As the Obama family heads to their annual summer vacation on Martha's Vineyard, perhaps the president should take along a copy of Catch-22 for some beach reading. Joseph Heller's classic, satirical anti-war novel, published in 1961 and based on his experiences as a bombardier in World War II, is sadly relevant today, as Obama's wars, in Afghanistan and beyond, drag on.
As the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington approaches, commemorating that historic gathering where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous "I have a dream" speech, it is important to recall the extent to which King was targeted by the government's domestic spying apparatus. The FBI operation against King is one of the most shameful episodes in the long history of the U.S. government's persecution of dissenters.
Fifty years later, Edward Snowden, who is seeking temporary asylum to remain in Russia, took enormous personal risk to expose the global reach of surveillance programs overseen by President Barack Obama. His revelations continue to provoke worldwide condemnation of the United States.
"What a dangerous edifice War is, how easily it may fall to pieces and bury us in its ruins," wrote Carl von Clausewitz, the 19th-century Prussian general and military theorist, in his seminal text On War, close to 200 years ago. These lines came from the chapter "Information in War," a topic that resonates today, from Fort Meade, Md., where Pfc. Bradley Manning has just been convicted of espionage in a military court, to the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has lived for more than a year, having been granted political asylum to avoid political persecution by the United States, to Russia, where National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden has been granted temporary asylum.
As the world celebrates Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday, it is timely to reflect on his life, spent fighting for equality for people of colour who long suffered under South Africa's apartheid regime. Mandela was arrested in 1962, a year before Martin Luther King Jr. would give his "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C. After 27 years in prison, Mandela was released in 1990. Four years later, he would become the first democratically elected president of South Africa.
We should use Mandela's incredible life to shine a light on injustice in the United States, as George Zimmerman is acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin, and as a massive hunger strike envelops the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, where scores of men have been held without charge for more than a decade.
A microphone and a radio transmitter in the hands of a community organizer imparts power, which some liken to the life-changing impact when humans first tamed fire. That's why the prospect of 1,000 new community radio stations in the United States, for which the Federal Communications Commission will accept applications this October, is so vital and urgent.
Thirty years ago, a Catholic nun working in a poor neighbourhood of New Orleans was asked if she would be a pen-pal to a death-row prisoner. Sister Helen Prejean agreed, forever changing her life, as well as the debate on capital punishment in this country.
The 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech is rapidly approaching, commemorating the historic Aug. 28, 1963, March on Washington.
But 45 years ago, 1968, the year of his assassination, King was waging the Poor People's Campaign to eradicate poverty. He addressed the congregation at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., saying: "We are challenged to rid our nation and the world of poverty. Like a monstrous octopus, poverty spreads its nagging, prehensile tentacles into hamlets and villages all over our world. Two-thirds of the people of the world go to bed hungry tonight. They are ill-housed; they are ill-nourished; they are shabbily clad. I've seen it in Latin America; I've seen it in Africa; I've seen this poverty in Asia."