To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle_at_gmail.com (replacing _at_ with @)
By David Swanson
There will be a protest of the new war at 10 a.m. Tuesday in front of the White House. Some thoughts on the context of this latest decision to bomb yet another country are below.
Following a screening of Phil Donahue's film Body of War in Washington, D.C., on Monday, during which the United States began illegally bombing Syria, Donahue engaged in an interesting exchange with one of those audience members who asks a question and a dozen follow-up questions.
Donahue had belittled drone pilots as sitting at desks with cups of coffee. This member of the audience shouted out that that was unfair, that drone pilots were often engaged in perfectly legitimate murders, and that drone pilots were serving their country just the same as the U.S. Army veteran who is the focus of the film.
The film and its director treat this Army veteran as having honorably served a worthy cause even while describing the war as unjustified and a horrible decision. So, if a ground troop in an immoral illegal war is to be thanked and honored, not just respected and sympathized with, why not thank and honor drone pilots?
Donahue's response to this sort of logic was that the drone pilot is less brave.
At the end of an exchange on that theme, Donahue reached a conclusion that ranked various types of troops based on their levels of bravery, and possibly also of suffering. That last point ran into trouble, as the questioner pointed out the PTSD rates among drone pilots who do in fact sometimes see their victims more than do troops who are physically closer to the action.
But bravery remained standing at the end of the discussion as a contributor to the level of morality.
In my view, this is madness, as Bill Maher lost his job for pointing out. Nobody was braver or more immoral than the 911 terrorists. Bravery in a good cause is admirable. Bravery in an indifferent cause is aesthetically nice, but morally indifferent. And bravery in an evil cause is evil. I made this case to Donahue after the event, and he said that he actually agreed with me.
The idea that bravery redeems participation in evil is war-thinking. Participation in evil can be understood and sympathized with but not redeemed.
Another audience member on Monday evening pointed out something useful about U.S. polling: Americans believe that bombing Syria will make attacks on the United States more likely (indeed, experts agree and history seems to solidly confirm it) and at the very same time, Americans believe that Syria should be bombed.
A willingness to endanger one's self and family and neighbors and millions of people in order to be tough is an irrational and apparently macho position.
This culture of machismo is not without humanity, but that humanity is horribly misinformed. We're not told by the big corporate media about the 95% of deaths in U.S. wars that are the deaths of non-Americans.
The brilliant Peter Kuznick pointed out at Monday's event that as states require women to watch movies about fetuses before having abortions, they could require people to watch Body of War before wars. I wish they would. It's a powerful movie. But there's been no Ludlow Amendment and people don't get to vote on wars. And we're now being sold a war on the claim that it won't kill Americans. If we don't acquire the knowledge that wars also kill non-Americans and that non-Americans matter, we'll be susceptible to manipulation into the idea that a war is a character choice, a matter of expressing and demonstrating bravery.
Following discussion of the film on Monday, we heard stories of bravery in noble causes from five whistleblowers who had put their lives and welfare at risk to advance peace, justice, public safety, the rule of law, and honest government. Their names are Jesselyn Radack, Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, Thomas Drake, William Binney, and Kirk Wiebe. They talked about morality, not machismo. Here's video of them in Baltimore on Sunday.
A sixth speaker on the topic of speaking out was Phil Donahue, who lost his job at MSNBC for dissenting from war fever in 2003. He heartily denounced the dishonesty and sycophancy of corporate media on Monday. He also came back to the topic of bravery, rightly pointing to the five panelists next to him as the highest examples of moral courage.
Now there's a useful phrase:moral courage. Let's celebrate only that kind.
I spoke at an event Monday morning at American U. at which I asked people to raise their hands if they thought war was good for us and character building, or if they thought some wars were necessary, or if they thought all war was unjustified. The crowd was roughly evenly split between the last two choices. Not a single person accepted the notion (popular 100 years back) that war is good for us. But this unscientific poll was conducted in a room of peace studies students and opponents of war. What would the whole U.S. public say?
After the event I spoke with Medea Benjamin about the just-begun bombing campaign, and she remarked, "This is exactly what ISIL wants. They're trying to get the U.S. involved in a war. There are already U.S. troops in combat and this will mean more. We shouldn't fall into the trap of another immoral and unwinnable war."
Medea and I will be protesting this new war at 10 a.m. on Tuesday in front of the White House along with National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance. We encourage you to join us or to demonstrate locally. Your Congress members and Senators have fled Washington in order to pretend the blood is not on their hands. Take your message of peace to them where they can be found.
Here's Francis Boyle on the draft resolution:
So this is a Chapter 7 Resolution, which arguably establishes the predicate for the use of force. It should have been adopted under Chapter 6 to rule out any use of force against Syria. It was not. SC resolutions are binding under either Chapter 6 or Chapter 7 according to ICJ in Namibia Advisory Opinion. So obviously, Obama wants to set the predicate here for using force against ISIS in Syria, which will ultimately lead to the deposition of the Assad government, the crack up of Syria, and genocide against the Alawites and the Christians.
OK. Well obama’s puppet government that he just installed in Iraq could on the basis of this Resolution, Article 51 right of collective self-defense and the bogus doctrine of hot pursuit ask Obama to bomb ISIS in Syria in order to prevent their cross-border movement from Syria into Iraq and back. Under international law there is no doctrine of hot pursuit on land, only at sea. That Obama scenario and strategy become very clear in OP5 and OP10 and OP14, inter alia. Basically trying to create a right of hot pursuit across land borders where it did not previously exist —at least Obama will interpret it that way to justify bombing ISIS in Syria at the request of Iraq. There is nothing in this Resolution to rule out that scenario. Indeed, it seems that this Resolution has been drafted for precisely that purpose.
OK. I have read but am not going to go through the rest of this Resolution. It appears that USG specifically drafted this Resolution so that its puppet government in Iraq can on its basis as well as UN Charter Article 51 right of collective self-defense bomb ISIS in Syria. Otherwise, it would be naked aggression against the wishes of the Syrian government. So Obama will use this Resolution as his legal fig-leaf to start the bombing campaign in Syria upon his return to Washington. He will do to Assad and Syria what he did to Ghadafy and Libya.
Finally, somebody commenting on the state of Iraq thinks George W. Bush got something right. Turns out it's ISIS. In the new hour-long ISIS-produced film about how nice it is to die for ISIS -- Flames of War: Fighting Has Just Begun -- Bush is quoted: "You are with us or against us." Video shows him saying "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists." A graphic in the upper corner of the screen reads: "Bush spoke the truth, although he's a liar."
What truth does ISIS think Bush spoke? The Manichean truth that there are two groups of people on earth with nothing in common between them and a shared dedication to annihilate each other. Of course, the notion that they have nothing in common is delusional. They have almost everything in common: their belief in violence, their monotheism, their stupidity, their desire for a U.S. war in the Middle East.
"In the face of the dark wave of the crusader force..." begins the ISIS movie.
"This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while," said Bush.
ISIS shows Obama as well as Bush and denounces both as liars, including rejecting Obama's lie that he won't send combat troops to Iraq. As even a number of U.S. Senators and Congress Members have pointed out, the 1600 troops he's already sent are trained and equipped for nothing other than combat, and a pilot in a plane is engaged in combat.
But ISIS wants more. This film is not aimed at provoking the United States the way the beheading films were. It's far too long and boring for Americans to watch.
(Why did ISIS make a full-length movie? Because they couldn't find an editor.)
This film is aimed at recruiting fighters. ISIS claims to be fighting the United States, to have long been the core of the resistance to the United States, and to be defeating troops armed with U.S. weapons. (ISIS never mentions that its own "beloved" weapons come from various infidels, including the U.S.) Here's the ISIS pitch to recruits:
Join us in fighting the evil empire. If you die you'll go to paradise. The afterlife is far longer and more important than this life. "Unshakable faith" is the "most effective weapon of war." Come join "Allah's soldiers" and experience courage, excitement, vengeance, adrenaline, the thrill of victory, and martyrdom. Never mind that our movie is so boring, the fighting is really fun, and Allah is guiding our RPGs!
Of course, ISIS is mistaken. God does not have time to be guiding their RPGs when he's busy making sure the football team that prays the loudest wins each game. And of course Obama has told us that "No religion condones the killing of innocents," forgetting that all the religions of Moses contain this teaching: "Kill every male among the little ones and Kill every woman that has known man by lying with him. But all the women children that have not known a man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves" -- forgetting in fact that all of these religions have violent and peaceful traditions but venerate as holy ancient texts from a barbaric age and teach as essential the idea that there is another magical world that matters more than this one whose climate we are destroying. Sing it, soldiers!
Here's the ISIS pitch to the U.S. government:
We will accept only victory or death, just like Patrick Henry, and we will fight you. Fighting you builds our movement because people hate you so much after the past decades of your attacks. We have no doubt that you are stupid enough to fight us if we keep insulting you.
Here's their pitch to opponents:
Oppose us, and we will make you dig your own grave on camera, because we are so courageous and brave that we wear masks to hide out faces and shoot anybody we don't know how to talk to.
Here's their pitch to Hollywood:
We've got dramatic potential. Sure, make us the bad guys, but put us on the silver screen. We're not as slick and convincing as a White House video news release aired by an "independent" media outlet, but we're way more dramatic. We only have a narrator, no actual characters, but we're still more entertaining than C-Span, and the weapons makers are going to absolutely love us -- just check with them about funding. Then die, you faithless dogs.
I appreciate that there's more happening than just a march for the climate today on the International Day of Peace, and I get the idea that keeping the safe and obedient march-to-nowhere separate from protests actually at the United Nations where our corporate overlords are determining the rate of the earth's demise is intended to please all of the people some of the time, but I can't help wishing that the march would just turn left instead of right when it reaches 42nd Street, in order to march to the United Nations rather than to nowhere.
This is not a radical idea. A nonviolent protest march expressing popular opinion should be allowed to march to the place it is protesting. The idea that insisting on that constitutes something radical or extremist bewilders me. The New York Times refers to "protest or terror groups" as a category of people, but has a protest group ever engaged in terrorizing and has a terrorist ever joined a protest? Would protesting the United Nations at the United Nations somehow be an act of violence, perhaps purely because it would be an act of disobedience? You've got to be kidding me.
I'm in favor of mixed-use protests, not just urban developments. Don't just let the conservative marchers know about opportunities for more direct protest, but get them involved. Take a safe march to a resistance action, where its size will keep it safe and its members will be energized. Let the crowd demonstrate within sight and sound of the people it is petitioning for a redress of grievances, and let those who are ready join in disruptive protest actions.
Of course turning left in order to go where needed makes a nice metaphor for what our whole culture must do if it is to cease destroying the earth's climate. Paul Krugman figured out this week that green energy pays for itself, but he seems to imagine that therefore it will be created, as if the corrupting influence of the fossil fuel profiteers just doesn't exist. We need to turn so far left that we abandon such naiveté, stop yammering about transition fuels, abandon all talk of "peak oil" as if existing oil isn't sufficient to kill us all, and forswear all pointless pursuit of the political "center."
Naomi Klein's new book does a much better job of identifying the corrupting influence of profiteers. She also points out that the sooner we act to slow down climate change the less radical our actions will need to be. The longer we wait to take meaningful action, the more drastic our actions will have to be when we finally do something. Green energy, Klein's book makes clear for anyone who was unaware, is not failing in a marketplace. It is being killed by political corruption, loan conditions, corporate trade agreements, penalties and disincentives, and the subsidies given to the fossil fuel corporations.
Klein notes that activist movements around trade and climate have, oddly, progressed while virtually ignoring each other. Klein comes closer than most environmentalists to not ignoring another big question, that of war. The military is the elephant in the room in terms of both economics and climate destruction, but is largely ignored by activists and the broader public.
In a common delusion, the government tells the truth about war, and war is worth giving up freedoms for, but scientists lie about the climate and do so in order to (somehow) attack our freedoms. In other words, the fears of bureaucrats and of limits to plutocracy are strong but perhaps not as strong as the fear of terrorists. And the fear of bureaucrats is augmented by a fear of being insignificant, because when nuclear energy or geo-engineering is proposed as a solution, those who like those ideas also see their recognition of the climate crisis increase.
When Klein mentions the military, she first proposes that the weapons companies pay their fair share toward climate protection, and then proposes (along with a bunch of other good ideas) cutting the military by 25% -- while calling that proposal "the toughest sell." The U.S. military budget has doubled in the past decade. The idea that it can't be seriously cut is ridiculous. It is not a question of selling the idea to the public. Go back and look at the public's preferred solutions to the supposed financial crisis in Congress a few years back. The problem is in the corruption of the U.S. government.
Elsewhere Klein says that large public sector expenditures will be needed to save the climate, but surely not as large as the military. So why talk about increasing, rather than changing, expenditures? And then again, elsewhere, Klein says what we need is "wartime levels of spending," even though base military spending is about 10 times as much as war spending. Klein also cites a study suggesting that $1.9 trillion a year, or exactly what the planet now spends on war preparations, would solve the climate and various other crises and human needs.
Congress members have skipped town in order to avoid voting on war. You can find them in their districts. November 6th will be the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. The two movements named in this holiday should be combined and our actions should escalate. A slight left turn won't be enough to save us.
By Michael Caddell
North Jefferson County, Kansas -- The Sept. 6, 2014 Kansas State Fair debates in Hutchinson, with a maximum arena crowd of 2500, had satellite trucks linked to MSNBC, CNN and reporters from as far away as New York. Certainly proof something was happening in Kansas, but for too many in the state that “something” remains unknown.
The U.S. House of Representatives has not just left town, but prior to leaving passed a rule preventing any member from using the War Powers Resolution to force Congress to return and vote on war.
Here's a video of Congressman Jim McGovern denouncing the rule (or read the transcript here):
If you watch the video, following Rep. McGovern's remarks two of his colleagues run their mouths. The first is Congressman Pete Sessions nonsensically replying to McGovern. The second is Congresswoman Virginia Foxx on an unrelated topic. If you jump ahead to 10:25 McGovern replies to Sessions. It's well worth watching.
In addition, Congressman McGovern and five other Democrats and six Republicans have asked Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to hold a vote on war. Here's their letter: PDF.
Six Democrats and Six Republicans Ask Boehner and Pelosi to Hold Vote on War (After U.S. Congressional Elections)
Here's their letter: PDF.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle_at_gmail.com (replacing _at_ with @)
In 1969, at the height of the U.S. war against Vietnam, Edwin Starr recorded a song called ‘War’, that reached number one on the charts. Among the lyrics are these:
War: What is it good for?
Much as one would like to believe these simple lyrics, there are facts that belie them. In a report from the Financial Times from March of 2013, it is stated that private contractors earned at least a whopping $139 billion dollars from the U.S. war against Iraq up to that time, and that total is ever increasing. Kellogg, Brown and Root, a former subsidiary of Haliburton, the company once run by former Vice President Dick Cheney, the architect of this war, earned nearly $40 billion.
We tend to think of war as resulting from an excess of aggression or disorderliness or rebellion. Western academics hunt in the genes of foreigners and study chimpanzees to find the root of the nastiness.
But one would be hard press to count the number of people who have lost their lives to an excess of cowardice in the halls of the United States Congress. "This chamber reeks of blood," said Senator George McGovern, who would have been shocked anew this week.
On Constitution Day, the House of Representatives -- followed the next day by the Senate -- decided to put off until after the next U.S. elections in November any possible consideration of the new U.S. war already underway in Iraq and Syria, but voted in the meantime to approve of shipping weapons over to Syria to fuel the violence.
Here's a website that tells you how your Representative and Senators voted and lets you send them an appropriate message with one click.
Said Congressman Jim McDermott, who voted No: "This amendment, which is valid only through early December, serves as nothing more than a faux authorization designed to get Congress through the election season. Moreover, it addresses only one aspect of the strategy the President outlined last week. That is not a responsible way to conduct public policy."
So, the President announced a three-year war, based on no timetable anyone has produced other than that of U.S. presidential elections. And Congress declared that it would consider looking into the matter after the next Congressional election. But it's not as if we don't all know that they are allowing the war to go on and worsen each and every day. Numerous Congress members denounce Congress for what they themselves call a shameful act of cowardice. But which of them are protesting their "leadership"? Which of them are moving a discharge petition to force a vote? Which of them are using the War Powers Resolution to compel a vote regardless of what the "leadership" wants?
Back on the 25th of July the House overwhelmingly passed the McGovern-Jones-Lee resolution which required the President to seek Congressional authorization before sending troops to Iraq. The President went ahead and ignored that. Will Congress cut off the funding? Censure? Impeach? Nope. Congress voted to approve weapons and training for Syrians who are closely allied with the forces Obama is already waging an air and ground war against in Iraq.
Senator Tim Kaine had been leading the charge to demand that Congress vote before any new war. (As noted, the House did, and the Senate did not follow suit.) Now Kaine says a discussion of that following the U.S. Congressional elections will be sufficient. Until then, the United States will fuel the violence on both sides of a complex war, while repeating incessantly "There is no military solution" and deploying the military and military weaponry in a counterproductive effort to find a solution.
Remarked Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who voted No on weapons to Syria: "The consequences of this vote will be a further expansion of a war currently taking place and our further involvement in a sectarian war. . . . What is missing from this debate is the political, economic, diplomatic and regionally-led solutions that will ultimately be the tools for security in the region and for any potential future threats to the United States."
Also missing was an organized opposition. Republicans voted yes and no, as did Democrats, as did the so-called Progressive Caucus, as did the Black Caucus. These people need to hear the message that cowardice is not a campaign strategy. They must be confronted with the demand that they stop this war, just as they were a year ago, when scary ISIS videos weren't manipulating Americans into once again doing the bidding of terrorists who gain strength from U.S. attacks. A year ago we spoke up. We confronted Congress members at town hall meetings. We stopped them.
Now they've literally cut and run. They're taking a two-month vacation in order to pretend they have nothing to do with the escalating violence. They need to hear from us in person. But we can start by sending them a note to let them know what we think.
Remember, their duty is not to vote approval for a new war, which will then somehow make everything OK. Their duty is to uphold the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the U.N. Charter, the wisdom of most of the world, the lessons of the past decade, and basic common decency by stopping the war.
Today, citizens from Calvert County, Maryland, angry that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) commissioners sent stand-ins to a meeting in their area on the controversial proposal to allow the Dominion Cove Point facility to convert from an import to an export terminal for liquified natural gas (LNG), took their case to FERC’s monthly meeting in Washington D.C.
A group of 20 people, including members and allies of the Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community, delivered what they described as “an unannounced intervention” in response to their feeling that the commission intends to rubber stamp the proposal without adequate assessment of the dangers to the surrounding community.
Group leader Tracey Eno delivered a short address and gave FERC a check from the group for $79 to cover the cost of the most up-to-date version of federal fire protection standards. The group says that FERC failed to apply the standards to its Environmental Assessment for Cove Point, showing the extent to which explosion, flammable vapor cloud and other potential disasters at the facility would endanger nearby homes and families.
“Lusby residents were horrified to learn in the draft environmental assessment that FERC applied the 2001 federal fire protection standards,” said Eno. “2001 does not adequately address the dangers of LNG export equipment and processes. The 2013 edition is the first to wisely require a quantitative risk assessment to assess the risks to residents offsite.”
If approved, Cove Point would be only the second LNG export facility built in the lower 48 states and the only facility ever to have what Eno called “the unique and terrifying distinction” of being built in such a densely populated area so close to so many people’s homes. It would ship fracked gas from the Marcellus shale region to other countries.
“Right now, you are in danger of turning my neighborhood into a sacrifice zone for the gas industry—if you approve the Dominion Cove Point LNG export facility without fully studying the hazards of the project,” said Eno. “For more than a year, we have been pleading with you to provide the information on the full effects from this proposal in the form of a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement. Yet, at every turn you have lowered the bar of scrutiny for Dominion, even as the evidence of threats to our communities has continued to rise.”
Watch the video of Eno’s speech:
LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM Award-winning independent filmmaker Rory Kennedy’s new film chronicles a story few of us have heard before. During the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese Army closes in on Saigon as South Vietnamese resistance crumbles. The prospect of an official evacuation of the remaining Americans and their South Vietnamese allies becomes hopelessly delayed by Congressional gridlock and a delusional U.S. Ambassador. With the clock ticking and the city under fire, a number of Americans take matters into their own hands, engaging in unsanctioned and often makeshift operations in a desperate effort to save as many South Vietnamese lives as possible. (98 mins)
David Swanson will return to speak at the Naro from his home in Charlottesville. He is a nationally renowned journalist, teacher, peace activist, and author of War Is A Lie, When The World Outlawed War, and War No More: The Case For Abolition.
OCCUPY THE U.N. CLIMATE SUMMIT
Join us at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza
Between 46th & 47th Sts and 1st and 2nd Aves, across from U.N.
The Climate March is only the prelude.
Throughout the day people will be leaving the March to assemble in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza across the avenue from the U.N. While it is impossible to predict how events there will unfold, there will be a significant number who will attempt to occupy the plaza for the duration of the U.N. Climate Summit, which ends on Wednesday, September 24.
This action is not intended to compete with the messages of either the People's Climate March on Sunday the 21st or the FLOOD WALL STREET action the following day, Monday the 22nd. Please feel free to join any two or all three. All three actions amplify a common message:
THE PEOPLE DEMAND ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE
AND ITS ROOT CAUSES
Why demonstrate at the UN?
The UN represents the nations of the world. Nations are not people. They are political constructs that reflect the interests of those who keep them in power. WE ARE PEOPLE. We want our presence felt throughout the Summit. We want the world to see our resolve and understand our sense of urgency.
PLEASE JOIN US & PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD
Regular readers will remember the two times we’ve written about this young man, one of thousands of people who’ve been abused by the TSA.
His name is Sai. He is disabled and requires medication. The TSA detained him, taunted him, and denied him his medication . . .
Sai isn’t taking his mistreatment lying down. He’s fighting. And he’s asking for your help. Following is the email Sai sent to me explaining his next steps. I have his permission to publish it:
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle_at_gmail.com (replacing _at_ with @)
Iraq Veterans Against the War was founded by 6 members of the US military who felt that they could not remain silent about what they had witnessed during the war in Iraq. Since then, our membership has expanded into the thousands and our work has evolved to address militarism at its root. On October 2, we will be celebrating 10 years of resistance against US occupations and militarism at home and abroad.
The event includes music and poetry performances by members and supporters as well as updates on our work, a light buffet and drinks. Each guest can enter a drawing to win a door prize with IVAW shirts, books, and other merchandise. There will be opportunities to contribute to our work by participating in our silent auction, the pre-sale of the ground-breaking Fort Hood Report, art created by IVAW members and other artists, and by taking part in our community. We hope to see you there!
McDermott Statement on Voting “No” on McKeon Amendment to Continuing Resolution H. J. Res. 124
Washington, D.C.- Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, made the following statement after voting no to the motion to approve U.S. military training and arms for Syrian rebels:
“Today, I voted in opposition to the motion to approve U.S. military training and arms for Syrian rebels.
I did not arrive at this decision easily. The threat ISIS poses to the people of Iraq and Syria and to U.S. personnel across the wider Middle East is a serious one. I also empathize with Americans’ emotional desire to respond assertively, and immediately, to the abhorrent murder of our two journalists.
The President continues to show admirable restraint; his speech last week was careful and thoughtful. However, after much deliberation and reflection on the perils of rushing into yet another military conflict in the Middle East, I decided I could not support the McKeon Amendment.
I have said consistently that if the President was prepared to escalate military action against ISIS, he must present Congress with a plan and ask for our support. I am alarmed that President Obama continues to believe he can take action against ISIS on his own authority.
This amendment, which is valid only through early December, serves as nothing more than a faux authorization designed to get Congress through the election season. Moreover, it addresses only one aspect of the strategy the President outlined last week. That is not a responsible way to conduct public policy.
I remember the last time Congress failed to thoroughly debate a plan for military action in the Middle East; it unleashed a veritable Pandora’s Box in Iraq and the wider region that we have struggled to contain ever since. The McKeon Amendment calls for the U.S. to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels, some of whom have murky identities and shadowy allegiances and who could - in the not too distant future - turn the very arms we supplied against the United States.
I appreciate this President’s thoughtful efforts to respond to the complexities that arose from George W. Bush’s irresponsible actions, but – at this time – I will not vote to sanction military action by proxy, even if sanctioned for a brief period of time.
Over the next several weeks, I will continue to urge the President to present his plan before Congress and ask for our support. When this Congress reconvenes in December, when this amendment expires, I will push for a robust and deliberative debate over a new Authorization for the Use of Force, one that is limited in scope and addresses the whole of the President’s plan.
After a decade of reckless military action, that is the only responsible way to proceed.”
Barack Obama’s central dilemma last week, when he tried to sell a new war to the American public on the eve of the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11, was to speak convincingly about the wisdom and effectiveness of U.S. foreign policy over the last decade-plus while at the same time, alas, dropping the bad news that it didn’t work.
Thus: “Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer.”
Hurray! God bless drones and “mission accomplished” and a million Iraqi dead and birth defects in Fallujah. God bless torture. God bless the CIA. But guess what?
“Still we continue to face a terrorist threat. We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm.”
So it’s bombs away again, boys — another trace of evil has popped up in the Middle East — and I find myself at the edge of outrage, the edge of despair, groping for language to counter my own incredulity that the God of War is on the verge of another victory and Planet Earth and human evolution lose again.
Obama ended his executive declaration of more war with words that the military-industrial shills have slowly managed to turn into an obscenity: “May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.”
God bless another war?
Tom Engelhardt, writing a few days ago at TomDispatch, called it “Iraq 3.0,” noting: “Nowhere, at home or abroad, does the obvious might of the United States translate into expected results, or much of anything else except a kind of roiling chaos. . . . And one thing is remarkably clear: each and every application of American military power globally since 9/11 has furthered the fragmentation process, destabilizing whole regions.
“In the twenty-first century, the U.S. military has been neither a nation- nor an army-builder, nor has it found victory, no matter how hard it’s searched. It has instead been the equivalent of the whirlwind in international affairs, and so, however the most recent Iraq war works out, one thing seems predictable: the region will be further destabilized and in worse shape when it’s over.”
Obama’s speech is addressed to a nation with a dead imagination. Doing “something” about the Islamic State means dropping bombs on it. Bombing runs don’t inconvenience a politician’s constituents and always seem like stalwart action: a squirt of Raid on an infestation of bugs. They never kill innocent people or result in unintended consequences; nor, apparently, do they provoke an instant sense of horror, the way a beheading does.
Indeed, declarations of war always seem to lift people up. This is because they separate us from the evil that our enemies are committing. Addressing the complexity of others’ brutal behavior means facing our terrifying complicity in it — which is asking far too much of any Beltway-entrenched U.S. politician. Obama hasn’t broken in any way from his inarticulate predecessor in attempting to exploit the simplistic emotional safe haven of war and militarism.
“How do I respond when I see that in some Islamic countries there is vitriolic hatred for America?” George Bush asked during a press conference a month after the 9/11 attacks (quoted recently by William Blum in his latest Anti-Empire Report). “I’ll tell you how I respond: I’m amazed. I’m amazed that there’s such misunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us. I am — like most Americans, I just can’t believe it because I know how good we are.”
Obama is trying to extract the same public acquiescence to military aggression from the IS beheadings of two U.S. journalists and a British aid worker as Bush did from 9/11. Bush had the distinct advantage of not having himself — and the disastrous mess he created — as his predecessor. Nevertheless, Iraq 3.0 is going to become a reality, even though bombing Iraq will just strengthen IS and likely open the door to the next multi-year military quagmire.
As David Swanson laments on the website World Beyond War, speaking of the first journalist IS brutally murdered, “James Foley is not a war ad.”
“When 9/11 victims were used as a justification to kill hundreds of times the number of people killed on 9/11, some of the victims’ relatives pushed back,” Swanson writes. Linking to a video in which Foley talks about the hell and absurdity of war with filmmaker Haskell Wexler during the NATO protests in Chicago two years ago, he adds: “Now James Foley is pushing back from the grave.”
He invites us to watch Foley talk about “the dehumanization needed before people can be killed, the shallowness of media coverage” and other toxic realities of war that usually don’t show up in presidential speeches.
“We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world . . .”
I can’t believe I live in a country that still tolerates such simplistic, knife-edged rhetoric. Oh, so much evil out there! The U.S. government, in all its might and purity, has no choice but to go after it with every weapon in its arsenal. What Obama doesn’t bother to say, though perhaps in some helpless, futile way he knows, is that engaging in the game of war is always an act of defeat. And the opponents, in their brutal aggression toward each other and everyone else, are always on the same side.
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at commonwonders.com.
© 2014 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, INC.
War Resisters' Stories
Newsletter of War Resisters' International
Take action for military free-education and research
Militaries across the world gain access to young people through education systems. It gives them an extraordinary chance to shape every generation's perception of military violence, and lay the groundwork for future recruitment. From 25 - 31 October, join our international week of action for military-free education and research! You could sign our call to action (write to email@example.com for a copy), raise awareness of the role the military plays in education in your area, or directly challenge it. Visit this page for action ideas, and write to firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to tell us what you are planning.
Colombian conscientious objector arrested for desertion
Jhonatan David Vargas Becerra was forcibly recruited by the Colombian military last year. He left the army as soon as he could, and later the police issued an arrest warrant for him on grounds of desertion. He was arrested by the police on 4 September in Barrancabermeja, and is still being detained. WRI put out a CO Alert on Jhonatan's behalf, and on September 16 we heard the news that Jhonatan had been recognised as a conscientious objector by the Constitutional Court. The ruling orders the Colombian army to 'unenlist' Jhonatan within 48 hours. Jhonatan's supporters, through Justpaz, ask that we keep up the pressure to ensure this happens. Please find the new CO Alert here.
Resisting NATO is resisting War
Once again the deadliest military alliance got together, this time Newport, Wales. As state leaders met to discuss their plans for a stronger military presence in eastern Europe, the creation of a rapid response force, an increase in the military budget, how to intervene in Iraq, and many other militarist plans. Groups gathered to resist and counter the summit. Several activities were organised by the No to NATO No to War network as well as the No NATO Newport group. They included demonstrations, a counter summit, an anti-NATO camp, direct actions, a Women Say No to NATO action and much more.
Spreading the word on resisting war profiteering
War profiteering is one of the main causes of war. To keep informed on what groups are doing to resist the merchants of death, you can sign up to WRI's War Profiteer's News. In our last issue we had stories about how the Palestinian BDS movement is gaining momentum, and how it learned from South Africa; how the EU is becoming more and more a militarised and pro-military industry union; how activists in Ecuador are nonviolently resisting the government's plans to extract oil from the Yasuní national park. Regular features of the newsletter include the campaign of the month, which this month highlighted the "Arming all Sides" initiative, which looks at the arms trade during WWI and beyond, and the war profiteer of the month, which profiles Elbit System, the Israeli arms manufacturer, and their increase in profit thanks to the attacks on Gaza.
We Pushed Urban Shield Out of Oakland, But the Struggle Continues!
On Friday 5 September, hundreds of protesters in the US gathered in front of the Marriott in Downtown Oakland, California, to stand against Urban Shield and declare two major victories: Urban Shield will no longer be held at the Marriott and it will no longer take place anywhere in Oakland. Reclaiming the streets in celebration of our power, we made it loud and clear that we do not welcome militarization and policing of our communities. Urban Shield is part of a growing national and international coordination of policing empowered by military tools and tactics, and our Coalition insists that we must work to roll this back while advancing community-led initiatives to provide actual safety.
ISIS has created a movie preview for the coming war, a war it eagerly wants Washington to take part in. The White House and Congress would like to oblige, as long as the movie can be a short one, on the model of Libya. Here's the plot: Evil force arises out of nowhere; United States destroys it; credits roll. If Libya-The-Movie had begun with years of support for Gadaffi or ended with the disaster left behind, the critics would have hated it. Framing is everything.
Kathy Kelly published an article on Wednesday describing her visit some years back to a U.S. prison camp in Iraq where Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai spent four years under the name Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi before becoming the leader of ISIS.
Imagine a Hollywood-like movie that began in that camp. An opening scene might show Baghdadi and his fellow prisoners paraded naked in front of female soldiers and forced to say "I love George Bush" before they could get their food rations. We'd see them sleeping on the ground in the cold, cursing their captors and swearing every last drop of energy and instant of remaining life to that highest of all Hollywood values: violent revenge.
Cut to the present and a scene in a small house in Iraq with 500-pound U.S. bombs exploding just outside. Baghdadi and his gang of loveable heroes look horrified, but -- with a twinkle in his eye -- Baghdadi gathers the others to him and begins to smile. Then he begins to laugh. His comrades look bewildered. Then they start to catch on. "You wanted this, didn't you?" exclaims Sexy Female Rebel. "This was your plan, wasn't it!"
"Hand me the ultimate weapon," Baghdadi says, turning to a future nominee for best male supporting actor. BMSA grins and pulls out a video camera. Baghdadi raises the camera over his head with one hand. Turning to Sexy Female Rebel he says "Go on the roof and look north. Tell me what you see coming."
Cut to view through binoculars as music swells to high enthusiasm. Countless oceans of people on foot are making their way over the land with burning U.S. flags on sticks leading the way.
Of course, even Hollywood, which made Avatar, wouldn't make exactly THIS movie. The White House is going to have to make it. But who's directing? President Obama is hunting around for a name for this war, while ISIS has already released one in its video preview. Even the U.S. public seems increasingly interested in the full-length feature. "How does this end?" they want to know. "This was begun by Bush" they say, depending on their partisanship.
What if the script were flipped, not to portray the Iraqi as protagonist, but to abandon the religion of violent revenge? What if Washington were to say to ISIS this:
We see that you want a war with us. We understand that you would gain local support because of how deeply we are hated. We're tired of being hated. We're tired of taking direction from criminals like you. We're not going to play along. We're going to make ourselves loved rather than hated. We're going to apologize for our occupations and bombings and prisons and torture. We're going to make restitution. We're going to provide aid to the entire region. It'll cost us a lot less to do that than to keep dropping bombs on you, so you can forget the plan to bankrupt us. We're going to save trillions of dollars in fact by ceasing to arm ourselves and the rest of the world to the teeth. We're going to announce a ban on shipping weapons to the Middle East. And since we ship 80% of them, not even counting our own military's, we're already off to a huge start. We're going to prosecute any oil company or country that does business with your organization. But we're going to hold no grudges against anyone who abandons your organization and seeks peace, just as we ask you to do what you can toward overcoming grudges against our past barbarity.
What would happen? You might be surprised. Gandhi-The-Movie brought in over $50 million in 1982.
As the 2014-2015 high school and college year starts, we send you our greetings and best wishes for a rewarding year. The We Are Not Your Soldiers project is ready to visit your school or classroom with Iraq/Afghanistan-era veterans to talk about their on-the-ground experience in occupying countries, where civilians pay the price.
Over a month ago, Michael Brown was shot six times by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. More witnesses have come forward to corroborate eye-witness testimony that Brown's hands were up, and he was not aggressive. But, still Officer Darren Wilson is on paid vacation. No indictment, no justice.
by Debra Sweet If “brutal” enemies do the beheading, start bombing whole regions, asHenry Kissinger said on Sunday, and respond disproportionately, in a way that “you would not analyze in terms of a normal response.”If authoritarian “friendly” governments do the beheading, as Saudi Arabia has done 26 times since August 4, 2014 (mostly to non-Saudis and political dissidents) say and do nothing. Human Rights Watch says the U.S. maintains a “deafening silence” on human rights violations by Saudi Arabia, its key ally in the region.
By Kathy Kelly
In January of 2004 I visited “Bucca Camp,” a U.S.-run POW camp named for a firefighter lost in the 2001 collapse of New York’s World Trade Center. Located near the isolated port city of Umm Qasr, in southern Iraq, the network of tent prisons had been constructed by U.S. Coalition authorities. Friends of five young men thought to be imprisoned there had begged our three-person Voices delegation to try and visit the camp and find out what had happened to their loved ones.
This was a year before the capture of Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai, who, starting in 2005, would spend four years in the camp under the name Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, on his way to becoming the head of the recently founded Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Our friends with the Christian Peacemaker Teams had developed a database of people thought to be held by the U.S. military. They assembled their list of 6,000 prisoners as much through contact with terrified loved ones as through tireless and persistent correspondence with U.S. authorities.
They were able to find the “Capture Tag” numbers for two of the prisoners. These two people, at least, were still alive and at the camp.
With a translator, our small Voices delegation headed from Baghdad to Basra and then on to Umm Qasr, assuredly one of the bleakest spots on the planet. It was Saturday afternoon. At the outskirts of the prison, a U.S. soldier politely told us that we were too late. Saturday visiting hours were over, and the next visiting day would be the following Thursday. Reluctant to leave, we explained that we’d come a long way, along a dangerous road, and that we wouldn’t be able to come back a second time. An hour later, jostling on the benches of an army jeep, we were taken over bumpy desert terrain to the prison visitor’s tent.
There we met with four of the five young men, all in their early twenties, and listened as they shared stories of humiliation, discomfort, monotony, loneliness and great fear born of the uncertainty prisoners face held on zero credible evidence by a hostile power with no evident plans to release them. They seemed immeasurably relieved that we could at least tell their relatives they were still alive.
Upon leaving, we asked to speak with an officer in charge of the Bucca Camp. She said that the outlook for the young men being released wasn’t very positive, but she thought it would be worthwhile to try approaching the International Commission of the Red Cross. “Be glad they’re here with us and not in Baghdad,” she said, giving us a knowing look. “We give them food, clothes, and shelter here. Be glad that they’re not in Baghdad.” I was surprised. At least in Baghdad it wouldn’t be so difficult to visit them. She repeated herself, “I’m just telling you, be glad they’re not in Baghdad.”
Later, in May of 2004, I began to understand what she meant. On May 1, CNN released pictures from the Abu Ghraib prison: The hooded man. The man on a leash. The pyramid. These pictures are now burned into people’s minds. Suddenly there were very few places that seemed as horrible as that prison. Yes, we were very glad the young men we visited were not in Baghdad.
To be very clear, these men at Bucca had been marched naked in front of women soldiers. They’d been told to say “I love George Bush” before they could receive their food rations. They’d slept on the open ground in punishingly cold weather with no mat beneath them and only one blanket. The guards had taunted them and they had had no way of telling their friends they were still alive. But worse humiliation and torture were inflicted on detainees in other U.S. prison centers throughout Iraq.
The November 3, 2005 issue of the New York Review of Books quoted three officers, two of them non-commissioned, stationed with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Mercury in Iraq.
“Speaking on condition of anonymity, they described in multiple interviews with Human Rights Watch how their battalion in 2003-2004 routinely used physical and mental torture as a means of intelligence gathering and for stress relief… Detainees in Iraq were consistently referred to as PUCs. The torture of detainees reportedly was so widespread and accepted that it became a means of stress relief, where soldiers would go to the PUC tent on their off-hours to "fuck a PUC" or "smoke a PUC." "Fucking a PUC" referred to beating a detainee, while "smoking a PUC" referred to forced physical exertion sometimes to the point of unconsciousness.
"Smoking" was not limited to stress relief but was central to the interrogation system employed by the 82nd Airborne Division at FOB Mercury. Officers and NCOs from the Military Intelligence unit would direct guards to "smoke" the detainees prior to an interrogation, and would direct that certain detainees were not to receive sleep, water, or food beyond crackers. Directed "smoking" would last for the twelve to twenty-four hours prior to an interrogation. As one soldier put it: "[The military intelligence officer] said he wanted the PUCs so fatigued, so smoked, so demoralized that they want to cooperate.
Maybe half of the detainees at Camp Mercury, released because they were clearly uninvolved in the insurgency, were nonetheless bearing memories and scars of torture. As one sergeant told Human Rights Watch, "If he's a good guy, you know, now he's a bad guy because of the way we treated him."
When U.S. politicians want to sell a war, their marketing is top notch: they can count on the U.S. public to buy that war at least long enough to become irretrievably committed to it, as long as the advertising for that war leaves them feeling threatened. And no brand, in quite a long time, has been as frightening as the Islamic State.
The violence that brought the Islamic State into being, and which now promises to extend its legacy into ever wider regional violence and polarization, has a long history.
In between the first two Iraq wars, in numerous trips to Iraq from 1996 to 2003, our Voices delegation members grew to understand the unbearable weariness and suffering of Iraqi families eking out an uncertain existence under punishing economic sanctions.
Between the wars, the death toll in children's lives alone, from externally imposed economic collapse and from the blockade of food, medicine, water purification supplies and other essentials of survival, was estimated by the U.N. at 5,000 children a month, an estimate accepted without question by U.S. officials.
The most shocking death figures from our 2003 invasion, estimating the eventual toll from war and social breakdown at credibly more than one million, were underestimates as they inevitably took as baseline the inhuman conditions under our years of economic warfare in Iraq.
On September 16, 2014, the New York Times reported on a newly released UN report which notes that in Iraq, “the share of hungry people has soared: Nearly one in four Iraqis are undernourished, according to the report, up from 7.9 percent of the population in the 1990-92 period.”
And now, the U.S. government says that U.S. intervention is once again needed to improve and civilize the nation of Iraq,
It’s widely acknowledged that the 2003 invasion of Iraq radicalized Al-Baghdadi, with his humiliation at Camp Bucca further hardening him. Then the haphazard flood of weapons and easy cash into both Iraq and Syria fueled potential for further war.
This will not be our third Iraq invasion. U.S. assaults, achieved through munitions, through children's forced starvation, through white phosphorous, through bullet fire, through blockaded medicines, emptied reservoirs and downed power lines, through disbanded police forces and abandoned state industries and cities left to dissolve in paroxysms of ethnic cleansing – it is all one continuous war, beginning long before we finally turned on our former client Saddam in 1991, the longest war in U.S. history, continued now, extending into the future until it has no end that we can plausibly foresee.
One year to the day before his death, Dr. Martin Luther King urged a turn away from the war in Vietnam and a desperately needed rebirth, a “revolution of values” that was all that could free America from future such commitments. It would be so much better for the world if, instead of hearing President Obama’s September 10 speech justifying renewed U.S. military offensives in the region, we could have heard the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech. In it, he begs us to see ourselves as we are seen by our so-called enemies. It’s not easy to look in that mirror, but understanding the history of previous U.S. wars and policies, against Iraq, would help us look for alternatives.
We need not choose blindness, or the hatred that lets us be herded in fear. We can reach out with truth, with compassion, with the activist courage that leaps from heart to heart, rebuilding sanity, civility, community, humanity, resistance. We can find hope in our own active work to prove that humanity persists, that history can yearn toward justice and that a love which is in no way comfortable, sentimental bosh remains vigorously at work in a world with such need of it.
This article first appeared on Telesur English.