Fred Branfman

Passing of a Great and Visionary Warrior for Peace

Editor's Note: AlterNet is resurfacing this article published in August by Fred Branfman, who died this week in Budapest. Over the past five years, AtlerNet was proud to publish his articles focusing on war and empire and the rise of the national security state. Branfman has touched the lives of many prominent activists and intellectuals and public figures, from Noam Chomsky to CodePink founder Jodie Evans to California governor Jerry Brown. This passage from an essay by Branfman shares the account of how he met and inspired Noam Chomsky in Laos to join the antiwar movement. 
Forty-two years ago I had an unusual experience. I became friendly with a guy named Noam Chomsky. I came to know him as a human being before becoming fully aware of his fame and the impact of his work. I have often thought of this experience since -- both because of the insights it gave me into him and, more important, the deep trouble in which our nation and world find themselves today. His foremost contribution for me has been his constant focus on how U.S. leaders treat so many of the world's population as "unpeople," either exploiting them economically or engaging in war-making, which has murdered, maimed or made homeless over 20 million people since the end of World War II (over 5 million in Iraq and 16 million in Indochina according to official U.S. government statistics).

Our friendship was forged over concern for some of these "unpeople" when he visited Laos in February 1970. I had been living in a Lao village outside the capital city of Vientiane for three years at that point and spoke Laotian. But five months earlier I had been shocked to my core when I interviewed the first Lao refugees brought down to Vientiane from the Plain of Jars in northern Laos, which had been controlled by the communist Pathet Lao since 1964. I had discovered to my horror that U.S. executive branch leaders had been clandestinely bombing these peaceful villagers for five-and-a-half years, driving tens of thousands underground and into caves, where they had been forced to live like animals.

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Embracing Life-Affirming Death Awareness: How to Transform Yourself and Possibly Save Human Civilization

I never want to forget the prospect of death. Because, if I am ever able to block out those emotions, I will lose the sense of purpose and focus that cancer has given my own life." —Hamilton Jordan, No Such Thing as a Bad Day 

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We Live Under a Total Surveillance State in America -- Can We Prevent It from Evolving into a Full-Blown Police State?

Editor's Note: This is the conclusion of an original AlterNet series on the U.S. Executive Branch. Part 1 was “How The U.S. Executive Branch Threatens U.S. National Security,” Part 2 “The World's Most Evil And Lawless Institution," Part 3 “A Clear and Present Danger to Our Democracy“ and Part 4 “New Hope For Defending Democracy Against Executive Power."

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The Biggest Assault on Our Democracy Is Coming from the Center of Our Own Government

"America no longer has a functioning democracy. This invasion of privacy has been excessive, so bringing it to public notice has probably been beneficial —President Jimmy Carter

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My Experiences up Close with the People Who Bombed a 700-Year-Old Civilization into Dust

I learned firsthand about the realities of executive branch power 40 years ago, when I discovered that a handful of U.S. executive leaders from both political parties, liberals and conservatives, had secretly destroyed the 700-year-old Plain of Jars civilization in northern Laos without congressional or public knowledge, let alone consent. 

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New Hope for Defending Democracy

Editor's Note: The following is the latest in a series on the Executive Branch of the United States.  

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5 So-Called Liberals Who Kowtow to U.S. Imperial Murder

America's intellectual elites and political leaders not only ignore the suffering of America's victims but perpetuate it. They're often called "liberals," but what does it mean when they either tacitly endorse the killing of millions of innocents, or openly promote it? 

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World's Most Evil and Lawless Institution? The Executive Branch of the U.S. Government

Editor's Note: The following is the latest in a series on the Executive Branch of the United States. 

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America's Most Anti-Democratic Institution: How the Imperial Presidency Threatens U.S. National Security

Editor's Note: This is the first article of a four-part series by Fred Branfman on the U.S. Executive Branch's military, police and intelligence agencies which have aggregated far more power, committed far more evil by destroying the lives of countless innocents, and operated far more illegally, than any other governing institution in the world today.

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“A Lake of Blood and Destruction” – The Voices We Never Hear From America's Wars

Voices From The Plain Of Jars: Life Under An Air War, “arguably the most important single book to emerge from the Vietnam war” according to historian Alfred McCoy, has just been reissued by University of Wisconsin press. The book is the only one of 30,000 Vietnam-era books written by Indochinese villagers, who comprised most of the population, suffered most, and were heard from least. But though unique, these voices also speak today for the countless unseen civilian victims of U.S. war-making in the Muslim World and beyond, and graphically describe the human consequences of U.S. Executive Secret war-making executed by Henry Kissinger from 1969 until 1975, and the dominant mode of U.S. warfare today.

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