Tag Archives: Civil War

Poll: Majority Of Americans Say Confederate Flag Represents Southern Pride, Not Racism

After the Confederate flag was seen being held by Dylann Roof, the suspect in a shooting massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, in pictures that surfaced on the Internet accompanied with a “racist manifesto,” the debate began over what the flag actually represented.

While Several major retailers responded by pulling all Confederate flag merchandise from their shelves, deeming it “offensive” and a “symbol of racism and slavery” and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for the flag to be removed from the state’s capitol grounds, a recent survey claims that the majority of Americans don’t see the flag as a racist symbol.

According to a CNN/ORC Poll, 57 percent of Americans see the Confederate flag as more of a symbol of Southern pride and heritage than as a symbol of racism. 33 percent see it as a symbol of racism, and five percent say it is “both equally” while five percent say it is “neither.”

There was a notable divide between races, with only 17 percent of blacks and 66 percent of whites viewing the flag as a symbol of Southern pride, while 72 percent of blacks and 25 percent of whites view it was a symbol of racism.

While 87 percent of the individuals polled said that the Charleston shooting should be considered a hate crime, only 41 percent said it should be considered an act of terrorism.

The poll also found that there was a divide based on education, and that among the whites polled who said they had a college degree, 51 percent said the Confederate flag was a symbol of Southern pride and 41 percent said it was a symbol of racism, while among whites who said they did not have a college degree, 73 percent said the flag was a symbol of pride and 18 percent said it was a symbol of racism.

Although 57 percent of the Americans polled opposed redesigning the Confederate flag, 71 percent opposed removing tributes to those who fought in the Confederacy and 68 percent opposed renaming the streets and highways that are named after Confederate leaders, 55 percent supported removing Confederate flags from government property that is not part of a museum.

Related: Companies Ban Confederate Flag Sales, But Keep Nazi And Che Guevara Merchandise

According to the poll, 50 percent of Americans supported private companies choosing not to sell or manufacture items featuring the Confederate flag, while 47 percent opposed it. Looking at the demographics, 65 percent of blacks were in support of private companies halting the sale of Confederate flag merchandise, and 49 percent of whites were in support.

The poll was conducted through telephone interviews by ORC International on June 26-28, a little over a week after the Charleston shooting occurred on June 17. A total of 1,017 adult Americans were interviewed, and there was a margin of sampling error plus or minus three percentage points. 611 of the interviews were conducted with landline respondents and 406 of the interviews were conducted with cell phone respondents.

Take the Truth In Media Poll below:

150 Years After the Civil War, How That Flag Comes Down

Another racist tragedy reminds us that 150 years after the end of the civil war, America still has a minority that it has failed to integrate, with fatal consequences.

Although some of the members of this minority are unusually educated and privileged outliers, we rarely see them with their hands on the levers of power; we rarely see them in control of large companies or wherever else there is great wealth; their neighborhoods tend to be poorer than those of the rest of the nation; when its men walk down the street wearing fashions and symbols that reflect their sub-culture, others look down upon them; it is a minority that is even viewed as less intelligent than the rest of America, more prone to violence and simplistic politics.

I am referring, of course, to white Southerners.

That’s not what you were expecting, was it?…

… Which is a shame – because ending America’s deep racial wound that reopens and (literally) bleeds all too frequently even hundreds of years after it was inflicted, depends on our understanding the lack of integration of not only those who have been historically victimized – black Americans – but also of those who are accused of providing the cultural context for the ongoing victimization – white Southerners.

I was not born American, but I shall become one very soon, and when I do America’s history will become mine. Like the hearts of all other Americans, my heart is breaking at the recent event in Charleston – a deranged but utterly calculated attack on the values and the people of my nation.

In a recent episode of the Daily Show, Jon Stewart wryly expounded on the tragedy.

“We have to peer once again into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other in the nexus of a just gaping racial wound that will not heal but we pretend doesn’t exist… I’m confident, though, that by acknowledging it, by staring into that and seeing it for what it is, we still won’t do jack sh*t.”

Jon rightly pointed out that if any attack could ever properly be called a racist attack, it was the murder on Thursday of nine church-goers in Charleston. As he explained, the church where the murders were committed is a symbol to the black community not least because of the attacks that have been perpetrated there before. And the murderer wears a coat on which are sewn flags of two of the worst white supremacist apartheid regimes that the world has ever seen.

But then Jon said something that jarred with me: “We are steeped in that culture in this country and we refuse to recognize it, and I cannot believe how hard people are working to discount it. In South Carolina, the roads that black people drive on are named for confederate generals, who fought to keep black people from being able to drive freely on that road.” Jon called this state of affairs “insanity” and “racial wallpaper”, and he said of it, “you cannot allow that”.

He is right to draw attention to that wallpaper: if I were black, and my surname was the name of the man who enslaved one of my ancestors, I’d have a negative reaction to such cultural fabric and the insensitivity it implies. I’d be justified in feeling insulted by being told I do not understand what it really means. I’d be right in thinking that a little humility and grace should be enough to stop people insisting on flying it higher over the state I and my enslaved ancestors called home.

But “disallowing it” is very different from understanding why it is there – and unless we do that, nothing will ultimately change. Indeed, telling people they can’t have or mustn’t do something usually makes them want to have it or do it even more. The fundamental question is not how will the flag be removed from Southern flagpoles – but how it will be removed from Southern hearts.

I don’t believe that most Southerners who vote for the confederate flag to fly above their buildings or the roads to carry the names of Southern generals want to see the deaths of African Americans. Yet, it is surely easy enough to see how those things exacerbate a very troubled situation. Why, then, do so many basically-decent people insist that they remain?

In my native land of England, roads are named for people good and bad, and history is checkered – as is every nation’s history. England chopped off the head of a king, Charles I, for his utter tyranny, but now nevertheless recognizes that same king’s importance with a statue in the capital city. We revere, by popular poll, Winston Churchill, who saved our nation, as the greatest Briton, while admitting that he didn’t get everything right, was an imperialist and, especially early in his career, made catastrophic decisions that resulted in the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of people. We recognize the evil done by Brits who enslaved and the good done by Brits who ended slavery, but we don’t think that members of either group are defined just by their view on that issue. We acknowledge that in many places the British empire was about dominating other cultures and people – something we entirely reject today – and yet we appreciate the greatness of many of the achievements of the men who were involved in building it – a greatness which, if the names of places and monuments in India, for example, are anything to go by, even the “victims” of that dominance can still appreciate.

In short, a mature society realizes that the present identity of all of its members depends on every single bit of its history – the bits of which today we are ashamed as well as the bits of which we are proud. Publicly recognizing the importance of all of those actions, events and decisions, and even celebrating them as part of who we are, does not mean that we today agree with the values that justified them at the time. But if we ignore them or, worse, bury them, we can neither unite as one people nor truly learn from our mistakes.

It is human nature to seek an identity that connects us to our peers (tribe, nation) and our place. And such identity is always found in shared history. You can’t throw out history without atomizing and ultimately demeaning the individual.

American Southerners, like all people everywhere, have a deep yearning to own their history, in which their identity lies, and find ways to take pride in it. The South has a rich history that is so much more than slavery. But the rest of the United States, of which the South is politically a part, seems not to be able to integrate and celebrate that history. Rather, the history of the South is, to America as a whole, a kind of anti-history – a “foil” to the great and good path that America chose. In other words, America’s identity not only fails to include the South, but almost depends on historical rejection of it. One might say that Yankee America – the winners of the Civil War – has engaged the need to end the segregation of the historic racial “other” – African Americans – but not the need to end the segregation of a cultural and moral “other” – the formerly guilty South.

As someone who’s been welcomed to the United States as an immigrant (for now more than a decade), I’ve learned much more by osmosis about its civil rights history and black leaders than ever I’ve learned about the South. Indeed, almost all I’ve been exposed to about the South is what was wrong with it – all the bad it ever did. Where in the larger American story is the celebration of the South as more than slavery – as an American sub-culture that has its own beautiful stories of complexity, love, heroism and ambition, which all societies everywhere are built on?

I notice that in modern America, it’s not generally acceptable for well-meaning, educated (mostly white) Americans to generalize negatively about African Americans, but it is acceptable to jokingly put down Southerners as in some way morally, politically or culturally backward – often with the implication that their moral, political or cultural backwardness is a kind of watered-down version of whatever allowed slavery to happen in the first place.

Put another way, we appreciate that African Americans as a group were historically “otherized” by our nation, and we admit our national and moral responsibility to address the consequences of that fact; but when it comes to the white South, “otherization” is still acceptable. We can’t call it racism because the North and South are not racially different, but it is still chauvinism. And it is as old as the Civil War and therefore very, very deep. Moreover, it’s harder to shift because it is sustained by a moral judgment against the people who are “otherized”. Whereas an African American may suffer “otherization” today because of an injustice against his people in the past, the Southerner suffers it today but because of something supposedly still blameworthy about his culture.

We may not have fully accepted and integrated our African American communities, but most of us at least realize the need for it, and the essential justice of doing so. But in a way, 150 years after the civil war, the nation is even less able to integrate the white South – because its people are still seen as heirs to ancestors with blood on their hands, and so America-at-large demands the impossible of America-in-part: that today’s Southerners repudiate or bury a past that a) they had no part in making and b) will always be their past, and therefore part of their identity, whether they deny it or not.

If our nation ignores (at best) or simplistically rejects (at worst) the rich history of a part of itself, then how can those who identify with that part of the nation find an identity within that nation? Simply, they cannot. Rather, they will do what all conquered cultures do the world over: they will grab on to the symbols of what was taken from them when they became subjugated.

In 1861, the otherization of the South by the North was literal and obvious, coming in the form of bayonets and artillery. Most Americans regard that as timely and justified. But to the extent that Southerners are today held as backward, they are still being otherized. And like all minorities that are otherized for extended periods, they have come to own that otherization (just as many African Americans have come to own the derogatory labels that whites used to use against them but today may not), celebrating the symbols of their otherness as the only thing they have.

It is simply human nature.

So perhaps the flying of confederate flags does not cause racism or do harm per se. The naming of streets after men who fought for slavery is not racist or harmful per se. These things do not ultimately cause division. Rather, it is the prevailing, divided, cultural context that causes people to experience those symbols and names as still threatening. Jon Stewart is right that we will be better off when the racial wallpaper is taken down, but to tear it down and keep it down, we must recognize that it is more effect than cause.

The deep wound of racism in America will not be gone when the confederate flag can only be found in history books and roads are all named after post-Civil War figures, but when all Americans, black and white alike, northerners and southerners too, can appreciate all the old flags and dead generals as symbols and makers of a present identity, in the safe knowledge that we are united as Americans, beyond racism, against violence, and against condescension justified by skin color, the acts of our ancestors or the degree to which we hold those ancestors and their actions as formative of our identity.

Since I arrived in the United States 11 years ago, it’s been very obvious to me that Americans are acutely aware of the evils of racial segregation. Martin Luther King is one important historical figure that, fortunately, American kids do know about. And I don’t know any American who seriously thinks that King didn’t have a point, or that the civil rights movement was a lot of hot air about nothing. And while many of us disagree about the best way to respond to the historical inequities that play out economically and socially today in our minority communities, most Americans admit they are there.

Folks disagree about the morality of racially-based affirmative action, for example, but at least we all know why we’re discussing it. In fact we are so sensitive to our history of racial victimization, there are even certain words that may not be said by people of one color but may be said by people of another: in other words, we are so aware of the racial issue that we’ve almost changed the tacit rules of our language on its account. I can turn on CNN, MSNBC or even (yes, it’s true) Fox News, any day and hear about the disadvantages suffered by various African American communities. Our nation has even designated a month for official celebration of this ethnic and cultural thread of American history.

No; the discrimination that is responsible for the flying of confederate flags and the dangerous cultural context that can produce deluded people like Dylann Roof is a more subtle discrimination – a discrimination that dare not speak its name – a moral and cultural discrimination against a guilty white South.

As victors of the Civil War, perhaps the North has still not decided whether they want a peace like the one after World War I, when Germany was held (at Versailles) as entirely blameworthy and morally bankrupt, or like the one after World War II, when Germany was quickly invited into the community of nations, from which the whole world has benefited.

Likewise, America’s racial problem hinges on whether America insists on holding its Southern self as still blameworthy and “other” or whether it invites it in, without qualification, just as the world today recognizes Germany as so much more than the Kaiser and Nazism, and treats it as a member of the community of nations with equal moral and cultural standing as the rest.

Does the rest of America really see the South as its moral and cultural equal, and does it really admit that the history of the South is American history, to be celebrated as part of the American story? There is nothing to celebrate in slavery, but the South is more than its racial history. It is up to the rest of the nation to integrate the South by recognizing it as more than being on the wrong side of a historic issue – by talking about the South positively in relation to anything else at all.

All communities need a historical identity. If the rest of America can’t assimilate the South into the American identity by integrating Southern history into its own as completely and honestly as it integrates the Civil Rights movement, the Founders, the heroes of the North, the Patriots against the British, and so on, then it will share some responsibility for the confederate flags that fly over South Carolina.

While the flying of confederate flags may rightly be regarded as insensitive and indecent until such time as we sort out this mess, the ultimate goal is not that the flags come down and the roads in South Carolina are renamed in favor of the northern generals that defeated them: it’s the development of a shared cultural context in which the flags and names have lost their power to divide, and Southerners are not made to feel guilty for celebrating everything in their history that is not slavery. But of course, when we finally get there, this point will be moot – because the flags will come down anyway, since Southerners will feel, at last, that the Stars and Stripes really is their flag too.

And that’s the only ultimate, stable solution.

The integration of one minority depends on the integration of another.

Admit the South to a truly American identity and the need for confederate identity will disappear. And those who would object that Southerners can choose today whether to be Americans or confederates (who is stopping them, after all?) should respect the moral burden that comes from the historic choice to use force to subjugate the South – for whether that subjugation was justified does not change the fact that the method used to eliminate slavery was nevertheless one of violent imposition. And it is always the experience of violence – rather than the good intentions of those that used it – that determines the reaction of a defeated people through subsequent generations.

As the old saw goes, “the winners write the history”. The supposedly United States of America has already decided to write African Americans positively into its history, thank God. Now, healing our deep racial wounds depends on whether, with equal moral urgency, it writes the South positively into its history, too.

All the while we fail to do the latter, the South is being denied its American identity and will cling to the symbols of the only other identity it has.

And if, when they do so cling, the rest of us otherize them by calling them racists and burning their flag, we will make the problem worse: we will make them fly that confederate flag higher and so alienate our African American countrymen in those states even more. Or perhaps, if we’re too self-righteous, we will cause them to pin their flag up in dark rooms at home? Either way, we will have played our part in the continuation of the vicious cycle.

So yes, American desperately needs healing through integration.

But there’s more than one minority in this country that is made to feel that it is “in America but not of it”. Our nation, our shared nation, our beautiful nation, must come to terms not only with the burden on the innocent ancestors of our history’s victims, but also with the burden on the innocent ancestors of our history’s victimizers.

In short, we must try to understand those who are discriminated against culturally as deeply as we do those who have been discriminated against racially. Accordingly, it would do us well to remember that practically all of us – black and white, Northerners and Southerners – are related to both slavers and enslaved if only we trace our genealogy back far enough – and no one alive today gets to take the credit or the blame for any of it.

Given how far we still have to go as a nation, the moral and cultural acceptance of the white South, the taking down of the racial wallpaper, and the equal treatment of African Americans everywhere, might seem to require an impossible degree of acceptance and humility from the descendants of history’s victors, vanquished, and victims.

But we’d be wrong to be so pessimistic.

Not only should we expect to find such qualities in our nation: they are working their healing power right now through the almost incomprehensible grace and forgiveness of the kith and kin of nine Americans who lost their lives in a church in Charleston.


Washington Plans to Reboot the FSA despite known terrorist links


President Obama was scheduled to meet with 21 countries last week to discuss the war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and no Syrians were invited to attend, making it clear that the existing moderate Syrian rebels are not part of the mission.

According to The Daily Beast, the U.S. government has no near-term plans to include the Free Syrian Army or any other moderate rebel group in the military mission to fight ISIS.

An official told The Daily Beast about the meeting slated for Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C. and chaired by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey does not include any Syrian rebel partnership in the airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

“We’ve said this is an Iraq-first strategy,” Col. Edward Thomas, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “We have not yet moved to the stage in Syria where we would work with partners on the ground.”

Apparently Washington has a quick change of heart.

According to the LA Times, Washington is going to reboot the FSA despite the fact that U.S. officials have acknowledged the known problems with the rebel group and the fear that information will be leaked to the targeted militants that they have ties to.

“At this point, the intent of the coalition is to build a coherence to the Free Syrian Army elements that will give it the capacity and the credibility over time to be able to make its weight felt in the battlefield,” retired Marine Gen. John R. Allen told reporters in Washington this month.

Sen. Rand Paul who has voiced criticism of America’s foreign policy in Syria, called Washington to stop supplying rebels weapons that could fall into the hands of ISIS.

“The ultimate sad irony is that we’re forced to fight against the very weapons we send the Syrian rebels,” he said. “ISIS is stronger because of our weapons.”

As previously reported by Benswann.com [ here, here and here ], ISIS is benefiting from U.S. arms and is becoming stronger in the Middle East as a result of it.


Ben Swann Reports About Syria Corroborated by Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist

If you follow my work, then you have a pretty good understanding of what is happening in the so called Syrian Civil War.  For well over a year and half, I have been a dissenting voice in media on this issue.  But to be the dissenting voice means taking a stand when others will criticize what you do.

Now, an essay published in the London Review of Books by Pulitzer Prize winning author Seymour M. Hersh, supports reporting on Syria that I have done for months.

“Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin,” writes Hersh.

I will explain more about his article in a minute, but first, how we got here.

Al Qaeda in Syria?

The first big push back I received on the Syria story was when I was still working for Fox 19 in Cincinnati.  It was September of 2012 when I became the first journalist in the country to ask President Obama why the United States was fighting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and in Pakistan but was supporting Al Qaeda in Syria.

At the time, a clearly thrown off President Obama responded,

“What we’ve done is to say that we will provide non-lethal assistance to Syrian opposition leadership that are committed to political transition and to an observance of human rights. We’re not going to just dive in and get involved in a civil war that in fact involves some people who are genuinely trying to get a better life, but also involves some folks that over the long term would like to do the United States harm.”

At the time, I was highly criticized by other journalists, including by managers in my own newsroom for asking the President about Al Qaeda in Syria.  I was repeatedly told that this was a waste of a question because “there is no Al Qaeda in Syria.”  But that of course, turned out to be wrong.

The Mystery Surrounding Al Nusra Front

The next turning point in this story over the Syrian civil war came after I launched the Truth in Media project.  One of the very first episodes we created, thanks to support from Richter Bros. Studios in Chicago, was “What the Media Isn’t Telling You About The Syrian Civil War”

The basic premise here was to explain the size and growing capability of Al Nusra Front.  Al Nusra is the Syrian wing of Al Qaeda in Iraq.  As I pointed, out,

“In December of 2012, the United States officially designated al Nusra Front as a terror organization. Then in April of 2013, the head of al Qaeda in Iraq released an audio recording announcing al Nusra as its branch in Syria… About a month ago, the UK Guardian reported that the best financed, best equipped and best motivated force taking on the Syrian government is not the FSA but is Al Nusra. More so, that the Free Syrian Army is losing thousands of fighters and capabilities to Al Nusra.”

This was an important story.  Important because the mainstream media refused to even mention the name Al Nusra.  The reporting about Syria from news outlets was clear, the Syrian government was at war with democratic freedom fighters.  This was just another moment in the “Arab Spring”.  This narrative, however was not accurate.

The Sarin Gas Tipping Point

Then came the reports of Assad using Sarin gas against his own people in a Damascus suburb.  You will no doubt remember what happened here, as the administration and much of the media lined up at the end of August to insist that cruise missile strikes against the Syria capital were necessary.

I reported again, this time, explaining that the claims about only the Assad regime having access to Sarin gas were untrue.  We pointed to reports of Al Nusra Front fighters caught with Sarin gas in May of 2013.

“In May of this year, Turkish military seized 2kg of sarin from “rebel” fighters from al Nusra Front. As we have extensively reported, al Nusra is the largest, best funded and most organized opposition force to the Assad regime. On May 30, 2013 when Turkish security forces arrested those 12 members of al Nusra Front, they found not only the 2kgs of sarin but those authorities went on to say that the sarin was going to be used in a bomb.”

The Hersh essay now supports in great detail the reporting I had been doing.   Hersh, points out that not only did the Administration deceive the public on this issue of sarin gas, but the Administration had help from media outlets.

“The White House needed nine days to assemble its case against the Syrian government. On 30 August it invited a select group of Washington journalists (at least one often critical reporter, Jonathan Landay, the national security correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers, was not invited), and handed them a document carefully labelled as a ‘government assessment’, rather than as an assessment by the intelligence community. The document laid out what was essentially a political argument to bolster the administration’s case against the Assad government.’”

You can read Hersh’s full essay here

Though there is a final issue Hersh points to that should not be missed.  While the final outcome of the U.S. threats of an attack ultimately led to the Syrian government moving forward in relinquishing chemical weapons stockpiles, there is a new threat rising.  The fighters from Al Nusra Front are not handing over their chemical weapons.  As Hersh points out,

“While the Syrian regime continues the process of eliminating its chemical arsenal, the irony is that, after Assad’s stockpile of precursor agents is destroyed, al-Nusra and its Islamist allies could end up as the only faction inside Syria with access to the ingredients that can create sarin, a strategic weapon that would be unlike any other in the war zone.”

McCain, Graham & Boehner Stand With Obama On Syrian Attack


This Labor Day weekend played host to a meeting between John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and President Obama at the White House. Obama is seeking help from the two unpopular republican senators in an attempt  to rally Congress to vote for a Syrian attack.

McCain suggested to Obama that they must embolden the Free Syrian Army, which has direct ties to Al Qaeda, so that they may prevail over Syria’s President Assad. “It is my hope that even a limited military strike can degrade Assad’s ability to project force, particularly using chemical weapons,” said Graham.  Graham continues, “There seems to be a pretty solid plan from this administration to upgrade the opposition.”

According to an unrelated statement by Harry Reid, John McCain can get the job done in the Senate:

“See I don’t need a lot of Republicans to help me. And that’s why I so admire John McCain. John McCain and I came to the House together 31 years ago. We came to the Senate together at the same time. He and I have fought over the years but we’re also very very good, good friends. And he broke away from the pack. So, he doesn’t control the Republican caucus but he controls probably 10 people there. That’s all I need.”

If Congress is to block a strike on Syria it will almost certainly have to come from the House. However, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) are now at Obama’s side after a meeting today. Regardless of how Congress votes, a Syrian war may be inevitable. Secretary of State John Kerry says that Obama has already made up his mind. When asked if Obama would still strike Syria if Congress voted against intervention- Kerry refused to answer.