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Rant #96
(published August 22, 2002)
1001 Uses for a Container
by Morgan Johnson

Container is the uber-generic term given to the large, railroad-car-sized metal shipping containers that have become the backbone of the world's shipping. They are absolutely standard. Boats and trucks and trains and cranes are all specially built to interface with these enormous building blocks. In Denmark, a collective of architects and businessmen are building a mall/apartment building out of Containers; an arcology that—at least in the blueprints—looks exactly like what you would expect out of the nation that gave the world Legos. Containers are used to ship everything: jeans, furniture, cantaloupes, and even sometimes prisoners of war on their way to a mass grave in the desert.

Here's how it goes: the Northern Alliance, our allies in the war in Afghanistan, made peace with many Taliban fighters and supporters. They promised that no harm would come to the soldiers, that they would be returned to their home villages and countries. The NA arranged to transport them in Container trucks. The interim prison, where the Taliban-ers were held before being shipped out, was built to hold 800 people. The Northern Alliance crammed more than 3000 people into it. They then shipped the prisoners across the desert in sealed container trucks.

Container trucks are not meant to hold people. There is no ventilation. An estimated thousand people asphyxiated in these containers and then were buried in a mass graves in the desert at Dasht-e Leili. This was done by our allies. It might as well have been done by us.

Some prisoners survived because they tore holes in the floorboards to let air in and heat out. One group bribed an NA guard into putting ventilation holes into their Container truck by giving him the equivalent of seven hundred and fifty American dollars. Prisoners mopped sweat off of each other with turbans and drank it. Non-Afghani prisoners, many of them Pakistani, were bound hand and foot before being loaded in the Containers.

This is a terrible event. There is no excuse for this kind of loss of life. But how much will we hear about it? Will it be all over the nightly news or in the papers?

No. It won't.

It will be picked up in a few places. I heard about it, for example, so the story is available. But how available? Five companies own the media in our country. Just five. There are other sources available, but the vast majority of the country gets their news from one of the five major media conglomerates. And this, my friends, sucks.

I have become utterly cynical about the news lately. Whenever I see a headline or hear a news broadcast I wonder what I'm not being told. The worse the news report is, the worse I assume the unreported news is. Cheney surfaces to warn of an impending terrorist action, and I immediately think, "he's misdirecting us away from Enron/Halliburton/&c..." We hear about another missing child and I think, "they're pushing this story to distract us from the war on Iraq."

Which also isn't being discussed. The War on Iraq. Why are we going to attack? No one knows. Everyone seems to think that Mr. Bush has to preserve his family honor and avenge his dad's failure. This is such bullshit. Raise your hands, please: does anyone here think Bush and his cabinet are that stupid? Wars are fought over one thing only: economics. Bush is going to war to put money in the pocket of defense contractors, to bring this country out of the recession that he's helped engender, to justify his ridiculously huge tax cut for the rich, and to get Iraqi oil.

Or maybe not. The point is, the media—who are supposed to be the watchdogs of our nation, especially since the whole separation of powers thing has utterly dissolved—are not discussing whether we should fight or not. We may be entering into a ten year conflict, a decade long war. And no one is asking why.

How many acts of Congress slip by without our knowledge? How many? Did you know that Congress is considering making military service mandatory for all eighteen-year-olds? Think I'm joking? Check out http://www.mcc.org/ask-a-vet/uni_mil_train.html for some terrifying reading.

Black Hawk Down won a ton of Academy awards, but how many people actually know why the Army Rangers and Delta Force were there? How many people know about the oil in Somalia? About the US companies that controlled said oil before the Somali civil war?

There is another war being conducted right now. It's a war against us, against Americans. The objective of the war is to remove every shred of power we have left as a people, and to place it squarely in the hands of the richest one percent. The battleground is information itself. And we are losing.

Do you want the news, the information? Do you love your country? Are you patriotic? Patriotism is not blindly following the leader, it's not believing every word that is said to you. It's thinking critically about the news, and seeking out multiple sources of information. We must become an informed public, or we will keep on losing and being exploited. We need to read a lot of news and to tell people about it.

Here are some solid news sites. But don't take my word for it, check them out yourself.

http://www.guardian.co.uk is an excellent uncensored source for US news, ironically enough.

Oh, by the way, this is Bush quoted recently in the New York Times, telling us that we as a nation will go to war when he decides we should: "Listen, it's a healthy debate for people to express their opinion. People should be allowed to express their opinion. But America needs to know, I'll be making up my mind based upon the latest intelligence and how best to protect our own country plus our friends and allies." —NYT Aug. 16, 2002

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