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An invisible US hand leading to war?: Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet at the Turkish/Syrian Border was an Act of Madness
By Dave Lindorff
In considering the terrifying but also sadly predictable news of a Russian fighter jet being downed by two Turkish fighters, let’s start with one almost certain assumption -- an assumption that no doubt is also being made by the Russian government: Turkey’s action, using US-supplied F-16 planes, was taken with the full knowledge and advance support of the US. In fact, given Turkey’s vassal status as a member of US-dominated NATO, it could well be that Ankara was put up to this act of brinksmanship by the US.
Robert Reich's website is full of proposals for how to oppose plutocracy, raise the minimum wage, reverse the trend toward greater inequality of wealth, etc. His focus on domestic economic policy is done in the traditional bizarre manner of U.S. liberals in which virtually no mention is ever made of the 54% of the federal discretionary budget that gets dumped into militarism.
When such a commentator notices the problem of war, it's worth paying attention to exactly how far they're willing to go. Of course, they'll object to the financial cost of a potential war, while continuing to ignore the ten-times-greater cost of routine military spending. But where else does their rare war opposition fall short?
Well, here, to begin with: Reich's new post begins thus: "We appear to be moving ever closer toward a world war against the Islamic State." That helpless fatalism doesn't show up in his other commentary. We're not doomed to plutocracy, poverty, or corporate trade. But we're doomed to war. It's coming upon us like the weather, and we'll need to handle it as well as we can. And it will be a "world" affair even if it's principally the 4% of humanity in the United States with a military engaged in it.
"No sane person welcomes war," says Reich. "Yet if we do go to war against ISIS we must keep a watchful eye on 5 things." Nobody, inlcuding Reich as far as I know, ever says this about plutocracy, fascism, slavery, child abuse, rape, de-unionization. Imagine reading this: "No sane person welcomes massive gun violence and school shootings, yet if we're going to let all these children die for the gun makers' profits we must keep a watchful eye on 5 things." Who would say that? What could the 5 things possibly be? The only people who talk this way about climate destruction are those who believe it's already past the point of no return, beyond any possible human control. Why do U.S. liberals "oppose" war by pretending it's inevitable and then keeping an eye on certain aspects of its damage?
Reich must be aware that most of Europe is very reluctant to engage in another U.S. war, that proxies in the Middle East are almost impossible to come by, and that President Obama still insists on a limited war slowly worsening the situation. But I suspect that Reich, like many people, has seen so much "election" coverage that he thinks the United States is about to have a new president, and that it will be either a war-mad Republican or a war-mad Hillary Clinton. Yet, such a development is over a year away, making Reich's fatalism all the more outrageous.
Let's look at the five things we're suppose to keep an eye on.
"1. The burden of fighting the war must be widely shared among Americans. America’s current 'all-volunteer' army is comprised largely of lower-income men and women for whom army pay is the best option. 'We’re staring at the painful story of young people with fewer options bearing the greatest burden,' says Greg Speeter, executive director of the National Priorities Project, whose study found low- and middle-income families supply far more Army recruits than families with incomes greater than $60,000 a year. That’s not fair. Moreover, when the vast majority of Americans depend on a small number of people to fight wars for us, the public stops feeling the toll such wars take. From World War II until the final days of the Vietnam War, in July 1973, nearly every young man in America faced the prospect of being drafted into the Army. Sure, many children of the rich found means to stay out of harm’s way. But the draft at least spread responsibility and heightened the public’s sensitivity to the human costs of war. If we go into a ground war against ISIS, we should seriously consider reinstating the draft."
This is madness. As a bank shot aimed at indirectly preventing war it's incredibly risky and uncertain. As a means of ameliorating war by making it more "fair," it grotesquely ignores the vast majority of victims, who will of course be the people living in the areas where the war is fought.
"2. We must not sacrifice our civil liberties. U.S. spy agencies no longer have authority they had in the post-9/11 USA Patriot Act to collect Americans’ phone and other records. The NSA must now gain court approval for such access. But in light of the Paris attacks, the FBI director and other leading U.S. law enforcement officials now say they need access to encrypted information on smartphones, personal and business records of suspected terrorists, and 'roving wiretaps' of suspects using multiple disposable cell phones. War can also lead to internment of suspects and suspensions of constitutional rights, as we’ve painfully witnessed. Donald Trump says he’d require American Muslims to register in a federal data base, and he refuses to rule out requiring all Muslims to carry special religious identification. "We’re going to have to do things that we never did before….we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago,” he adds. We must be vigilant that we maintain the freedoms we are fighting for."
This is delusional. The FBI needs to break through encryption but is kindly refraining from spying on anything unencrypted? The wars strip away civil liberties but are fought "for" them? There has not in fact been a war fought that did not remove liberties, and it seems highly unlikely that there could be. This has been clearly and accurately understood for centuries now.
"3. We must minimize the deaths of innocent civilians abroad. The bombing raids have already claimed a terrible civilian toll, contributing to a mass exodus of refugees. Last month the independent monitoring group Airwars said at least 459 civilians have died from coalition airstrikes in Syria over the past year. Other monitoring groups, including the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, also claim significant civilian deaths. Some civilian casualties are unavoidable. But we must ensure they are minimized – and not just out of humanitarian concern. Every civilian death creates more enemies. And we must do our part to take in a fair portion of Syrian refugees."
Minimize inevitable murders? Assist inevitably displaced families turned into refugees by the destruction of their homes? This is kinder gentler imperialism.
"4. We must not tolerate anti-Muslim bigotry in the United States. Already, leading Republican candidates are fanning the flames. Ben Carson says no Muslim should be president. Trump says 'thousands' of Arab-Americans cheered when the Twin Towers went down on 9/11 – a boldface lie. Ted Cruz wants to accept Christians refugees from Syrian [sic] but not Muslims. Jeb Bush says American assistance for refugees should focus on Christians. Marco Rubio wants to close down 'any place where radicals are being inspired,' including American mosques. It's outrageous that leading Republican candidates for president of the United States are fueling such hate. Such bigotry is not only morally odious. It also plays into the hands of ISIS."
Hmm. Can you name the last war that did not include the promotion of bigotry or xenophobia? By now xenophobia is so engrained that no U.S. columnist would propose a project that would kill U.S. citizens while "minimizing" such deaths, yet proposing such a fate for foreigners is deemed liberal and progressive.
"5. The war must be paid for with higher taxes on the rich. A week before the terrorist attacks in Paris, the Senate passed a $607 billion defense spending bill, with 93 senators in favor and 3 opposed (including Bernie Sanders). The House has already passed it, 370 to 58. Obama has said he’ll sign it. That defense appropriation is larded with pork for military contractors – including Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive weapons system in history. Now Republicans are pushing for even more military spending. We cannot let them use the war as a pretext to cut Social Security and Medicare, or programs for the poor. The war should be paid for the way we used to pay for wars – with higher taxes, especially on the wealthy. As we move toward war against ISIS, we must be vigilant – to fairly allocate the burdens of who’s called on to fight the war, to protect civil liberties, to protect innocent civilians abroad, to avoid hate and bigotry, and to fairly distribute the cost of paying for war. These aren’t just worthy aims. They are also the foundations of our nation’s strength."
Of course the wealthy should pay more taxes and everyone else less. That's true for taxes for parks or taxes for schools. It would also be true for taxes to pay for a project of blowing up coral reefs or a new initiative to drown kittens, but who would justify such things by properly funding them?
War, in fact, is worse than virtually anything else imaginable, including many things we absolutely reject in moral horror. War is mass murder, it brings with it brutality and a total degradation of morality, it is our top destroyer of the environment including the climate, it endangers rather than protecting -- just as bigotry plays into ISIS's hands, so does bombing ISIS. War -- and much more so, routine military spending -- kills primarily through the diversion of resources. A fraction of what is wasted could end starvation. I mean 3% of U.S. military spending could end starvation worldwide. Diseases could be wiped out. Energy systems could be made sustainable. The resources are that massive. Housing, education, and other rights could be guaranteed, in the United States and abroad.
Sure it's good for liberal commentators to point out some of war's downsides. But depicting them as acceptable and inevitable doesn't help.
So what should be done? Do I love ISIS, then? Is it my wish for us to all die? Et cetera.
A new ABC/Washington Post poll shows that Hillary Clinton is the most trusted 2016 candidate on terrorism. Quoting the Washington Post: "Clinton’s position of strength in the new Post-ABC poll is perhaps more striking given it also found... 57 percent disapproved of his [Obama] handling of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”
I think is urgent to respond to the recent Clinton national security and Islamic State speech and clarify to the public the dangerous implications of her foreign policy which will furtherly destabilize the Middle East and fuel more war.
On top I would put her anti-Russia and anti-Iran stance: by condemning continuously their actions and by refusing to recognize their legitimate interests and concerns, she makes the prospect of a political and diplomatic solution of the crisis difficult if not impossible to pursue.
Second, I would mention her plan to train and arm the so called “moderate” Syrian rebels who are fighting Assad. This policy has been a total failure with the result that US weapons ended up in the hand of Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front and Islamic state; also many CIA-trainees were fought and defeated or recruited by those terrorist groups. Right now remaining “moderate” Syrian rebels are allied with Nusra Front and other hardline Islamist groups in a coalition known as Army of Conquest.
Third, Clinton no-fly zone in northern Syria may cause a direct military confrontation with Russia, Iran and the Syrian army. The Pentagon assessed the no-fly zone as risky, costly and difficult to implement. Also the local populations, like the Syrian Kurds, oppose it.
Forth, Clinton says: "There is not going to be a successful military effort at this point to overturn Assad. That can only happen through the political process.” By setting the goal of overturning Assad, even if by a political process, she imperils the future peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition. Russia and Iran have repeatedly said that they will not accept Assad ouster as a precondition for the negotiations ending the war.
Fifth, Clinton plans a deployment in Syria of more U.S Special Operations troops "who can contribute to the fight on the ground” and military personnel advising the Iraqis "including embedding in local units.” This will put at risk more lives of American soldiers. The U.S. military shows sign of fatigue after so many wars; soldiers suffer from exhaustion, sleep disorders and mental health problems. No surprise that few Americans in the military have a good impression of Hillary Clinton: in a poll she is seen unfavorably by 81% by active and retired military personnel, including 69% who share a very unfavorable impression of her.
Below is my today’s news research on Syria.
Johan Galtung is the founder of the discipline of peace studies. He founded the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo in 1959 and the Journal of Peace Research in 1964, and has helped found dozens of peace centers. He has taught peace studies at universities all over the world, and mediated hundreds of conflicts. He is author or coauthor of over 160 books, and is cited and discussed in many thousands. He is the founder of Transcend Peace University and Transcend International. See http://transcend.org
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Academic’s Research Shows NY Times, Wash. Post Don’t Do Follow-up Reporting to See if Civilians Killed in U.S. Drone Strikes
By now you know the drill: The CIA or U.S. military forces unleash a drone strike or other aerial bombardment in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia or any other country that the United States claims the right to attack.
A U.S. government spokesperson reports 5 or 7 or 17 or 25 or whatever number of “militants” killed — Taliban, or al Qaeda or ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State fighters — according to its fill-in-the-blanks press release. Wire services, mainstream newspapers, television newscasters dutifully report in brief fashion on another successful drone or missile strike, fulfilling minimal journalistic standards by attributing it to the Pentagon, or intelligence or U.S. government sources — sometimes even naming the spokesperson who issued the news release.
And then — usually nothing. Yes, sometimes someone with a little clout raises a stink — say the Afghan president, or some prominent local official who was an eyewitness to the attack, or Doctors without Borders after the U.S. attack on their Afghanistan hospital in October. (* See footnote.) In such challenges to the Americans’ claims of killing only “militants,” these pesky eyewitnesses contend that many of those killed were actually noncombatants, even women and children.
But on those occasions when U.S. officials are confronted with too-strong evidence of civilian casualties, they typically issue an apology (while not usually admitting civilians were actually killed), promise an investigation — and then that’s the last we ever seem to hear of it in the mainstream press.
Now, an American University (A.U.) academic, Jeff Bachman, has documented what some readers may have surmised in reading drone news coverage over the years, but didn’t have the data to back it up. In examining articles by The New York Times and Washington Post in the immediate aftermath of U.S. drone strikes between 2009 and 2014, Bachman concluded:
“Both papers have substantially underrepresented the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, failed to correct the public record when evidence emerged that their reporting was wrong and ignored the importance of international law.”
Bachman’s research dovetails with The Intercept’s recently published “Drone Papers” articles, which among other things document the U.S. government’s lying to the press and public about the number of noncombatants killed in drone strikes.
Bachman, professional lecturer in human rights and the co-director of Global Affairs M.A. Program at A.U.’s School of International Service, examined a sample of 81 Times articles and 26 Post articles published within two days of particular drone strikes between 2009 and 2014. He then compared the two papers’ reporting to the research and tracking of drone strikes by the London-based The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ). He said he considered TBIJ’s data authoritative “because they used a methodology that has been endorsed by the Center for Civilians in Conflict and Human Rights” at Columbia University’s Law School.
In the drone attacks reported on by The Times, TBIJ found civilians killed in 26 of the 81 attacks. The Times, though, reported civilians killed in only two of those attacks, Bachman wrote.
Looking at The Post’s coverage of drone attacks, Bachman found that TBIJ reported civilians killed in 7 of the 26 attacks, while The Post reported civilians killed in only one attack.
In the 33 strikes that produced civilian casualties, TBIJ found that between 180 and 302 civilians were killed — yet Times and Post articles reported on the deaths of only nine civilians in the three stories in which they noted that there were civilian casualties.
“This trend of underreporting of civilian casualties means readers are not being informed of the real consequences of drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan,” Bachman wrote. “It represents a failure by journalists at these papers to view critical government claims regarding who is killed in particular strikes.”
Even worse, Bachman reports what happened when he contacted both newspapers to question them “about the inaccuracies in their reporting on civilian casualties, and to see whether either newspaper published corrections” about civilian deaths from drone strikes. “The answer from both was that they had not,” he wrote.
Read Bachman’s article to see the full summary of his findings and the exact comments he reports receiving from Times and Post representatives. But for one sample of mainstream media indifference to this issue, consider what Bachman reported he was told by Sylvester Monroe, The Post’s assistant managing editor.
Monroe, wrote Bachman, “stated that when using ‘official sources’ it is impossible to ‘independently verify which of the dead were members of militant groups and which might have been innocent civilians.’”
According to Bachman, Monroe added this amazing disclosure: “Even if the CIA were to acknowledge that its count was inaccurate, it would not be up to us to run a correction.” Let that sink in: The Post will apparently not make corrections of a spy agency’s lies and misrepresentations even in the unlikely event the agency itself admits them.
Bachman also noted that the term “human rights” — and various equivalents — showed up in only 5 of The Times’s 81 drone attack stories, and in only one of the 26 Post articles. The term “laws of war” or “laws of armed conflict” — needed to “place the drone strikes in their international legal context” — were not mentioned in any of the articles.
“Without government transparency and accurate reporting, whistleblowers, like the source of The Intercept’s ‘Drone Papers,’ are the only source for information that will allow us to understand the real consequences of the drone strikes,” Bachman concluded.
- The recent October 2 multiple U.S. bombings on the Doctor Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, where at least 30 staff, patients and others were killed, might prove to be that unique case that events will force to be seriously investigated. But don’t count on it. In the Kunduz hospital case, eyewitnesses — Westerners/doctors from a highly respected international humanitarian medical organization making allegations that the bombings were deliberate — could not be so easily written off by the Pentagon and our usually incurious mainstream media. Doctors without Borders has called the multiple bombardments on the hospital a possible war crime and wants the attack investigated by an international inquiry under the Geneva Conventions. Instead, General John F. Campbell, the American commander in Afghanistan, has appointed a two-star general from another command to head what Campbell termed an independent investigation — a far cry from what Doctors Without Borders has called for. Keeping the investigation within the military’s own house makes it much more likely that we may be heading for one of those mistakes-were-made Pentagon reports, rather than a war-crimes-were-committed report. Even this inadequate, conflicted investigative step, though, is far more than usually happens when ordinary civilians are killed by U.S. attacks and there are no Westerners or credentialed people to witness them.
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In Washington, voices are rising fast and furiously. “Freedom fries” are a thing of the past and everyone agrees on the need to support France (and on more or less nothing else). Now, disagreements are sharpening over whether to only incrementally “intensify” the use of U.S. military power in Syria and Iraq or go to “war” big time and send in the troops.
As expectations build for a global consensus to emerge from the United Nations climate conference in Paris, starting on 30 November 2015, that could agree to taking action to limit any rise in global temperature to 2 degrees celsius, I would like to explain why these expectations are misplaced. And what we can do about it.
Almost a Century Ago, another Democratic Socialist Ran for President of the United States—from His Prison Cell
In the early twentieth century, roughly a century before Bernie Sanders’s long-shot run for the White House, another prominent democratic socialist, Eugene V. Debs, waged his own campaigns for the presidency.
Where’s the truth, and how can you find it?: The US Corporate Media are Essentially Propaganda Organs of the US Government
By Dave Lindorff
By Dave Lindorff
Are the American corporate media largely propaganda organs, or news organizations?
Irish Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire and 14 delegates from Australia, Belgium, Canada, India, Ireland, Poland, The Russian Federation, The United Kingdom and the United States, will begin a 6-day visit to Syria to promote peace and to express support for all Syrians who have been victims of war and terror since 20ll.
This will be Mairead Maguire’s third visit to Syria as head of a peace delegation. Maguire said: ‘People across the world are rightly expressing solidarity with the people of France after the recent terror attack. However, while there is talk of a war on terror and the focus of that war will be Syria, there is little awareness of how a war will impact on the lives of millions of people in Syria”.
In Syria, Christmas, Easter and the Eid festivals are all national holidays. So the group will acknowledge the unity of Syrians by taking part in an ecumenical service in the Grand Mosque in Damascus.
It will meet displaced Syrians and orphans, and will investigate the reconciliation initiative in Syria.
The group hopes to travel to Homs, a city that has been ravaged by fighting. It will report on how people are rebuilding their lives.
Ms. Maguire said, ‘Syrians are custodians of the two oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The members of the International peace group come from different political and religious backgrounds, but what unites us is a belief that the people of Syria have to be acknowledged and supported, and this is not just for their survival and their country’s survival, but for humankind’s’.
Ms.Maguire noted that when there is talk of war in the world, it seems appropriate that the international peace delegation will travel to Damascus, to listen to the voices of countless Syrians who call for peace, and to bear witness to the true reality of conflict in that country.
Hillary Clinton proposes:
Deployment in Syria of more U.S Special Operations troops "who can contribute to the fight on the ground” and military personnel advising and training the Iraqis "including embedding in local units and helping target airstrikes.”
Establishing no-fly zones together with the coalition and the neighbors to "stop Assad from slaughtering civilians and the opposition from the air.”
Support and arming Syrian opposition units hand in hand with Arab and European partners.
A political transition to end Assad’s rule which has "killed many more Syrians than the terrorists have…There is not going to be a successful military effort at this point to overturn Assad. That can only happen through the political process.”
"Counter Iranian influence across the region and its support for terrorist proxies such as Hezbollah….Raising the confidence of our Arab partners and raising the costs to Iran for bad behavior will contribute to a more effective fight against ISIS.”
Following are my suggested points for Sanders counterproposal:
No to U.S. troops on the ground in Syria and Iraq. Let’s spare the lives and limbs of the American soldiers! According to a Reuters poll, Americans want more action against ISIS, but oppose ground troops.
Oppose no-fly zone. This is a dangerous idea. A no-fly zone will fuel the civil war, antagonize Russia and Iran and may cause a direct military confrontation with them. The Pentagon opposes the no-fly zone as risky, costly and difficult to implement. Also the local populations, like the Syrian Kurds, oppose it.
No arming of the Syrian so called “moderate” rebels who are allied with Nusra Front and other hardline Islamist groups in a coalition known as Army of Conquest. As it has happened in the past they have been a conduit, either willing or unwilling, of U.S. weapons to terrorist groups.
Support the call of France President Hollande for a global coalition to defeat Islamic State, a truly international cooperation with the participation of Russia and all the Muslim nations including Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran. Hollande will meet separately with Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin next week to "unite the forces”.
Support the Vienna Statement of the International Syria Support Group which set a plan for Syrian government and opposition talks, new constitution and UN supervised elections within 18 months. "The ISSG expressed willingness to take immediate steps... to pave the way for the nationwide ceasefire."
No mentioning of Assad which remains a sticking point in the diplomatic negotiations to reach a political solution to the Syrian crisis. The Syrian government/opposition talks and the constitutional reform process can begin without addressing the fate and political future of Assad which can be discussed at a later stage when both the Syrian government and opposition have been given political and security guarantees.
It is important that Sen. Sanders address in a comprehensive manner the anti-terrorism campaign. The audience of the Iowa Democratic debate thought that Clinton was stronger than Sanders in national security, and the media noticed that he was too short addressing this issue.
The world is wracked with shock, anger, and a deep sadness following the attacks in Paris last week. No one should go through that kind of horror and have their lives destroyed. We grieve with France over the loss of life and over the terror that has gripped the nation.
However, living with that kind of fear is the constant reality for many people in the Middle East with drones flying overhead and with soldiers and mercenaries occupying the land. I think about the mothers and fathers, children, grandparents, brothers and sisters, people living in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen whose lives are no more than “collateral damage” to the US government, people who are being murdered with total disregard for their humanity. We must also grieve for them and not let them be forgotten.
We have known for a long time that our government’s drone warfare program in the Middle East is both immoral and illegal, but the release of the Drone Papers several weeks ago confirms what we already knew. This was a ground-breaking months-long investigation using U.S. government intelligence documents leaked by an anonymous whistleblower from the intelligence community. The report provided chilling insight into the US drone program that is responsible for death and destruction. The report gives us details that support the dismantling of this program that is the best recruitment tool ever for Al-Queda and ISIS.
The Drone Papers provide documentation showing that, through the use of unreliable data using cell phones and other electronic devices to provide target location, nearly 90% of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended victims. However the Obama administration masks the true number of civilians killed in drone strikes by categorizing unidentified people killed in a strike as enemies, even if they were not the targets. The people who are being murdered by our government have names and people who love them and miss them, and almost all of them are peacefully living their lives when they are struck down by a missile from a drone.
How many innocent people must die in France, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Syria, in the US, and other places around the world before we learn that violence only creates more violence, before we realize that the US government’s “War on Terror” is failing miserably, before we understand that we are all in this together, and the only way we will survive is by working together to create peace?
Martin Luther King, Jr. was so clear when he declared:
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Arming some groups and bombing others in the Middle East is doing nothing but creating more organizations that become radicalized and want to strike out against us because we are killing their people. We must call for an immediate stop to all U.S./NATO air attacks in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan and stop all U.S./NATO support for Saudi air attacks in Yemen.
We must also call for an immediate stop to all U.S. "targeted killing" actions globally, including drone surveillance and drone assassinations.
We must provide entry and refuge for those fleeing the wars in the Middle East. The people who are fleeing the Middle East are mothers and fathers who want their children to have a chance at a good life. They are running away from the same people who organized the attacks in Paris. Governor Walker is so wrong in saying that he will not let refugees into the state. His comments are racist, hateful, prejudicial, and are not based in kind of reality.
Our voices must spring up across the world demanding an end to violence, hatred, and killing. We must call for new solutions, working together, providing support to those who need it, and creating a lasting peace to this world where we are all connected, where we are one human family.
Joy First, PhD, Mount Horeb, WI, is a long-time peace activist and a member of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance and Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars. She engages in nonviolent civil resistance to call attention to and bring an end to the crimes of the government.
Chicago media outlets are reporting that drones have been banned from most of Chicago's skies and cannot fly over you or your property without your permission. The text of the ordinance, however, makes exceptions for police that will require eternal vigilance.
Local legislative action around drones began in U.S. cities in early 2013 with the public demand for resolutions opposing foreign drone murders by the military and CIA (and related training in U.S. skies), combined with public concern about domestic U.S. police departments that had begun acquiring weaponized and surveillance drones. This quickly expanded to include concerns about private drones -- among other reasons, because surveillance footage from private drones could be acquired by governments. As near misses between drones and passenger aircraft began piling up, those issues of safety were added to the mix.
Chicago has now passed a modified version of an ordinance that forbids any drone "that is equipped with a firearm or other weapon" and any drone flown "with intent to use such small unmanned aircraft or anything attached to it to cause harm to persons or property." The new law also bans any drone flight "for the purpose of conducting surveillance, unless expressly permitted by law."
Then come the exceptions: "nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit any person who is authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration . . . ." And: "nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the use of a drone by a law enforcement agency in accordance with Section 15 of the Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act, codified at 725 ILCS 167/1 et seq., or its successor provision."
That Illinois law allows police to use drones whenever they claim there is "a high risk of a terrorist attack" or they obtain a 45-day warrant from a court, or they decide they don't have time to bother obtaining a warrant and must act swiftly "to prevent imminent harm to life or to forestall the imminent escape of a suspect or the destruction of evidence," or they're attempting to locate a missing person but not undertaking a criminal investigation, or they're solely doing crime scene or traffic crash scene photography (with a warrant if on private property), or there is a disaster or public health emergency (which need not have been formally declared).
None of that explicitly allows weaponized drones for police, except in so far as the word "terrorist" is generally taken to allow just about anything. So, does Chicago's ban on weaponized drones remain intact for police? I'm pessimistic. I don't think the ban on entering the sky over private property or flying at night or flying drunk or any of the other bans survive for police. The law says "nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the use of a drone by a law enforcement agency. . . ."
How police drone use works out, I think, depends entirely on how the state law is interpreted and enforced. Who will monitor police drone use? Who will punish violations? The new Chicago ordinance includes penalties: "Any person who violates this section or any rule promulgated thereunder shall be fined not less than $500.00 nor more than $5,000.00 for each offense, or may be incarcerated for a term not to exceed 180 days, or both. Each day that a violation continues shall constitute a separate and distinct offense." But that sounds like a penalty for an individual, not a government agency.
I'm afraid what has been created is a policy of restricting drone use by individuals in Chicago, without effectively restricting it by the entities most likely to violate rights, intimidate, restrict ability to exercise free speech or assemble or petition the government for redress of grievances, and to use unjustifiable force.
This question is far from settled. Chicago is only one city. Other cities and states could choose to clearly ban weaponized drones, and to ban police surveillance drones under a clear system of supervision, oversight, and accountability.
Toward the end of altering our idea of what counts as "doing something," I offer this composite representation of numerous media interviews I've done.
Interviewer: So you'd stop the planes and the drones and the bombs and the special forces. You've said lots about what you wouldn't do, but can you say what you would do?
Me: Sure, I believe the United States government should propose and attempt to negotiate and at the same time unilaterally begin a ceasefire. When President Kennedy asked the Soviet Union to agree to a ban on nuclear tests, he announced that the United States was itself going ahead and halting them. Negotiating is helped through leadership by example. For the United States to stop engaging or assisting in live fire would give huge momentum to a ceasefire negotiation.
Interviewer: So, again, you would stop firing, but what would you do instead?
Me: The United States ought to propose and work to negotiate and unilaterally begin an arms embargo. I say the United States because I live there and because the majority of the weapons in the Middle East originate in the United States. U.S. participation alone in an arms embargo would end the majority of arms provision to Western Asia. Ceasing to rush Saudi Arabia more weapons would do more good than writing a report on that kingdom's atrocities, for example. An arms embargo should be developed to include every nation in the region and be expanded into disarmament -- first and foremost of all nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons (yes, including Israel's). The United States has the leverage to accomplish this, but not while working against it -- as it now vigorously does.
Interviewer: Yet again, here's something you don't want to do: provide arms. But is there something that you do want to do?
Me: Other than creating peace and a WMD-free Middle East? Yes, I'm glad you asked. I'd like to see the U.S. government launch a massive program of reparations and aid to the people of Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Palestine, Pakistan, Bahrain, Syria, Egypt, and the entire rest of the region. (Please, please, please take my word for it that I am not listing every single nation purely in order to save time, and not because I hate some of them or any such insanity.) This no-strings-attached program should include food aid, medical aid, infrastructure, green energy, peace workers, human shields, communications technology for popular use of social media, environmental cleanup, and cultural and educational exchanges. And it should be paid for (note that it does have to be paid for and therefore should count as the very essence of a capitalist "doing something") through a modest reduction in U.S. militarism -- in fact, converting U.S. military facilities in the Middle East into green energy and cultural institutions, and handing them over to the residents.
Interviewer: I hate to have to keep asking the same question, but, again, what is it that you would do about ISIS? If you oppose war, do you support police action? What is something, anything at all for goodness sake, that you would dooooooooo?
Me: Well, in addition to halting violence, negotiating disarmament, and investing on a scale and with a level of respectful generosity to bump the Marshall Plan right out of the history books, I would begin efforts to deprive ISIS of funding and weaponry. A general halt to arms shipments would, of course, already help. Ending the air strikes that are ISIS's biggest recruitment tool would help. But Saudi Arabia and other regional powers have to be brought around to cutting off the funding to ISIS. That would not be nearly as difficult to do if the U.S. government ceased thinking of Saudi Arabia as a valued weapons customer and stopped bowing down to its every demand.
Interviewer: Stop the funding. Stop the arming. This all sounds nice. And you keep saying it over and over again. But I'm going to ask you one last time to say what you would do instead, and what weaponry you would use exactly to do it.
Me: I would use the weapon that eliminates enemies by turning them into something other than enemies. I would embrace the ideology that ISIS works against. It doesn't oppose U.S. militarism. It feeds off it. ISIS opposes humanism. I would welcome refugees without limit. I would make the United States a part of the global community on an equal and cooperative basis, joining without reservations the International Criminal Court, and existing treaties on the rights of the child, land mines, cluster bombs, racial discrimination, discrimination against women, weapons in space, rights of migrant workers, arms trade, protection from disappearances, rights of people with disabilities, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. I would work to reform the United Nations beginning by unilaterally foreswearing use of the veto. I would announce a policy of ceasing to prop up or to overthrow foreign dictators. I would announce plans to support nonviolence, democracy, and sustainability at home and abroad, leading by example -- including in the area of disarmament. Reforming U.S. democracy by removing the system of legalized bribery and the whole list of needed reforms would set an example and also allow more democratic policies. I would shift our officially propogated sympathies from We Are All France to We Are All the World. To imagine that any of these steps is unrelated to ISIS is to misunderstand the power of propaganda, image, and the communication of respectful goodwill or arrogant disdain.
Interviewer: Well, we've run out of time, and yet you still won't tell me anything you would do. Sadly, that leaves us obliged to support an assault on ISIS, as much as we dislike war.
By John Grant
[Al Qaeda’s] strategic objective has always been ... the overthrow of the House of Saud. In pursuing that regional goal, however, it has been drawn into a worldwide conflict with American power.
By Dr Hakim
The sea shells
I picked some sea shells at Henoko in Okinawa. Henoko is where the U.S. is relocating their military base against the wishes of 76.1% of Okinawans.
I gave the sea shells as gifts to some of the Afghan Peace Volunteers to help them remember Okinawa’s story.
“Hold the sea shells just next to your ears. It is said that you can hear the waves and the stories from the shores of Okinawa,” I began, as I recounted my witness of the nonviolent efforts of ordinary Japanese to end the more than 70 years of U.S. military bases in their midst, including of Ohata being hurt by the Japanese police when he had locked arms with other Japanese in a peaceful sit-in protestat the gates of Henoko base.
Kitsu, an elder monk who organized the Okinawa Peace Walk I was participating in, remarked during a dinner of sticky rice, pickled radishes and seaweed, “Hakim, you remind me of the ‘dugong’!”
I was amused to think that I resembled the somewhat strange-looking, endangered manatee that lives on a certain species of seaweed found in the seas of Henoko.
Perhaps, it’s only when we realize the similarities we share with creatures like the ‘dugong’ that we can care more about their possible extinction. The dugong’s survival may now hinge on the U.S. government’s ‘full-spectrum dominance’ designs on Asia, as the dugong’s natural habitat is being usurped by the construction of a U.S. military base.
I had the privilege of joining a team of scientists and activists who take their ‘Peace Boats’ out daily to the area of sea cordoned off by the U.S./Japanese authorities with orange buoys.
The Peace Boats had flags which read, “سلام”, meaning “Peace” is Arabic, a word also used by Afghans in greeting one another. I was reminded that the U.S. military bases in Okinawa and Afghanistan serve as launching pads for the same Great Game being played out in Asia.
Two elderly Japanese ladies were regulars on the boat, holding signs which said, “Stop Illegal Work”.
I thought, “Who made the U.S. military the ‘legal’ masters over the seas of Okinawa, over the ‘dugong’ whose survival they are threatening?” The U.S. already has 32 military bases on the island, taking up almost 20% of the entire land area of Okinawa.
The cold spray of the waves refreshed me. The soft beat of the drum played by Kamoshita, another organizer of the Okinawa Peace Walk, gave a prayerful rhythm.
In the horizon were Japanese canoeists who were also doing their daily protests.
The canoe activists at the orange-buoy cordon.
The U.S. military base’s site at Henoko can be seen in the background
The captain of our boat drove the boat across and over the cordon.
Boats of the Japanese Coast Guard and the Okinawa Defense Bureau approached and surrounded us.
They were everywhere.
They filmed us as we filmed them. They issued warnings on their loudhailers.Suddenly, as our boat picked up speed, a Japanese Coast Guard boat gave chase.
I felt as if I was in a Hollywood movie. I couldn’t believe that they were so intensely averse to a couple of old Japanese ladies, a few scientists and reporters and some peace builders!
What didn’t they want us to see? Hidden nuclear warheads? What orders were they given by the Japanese and U.S. authorities?
The Japanese Coast Guard ‘chasing’ us
I held my camera steady as their boat seemed to ‘nosedive’ towards us.
Their boat hit the side of ours. Water showered over us. I covered my camera with my Borderfree Blue Scarf, and wondered for an instant if the coast guard would soon be boarding our boat.
I sensed what my Japanese friends felt, that instead of being in Okinawa to protect the people, they are chasing the people off from their own land and seas. I saw a global military machine coming at us on a normalized, business-as-usual excuse of ‘defense’, and I understood the roots of my grandfather’s killingby the Japanese military in World War II.
This was merely one of many infringements by the U.S./Japan military on the open seas, oblivious to the ‘dugongs’ and natural life within and around the waters.
Using a magnifier viewing goggle which I placed over the side of our boat, I could see a little of the beautiful coral and its ecosystem. Unfortunately, these may be destroyed by the U.S. military with Japanese tax-payer money, unless the people of the world join Okinawans to say ‘No base! No War!”
This is what war, war bases and war preparations do.
They hurt the people.
They ignore the seas.
The people of Okinawa and Japan will keep resisting nonviolently. Their struggle for peace is ours.
A full photo essay can be seen at http://enough.ourjourneytosmile.com/wordpress/boat-chase-on-the-seas-of-okinawa/
Hakim, ( Dr. Teck Young, Wee ) is a medical doctor from Singapore who has done humanitarian and social enterprise work in Afghanistan for the past 10 years, including being a mentor to the Afghan Peace Volunteers, an inter-ethnic group of young Afghans dedicated to building non-violent alternatives to war. He is the 2012 recipient of the International Pfeffer Peace Prize.
Husain Abdulla, originally from Bahrain, is the founder and Executive Director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain. As Executive Director, Husain leads the organization’s efforts to ensure that U.S. policies support the democracy and human rights movement in Bahrain. Husain also works closely with members of the Bahraini-American community to ensure that their voices are heard by U.S. government officials and the broader American public. In 2012, the Government of Bahrain revoked Husain's Bahraini citizenship in retaliation for his peaceful advocacy for the respect for human rights in his home country. Husain holds a Master’s degree in Political Science and International Relations from the University of West Florida and a BA in Political Science and Mathematics from the University of South Alabama. See http://adhrb.org
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Here’s a little thought experiment: imagine that we’re in Kansas (without Toto) and a bridal party in three rented limos is heading down a highway toward a church where a wedding is about to take place. Suddenly, a small out-of-control plane plummets into those limos killing the bride, the mother of the bride, and five of the seven bridesmaids; 15 others are wounded. Bear with me here, if this particular method of wedding slaughter seems a little farfetched. After all, we don’t (yet) have drones armed with Hellfire missiles patrolling American skies that could take out such a caravan.
If U.S. President were not a mythical position but a serious job, the job interview would include asking the candidates their basic plans of action. This would start with, "What will you encourage Congress to spend a couple of trillion dollars on each year?"
At the moment, about half of federal discretionary spending is spent on one thing, militarism. A basic budget proposal from each candidate would tell us whether they think military spending should go up or down. Some of the Republicans have blurted out that they want it increased. Marco Rubio has lamented a failure to spend $100 billion more, suggesting that he would push for that increase. Rand Paul has denounced that idea, suggesting that he'd maintain or reduce military spending. But none of them has actually laid out a proposed budget in even the roughest terms.
The Democrats have avoided the subject even more. When forced to talk about the military, Senator Bernie Sanders has talked about waste and audits but left us completely in the dark as to what level he thinks spending should be. This is odd, because he talks about creating significant new spending all the time, for things like free college. But he never proposes to pay for such projects by pinching a bit from the military; he always proposes to tax billionaires -- which is always criticized by the media as severely and nonsensically as a proposal to cut the military would be.
CBS hosted a debate this weekend, and I thank them for actually posting a full transcript and a full video that can be fast-forwarded. This allows an interested person to not actually watch the god-awful thing, but to read it and watch the bits that the transcriber marked "unintelligible" or the bits that require particular attention.
Here are a few segments worth paying attention to:
SANDERS: "I think we have a disagreement. And-- the disagreement is that not only did I vote against the war in Iraq, if you look at history, John, you will find that regime change-- whether it was in the early '50s in Iran, whether it was toppling Salvador Allende in Chile or whether it was overthrowing the government [of] Guatemala way back when-- these invasions, these-- these toppling of governments, regime changes have unintended consequences. I would say that on this issue I'm a little bit more conservative than the secretary."
That's new and useful. If the U.S. were to stop overthrowing governments, most of the U.S. military could be dismantled. Here's where Sanders finally mentions the military budget:
SANDERS: "Let me pick up an issue that-- a very important issue that we have not yet discussed. This nation is the most powerful military in the world. We're spending over $600 billion a year on the military. [He means just in the Department of so-called Defense alone, not counting Homeland Security, State, Energy, etc.] And yet significantly less than 10% of that money is used to be fighting international terrorism. We are spending hundreds of billions of dollars maintaining 5,000 nuclear weapons. I think we need major reform in the military making it more cost effective but also focusing on the real crisis that faces us. The Cold War is over and our focus has got to be on intelligence, increased manpower, fighting international terrorism."
The upside here is that Sanders pointed out the military price-tag -- and perhaps the idea of reducing or eliminating the nukes. The downside is that he didn't suggest cutting militarism. He didn't suggest moving money away from militarism. He only proposed to move money, from place to place, within the field of militarism. When asked later about taxing people to pay for college, Sanders failed to mention cutting military spending.
Wanting "cost-effective" military spending, of course, means getting good killing power for your buck. Sanders wants to kill; he just wants to spend as little on it as possible. Whether he ultimately wants military spending reduced, increased, or kept at its current level we just don't know. He talks up foreign evils and the need to fight them enough that one could as reasonably guess he wants an increase as a decrease. But one way in which Sanders wants to be "cost-effective" is by getting other nations to fight wars. Since most of these other nations are armed largely with U.S. weapons, he may also think this is good for business:
"The-- the secretary's obviously right. It is enormously complicated. But here's something that I believe we have to do is we put together an international coalition. And that is we have to understand that the Muslim nations in the region, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, all of these nations, they're gonna just have to get their hands dirty, their boots on the ground. They are gonna have to take on ISIS. This is a war for the soul of Islam. And those countries who are opposed to Islam, they are gonna have to get deeply involved in a way that is not the case today. We should be supportive of that effort. So should the UK, so should France. But those Muslim countries are gonna have to lead the efforts. They are not doing it now."
Elsewhere in the debate he said the U.S. should "lead." Here he wants the "Muslim nations" that "are opposed to Islam" to "get their hands dirty." Saudi Arabia is slaughtering children in Yemen with U.S. weapons, beheading children at home, funding the terrorists Bernie wants it to take the lead in destroying, and shipping poison to the world in the form of oil that will render Saudi Arabia uninhabitable this century. That's not "dirty" enough?
The potential plus side of Sanders always saying he wants someone else to fight wars, even if he doesn't understand who would fight on which side, is that it suggests he might not want the U.S. to fight as many wars. If you contrast that with Hillary Clinton's eagerness to be the toughest militarist on the planet, Bernie wins. If you contrast it with a sane sustainable foreign policy, he loses. If you try to figure out what he actually wants to do in any sort of detail, you clearly have not understood what the point of these horrible debates is.
By Ann Wright
A 26 person delegation from the All Okinawa Council will be in Washington, DC November 19 and 20 to ask members of the U.S. Congress to use their power to stop the construction of runway for the U.S. Marine base at Henoko into the pristine waters of the South China Sea.
The delegation is concerned about the environmental impact of the new facilities, including a runway to be built into the coral areas and natural habitat of the marine mammal, the dugong and the continued militarization of their island. Over 90% of all U.S. military bases in Japan are located in Okinawa.
The Henoko construction plan faces substantial opposition from the people of Okinawa. Protests of 35,000 citizens, Including many senior citizens, against the construction of the base have rocked the island.
The issue of the Henoko relocation plan has taken a critical turn. On October 13th, 2015, Okinawa’s new Governor Takshi Onaga revoked the land reclamation approval for the Henoko base construction, which was granted by the previous governor in December 2013.
The All Okinawa Council is a civil society organization, consisting of members of civil society organizations/groups, local assemblies, local communities, and business establishments.
Members of the delegation will have meetings with several Congresspersons and staffers on November 19 and 20 and will hold a briefing in the U.S. House of Representatives in Rayburn building room 2226 at 3pm on Thursday, November 19. The briefing is open to the public.
At 6pm on Thursday, November 19, the delegation will host a showing of the documentary “Okinawa: The Afterburn” at the Brookland Busboys and Poets, 625 Monroe St., NE, Washington, DC 20017.
The film is a comprehensive picture of the 1945 Battle of Okinawa and the 70-year occupation of the island by the US military.
On Friday, November 20, the delegation will hold a rally at the White House at noon and asks for support from local organizations opposed to expansion of U.S. military bases around the world.
The Henoko base construction in Okinawa would be the second base in Asia and the Pacific to be used by US military that has faced enormous citizen outrage as both bases will destroy environmentally sensitive areas and increase the militarization of their countries. The construction of the South Korean naval base on Jeju Island that will homeport ships carrying the US Aegis missiles has caused massive citizen protests.
About the Author: Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. She was a US diplomat for 16 years and resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war. She has travelled to both Okinawa and Jeju Island to speak on U.S. military bases and sexual assault by US military members on women in the local communities.
We are all France. Apparently. Though we are never all Lebanon or Syria or Iraq for some reason. Or a long, long list of additional places.
We are led to believe that U.S. wars are not tolerated and cheered because of the color or culture of the people being bombed and occupied. But let a relatively tiny number of people be murdered in a white, Christian, Western-European land, with a pro-war government, and suddenly sympathy is the order of the day.
"This is not just an attack on the French people, it is an attack on human decency and all things that we hold dear," says U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham. I'm not sure I hold ALL the same things dear as the senator, but for the most part I think he's exactly right and that sympathy damn well ought to be the order of the day following a horrific mass killing in France.
I just think the same should apply to everywhere else on earth as well. The majority of deaths in all recent wars are civilian. The majority of civilians are not hard to sympathize with once superficial barriers are overcome. Yet, the U.S. media never seems to declare deaths in Yemen or Pakistan or Palestine to be attacks on our common humanity.
I included "pro-war government" as a qualification above, because I can recall a time, way back in 2003, when I was the one shouting "We are all France," and pro-war advocates in the United States were demonizing France for its refusal to support a looming and guaranteed to be catastrophic and counterproductive U.S. war. France sympathized with U.S. deaths on 911, but counseled sanity, decency, and honesty in response. The U.S. told France to go to hell and renamed french fries in Congressional office buildings.
Now, 14 years into a global war on terror that reliably produces more terror, France is an enthusiastic invader, plunderer, bomber, and propagator of hateful bigotry. France also sells billions of dollars of weaponry to lovely little bastions of equality and liberty like Saudi Arabia, carefully ignoring Saudis' funding of anti-Western terrorist groups.
When U.S. militarism failed to prevent 911, I actually thought that would mean reduced militarism. When a Russian plane was recently blown up, I think I imagined for a split second that Russia would learn its lesson and stop repeating U.S. mistakes. When people were just killed in France, I didn't have any time to fantasize about France coming to its senses, because a "socialist" president was already doing his Dubya-on-the-rubble imitation:
"To all those who have seen these awful things," said François Hollande, "I want to say we are going to lead a war which will be pitiless. Because when terrorists are capable of committing such atrocities they must be certain that they are facing a determined France, a united France, a France that is together and does not let itself be moved, even if today we express infinite sorrow."
The video doesn't look like Bush, and the French word combat does not necessarily mean war just because the Washington Post says it does. It can mean fight in some other sense. But what other sense exactly, I'm not sure. Prosecuting anyone responsible would of course make perfect sense, but a criminal justice system ought not to be pitiless. It's a war that ought to be pitiless. And it's a war that will guarantee more attacks. And it's a war that France has begun.
"It is the job of thinking people, not to be on the side of the executioners," said Albert Camus.
Please go back to thinking, France.
We do love you and wish you well and are deeply sorry for U.S. influence against your better tendencies.
By Herbert J. Hoffman, Ph.D., Member VFP National, Maine and New Mexico
It was my senior year in high school -- many years ago -- and I was seated, along with many of my football teammates, on the auditorium stage. It was a pre-game rally before 1500 classmates and teachers. The auditorium was filled with energy. The main speaker was a much revered former outstanding athlete at Central High School. A man in his 50’s, he spoke with passion about the upcoming football game. It was exciting! However, I found myself feeling revulsion as he concluded his speech by saying, “Go out there and Kill, Kill, Kill!”, repeating the last three words numerous times as the audience joined in.
Granted that the speaker did not mean his exhortation to be literal, it was emblematic of an attitude that has prevailed in this Nation since its inception -- and even before. Aggression is the path to solving differences and the use of aggressive and demeaning language is one of the means employed to facilitate the use of aggression. No, I have not lost sight of the vignette being about a football game -- however, I am concerned that it is illustrative of a much more serious game -- WAR!
The prevalent ethos in the United States is that differences in opinion, behavior, faith, gender orientation are to be resolved by aggressive actions -- not by discussion, negotiation, understanding or compassion. We have a long history of addressing differences by means of aggression -- beginning with the conquest of the Native Americans to the present day wars with, and occupations of, sovereign nations. Domestically, we have seen the rapid response of police officers to fire their weapons to resolve a situation -- often involving racial differences -- and this follows the examples set by our foreign policy actions. It is no happenstance that, since its inception, the United States has initiated wars of aggression -- with the exceptions of the Civil War and WWI -- against enemies who are non-caucasian. In these instances, as in many of the police shootings, the imminent threat to security is either highly suspect or completely absent.
Have we, primarily European Americans, not advanced beyond our more primitive instincts to annihilate those who are different from us, who are not members of our tribe, whom we perceive as “enemies?” These “primitive instincts” are not sufficient to explain -- or justify -- our aggressive and often violent response to those who are “different.” Yes, as I noted, that since before its birth the United States has demonstrated a significant aggressive streak in its approach to the resolution of conflict which is reflected in our foreign policy.
In February of 2015 Glenn Greenwald wrote, “What we see here is what we’ve seen over and over: the West’s wars creating and empowering an endless supply of enemies, which in turn justify endless war by the West.” He continued, “It’s also a reminder that the military-industrial-
The ethos and the soul of the our country is at a potential “tipping point” as we move closer to the 2016 elections. Do we continue on our course of militarized conquest -- employing the most powerful military the world has ever witnessed -- or do we begin moving towards a national stance of diplomacy, relationship and non-violence in our approach to the resolution of differences? Spearheaded by the diplomacy of President Obama and Secretary Kerry, the negotiations involved in the development of a non-nuclear agreement by the members of the Security Council and Germany with Iran can stand as a model for future negotiations.
It will require strong leadership for such a beginning movement in international relations to prevail. It is clear that if this approach is to have any chance at success, the United States would have to be involved -- involved to the point of taking very strong leadership by the President, the Congress and the people. It would be a clear message that the “exceptionalism” marking this Nation would no longer be that of the mightiest military, the strongest aggressor, the purveyor of terrorism (drones are one example, the manufacture and sale of cluster bombs another). But, instead, exceptionalism would be that of the accomplished negotiator, the preference for non-violent approaches to resolving differences and the respecter of all peoples and their cultures.
In a sense President Obama took a step in this direction when he stated, following the massacre in Charleston, SC, “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency — and it is in our power to do something about it.” However, his failure to mention the role of our military abroad, the violence it spreads, and the model it conveys leaves a broad void.
Some are willing to express outrage with respect to domestic violence, but what gets in the way of our leaders taking a stand to denounce the violence which we and other nations disseminate? In 2015 the Stockholm Peace Research Institute noted that the United States accounted for 31% of world military expenditures and from 2010 to 2014 which earned the distinction of being the world’s number 1 exporter of weapons. Bill Gilson, a member of Veterans for Peace in New York City, further elaborated in his 2015 Memorial Day address, “The US cannot be the largest arms supplier in the world and hold itself innocent of the violence raging throughout the world and in our cities.”
As far back as 97 years ago on June 16, 1918, in Canton, Ohio, Eugene Debs, a five time candidate for President, “got it” when he declared: “Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder…. And that is war, in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles.”
The military/industrial complex does well under the conditions of forever war. “Orwell highlights how this operates in his novel, “1984.” He writes about Nations A, B, and C always at war in some combination of two against one, resulting in a high price paid domestically as resources are drained from underwriting quality of life projects such as support for infrastructure, health care, and education and facilitated a class-based society. It is notable that in 2014 the United States spent more on defense than the next seven countries combined.
The expenditures on war-making act as a curb on the domestic economy and function as a damper on the stability and growth of the middle-class. A 2011 University of Massachusetts study concluded that jobs in infrastructure, health and education create “significantly greater opportunities for decent employment” than a similar amount spent on defense. “There is a common perception that war is good for the economy. But in a paper for the Costs of War Project based at Brown University, PERI Assistant Research Professor Heidi Garrett-Peltier finds that war spending creates significantly fewer jobs than other kinds of government spending.” The end result of lower levels of employment and the diminution of quality of life enhancements breeds aggression and violence domestically as impoverished citizens attempt to survive by engaging in criminal activity.
What then can be done to change what has been a national emphasis since the end of WWII, to have the strongest military war machine ever? What can be done to change the prominent role violence has in this country? How do we move from choosing violence and aggression to negotiation and compromise as the preferred method for resolving differences? How do we approach what constitutes a major cultural shift? Is it even possible?
As the saying goes, “You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.” Therefore, we must make the effort to participate and change as a people or succumb by default.
In this election season which candidate, which party will come forward with a platform that addresses the concerns expressed above? The Green Party’s 2012 platform spoke directly to these concerns: "Establish a foreign policy based on diplomacy, international law, and human rights. End the wars and drone attacks, cut military spending by at least 50% and close the 700+ foreign military bases that are turning our republic into a bankrupt empire. Stop U.S. support and arms sales to human rights abusers, and lead on global nuclear disarmament." Will we see such a strong and moral statement appear in the platforms of the major parties in 2016; will the party standard bearers speak out forcefully, convincingly, leading the way to a significant culture change in this country? At best the answer is, “Unlikely.”
Perhaps Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic candidate for President, comes closest as he calls for a “revolution,” a political revolution. “I believe that the power of corporate America, the power of Wall Street, the power of the drug companies, the power of the corporate media is so great that the only way we really transform America and do the things that the middle class and working class desperately need is through a political revolution when millions of people begin to come together and stand up and say: Our government is going to work for all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.” In response to Anderson Cooper’s request for elaboration, Sanders responded: “What I mean is that we need to have one of the larger voter turnouts in the world, not one of the lowest. We need to raise public consciousness....when people come together in a way that does not exist now and are prepared to take on the big money interest, then we could bring the kind of change we need.”
Robert Kennedy was prescient when he held, "A revolution is coming -- a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough; compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough -- But a revolution which is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character; we cannot alter its inevitability."
Sanders, echoing the Kennedy theme, is advocating a major cultural change powered by the people. It means that citizens have to realize that their own interests are being made subservient to the interests of the moneyed class, the oligarchy, a class that profits from the manufacture and sale of weapons of aggression. The citizens have to realize that we have the power to change this equation by massive expression, non-violent actions and monumental voter turnout. These actions would constitute “cultural change!”
David Swanson, director of World Without War, has authored a Peace Pledge http://davidswanson.org/
“I understand that wars and militarism make us less safe rather than protect us, that they kill, injure and traumatize adults, children and infants, severely damage the natural environment, erode civil liberties, and drain our economies, siphoning resources from life-affirming activities. I commit to engage in and support nonviolent efforts to end all war and preparations for war and to create a sustainable and just peace.” Imagine the majority in Congress pledging, the President pledging and the millions upon millions of United States citizens pledging -- and you pledging. That would be a revolution! The time is NOW! Perhaps in the future, football rallies will not call for “killing” the opponent, but prevailing over the opponent by playing the best game we can -- to actualize the potential in each of us.
“I understand that wars and militarism make us less safe rather than protect us, that they kill, injure and traumatize adults, children and infants, severely damage the natural environment, erode civil liberties, and drain our economies, siphoning resources from life-affirming activities. I commit to engage in and support nonviolent efforts to end all war and preparations for war and to create a sustainable and just peace.”
Imagine the majority in Congress pledging, the President pledging and the millions upon millions of United States citizens pledging -- and you pledging. That would be a revolution! The time is NOW!
Perhaps in the future, football rallies will not call for “killing” the opponent, but prevailing over the opponent by playing the best game we can -- to actualize the potential in each of us.