Archives

Archive of monthly articles:

August: Reflections (August 2014)

Friends: See my last post for the end of my legal battles on Iraq.

Below is a lengthy exchange of emails between the Israeli Consul General, San Francisco, and me. The fonts, formats, and colors are as in the emails; I’ve removed email addresses. I hope you find them interesting. My added comments are between {} marks. For limited reading, go to the first and last emails.

Read more here.

 

November: Reflections (November 2013)

Friends:Those who’ve followed these postings know that my legal battle with the federal government over a $16,000 fine (for traveling to Iraq to bring medicine without a U.S. license) has ended. The judge dismissed the government’s efforts to collect saying the government waited too long to sue. See Bert’s Case for a history of the legal issues, including our earlier suit against the government for crimes including genocide and terrorism.

In my June posting, I wrote how I’d read an article in the Pacific Standard magazine (psmag.com) called “The Iraq Sanctions Myth.” It claimed that the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children “almost certainly never happened.” I responded to the author of the article, Professor Michael Spagat, in my post. Since then, he and I have corresponded by email half-a-dozen times.

In this back-and-forth, I have included Sarah Zaidi, a woman I know and we both respect for her work on the issue of sanctions. And, very recently, I spoke with Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institute about Iraq sanctions after his talk at Seattle’s Town Hall. This correspondence among the four of us lasted much of the past three months.

Read more here.

October: Reflections (October 2013)

Friends:Those who’ve followed these postings know that my legal battle with the federal government over a $16,000 fine (for traveling to Iraq to bring medicine without a U.S. license) has ended. The judge dismissed the government’s efforts to collect saying the government waited too long to sue. See Bert’s Case for a history of the legal issues, including our earlier suit against the government for crimes including genocide and terrorism.

In my June posting, I wrote how I’d read an article in the Pacific Standard magazine (psmag.com) called “The Iraq Sanctions Myth.” It claimed that the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children “almost certainly never happened.” I responded to the author of the article, Professor Michael Spagat, in my post. Since then, he and I have corresponded by email half-a-dozen times.

Read more here.

June: Reflections (June 2013)

Friends: Those who’ve followed these postings know that my legal battle with the federal government over a $16,000 fine (for traveling to Iraq to bring medicine without a U.S. license) has ended. The judge dismissed the government’s efforts to collect saying the government waited too long to sue. See Bert’s Case for a history of the legal issues.

In my March posting, I wrote that I had been planning to take a break from writing. I wasn’t sure how long a break it would be. But I added that I’d likely be back if I find I have something new to say. I do now!

Some days ago I was pointed to an article in the Pacific Standard magazine (psmag.com).  The title was “The Iraq Sanctions Myth” – and it claimed that the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children “almost certainly never happened.” Following the article you can find my first two comments (the lower one is earlier and most relevant).

Read more here.

April: Reflections (April 2013)

Friends: Those who’ve followed these postings know that my legal battle with the federal government over a $16,000 fine (for traveling to Iraq to bring medicine without a U.S. license) has ended. The judge dismissed the government’s efforts to collect saying the government waited too long to sue. See Bert’s Case for a history of the legal issues.

This being my 28th monthly posting, I have been planning to take a break from writing it. I’m not sure how long a break it will be. If you are subscribed (on the “Email list signup” in the right-hand column) you will automatically receive any new posting (and will not be bothered with any extraneous emails). Simply stay subscribed and your email will, in effect, be in hibernation waiting for a new post.

Read more here.

March: Reflections (March 2013)

Friends:Those who’ve followed these postings know that my legal battle with the federal government over a $16,000 fine (for traveling to Iraq to bring medicine without a U.S. license) has ended. The judge dismissed the government’s efforts to collect saying the government waited too long to sue. See Bert’s Case for a history of the legal issues.

Those who have followed these postings will recognize the deep admiration I have for two books by Jim Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable and Gandhi and the Unspeakable. As a consequence, there are times when I hear a news story and find my mind saying out loud to myself, It’s the Unspeakable.

For those who have forgotten, this is how Thomas Merton characterized the Unspeakable:

It is a void that contradicts everything that is spoken even before the words are said; the void that gets into the language of public and official declarations at the very moment when they are pronounced, and makes them ring dead with the hollowness of the abyss. It is the void out of which Eichmann drew the punctilious exactitude of his obedience.

Read more here.

February: Reflections (February 2013)

Friends: Those who’ve followed these postings know that my legal battle with the federal government over a $16,000 fine (for traveling to Iraq to bring medicine without a U.S. license) has ended. The judge dismissed the government’s efforts to collect saying the government waited too long to sue. See Bert’s Case for a history of the legal issues.

Last month I focused on my personal experiences in New York City a month after September 11th, 2001 – about my assumption that 9/11 was an instance of blowback – and then my becoming convinced that the official government story of what happened that day cannot be true.

In the past several months I recommended to friends David Ray Griffin’s book 9/11 Ten Years Later and links to two videos, tinyurl.com/911OnPBS and tinyurl.com/EdAsnerOnPBS (now with a million views). This month I’d like to consider what nonviolence might have to teach about the events of 9/11.

Read more here.

January: Reflections (January 2013)

Friends: Those who’ve followed these postings know that my legal battle with the federal government over a $16,000 fine (for traveling to Iraq to bring medicine without a U.S. license) has ended. The judge dismissed the government’s efforts to collect saying the government waited too long to sue. See Bert’s Case for a history of the legal issues.

Last month I wrote about my first meeting with NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman. This month I’ll discuss my second (very brief) meeting with him – under circumstances that were unusual and memorable for me.

Less than one month after September 11, 2001, I was traveling by train from Boston to New York. The woman taking our tickets came by excited and pleased: she said the U.S. had started bombing Afghanistan.

In New York City I went to visit an acquaintance studying at NYU. In the course of our meeting he suggested I walk the two miles south to lower Manhattan to the scene of the destruction of the World Trade Center Towers. I decided to do this.

Read more here.

December: Reflections (December 2012)

Friends: Those who’ve followed these postings know that my legal battle with the federal government over a $16,000 fine (for traveling to Iraq to bring medicine without a U.S. license) has ended. The judge dismissed the government’s efforts to collect saying the government waited too long to sue. See Bert’s Case for a history of the legal issues.

Last month I started to write about NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman. I have spoken with Mr. Friedman twice, but I didn’t finish writing about the first time – and didn’t have space to write about the second time at all.

In writing last month about my first meeting with Tom Friedman, I said: I believe that by trying to apply nonviolence in real-life situations we can best see how it works (or fails to work). And we can see more clearly how well we really are able to practice nonviolence, especially the nonviolence – or the violence – of our inner state of mind. That’s where the rubber meets the road.

Read more here.

November: Reflections (November 2012)

Friends: Those who’ve followed these postings know that my legal battle with the federal government over a $16,000 fine (for traveling to Iraq to bring medicine without a U.S. license) has ended. The judge dismissed the government’s efforts to collect saying the government waited too long to sue. See Bert’s Case for a history of the legal issues.

I am grateful to the various readers and friends who have commented about these last postings.

In last month’s posting, I hypothesized that Rose, a neighborhood dog who bite me on the leg, did so in order to have me write about her. So that she could be famous! Well, no one agreed with that theory.

So this month I’m going to leave Rose and write about NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

Read more here.

October: Reflections (October 2012)

Friends: Those who’ve followed these postings know that my legal battle with the federal government over a $16,000 fine (for traveling to Iraq to bring medicine without a U.S. license) has ended. The judge dismissed the government’s efforts to collect saying the government waited too long to sue. See Bert’s Case for a history of the legal issues.

This month I have some more reflections on what I learned from Rose about nonviolence.

You’ll remember from last month’s posting that Rose, a neighborhood dog, decided a few weeks ago to bite me on the leg. She ran down the neighbor’s driveway, barked at me, and then went for my leg.

Last month I wrote about two easy lessons about nonviolence which Rose taught me: Don’t take it personally and Prolonged anger was really pointless.

Read more here.

September: Reflections (September 2012)

Friends: Those who’ve followed these postings know that my legal battle with the federal government over a $16,000 fine (for traveling to Iraq to bring medicine without a U.S. license) has ended. The judge dismissed the government’s efforts to collect saying the government waited too long to sue. See Bert’s Case for a history of the legal issues.

This month I’d like to reflect on what I learned from Rose about nonviolence.

Rose, a neighborhood dog, decided a few weeks ago to bite me on the leg. She ran down the neighbor’s driveway, barked at me, and then went for my leg.

Read more here.

August: Reflections (August 2012)

Friends: Those who’ve followed these postings know that my legal battle with the federal government over a $16,000 fine (for traveling to Iraq to bring medicine without a U.S. license) has ended. The judge dismissed the government’s efforts to collect saying the government waited too long to sue. See Bert’s Case for a history of the legal issues.

Several things have happened in this past month that I’d like to reflect on and share.

Several months ago, I joined three other activists to block the main entrance to Bangor Submarine Base on the Kitsap Peninsula. Bangor is 20 miles away from Seattle and is home to the largest collection of nuclear weapons in the Western Hemisphere, perhaps in the entire world. Each of the eight Trident subs based there has over 4,000 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Our act was a brief symbolic protest.

Read more here.

July: Reflections (July 2012)

Friends: Those who’ve followed these postings know that my legal battle with the federal government over a $16,000 fine (for traveling to Iraq to bring medicine without a U.S. license) has ended. The judge dismissed the government’s efforts to collect saying the government waited too long to sue. See Bert’s Case for a history of the legal issues.

For a year and a half I’ve reported monthly on facts I’ve learned, largely dealing with the Iraq sanctions issue and two law suits that have grown out of this work. Now I’d like to reflect more about how this work has affected me personally – how it’s changed me.

Read more here.

June: Reflections (June 2012)

Friends : Those who’ve followed these postings know that my legal battle with the federal government over a $16,000 fine (for traveling to Iraq to bring medicine without a U.S. license) has ended. The judge dismissed the government’s efforts to collect saying the government waited too long to sue. See Bert’s Case for a history of the legal issues.

I’ll continue to reflect here on what these past years working on the Iraq sanctions issue have meant to me. I begin this month by writing about the U.S. State Department.

 

Read more here.

May: Reflections (May 2012)

Friends: Those who’ve followed these postings know that my legal battle with the federal government over a $16,000 fine (for traveling to Iraq to bring medicine without a U.S. license) has ended. The judge dismissed the government’s efforts to collect saying the government waited too long to sue. See Bert’s Case for a history of the legal issues.

I’ve decided to continue to reflect on what these past years working on the Iraq sanctions issue have meant to me. Was it worth it? What have I learned? How has it changed me?

As part of my personal reflections, I realize there are two factual areas which need further mention: they involve the U.S. Courts and the U.S. State Department.

 

Read more here.

April: Reflections on the past 12 years (April 2012)

Welcome to the sixteenth posting:Those who’ve followed these postings know that my legal battle with the federal government over a $16,000 fine has ended. The fine was because I traveled to Iraq to bring medicine to Iraqi children without asking for a U.S. license. The judge dismissed the government’s efforts to collect from me on the grounds that the government waited too long to sue me.

I’d like to use this posting – possibly my last on this website – to reflect on what the past 21 years have meant to me since I first learned about Iraq and then traveled there. Was it worth it? What have I learned? How has it changed me?

Read more here.

March: Will the government appeal? (March 2012)

Welcome to the fifteenth posting:Two days ago I got the word that “the government throws in the towel!”: they chose not to appeal the dismissal of their law suit against me. You’ll remember the suit was to collect a fine I’ve refused to pay since 2002. The fine was for a 1997 trip I took to Iraq to deliver medicine to children in need – and didn’t ask for a U.S. license to do so. More on this final development in my case in a bit.

But first … a book review.

Read more here.

February: Will the government appeal? (February 2012)

Welcome to the fourteenth monthly posting: As those who have followed this website know, the U.S. has been suing me to collect a $10,000 fine. In 1997 I was unwilling to ask for a U.S. license for a trip I took to bring medicine to Iraqi children. I’ve consistently refused to pay that fine – and did not request a license – to challenge the legality and legitimacy of U.S. policy on Iraq.

On December 28th, the judge issued his ruling: For the reasons stated herein, the court concludes that the Government did not timely sue Mr. Sacks. The court DISMISSES this case with prejudice and directs the clerk to enter judgment for Mr. Sacks.” That means the fine against me goes away (unless appealed). My Declaration, our Briefs, the Court’s ruling, and two good media summaries are available here.

Read more here.

January: Judge Jones dismisses the case (January 2012)

Welcome to the thirteenth monthly posting: As those who have followed this website will know, the U.S. has been suing me to collect a $10,000 fine. In 1997 I was unwilling to ask for a U.S. license for a trip I took to bring medicine to Iraqi children. I’ve consistently refused to pay that fine – and did not request a license – to challenge the legality and legitimacy of U.S. policy on Iraq.

On December 28th, the judge issued his ruling: “For the reasons stated herein, the court concludes that the Government did not timely sue Mr. Sacks. The court DISMISSES this case with prejudice and directs the clerk to enter judgment for Mr. Sacks.” That means the fine against me goes away. My Declaration, our Briefs, the Court’s ruling, and two good media summaries are available here.

Read more here.

December: Still Waiting for the Judge …

Welcome to the twelfth monthly posting: As I reported last month, the date of the government trial against me has been vacated and we have to wait for the judge to rule if there will be a trial at all. The U.S. is suing me to collect a $10,000 fine because I was unwilling to ask the U.S. for a license for a 1997 trip I took to bring medicine to Iraqi children. I’ve consistently refused to pay the fine – and did not request a license – to challenge the legality and legitimacy of U.S. policy on Iraq.

On August 9th, the judge issued an Order; in part it says: “[T]he court ORDERS the Government to SHOW CAUSE why the court should not dismiss this action.” We have received the brief the judge ordered the Government to provide and we have replied. After reviewing the briefs – it’s now been almost three months – the judge will decide whether to have a trial or not. As soon as I know his decision I will post more information. You can still follow by adding your address at IraqiKids.org for an update. If you haven’t yet, please look at earlier postings and follow other pages at this website.

As some of you will have noted, I am an enthusiastic follower of the work of the Metta Center (based in Northern California). I personally find their work in understanding and teaching Gandhian nonviolence exceptionally valuable.

Read more here.

November: Still Waiting for the Judge …

Welcome to the eleventh monthly posting: The date of the government trial against me has been vacated and we have to wait for the judge to rule if there will be a trial at all. Real Change’s exceptional associate editor Rosette Royale did a fine follow-up column about the case, discussing my own desire to get to trial. The U.S. is suing me to collect a $10,000 fine because I was unwilling to ask the U.S. for a license for a 1997 trip I took to bring medicine to Iraqi children. I’ve consistently refused to pay the fine – and did not request a license – to challenge the legality and legitimacy of U.S. policy on Iraq.

On August 9th, the judge issued an Order; in part it says: “[T]he court ORDERS the Government to SHOW CAUSE why the court should not dismiss this action.” We have received the brief the judge ordered the Government to provide and we have replied. After reviewing the briefs – it’s now been eight weeks – the judge will decide whether to have a trial or not. As soon as I know his decision I will post more information. You can still follow by adding your address at IraqiKids.org for an update. If you haven’t yet, please look at earlier postings and follow other pages at this website.

This morning I opened up the weekly email from my favorite Israeli journalist and activist Uri Avnery. The peace organization he co-founded, Gush Shalom, posted his most recent article. Here are key excerpts:

Read more here.

October: Still Waiting for the Judge to Rule

At the start of last month’s posting on September 11th I wrote this:

Welcome to the ninth monthly posting: The date of the government trial against me has been vacated – the trial won’t take place on September 19, 2011, and we have to wait for the judge to rule if there will be a trial at all. The U.S. is suing me to collect a $10,000 fine because I was unwilling to ask the U.S. for a license for a 1997 trip I took to bring medicine to Iraqi children. I’ve consistently refused to pay the fine – and did not request a license – to challenge the legitimacy and legality of U.S. policy on Iraq.

On August 9th, the judge issued an Order; in part it says: “[T]he court ORDERS the Government to SHOW CAUSE why the court should not dismiss this action.” We have received the brief the judge ordered the Government to provide and we are replying. After reviewing the briefs – possibly by the end of September – the judge will decide whether to have a trial or not. As soon as I know his decision I will post more information. You can still follow by adding your address at IraqiKids.org for an update. If you haven’t yet, please look at earlier postings and follow other pages at this website.

The Government provided its brief, we provided ours, we’re now waiting.

Read more here.

September: What’s it All Been About

First I want to thank my friends – and others I don’t yet know – who have taken the time to follow this case. I’m sure you realize that the case has been about issues beyond the fine on me. My excellent lawyers certainly do: they have spent many hours of pro bono time on the case, much more than the fine alone could justify. I thank them very much!

This uncertainty about the trial is my chance to reflect on what those other issues are.

Read more here.

August: Weapons of Mass Destruction

We have just passed the 66th anniversary of the United States atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Whenever weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) are mentioned, most people understandably think of atomic weapons. But on the website of a group I’ve been associated with for over 15 years, our opening sentence is this:

“Sanctions are the economic nuclear bomb.”
– Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, returning from a March 1999 visit to Iraq.

Read more here.

July: the U.S. and September 11th

July will be a one-of-a-kind posting. This site is dedicated to presenting information about the U.S. government and terrorism which is missing from most U.S. media.

In January, February, and March, I wrote about the U.S. bombing of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure and the effort to use economic sanctions to coerce the overthrow of Saddam Hussein: an act of terrorism leading to the deaths of 100,000s of Iraqi children.

Read more here.

June: Nonviolence & Rob McKenna

In April I wrote about the blockade of Gaza – maintained by Israel with the (perhaps now ending) cooperation of Egypt on its border with Gaza. It is a blockade unilaterally imposed, done without any imprimatur of international legality. I quote Israeli officials’ candid remarks about the blockade: It is collective punishment (dangerous to the life of Gaza civilians) to punish them and to undermine the government of Hamas – evidence that the Gaza blockade is an act of international terrorism per our U.S. legal definition.

In May I wrote about Attorney General Rob McKenna of Washington State co-signing a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Rob McKenna signed it, “to convey [his] strong support for the State of Israel’s actions in Gaza [during ‘Operation Cast Lead’ (winter ’09-’09)].” It was an ill-informed letter which said, among other things, that “[t]o Israel’s credit … [it allowed] the entrance of humanitarian aid into Gaza.”

Read more here.

May: Gaza and our State Attorney General

In April I wrote about the blockade of Gaza – maintained by Israel with the cooperation (so far) of Egypt, on its border with Gaza. It is a blockade unilaterally imposed, done without any imprimatur of international legality. In last month’s posting I quote Israeli officials’ candid remarks about the reason for the blockade: It is collective punishment against civilians in Gaza, to punish them and to undermine the government of Hamas.

Last month I presented the evidence and the conclusion that it is an act of terrorism. This month also deals with Gaza, but from a “local perspective.”

Read more here.

April: On Israel’s policy towards Gaza

In January I wrote about U.S. policy towards Iraq from 1991 to 2003. From the public record it is quite easy to show what U.S. policy was: By bombing Iraq’s civilian infrastructure and re-imposing economic sanctions, the U.S. knowingly created and maintained conditions “dangerous to human life” – especially the lives of vulnerable young Iraqi children. Top administration officials then stated the reason: The UN economic sanctions would continue until “Saddam Hussein was overthrown.” The major cost of this failed, criminal policy was hundreds of thousands of extra Iraqi children’s deaths. According to our U.S. legal code, this was international terrorism.

The U.S. policy of collective punishment against the entire Iraqi civilian population to force the overthrow of their government has been a disaster. What is surprising – or perhaps not – is that Israel would then pursue the same policy towards the civilian population of Gaza to undermine and overthrow the elected government of Gaza.

Read more here.

March: On What Nonviolence Can Teach Us

In January I wrote about U.S. policy towards Iraq from 1991 to 2003. From the public record it is not difficult to show that bombing Iraq’s civilian infrastructure and re-imposing economic sanctions – to overthrow Saddam Hussein at the cost of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children’s lives – constitutes international terrorism according to the U.S. legal definition of that crime.

In February I wrote about how the U.S. courts and the mass media responded to this policy: The courts ruled that even if the U.S. government pursues a policy which knowingly kills 500,000 Iraqi children – as long as Congress passes the necessary laws and the Executive executes those laws as written – it is legal. And if it can’t be made legal – as with genocide – Congress then legislated that no one has any legal rights in the matter.

Read more here.

February: U.S. Courts and the Mass Media

After reading the January posting it is natural to ask the question, What can we do?

To think wisely about that I suggest we need to ask an earlier question: How is it possible that the U.S. could create conditions in Iraq which knowingly led to the deaths of thousands of Iraqi children – maintain those conditions for twelve years until 500,000 children had died – and publicly state that this will continue until the government of Iraq is overthrown – all without any major public outcry?

We are at the 50th anniversary of President Eisenhower’s famous farewell address to the nation, where he warned us of the undue influence of the military-industrial complex. In an earlier draft, he apparently included “congressional” as part of that complex … and with good reason. Without doubt, Congress, the military, and its allied industries all share some responsibility for this happening.

Read more here.

January: My story of the fine & law suit

I have images in my mind which tell a lot about the 12 years of U.S./UN sanctions on Iraq.

Early one morning in Baghdad I was walking along the Tigris River when I smelled a terrible odor: raw sewage was pouring from a large pipe directly into the river. I knew it would become the drinking water of people downstream. Many people would become sick.

The second image comes from the diarrhea clinic in Basra, the large city downstream of Baghad.  The clinic was filled with mothers holding their infant and very young children. …

Read more here.

Judge Jones dismisses the case (January 2012)

Welcome to the thirteenth monthly posting: As those who have followed this website will know, the U.S. has been suing me to collect a $10,000 fine. In 1997 I was unwilling to ask for a U.S. license for a trip I took to bring medicine to Iraqi children. I’ve consistently refused to pay that fine – and did not request a license – to challenge the legality and legitimacy of U.S. policy on Iraq.

On December 28th, the judge issued his ruling: “For the reasons stated herein, the court concludes that the Government did not timely sue Mr. Sacks. The court DISMISSES this case with prejudice and directs the clerk to enter judgment for Mr. Sacks.” That means the fine against me goes away. My Declaration, our Briefs, the Court’s ruling, and two good media summaries are available here.

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