To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
In proposing that Congress Members boycott or walk out on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's planned speech to Congress, expected to push for sanctions if not war on Iran, activists are drawing on actions engaged in by college students in recent years, as they have boycotted or walked out on or disrupted speeches by Israeli soldiers and officials on U.S. campuses. Netanyahu's noodle-headed move -- oblivious, apparently, to the U.S. government's effective evolution into a term-limited monarchy -- may provide a boost to both the movement to free Palestine and the movement to prevent a war on Iran.
Peace activists sometimes marvel at how young people have taken up environmentalist activism (with very little emphasis on the environmental destruction caused by militarism). Why, antiwar activists ask, don't young people get active opposing wars?
Ah, but they do. They are increasingly active, organized, strategic, bold, courageous, and determined about opposing a particular war: the ongoing war that the government of Israel wages -- with U.S. funding and support -- on the people of Palestine.
Nora Barrows-Friedman's new book, In Our Power: U.S. Students Organize for Justice in Palestine, tells their stories, often in their own words: What motivates them? How did they get involved? How do they view themselves in their activism? How do they relate to the non-activist world? We should all pay attention.
Don't misunderstand the case. Most students, like most adults, do little or no activism. The movement to free Palestine is far from success and up against huge opposition. Movements against other wars exist, a movement against all war exists, and all of these movements overlap. But, relatively speaking, students are far more engaged, I think, in opposing the Israeli occupation than in halting drone strikes or the U.S. wars in Iraq or Afghanistan (if they're even aware that those wars haven't ended). Opposition to U.S. wars tends to come disproportionately from an older and whiter crowd -- a result of the Vietnam era, of a less informed view of Israel, and/or of dozens of other likely factors. In Our Power doesn't address this question, but it provides much food for thought.
It's not clear that most advocates of Palestinian freedom think of themselves as opposing war or demanding peace. Hoda Mitwally, a student at the City University of New York, is quoted by Barrows-Friedman as describing the movement for Palestine as "one that amazingly has sustained itself in ways that other movements have fizzled out. The antiwar movement fizzled out very quickly, for example." It seems that many demanding justice for Palestine think in terms of demanding human rights, even if prominent among those is the right not to have your home bombed. But human rights is how pro-war advocacy is framed in the U.S. media and politics. We must attack Syria because we care. We must destroy Libya to save the Libyans. Wrecking Yemen is a model of humanitarian warfare. Of course this is all a pack of lies, but it is a prominent pack of lies. Perhaps the movements for peace and for Palestinian justice, already intertwined, could still benefit from deeper exchanges of thinking, for war opposition must be a human rights demand, and unless a system of peace is created in Palestine/Israel, the human rights violations including those formerly known as war, will continue.
The peace movement has put an emphasis on the financial cost to the aggressor nation, the damage to U.S. troops, the trade offs in poor schools and parks, etc., assuming that people need a direct connection to a moral atrocity before they'll act. I don't believe that for a minute, not as an absolute law. But the stories of Palestine activists do bear it out. Many of them have a direct connection and even personal experience on the ground, witnessing the horrors of what they oppose. They are Palestinian Americans or Jewish Americans or other Americans who have visited Israel or Palestine or who have close friends who have done so. Many of them have been moved by the recent Israeli attacks on Lebanon or Gaza ("Cast Lead" and "Protective Edge") or by the relentless construction of "settlements" and accompanying ethnic cleansing. Many have experienced bigotry in the United States following 9-11 and have sought out a comforting community. As Anwar al Awlaki came to favor anti-U.S. violence after experiencing such bigotry, many young people engage in constructive nonviolent activism instead. They gather as Palestinians or Arabs, and then they take up the Palestinian cause.
Beyond direct experience lies the factor of severity, or rather I think the combination is potent. Young people who become aware of mass murder and abuse and discrimination, especially after having been taught that it didn't exist, are likely to protest. Yet I suspect -- and this is pure speculation -- that another factor weighs heavily. That is the absence of the sort of U.S. government propaganda that promotes U.S. wars. The U.S. government does not market Israel's attacks on surrounding lands in the way that it markets a U.S. attack on Iraq or Libya. U.S. wars are marketed as patriotic duties, and as mad urgent crises that cannot wait for cool consideration. Once begun, they must be continued forever or one fails to "support the troops." Colleges notoriously turnover their student population every four years or so, and a movement that opposed a particular war as not a good civilized and acceptable war like the wars we really need has a half-life of about two years. Israel's war in contrast goes on and on and on, and while opposing it gets you accused of anti-Semitism, it does not get you accused of treason -- nor does it get you accused by remotely as many people. In fact opposing U.S. support for Israeli wars allows you to attack illegal and unacceptable foreign influence. So, while opposition to Israel's war may benefit from the war not being American, awareness of the U.S. government's role may actually help build the movement -- not just because people are reflexively patriotic but because they are rightly indignant about being forced to support a crime.
In addition, Israel's war and occupation involve elements quite familiar to African Americans and other abused groups in this country -- including Latinos along the border wall -- to the extent that Freedom Rides on buses are created in Israel, and mock border walls are created in Arizona. Mock eviction notices are all too frightening in college dorms. The echoes of South African Apartheid inform the movement with technical details and inspire it with the idea of success. And the U.S. movement for Palestine is supported by a global network better organized than those against U.S. wars -- so far -- not to mention the strength of global public opinion.
The movement for Palestine has somehow avoided the plague of frustration that has peace activists announcing that they will not attend a protest because they've attended them before and we don't have peace yet. Instead, the history of Palestinian activism going back nearly a century provides inspiration, lessons, and structures to bolster a movement driven by temporarily engaged young people, further inspired by their established understanding that the "peace process" has been a fraud. Meanwhile the antiwar movement seems cursed to believe every new wild justification for every new war until it is debunked some weeks or months later.
None of this is to say that the movement for Palestine has it easy. When we passed a resolution in my town against a war on Iran, and then asked people to do the same in other towns, they came back empty-handed informing me that they'd been rejected as anti-Semites. If opposing bombing Iran is anti-Semitic, you can imagine what interrupting Israeli VIPs to denounce their crimes counts as. But BDS (boycotts, divestments, and sanctions) against the Israeli government are easier to advance than those against the U.S. government -- although some are beginning to talk about the latter idea and many weapons companies that sell to Israel sell to everywhere else as well.
In the end, I can't claim to know why activism for justice in Palestine is showing relative promise, but I can advocate giving it all the help we possibly can, respectful of the young people who are leading the way. Read their stories in In Our Power. If they succeed, it will help millions of people. It will also help the movement to end all war. Because the myth of ancient hatred between two parties will have been replaced by the reality of war as the political choice of a misguided government. Ancient hatreds can be sold as inevitable. Choices made by misguided governments cannot.
Taher Herzallah, a young activist, explains where the confidence comes from: "[Y]ou have all these organizations pouring millions of dollars into doing work to combat the work we do for free. . . . [T]he work that we're doing doesn't need people that are paid millions of dollars. . . . When a freshman comes out and yells, 'Free Palestine!' and that threatens the existence of the state of Israel, that shows you how shallow that narrative is."
Adds student activist Rahim Kurwa, "The [divestment] process enforces a debate on campus. It forces people to have to look at what's going on and what they're directly investing in. Every time you have that debate, you come out ahead."
Honoring NSA's Binney and Amb. White
Editor Note: In our age of careerism, it’s rare for high-ranking officials to sacrifice their powerful posts for principle, but that was what NSA’s William Binney and the late U.S. Ambassador Robert White did. Their sacrifices and integrity were honored by likeminded former government officials in Berlin on January 22, 2015.
By Ray McGovern
Shock and Awe is having a troubled adolescence. The U.S. government is killing children with flying robot death planes, keeping troops in 175 countries, actively using "special" forces in 150 countries, asking us to ignore what it's done to Libya so that we'll support more wars, going silent on Yemen as the supposed model of a country that U.S. warmaking improved rather than ruined, turning down an offer from North Korea to halt nuclear tests, continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with no end in sight and no longer any pretense of Congressional or United Nations approval, oscillating on the question of starting a war on Iran (and inviting a foreign leader to give Congress its marching orders), actively antagonizing Russia and sending troops to Ukraine, building new nukes, proposing to enlarge the world's largest military budget next year, and avoiding all accountability for such horrors as human experimentation at Guantanamo.
Nasty vicious celebrations of murder and torture are dominating U.S. entertainment. The militarized thinking and weaponry are reaching local police departments. A jury just convicted a whistleblower on zero evidence for allegedly revealing that the CIA had given nuclear weapons plans (with flaws added) to Iran. The earth's climate is going crazy, and the single biggest thing we do to worsen that crisis (war) is also the single greatest diversion of resources away from addressing it.
Admit it, if your 11-year-old boy or girl caused a fraction of this sort of trouble, you'd be worried. But you'd also see through to the better tendencies. The U.S. public said no to a war on Syria in 2013. And while it said OK to a war in 2014 it imagined a short, cheap, harmless, beneficial war. It doesn't want a war on Iran or Russia. It doesn't want this level of military spending. It favors non-military solutions whenever they are possible, as of course they always are, regardless of what Barbara Boxer might say.
Shock and Awe needs an initiation into a healthier adulthood. Luckily there is a peace movement planning an intervention for Shock and Awe's 12th birthday, coming up March 18-21 in Washington, D.C.
Spring Rising: An Antiwar Intervention in DC
Coming out of a meeting held in Washington, DC, on January 10, plans are coming together for an antiwar intervention in the U.S. capital. A series of events will be held just as the ongoing U.S. war in Iraq -- recently restarted in a new form -- passes the 12-year mark since the March 2003 invasion.
Here's the schedule so far:
Wednesday, March 18: Peace gathering and fellowship.
Thursday, March 19th: Lobbying on Capitol Hill, followed by a tour of the war machine: homes and offices of war criminals.
Friday, March 20th: Afternoon and evening teach-in: Ending Current Wars, Ending the Institution of War. (This event will examine ISIS and U.S. warmaking in Western Asia and elsewhere; the damage militarism does to the natural environment, economies, and civil rights; and how the war system can be replaced with a peace system.)
Saturday, March 21st: Protest at the White House, followed by march.
This nonviolent intervention was originally proposed by Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox and the Soapbox People's Network. It has been endorsed and will be supported by (thus far, the list is rapidly growing): Amnesty International Charlottesville, the ANSWER Coalition, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the Baltimore Pledge of Resistance, CND CYMRU, CODEPINK, the Granny Peace Brigade of New York City, KnowDrones.com, Maryland United for Peace and Justice, Military Families Speak Out, the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, the Network to Stop Drone Surveillance and Warfare, The No Fear Coalition, United National Antiwar Coalition, Veterans For Peace, Voices for Creative Non-Violence, WarIsACrime.org, Washington Peace Center, Witness Against Torture, World Beyond War, and World Can't Wait.
This series of events is just coming together with many decisions yet to be made, and I wouldn't dream of speaking for everyone involved, but I can say why I'll be going and why I think you should too.
It's Urgently Needed
We've reached a level of war normalization in which we accept and even celebrate limited war as the best possible policy, while the corporate media often proposes to us that only (1) war and (2) nothing exist as possible courses of action. We need a major public initiative that creates other alternatives, that answers the relentless question "Well if you wouldn't bomb them, what would you do?"
It's New and Creative
This is not just a protest. It's an intervention and a reenactment (of past peace movements). It's teach-ins that are being developed to address the many ways in which war destroys: war makes us less safe, damages the environment, erodes civil rights, drains economies, etc. It's lobbying and truth telling, nonviolent resistance and rallying, solidarity and outreach. It's opposing particular wars, but also the much larger and more expensive preparation for wars that has come to seem ordinary.
It's a United Movement
Second only to "End the wars" among peace activists has always been the demand "Unite the organizations." Check out that list of organizations a few paragraphs above. It may be twice as long very soon. Your organization can get involved too. This just might be that long-sought holy grail of unity. Let's not miss it! In fact, let's expand on it by inviting and including environmental organizations, economic justice organizations, student groups, civil liberties and human rights groups, and opponents of racism and every other injustice that serves the cause of war.
It's Pro-Peace and Antiwar
I've already had peace activists tell me they refuse to go to these events on principle because the word "antiwar" has been used. Had the word "pro-peace" been used, others would have said the same. But here's the deal, we're pro-peace AND antiwar. The elimination of war is a beautiful, ennobling, gloriously positive event. The establishment of peace requires the elimination of war. We can't fail to point out that we're antiwar because even the Pentagon claims to be pro-peace. We must distinguish ourselves as in favor of peace through means other than war. We also can't fail to state that we are pro-peace, because war will not be eliminated unless all the systems that support it are replaced by the construction of peaceful ones. We need legal, governmental, economic, and cultural structures that facilitate peace. But we won't build them if the wars rage on unopposed, and peace in our hearts won't prevent a single death unless it achieves some external expression.
It Meets the Standard of the Simplistiphiles
As we've all been told -- very slowly -- Thomas Jefferson had way too many complaints in the Declaration of Independence for it to have any sort of impact. We British subjects must have one simple demand if we are to be heard at all.
O.K. You want one simple demand? I've got your one simple demand :-)
/ / / / / \ \ \ \ \
END ALL THE WARS
\ \ \ \ \ / / / / /
It's Weekday and Weekend in Every Sense
This series of events has got lobbying Congress and protesting Congress. It's got weekday disruption and weekend crowd maximization. And if there's something it's lacking, you can add it.
Obama's Has Just About Settled In -- Finally
When President Obama was first elected there was still a sort of structure -- albeit defunded -- of a significant peace movement that turned out to have actually been a movement against Republican wars. This structure was simply crawling with people who had arrived at the considered opinion that it was too early to protest Obama. We needed to let him settle in first. After a while it was still too early. A bit later it was still too early. By the time the White House was trumpeting to the New York Times that Obama picked men, women, and children to murder each Tuesday, the movement was pretty well gone.
Well, here's a good moment in which to bring it back. I dare say Obama has pretty well settled in. The Occupy movement that took off after the last midterm elections is primed for a new start. And the next 18-month election "season" hasn't really kicked in yet. Once it does, all useful action will have two arms and a leg tied behind its back.
The moment is now.
There is, as a great one said, such a thing as being too late.
I'll see you in Washington.
By Francine Mukwaya, UK Representative, Friends of the Congo
On Monday, January 19th, Congolese citizens rose up to contest the latest maneuver by the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to prolong President Joseph Kabila's stay in power. According to Congo's constitution, the president can only serve two five-year terms and Joseph Kabila's second five-year term ends on December 19, 2016.
Throughout 2014, supporters of Kabila floated the idea of amending the constitution so he could run for a third term but a fierce push back from inside (Catholic Church, civil society, and political opposition) and outside (U.S., UN, EU, Belgium and France) the DRC forced Kabila's supporters to shelve the idea and explore other avenues for keeping their man in power. In addition to the internal and external pressures, the downfall of President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso in October 2014 sent a strong message that changing the constitution is a risky venture. Blaise Compaore was driven out of power by a popular uprising on October 31, 2014 when he tried to change the country's constitution to remain in power.
The latest scheme devised by members of Kabila's political party (PPRD) and Presidential Majority coalition is: to push through the Congolese parliament an electoral law that would ultimately allow Kabila to stay in power beyond 2016. Article 8 of the law makes the completion of a national census a prerequisite for holding Presidential elections. Analysts believe it would take about four years to complete the census. These four years would run beyond December 19, 2016; the date that Kabila's second term comes to a constitutional end. Opposition figures, youth and Congolese civil society at-large strongly pushed back on this feature of the law. Nonetheless, the Congolese National Assembly passed the law on Saturday, January 17th and sent it to the Senate for passage.
Congolese opposition figures and youth descended into the streets from Monday, January 19th to Thursday, January 22nd with the aim of occupying the Senate in the capital city of Kinshasa. They were met with fierce and lethal resistance from Kabila's security forces. Youth and opposition-led marches ensued in Goma, Bukavu and Mbandaka. The government's clamp down was brutal. They arrested opposition figures, teargassed people in the streets, and fired live rounds of bullets into crowds. After four days of continuous demonstrations, the International Federation of Human Rights said, a total of 42 people were killed. Human Rights watch reported similar numbers claiming 36 dead and 21 by security forces.
On Friday, January 23rd, the Congolese Senate voted to remove the clause in the electoral law that would allow President Kabila to use the census as a back door rationale for remaining in power beyond 2016. The President of the Senate, Leon Kengo Wa Dondo said that it was because people went into the streets, that the Senate voted to remove the toxic article in the electoral law. He noted "we listened to the streets, that is why today's vote was a historic one." The amendments made by the Senate to the law then required that the law be passed on to a mixed chamber so that the Senate and National Assembly's versions of the law could be reconciled. The pressure was increasing on the Kabila regime as the Catholic Church voiced concerns about the grave actions on the part of the Kabila regime while Western diplomats went into high gear in an attempt to calm tensions.
On Saturday, January 24th, the President of the National Assembly told the press that the Senate amendments would be accepted. On Sunday, January 25th the National Assembly voted on the law and accepted the changes made by the Senate. The population claimed a victory and the general sentiment was expressed in the Lingala phrase "Bazo Pola Bazo Ndima" in English means, they [Kabila regime] lost and have accepted their defeat.
The central matter of concern is far from resolved. The Congolese people have no doubt that Kabila wants to remain in power through whatever means necessary. Although, the people have claimed a victory, vigilance is paramount as the process unfolds, and the country moves toward the constitutionally mandated end of Joseph Kabila's tenure as president on December 19, 2016.
A heavy price was paid last week with the loss of life. However, the veil of fear was pierced and future demonstrations are likely in order to protect the constitution, assure that Kabila leaves power per the law of the land and organize Presidential elections in 2016.
The youth movement is maturing with its savvy use of new media technologies. It is also strengthening its network inside and outside the country. The youth shared the cell phone numbers of the Senators and National Assembly members and mobilized Congolese inside and outside the DRC to call and send text messages to the members of parliament demanding that they scrap the electoral law. The usage of social media by the youth prompted the government to shut down the Internet and SMS system last week (wireless Internet, SMS and Facebook have yet to be restored). Via twitter, Congolese youth created the hashtag #Telema, a Lingala word meaning "stand up" which served as a rallying cry for young Congolese inside and outside the country. We also created a website with the same name (www.Telema.org), in order to provide support to the youth on the ground.
The people have demonstrated that the power is in their hands and not the politicians. The battle is not for or against one law or the other but rather for a new Congo, a Congo where the interests of the people are prioritized and protected by their leaders. Our fight is to have a say in the decision-making process in our country, and ultimately control and determine the affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Call for protests against the NATO Securityconference 2015
NO PEACE WITH NATO
Stop confrontationism and the new round of NATO armament
The so-called Munich International Security Conference ("SiKo") – contrary to what the organizers claim – is not about security or peace in the world. The conference is a gathering of economic, political, and military power elites, mainly from NATO and EU countries, to discuss strategies for maintaining their global dominance and joint military interventions.
But above all, SiKo is a propaganda forum with great resonance in the mass media for the justification of NATO, of the billions it spends on arms, and of its illegal wars based on lies, which are sold to the general population as "humanitarian interventions".
In 2014, German President Gauck used the SiKo as a platform for promoting greater German participation in these wars. Germany needed to involve itself militarily "sooner, more decisively, and more substantially", he said. German Foreign Minister Steinmeier and Minister of "Defence" von der Leyen pushed the same line. For our ruling power elite, the supposed "military restraint" is nothing but a relict of the past. Germany's new great-power politics – camouflaged as "global political responsibility" – has become a component of a propaganda offensive by government-lining politicians and media, and the guideline of German foreign policy. Even support for the regime in Kiev, with its fascist participation, is accepted.
There can be no peace with NATO
As the military arm of the wealthiest Western capitalist countries, NATO is a war-making alliance for implementing their economic and power-politics interests throughout the world. It is a threat to all humanity. It is the guarantor of a world order in which 1% of the people own 40% of the wealth of the world; an economic order that survives by the exploitation of human beings and nature, while destroying our vital resources.
After NATO's failures in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, the Russian bogey-man is now being revived, and an extremely dangerous course of confrontation is being steered: by establishing and expanding NATO military bases in eastern European countries, by setting up a 4,000-man-strong Rapid Reaction Force, by arming Kiev, by NATO maneuvers in Ukraine, and by expanding the NATO anti-missile facilities. And, last but not least, NATO is trying to justify and implement even higher expenditures on arms by reference to the new opponent.
Capitalism and war – two sides of the same coin
The more the crises of "neoliberal" capitalism intensify, the more brutally the profit interests of multinational corporations, banks and the arms industry are pushed through – economically by means of the planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Pact (TTIP) between the EU and the USA – and, if necessary, by military force.
And for years, Germany has not only provided the logistical military hub for the wars of aggression of the USA and NATO, but has also been involved directly and indirectly in these wars, in violation of its constitution. Germany continues to be the third-largest arms exporter in the world.
The balance sheet of imperial power politics is tens of thousands killed, hunger and poverty, the destruction of the environment and infrastructure, the expansion of ISIL terror – and thus endless misery with millions of refugees,
We say to the self-appointed "rulers of the world" who are coming to Munich for the SiKo, and to the heads of government at the G-7 summit in Elmau, Bavaria, in June 2015: You are not wanted here or anywhere else.
We are part of a growing worldwide movement seeking for a future without arms and war, with equivalent living conditions for all people.
For peace and justice in a world without exploitation of human beings or nature.
NO JUSTICE - NO PEACE
Come to the demonstration in Munich
on Saturday, 7 February 2015, at 1 p.m. On the Marienplatz
AKTIONSBÜNDNIS GEGEN DIE NATO-SICHERHEITSKONFERENZ
Declaration of Support (online entry) please sign (any time).
Individuals: 20 € / Small groups: 30 € / Larger organizations: 50 € or more
Bank account for Aktionsbündnis:
K. Schreer, account no.: 348 335 809, Postbank Munich, BLZ: 700 100 80, IBAN: DE44 700 100 800 348 335 809, BIC: PBNKDEFF, Purpose: SIKO 2015
Come learn more about the bitter and largely misunderstood situation on the ground in Iraq and Syria as we hear from some of the most well-informed analysts in the U.S. You will have an opportunity to ask questions following their presentations and discuss options we can take to curtail the violence.
When: Sat., Feb. 21, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockville, 100 Welsh Park Dr., Rockville
Speakers: Phyllis Bennis, Younes Benab, Raed Jarrar (bios below)
Following the speaker presentations and Q&A, refreshments will be served providing you an opportunity to talk informally with the speakers and the other members of the audience.
Don’t miss this exciting forum!
Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and is a fellow of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. She has been a writer, analyst, and activist on Middle East and UN issues for many years. In 2001 she helped found and remains on the advisory board of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. She writes and speaks widely across the U.S. and around the world as part of the global peace movement.
Dr. Younes Parsa Benab is retired dean and professor of political science, Strayer University. An active member of the Iranian diaspora, he is author of the two volume book: One Hundred Year History of Iranian Political Parties and Organizations (1904-2004) and over a hundred other articles about Iran and the world, in Persian and English.
Raed Jarrar serves as AFSC’s Policy Impact Coordinator at the Office of Public Policy and Advocacy in Washington, D.C. Since his immigration to the U.S. in 2005, he has worked on political and cultural issues pertaining to U.S. engagement in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Widely recognized as an expert on political, social, and economic developments in the Middle East, he has testified in numerous Congressional hearings and briefings and is a frequent guest on national and international media outlets in both Arabic and English.
Sponsored by Peace Action Montgomery, cosponsored by Sandy Spring Friends Peace Committee, Democratic Socialists of America/DC Metro, Montgomery County Coalition for Civil Rights, Nation Discussion Group/DC Metro, Maryland United for Peace and Justice (others being confirmed)
For directions: http://www.uucr.org/map-
Date: Friday 13 February – 6-9pm
Saturday 14 February - 10-5pm
Venue: School of African & Oriental Studies, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Four years after uprisings swept the Middle East millions of people still struggle for freedom and social justice. In 2011 dictators fell and new movements emerged in countries from North Africa to the Gulf. Their demands won support worldwide and inspired a host of campaigns for radical change. Challenged by the prospect of democracy, regimes have since attempted counter-revolution. Some have used extreme violence; some have encouraged sectarian division or attempted to co-opt and control organisations of the mass movement. Activists across the Middle East nonetheless continue to work for change. This conference addresses achievements of the revolutions and the challenges that now confront them:
- what can we learn about struggles from below and the responses of the state?
- have attempts at counter-revolution been successful?
- how are activist networks sustained – and how can we support them?
The conference will draw on experiences in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and Morocco – and other countries in which activists have attempted to launch movements for change. It will consider the centrality of Palestine for movements across the region – and the impact of the uprisings within Palestine. Speakers will include activists from the front line, with assessments from academics, human rights experts and media analysts.
Bahrain speakers include: Bahrain Watch members John Horne, Ali Abdulemam & Ala’a Shehabi and the co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Maryam Al-Khawaja Other speakers: Gilbert Achcar – Anne Alexander – Miriyam Aouragh – Sherif Azer – Mohamed Boutayeb – Joseph Daher – Kamil Mahdi – Nadine Marroushi – Sameh Naguib and others.
Opening session (6-9pm, Friday 13 February) will be a screening of the documentary ‘We are the Giant’ plus panel discussion with Maryam al-Khawaja and others.
We look forward to meeting you at SOAS!
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
Here's the appearances and protests for War Criminals for February 2015. Let us know if you are organizing something in your area and we will assist you in any way we can. You might download some of our posters and leaflets from our website.
It is rare for someone of this writer’s acquaintance to enlist in the military, although it has happened. When someone does so, his or her family usually speaks of how proud they are of them, as if the enlistee has done something to which great honor is attached. This attitude is also reflected in public opinion polls, in which much of the populace generally seems to agree that military service is good preparation for elected office.
Let us look at these two myths in a little more detail.
Europe won the Cold War.
Not long after the Berlin Wall fell a quarter of a century ago, the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States squandered its peace dividend in an attempt to maintain global dominance, and Europe quietly became more prosperous, more integrated, and more of a player in international affairs. Between 1989 and 2014, the European Union (EU) practically doubled its membership and catapulted into third place in population behind China and India. It currently boasts the world’s largest economy and also heads the list of global trading powers. In 2012, the EU won the Nobel Peace Prize for transforming Europe “from a continent of war to a continent of peace.”
In the competition for “world’s true superpower,” China loses points for still having so many impoverished peasants in its rural hinterlands and a corrupt, illiberal bureaucracy in its cities; the United States, for its crumbling infrastructure and a hypertrophied military-industrial complex that threatens to bankrupt the economy. As the only equitably prosperous, politically sound, and rule-of-law-respecting superpower, Europe comes out on top, even if -- or perhaps because -- it doesn’t have the military muscle to play global policeman.
And yet, for all this success, the European project is currently teetering on the edge of failure. Growth is anemic at best and socio-economic inequality is on the rise. The countries of Eastern and Central Europe, even relatively successful Poland, have failed to bridge the income gap with the richer half of the continent. And the highly indebted periphery is in revolt.
Politically, the center may not hold and things seem to be falling apart. From the left, parties like Syriza in Greece are challenging the EU’s prescriptions of austerity. From the right, Euroskeptic parties are taking aim at the entire quasi-federal model. Racism and xenophobia are gaining ever more adherents, even in previously placid regions like Scandinavia.
Perhaps the primary social challenge facing Europe at the moment, however, is the surging popularity of Islamophobia, the latest “socialism of fools.” From the killings at the Munich Olympics in 1972 to the recent attacks at Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris, wars in the Middle East have long inspired proxy battles in Europe. Today, however, the continent finds itself ever more divided between a handful of would-be combatants who claim the mantle of true Islam and an ever-growing contingent who believe Islam -- all of Islam -- has no place in Europe.
Dr. Brian A. Salvatore is a Professor of Chemistry at Louisiana State University Shreveport, where he has been on the faculty since 2003. Dr. Salvatore has twice served as Chairman of the Northwest Louisiana Section of the American Chemical Society, and he currently represents this section on the National Council of the American Chemical Society. He is also a member of the ACS’s national committee for Project SEED (Scientific Experience for the Economically Disadvantaged).
Dr. Salvatore discusses the work he's doing to prevent the largest ever open-air burning of explosives by the U.S. military, proposed for Northern Louisiana. Read this New York Times op-ed, this Truthout report, this open letter, and this report from the Shreveport Times.
Total run time: 29:00
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Producer: David Swanson.
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A quarter century after the end of the Cold War and decades after the signing of landmark nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements, are the U.S. and Russian governments once more engaged in a potentially disastrous nuclear arms race with one another? It certainly looks like it.
With approximately 15,000 nuclear weapons between them, the United States and Russia already possess about 93 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenal, thus making them the world’s nuclear hegemons. But, apparently, like great powers throughout history, they do not consider their vast military might sufficient, especially in the context of their growing international rivalry.
Where’s the US ‘Syriza’ party?: Greek Voters Have Tossed a Grenade into the Banker/Bureaucrat-Controlled European Establishment
By Dave Lindorff
There is certainly exciting news from Greece today, with confirmation that the leftist coalition party Syriza has won a decisive victory, and, with the help of just one small party, the Greek Independence Party, is assured of a parliamentary majority. That means Syriza’s dynamic marxist leader, the 40-year-old former student radical
Alexis Tsipras, will shortly become Greece’s prime minister, pledged to undo years of crippling austerity and to turn Greece back into a real democracy, instead of a scene of corporate pillage.
It was October 2012. Roei Elkabetz, a brigadier general for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), was explaining his country’s border policing strategies. In his PowerPoint presentation, a photo of the enclosure wall that isolates the Gaza Strip from Israel clicked onscreen. “We have learned lots from Gaza,” he told the audience. “It’s a great laboratory.”
Elkabetz was speaking at a border technology conference and fair surrounded by a dazzling display of technology -- the components of his boundary-building lab. There were surveillance balloons with high-powered cameras floating over a desert-camouflaged armored vehicle made by Lockheed Martin. There were seismic sensor systems used to detect the movement of people and other wonders of the modern border-policing world. Around Elkabetz, you could see vivid examples of where the future of such policing was heading, as imagined not by a dystopian science fiction writer but by some of the top corporate techno-innovators on the planet.
Swimming in a sea of border security, the brigadier general was, however, not surrounded by the Mediterranean but by a parched West Texas landscape. He was in El Paso, a 10-minute walk from the wall that separates the United States from Mexico.
Just a few more minutes on foot and Elkabetz could have watched green-striped U.S. Border Patrol vehicles inching along the trickling Rio Grande in front of Ciudad Juarez, one of Mexico’s largest cities filled with U.S. factories and the dead of that country’s drug wars. The Border Patrol agents whom the general might have spotted were then being up-armored with a lethal combination of surveillance technologies, military hardware, assault rifles, helicopters, and drones. This once-peaceful place was being transformed into what Timothy Dunn, in his book The Militarization of the U.S. Mexico Border, terms a state of “low-intensity warfare.”
THE NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR NONVIOLENT RESISTANCE ISSUES A CALL TO ACTION
In times of great injustice and despair, we are called to act from a place of conscience and courage. For all of you who are sick of heart over the destruction of the earth through pollution and militarization, we call on you to get involved in an action-oriented march that speaks to your heart and mind, marching from the EPA to the Pentagon on April 22, Earth Day.
For those of us who marched in New York City on September 21, 2014, we saw hundreds of thousands of citizens taking to the streets to save Mother Earth. There was a serious anti-war presence in the march making the connection between militarization and the destruction of the earth.
A lame-duck President Obama has, on occasion, done the right thing—supported the dreamers, recognized the insanity of official U.S. policy on Cuba and continues to release prisoners from the concentration camp in Guantanamo. It seems now is the time to challenge this administration to do more by ending the killer-drone program, and to convince environmentalists to be vocal critics of the Pentagon’s role in the destruction of Mother Earth.
The ineffectiveness of drone warfare, and thus the need to end it, is clear, Thanks to Wikileaks we have access to a July 7, 2009 secret report produced by the Central Intelligence Agency's Office of Transnational Issues discussing the failure of drone warfare in making the world safe. "The potential negative effect of HLT [High Level Targets] operations," the report states, "include increasing the level of insurgent support […], strengthening an armed group's bonds with the population, radicalizing an insurgent group's remaining leaders, creating a vacuum into which more radical groups can enter, and escalating or de-escalating a conflict in ways that favor the insurgents.”
The effect of militarization on the environment is clear. By starting the march at the Environmental Protection Agency, we will try to encourage environmentalists to join the action. A letter would be sent to Gina McCarthy, Environmental Protection Agency, Office of the Administrator, 1101A, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20460, to seek a meeting to discuss the Pentagon’s role in ecocide. If the EPA refuses to meet with the citizen activists, consideration would be given to do nonviolent civil resistance at the agency.
A letter would also be sent to Chuck Hagel, The Pentagon, 1400 Defense, Arlington, Virginia 22202, requesting a meeting to discuss the Climate Crisis, acerbated by U.S. warmongering. Again failure to get an appropriate response from Hagel’s office could result in nonviolent civil resistance.
The Call to Action highlights the need for the environmental agency to recognize the destructive role the military machine plays in climate chaos and to take action to remediate the situation.
According to Joseph Nevins in Greenwashing the Pentagon Monday, June 14, 2010, “The U.S. military is the world’s single biggest consumer of fossil fuels, and the single entity most responsible for destabilizing the Earth’s climate.”
The Pentagon is aware that national security could be affected by climate chaos. However as Nevin tells us, “Such ‘greenwashing’ helps to mask the fact that the Pentagon devours about 330,000 barrels of oil per day (a barrel has 42 gallons), more than the vast majority of the world’s countries. If the U.S. military were a nation-state, it would be ranked number 37 in terms of oil consumption—ahead of the likes of the Philippines, Portugal, and Nigeria—according to the CIA Factbook.”
To see another example of the military’s destructive nature, see Okinawa: A Small Island Resists U.S. Military's "Pivot to Asia" by Christine Ahn, which appeared December 26, 2014 in Foreign Policy in Focus. We are including some of the points made in the article:
“Takeshi Miyagi, a 44-year old farmer, said he abandoned his fields in July to join the resistance by monitoring the sea by canoe. Miyagi says he and other activists are ensuring the protection of the biologically rich ecosystem of the Henoko and Oura Bays and the survival of the dugong. The Japanese Ministry of the Environment lists the dugong — a marine mammal related to the manatee — as “critically endangered.” It is also on the list of U.S. endangered species.
“Okinawans are also pointing to the historic chemical contamination by U.S. military bases. Last month, the Japan Ministry of Defense began excavating at the Okinawa City soccer field where barrels containing toxic herbicides were discovered last year. In July, the Japanese government unearthed 88 barrels containing ingredients used to produce Agent Orange in reclaimed land next to the Kadena Air Force Base.”
Finally, read Climate Change Challenges by Kathy Kelly: “. . . it seems the greatest danger – the greatest violence – that any of us face is contained in our attacks on our environment. Today’s children and generations to follow them face nightmares of scarcity, disease, mass displacement, social chaos, and war, due to our patterns of consumption and pollution.”
She adds this: “What’s more, the U.S. military, with its more than 7,000 bases, installations, and other facilities, worldwide, is one of the most egregious polluters on the planet and is the world’s largest single consumer of fossil fuels. Its terrible legacy of forcing its own soldiers and their families, over decades, to drink lethally carcinogenic water on bases that should have been evacuated as contaminated sites is covered in a recent Newsweek story.”
If you are concerned by the challenges facing Mother Earth and want to end the killer drone program, get involved with the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance on April 22, Earth Day.
Can you join us in Washington, D.C. for the EPA to the Pentagon?
Can you risk arrest?
Would you be able to sign onto the letters?
If you can’t come to D.C., can you organize a solidarity action?
National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
mobuszewski at Verizon dot net
By Gary Lindorff
How inspiring is that!
Maybe we should go back to what we were trying to do
When we got discouraged:
Try to scratch together a living selling loosies in the street
As a man of color?
Maybe someone was building a time machine
And they should get back to that!
Teach a friend’s dog to speak for a YouTube video,
Go out in this snowstorm and not come in...
Murder at Camp Delta is a new book by Joseph Hickman, a former guard at Guantanamo. It's neither fiction nor speculation. When President Obama says "We tortured some folks," Hickman provides at least three cases -- in addition to many others we know about from secret sites around the world -- in which the statement needs to be modified to "We murdered some folks." Of course, murder is supposed to be acceptable in war (and in whatever you call what Obama does with drones) while torture is supposed to be, or used to be, a scandal. But what about tortures to death? What about deadly human experimentation? Does that have a Nazi enough ring to disturb anyone?
We should be able to answer that question soon, at least for that segment of the population that searches aggressively for news or actually -- I'm not making this up -- reads books. Murder at Camp Delta is a book of, by, and for true believers in patriotism and militarism. You can start out viewing Dick Cheney as a leftist and never be offended by this book, unless documented facts that the author himself was deeply disturbed to discover offend you. The first line of the book is "I am a patriotic American." The author never retracts it. Following a riot at Guantanamo, which he led the suppression of, he observes:
"As much as I blamed the inmates for the riot, I respected how hard they'd fought. They were ready to fight nearly to the death. If we had been running a good detention facility, I would have thought they were motivated by strong religious or political ideals. The sad truth was that they probably fought so hard because our poor facilities and shabby treatment had pushed them beyond normal human limits. Their motivation might not have been radical Islam at all but the simple fact that they had nothing to live for and nothing left to lose."
As far as I know, Hickman has not yet applied the same logic to debunking the absurd pretense that people fight back in Afghanistan or Iraq because their religion is murderous or because they hate us for our freedoms. Hickman will be a guest on Talk Nation Radio soon, so perhaps I'll ask him. But first I'll thank him. And not for his "service." For his book.
He describes a hideous death camp in which guards were trained to view the prisoners as sub-human and much greater care was taken to protect the well-being of iguanas than homo sapiens. Chaos was the norm, and physical abuse of the prisoners was standard. Col. Mike Bumgarner made it a top priority that everyone stand in formation when he entered his office in the morning to the sounds of Beethoven's Fifth or "Bad Boys." Hickman relates that certain vans were permitted to drive in and out of the camp uninspected, making a mockery of elaborate attempts at security. He didn't know the reasoning behind this until he happened to discover a secret camp not included on any maps, a place he called Camp No but the CIA called Penny Lane.
To make things worse at Guantanamo would require a particular sort of idiocy that apparently Admiral Harry Harris possessed. He began blasting the Star Spangled Banner into the prisoners' cages, which predictably resulted in the guards abusing prisoners who did not stand and pretend to worship the U.S. flag. Tensions and violence rose. When Hickman was called on to lead an assault on prisoners who would not allow their Korans to be searched, he proposed that a Muslim interpreter do the searching. Bumgarner and gang had never thought of that, and it worked like a charm. But the aforementioned riot took place in another part of the prison where Harris rejected the interpreter idea; and the lies that the military told the media about the riot had an impact on Hickman's view of things. So did the media's willingness to lap up absurd and unsubstantiated lies: "Half the reporters covering the military should have just enlisted; they seemed even more eager to believe the things our commanders said than we did."
After the riot, some of the prisoners went on hunger strike. On June 9, 2006, during the hunger strike, Hickman was in charge of guards on watch from towers, etc., overseeing the camp that night. He and every other guard observed that, just as the Navy Criminal Investigative Service report on the matter would later say, some prisoners were taken out of their cells. In fact, the van that took prisoners to Penny Lane took three prisoners, on three trips, out of their camp. Hickman watched each prisoner being loaded into the van, and the third time he followed the van far enough to see that it was headed to Penny Lane. He later observed the van return and back up to the medical facilities, where a friend of his informed him that three bodies were brought in with socks or rags stuffed down their throats.
Bumgarner gathered staff together and told them three prisoners had committed suicide by stuffing rags down their own throats in their cells, but that the media would report it a different way. Everyone was strictly forbidden to say a word. The next morning the media reported, as instructed, that the three men had hung themselves in their cells. The military called these "suicides" a "coordinated protest" and an act of "asymmetrical warfare." Even James Risen, in his role as New York Times stenographer, conveyed this nonsense to the public. No reporter or editor apparently thought it useful to ask how prisoners could have possibly hung themselves in open cages in which they are always visible; how they could have acquired enough sheets and other materials to supposedly create dummies of themselves; how they could have gone unnoticed for at least two hours; how in fact they had supposedly bound their own ankles and wrists, gagged themselves, put on face masks, and then all hanged themselves simultaneously; why there were no videos or photos; why no guards were disciplined or even questioned for ensuing reports; why supposedly radically lax and preferential treatment had been given to three prisoners who were on hunger strike; how the corpses had supposedly suffered rigor mortis faster than is physically possible, etc.
Three months after Hickman returned to the U.S. he heard on the news of another very similar "suicide" at Guantanamo. Who could Hickman turn to with what he knew? He found a law professor named Mark Denbeaux at the Seton Hall University Law School's Center for Policy and Research. With his, and his colleagues', help Hickman tried reporting the matter through proper channels. Obama's Justice Department, NBC, ABC, and 60 Minutes all expressed interest, were told the facts, and refused to do a thing about it. But Scott Horton wrote it up in Harpers, which Keith Olbermann reported on but the rest of the corporate media ignored.
Hickman and Seton Hall researchers found out that the CIA had been administering huge doses of a drug called mefloquine to prisoners, including the three killed, which an army doctor told Hickman would induce terror and amounted to "psychological waterboarding." Over at Truthout.org Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye reported that every new arrival at Guantanamo was given mefloquine, supposedly for malaria, but it was only given to every prisoner, never to a single guard or to any third-country staff people from countries with high risk of malaria, and never to the Haitian refugees housed at Guantanamo in 1991 and 1992. Hickman had begun his "service" at Guantanamo believing the prisoners were "the worst of the worst," but had since learned that at least most of them were nothing of the sort, having been picked up for bounties with little knowledge of what they'd done. Why, he wondered,
"were men of little or no value kept under these conditions, and even repeatedly interrogated, months or years after they'd been taken into custody? Even if they'd had any intelligence when they came in, what relevance would it have years later? . . . One answer seemed to lie in the description that Major Generals [Michael] Dunlavey and [Geoffrey] Miller both applied to Gitmo. They called it 'America's battle lab.'"
Here's our new downloadable poster about war criminal John Brennan which can be printed as 8.5 x 11 or 11 x 17.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
By Dave Lindorff
There were two times Republicans broke into fervent applause during this lame duck president's seventh State of the Union speech: the first was when he called for passage of "fast track" authority to negotiate and send to the Senate a Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact -- basically a NAAFTA for the Pacific region; the second was when he noted that he "won't be running for president again."
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
By Robert F. Dodge, M.D.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has just announced its latest nuclear Doomsday Clock moving ahead the minute hand to three minutes till midnight. The clock represents the count down to zero in minutes to nuclear apocalypse - midnight. This significant move of two minutes is the 22nd time since its inception in 1947 that the time has been changed.
In moving the hand to three minutes to midnight, Kennette Benedict, the Executive Director of the Bulletin, identified in his comments: "the probability of global catastrophe is very high"... "the choice is ours and the clock is ticking"..."we feel the need to warn the world" ..."the decision was based on a very strong feeling of urgency." She spoke to the dangers of both nuclear weapons and climate change saying, "they are both very difficult and we are ignoring them" and emphasized "this is about doomsday, this is about the end of civilization as we know it." The Clock has ranged from two minutes to midnight at the height of the Cold War to 17 minutes till midnight with the hopes that followed the end of the Cold War. The decision to move the minute hand is made by the Bulletin's Board of Directors in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 18 Nobel Laureates.
What is clear is that the time to ban nuclear weapons is now. Today’s announcement by the Bulletin further corroborates the dangers confirmed by recent climate science. These studies identify the much greater dangers posed by even a small regional nuclear war using “just” 100 Hiroshima size bombs out of the 16,300 weapons in today’s global stockpiles. The ensuing dramatic climate changes and famine that would follow threaten the lives of up to two billion on the planet with effects that would last beyond 10 years. There is no escaping the global impact of such a small regional nuclear war.
Medical science has weighed in on the impacts and devastation of even the smallest nuclear explosion in one of our cities and the reality is there is no adequate medical or public health response to such an attack. We kid ourselves into a false sense that we can prepare and plan for the outcome of a bomb detonation. Every aspect and facet of our society would be overwhelmed by a nuclear attack. Ultimately the resultant dead at ground zero would be the lucky ones.
Probability theorists have long calculated the dismal odds that the chance for nuclear event either by plan or accident are not in our favor. Recent documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act detail more than 1,000 mishaps that have happened in our nuclear arsenals. Time is not on our side and the fact that we have not experienced a nuclear catastrophe is more a result of luck than mastery and control over these immoral weapons of terror.
The time to act is now. There is so much that can and must be done. Congress will soon begin budget debates that include proposals to increase nuclear weapons spending for stockpile modernization by $355 billion over the next decade and up to a trillion in the next 30 years--expenditures for weapons that can never be used and at a time when the economic needs for our country and world are so great.
Around the world, there is a growing awareness of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, and a corresponding desire to rid the world of these weapons. The Vienna Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons conference last month saw 80 percent of the nations of the world participating. In October 2014, at the UN, 155 nations called for the elimination of nuclear weapons. At Vienna, 44 nations plus the pope advocated for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.
The people are making their voices heard and demanding a change of course from the status quo.
In this week’s State of the Union address, President Obama emphasized that we are one people with a common destiny. He said this both in reference to our nation and our world. The threat of nuclear weapons unites us even as it threatens our very existence. This reality can also be remembered in the words of Martin Luther King when he said,
“We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”
The time for action is now, before it is too late. It’s three minutes till midnight.
Robert F. Dodge, M.D., is a practicing family physician, writes for PeaceVoice,and serves on the boards of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Beyond War, Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions.
By John Hanrahan, ExposeFacts.org
To hear the prosecution side tell it in the ongoing trial of Jeffrey Sterling, the former CIA officer who is accused of a national security leak involving Iran, Sterling has potentially (emphasis on potentially):
* placed a CIA “asset” at risk;
* hurt recruitment of other defectors, informants and turncoats;
* scared other current “assets” into having second thoughts about remaining as assets;
* tipped off the Iranians and the Russians and other nations that the CIA carries out clandestine schemes to disrupt other countries’ nuclear weapons programs;
* possibly caused the U.S. to modify its own nuclear weapons plans, and, well, you get the picture.
Sterling’s alleged actions — he is accused of providing New York Times reporter James Risen with classified information on a super-secret CIA scam, Operation Merlin, involving delivering flawed nuclear weapons plans to the Iranians in Vienna — also could “conceivably contribute to the deaths of millions of innocent victims.”
Or so said the CIA in talking points prepared for then-National Security Adviser and Hyperbolist-in-Chief Condoleezza Rice for a meeting with New York Times personnel in April 2003 in a successful effort to kill Risen’s story about Merlin. Risen subsequently reported the botched Iranian nuclear plan in his 2006 book “State of War,” much to the embarrassment of the CIA (and the New York Times editors who had killed his original piece).
All these dire warnings were delivered ominously by federal prosecutors in opening and closing arguments, by current and former CIA personnel, a former FBI counterintelligence officer and other national security officials. The case is now being deliberated by the jury.
There is only one thing wrong with the prosecution’s narrative about the dire consequences caused by James Risen’s book and Sterling’s alleged leaks — it is almost completely evidence-free.
Pressed by defense attorneys over the last two weeks, the various employees of the national security state could cite no one who had been killed or hurt as a result of the disclosures in Risen’s book, which came out nine years ago — more than enough time for the predicted cataclysm to occur.
No examples of prospective “assets” who had said no-thanks because of the Risen disclosures. No example of even one current asset who had quit over the disclosures. No alteration of U.S. nuclear weapons plans. And, no, Condi Rice, no one has yet been killed by non-existent Iranian nuclear weapons or in that scary mushroom cloud you falsely warned us about in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of WMD-free Iraq.
Typical this week was the testimony of former CIA official David Shedd, currently the acting director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who pointed to many dire potential results of the Risen book’s now-aging disclosures. He called the leak “a breach of security that potentially would affect similar operations,” and warned that such a leak “could require modification” of U.S. nuclear plans — apparently because the bogus plans had good stuff in them that, warts and all, provided tips about the U.S. program. Which only underscores the craziness: If there is good stuff in the flawed plans, why would you want to peddle them to Iran or any other country you consider an adversary?
For the government’s case, of course, it is enough to talk of potential harm rather than actual harm to national security, something prosecutor Eric Olshan did so skillfully in his closing argument. Add to that the factor of a lot of intelligence community people telling the jury that we all should be more than a little frightened because a cockamamie, dangerous CIA plot was exposed. That helps sweeten the pot, and could be enough to persuade some jurors despite the absence of facts. And have a Bush administration superstar like Condi Rice spin more tall tales about WMDs, this time in Iran. When you don’t have evidence in a national security whistleblowing case, scare them.
And evidence, beyond the circumstantial and an impressive (if incomplete) chronology that shows Risen and Sterling contacting each other frequently in phone calls during key periods, was sorely lacking.
With defense attorney Edward MacMahon masterfully picking apart some of the key testimony of prosecution witnesses this week, these witnesses were forced to admit they have found no evidence that it was Sterling who gave Risen a document for his book; or that it was Sterling who gave Risen any information about anything in his book; or that anyone had ever seen Risen and Sterling together; or that Sterling took home or otherwise purloined documents relating to Operation Merlin.
And MacMahon and fellow defense attorney Barry Pollack have also demonstrated that there are multiple other possible sources for the leak of the Merlin materials but none was investigated.These include the Russian scientist who actually dropped off the flawed nuclear plans for pick-up by an Iranian official in Venice, other CIA officials, and various staffers of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee (to whom Sterling had legally gone in 2003 as a whistleblower to voice his concerns over Merlin). Pollack, in closing arguments, demonstrated there was a significant number of people who could have been sources for Risen, including the 90 CIA employees that government testimony showed had access to the Merlin program
FBI special agent Ashley Hunt, who has led the FBI investigation of the Merlin leak for more than a decade, presented the strongest circumstantial evidence against Sterling — the aforementioned chronology. MacMahon got her to acknowledge that she did not pursue — or was blocked from pursuing — certain paths of inquiry that might have turned up other suspects as the source of the Merlin information that Risen received.
Hunt acknowledged under tough questioning that she had once earlier in the investigation written memoranda saying Sterling was probably not the leaker and that the likely source was someone from the Senate Select Intelligence Committee (SSIC). She also acknowledged writing a memo in early 2006 citing “unified opposition” to her investigation within the committee, which was supposed to be monitoring Merlin. She testified that then-committee chairman Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) told her he was not going to cooperate with the FBI, and the committee staff director, Republican William Duhnke, refused to talk to her at all.
Two former staffers from the SSIC who met with Sterling in March 2003, when he brought what they and other prosecution witnesses have described as a whistleblowing complaint about the Merlin scheme, did testify as prosecution witnesses at Sterling’s trial. Under questioning, they provided testimony helpful to Sterling that showed that Risen, indeed, apparently had sources on the committee — a committee that was already familiar with Operation Merlin even before Sterling came to them with his concerns.
One former staffer, Donald Stone, even acknowledged in his testimony that he had taken a call from Risen sometime after that meeting with Sterling, but that he had told him he couldn’t talk to the press. Stone said he had not provided Risen with any information on any subject ever.
The other former staffer, Vicki Divoll, was fired from the committee after providing non-classified information to a Judiciary Committee staffer on a contentious intelligence authorization bill matter, only to see that information (which was embarrassing to the Republicans) trumpeted the next day in a front-page New York Times story written by — James Risen. She testified she had never spoken to Risen on any matter, but that others on the committee had dealt with Risen from time to time.
Divoll acknowledged telling the FBI at one point that Alfred Cumming, the committee’s Democratic staff director, had spoken to Risen on occasion. She also testified she had heard during her committee tenure — but had no direct knowledge — that both the Democratic and Republican staff directors on the committee talked to reporters on various matters, and that both officials sometimes gave reporters information they wanted in a quid-pro-quo arrangement in which the reporter would also agree to write a story that the committee official wanted. She said this was very much “third-hand” information, maybe even “fifth-hand.”
Defense attorneys hammered on the point through testimony from these prosecution witnesses that despite Risen’s sources and potential sources in both the CIA and on Capitol Hill (including right on the SSCI), none had had their residences searched, their computer’s contents analyzed, their telephone call logs examined, their bank and credit card records searched — as had been the case with Sterling.
As part of the defense’s counter-narrative, Pollack said in his closing arguments: “They have a theory, I have a theory.” But, he added, a jury should not convict or acquit someone on the basis of theories in such a serious case. Rather, he said, it was the government’s responsibility to present evidence showing guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and “they haven’t done it.”
For much of this trial, the courtroom has been awash in reasonable doubt. Of course, jurors could choose to infer from the prosecution’s chronology of circumstantial evidence that Sterling was, in fact, one of Risen’s sources. And some of them could be scared enough by the government’s narrative to believe the “State of War” disclosures made us less safe. In the government’s rebuttal to Pollack’s closing argument, prosecutor James Trump played the terrorism and treason cards, in case jurors had missed the message earlier. Sterling had “betrayed his country…betrayed the CIA…”, in contrast to CIA employees who “serve and we rest easier as a result.”
Given the flimsiness of the case presented against Sterling, it would be a tragic miscarriage of justice if he were to be convicted and face a long prison sentence on the basis of nothing more than inferences — and the fears of nuclear nightmares the government says can ensue because of the Operation Merlin disclosures.
John Hanrahan is a former executive director of The Fund for Investigative Journalism and reporter for The Washington Post, The Washington Star, UPI and other news organizations. He also has extensive experience as a legal investigator. Hanrahan is the author of Government by Contract and co-author of Lost Frontier: The Marketing of Alaska. He has written extensively for NiemanWatchdog.org, a project of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.
What the U.S. government does openly is many times worse than anything it can be doing secretly, and yet the secrets fascinate us.
If you compare polling on majority views on most political topics with actual U.S. policy, there's little overlap. Scholars now produce reports finding that the United States is an oligarchy. Most people don't vote. Those who try to engage with U.S. politics get excited when the Democrats fall back into the minority and start pretending to favor popular policies again. People hope to find reflected bits of decency in official rhetoric during a two-year-long period of pretended governance that amounts to a public sales pitch and a private wink to the campaign funding overlords.
Our government openly subsidizes the destruction of our planet's climate, openly allows corporations to pay negative taxes, openly redistributes wealth upward, openly funds a military as costly as the rest of the globe's nations' combined, openly serves as the marketing firm for the U.S. weapons that make up much of that other half of the globe's armed forces, openly enacts corporate trade policies that ruin economies and the environment, openly denies us basic human services, openly prosecutes whistleblowers, openly restricts our civil liberties, openly murders large numbers of people with drone strikes. We can watch a police officer in New York choke a man to death on video and walk away without being prosecuted for any crime. We can watch the U.S. Congress take direction in promoting a new war from a foreign leader (tune in February 11 for the latest), and yet what goes on in secret obsesses us.
I don't mean the lies that have been exposed, the false excuses for wars, the miscalculations, the "misplacement" of billions of dollars. I mean the human drama. It's not enough to know that Obamacare is a grotesque and deadly monstrosity; we want to know about the insurance executives' roles in writing it. It's not enough to know that Iraq has been destroyed. We want to hear about the oil barons drawing up the plans with Dick Cheney. It's not enough to know that a tragic crime was used to launch catastrophic wars, we want to know whether the crime was staged. We want to know who was behind every assassination, and every powerful bit of propaganda. We want to know whether each CIA operation can be explained by evil or incompetence. We're like Mark Twain, who said, "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it."
This is what I wonder in looking at Operation Merlin, over which Jeffrey Sterling is now on trial as a whistleblower. Whether giving nuclear weapons plans to Iran can be explained by incompetence that surpasses my understanding or must be explained by evil, the U.S. government is openly trying to incarcerate a whistleblower who did his legal duty. I just happen to have read a book by Donald Jeffries called Hidden History: An Expose of Modern Crimes, Conspiracies, and Cover-ups in American Politics. I've been thinking over dozens of alleged conspiracies from the killing of President Kennedy to the supposed forging of Obama's birth certificate. Some I think are real, others nonsense. The point is that I think there may be a hybrid solution. I may not have to choose incompetence or evil to explain the CIA giving nukes to Iran. I can choose incompetence combined with bureaucratic dysfunction combined with evil priorities.
If the CIA's top priority was nuclear disarmament, it wouldn't have tried, as it claims to have tried, to slow down an Iranian nuclear weapons program (if one existed, it didn't know) by giving Iran nuclear plans. The CIA officers involved testified in court that they knew their action risked proliferating nuclear weapons technology. That also means that if their top priority had been obeying the law, they wouldn't have created Operation Merlin. But if their top priority was being involved, appearing to be doing something important, and if they were risking an outcome that didn't much worry them, Operation Merlin is exactly what they would have done -- assuming gargantuan levels of incompetence. That is, if they didn't much care if Iran got nukes, if they in fact thought it would be a pretty cool excuse to start a war if Iran could be shown to be working on nukes, well then, why the heck not find the most outlandishly stupid and illegal way in which to try to slow Iran down -- a way that could very well speed Iran up?
This same hybrid explanation applies to other mysteries as well, of course. If the U.S. government's top priority had been preventing a crime like 911, it would have stopped bombing and occupying Muslim nations, adopted an approach of cooperation and generosity with the world, and invested at least a wee bit of effort into preventing the crime, especially when the president was handed a memo warning about it and when his top advisor was shouting about the need. But if the people running the U.S. government didn't really give much of a damn about preventing such a crime, and if they in fact thought it would be just about the only way to get new wars started, well then, they would have done at least what we know them to have done and perhaps more that we could learn from a proper investigation. Part incompetent, part evil -- how evil, we don't know. But we don't need to conclude that the hijackers didn't exist or a missile hit the Pentagon or the World Trade Center was blown up from within to achieve a satisfactory explanation. All such things could coexist with this theory, but they're not needed.
What argues against such explanations of unknown government misdeeds is not the degree of evilness. Remember, we're talking about a government that has used 911 as an excuse to destroy whole countries and kill upwards of a million human beings. Blowing up a couple of buildings is perfectly acceptable to most people who would launch wars. The exception is anyone whose sincere nationalism actually makes them value U.S. lives while considering non-U.S. lives to be worthless. But, remember, we're talking about the U.S. government. They send U.S. troops off to kill and die in the process of slaughtering the foreigners. They allow millions in the U.S. to die for lack of basic services while they dump funding into war preparations. Dick Cheney contemplated a proposal to stage a shooting of U.S. troops disguised as Iranians. The Joint Chiefs of Staff approved Operation Northwoods, which would have murdered Americans to frame Cuba. At question is not level of evil, but particular level of competent engagement in particular acts of evil.
Jeffries' book mixes a half century of well-documented crimes with pure speculation. I don't think the inclusion in a book of dubious conspiracies should hurt the inclusion of likely ones. If we aren't open to questioning everything, we'll miss lots of things. But it's simply not possible that every unusual plane crash over a period of decades has been an assassination. At least one or two of them must have been accidents. That Jeffries throws in completely random silliness, such as that Janet Reno was rumored to be gay (so what?) or that a couple killed on 911 had been married at the Vatican (gasp!), or that he thinks the Institute for Policy Studies is part of the elite establishment, doesn't mean that Lee Harvey Oswald actually killed Kennedy. I think we have to look at every case seriously and go where the evidence leads. I think that our approach should be: Distrust but verify. Begin with the assumption that the government is lying, and see if it can prove itself honest.
When I read that Karl Rove views religion as a useful tool for manipulating the gullible or that Bill Clinton had a seat on a jet known for providing sex with underage girls, I don't think such gossip is as significant as trade, energy, and war policies that will result in millions of deaths. But I don't think the public interest in such stories is completely beside the point either. "Whether important policy decisions are made at Bohemian Grove or not," writes Jeffries, "it is at the very least disturbing to know that our leaders are gathering together to worship a massive owl, dress in robes, and recite occult incantations." Is it? We just had a president who openly said God had told him to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. Who cares if he worships an owl, unless it was the owl who told him that? But it is disturbing because of the secrecy. Politicians who will pretend they want to end wars or tax billionaires whenever they're in the minority and in no danger of actually doing it are politicians with contempt for you and me; they are people who believe they are above us and can, like Henry V, make their own laws. Of course Michael Hastings' death could have been an accident, but to assume so, and to suggest that investigating it as a murder would be loony is to demonstrate a remarkable ignorance of history. Recently, with each new FBI terror plot foiled and celebrated, I've assumed it would be shown to have been a case of entrapment in which the FBI encouraged the crime before preventing it. In each case, I've been right. That doesn't mean that tomorrow the FBI won't capture a terrorist it had nothing to do with creating; it just means: Distrust but verify.
Distrusting may have started with Kennedy's assassination, even if the need for distrusting today can be advanced further through an honest retelling of Pearl Harbor, and myths of losing innocence ought by all rights to go back to the genocide of the Native Americans if not to the agricultural revolution. Hidden History is not where I think people should start reading about Kennedy (James Douglass's book might be better). But I learned new things about Kennedy from Hidden History and think we should all consider Jeffries' remark: "[O]nce I realized that the president of the United States could be killed in broad daylight, without a single high-ranking public official questioning what really happened, and without any supposed journalist having the slightest curiosity about the subject, I understood that anything was possible."
Jeffries' book roams chronologically through a long list of scandals. He briefly mentions numerous outrages that are not really in dispute: Northwoods, Tonkin, Mongoose, Mockingbird, MK-Ultra, Cointelpro, Fred Hampton, etc., etc. He focuses at greater length on a smaller number of possible conspiracies, providing good summaries of what's known about the killing of JFK and RFK in particular. On Chappaquiddick he's less convincing, on the October Surprise he's vague and truly bizarre (but could have been completely convincing as I think the evidence is well established). He strays into economics and politics and general corruption, speculates on AIDS, Vince Foster, Oklahoma City, etc. His sections on JFK Jr. and on the Anthrax scare are of interest, I think.
Do the surveillance state and the proliferation of private cameras end these mysteries? Imagine Kennedy shot in Dallas today. The video footage would be voluminous, and it would be around the world on the internet before the blood dried. But imagine Abdulrahman al Awlaki's killing today. Much of the world doesn't have the same technology one could expect in Dallas. And imagine Eric Garner's killing today. We have the video, but we're told not to believe our lying eyes. What could end bad government -- as well as misplaced suspicions of bad government -- would be open government, including the elimination of secret agencies. And what could accomplish that would be if the public, including Jeffrey Sterling's jury, assumed that anything the CIA said was more than likely a lie.
We in Veterans For Peace (VFP) invite you to join us as we put together a special Memorial Day 2015 service. As many of you know, the year 2015 marks the fiftieth anniversary of what some consider to be the beginning of the American War in Vietnam-- the deployment of the U.S. Marines to DaNang. The Department of Defense is very aware of the significance of this year and has mounted a heavily funded initiative to make sure that the younger generations of this country see the Vietnam War as a noble enterprise. Included in their efforts is a well-funded website as well as plans for annual celebrations, such as Memorial Day events around the country. They are planning to tell their version of the war for the next ten years.
However, we know that many of us disagree with their perspective, who see the war as, at the least, a grievous mistake if not an horrific crime. As we have already seen, the Pentagon will downplay or ignore this perspective in their narrative of the war. Thus, we in VFP have pledged to meet their campaign with one of our own -- we call it the Vietnam War Full Disclosure movement (http://www.vietnamfulldisclosure.org). Please join us in more fully opening up the dialogue of how the history of the American War in Vietnam has to be told. We need to hear your voice. To begin with, we need you to write a letter. A special letter.