The Truth Tellers Lament in a Time of Darkness

When you survey the wreckage of the American imperium, it’s very easy to become overwhelmed by darkness of the times, submerged in the remorseless riptide of blood and official violence. But even facing methods of torture and imprisonment that would unnerve an inmate of Guatanamo, Lilburne never surrendered to defeatism. His writing remains infused with radical purpose, a radiant call from across the centuries for collective resistance

— Jeffrey St. Clair, “Intolerable Opinions in an Age of Shock and Awe,” 20 March 2004

Nine years ago, Jeffrey St. Clair drew a graphic if horrific picture of John Lilburne’s years as a Leveler in mid-17th century England, a strident voice demanding justice and the rights of the people against the ruling forces of King Charles and Cromwell. St. Clair and Alex Cockburn as co-editors of Counterpunch, edited to be the best muckraking newspaper extant, entered the lists against the cabal of Neo-Cons that took control of the United States with the ascendency of George W. Bush to the Presidency at the turn of the 21st century and have been relentless in their Leveler-type polemics ever since. I recall that article now because “the forces that Lilburne confronted “with violent and bitter expressions” have coalesced once again (not that they ever really dissipated, mind you) and threaten to impose their preemptive will upon the living creatures of the world. What are these forces? Militarism, religious bigotry, official censorship, prosecutorial inquisitions and torture, imperial expansion, monopolists, land grabbers, misogynists and those who buy and sell the earth and humans, too. In short, the whole sick crew.”

That was nine years ago. What has been accomplished by the voices of truth against the darkness that has covered America since that date? Bush won reelection in 2004 but a glimmer of hope appeared in the 2006 elections with the defeat of Republicans in the House. By 2008, the demise of the Cabal seemed assured with the election of Barak Obama whose entire campaign and its accompanying promises were based on negation of the Bush Presidency. The voices of truth, the Protesters, the Modern Levelers had won, or so it seemed. We now know that Obama metamorphosed into a Bush echo and the nation has moved inexorably into a fascist state run by corporate wealth and the controls achieved over the American Congress by the Zionist forces.

Yet in November of this past year, the 29th of November, 188 nations of the United Nations allowed the recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people to be a member of the United Nations, lacking only a land mass that could exist free of illegal occupiers. A victory perhaps of right over might, perhaps only a pyrrhic victory. Sixty-five years ago this May 14, the world body admitted to its membership the state of Israel even as that self-declared state was in the process of invading, destroying and leveling 418 towns and villages owned by the people of Palestine who suffered death or expulsion out of their homeland to live without human rights anywhere in the world, a self-declared state acting in full defiance of the Resolution that granted them 55% of the land area of Mandate Palestine. That state, ruled by Zionists and their ideology, now occupy and control all but 12% of the land of Palestine. The government of these United States has sworn obligations to absolute support for this state regardless of its internationally illegal occupation, land theft, and genocidal actions against the indigenous people of Palestine. America, like its umbilical-tied offspring, has become a nation ruled by forces of “Militarism, religious bigotry, official censorship, prosecutorial inquisitions and torture, imperial expansion, monopolists, land grabbers, misogynists and those who buy and sell the earth and humans, too” as St. Clair noted nine years ago.

I bring this to the attention of all who rest their hope in the never ending voices of those who seek to thwart the militaristic forces that currently control our lives. If any time is meaningful to contemplate this issue it is now. This May the destruction of the Palestinian peoples’ rights by the forces in control in Israel has lasted 65 years. Stripped of their land, imprisoned behind steel and concrete walls, devastated by unemployment, tormented by torture, witness to a world unwilling or unable to give them aid, the reality of the failure of truth to condemn lies and deceit rings across this globe like the banshees’ cry – shrill, cacophonic, sick, an open declaration of defeat ushering in a personal enslavement to those who would determine how we live.

Here is the reason I am so concerned: two weeks ago I received a note from Debbie Menon, Editor of the Internet site “My Catbird Seat” out of Dubai:

I am contemplating folding up, cancelling my websites and forgetting about the whole thing. We are not having any success. I look back at the past two decades and ask myself, what have you achieved Debbie ?”; there followed last week Alan Hart’s “My Last Post,” “I am withdrawing from the battlefield of the war for the truth of history as it relates to the making and sustaining of the conflict in and over Palestine that became Israel, and the following, for my regular readers, is an explanation of why…

When I made my commitment to the war for truth more than three decades ago, I believed that calling and holding Israel to account for its crimes, in order for there to be peace based on justice for the Palestinians and security for all, would remain a mission impossible unless the citizens of the Western nations, enough of them and Americans especially, were informed about the truth of history…Over the last 20 years or so, with their books, articles and public speaking, the truth tellers have made an impact but not on a big enough scale to change the outcome of the war. Why?

On reflection today I believe that Zionism could have been contained and defeated by now if the resources (yes, I do mean money) had been available to assist the promotion and spread the truth of history on the scale necessary to empower the citizens of the Western nations, Americans especially, to make their democracies work for justice and peace, by demanding that their governments end their unconditional support for Israel right or wrong.

Hart has been a mid-east reporter of renown for over thirty years. His most recent three volumes on Zionism: the Real Enemy of the Jews has absorbed his time and money because the truth tellers, as he labels today’s Levelers, do not do what they do to make money; he now needs to salvage what he can as time absorbs his life.

Debbie Menon received this email from Niloufer Bhagwat (an Indian Judge) when he heard that she might close down her site:

Unfortunately all changes in history have been accompanied by tremendous upheavals as satanic forces always oppose change and seek to reverse it by terrible violence; however a turning point is reached when humanity can no longer accept the injustices and destruction and gather (en)mass for change. We are at one such turning point in history. So everyone must be at their post including you.

St. Clair ends his piece on Lilburne with this reflection: “His pen never stopped, though. The pamphlets continued to flow until his death in 1657. Lilburne refused to be a martyr. He faced the beast, endured prisons and tortures that would give even an inmate at Guantanamo the chills, and remained defiant and upbeat.” For all committed to the cause, time swallows our lives as it swallows those who we believe destroy the lives of others, and we must from time to time rest from our labors lest we too be absorbed. But we must also never forget that truth there is and it must be told. It was with that thought I penned a response to Debbie’s note, a response that I believe belongs to all who would spend their lives devoted to the rights that give all meaning.

Your lament, Debbie Menon, is the eternal cry of humankind: it is what Abel grasped as his brother brought him to slaughter; it was the lamentable lies of those who brought my family’s namesake, John Cooke, to his death for defending the rights of humankind against the tyranny of Charles 1 in 1649, declared by those who held power “The King can do no wrong”; it was the fate of John Lilburne who spent a lifetime condemned for seeking justice for the rights of the people during the Christian rule of Cromwell’s Puritans and tortured, jailed, and left to die for his audacity; it was the lament of Henry David Thoreau who knew the silence that attends the wickedness of those in power enabling them to carry out their crimes against humankind; it is what Frederick Douglass damned when he proclaimed before the citizens of this nation on the 4th of July: There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States, at this very hour…your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; … your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your sermons and thanksgivings … mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.”

It is the legacy of Lloyd Garrison, of Martin Luther King, of Malcolm X, of all those who devoted their lives to eradication of slavery and segregation in these United States; it is the eternal legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, of all who lived and died to bring apartheid to an end in South Africa symbolized by their Bishop Tutu; it is the caustic lament of the great satirists from Petronius to Voltaire to Swift to Twain to Vonnegut; it is the strident voice now of Jonathan Cook in Israel, of Uri Avnery and Uri Davis inside the belly of the beast, of Hart and Lawson and Cockburn and St. Claire and Hedges and Atzmon and Finkelstein and those declared to be self-hating Jews who stand for the conscience of humankind not the tribal mentality of ancient days.

And there are thousands of others who spend their days decrying the evil that straddles the world dressed in the flags of the people of Israel and the United States declaring their righteousness and innocence and longing for peace when they are, as Abel understood in his final moments, but the twisted, tortured, inexplicable and pathetically sick side of humankind, the side that revels in infliction of pain, that finds delight in destruction, devastation, deprivation and deceit, the mind that feels no remorse, expects no retribution, lives a soulless, vapid life of isolation from human warmth, sans love or compassion or mercy; they are as the metaphor of Cain and Abel attest, the reality of human nature, evil and goodness, the driven power of calculated greed set against the heart driven desire to nurture life as a gift, the ego driven maniac that seeks self-gratification at the expense of his brother and sister burying the heart that seeks to bind the wonder of the mind for the common good of all.

You Debbie Menon and Alan Hart and all who devote their lives to peace and justice, who stand against the silent tides of humanity that want to recede in silence as their brothers are crucified by the sick Cains of this world, do what you do because you must, because you cannot let these maniacs go unrecognized, because your brothers and sisters need to know that some care, that there are humans who testify against the soulless creatures that crawl to power like the slime that is but residue of what mankind might be if he were but to see the life he lives in the dark recesses of the crevices he must build to hide from those he tortures and damns to suffering and death, unable to walk in the sunlight that bathes the earth in brilliance and warmth, the very cause of life itself without which there is nothing.

William A. Cook is a Professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California. He edited The Plight of the Palestinians: A Long History of Destruction (2010). He can be reached at: wcook@laverne.edu. Read other articles by William A., or visit William A.'s website.