Journalist Thomas Wark, 82

Editor’s note: I met Tom and Lois in 2003 when I started Grassroots Press shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. By email, I had recruited Tom to write some op ed pieces, after I saw his powerful writing in the Sun-News. (He and Lois had recently retired to Las Cruces.) Not only was he eager to write articles (as Lois was to take photos), but the Warks helped Grassroots Press get off the ground with a couple of very generous contributions. Over the years, we became close friends. His blog, A Bordello Pianist, was a treasure trove of rants and musings on life, politics and the wild and beautiful places of the Southwest. He inspired several songs that I wrote and still perform. Amigo, the Revolutionary Council will miss you! SK)


Thomas Edison Wark, a retired journalist who held senior editing posts at the Detroit Free Press, Philadelphia Inquirer and New York Times, died Friday, Aug. 18, at Mesilla Valley Hospice in Las Cruces, N.M. The cause was pancreatic cancer. He was 82.

In revealing his terminal diagnosis to friends, Wark wrote, “It’s been a good ride. No regrets. Grateful for so many good friends.” One of them, Boyce Rensberger, who worked with Wark at the Free Press in the 1960s and at The Times in the 1970s, called him “one of the finest editors of the golden age of American journalism.” Another former colleague, David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize winner, said, “I owe much of my career to Tom’s spotting me among the many NYT stringers in 1971-73 and getting me to the Detroit Free Press. Love the guy.”

Wark was called “the father of Action Line” by Derick Daniels, former executive editor of the Free Press, for his role in creating and directing the public service column that became a staple of U.S. newspapers in the 1960s and ‘70s. (One of the column’s first researchers, and later its writer, was his wife-to-be, Lois Sutherland.) Within three months of Action Line’s introduction, the Free Press had overtaken and surpassed the rival Detroit News in circulation. Editors from around the world came to Detroit to observe the Free Press Action Line before launching their own versions of the column.

Wark also was part of the team of editors who directed Free Press coverage of the 1967 Detroit riots, for which the staff was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

At the New York Times he was successively a backfield editor on the National Desk, in the Washington Bureau and a news editor in the bullpen in New York, where a group of senior editors oversaw the paper’s content, display and standards. In Philadelphia, he was associate managing editor for features, where he directed a number of prize-winning projects.

Born in Detroit, Wark grew up in Iowa and studied journalism at the state university in Iowa City. He began his newspaper career as a sportswriter at the Clinton (Iowa) Herald, where he was serving as managing editor when Derick Daniels recruited him to join the Free Press staff in 1963.

In retirement, Wark delighted in playing what he called geezer-pro doubles, teaming up with the tennis pro at Picacho Hills Country Club in Las Cruces to challenge all geezer-pro comers. He and his wife were active in many environmental causes, including lobbying for the creation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in southern New Mexico and Bears Ears in Utah. In the final months before his death Wark completed a memoir of his adventuresome father, Homer: My Father’s Odyssey, published in May as a paperback book through Amazon.com.

In an Afterward to the book, he wrote: “Homer wasn’t entirely wrong, that day with the portable typewriter in the Wiltgen flat on North Claremont Avenue in Chicago. I never made a helluva lot of money. But I would not change a thing. It never was about money.”

Thomas Wark is survived by his wife, Lois, a journalist who edited several Pulitzer Prize-winning articles for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and by seven children: his sons, John, of Pilot Hill, Calif.; David, of Hewlett, New York; Mark, of Largo, Florida, and Steven, of Reading, Pa.; and daughters Catherine Wark, of Queens, New York; Laura Wark Liu, of Juneau, Alaska, and Patricia Wark DePetris, of Wilmington, Del. He is also survived by many beloved grandchildren, who loved to visit New Mexico and Wark Base Camp West.

A memorial service is planned for later in the year during which his ashes will be released at a favorite mountain pass. Donations in his memory would be welcome to Mesilla Valley Hospice, 299 Montana Avenue, Las Cruces, N.M. 88005; the Southwest Environmental Center, 275 Downtown Mall, Las Cruces, N.M. 88001, or to the charity of your choice.





Why Does North Korea Hate Us?


By Robert C. Koehler


“The bombing was long, leisurely and merciless . . .”

And so we return to the Korean War, when North Korea was carpet-bombed to the edge of existence. The American media doesn’t have a memory that stretches quite so far back, at least not under present circumstances. One commentator at MSNBC recently explained, for instance, that the tiny pariah nation “has been preparing for war for 63 years!”

That would be since, uh, 1954, the year after the war ended. But the war wasn’t mentioned. It never is. Doing so would disrupt the consensus attitude that Kim Jong-Un is a nuclear-armed crazy and that North Korea’s hatred of the United States is just . . . hatred, dark and bitter, the kind of rancor you’d expect from a communist dictatorship and certified member of the Axis of Evil.

And now Donald Trump is taunting the crazy guy, disrupting the U.S.-maintained normalcy of global relations and putting this country at risk. And that’s almost always the focus: not the use of nuclear weapons per se, but the possibility that a North Korean nuke could reach the United States, as though American lives and “national security” mattered more than, or were separate from, the safety of the whole planet.

Indeed, the concept of national security justifies pretty much every action, however destructive and horrifically consequential in the long term. The concept justifies armed small-mindedness, which equals militarism. Apparently protecting national security also means forgetting the Korean War, or never facing the reality of what we did to North Korea from 1950 to 1953.

But as Trump plays war in his own special way, the time to explore this media memory void is now.

I return to my opening quote, which is from a two-year-old story in the Washington Post: “The bombing was long, leisurely and merciless, even by the assessment of America’s own leaders. ‘Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population,’ Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984. Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later secretary of state, said the United States bombed ‘everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.’ After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops.”

Specifically, “the U.S. dropped 635,000 tons of explosives on North Korea, including 32,557 tons of napalm, an incendiary liquid that can clear forested areas and cause devastating burns to human skin,” Tom O’Connor wrote recently in Newsweek. This is more bomb tonnage than the U.S. dropped in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

He quoted historian Bruce Cumings: “Most Americans are completely unaware that we destroyed more cities in the North then we did in Japan or Germany during World War II.”

And so we start to open the wound of this war, in which possibly as many as 3 million North Koreans died, a number that would have been even higher had Gen. Douglas MacArthur gotten his way. He proposed nuclear holocaust in the name of national security, figuring he could end the war in ten days.

“Between 30 and 50 atomic bombs would have more than done the job,” he said in an interview shortly after the end of the war. “Dropped under cover of darkness, they would have destroyed the enemy’s air force on the ground, wiped out his maintenance and his airmen.”

“For the Americans, strategic bombing made perfect sense, giving advantage to American technological prowess against the enemy’s numerical superiority,” historian Charles K. Armstrong wrote for the Asia Pacific Journal. “. . . But for the North Koreans, living in fear of B-29 attacks for nearly three years, including the possibility of atomic bombs, the American air war left a deep and lasting impression. The (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) government never forgot the lesson of North Korea’s vulnerability to American air attack, and for half a century after the Armistice continued to strengthen anti-aircraft defenses, build underground installations, and eventually develop nuclear weapons to ensure that North Korea would not find itself in such a position again. The long-term psychological effect of the war on the whole of North Korean society cannot be overestimated.”

Why is this reality not part of the current news? In what way is American safety furthered by such willful ignorance?

Cumings, writing recently in The Nation, noted that he participated in a forum about North Korea in Seoul last fall with Strobe Talbott, deputy secretary of state in the Bill Clinton administration. At one point, Cumings brought up Robert McNamara’s comment in the documentary The Fog of War, regarding Vietnam, that “we never put ourselves in the shoes of the enemy and attempted to see the world as they did.” Shouldn’t this apply to our negotiations with North Korea?

“Talbott,” Cumings wrote, “then blurted, ‘It’s a grotesque regime!’ There you have it: It’s our number-one problem, but so grotesque that there’s no point trying to understand Pyongyang’s point of view (or even that it might have some valid concerns).”

And so we remain caged in military thinking and the need to win, rather than understand. But as long as we feel no need to understand North Korea, we don’t have to bother trying to understand ourselves. Or face what we have done.

Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.



Weekly + RESISTance Calendar

Saturday, June 17, 2017

     La Frontera Fair Trade Store is open for the third summer.  The store is at Nopalito’s Galeria, 326 S. Mesquite St, Las Cruces, and is open from 9:00am to 6:00pm every Saturday from June 3 through Aug. 26.  All proceeds from the sales go to the women who produce the products because the store is staffed entirely by volunteers.


PFLAG Prideweek Kick-off at Pioneer Women’s Park from 9:00am to Noon.  Bagels & burritos, music, speakers, fun for the whole family.


Rally to Defend Health Care to be held at Albert Johnson Park (in front of Branigan Library) from 10:00am to Noon.  Participating groups:  We’re In Indivisible, Democratic Party, Office of Senator Martin Heinrich, ProgressNow New Mexico, ACLU, Health Action NM, Planned Parenthood, and Las Cruces Coalition for Reproductive Justice.  Hear personal stories and listen to your political leaders, doctors, and other health care providers discuss needs in Dona Ana County.  Bring signs:  Protect My Care, Save the ACA, Defeat TrumpCare, Medicare for All, Save Medicaid, or your own brilliant creations.


Support of Local Immigrant Family sponsored by CAFé.  Religious leaders, including Bishop Oscar Cantu and Father Tom Smith, will speak out in support of Francia Benitez-Castano and her family at a press conference at 10:00am at Holy Cross Retreat Center (600 Holy Cross Rd) followed by mass at 11:00am.


Women’s March to Ban the Bomb in New York City and other cities.  No sister action is planned yet for Las Cruces.



Monday, June 19, 2017

     Attend the Las Cruces City Council meeting that starts at 1:00pm in Council Chambers, City Hall.  Agenda items include resolutions of support for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument and for the Paris agreement.  The Green Chamber of Commerce and the Mayor welcome your attendance.



Tuesday, June 20, 2017

     World Refugee Day.  Let’s work to free immigrants from detention and welcome them to our communities as refugees.  Sadly, here in the U.S., we are detaining thousands of people who should be protected, supported, and empowered to forge a new life away from the violence and trauma they have fled.



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

     Anti-war Vigil every Wednesday (since 9/11/01) from 4:00-5:00pm at the federal court building, Church Street at Griggs.



Thursday, June 22, 2017

     Soulidarity vigil every Thursday from 5:00-5:30pm at the federal court building, Church Street at Griggs.  Stand in opposition to Dakota Access, Keystone XL, and all other oil pipelines being constructed across the land of indigenous and Native peoples in violation of treaties and with disregard for sacred spaces.


–Jan Thompson janthompson0817@gmail.com




SWEC to Join Border Wall Protests in South Texas

Feds Release Mexican Wolf “Extinction” Plan–Your Comments Needed!

A draft recovery plan for the endangered Mexican wolf released by the Trump administration is bad news for lobos. It would suppress wolf numbers, sharply limit their distribution and hand over the rare wolves’ management to political appointees on state game commissions that have a long history of opposing wolves. The feds need to hear from people like you who care about wolves. Comments on the plan are due August 29th. Please take a moment to tell the feds that their “extinction” plan needs to be scrapped and a real recovery plan created.  Click here to learn more and submit your comments. Thank you!

NM Wants to Close State Park–Your Comments Needed!

When the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park opened in 2006 near Las Cruces as New Mexico’s first park in 30 years, people were excited. It was the culmination of years of efforts by the local community to get the park established, spearheaded by the Southwest Environmental Center. Now State Parks wants to hand the park over to another state agency because it says it doesn’t have the money to keep it open. SWEC opposes this move and has called on State Parks to find alternative solutions. Comments on the transfer are being accepted until August 25th. Send comments to nmparks@state.nm.us. Please speak up for this natural treasure!

SWEC to Join Border Wall Protests in South Texas

SWEC staff will be traveling to the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas this weekend to join protests against the imminent construction of the border wall in one of the most important wildlife areas in the U.S, including a federal wildlife refuge and national butterfly preserve. Soil testing in preparation for construction has already begun in the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, a 2000+ acre reserve created to protect endangered species such as ocelots and jaguarundis, as well as more than 400 species of birds. The wall will slice right through the refuge. Animals trapped between the wall and the Rio Grande will drown if the river floods. Actions planned this weekend include a dawn procession led by religious leaders and a protest hike through Santa Ana NWR. Participants are expected to come from around the U.S. Join us if you can!



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