Chinese report documents human rights disaster in the United States

April 25, 2010 by Russell Means Freedom  
Filed under Featured, News

Left out is also is the disaster in our relations with the American Indians with who we broke treaties with, stole their land and subjected them to live in impoverished conditions within a concentration camp without locks.
~Russell Means, Chief Facilitator, Republic of Lakotah

19 March 2010
-Patrick Martin

On March 13, China’s Information Office of the State Council published a report titled, “The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2009.”
This document was clearly intended as a rebuttal to the annual US State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009, released two days earlier.

The Chinese report quite legitimately notes that the US government “releases Country Reports on Human Rights Practices year after year to accuse other countries, and takes human rights as a political instrument to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, defame other nations’ image and seek its own strategic interests. This fully exposes its double standards on the human rights issue…”

Delivering the US government a well-deserved dose of its own medicine does not, of course, absolve the Chinese regime of its own gross violations of human rights. It rules autocratically over 1.3 billion people, most of them desperately poor peasants and super-exploited workers.

That being said, the Chinese report is an eye-opening document—factual, sober, even understated, drawn entirely from public government and media sources in the United States, with each item carefully documented. It presents a picture of 21st century America as much of the world sees it, one which is in sharp contrast to the official mythology and American media propaganda.

Not surprisingly, the report went unmentioned in the US mass media.
The 14-page report is divided into six major sections: Life, Property and Personal Security; Civil and Political Rights; Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Racial Discrimination; Rights of Women and Children; US Violations of Human Rights Against Other Nations. The cumulative picture is one of a society in deep and worsening social crisis.

A few of the facts and figures cited on violence and police repression in the United States:

• Each year, 30,000 people die in gun-related incidents.
• There were 14,180 murders last year.
• In the first ten months of 2009, 45 people were killed by police use of tasers, bringing the total for the decade to 389.
• Last year, 315 police officers in New York City were subject to internal supervision due to “unrestrained use of violence.”
• 7.3 million Americans were under the authority of the correctional system, more than in any other country.
• An estimated 60,000 prisoners were raped while in custody last year.

On democratic rights, the report notes the pervasive government spying on citizens, authorized under the 2001 Patriot Act, extensive surveillance of the Internet by the National Security Agency, and police harassment of anti-globalization demonstrators in Pittsburgh during last year’s G-20 summit. Pointing to the hypocrisy of US government “human rights” rhetoric, the authors observe, “the same conduct in other countries would be called human rights violations, whereas in the United States it was called necessary crime control.”

The report only skims the surface on the socioeconomic crisis in the United States, noting record levels of unemployment, poverty, hunger and homelessness, as well as 46.3 million people without health insurance. It does offer a few facts rarely discussed in the US media:

• 712 bodies were cremated at public expense in the city of Los Angeles last year, because the families were too poor to pay for a burial.
• There were 5,657 workplace deaths recorded in 2007, the last year for which a tally is available, a rate of 17 deaths per day (not a single employer was criminally charged for any of these deaths).
• Some 2,266 veterans died as a consequence of lack of health insurance in 2008, 14 times the military death toll in Afghanistan that year.

The report presents evidence of pervasive racial discrimination against blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans, the most oppressed sections of the US working class, including a record number of racial discrimination claims over hiring practices, more than 32,000. It also notes the rising number of incidents of discrimination or violence against Muslims, and the detention of 300,000 “illegal” immigrants each year, with more than 30,000 immigrants in US detention facilities every day of the year.

It notes that the state of California imposed life sentences on 18 times more black defendants than white, and that in 2008, when New York City police fired their weapons, 75 percent of the targets were black, 22 percent Hispanic and only 3 percent white.

The report refers to the well-known reality of unequal pay for women, with median female income only 77 percent that of male income in 2008, down from 78 percent in 2007. According to the report, 70 percent of working-age women have no health insurance, or inadequate coverage, high medical bills or high health-related debt.

Children bear a disproportionate burden of economic hardship, with 16.7 million children not having enough food at some time during 2008, and 3.5 million children under five facing hunger or malnutrition, 17 percent of the total. Child hunger is combined with the malignant phenomenon of rampant child labor in agriculture: some 400,000 child farm workers pick America’s crops. The US also leads the world in imprisoning children and juveniles, and is the only country that does not offer parole to juvenile offenders.

US foreign policy comes in for justifiable criticism as well. A country with so many poor and hungry people accounts for 42 percent of the world’s total military spending, a colossal $607 billion, as well as the world’s largest foreign arms sales, $37.8 billion in 2008, up nearly 50 percent from the previous year.

The Chinese report notes the documented torture of prisoners in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, the worldwide US network of military bases, the US blockade of Cuba (opposed by the UN General Assembly by a vote of 187 to 3), and the systematic US spying around the world, utilizing the NSA’s “ECHELON” interception system, as well as the US monopoly control over Internet route servers.

The report also points out the deliberate US flouting of international human rights covenants. Washington has either signed but not ratified or refused to sign four major UN covenants: on economic, social and cultural rights; on the rights of women; on the rights of people with disabilities; and on the rights of indigenous peoples.

The report does not discuss the source of the malignant social conditions in the United States—nor should that be expected, since that would require an explanation of the causal connection between poverty, repression and discrimination and the operations of the capitalist profit system, something that Beijing is hardly likely to undertake.

The preceding was first published on Indybay

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/03/19/18641919.php

Women Say No To War

October 11, 2009 by Russell Means Freedom  
Filed under Featured, Genocide

CODEPINK co-founders Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans recently returned from an eye-opening trip to Afghanistan. Their experiences convinced them even further that sending 40,000 more US troops would be disastrous for Afghan women and children. On October 3, their last day in the country, a US bomb hit a farmer’s house, killing two innocent women and six children. That same day, a fierce gun battle in mountainous Nuristan Province left eight U.S. Servicemen dead.

Watch the video interview with Dr. Roshanak Wardak, an Afghani member of parliament as she speaks with CODEPINK about the effects of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan and what Obama should do about sending more troops.

“After eight years of U.S. military presence, Afghan women told us more troops will just mean more civilian deaths and more Taliban,” Medea reports, not to mention more US casualties, more devastated families in both countries. “Afghan women want peace talks and economic development, not endless war.”

Jodie adds, “We were told that most men join the Taliban out of economic desperation; providing jobs will do more for security then spending billions on more troops. It’s time to change our military focus to a focus on improving the health, education and welfare of the Afghan people.”

Near the end of their journey, the delegation met with women from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to discuss issues of peace. The women–including members of Parliament, Dr. Roshnak Wardak and Shukria Barakzai; Suraya Parlika of the Afghan Women’s Network, and businesswoman Wazhma Karzai, President Karzai’s sister-in-law–signed a letter asking Obama to focus on economic needs in Afghanistan, not war.

As Dr. Ghazanfar states, “To fight is not the solution. We have a mouth and a brain, we should talk.”

Won’t you sign on to the women’s letter to urge Obama to stop sending troops to Afghanistan? You can use our tools –including a downloadable petition to a United for Peace or AFSC vigil marking the 8th anniversary of the war in your area this Wednesday.

Jodie reminds us “The protection of Afghan women is often used to justify our military presence, but we met an astounding array of Afghan women who said that sending more U.S. troops is not the answer.  President Obama should listen to these women.”

Thank you for using your mouth and your brain to speak out for peace in Afghanistan,

Dana, Farida, Gael, Gayle, Janet, Jodie, Medea, Nancy, Paris, Rae, Suzanne, and Whitney.

Article from a CODEPINK ALERT Newsletter

More information about CODEPINK…

www.WomenSayNoToWar.org

What is CODEPINK?

CODEPINK emerged out of a desperate desire by a group of American women to stop the Bush administration from invading Iraq. The name CODEPINK plays on the Bush Administration’s color-coded homeland security alerts — yellow, orange, redthat signal terrorist threats. While Bush’s color-coded alerts are based on fear and are used to justify violence, the CODEPINK alert is a feisty call for women and men to “wage peace.”

Afghanistan: Where Empires Go to Die – by Dahr Jamail

September 23, 2009 by admin1  
Filed under Featured, News

jamail-afghanistan-588

The Median Empire (Cyxares), The Persians (Cyrus the Great), Alexander the Great, the Seleucids (Nicator), the Indo-Greeks (Menand), the Ottomans (Constantine XI), the Mongols (Ghangis Khan), the British & the Soviet Union all met the end of their ambitions in Afghanistan.

by: Dahr Jamail, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis

78244074WM004_Supreme_Court On September 7 the Swedish aid agency Swedish Committee for Afghanistan reported that the previous week US soldiers raided one of its hospitals. According to the director of the aid agency, Anders Fange, troops stormed through both the men’s and women’s wards, where they frantically searched for wounded Taliban fighters.

Soldiers demanded that hospital administrators inform the military of any incoming patients who might be insurgents, after which the military would then decide if said patients would be admitted or not. Fange called the incident “not only a clear violation of globally recognized humanitarian principles about the sanctity of health facilities and staff in areas of conflict, but also a clear breach of the civil-military agreement” between nongovernmental organizations and international forces.

Fange said that US troops broke down doors and tied up visitors and hospital staff.

Impeding operations at medical facilities in Afghanistan directly violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, which strictly forbids attacks on emergency vehicles and the obstruction of medical operations during wartime.

Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker, a public affairs officer for the US Navy, confirmed the raid, and told The Associated Press, “Complaints like this are rare.”

Despite Sidenstricker’s claim that “complaints like this” are rare in Afghanistan, they are, in fact, common. Just as they are in Iraq, the other occupation. A desperate conventional military, when losing a guerilla war, tends to toss international law out the window. Yet even more so when the entire occupation itself is a violation of international law.

Marjorie Cohn, president of the National Lawyers Guild and also a Truthout contributor, is very clear about the overall illegality of the invasion and ongoing occupation of Afghanistan by the United States.

afghan_hospital

Hospital in Afghanistan, where frequent raids against the injured take place.

“The UN Charter is a treaty ratified by the United States and thus part of US law,” Cohn, who is also a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and recently co-authored the book “Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent” said, “Under the charter, a country can use armed force against another country only in self-defense or when the Security Council approves. Neither of those conditions was met before the United States invaded Afghanistan. The Taliban did not attack us on 9/11. Nineteen men – 15 from Saudi Arabia – did, and there was no imminent threat that Afghanistan would attack the US or another UN member country. The council did not authorize the United States or any other country to use military force against Afghanistan. The US war in Afghanistan is illegal.”

Thus, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, along with the ongoing slaughter of Afghan civilians and raiding hospitals, are in violation of international law as well as the US Constitution.

And of course the same applies for Iraq.

Let us recall November 8, 2004, when the US military launched its siege of Fallujah. The first thing done by the US military was to invade and occupy Fallujah General Hospital. Then, too, like this recent incident in Afghanistan, doctors, patients and visitors alike had their hands tied and they were laid on the ground, oftentimes face down, and held at gunpoint.

During my first four trips to Iraq, I commonly encountered hospital staff who reported US military raids on their facilities. US soldiers regularly entered hospitals to search for wounded resistance fighters.

Doctors from Fallujah General Hospital, as well as others who worked in clinics throughout the city during both US sieges of Fallujah in 2004, reported that US Marines obstructed their services and that US snipers intentionally targeted their clinics and ambulances.

“The Marines have said they didn’t close the hospital, but essentially they did,” Dr. Abdulla, an orthopedic surgeon at Fallujah General Hospital who spoke on condition of using a different name, told Truthout in May 2004 of his experiences in the hospital. “They closed the bridge which connects us to the city [and] closed our road … the area in front of our hospital was full of their soldiers and vehicles.”

He added that this prevented countless patients who desperately needed medical care from receiving medical care. “Who knows how many of them died that we could have saved,” said Dr. Abdulla. He also blamed the military for shooting at civilian ambulances, as well as shooting near the clinic at which he worked. “Some days we couldn’t leave, or even go near the door because of the snipers,” he said, “They were shooting at the front door of the clinic!”

Dr. Abdulla also said that US snipers shot and killed one of the ambulance drivers of the clinic where he worked during the fighting.

Dr. Ahmed, who also asked that only his first name be used because he feared US military reprisals, said, “The Americans shot out the lights in the front of our hospital. They prevented doctors from reaching the emergency unit at the hospital, and we quickly began to run out of supplies and much-needed medications.” He also stated that several times Marines kept the physicians in the residence building, thereby intentionally prohibiting them from entering the hospital to treat patients.

“All the time they came in, searched rooms and wandered around,” said Dr. Ahmed, while explaining how US troops often entered the hospital in order to search for resistance fighters. Both he and Dr. Abdulla said the US troops never offered any medicine or supplies to assist the hospital when they carried out their incursions. Describing a situation that has occurred in other hospitals, he added, “Most of our patients left the hospital because they were afraid.”

Dr. Abdulla said that one of their ambulance drivers was shot and killed by US snipers while he was attempting to collect the wounded near another clinic inside the city.

“The major problem we found were the American snipers,” said Dr. Rashid, who worked at another clinic in the Jumaria Quarter of Falluja. “We saw them on top of the buildings near the mayor’s office.”

Dr. Rashid told of another incident in which a US sniper shot an ambulance driver in the leg. The ambulance driver survived, but a man who came to his rescue was shot by a US sniper and died on the operating table after Dr. Rashid and others had worked to save him. “He was a volunteer working on the ambulance to help collect the wounded,” Dr. Rashid said sadly.

During Truthout’s visit to the hospital in May 2004, two ambulances in the parking lot sat with bullet holes in their windshields, while others had bullet holes in their back doors and sides.

“I remember once we sent an ambulance to evacuate a family that was bombed by an aircraft,” said Dr. Abdulla while continuing to speak about the US snipers, “The ambulance was sniped – one of the family died, and three were injured by the firing.”

Neither Dr. Abdulla nor Dr. Rashid said they knew of any medical aid being provided to their hospital or clinics by the US military. On this topic, Dr. Rashid said flatly, “They send only bombs, not medicine.”

Chuwader General Hospital in Sadr City also reported similar findings to Truthout, as did other hospitals throughout Baghdad.

Dr. Abdul Ali, the ex-chief surgeon at Al-Noman Hospital, admitted that US soldiers had come to the hospital asking for information about resistance fighters. To this he said, “My policy is not to give my patients to the Americans. I deny information for the sake of the patient.”

During an interview in April 2004, he admitted this intrusion occurred fairly regularly and interfered with patients receiving medical treatment. He noted, “Ten days ago this happened – this occurred after people began to come in from Fallujah, even though most of them were children, women and elderly.”

A doctor at Al-Kerkh Hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity, shared a similar experience of the problem that appears to be rampant throughout much of the country: “We hear of Americans removing wounded Iraqis from hospitals. They are always coming here and asking us if we have injured fighters.”

Speaking about the US military raid of the hospital in Afghanistan, UN spokesman Aleem Siddique said he was not aware of the details of the particular incident, but that international law requires the military to avoid operations in medical facilities.

“The rules are that medical facilities are not combat areas. It’s unacceptable for a medical facility to become an area of active combat operations,” he said. “The only exception to that under the Geneva Conventions is if a risk is being posed to people.”

“There is the Hippocratic oath,” Fange added, “If anyone is wounded, sick or in need of treatment … if they are a human being, then they are received and treated as they should be by international law.”

These are all indications of a US Empire in decline. Another recent sign of US desperation in Afghanistan was the bombing of two fuel tanker trucks that the Taliban had captured from NATO. US warplanes bombed the vehicles, from which impoverished local villagers were taking free gas, incinerating as many as 150 civilians, according to reports from villagers.

The United States Empire is following a long line of empires and conquerors that have met their end in Afghanistan. The Median and Persian Empires, Alexander the Great, the Seleucids, the Indo-Greeks, Turks, Mongols, British and Soviets all met the end of their ambitions in Afghanistan.

And today, the US Empire is on the fast track of its demise. A recent article by Tom Englehardt provides us more key indicators of this:

In 2002 there were 5,200 US soldiers in Afghanistan. By December of this year, there will be 68,000.
Compared to the same period in 2008, Taliban attacks on coalition forces using Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) has risen 114 percent.
Compared to the same period in 2008, coalition deaths from IED attacks have increased sixfold.
Overall Taliban attacks on coalition forces in the first five months of 2009, compared to the same period last year, have increased 59 percent.
Genghis Khan could not hold onto Afghanistan.

Neither will the United States, particularly when in its desperation to continue its illegal occupation, it tosses aside international law, along with its own Constitution.

Weekend Update #24: Witness

August 3, 2009 by admin1  
Filed under Commentaries, Featured

Russell Means discusses how the lens through which America views its Indigenous people, shows how America views the world. From English-only laws and Christian righteousness to the perpetual state of war since its creation, the United States citizens continue to show a lack of respect for their relatives visions. Russell Means offers advice to the people of America in this edition of Weekend Update.

Weekend Update #24: Witness from Russell Means on Vimeo.

The Imaginary War: Barack Obama’s Great Trick

June 3, 2009 by admin1  
Filed under Featured, News

The Imaginary War

“Will the United States bomb itself?” ~Eduardo Galeano

With three months and change in office, its a fair time to take a look at the record of the 44th president of the United States. The leading deceptions of Barack Obama to date has been made capable by his understanding of the American psyche, and his misuse of the public’s desire for genuine change.

The best example of the psychological malfeasance of Obama is the Iraq war. In June of 2008, while campaigning, he stated that on day one of his presidency he would immediately begin the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and ship them instead to the good war in Afghanistan. Somehow, it is more acceptable to capture civilians and torture them for bad intelligence that then leads to more arrests and more torture in Afghanistan, than to perform the same practices in Iraq. But the goal of beginning the removal of troops immediately was, after the election, immediately subverted by Barack Obama. An immediate withdrawl of troops became an 18-month drawdown, with now no end in sight.

If this is the case, what was the net effect of taking a position and then changing it? With this practice, the public gets the false impression that things are changing, that their opinion is valued and that their trust is sacred. In the current age, it is of central importance for most Americans to not feel offended. Perceived offense is taken as seriously as physical harm. With this mindset, all persons who lead guarded lives of safety feel just as at risk as those who are living from day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year, in an economy that keeps people permanently displaced, on the move from job to job. An economy that sees 22% of American children grow up in poverty. An economy that is seeing record foreclosures, massive unemployment, evaporating wages for the poor and coming epic inflation. In such an environment, ownership becomes rentership, and interpersonal trust becomes a matter of commerce.

The nation wanted universal, single-payer healthcare, and at first Barack Obama claimed he would provide it. But demanding a new plan was not a priority for him, the goal of universal coverage is being kicked further down the road to a place where no one actually believes it will be picked up. There is a word for all of this, deceit.

Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency as well took the applauded position of halting mountaintop coal-removal, that process that blasts entire tops of the oldest mountains of the Eastern Americas for a finite, polluting resource. Tennessee was covered in 400 acres of coal sludge up to 6 feet deep in December, but after Obama waited one month, the EPA stated that 42 of 48 sites, including two dozen mountaintop sites, were A-OK, and that business could proceed as planned, by business, for business, for profit.

In addition, Obama promised and immediately acted to close the torture facility known as Guantanamo Bay. There were no words spoken of whether Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or other sites further afield known for torture as well would be closed, and it mattered little as the immediate order was allowed to air for a few weeks, then was quietly shelved. A public debate then ensues about whether the prisoners are allowed the rights of human beings, with no one seeming to notice that to date there are over two hundred people who have been held without due process, in massive isolation, for almost a decade now, in order to prove that the United States is a country of laws. To date, the only persons to be tried are Osama Bin Laden’s driver, and his cook. The gravest crime between the two is the forging of a passport. The matter of closing Guantanamo now proceeds toward the ever less likely for a public that is having its will publicly eroded.

To speak for a moment of the importance of location; in Afghanistan, in Palestine, in Iraq, to be a young man between the ages of 18 and 35 is to be a target. US reports of deaths of men between the ages of 18 to 35 proceed with the presumption that all men of this age group are presumed to be ‘terrorists’. For the United States, a country which has never had active on-going military bombardment, the use of robotic planes to eliminate the risk to the precious flesh of our soldiers while bombs are dropped on villagers and random mud huts in Pakistan and Afghanistan, surely indicates that our country has crossed a line into the realm of pure fantasy.

A young man, born into the country of Iraq, sees his neighborhood destroyed and his neighbors killed, tortured or forced to flee the country, has a choice. Leave, become a passive target for an unaccountable U.S. Military or Iraqi militia, or join the resistance. An entire population of people is considered, in the eyes of the American Media, guilty by age and location of birth and is pushed toward desparation. War does not even exist on television screens, apart from the sterile discussion of tactics. More time of televised discussion is focused on one sporting game than the active US military bombardment of three nations. We are at a sad point of dislocation from reality. The estimated 1 million people killed in Iraq are proportionally equal to the country of Iraq invading the U.S. and killing the entire population of the state of Michigan. The US has displaced a populace equivalent to the state of California.

All of this though isn’t altering the public’s ability to believe Barack Obama. The reason is a very straightforward trick of mnemonics. If the brain remembers something, anything, and if the brain then tries to remember that same thing later, the brain can literally not tell the difference between whether something occurred in reality, or if it is a memory of a memory. So when Barack Obama says the right thing, the moral thing, the thing the public believes in, he is able to give people the illusion of having made a difference, while deferring to their sloth and refusal to check-up on stories greater than 2 weeks old. All of this in order to have business continue unabated, unbridled, slightly reorganized, but funded, as the military is, at the same or greater levels, funding the same entities, with the same lack of oversight, for the same duration, forever.

In a world that is moving exponentially closer to economic, agricultural, environmental and inter-national collapse, one thing has been made very clear. The saving of the financial institutions, including Wall Street primarily, but secondarily the finance arms of GM and Chrysler, have shown that Obama is not interested in reviving the sections of the economy that produce a single thing. Bold change, bold leadership, would have seen Obama ban the sale of domestic automobiles for a year, two years, in order to have the plants retool for wind turbines and massively decrease the number of automobiles available while increasing the number of hybrids and electric autos on the road. Bold leadership would have followed through on what Obama said when he stated, “If I were designing a system from scratch, then I’d probably set up a single-payer (healthcare) system.” There will never be a better time to confront the insurance giants, the megalithic healthcare providers, and pharmaceutical corporations than right now. Bold leadership would have followed the advice of Major General Paul Eaton’s son, currently in Afghanistan, “I don’t need any more combat power. I need agriculture experts, I need water engineers, I need doctors, nurses, dentists .”

And so it is with Barack obama. He has made it clear that the production economy is not his priority. The non-producing economies, the banking system, and the destructive economies, the war machines, are the priority. These are the areas that are being supported by the administration. These are the areas for which priority speed has been granted. Torture will continue under a different name. The American Public will continue to pay its tax money to be spied on by its own government, to risk random arrest, to be fed to another non-productive system, the prison system. At what point will the American Population begin to realize that a few more plastic baubles from Wal-Mart, a few more cheap poisoned tangerines, are not worth the amount of destruction we are leaving our children, are not worth the wreckage we are visiting upon our fellow human beings, do not amount to more than a hollow, ransacked way of doing things that we shouldn’t be saving in the first place?

On the day the American Populace figures that out, there will be revolution in this country, and it will be needed.

Russell Means Interview with Dan Skye of High Times

May 20, 2009 by Russell Means Freedom  
Filed under Media

RUSSELL MEANS: SPEAKING FROM THE HEART

Interview by Dan Skye

On December 24, 2008, a delegation of Lakota leaders delivered a message to the State Department announcing that their people were unilaterally withdrawing from treaties signed with the US. No longer would they tolerate the federal government’s gross violations of these agreements; America was put on notice that the Republic of Lakotah had been re-created. The new nation would issue its own passports and driving licenses, and living there would be tax-free—provided residents renounced their US citizenship. As has been the case for the past 40 years, Russell Means, the longtime Indian-rights activist, was there, helping see the declaration through and cosigning it. “We are no longer citizens of the United States of America, and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us,” he stated.

Means is one of the best-known, most influential activists in the Indian community. He rose to prominence as a leader of the American Indian Movement, and participated in the 1969 takeover of Alcatraz that lasted 19 months. He also participated in AIM’s takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs office in Washington, DC, and was one of the leaders in the famous standoff between Native Americans and the government at Wounded Knee in 1973. In recent years, he has directed Indian youth programs and worked vigorously to improve the conditions for his people in Pine Ridge, SD.

In addition to his lifelong commitment to Indian rights, Means has sought the governorship of New Mexico and battled Ron Paul for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination in 1987. Many probably know him best as a talented actor who has appeared in numerous films, most notably Last of the Mohicans and Natural Born Killers. In all his dealings, Means says that he strives “to speak from the heart.” That forthrightness has sometimes caused controversy, but Means remains a vital presence in the American Indian community.

Describe growing up as an Indian.

I was born on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, but I didn’t grow up there—I was five years old when we moved to California. My dad worked in the defense industry as a welder. In large part, I grew up in Northern California, in the Bay Area. I was the only Indian at San Leandro High School until my brother got there in the 10th grade. I was always very conscious of who I am. I always have been—through my relatives and extended family. I made continual visits back home.

When did your activism begin?

Not until after I got out of high school—then the Indian-relocation program was going full swing. [The Relocation Act of 1956 provided funding to establish “job-training centers” for American Indians in various urban areas, and financed the relocation of individuals and whole families to these locales. It was coupled with a denial of funds for similar programs and economic development on the reservations themselves—in fact, those who availed themselves of the “opportunity” were usually required to sign an agreement stating that they wouldn’t return to the reservation to live there.]

I started hanging around with Indian people at the bars in Los Angeles. The forced relocation of American Indians from their land into urban areas forced us to get together as independents. They didn’t put us in specific neighborhoods; they dispersed us throughout different ghettos and barrios. Our only social activity together would be at a local bar. But from the local bar, we formed athletic leagues and social events. That’s how we did our socializing as Indian people. It really opened us up to a whole range of different experiences in thinking from the different Indian peoples.

Talk about the early days of the American Indian Movement.

The American Indian Movement began in Minneapolis. Dennis Banks and Clyde Bellecourt were the founders of AIM. We sat in a hotel room one Saturday afternoon in Minneapolis, and we’re all drinking beer and socializing, and there’s about seven or eight of us, which included some of the women who were founders. We asked questions of ourselves: Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we? And where are we going? It was the consensus that we return to our respective reservations and find out. We were fortunate that the real old people who had been born in the 1800s were still alive. They’d been raised by people who had been born free. None of them had been contaminated with the white man’s education; they had a clarity of mind and a purity of heart. They had our worldview intact as indigenous people—and, of course, our own language, our own songs.

AIM certainly caused concern for the government. Were you frightened of repercussions?

No, it was an exhilarating time. Freedom is an exhilaration. I believe if you have fear, you can’t be free. We come from a matriarchal society. Patriarchal societies are fear-based societies. Therefore, we had a head start on the rest of humanity, and we had no fear. We have trust in the unseen, to put it one way. The pride that was engendered, the self-dignity, was enormous—and it spread. It was thrilling.

Often there was dissension within the AIM ranks. What caused that?

We’ve all been colonized, unfortunately, and to what degree varies from individual to individual. Those disagreements were initiated out of misguided ego.

You became a prominent spokesperson, a handsome, articulate presence—even charismatic. How do you think you are perceived?

[Laughs] You know, I never thought of myself as good-looking. It wasn’t a consideration in my life. When I first joined AIM, a Crow man told me: “Now that you’ve joined AIM, you’ve made yourself a target. Remember that. But always speak from the heart and you can’t go wrong.” That’s all I’ve done my whole life is speak from the heart. Actually, our whole tradition is that way.

AIM often staged events and protests that were meant to tweak the government—like the Mount Rushmore event, where you and others planted a prayer staff there and renamed it “Mount Crazy Horse.”

The one thing I love in the American Indian Movement, and it was the first thing I learned: Don’t fool with bureaucracy—go right to the top. If you’re going to go to Washington, DC … figure it out. At Mount Rushmore, we went right to the top: These are our treaty rights, we own that land, and we’re going right to the top, man! Four white men up there, and I peed on George Washington’s head—one of the proudest moments of my life. Right in front of God and everybody.

What current obstacles do Natives face?

Well, as far as AIM is concerned, the obstacle has been and will always be the United States of America government and its subsidiaries—until it destroys itself.

Has activism changed over the past 40 years?

There’s a very big difference between then and now. When the civil-rights movement began, it wasn’t called “civil rights.” Everything was liberation—freedom, free speech, black freedom, women’s lib, gay liberation. Liberation, liberation! It was a great time in America. Everywhere you went, everywhere you turned, people were talking about liberation, and it lasted for a good 10 years. When you’re young, that’s a long time.

Then the government threw a couple words in there that killed it all: “civil rights.” All of a sudden, everybody lowered their sights on freedom down to “I want to ask the powerful white males for permission for the same rights and privileges that they have.”

We were now fighting for our “civil rights,” our “equality.” I don’t want to be “equal” to a white man—I don’t want to lower myself! Who wants to be a white male in terms of values? I come from a matriarchal society. Why women would want to lower themselves is beyond me!

How do you view Obama?

The problem is, everybody wants freedom as long as it’s easy—and that’s Obama.

Actually, I have to hand it to the controllers of Americas. They brought in the emperor with new clothes—and the whole world suddenly just changes. Obama offers hope because he’s like a preacher. Americans feel good about themselves. We were the worst people in the world under Bush. But now we’ve got Obama! We’re great Americans again! Even though Obama said before the election he’d consider invading Pakistan. And he’s not leaving Iraq—that’s the new Indian reservation.

Mass psychology, and it happened overnight! I have lived a very fortunate life in a fortunate time. In my lifetime, I witnessed this about America: In the late ’50s, it started turning itself from a producing, productive country into a consumer nation. By the mid-’80s, it was complete—a beautiful study of mass-psychological control of the masses. It was amazing. George Orwell saw it all. Americans are so easily led, like the slaves that they are.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about Native Americans?

There aren’t any misconceptions. There aren’t any conceptions, either—we’re out of sight, out of mind. And Hollywood is the second-most-racist, anti-Indian institution in America—just short of the American government. They’ve perpetuated stereotypes, and that’s what people think of us: We don’t have a brain, we’re still primitive. That’s why they won’t get rid of those sports-team names—we’re out of sight, out of mind. We don’t have any power in the white man’s world, so they don’t have to pay attention to us. They can’t be harmed politically or economically.

You must have distinct views on Hollywood’s Indian films. Give us your take on Dances with Wolves.

Remember Lawrence of Arabia? That was Lawrence of the Plains. The odd thing about making that movie is, they had a woman teaching the actors the Lakota language. But Lakota has a male-gendered language and a female-gendered language. Some of the Indians and Kevin Costner were speaking in the feminine way. When I went to see it with a bunch of Lakota guys, we were laughing.

Thunderheart?

Good movie … great movie. It was based on the truth—but, unfortunately, it was fictitious. I wish they had focused more on the story of Leonard Peltier itself.

Black Robe?

One of the worst. One of the worst! One of the most anti-Indian movies ever. It’s a statement of the Jesuits.

Pathfinder, which you were in?

Huge disappointment. It was Marcus Nispel’s second movie. He remade The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; it made a $100 million, so he was hot at the time. He got to do his passion, which is American Indians. It’s all about violence, and there’s no story—it was a horrible, stereotypical movie and, of course, it starred a white superman who taught us how to fight, where to go, and how to walk across ice and everything else. The Native cast got together to change the dialogue, but it was all cut out. It got panned by critics.

Last of the Mohicans?

Great movie, except for that one scene—what I call the “African village” scene. Back before black liberation took hold on the African continent and in the United States, you always saw the star rescuing the fair maiden in the African village, with the chieftain on his throne and his sub-chiefs around him with all their plumage on. Of course, the entire village is yelling for blood.

I’ll name the movies that were good. In the ’50s, there was Broken Arrow, about Cochise. In the ’60s, there was Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here and Little Big Man. Then there’s The Outlaw Josey Wales and Last of the Mohicans.

One of the things Hollywood does to Indian people is, we’re only allowed to make two kinds of movies: Either we dress up in leather in the summertime, or we have to be drunken, dysfunctional misfits in movies like Skins or Smoke Signals.

In January, Lakota leaders withdrew from all treaties with the United States. You were at the forefront of this action. You even called some tribal councils “Vichy governments,” an allusion to French collaboration with the Nazis during World War II. Do you feel your rhetoric is divisive?

Listen, colonialism is divisive. Not only in America: look at Guatemala, at Africa, Pakistan, India. Colonialism takes its toll. I try to call a spade a spade—I can’t help it if people are brainwashed.

What challenges does the Republic of Lakotah face?

Back in the ’80s, under Carter, this whole five-state area, which is the Republic of Lakotah, was designated as a “national sacrifice area” because of its richness in coal and uranium and iron ore. The Black Hills Alliance defeated mining in the Black Hills through the lobbying of state legislators: Union Carbide, all of them—we beat those guys. That coalition was made up of Indian people, white ranchers—pure Westerners. Now they’re gone, our old people are gone, and just a few Indian people are hanging on.

But there are more battles in the future. We defeated the government interests once with the people of South Dakota, the landowners. And that’s what the Republic of Lakotah is all about: We want to include the landowners—especially family farmers and founding ranchers—in a free country.

The Northern Plains have been called by experts the “Saudi Arabia of wind energy.” The sun shines on the Northern Plains over 300 days a year. We have all of this free energy—we have enough wind, according to experts, to light up every major city in America 24/7, forever. But the coal companies control the energy of the West. Some may say that it’s an impossible dream to fight against those guys and expect to win, but we’re going to. People can only take a police state for so long, and you can’t mess with rural people. Because rural people are, by and large, mostly self-sufficient, or they have a very recent memory of self-sufficiency. They’re not used to being pushed around. So they will react like we did in the ’80s against the planned sacrifice that opened mining in the Black Hills. I can see that through arbitration and mass psychology in this country, they plan to colonize this rural area and the people. That’s another reason why the Republic of Lakotah was re-created. We can defeat them again.

We have non-Indians who have come in. These are new immigrants to the Republic of Lakotah, but these are all professional people, very skilled people. It’s amazing—they’re moving here. It’s not massive, and we wouldn’t want that, because we’re rebuilding the foundation of freedom. It’s going to be a free society. We have our four major plans: health, education, economics and politics.

You’ve run for tribal president in Pine Ridge four times. If you were elected, what would your agenda be?

Freedom—outright sovereignty. If you want to be sovereign, you have to act sovereign. Freedom isn’t free. You’re free to be responsible, and if you want to be responsible—therefore free—it’s hard work. But it’s pleasurable work.

I ran on the “Freedom” ticket on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and 45 percent of my people who voted wanted freedom.

Do you plan to run again?

No. We got a country to run.

Visit russellmeans.com or republicoflakotah.com

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