Monday, November 5, 2012

Hawaii and the tragedy of its real history

Hawaii and the tragedy of its real history
Lost Kingdom: Hawaii's Last Queen, the Sugar Kings and America's First Imperial Adventure
By Julia Flynn Siler

Most Americans probably really don't know and don't care about the tragedy of Hawaii. All they see is a beautiful island of hula dancers and a dream vacation that often gather little more than dust in the bottom of the bucket lists of most Americans who never get to travel there.

Julia Flynn Siler's book "Lost Kingdom: Hawaii's Last Queen, the Sugar Kings and America's First Imperial Adventure" may sound like a boring academic look at a long gone history of the islands, but it instead a compelling narration of how explorers from Britain and later America's Missionaries destroyed the innocence of the Hawaii people.

First, it was Capt. James Cook of the British Royal Navy who accidentally stumbled upon the Hawaii Islands in the late 18th Century while looking for a sea route to Asia's wealth. When his ship landed, the islanders were a complex people with customs, culture and historic rituals dating back nearly two millennium settled originally by natives from the Polynesian Islands.

Cook brought fleas and gonorrhea to the people of the islands which he first named the Sandwich Islands in honor of another British Admiral.

Cook was killed during a battle with islanders but when his men returned to England they brought with them stories of great natural resources, wealth and beautiful naked women.  A few years later, a Methodist Priest Asa Thurston led a group of missionaries to the Sandwich Islands, which were later renamed Hawaii, in the hopes of civilizing the natives there. But in the 80 years since his landing in 1820, the missionaries became greedy prospectors, stealing the land and resources of the island and imprisoning the native Hawaiians with teachings of forgiveness and love -- forgiveness for the foreigner and suffering for the islanders.

By the end of the 19th Century, Hawaii's royal family was deposed and jailed and the descendants of the American missionaries had managed to put most of the land ownership and the economy of the islands in their own control and hands. Hawaii was annexed and in 1959 was incorporated as an American State, against the will of the island's natives.

Siler tells this story in a poignant, detailed manner. It's a compelling narration of destruction and tragedy. Beauty destroyed by the missionaries who were driven by evil interpretations of the Bible.

The story of Hawaii is tragic beyond comprehension. Man of the natural resources of the island were destroyed and driven to extinction, while imported resources like sugar and pineapples were exploited into industries controlled by the "Hawlay" or White People as the native Hawaiians called them.

I remember as a child how America celebrated the embrace of Hawaii. We were told that the Hawaiian people wanted to become a part of America, but we were never told the truth of how American businessmen and robber barons stole much of what is now an American colony.

America can claim many great accomplishments. But the story of Hawaii and the imprisonment of their culture, transforming it into a cheap tourist industry now overshadowed by the many Pacific battles of World War II that began with the Japanese attack against pearl Harbor in Oahu on Dec. 7, 1941.

This is a must read book that will open the reader's eyes to the truth. In 1993, President Clinton and the US Congress offered an apology to the people of Hawaii on the 100 year anniversary of the island's annexation by the United States. Later under President Obama, legislation was introduced to grant special status to the native Hawaiians similar to the rights given to the Native Americans on the American continent.

Too little, too late. But it's not too late to know the truth of this beautiful island's sad and tragic history.

Click here for more details.

-- Ray Hanania

500 Days, Kurt Eichenwald's eye-opening expose on the secrets and lies of the "war on terror"

500 Days, Kurt Eichenwald's eye-opening expose on the secrets and lies of the "war on terror"

Americans were consumed with emotions in the wake of the horrible murder of nearly 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001 that it is not surprising that many lies and exaggerations that played to the public's screams for revenge went unchallenged for years after.

But now, more than a decade since the horrific terrorist attacks that toppled the World Trade Center's Twin Towers in New York City, damaged the Pentagon and threatened destruction of the White House or the Congress, Americans might be ready for some truth when it comes to what we did and what we didn't do in response tot he terrorism.

Certainly Osama Bin Laden deserved his fate, killed in a late night assault by Navy Seal Team 6 on his home in a suburb of Pakistan earlier in May 2012. So many terrorists have been arrested and follow-up terrorist attacks have been thwarted since.

The extremes that Americans were taken by their drive for revenge, and the compromises of our principles and morals that were thrust upon the willing public by leaders driven by anger and vengeance, surely went far beyond what was justified.

No other author has had the courage to confront the lies in more documented detail than writer Kurt Eichenwald in his detailed look back on the events of the first 500 days after Sept. 11, 2001, "500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror War."

The book is a painful examination of the shortcuts on the fundamental principles that define America as the "leader of the free world." The most distressing stories involve the individuals who were arrested in Afghanistan or who were "identified" by other prisoners as being al-Qaeda terrorists when in fact they were innocent of any involvement in the terror crimes.

Dozens of innocent people -- maybe even hundreds of thousands -- were arrested and not only put in prison where their rights to defend themselves were denied under the pretext of fighting a war on terrorism, but they were tortured by American soldiers at Guantanamo and sent to be tortured by terrorist regimes that the United States has denounced, like Syria.

So troubling are some of the stories that Eichenwald details. Suspects were literally grabbed from the street after the United States offered to pay fortunes to anyone who would turn in an al-Qaeda operative. People were turning in their neighbors and rivals and without even double checking the facts, those turned in were grabbed and imprisoned and taken from their families without any information or ability for the civilians to defend themselves. Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered the prisoners to be arrested while the Justice Department labored to find ways to undermine the fundamental core values of our American judicial system to justify their criminal acts.

People were tortured to the point where they were forced to lie, lies that were then used as the basis of deciding how American military personal would engage the conflict, putting our soldiers' lives in jeopardy. In many cases, torture failed to produce any reliable results. Eichenwald details how the FBI managed to extract much useful information from real al-Qaeda prisoners through normal interrogation techniques only to have the results thrown out and the techniques replaced with physical torture by the CIA. The CIA and Cheney and Rumsfeld would then use the information obtained by the FBI to claim that they had extracted the information through the use of torture.

Americans were lied to and American soldiers were pushed to act like animals in their misconduct and war crimes against innocent civilians who were not involved in terrorism, but were suspected of terrorism because of their names, their religion and the physical appearances as people from the Middle East.

That no one in the United States even cared about all this is even more distressing, especially since the same torture techniques that were used by Americans will probably one day be used on American prisoners of war by our enemies.

The book is lengthy and detailed, but it is a compelling story that will captivate anyone who still believes that somewhere in today's America lie the ruins of a powerful Constitution and the principles of freedoms and civil rights.

This has been one of my favorite audio books so far.

-- Ray Hanania