with it. 

As the struggle to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi was drawing to a close in the Summer of 2011, many of us who had been involved in supporting that fight began to talk about how to bring the struggle home. The occupy movement in the Fall of 2011 resulted, in part, from these discussions. 

Alexa O'Brien, also on the WL Central staff, had established the US Days of Rage website back in February 2011, and made organizing what would come to be known as Occupy Wall St. her beat early in the game. The USDOR Twitter account was established on 10 March, and started growing rapidly with WL Central promoting the movement.

I was very much on the periphery of the organizing that would lead to the Occupy Wall St. movement, until it had already kicked off. Then I was thrust smack dab in the middle. I was exhausted by my activities and contributions to that point. My main work product being my writing, I had produced tens of thousands of words on the Arab Spring struggles, more than a hundred thousand on Libya alone. The celebration of Vietnam's victory over US imperialism that I began the year working on now seemed a distant memory. And I was spent, I needed a break, I needed to make some money. I wasn't looking for a new challenge just yet.

Occupy LA

But I did attend a couple of the very last public planning meetings before the occupation of City Hall Park surrounding the Los Angeles City Hall on 1 October 2011—and I did write about it. And because I wrote about it, I got a call from the office of LA Councilman Richard Alarcon. The councilman wanted to pitch his banking reform proposal to the occupy movement, and because I was in print on the Internet, my name came up.

This was on the Friday afternoon before the occupation was to begin, and the conversation went pretty much like this:

I'll look at the councilman's proposal later, but right now we need the councilman's help to avoid a more immediate crisis. Tomorrow morning—early— Occupy LA begins at City Hall. Now, the Park Police is saying that we can't camp in the park, and the LAPD is saying that we can't camp on the sidewalk, but tomorrow morning at least 300 activists will be showing up determined to camp somewhere. It's too late for anyone to do anything about that, and it would be good to avoid a confrontation.

The Councilman agreed. Then I thought, I'm talking to this guy, who isn't even my councilman. I should alert my own councilman. So, I called the late Bill Rosendahl's office, and he got with Richard Alarcon, and they brought Councilman Eric Garcetti, our current major, on board. After that, and for pretty much the duration of the occupation, they were our three strong pillars of support within the LA City Council. That evening, and late into the night, I'm told, they held meetings with LAPD brass, City Hall Park authorities, and other city officials, until they had garnered approval for a legal occupation of City Hall Park before the tents started going up with the Sun on Saturday morning. Twelve days later, the full city council passed a resolution supporting Occupy Los Angeles.

I almost never slept at Occupy LA. I was paying too much for an apartment in Venice to pitch a tent in the park, but I was there every day, pretty much from dawn to dusk. And I blogged about it for WL Central, and in the Daily Kos

Driving downtown and paying for parking got old quick, so I started riding the bus. 35¢ senior fare and the 33 or 733 express was practically door-to-door service. Pretty soon I developed a regular routine. During the 50-minute ride to City Hall, I'd catch up on email and start writing the parts of my next report that I already knew. After the last meeting in the evening, or before the last bus, which ever came first, I would begin my journey back home. During that trip, I would put the finishing touches on the piece, so that I could upload it to the publishers before I crashed for the night.

I became part of the early leadership caucus of the leaderless Occupy LA. I was on the city liaison committee that carried on regular negotiations with the LAPD to maintain our peaceful legal occupation of City Hall Park. As the occupation grew in popularity, it soon got the attention of every Left group in Los Angeles. Some, like the Party for Socialism and Liberation's LA ANSWER Coalition, had strongly opposed my Libyan support work, and they brought their sectarian garbage into Occupy LA. Some, like agents from PSL, and the 'black bloc' opposed a legal occupation sanctioned by city hall and worked to blow it up by instigating fights with the police.

As October passed into November, and the coming winter threatened to dampen occupations in many Northern cities. I hoped that Occupy LA, with its warm weather climate and legal status, could provide a hub and “winter retreat” for the whole occupy movement. Already plans were being made, invitations had gone out and been accepted. But this was not to be. 

I was arrested, along with 67 others, when we carried out an occupy action at Bank of America Plaza, the one with the Picasso, on 17 November. I got bailed out the next morning. It was just one of many actions.

I thought the focus should remain anti-Wall St., i.e., anti-capitalist, and not degenerate into a police riot because we disbanded the city liaison committee, stopped talking to police, and told them that if they had anything to say to us, they could come to general assembly meetings and wait in line like anyone else. Once the leftists packed the general assembly meeting to disband the city liaison committee and declare a policy of not talking to the police or city in the name of “autonomy” on 26 November, Occupy LA's fate was sealed.

The Los Angeles City Hall Park occupation ended abruptly on the night of 29 November when the LAPD forcibly cleared the park and put a chain-link fence around it, but that was only after internal decay had left it a rotting carcass of its former self. I also blogged about its fall

Various Occupy Wall St. groups and occupations continued. The group Occupy Venice was still be holding events many years later.

9 February 2012, I was interviewed on RT as an “expert" on Afghanistan. They had originally scheduled the interview because of my work on Egypt with WL Central, but by the time the slot rolled around, Afghanistan was in the news. So, they instantly named me an “expert” about an area of which I knew little. I had a prior relationship with Russia Today (RT) because they licensed my Vietnam: American Holocaust for international distribution on their network. It is very critical of the US role in Vietnam, and they really like that sort of stuff. I suspect they rather soured on me as my politics on Libya and Syria became better defined, as I did on them.

Changes at WL Central

Things started to change at WL Central as 2011 was coming to a close. Whereas the Wikileaks leader, Julian Assange, never had much involvement in our work, let alone dictate our editorial policy, now he was coming under increased legal pressure because of sexual misconduct charges pending in Sweden and threats of extradition from the UK back to Sweden, and maybe the US after that. Under these circumstances, he wanted to see WL Central focus much more on his defense and limit coverage in other areas to only those aspects that directly related to Wikileaks. He wanted to turn WL Central into a PR firm for Julian Assange. This is when we learned that our website was, indeed, running on Wikileaks's servers. Assange bullied editor Heather Marsh into signing over the domain name to him. He threatened to publicly disavow WL Central, and everything we'd done, unless we did what he wanted.

When the first accuser denounced Gov. Cuomo, I was inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. But as the sixth, and seventh (now eighth) came forward, I had to agree he was probably guilty. After what I perceived as Assange's misogynous way of dealing with our editor, those rape accusations against him went up a notch in credibility.

After Heather surrendered the domain to Assange, she resigned as editor. Most of the original staff resolved to leave if the new editorial policy was imposed, I agreed, saying in chat: 
I also won't be writing for a website that has become a marketing arm of WL. I will continue writing, of course, but someplace else if this is what WLC becomes. I remember when Heather came under pressure because of my writings on Libya because J was being blamed for my views, and even the views of Libyans I quoted. Some wanted me to abandon my strong stance in favor of the Libya revolution in favor of a muddle that showed both sides. That's why I published most of that stuff elsewhere
There was the serious threat that WL Central would be shut down altogether. All agreed that the site should be archived to preserve our work. I did this immediately with wget while we worked to get the necessary credentials for a proper Drupal database backup, but I realized that would not be enough. I wrote in chat:
Broken Links! Broken Links! It just hit me like a shot. You see I have linked to a lot of WLC articles from my diary at Daily Kos, in emails and a whole range of other places. I assume many other people have as well, and not [just] us. We know that WLC has been widely read and cited, that means that it has been widely linked too. Irregardless of archiving, even if we never publish another word as WLC. THOSE LINKS MUST NOT BE BROKEN. To do so would a GREAT disservice to the movement we all, including J, are trying to build. It would be a setback, an avoidable setback, for the progress of humanity. We appear weak for being so disorganized, we create a lot of work for many webmasters, but let's face it, most of those broken links will never be fixed. IMHO we definitely should not be the ones responsible for those broken links, if J makes it work out that way, that should be on his head!
The website was preserved, and the links remained unbroken, which is why I can still use them in this piece. But WL Central changed. My last post to WL Central on 27 February 2012 was on what we were calling the African Spring in Senegal. Most of the original writers also left, by June it was emailing me stuff like this:
Julian's b-day 41 (3 July) is rapidly approaching. Someone suggested starting a happy birthday campaign for him in the run-up - set up a special mailbox so people could send their birthday wishes that WLC would later publish.

That mailbox is now active. This letter is coming to you from that mailbox.

JA41 [at] wlcentral [dot] org

Once we'd set up the mailbox, we followed up by starting the Twitter tag #JA41 so people could tweet their birthday wishes as well.


We're namely soliciting WLC writers to write about 'What #JA41 means to me'. Central kicked this part of the campaign off earlier today.


We encourage you to do the same - to really let your hair down and tell the world what Julian has meant to you personally.

I declined that offer. Although I was later to collaborate with Wikileaks as part of its investigative groups for Cablegate, Statfor GIFiles and Syria Files, breaking news with them in Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad, but I would never write for WL Central again. I had better things to do with my time. 

For one thing: Now, I really, really needed to make some bread. 

Syria Calling

I knew there was a critical and desperate struggle going on in Syria, but I told myself that it wasn't my fight. At WL Central, North Africa had always been my beat. Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, yeah; and I was planning on transitioning south, to focus more of my coverage on sub-Saharan Africa, hence my pieces on Nigeria and Senegal.

Still, the baton of revolutionary struggle had been handed to the Syrians, and I knew that I could provide valuable assistance to them because words can be the most powerful weapons system in a war of liberation. I wrote my second piece on their struggle, Syria is bleeding on 12 April 2012. After that, I was all in. I figured I had little to lose compared to those on the front line. Over the next 5 years I was to write more than 560 pieces on the Syrian struggle against the 40-year-old Assad dictatorship. 

My diaries on the Syria remembered the early days when Assad's soldiers were shooting down unarmed protesters. They documented the many “Houla-style” massacres, and flow of defections from Assad's forces to the Free Syrian Army [FSA]. They recorded the suffering of ordinary Syrians, and their yearning for freedom. They exposed Assad's use of rape and torture as weapons, and his practice of disappearing people into his brutal detention system. They didn't just show Russian support for the Assad regime, they also uncovered hidden United Nations, as well as, United States support for the regime, and its undermining of the resistance.

My diaries at the Daily Kos didn't just diverge from the “anti-imperialist” Left orthodoxy that Assad was some sort of good-guy because he feigned support for Palestine, and the FSA worked for the CIA, it exposed the Obama Administration for feigning support for the revolution while backing Assad with its hidden hand. For example, on the same day Obama made his famous “red-line” statement on chemical weapons use in Syria, 20 August 2012, I published my take under the title 'Obama "green lights" Assad's slaughter in Syria.' In that diary I pointed out that the main import of Obama's statement was to signal that the US would not intervene so long as Assad continued the slaughter with more conventional weapons. In “How Obama's 'No MANPADS for you' policy in Syria is backfiring,” I disclosed how the CIA was disarming, rather than arming, Assad's opposition. 

Such anti-Obama works didn't go over well with the powers that be at the Daily Kos, and after much struggle, I was banned. My last diary there was "Obama: Did the CIA betray Assad's opposition in Syria?"  10 February 2013.  After I established my blog at Linux Beach, I wrote about the experience:

One could easily think Obama was a sacred cow by the reaction of these Kossacks. When I published the 17,000 word Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad in collaboration with WikiLeaks, which traced Obama's relations with Assad beginning days after he was elected president and continuing even when non-violent protests started breaking out in Syria, they hit the roof. I believe a secret campaign by a half-dozen “non-interventionists” to get rid of me started in earnest then.

I continued by blogging in support of the Syrian struggle on the Google Blogspot platform where I am today.  The Linux Beach Blogspot published over three hundred pieces on Syria between the time I left the Daily Kos and the end of 2015. While I wrote the vast majority of them, they also included pieces by other writers, including Syrians, and a number were translated into other languages, especially Arabic. A particular target was left-wing or “anti-imperialist” support for the Bashar al-Assad, and his principal international backer, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

21 August 2013—exactly one year after Obama's “red-line” promise, forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad murdered more than 1400 Syrians, including more than 400 children with the nerve toxin sarin in the greater Damascus area. I posted two blogs about it that very day, after which, debunking conspiracy theories designed to let Assad off the hook for using chemical weapons became an important component of my research and writing. 

Assad also cultivated Islamic terrorists, first al Qaeda, and then the Islamic State as bogeymen to scare forces, both at home and abroad, into supporting his regime. I also did what I could to expose this collaboration.

Locally, in Los Angeles, I was able to join with local members of the Syrian American Council, and some other like-minded radicals to take on the Assad apologist Mother Agnes-Mariam when she made her Southland propaganda tour in the Fall of 2013. The next year I spoke at the SAC Los Angeles event commemorating the March 15th anniversary of the start of the revolution.

I knew Eliot Higgins, first as Brown Moses, from our common work, and membership to a Syria focused list, and had login privileges to Bellingcat when he first founded it in July 2014, but regrettably, I never made use of them or worked within its framework. It has done some great work since then.

Although not a veteran myself, I had been an associate member of Veterans for Peace for about ten years, so I paid special attention to the group's understanding of the Syrian crisis. There it was an up-hill battle as many old members remember the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and missed the changes.

As with the Libyan struggle, the Syrian struggle had an important component of the war that was waged on-line. That was the propaganda war between the supporters of the freedom struggle, and supporters of authoritarianism. As with the Libyan struggle, the supporters of the Syrian revolution had the upper-hand for the first few years. Slowly this changed as the Assad/Putin camp started employing bots, A.I., and legions of operatives adopting fake social media personas to enter the fray. This is a pattern of activity that has become all too familiar to us since the 2016 US election, but I think it started in Syria. I first noticed it in July 2013, and posted the blog   'What's up with these Tweets? "Former US Army Vet Who Fought Alongside Al-Qaeda in Syria"' . I wrote about a series of #Syria tweets I noticed the week before:

All of these tweets are worded very closely if not exactly the same, which would seem to indicate some unity between them but they are all from different accounts.

I think what I spotted there was the beginnings of a profound shift it the way the Internet would be mobilized against the forces of progress. It was next to emerge around Ukraine, and then it was to develop, big time, around the 2016 US election. 

Return to the proletariat

By the Summer of 2014, I was truly in desperate straits financially speaking. In spite of two successful GoFundMe appeals to my readers, and help from family and friends, I had accumulated over $20,000 in credit card debt, and was in danger of losing my rent-controlled Venice apartment. Drastic measures were called for, and I was forced to seek corporate employment for the first time since I left Honeywell in 1981. Fortunately, I had the necessary skill-set to land a position as a Linux Systems Administrator with Rackspace Hosting in San Antonio, TX.

I love working with the Free Software operating system Linux. I also very much liked rejoining the industrial proletariat, and this time in a young, high tech branch. The average employee was less than half my age. I was working in an Engine Room of the Internet. In the late 1970's it had been the slag pits of Bethlehem Steel.

Better still, it was a work-from-home position. I went out to San Antonio for three months to learn Rackspace ways, and then came back to Venice to do a forty-hour-a-week swing shifts from my apartment in Venice for the next five years.

Linux is the technology upon which The Cloud is built. It simply would not be possible without the Open Source Software what places no barriers to replication. And this job allowed me to work with Linux infrastructure at the biggest scale. 

Most of my teammates in 2nd shift Enterprise Linux worked out of a converted mall known as the Castle in San Antonio, TX. One might point out that castles don't have engine rooms in their lowest level, but, in any case, when I hired on there were more that 4,000 rackers working out of The Castle. They had less than 300 remote rackers when I joined that force. Over the next five years, they were to add hundreds more to the remote workforce. Before I left, my team had members from the UK, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

The workforce at The Castle was a very diverse and progressive lot. It was like a left-wing island in the middle of, well, Texas. I had fun there, and enjoyed the work. 

Brendon Glenn
Although I was on the clock from noon till eleven, four days a week, working from home gave me a lot of latitude. Not being able to make most evening meetings may have been a blessing in disguise, and once I became acclimated to the 40-hour work week, I found I had plenty of time for research and writing. I wrote this piece about the murder back home in Venice of Brendon K. Glenn, an unarmed African American man, by the LAPD, while I was in Texas on a periodic visit to HQ.

Having time to write was a good thing too, because as the 2016 election year approached, I saw the very real danger of a Donald Trump presidency. I abruptly shifted my focus from Syria to this looming struggle closer to home. In October, I published 'Please join us by signing this statement "Hands Off Syria" Applies to Russia Too' in seven languages. First of February, I published my first piece about the 2016 election season, Donald Trump's #MakeAmericaWhiteAgain campaign faces 1st test in Iowa:

[T]his year Donald Trump is running the most racist presidential campaign of my life time.

In July 2016, I debunked candidate Trump's conspiracy theory that: 

Black Lives Matter leaders are conspiring with Attorney General Loretta Lynch to bring thousands of violent protesters to the Republican and Democratic national conventions and create a Summer Of Chaos. According to this theory's promoters, the ultimate aim of the #SummerOfChaos, is to give President Obama an excuse to declare martial law, cancel the elections, and continue his presidency.

It was pure projection. I didn't realize at the time how much it anticipated how the white supremacists would react to losing the White House. What I did realize was that the main thrust of the US Left, to defeat Hillary Clinton, could play a significant role in helping them to get into it in the first place, so I quickly turned my fire on the Green Party, and its Trump friendly “don't vote for the lesser of two evils” campaign, as well as Trump.

Meet Green Party's Jill Stein, Putin sock-puppet & Assad apologistDonald Trump can only win if Jill Stein stays in, and Did the Green Party's @DrJillStein help Trump win? were among the more than 30 posts I did on the 2016 election. He won anyway.

With the Trump cabal in the White House, there was much to write about, so I did. 

The white supremacists felt emboldened. Before they showed up in Charlottesville some of them showed up my neighborhood to harass the Santa Monica Committee for Racial Justice. For me, this struggle pretty much dominated the Summer of 2017.

It was in the context of my struggle against this resurgence of white supremacy that I was able to develop my understanding of what I came to call the white Left, as outlined in two pieces in June 2018, The white-Left Part 1: The two meanings of white, and The white-Left Part 2: Why that is the best name for it, and gained the following important insight into a problem that lies at the root of the whole white-black question when it comes to race:

When I joined Rackspace, and actually long before, I objected to some of the Internet technical terminology, like when I was asked to “blacklist,” or block certain IPs, and “whitelist,” or prioritize, other IPs. I always felt they were dragging race into it unnecessarily.

Then, like an epiphany, it hit me: The problem wasn't with that terminology. White = good, and black = bad, are entirely intuitive and natural associations. The problem is with certain people calling themselves “white” when that just ain't so, either literally, or in what it is meant to imply about their supremacy. 

I got Vietnam: American Holocaust on Amazon Prime Video in June 2018. Hard to believe, the DVD had been selling on their website for a decade by then. In November, Raed Fares, leader of Kafranbel was killed in Idlib. I meant him when he came to Los Angeles in 2013. He was one of the few Syrian activists I was able to break bread with.  

On New Year's Eve 2018, I lost my cat friend of 17 years. My team at Rackspace sent flowers and a card.

In 2019, in addition to continuing on my job and blogging against the white supremacist movement led by Donald Trump, I focused a lot of attention exposing Russian's war on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW].  Assad persisted in using chemical weapons in Syria with Putin's support, so their agents in the West were doing everything they could to discredit the chemical watch dog agency. Exposing the problems with their propaganda was tedious but necessary work.

2020 was the year of the pandemic. Conveniently, I was already working from home and meeting co-workers through Zoom. Inconveniently, I lost my job on May Day as work slowed down. In the Summer, the social justice movement became energized in a way I hadn't seen since the 1960s, and I was all in.

Black Lives Matter protest at First Baptist Church in Venice | Sunday, 7 June 2020

So, this is how the last decade was for me. It started out with the hopeful notes of the Arab Spring, and this Spring is looking up too. The white supremacists have been forced out of the White House, although their attempted resurgence is by no means spent. The pandemic may be coming to an end. I got my second shot on 3 March. The social justice and worker's rights movements continue to grow, and in Libya they have formed a new unity government, with elections planned for next winter.

Things are looking good for the next decade.

Clay Claiborne

Libyans celebrate the 10th anniversary of their February 17 revolution
Syrians celebrating the 10th anniversary of their March 15 revolution