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By David Swanson, teleSUR
Super Bowl 50 will be the first National Football League championship to happen since it was reported that much of the pro-military hoopla at football games, the honoring of troops and glorifying of wars that most people had assumed was voluntary or part of a marketing scheme for the NFL, has actually been a money-making scheme for the NFL. The U.S. military has been dumping millions of our dollars, part of a recruitment and advertising budget that's in the billions, into paying the NFL to publicly display love for soldiers and weaponry.
Of course, the NFL may in fact really truly love the military, just as it may love the singers it permits to sing at the Super Bowl halftime show, but it makes them pay for the privilege too. And why shouldn't the military pay the football league to hype its heroism? It pays damn near everybody else. At $2.8 billion a year on recruiting some 240,000 "volunteers," that's roughly $11,600 per recruit. That's not, of course, the trillion with a T kind of spending it takes to run the military for a year; that's just the spending to gently persuade each "volunteer" to join up. The biggest military "service" ad buyer in the sports world is the National Guard. The ads often depict humanitarian rescue missions. Recruiters often tell tall tales of "non-deployment" positions followed by free college. But it seems to me that the $11,600 would have gone a long way toward paying for a year in college! And, in fact, people who have that money for college are far less likely to be recruited.
Despite showing zero interest in signing up for wars, and despite the permanent presence of wars to sign up for, 44 percent of U.S. Americans tell the Gallup polling company that they "would" fight in a war, yet don't. That's at least 100 million new recruits. Luckily for them and the world, telling a pollster something doesn't require follow through, but it might suggest why football fans tolerate and even celebrate military national anthems and troop-hyping hoopla at every turn. They think of themselves as willing warriors who just happen to be too busy at the moment. As they identify with their NFL team, making remarks such as "We just scored," while firmly seated on their most precious assets, football fans also identify with their team on the imagined battlefield of war.
The NFL website says: "For decades the NFL and the military have had a close relationship at the Super Bowl, the most watched program year-to-year throughout the United States. In front of more than 160 million viewers, the NFL salutes the military with a unique array of in-game celebrations including the presentation of colors, on-field guests, pre-game ceremonies and stadium flyovers. During Super Bowl XLIX week [last year], the Pat Tillman Foundation and the Wounded Warriors Project invited veterans to attend the Salute to Service: Officiating 101 Clinic at NFL Experience Engineered by GMC [double payment? ka-ching!] in Arizona. ..."
Pat Tillman, still promoted on the NFL website, and eponym of the Pat Tillman Foundation, is of course the one NFL player who gave up a giant football contract to join the military. What the Foundation won't tell you is that Tillman, as is quite common, ceased believing what the ads and recruiters had told him. On September 25, 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Tillman had become critical of the Iraq war and had scheduled a meeting with the prominent war critic Noam Chomsky to take place when he returned from Afghanistan, all information that Tillman's mother and Chomsky later confirmed. Tillman couldn't confirm it because he had died in Afghanistan in 2004 from three bullets to the forehead at short range, bullets shot by an American. The White House and the military knew Tillman had died from so-called friendly fire, but they falsely told the media he'd died in a hostile exchange. Senior Army commanders knew the facts and yet approved awarding Tillman a Silver Star, a Purple Heart, and a posthumous promotion, all based on his having died fighting the "enemy." Clearly the military wants a connection to football and is willing to lie as well as to pay for it. The Pat Tillman Foundation mis-uses a dead man's name to play on and prey on the mutual interest of football and the military in being connected to each other.
Those on whom the military's advertising succeeds will not typically die from friendly fire. Nor will they die from enemy fire. The number one killer of members of the U.S. military, reported yet again for another year this week, is suicide. And that's not even counting later suicides by veterans. Every TV pundit and presidential debate moderator, and perhaps even a Super Bowl 50 announcer or two, tends to talk about the military's answer for ISIS. What is its answer for people being stupidly ordered into such horrific hell that they won't want to live anymore?
It's in the ads
At least as big a focus of the Super Bowl as the game itself is the advertising. One particularly disturbing ad planned for Super Bowl 50 is an ad for a war video game. The U.S. military has long funded war video games and viewed them as recruiting tools. In this ad Arnold Schwarzenegger shows what fun it is to shoot people and blow up buildings on the game, while outside of the game people are tackling him more or less as in a football game. Nothing here is remotely warlike in a realistic sense. For that I recommend playing with PTSD Action Man instead. But it does advance the equation of sport with war -- something both the NFL and the military clearly desire.
An ad last year from Northrop Grumman, which has its own "Military Bowl," was no less disturbing. Two years ago an ad that appeared to be for the military until the final seconds turned out to be for Jeeps. There was another ad that year for Budweiser beer with which one commentator found legal concerns:
"First, there's a violation of the military's ethics regulations, which explicitly state that Department of Defense personnel cannot 'suggest official endorsement or preferential treatment' of any 'non-Federal entity, event, product, service, or enterprise. ... Under this regulation, the Army cannot legally endorse Budweiser, nor allow its active-duty personnel to participate in their ads (let alone wear their uniforms), any more than the Army can endorse Gatorade or Nike."
Two serious issues with this. One: the military routinely endorses and promotes the NFL. Two: despite my deep-seated opposition to the very existence of an institution of mass murder, and my clear understanding of what it wants out of advertisements (whether by itself or by a car or beer company), I can't help getting sucked into the emotion. The technique of this sort of propaganda (here's another ad) is very high level. The rising music. The facial expressions. The gestures. The build up of tension. The outpouring of simulated love. You'd have to be a monster not to fall for this poison. And it permeates the world of millions of wonderful young people who deserve better.
It's in the stadium
If you get past the commercials, there's the problem of the stadium for Super Bowl 50, unlike most stadiums for most sports events, being conspicuously "protected" by the military and militarized police, including with military helicopters and jets that will shoot down any drones and "intercept" any planes. Ruining the pretense that this is actually for the purpose of protecting anyone, military jets will show off by flying over the stadium, as in past years, when they have even done it over stadiums covered by domes.
The idea that there is anything questionable about coating a sporting event in military promotion is the furthest thing from the minds of most viewers of the Super Bowl. That the military's purpose is to kill and destroy, that it's recent major wars have eventually been opposed as bad decisions from the start by a majority of Americans, just doesn't enter into it. On the contrary, the military publicly questions whether it should be associating with a sports league whose players hit their wives and girlfriends too much.
My point is not that assault is acceptable, but that murder isn't. The progressive view of the Super Bowl in the United States will question the racism directed at a black quarterback, the concussions of a violent sport that damages the brains of too many of its players (and perhaps even the recruitment of new players from the far reaches of the empire to take their place), sexist treatment of cheerleaders or women in commercials, and perhaps even the disgusting materialism of some of the commercials. But not the militarism. The announcers will thank "the troops" for watching from "over 175 countries" and nobody will pause, set down their beer and dead animal flesh and ask whether 174 countries might not be enough to have U.S. troops in right now.
The idea that the Super Bowl promotes is that war is more or less like football, only better. I was happy to help get a TV show canceled that turned war into a reality game. There is still some resistance to that idea that can be tapped in the U.S. public. But I suspect it is eroding.
The NFL doesn't just want the military's (our) money. It wants the patriotism, the nationalism, the fervent blind loyalty, the unthinking passion, the personal identification, a love for the players to match love of troops -- and with similar willingness to throw them under a bus.
The military doesn't just want the sheer numbers of viewers attracted to the Super Bowl. It wants wars imagined as sporting events between teams, rather than horrific crimes perpetrated on people in their homes and villages. It wants us thinking of Afghanistan not as a 15-year disaster, murder-spree, and counter-productive SNAFU, but as a competition gone into double quadruple overtime despite the visiting team being down 84 points and attempting an impossible comeback. The military wants chants of "USA!" that fill a stadium. It wants role models and heroes and local connections to potential recruits. It wants kids who can't make it to the pros in football or another sport to think they've got the inside track to something even better and more meaningful.
I really wish they did.
Note: We are witnessing the making of a strategic military blunder by the Pentagon. Treating Russia as a top threat to U.S. national security is wrong and dangerous.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a new war in Libya, more war in Syria, permanent war in Afghanistan, climate change crashing over the cliff -- these and other immediate disasters are pursued with one hand, while the magician's other hand distracts us with caucuses, primaries, and super bowls. Remember when insiders said the TPP would die the moment it was made public? Well, what if it was made public during an election season? Bread and circuses, even in Rome, weren't designed to make the people happy but to keep them pacified while all the real energy and treasure went into destroying Carthage and filling the vomitoria of the oligarchs. And it's easier for a good team to make it into the super bowl than for a truly good candidate to make it into corporate election reporting. I deny none of that. And yet ...
The 2015-2016 presidential election has, by some measures, already accomplished more than all the previous elections in my lifetime put together. And it's scaring some of the right people.
If you had claimed in 1969 that it would be possible for presidential candidates in the United States to reject religion before they could reject permanent worldwide military empire, you'd have been laughed right out of the Age of Aquarius.
If you'd prognosticated in 1999 that an independent socialist focused like a laser beam on taxing billionaires and busting up some of their most profitable scams (not to mention taxing many of the rest of us) could grab the lead in a Democratic primary campaign against a Clinton with no intern scandals, you'd have been triangulated right out of your career as you knew it.
And if you'd predicted in 2014 that a candidate virtually ignored by the consolidated corporate media, as consolidated under the Clinton Telecom Act, would surge in the polls, you'd have garnered as much respect as those guys in The Big Short did when they claimed to know more than the high priests of Wall Street.
Bernie Sanders, for all of his dramatic shortcomings, is a phenomenon created by a perfect storm of institutional failure -- by Hillary Clinton's coronation constructed of cards just waiting for someone to suggest that millions of outraged winds breathe on it. Sanders is 6 years older and generations more advanced than his Democratic Party rival.
God Is Dead
"What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?" --Friedrich Nietzsche
Sanders' website calls him "secular" and "not particularly religious." His answers to a religion question during a CNN "town hall" this week were typical. A member of the audience asked about religion and race, and Sanders answered only about race. Then the moderator asked again about religion. And this was Sanders' answer, I swear to ... -- well, I just swear:
"It's a guiding principle in my life. Absolutely it is. You know, everybody practices religion in a different way. To me, I would not be here tonight, I would not be running for president of the United States if I did not have very strong religious and spiritual feelings. I believe that, as a human being, the pain that one person feels, if we have children that are hungry in America, if we have elderly people who can't afford their prescription drugs, you know what? That impacts you, that impacts me, and I worry very much about a society where some people spiritually say, 'It doesn't matter to me. I got it. I don't care about other people.' So, my spirituality is that we are all in this together, and that when children go hungry, when veterans sleep out on the street, it impacts me. That is my very strong spiritual feeling."
It's also my very strong non-spiritual feeling. But that was a typical Bernie answer, one he's given many times, typical even in its focus on only 4% of humanity and on only a particular type of homeless people. Some states, by the way, are making huge strides toward ending the shame of homelessness for veterans, so that soon all homeless people in the United States may be people who have never been part of a mass-murder operation. I point this out not to oppose it. Better more people with homes, no matter how it's done! And I point it out not to quibble with Sanders' statement of generosity and humanism, but to suggest that part of how Sanders slipped a completely irreligious answer past an audience that asked a religious question is that Sanders identified himself with the true U.S. religion, the religion that will be front and center and in the jet noise overhead at the super bowl -- the religion of war, the religion of national exceptionalism. Who can forget Ron Paul being booed in a primary debate for applying the golden rule to non-Americans?
When Sanders is asked explicitly if he "believes in God," he also answers, "What my spirituality is about is that we're all in this together." Exactly what my non-spirituality is about. I think it's safe to assume he'll never be asked if he believes in death (which television sponsors would be pleased by that topic?), so "God" is the question he'll get, and he won't be required to answer it. New Hampshire is the least religious state in the country, but the country as a whole has also moved against religion and even more so against "organized religion." Some of us always preferred the organized part (the community, the music, etc.) to the religion, but the larger trend here is a rejection of elite institutions telling us how to run our lives while demonstrably running the world into the ground. And who has more to answer for in that regard than God?
Rejecting organized religion while proclaiming an individual "spirituality" may be all that is needed, and that is tremendous news. That Sanders has done this while professing an ideology of generosity and solidarity, and winning applause for that, is even better news. Studies find that lack of religion can correlate with greater generosity, as certainly seems to be the case with the Scandinavian societies Sanders points to as models. (Seventeen percent of Swedes, as compared to 65% of U.S. Americans, say religion is "important".)
A majority in the United States say they wouldn't vote for an atheist, but for many atheism, like gender, race, sexual preference, and other identifiers is now a matter of self-identification. Someone must choose to call themselves an atheist. Just having no use for theism doesn't qualify them. The media also seems to have no direct interest in attacking candidates on religion. Nobody pays them to do that. And it doesn't show a lot of potential as a weapon. Donald Trump is seen as the least religious candidate in the field, and some of the most religious voters say they support him and just don't care. In addition, Sanders is a supporter of religious freedom, tolerance, and even tax exemptions. He doesn't fit the mold of the bigoted atheist who finds Islam dangerously more religious than Christianity. The media is also no big fan of Ted Cruz, who's on a Dubya-like mission from God. All of these factors seem to have made it possible to run for president of the United States on a platform of pure enlightenment humanism. I didn't think I'd live to see that.
Most Dangerous Man on Wall Street
Hillary Clinton friend and funder and CEO of Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein seems to view Bernie Sanders as President Richard Nixon characterized Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, and as President Barack Obama seems to view WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning, as the most dangerous person in the United States. Sanders' sin, in Blankfein's view, is failure to worship the almighty dollar.
Blankfein is fully aware that his endorsing a candidate would hurt that candidate, but seems not to have thought through the possibility that opposing a candidate might help them. Reportedly, Blankfein suggested this week that "Sanders' attacks on the 'billionaire class' and bankers could be dangerous. 'It has the potential to personalize it, it has the potential to be a dangerous moment. Not just for Wall Street not just for the people who are particularly targeted but for anybody who is a little bit out of line,' Blankfein said."
It sounds like the 1% has a case of 99% envy. Misery loves company, but fear demands it. Think about what Blankfein is claiming. One of the two Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton, who has long said explicitly that the Democratic Party should represent banks, has taken $675,000 (or about $5,000 per minute) to give three speeches to Blankfein's company, in which she reportedly reassured them they had nothing to worry about (despite widely known crimes that wrecked the economy of the United States and other nations). Public demands to even see what Clinton told Goldman Sachs have thus far gone unanswered and unechoed in the media, except by Ralph Nader. On Clinton Blankfein has no comment and sees nothing unusual. This is normal, standard, and unquestionable behavior.
But Bernie Sanders proposes to enforce laws, laws against financial trickery, laws against cheating on taxes, laws against monopolization, laws against market manipulation, and new taxes on unearned wealth. Well, this is unacceptable and in fact "dangerous"! It's extreme madness is what it is, according to Blankfein, who depicts Sanders' position as fanatical: "It's a liability to say I'm going to compromise, I'm going to get one millimeter off the extreme position I have and if you do you have to back track and swear to people that you'll never compromise. It's just incredible. It's a moment in history." That it is.
Here's how Bill Clinton reportedly viewed popular resentment of bankers in 2014: "You could take Lloyd Blankfein into a dark alley and slit his throat, and it would satisfy them for about two days. Then the blood lust would rise again." Of course, nobody had proposed killing bankers. Many had proposed enforcing laws. But that's how bankers view such a proposal, through the lens of fear. They are probably not alone. Sanders is proposing to end fracking and various other disastrous industries, while investing in new ones. He promises to block the TPP, which Clinton -- long a big supporter of it -- merely claims to "oppose" without committing to actually prevent. Sanders wants to tax the very wealthiest, including the 20 individuals who own as much as half the country. He wants to break up monopolies, including on Wall Street, and perhaps in the media -- which is already clearly shaken by the fact that he's advanced in the polls without them.
Health insurance executives can't be feeling too much better than banksters, unless they're wise enough to see the bigger picture. I waited on hold for 30 minutes this week to try to fix the latest SNAFU with my Obamacare, and then a really helpful woman answered who promised she'd fix it. I asked her if she could also back Bernie Sanders to put an end to the industry she worked for. She said yes, indeed.
The wiser minds in the plutocracy should follow that example. Nobody's out to hurt you, only to help you share your hoarded loot with those who worked for it. Your life will be different, but not necessarily worse. It might even be happier.
The more hopelessly greedy minds in much of the U.S. plutocracy, right about now, will start wishing they'd been prescient enough to go into weapons making and war profiteering, that sacred realm that Sanders' spirituality dares not threaten.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
Cros-Posted from DeSmogBlog
By John Grant
“A new thought occurred to Rami. It soothed him like a gentle caress. Not all men are born to be heroes. Maybe I wasn’t born to be a hero. But in every man there’s something special, something that isn’t in other men. In my nature, for instance, there’s a certain sensitivity. A capacity to suffer and feel pain. Perhaps I was born to be an artist.”
By Alfredo Lopez
Bernie Sanders' stunning success in the campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination, highlighted by what is effectively a victory in the Iowa caucuses this past Monday, provokes serious thinking about what a Sanders presidency would look like.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
By Mel Gurtov
North Korea continues to rattle the cages of both friend and foe. Despite near-universal condemnation of its fourth nuclear test and a deplorable human rights record, Kim Jong-un defiantly disregards the major powers and the United Nations. And now, adding insult to injury, the UN Secretary-General reports that North Korea has notified various UN agencies of its intention to launch a satellite, apparently to test its ballistic missile technology.
Continued nuclear testing by North Korea is its way of demonstrating independence of action. Nuclear weapons are the DPRK’s “insurance policy,” David Sanger writes – its last best hope for regime survival and legitimacy, and the most dramatic way to insist that the North’s interests should not be neglected. All one has to do is, through North Korean blinkers, see what has happened in Iraq, Iran, and Libya, where dictators did not have a nuclear deterrent. Two of them were invaded, and all had to surrender their nuclear-weapon capability.
The longstanding US approach to North Korea’s nuclear weapons is way off the mark. The Obama administration’s strategy of “strategic patience” shows little attention to North Korean motivations. The US insistence that no change in policy is conceivable unless and until North Korea agrees to denuclearize ensures continuing tension, the danger of a disastrous miscalculation, and more and better North Korean nuclear weapons. The immediate focus of US policy should be on trust building.
Increasing the severity of punishment, with threats of more to come, is representative of a failed policy. When the White House press secretary acknowledged recently that the US goal of defanging North Korea had not been reached but that “we have succeeded in making North Korea more isolated ever before,” he was actually acknowledging the failure. The task is, or should be, not to further isolate North Korea but rather to bring it out of its isolation, starting by accepting the legitimacy of its security concerns. The more isolated the regime is and the more it is driven into a corner, the more likely it is that it will resort to provocations and shows of strength.
Demanding that China step up and use its relationship with North Korea as leverage to get it to agree to denuclearize is a fool’s errand. Secretary of State John Kerry has chided his Chinese counterpart to abandon “business as usual” with the North and join in enacting sanctions on shipping, banking, and oil. Over many years, Chinese leaders have made plain that North Korea’s nuclear and missile testing endanger China’s as well as Korean peninsula security. They have shown their displeasure by resuming trilateral Japan-South Korea-China security dialogue after three years, and by condemning North Korea’s latest nuclear test in statements from Beijing and in a UN Security Council press statement.
But with all that, the Chinese are not about to dump Kim Jong-un. Political distancing, yes, but no serious (i.e., destabilizing) economic sanctions such as the US is now demanding. While in Beijing in late January, Kerry threatened that the US, with South Korea’s possible approval (a reversal of position), would go ahead with installing a theater missile defense system (THAAD) that the Chinese have long regarded as actually aimed at neutralizing their own missiles rather than only North Korea’s. Rest assured that all such a threat will accomplish is to harden Chinese views of US strategy in Asia, lately strained further by heightened US patrolling in the South China Sea, and lessen their commitment to imposing sanctions on the North.
The DPRK’s possession of an increasingly sophisticated nuclear program that aims at miniaturizing bombs is no small matter. As Sigfried Hecker, former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, points out, the North Koreans “may have enough bomb fuel for 18 bombs, with a capacity to make 6 to 7 more annually. That, combined with the increased sophistication they surely achieved with this test, paints a troublesome picture.” Sanctions, threats, and “half-hearted diplomacy,” Hecker observes, have failed to change the nuclear picture.
Serious engagement with North Korea remains the only realistic policy option for the United States and its allies. To be effective, however (i.e., meaningful to the other side), engagement must be undertaken strategically—as a calculated use of incentives with expectation of mutual rewards, namely in security and peace. And it should be undertaken in a spirit of mutual respect and with due regard for sensitivity in language and action.
Here are three elements of an engagement package:
First is revival of the Six-Party Talks without preconditions and with faithfulness to previous six-party and North-South Korea joint declarations—in particular, the principle contained in the Six-Party Joint Statement of September 2005: “commitment for commitment, action for action.” At a new round of talks, the US and its partners should present a package that, in return for verifiable steps to neutralize North Korea’s nuclear, provides the North with security assurances, a proposal for ending the Korean War, a nonaggression pact with big-power guarantees (with China on board), and meaningful economic assistance from both NGOs and governments. Such a major departure from “strategic patience” would be in line with Kim Jong-il’s message to President George W. Bush in November 2002: “If the United States recognizes our sovereignty and assures nonaggression, it is our view that we should be able to find a way to resolve the nuclear issue in compliance with the demands of a new century. . . .If the United States makes a bold decision, we will respond accordingly.”
Second is creation of a Northeast Asia Security Dialogue Mechanism. We might recall that such a group was anticipated in the final statements of the Six-Party Talks, and that South Korea’s President Park has proposed a similar peace initiative. In the absence of honest brokers for disputes in Northeast Asia, the NEASDM can function as a “circuit breaker,” able to interrupt patterns of escalating confrontation when tensions in the region increase—as they are now. But the NEASDM would not focus exclusively on North Korean denuclearization. It would be open to a wide range of issues related to security in the broadest sense, such as environmental, labor, poverty, and public health problems; a code of conduct to govern territorial and boundary disputes; military budget transparency, weapons transfers, and deployments; measures to combat terrorism and piracy; creation of a nuclear-weapon free zone (NWFZ) in all or part of Northeast Asia; and ways to support confidence building and trust in the dialogue process itself. Normalization of relations among all six countries should be a priority; full recognition of the DPRK by the United States and Japan costs nothing but is an important incentive for meaningful North Korean participation.
Third is significant new humanitarian assistance to North Korea. The US and South Korean emphasis on sanctions punishes the wrong people. Kim Jong-un’s complete disregard for human rights, vigorously condemned in a UN commission of inquiry report in 2014, is before the General Assembly and will be debated in the Security Council despite China’s disapproval. (The vote to debate was 9-4 with two abstentions.) But neither human rights deprivations nor nuclear testing should affect humanitarian aid to North Korea—food, medicine, medical equipment, technical training—which at least helps some portion of its population and sends the message that the international community cares about the North Korean people. Humanitarian assistance to the DPRK is pitifully little—under $50 million in 2014, and declining every year.
The same kind of steady, patient, and creative diplomacy that led to the nuclear deal with Iran is still possible in the North Korea case. As the Under Secretary-General of the UN, Jeffrey Feltman, said, Iran shows that “diplomacy can work to address non-proliferation challenges. There is strong international consensus on the need to work for peace, stability and denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. To achieve this goal, dialogue is the way forward.”
A new book, edited by Nick Buxton and Ben Hayes, both involved with The Transnational Institute, brings together a thoughtful collection of scholars, journalists and activists to explain the pre-eminence of the military and corporations in shaping the global response to the climate catastrophe as an 'opportunity'. See The Secure and the Dispossessed: How the Military and Corporations are Shaping a Climate-Changed World. Do you think that this catastrophe is an 'opportunity'?
By Andrew Moss
In 1946, George Orwell decried the abuse of language in his classic essay, “Politics and the English Language,” declaring famously that “it [language] becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.” Orwell reserved his sharpest criticism for corrupted political language, which he called the “defense of the indefensible,” and in the years that followed, others writers took up similar critiques of political discourse, adjusting their focus according to the circumstances of the time.
One particular critique has focused on the language of nuclear weapons, and I argue that this language should be of particular concern to us today. Called “Nukespeak” by its critics, it is a highly militarized discourse that obscures the moral consequences of our policies and actions. It is a language used by military officials, political leaders, and policy experts – as well as by journalists and citizens. The language creeps into our public discussions like an invasive species, casting shadows on the way we think about our collective present and future.
For example, in a recent New York Times article, “Smaller Bombs Adding Fuel to Nuclear Fear” two Times reporters, William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, describe the ongoing debate within the Obama administration regarding the so-called modernization of our nuclear arsenal, a transformation that would result in atomic bombs with greater accuracy and a capacity for their operators to increase or decrease the explosive capability of any single bomb. Proponents argue that modernizing the weapons will reduce the likelihood of their use by increasing their deterrence to would-be aggressors while critics claim that upgrading the bombs will make their use even more tempting to military commanders. The critics also cite the costs of the modernization program – up to $1 trillion if all the related elements are taken into account.
Throughout the article, Broad and Sanger frame these issues in the language of Nukespeak. In the following sentence, for example, they include two euphemisms: “And its yield, the bomb’s explosive force, can be dialed up or down depending on the target, to minimize collateral damage.” The euphemisms, “yield” and “collateral damage,” erase the human presence – a voice, a face – from the equation of death. Though the authors do define the term “yield” as “explosive force,” the word’s presence in the text still unnerves with its contrast between benign meanings, i.e. a harvest or monetary profit, and the demonic sense of a lethal reaping. And the phrase “collateral damage” has long been recognized for its sheer mendacity, its omission of the unspeakable from any consideration.
The sentence also contains another feature of Nukespeak: an amoral fascination with deadly gadgetry. It is one thing for a person to dial down the thermostat of her home; it is another to “dial down” a payload of death. When I taught an undergraduate course on the literature of war and peace, my students and I studied in one of our units the literature of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We read President Truman’s announcement of the dropping of the first atomic bomb, exploring how Truman discussed the genesis of the new weapon and the scientific collaboration that went into making it “the greatest achievement of organized science in history.” At the same time, we read stories by Japanese writers who managed to survive the inferno and still continue to write. One such writer, Yoko Ota, has the narrator of her short story, “Fireflies,” return to Hiroshima seven years after the bomb and encounter a number of fellow survivors, including a young girl, Mitsuko, who had been horribly disfigured by the atomic explosion. Despite the disfigurement that makes her presence in public emotionally painful, Mitsuko displays an extraordinary resilience and a “desire to grow up faster and help people who’re having a hard time.”
The psychiatrist and author Robert Jay Lifton has written that even within the nuclear shadow, we can find redemptive possibilities in the traditional “wisdom of the seer: the poet, painter, or peasant revolutionary, who, when the current world view failed, turned the kaleidoscope of his or her imagination until familiar things took on a wholly different pattern.” Lifton wrote those words in 1984, and since then the need for cooperation on a planetary scale has grown ever more urgent. Today, as before, it is the artist and seer who can recognize the human presence hidden behind the lying façade of Nukespeak. It is the artist and seer who can find the words to say: there is madness in this so-called rationality – and that, indeed, we have the capacity to find another way.
Andrew Moss, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is an emeritus professor at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where he taught a course, “War and Peace in Literature,” for 10 years.
Patrick Hiller is the Executive Director of the War Prevention Initiative by the Jubitz Family Foundation and teaches in the Conflict Resolution Program at Portland State University. As a Peace Scientist, his writings and research are almost exclusively related to the analysis of war and peace and social injustice. Among other involvements, Patrick serves on the Executive Committee of the Governing Council of the International Peace Research Association and on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War where he works with me at http://worldbeyondwar.org. We discuss the remarkable discoveries of peace researchers reported in the newly created Peace Science Digest.
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Letter Feb. 2, 2016 from the Nobel Peace Prize Watch to the Nobel Committee:
Dear Kaci Kullmann Five, Thorbjørn Jagland, Berit Reiss-Andersen, Henrik Syse, Inger-
Marie Ytterhorn, members of the committee
By Joy First
In another farcical trial for the 14 activists arrested at Volk Field Air National Guard Base in Wisconsin, Don Timmerman was found guilty of trespass in a Juneau County trial presided over by Judge Curran on February 1. Apparently Judge Curran, who said he did not want to consolidate our trials because it could be prejudicial to us, has fine-tuned his skills in short-circuiting any defense we might provide and the whole trial lasted about eleven minutes.
As predicted, DA Solevey had Juneau County Sheriff Brent Oleson and Deputy Sheriff Thomas Mueller take the stand and establish that Don was at Volk Field on August 25 and that he crossed onto the base after he was told not to by the Sheriff.
Under cross-examination Don asked Oleson if he knew why we were there. The DA objected as irrelevant and the judge sustained the objection. Don asked Mueller if he was aware that the base property was purchased by the taxpayers. Don was going to make the point that we had the right to be on the property, but this question was also objected to and the objection was sustained.
Don took the stand and said he wanted to talk about why we were there. Curran said it was irrelevant to the charge – that intent is not an element of the trespass charge – and therefore he would not allow this testimony. The judge complained that he has heard this information repeatedly over the last couple of years and that moral convictions are not relevant to the case.
Don said that if he was not allowed to talk about why he was there, he didn’t have anything else he wanted to say.
The judge quickly told Don he was guilty of trespass and would be fined $232, and that it would be attached to his income tax refund if he didn’t pay it. Again, a defendant was tried and convicted without being allowed to provide a defense.
Don asked Curran if he could do community service or jail time and the judge said no. The judges made the same empty argument that it would take too much time to administer community service with a number of additional hearings being required. This is simply not true. We have models for community service in both Milwaukee and Madison where it is a matter of filling out a form that would be signed by a local minister and then turned into the court.
Don asked Curran if he could say one more thing and the judge said he would allow it. Don said, “I cannot allow killing of innocent people in my name. This needs to be stated over and over. We are always going to be protesting killings.” And with that the judge stood up and quickly left the courtroom.
Don was hoping to read the following statement on Nuremberg from Nuremberg and American Justice during his testimony, but was not allowed:
Allegiance to the nation-state must be replaced by a loyalty to the human community and by a respect for international law. It is not the rebel who threatens civilization, but the compliant conformist who mechanically suppresses his moral qualms when confronted with the dictates of authority. The famous therapist R.D. Laing reminds us that the perfectly adjusted bomber pilot poses a greater threat to the survival of the human species than does the hospitalized schizophrenic. Laing goes on to note that so-called normal individuals have been responsible for the unnecessary death of perhaps one hundred million of their fellow human beings in the twentieth century.
And so we are reminded of the importance of continuing our work. It might seem disheartening to witness the outrage and absurdity of the United States criminal justice system, but as I was driving to court today I was thinking of the words that Art Laffin always shares, “Keep your eyes on the prize.” Whether we are found guilty or not in this sham of a court does not really matter in the big world picture. What we need to stay focused on, and what really matters, is the thousands and thousands of innocent children, women, and men who are being killed by U.S. drones. Continuing our message to stop the killing is what is important. And Don told the judge, “We will be back.”
We have three trials remaining:
Joy - February 9 at 10:00 am
Phil - February 19 at 10:0 am
Mary Beth - February 25 at 9:00 am
Seeing Flight as a Non-violent Option: One Way to Change the Discourse about the World’s 60 Million Refugees
By Erica Chenoweth and Hakim Young for Denver Dialogues
originally published by politicalviolenceataglance ( Political Violence@a Glance)
In Brussels, more than 1,200 people protest against Europe’s unwillingness to do more about the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, April 23rd, 2015. By Amnesty International.
Today, one in every 122 humans living on the planet is a refugee, an internally displaced person, or an asylum-seeker. In 2014, conflict and persecution forced a staggering 42,500 persons per day to leave their homes and seek protection elsewhere, resulting in 59.5 million total refugees worldwide. According to the UN refugee agency’s 2014 Global Trends report (tellingly entitled World at War), developing countries hosted 86% of these refugees. Developed countries, such as the U.S. and those in Europe, host only 14% of the world’s total share of refugees.
Yet public sentiment in the West has been tough on refugees lately. Resurgent populist and nationalist leaders routinely play to public anxieties about refugees as “lazy opportunists,” “burdens,” “criminals,” or “terrorists” in response to today’s refugee crisis. Mainstream parties aren’t immune to this rhetoric either, with politicians of all stripes calling for increased border controls, detention centers, and the temporary suspension of visa and asylum applications.
Importantly, none of these panicky characterizations of refugees is born out by systematic evidence.
Are Refugees Economic Opportunists?
The most reliable empirical studies of refugee movements suggest that the primary cause of flight is violence—not economic opportunity. Mainly, refugees are fleeing war in hopes of landing in a less violent situation. In conflicts where the government actively targets civilians in the context of genocide or politicide, most people choose to leave the country rather than seek out safe havens internally. Surveys bear out this reality in today’s crisis. In Syria, one of the world’s major producers of refugees in the last five years, survey results suggest that most civilians are fleeing because the country has simply become too dangerous or that government forces took over their towns, placing most of the blame on the horrific politicidal violence of Assad’s regime. (Only 13% say they fled because rebels took over their towns, suggesting that ISIS’s violence is not nearly as much a source of flight as some have suggested).
And refugees rarely choose their destinations based on economic opportunity; instead, 90% of refugees go to a country with a contiguous border (thus explaining the concentration of Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq). Those that do not stay in a neighboring country tend to flee to countries where they have existing social ties. Given that they are typically fleeing for their lives, the data suggest that most refugees think about economic opportunity as an afterthought rather than as a motivation for flight. That said, when they arrive at their destinations, refugees tend to be exceedingly industrious, with cross-national studies suggesting that they are rarely burdensome for national economies.
In today’s crisis, “Many of the people arriving by sea in southern Europe, particularly in Greece, come from countries affected by violence and conflict, such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan; they are in need of international protection and they are often physically exhausted and psychologically traumatized, ” states World at War.
Who’s Afraid of the “Big Bad Refugee”?
In terms of security threats, refugees are far less likely to commit crimes than natural-born citizens. In fact, writing in the Wall Street Journal, Jason Riley evaluates data on the link between immigration and crime in the United States and calls the correlation a “myth.” Even in Germany, which has absorbed the highest number of refugees since 2011, crime rates by refugees have not increased. Violent attacks on refugees, on the other hand, have doubled. This suggests that refugees do not post a problem for security; instead, they require protection against violent threats themselves. Moreover, refugees (or those who claim to be refugees) are highly unlikely to plan terror attacks. And given that at least 51% of current refugees are children, like Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian refugee who famously drowned in the Mediterranean sea last summer, it is probably premature to preordain them as fanatics, troublemakers, or social rejects.
Moreover, refugee-vetting processes are exceedingly stringent in many countries—with the U.S. having among the most stringent refugee policies in the world—thereby precluding many of the adverse outcomes feared by critics of status quo refugee policies. Although such processes do not guarantee that all potential threats are excluded, they mitigate the risk considerably, as demonstrated by the paucity of violent crimes and terror attacks committed by refugees in the past thirty years.
A Broken System or A Broken Narrative?
Speaking about the current refugee crisis in Europe, Jan Egeland, the former UN Humanitarian Envoy who now heads the Norwegian Refugee Council, said, “The system is totally broken…We cannot continue this way.” But the system probably won’t mend as long as broken narratives dominate the discourse. What if we introduced a fresh discourse, which dispels the myths about refugees and equips the public to contest existing discourse with a more compassionate narrative about the way one becomes a refugee in the first place?
Consider the choice to flee instead of stay and fight or stay and die. Many of the 59.5 million refugees left in the crossfires between states and other armed actors—such as the Syrian government’s politicide and violence among a wide variety of rebel groups operating within Syria; Syria, Russia, Iraq, Iran, and NATO’s war against ISIS; Afghanistan and Pakistan’s wars against the Taliban; the on-going U.S. campaign against Al Qaeda; Turkey’s wars against Kurdish militias; and a multitude of other violent contexts around the world.
Given the choice between staying and fighting, staying and dying, or fleeing and surviving, today’s refugees fled—meaning that, by definition, they actively and purposefully chose a non-violent option in the context of mass violence raging all around them.
In other words, today’s global landscape of 59.5 million refugees is mainly a collection of people who have chosen the only available non-violent pathway out of their conflict environments. In many respects, today’s 60 million refugees have said no to violence, no to victimization, and no to helplessness at the same time. The decision to flee to strange and (often hostile) foreign lands as a refugee is not a light one. It involves taking significant risks, including the risk of death. For example, the UNHCR estimated that 3,735 refugees were dead or missing at sea while seeking refuge in Europe in 2015. Contrary to contemporary discourse, being a refugee ought to be synonymous with non-violence, courage, and agency.
Of course, an individual’s non-violent choice at one time does not necessarily predetermine that individual’s non-violent choice at a later juncture. And like many large mass assemblages, it is inevitable that a handful of people will cynically exploit the global movement of refugees to pursue their own criminal, political, social, or ideological aims on the fringes—either by concealing themselves in the masses to cross borders to commit violent acts abroad, by taking advantage of the political polarization of migration politics to promote their own agendas, or by extorting these people for their own criminal purposes. Among any population this size, there will be criminal activity here and there, refugee or not.
But in today’s crisis, it will be essential for people of good faith everywhere to resist the urge to ascribe nefarious motivations to the millions of people seeking haven in their countries, because of the violent or criminal actions of a few. The latter group does not represent the general statistics on refugees identified above, nor do they negate the fact that refugees are generally people who, in the context of truly dislocating violence, made a life-altering, non-violent choice to act for themselves in a way that cast them and their families into uncertain futures. Once they arrive, on average the threat of violence against the refugee is much greater than the threat of violence by the refugee. Shunning them, detaining them as if they were criminals, or deporting them to war-torn environments sends a message that non-violent choices are punished—and that submitting to victimization or turning to violence are the only choices left. This is a situation that calls for policies that embody compassion, respect, protection, and welcome—not fear, dehumanization, exclusion, or revulsion.
Seeing flight as a non-violent option will better equip the informed public to contest exclusionary rhetoric and policies, elevate a new discourse that empowers more moderate politicians, and widen the range of policy options available to respond to the current crisis.
Hakim Young (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.
To: The U.S. Congress
Uphold your Constitutional responsibility and your duty under the United Nations Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact, basic human decency, and a minimal ability to learn from past mistakes by blocking all funding for another war on Libya.
Why is this important?
The illegal 2011 overthrow of the Libyan government subjected the people of that nation and surrounding nations to violence, weapons proliferation, chaos, and desperate insecurity. In no way will compounding the problem with the same approach again improve matters in this case or establish good precedents.
How it will be delivered
In Washington, D.C.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
A Proposal from World Beyond War
David Swanson, Director
The Congressional Progressive Caucus has requested budget proposals from organizations and members of the public. Here is a friendly suggestion from World Beyond War.
Last year’s Congressional Progressive Caucus budget proposed to cut military spending by, in my calculation, 1%. In fact, no statement from the Progressive Caucus even mentioned the existence of military spending; you had to hunt through the numbers to find the 1% cut. This was not the case in other recent years, when the CPC prominently proposed to end wars and cut particular weapons. With all due respect, how is this censoring of any mention of the military evidence of progressing, rather than regressing?
Military spending is 53.71% of discretionary spending, according to the National Priorities Project. No other item adds up to even 7%. Whether a budget proposal is progressive, communist, fascist, conservative, or libertarian, how can it avoid mentioning this elephant in the room? Military spending, of course, produces the need for ongoing additional spending on debt, care for veterans, etc., so that total U.S. military spending is somewhere over twice the figure used by NPP.
Using the numbers of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which leaves out huge U.S. military expenses (which are of course in several departments of the government), U.S. military spending is as much as the next several nations’ combined — and most of those nations are close U.S. allies and major U.S. weapons industry customers. Because SIPRI almost certainly leaves out more U.S. spending than spending by other nations, in reality U.S. spending on militarism is probably the equivalent of a great many, if not all other, foreign nations combined.
In addition, U.S. military spending is extremely high by historical standards. Looking at the biggest piece of military spending, which is the budget of the Department of so-called Defense, that department’s annual “Green Book” makes clear that it has seen higher spending under President Barack Obama than ever before in history. Here are the numbers in constant 2016 dollars, thanks to Nicolas Davies:
Obama FY2010-15 $663.4 billion per year
Bush Jr FY2002-09* $634.9 ” ” ”
Clinton FY1994-2001 $418.0 ” ” ”
Bush Sr FY1990-93 $513.4 ” ” ”
Reagan FY1982-89 $565.0 ” ” ”
Carter FY1978-81 $428.1 ” ” ”
Ford FY1976-77 $406.7 ” ” ”
Nixon FY1970-75 $441.7 ” ” ”
Johnson FY1965-69 $527.3 ” ” ”
Kennedy FY1962-64 $457.2 ” ” ”
Eisenhower FY1954-61 $416.3 ” ” ”
Truman FY1948-53 $375.7 ” ” ”
*Excludes $80 billion supplemental added to FY2009 under Obama.
War Spending Drains an Economy:
It is common to think that, because many people have jobs in the war industry, spending on war and preparations for war benefits an economy. In reality, spending those same dollars on peaceful industries, on education, on infrastructure, or even on tax cuts for working people would produce more jobs and in most cases better paying jobs — with enough savings to help everyone make the transition from war work to peace work.
War Spending Increases Inequality:
Military spending diverts public funds into increasingly privatized industries through the least accountable public enterprise and one that is hugely profitable for the owners and directors of the corporations involved.
War Spending Is Unsustainable, As Is Exploitation it Facilitates:
While war impoverishes the war making nation, can it nonetheless enrich that nation more substantially by facilitating the exploitation of other nations? This is far from clear, and if it were, it would not be sustainable in light of the dangers created by war, the environmental destruction of war, and the economic drain of militarism.
The Money Is Needed Elsewhere:
Green energy and infrastructure would surpass their advocates’ wildest fantasies if some of the funds now invested in war were transferred there. Morally, they must be. As a matter of simple continued human existence, they must be, as they must be transferred to housing, education, infrastructure, and healthcare — at home and abroad.
It would cost about $30 billion per year to end starvation and hunger around the world. It would cost about $11 billion per year to provide the world with clean water. U.S. foreign aid right now is about $23 billion a year. Increasing it would have a number of interesting impacts, including the saving of a great many lives and the prevention of a tremendous amount of suffering. It would also, if one other factor were added, make the nation that did it the most beloved nation on earth. A recent poll of 65 nations found that the United States is far and away the most feared country, the country considered the largest threat to peace in the world. Were the United States responsible for providing schools and medicine and solar panels, the idea of anti-American terrorist groups would be as laughable as anti-Switzerland or anti-Canada terrorist groups, but only if one other factor were added — only if the funding came from where it really ought to come from — reductions in militarism.
Some U.S. states are setting up commissions to work on the transition from war to peace industries.
Popular opinion polls show huge support for cutting militarism and increasing spending in useful areas. In 2011 numerous polls found the top public solution to a budget “crisis” was to tax the super-rich, and the second most popular solution was to cut the military. This support increases dramatically when people find out how high military spending now is. Polls show that people have no idea. The Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland showed people the budget and then asked them about it. The results were very encouraging.
If a supposedly “progressive” caucus will not so much as tell people what the basic outlines of the budget look like, why produce a progressive budget? If you will tell people what the budget looks like, you really ought to follow through by proposing to change it.
We recommend eliminating nuclear weapons and working with the rest of the world to do the same globally. We recommend closing foreign bases, removing foreign and ocean-based weapons, and keeping U.S. troops within 200 miles of the United States. We recommend eliminating aircraft carriers, long-range missiles and other weapons that serve an offensive rather than a defensive purpose. We recommend eliminating secret “special” forces and weaponized drones that allow presidential killing sprees without Congressional oversight. This should, of course, be done through a program of conversion or transition that strategically retools and retrains to benefit U.S. and world workers, infrastructure, energy systems, the natural environment, and international relations.
We thank you for your consideration and encourage you to contact us for additional information.
No, the cornfields are not full of dumb blondes (except when Fox News shows up), but it truly is hard not to be sexist in Iowa.
For example, I think it's reprehensible to take tens of millions of dollars from murderous kingdoms and dictatorships and then waive restrictions on selling them weapons including the weapons that Saudi Arabia has been using to slaughter men, women, and children in Yemen. And this makes me a sexist, or so I'm told.
In my view, parroting every war lie of Bush and Cheney was disgusting enough, but then pretending you meant well and didn't understand, even though once the war was begun you voted over and over again to fund it, is literally criminal as well as a moral abomination. Taking so many millions of dollars from war profiteers just makes it worse -- at least in the eyes of us sexist fans of Jill Stein.
Serving the health insurance and drug industries by smashing every attempt for decades to create a civilized health system like those in the rest of the wealthy world is also murderous by any straightforward empirical measure. Millions have died, and many billions of dollars have been diverted from better use as a result. But mentioning it turns out to be sexist. Tasking your daughter to give speeches lying about it shows, on the contrary, deep respect for women.
Pushing policies with your husband to create mass incarceration and then pretending it just happened like the weather, ramming through NAFTA and pushing more corporate trade agreements at every opportunity (but pretending momentarily to oppose the TPP), defending the Wall Street crooks who trashed the economy and taking hundreds of thousands of dollars to give them speeches promising to protect them and refusing to make public the transcripts, pressuring the White House for a war on Libya for reasons of oil and looting, facilitating coups in Honduras and Ukraine, stirring up hostilities with Russia, talking of obliterating Iran, insisting on yet more, counterproductive war in Syria and Iraq, pushing for massive bombing in Syria, giggling about murdering Gadaffi and the people (including female people) of the entire region be damned, turning the State Department into a marketing firm for U.S. weapons companies and U.S. fracking companies, taking many millions from corrupting interested parties while claiming to be dead broke, supporting unconstitutional spying and retribution against whistleblowers, corporatizing the Democratic Party and proposing that it should "represent banks," defending any and all of this by yelling "9/11," and suggesting that opposition to any of this makes someone sexist -- that all seems outrageously reprehensible to me.
The people Hillary Clinton would kill, the people she would deprive of healthcare, the students she would deny a free quality education, the families she would deny a decent income, the workers she will deny jobs, the generations she will deny an inhabitable environment -- are they going to feel better because she's a woman?
And how are the poor people of Iowa going to feel if they're responsible for supporting her?
By David Swanson, American Herald Tribune
I asked Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein about her platform this week and came away believing it had a better chance of winning than Bernie Sanders'. I know that platforms don't run, people do, and they do so within a two-party dominated system. But this already crazy presidential election could turn into a crazier five-way race. And, even if it doesn't, or if it does but still nobody ever learns that Jill Stein exists, there is nonetheless much for us and for the other candidates to learn from her platform.
If you think free college is popular, you should see what young people think of free college and erasing all existing student debt.
If single-payer healthcare with raised taxes (but net savings, if you make it to that fine print) excites voters, how do you think they'd respond to single-payer healthcare with no raised taxes?
If fewer wars and asking Saudi Arabia to do more of the funding and fighting sounds promising, what would you say to no more wars, a 50 percent cut in the $1 trillion/year military spending, no more weapons sales to Saudi Arabia which is doing more than enough killing, thank you, no more free weapons for Israel either, and investment of some of the savings in a massive green energy jobs campaign producing a sustainable energy policy and a full-employment economy?
Senator Bernie Sanders' domestic proposals have got millions excited, but the (unfair and misleading) criticism that he'll raise taxes may be a tragic flaw, and it's one he opens himself up to by refusing to say that he'll cut the military. Stein would cut at least half of the single biggest item in the discretionary budget, an item that takes up at least half of that budget: military spending. She'd cut fossil fuel subsidies, as well, and expect savings to come from healthcare, including as a result of cutting pollution and improving food quality. But the big immediate item is the military. Cutting it is popular with voters, but not with Democratic or Republican presidential candidates. Sanders will be labeled the Tax Man by the corporate media, while Jill Stein will have to be attacked in a different way if she gets mentioned.
"Cutting the military budget is something that we can do right now," Stein told me, "but we want to be clear that we are putting an end to wars for oil – period. And that is part of our core policy of a Green New Deal which creates an emergency program, establishing twenty million living wage jobs, full-time jobs, to green the economy, our energy, food, and transportation systems, building critical infrastructure, restoring ecosystems, etc. This is an emergency program that will get to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. So this is a war-time-level mobilization in order to completely detoxify our energy system, and that means both nuclear and fossil fuel. In doing that, we deprive the empire of this major justification for wars and bases all around the world. So we want to be clear that that emphasis is gone, and goading the American public into war so as to feed our fossil fuel energy system – that ends and makes all the more essential and possible the major cutting of the military budget."
Which 50 percent of the military would Stein cut? Two places she named that she would start with (there would have to be much more) are foreign bases (she'd close them) and the U.S. nuclear weapons program. Would she unilaterally scrap U.S. nukes? I asked.
"We don’t even need to do it unilaterally," Stein said, "because the Russians have been begging to revive the process of nuclear disarmament, which the U.S., in its wisdom, undercut. ... The Russians have been persistently trying to restore those nuclear talks for the purpose of disarmament. And that would be step one – is to make major reductions between the U.S. and Russia and then to convene a world forum to put an end to nuclear weapons altogether."
The "war on terror," Stein pointed out, has only created more terror, while costing each U.S. household $75,000. "That’s not going to make people terribly enthusiastic for it, particularly when you point out that all this has done is create failed states, worse terrorist threat, whether you look at the Taliban, the globalization of al-Qaeda, the creation of ISIS. This has been an utter, unmitigated disaster, and the massive refugee crisis which is threatening to tear apart the European Union. This is absolutely unsustainable by any count."
To change U.S. foreign policy, Stein proposed financial reforms unheard of in any presidential debate thus far. She suggested that military and other government contractors should face "pay to play protections" preventing them from "buying their way into policy." Stein explained: "If you establish that anyone who contributes, who provides campaign contributions, or who lobbies is not eligible for contracting with the government, the minute you break that umbilical cord, then the industry loses its power to corral Congress and dictate foreign policy." Stein said such protections could also block U.S. government facilitation of weapons sales to foreign buyers.
"War profiteering should not be allowed," Stein explained, "in the same way that energy profiteering is not compatible with our survival." Ultimately, the big profits, Stein said, are in healthcare: "We spend a trillion dollars plus on the military industrial complex every year, but we spend three trillion and counting every year on the sick care system, which doesn't make us well. It just enables us to tread water while we cope with these disastrous health impacts of the war economy and the fossil fuel economy."
Stein did not hesitate to highlight differences when I asked her about Bernie Sanders. She cited his "support, for example, for the F-35 weapons system which has been an incredible boondoggle." While Sanders would keep killing with drones and "fighting terrorism," Stein calls "fighting terrorism" an oxymoron and points to counterproductive results: "Terrorism is a response to drones that sneak up on you in the night and to night raids and this is where we recruit and we enable ISIS and al-Qaeda to continue expanding ... something Bernie hasn't quite gotten straight by saying the solution here is to turn the Saudis loose; the Saudi's need to 'get their hands dirty'."
"We can actually begin to rein in the Saudis with a weapons embargo and by impounding their bank accounts," Stein said. The same goes for Israel, she added, stressing the need to respect the law. Should the United States join the International Criminal Court, I asked. "Oh, my god, of course!" was Stein's reply. "And the treaty on land mines?" "Of course! My god. Yes. ... There are all sorts of treaties that are ready to move forward. In fact the Soviets and the Chinese have been prime movers in expansion of treaties to prohibit weapons in space and to establish the rule of law in cyberspace."
So, what would President Jill Stein do about ISIS? She answered that question with no hesitation: "Number 1: we don't stop ISIS by doing more of what created ISIS. This is like the elephant in the room that none of the other presidential candidates are willing to acknowledge, even Rand Paul, I might say, surprisingly. So we don't bomb ISIS and try to shoot ISIS out. We've got to stop ISIS in its tracks by ending the funding of ISIS and by ending the arming of ISIS. How do we do that? We do that with a weapons embargo. And so the U.S. can unilaterally move forward on that, but we need to sit down and talk with the Russians as well, and Putin tried to do this.
"You know, Putin, our arch enemy Putin, was actually trying to create a peace process in Syria. ... We need to begin talking with Russia and with other countries. We need to build on our relative détente with Iran to engage them, and we need to bring our allies into the process. Right now, the peace process, as I understand it, is held up by, guess who -- Saudi Arabia, who wants to bring in known terrorist groups as the representatives of the opposition. The Saudis should not be defining the way forward here ... Our ally Turkey needs to understand that their membership in NATO or their position with the U.S. and other allies around the world should not be taken for granted, and that they cannot be in the business either of funding ISIS and related groups through the purchase of their oil [or of] shipping weapons. They also need to close down their border to the movement of the militias."
Stein was sounding an awful lot like the leader of the Labour Party in Britain, Jeremy Corbyn, and I asked her about him. "I have already met with Jeremy Corbyn," she said, "when I was in Paris for the climate talks, ... and we had a surprising amount of time to talk and we agreed completely on collaborating on this 'peace offensive,' which is the name we have given to our solution to the problem of ISIS. Peace is not passive. We need an active, interventionist program based on peace which means to stop the flow or arms and money, etc. So, we've already agreed that we see eye-to-eye on foreign policy."
But Corbyn is in office with a shot at becoming prime minister. With the U.S. public completely sold on the hopelessness of third-party bids, at least by non-multi-billionaires, what is Stein's plan for actually becoming president?
"First of all," she says, "there are 43 million young people and not-so-young people who are trapped in debt, in student debt. My campaign is the only campaign that will be on the ballot that will abolish student debt. We did it for the bankers who plunged us into this economic crisis that persists in spite of what they say. And they did that by way of their waste, fraud, and abuse. Yet we bailed them out to the tune of $16 trillion and counting.
"So, isn't it about time we bail out the victims of that waste, fraud, and abuse -- the young people of this country whose leadership and whose civic engagement is essential for blazing the trail to our future? It has always required a fresh generation to re-envision, you know, what our future looks like. So, we need to bail out the young people, for their benefit and for ours. That can be done through another quantitative easing which is relatively simple, does not cost us, essentially expands the money supply in a way that works as a stimulus to the economy, unlike the bailout that they provided to Wall Street which has only created a stimulus for more reckless gambling – waste, fraud, and abuse. ... I have yet to find a young person in debt who doesn't become a missionary for our campaign the minute they learn that we will cancel their debt. ... The 43 million young people – that is a plurality of the vote. In a three-way race, that's enough to win the vote."
Stein also pointed to 25 million Latinos who, she said, "have learned that the Democrats are the party of deportation, of night raids, and of detention, of refugees who are fleeing a crisis in their home countries that we created. How? Through NAFTA, though illegal coups and CIA-sponsored regime changes, and through the drug wars. ... If people want to fix the immigration problem, the answer is, 'Stop causing it.'"
But will Stein be in the debates for the general election? "In my experience," she told me, "all you have to do is have a real conversation, have an open mic, a true presidential debate that actually allows presidential candidates to debate who have broad enough support that they are on the ballot for a majority of Americans and could numerically win the election. We are challenging the Commission on Presidential Debates in court and we will be challenging them soon with a direct action campaign, so stay tuned, because the American public deserves to know about the issues. The American public deserves the right to vote. And they have a right to know who they can vote for and what they are voting about."
Here's audio of the interview that produced this report.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
London, UK -- Police and prosecutors scheme to secure convictions of persons who did not participate in any crime. Racial minorities disproportionately bear the brunt of this improper practice.
By Cassandra Dixon
The worst worries of a child’s school day should be homework. Maybe a lost book, or an argument with a friend. No child’s walk to school should routinely involve armed soldiers and fear of sometimes being chased and assaulted by angry adults. But for the Palestinian children who live with their families in the small rural villages that make up the South Hebron Hills, this is how the school day begins. Illegal settlements and outposts isolate and separate their villages and soldiers are a constant in their lives.
Once, the trip from the tiny hamlet of Tuba to the school in the village of Tuwani was a calm and beautiful walk along a quiet road connecting the two villages. During the l980s Israeli settlers built a settlement on privately owned Palestinian land, which had been used to graze sheep and goats. Following construction of the settlement, the settlers established an illegal outpost. Now, industrial chicken barns sit astride the road that once served children walking to school, farmers taking livestock to town, and families traveling to Tuwani, or the larger town of Yatta for health care, shopping, and higher education.
Between the settlement and the outpost, what remains of the road is closed to Palestinians. With one exception, - children walk behind an Israeli military jeep to reach their school. Their parents are not allowed to walk with them.
The twenty or so children who make this trip start their school day in an unprotected field, anxiously waiting for the Israeli soldiers who will oversee their walk to school. Villagers had built shelters in which the children could await the soldiers, but Israeli authorities have dismantled every shelter. If it is raining, the children get soaked. Some days the soldiers are the same soldiers who chased or arrested shepherds the day before – shepherds who may be the brothers or fathers of these children. Some days the soldiers are late, leaving the group of children waiting, vulnerable to attack and within easy reach of the outpost. Some days the military escort does not arrive at all, and the children make the trip to school with international volunteers along a longer path, which also lies alongside the settlement.
About 1,000 people live in the neighboring villages, an estimated half of whom are children. Nevertheless, because the villages lie inside of Israeli Firing Zone 918, the military uses the land for military training.
Amazingly, despite all of this, it is almost unheard of for children to miss a day of school. Parents are determined that their children will be educated. When I began volunteering in Tuwani, the school reached only to third grade. Now thanks to the community’s determination to provide their children with education, students can complete high school in the village, and although facing a continued threat of demolition by Israeli military bulldozers, villagers have built and staffed primary schools for children who live in 8 nearby villages.
This is what nonviolent resistance to military occupation looks like.
I’m grateful that I can spend a portion of this year in Palestine. For many years children in these villages have taught me about nonviolence. Sometimes, the presence of international human rights workers holding cameras has some small positive effect on their days.
U.S. people bear some responsibility for the interruption of their childhoods. The U. S. subsidizes about 25% of Israel’s military budget, at a cost to U.S. taxpayers conservatively estimated at $3.1 billion a year.
I’m working with the Italian organization Operation Dove.
They support Palestinians who resist the Israeli occupation, standing with families in their commitment to remain on their land. This includes accompanying school children and farm families as they walk to school, graze their animals and tend their crops. Operation Dove helps document the harassment, intimidation, arrests, detentions, home demolitions, checkpoints, road closures, military training exercises, and settler attacks. Villagers also report to Operation Dove when they endure theft and when their crops and property are destroyed.
Protective presence provided by activists is not a large-scale solution to the violence that intrudes into childrens’ lives in Palestine. But many years of visits with these families persuades me that it’s important and necessary to support and participate in the villagers’ nonviolent efforts. Families that confront militarism and occupation help us move beyond our addiction to militarism and violence.
The children I met early on are grown now. Some have gone on to college, and some have families of their own. These young people have every reason to be angry. Their childhoods included fear, intimidation, demolitions, arrests and isolation. But they have also grown up witnessing their community’s steadfast commitment to nonviolently resist injustice. Their families have supported them well, including them in the community’s struggle for dignity. Against all odds they are growing up with humor and tenacity instead of anger and bitterness. They are living proof to the rest of us that love wins.
To read more about Operation Dove’s work in the South Hebron Hills, visit http://www.operazionecolomba.it/togetherattuwani
Cassandra Dixon lives at Mary House of Hospitality, a small catholic worker house which offers hospitality to families visiting the federal prison at Oxford, WI, and works as a carpenter in Madison.
Photo Credit: Cassandra Dixon
Caption: This little girl was injured by two masked settlers who attacked her with stones as she gathered herbs with a friend on the path between Tuba and Tuwani. She and her siblings make the same trip on foot each school day. She is an amazingly smart and tough young girl – insistent that the many odd volunteers that pass through her life should learn her name and visit her family’s home. She needed four stitches in a head wound after the attack.
By Tom H. Hastings
Video footage of the Oregon State Police shooting of armed occupier LaVoy Finicum following a vehicular chase is so very sad to watch. Finicum may have been quite stupid in his belief that American public lands should belong to private ranchers, but he did not deserve to die. Sadly, he arranged for his own death.
Finicum, the spokesperson for the armed militia which took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on 2 January 2016, was quite open—he carried a gun at all times and was ready to use it. He reached for it, apparently, and was shot dead. Geez.
Like Finicum, I’ve opposed US policy enough to risk arrest, to occupy federal facilities, and to stand up to federal law enforcement. Unlike him, I’ve actually done it numerous times and never been shot. I’ve always been nonviolent and, to be frank, my method makes victory possible and, in some cases, achieved. Finicum apparently thought that a gun makes you safer. It is the opposite.
I helped occupy Oregon Senator Ron Wyden’s office twice—once when he was thinking about how he might vote on the 2002 Senate bill to grant George W. Bush essentially illimitable powers to invade and wage war on Iraq or anyone else. Wyden ended up voting our way. We were nonviolent and courteous.
I helped occupy his office again in 2006 to convince him to speak out against the war in Iraq. We were quite friendly, actually, with Homeland Security, who arrested us. Wyden did as we asked—he posted on his website (finally!) that he opposed the ongoing war and he even rose on the United States of America Senate floor to call for an end to that occupation. As usual, we carried no guns and in fact met with the staff ahead of time to explain nonviolence.
I’ve done other nonviolent occupations over the decades—even a one-man occupation of the Soviet embassy in nonviolent resistance to their weaponry. I’ve never even had a weapon pulled on me, let alone being shot, and every single public policy ask I’ve made has ultimately been granted.
It is so sad to see Muslim extremists reverting to 12th century brutality and American “patriots” regressing to 19th century behavior. LaVoy Finicum didn’t have to die; he needed to learn about nonviolence.
Dr. Tom H. Hastings is core faculty in the Conflict Resolution Department at Portland State University and is Founding Director of PeaceVoice.
By Michael Nagler
I was deeply saddened to read last week of the death by suicide of Cmdr. Job Price who was with a Navy SEAL team in Afghanistan.
I was even sadder when I realized that the hopeful idea that sprung up in my mind was naive: “Now maybe people will understand why soldiers commit suicide.” The only reasons for his suicide that the media could offer were the usual suspects: it was a bad deployment, “a cautionary tale of how men were ground down by years of fighting and losing comrades,” and of course, the old fallback that puts a stop to the whole inquiry, “no one knows why.”
The fact is, we know very well why soldiers and veterans commit suicide – if we allow ourselves to know it. In his book, “On Killing,” Lt. Col. David Grossman describes that from the beginning of the historical record up to the Korean War, soldiers were extremely reluctant to kill their fellow human beings, going so far as reloading weapons they hadn’t fired. Muskets were found on the battlefields of the American Civil War with as many as eighteen balls rammed down the barrel in this pretense. And what Grossman concluded has been strongly confirmed by science: human beings have a strong, inherent inhibition against killing and injuring their fellows.
We can, of course, be trained or conditioned to go against this inhibition; but what results is what psychologist Rachel MacNair calls Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress (PITS), a form of PTSD that affects not only combat soldiers but police officers, prison guards who carry out “legal” executions, and many others. In any of these people, the cognitive dissonance can lead to suicide. This inhibition is arguably what makes us human; we cannot violate it without serious consequences, no matter what society or our conscious minds tell us about it’s being necessary, or even glorious.
This inhibition, which we should be very proud of, goes back so far in evolution that we are born with “mirror neurons” in our brain that cause us to feel what others feel. Distinguished neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni of UCLA says, “Although we commonly think of pain as a fundamentally private experience, our brain actually treats it as an experience shared with others.”
In Grossman’s second book, “Let’s Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill,” he reports that after the military had discovered how few men were actually firing their weapons in combat situations, it set about conditioning recruits to override the inhibition. In some cases, they simply used the same games that our children are playing on their X-Box or Playstation (hence Grossman’s title). They were very “successful” – that is, in increasing the firing rate – not in changing human nature.
A SEAL is supposed to be beyond all this, but the case of Cmdr. Price shows it isn’t so. Now, I have no idea what goes into the making of a Navy SEAL, but as part of basic training in the regular army, recruits shout out in unison when asked the purpose of the bayonet “to kill, kill without mercy.” But to be without mercy is to be without your humanity. And this is what veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are telling us: “I lost my soul in Iraq,” “I no longer like who I am,” etc.
When will we realize that the reluctance to kill and injure is not an inconvenience, but a precious capacity that we should celebrate and reward and that we could use as a guide to how we can and should live?
There was, to be sure, one hint in the press: just before he killed himself, Cmdr. Price had in his pocket a report about an Afghan girl who had died in an explosion near the base. But it was mentioned without comment, and of course with no attempt to draw conclusions. It’s left to you and me to tell this story when and wherever we get a chance. Of course, it means that Americans will have to rethink how we conduct ourselves in the international arena, how we treat offenders in our society – many such things must be examined and re-examined, and we shouldn’t shrink from this challenge. The alternative is to go on dehumanizing our servicemen and women, who are already committing suicide at an appalling rate. And why should we shrink from it, when if we accept it we can build a far better world based on the true recognition of who we are.
Jerry Berrigan Memorial Drone Blockade
Hancock Air Drone Base, Jan. 28 – Twelve Activists Arrested
On Thursday morning, January 28, thirty life sized cutouts of Syracuse peacemaker Jerry Berrigan blockaded the main entrance of Hancock Air National Guard Base outside Syracuse, NY. The cutouts were accompanied by twelve nonviolent drone resisters, who were arrested after blockading for an hour and a half. See video (of the blockade and arrests).
Jerry Berrigan, who died on July 26, 2015 at the age of 95, dedicated his entire life – like his brothers Dan and Phil – to Jesus’ command to love one another, Jerry came to the base on a bi-weekly basis whenever he was able, in his words, “to remind the base commander of our government’s pledge under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, a treaty to safeguard non-combatant’s well-being in any warzone in which U.S. forces are engaged in combat.” And further, “to register horror and indignation at reports of bombing missions by drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan which resulted in the deaths of many innocent civilians; men, women and children.”
Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern was among those standing with the Memorial in the roadway. Others were Beth Adams, Bev Rice, Bill Ofenloch, Brian Hynes, Charley Bowman, Ed Kinane, James Ricks, Joan Pleune, Joan Wages, Pete Perry and Steve Baggarly.
They were all charged with one misdemeanor and two violations, with the exception of Bev Rice and Joan Pleune, who were both charged with an additional misdemeanor (for allegedly violating an order of protection taken out by the base commander).
In 2008 Jerry was asked if there was anything he would change in his life. Jerry replied, “I would have resisted more often and been arrested more often.” The activists brought Jerry’s image to the gates to remember that this is where he would be, speaking out and putting his body on the line to say a clear “NO” to killing.
The group also remembered Mary Anne Grady Flores, who is serving a six-month sentence for violating an order of protection, taken out by the colonel at Hancock Air Base. Clearly, courts in NYS believe that a colonel at this highly armed base needs protection from citizens calling attention to the drone killings.
More and more evidence mounts regarding the illegality of U.S. drone policies, from the “Drone Papers” published by The Intercept, to the four drone pilots who have come forward to speak out about what this policy is doing. The activists tried to deliver a letter addressed to the Hancock military personnel stating that “Under the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice you must not be complicit in these crimes against peace, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In fact, you are required to disobey unlawful orders from a superior.”
Hancock Air Base deploys hunter/killer Reaper drones 24/7 over Afghanistan and probably elsewhere. These weaponized robotic drones are instruments of terror. They perpetrate extrajudicial killings, violate due process, violate national sovereignty, and kill non-combatants and civilians.
For more information, see The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, www.upstatedroneaction.org
Below are the letter to the Hancock military personnel and the drone resisters’ statement.
HANCOCK REAPER DRONE WORKERS:
HONOR YOUR OATH
To the men and women of the 174th Attack Wing of the NYS National Guard:
Each of you, when you joined the United States Armed Forces raised your right hand and solemnly swore to uphold the United States Constitution. Article VI of that Constitution states:
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
This clause is known as the Supremacy Clause. The Supremacy Clause declares that when the U.S. ratifies international treaties, those treaties become the “supreme law of the land.” This means they trump all local and federal law – including the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice.
One such treaty is the United Nations Charter. Signed by the U.S. president in 1945 and ratified by a Senate vote of 89 to two, that Charter remains in effect today.
The Charter’s Preamble states that its purpose is to “save future generations from the scourge of war.” It further states, “all nations shall refrain from the use of force against another nation.”
This U.N. Treaty applies to all levels – federal, state, and local – of the three branches of our government – Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. The personnel of all these entities must act consistent with U.S. treaties and obey the U.S. Constitution, including Article VI.
Under the U.N. Charter and under long-established international law, anyone –
civilian, military, government official or judge – who knowingly participates in or supports illegal threat or use of force against another nation or its people is committing a war crime.
Men and women on duty at Hancock AFB: Four of your colleagues, veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, formerly operating weaponized drones at other U.S. bases, have – courageously – gone public about drone war crimes they acknowledge committing.
The 174th Attack Wing of the NY Air National Guard deploys hunter/killer Reaper drones 24/7 over Afghanistan and probably elsewhere. These weaponized robotic drones are instruments of terror. They perpetrate extrajudicial killings, violate due process, violate national sovereignty, and kill non-combatants and civilians. They bring dishonor on the United States and upon its armed services.
Under the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice you must not be complicit in these crimes against peace, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In fact, you are required to disobey unlawful orders from a superior.
Those protesting here today are exercising our First Amendment right to petition our government for a redress of grievances (the vile use of our tax money). We urge you to do the honorable thing. We urge you to heed your conscience.
From the Upstate Drone Action Coalition: Ground the Drones and End the Wars, 28 January 2016
We come to the gates of Hancock Drone Base today to install a memorial of Jerry Berrigan.
Jerry Berrigan, who died on July 26, 2015 at the age of 95, was a husband, a father, a brother, a teacher and someone who – like his brothers Dan and Phil – dedicated his entire life to Jesus’ command to love one another. Jerry came to the base on a bi-weekly basis whenever he was able, in Jerry’s words, “to remind the base commander of our government’s pledge under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, a treaty to safeguard non-combatant’s well-being in any warzone in which U.S. forces are engaged in combat.” And further, “to register horror and indignation at reports of bombing missions by drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan which resulted in the deaths of many innocent civilians; men, women and children.”
As more and more evidence mounts regarding the illegality of U.S. drone policies, from the “Drone Papers” published by The Intercept, to the four drone pilots who have come forward to speak out about what this policy is doing, we bring Jerry’s image here to the gates to remember that this is where he would be, speaking out and putting his body on the line to say a clear “NO” to killing. Because Jerry Berrigan knew that it matters where we put our bodies.
In 2008 Jerry was asked by The Syracuse Post Standard if there was anything he would change in his life. Jerry replied, “I would have resisted more often and been arrested more often.” In our memorial today we use an image of Jerry from The Syracuse Post Standard where he is being arrested for opposing the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
As we are installing this Jerry Berrigan Memorial Drone Blockade, we also remember Mary Anne Grady Flores who is serving a six month sentence here in the Onondaga County jail because the courts in this county believe that the colonel at this highly armed base needs protection from citizens calling attention to the drone killings. We challenge the courts to apply the law as it was meant to be applied; to protect victims not victimizers.
Syracuse has a great history of men named Jerry and resistance to injustice. We call to mind “The Jerry Rescue” memorial that stands across the street from The Federal Court house where Syracusans in 1851 literally got in the way of the illegal and immoral Fugitive Slave law and the officials who tried take a man named Jerry back to enslavement in the South. They opened the prison gates for him to go to freedom. Our intent for this memorial today in honor of Jerry Berrigan, is to get in the way of the illegal and immoral use of killer drones. And to stand in solidarity with all those resisting other injustice – from Black Lives Matter to those putting their bodies to halt climate change.
Thank you Jerry Berrigan for your life and example. Your Spirit lives on!
Beth Adams (Leverett, MA), Bev Rice (Manhattan), Bill Ofenloch (NYC), Brian Hynes (Bronx), Charley Bowman (Buffalo), Ed Kinane (Syracuse, NY), James Ricks (Ithaca), Joan Pleune (Brooklyn), Joan Wages (Roanoke, VA), Pete Perry (Syracuse, NY), Ray McGovern (Arlington, VA), Steve Baggarly (VA)
“I was sleeping peacefully late one night when I felt someone grab my leg and drag me from my bed onto the floor. My leg was pulled so hard I heard my pajama pants rip down the middle. Looking up and seeing my father, I began to panic as he pulled my hair and told me he was going to kill me.”
Paul Chappell is recounting an incident from when he was four years old. The terror of such unpredictable attacks in the years that followed traumatized him. Chappell’s father had been traumatized by war, and Chappell would also end up joining the military. But over the years, Paul managed to turn his childhood trauma, not into a continued cycle of violence but rather into a means of gaining insight into how the institution of mass violence might be ended.
Chappell’s latest book, The Cosmic Ocean: New Answers to Big Questions, is the fifth in a projected seven-part series. Like a sculptor pounding out variations on a theme, Chappell each year produces a newer, thicker, wiser, and more illuminating take on the questions that tear at his heart: How can we be so kind and cause such suffering? How can we fail to care about others just like ourselves? What sort of change is possible and how can it be brought about?
I’m usually wary of anything that could be repetitive or pedantic, as life is just too short and I just too rebellious. But Chappell is repetitive because he is a teacher, and he is becoming a better teacher every year. He wants us to understand important truths in a variety of contexts, to remember them, and to act on them. As with his previous books, I once again recommend the latest one as the best, but encourage reading them all. Skip a presidential debate or two if you have to.
I’m always wary of efforts to solve war by finding inner peace. “Does the Pentagon give a flying f— if you’ve got inner peace?!” I’ve been known to scream, very unpeacefully. “Will your forgiving of your obnoxious neighbor and your spreading of harmony through your neighborhood stop Raytheon and Boeing and Lockheed from profiting off another war on Libya?” But, in fact, Chappell is examining the reasons people become violent and accepting of violence at least in part in order to understand what it would take to create a society in which Donald Trump would speak to entirely empty coliseums, and any Congress member who failed to end a war would be confronted by a unanimous constituency insisting on peace. Chappell’s point is not to shut out the world, but to understand better how to change it.
I generally object to investigations into “human nature” as I believe the concept primarily serves as an excuse for nasty behavior, and I’m unaware of any empirical means of determining what actions do and do not qualify as “human nature.” But Chappell is not trying to identify a mystically correct moral behavior in order to insist that we imitate it. He’s trying to accurately grasp the motivations of even the most damaging actions, in part in order to enlarge our capacity for empathy — and in part in order to re-classify certain types of behavior as illness. He’s also exposing the use of “human nature” as an excuse.
“When someone gets malaria, cancer, or HIV,” writes Chappell, “I have never heard anyone say, ‘Oh, that’s just human nature,’ because people realize something has gone wrong with the human body. But if someone becomes violent, people often say, ‘Oh that’s just human nature,’ which assumes that violence is an essential part of being human (like eating and sleeping), rather than the result of something that has gone wrong. But what if violence, like an illness, has a cause that we can understand and prevent?” Chappell includes among such causes, “poverty, desperation, injustice, dehumanization, ignorance, bullying, and trauma.”
Of course it’s a choice we make to categorize something as an illness, not an eternal discovery about “human nature,” but it is a wise choice when we’re talking about violence and war.
A traumatized person, Chappell writes, wants others to understand the trauma and sympathize with their suffering. But how can they communicate the trauma? They can try ordinary speech or art, but often another medium appears superior: violence. By making others feel the same pain, a traumatized person can finally make himself understood. As a sophomore in college, Chappell happened to mention to his classmates that when he’d been bored in high school he’d fantasized about killing all of his fellow students. Chappell assumed that this was universal, but his college friends reacted with horror.
Chappell came to understand that a desire for violence can arise out of trauma, and that it was not typical. “Cruel actions, if we define them as inflicting, watching, and enjoying the suffering of a living creature (without that creature’s consent), are relatively rare in the world,” he writes. A member of an ancient culture who believed that a child sacrifice would appease the god or gods and save a society might, and in various accounts did, deeply regret having to kill a child, but acted on the basis of a false belief.
I might add that most religious believers these days don’t act on their beliefs in ways that conflict with broader society. Exceptions include, on the plus side, those who protest at drone bases in the name of Jesus, and on the negative side, those who sacrifice chickens, deny their kids medicine, or disregard climate change on the grounds that it’s not in the Bible. Willful ignorance can muddy up the question of feeling empathy for someone acting from within a particular worldview, but only slightly. As we develop a habit of empathizing, it should reach more and more people and behaviors. Empathizing is, of course, a different thing than supporting, justifying, or excusing.
Chappell suggests, however, that building empathy depends on building accuracy: “When we search for the underlying causes of problems and arrive at inaccurate answers, it can silence our empathy. For example, if you believe a baby girl is born with a disability because she is cursed by the gods or paying back bad karma from a past life, it can reduce your empathy not only for her, but also her family.”
Empathizing with more individuals, Chappell argues, can also result in greater feelings of empathy for humanity as a whole, and as a result greater confidence in the ability of great masses of humanity to improve our ways: “[W]hen we believe that humanity is born evil, naturally violent, and destined to forever wage war, it can silence our empathy, but the scientific understanding that violence is instead caused by trauma and other preventable factors offers us a more accurate (and empathetic) understanding of human beings.”
Another route toward empathizing with humanity all over the earth today (and perhaps even losing the need to “humanize” each new person before we can care about them) is learning to empathize with human generations long past: “The reason I am discussing the enormous challenges our ancestors overcame is because we must strengthen our respect, empathy, and appreciation for human beings and stop viewing ourselves as a cancer or virus upon the earth.”
But aren’t we a virus upon the earth? Haven’t we launched a mass extinction of millions of beautiful species, possibly including our own? Perhaps we have. But we won’t avoid it, assuming we can avoid it, by viewing ourselves as cancer. That’s a recipe for hopelessness, and also for cruelty and war — which can only make matters dramatically worse. If we are to save ourselves we have to understand that we are worth saving, and that even our virus-like activities are generally well-intended.
That we mean well does not suggest that our government in Washington, D.C., means well — although many members of that government often do, in some ways at least, have much better intentions than the results convey. It also does not mean that humans aren’t engaged in horrible activities, first among them being war: “Many people today have a condescending attitude toward those who practiced human sacrifice thousands of years ago, but what if we are not so different from them? What if people in the modern world continue to die in massive ceremonies of human sacrifice? What if you supported the ritual of human sacrifice at some point in your life, without even realizing it?” Chappell is referring to war, that institution to which U.S. parents continue to send their offspring.
War, in fact, has become a U.S. religion, Chappell writes. War has heretics and behaviors that are seen as sacrilegious. Many people display more reverence for Veterans’ Day than for Christmas. One might add that war has holy objects, such as flags, that must never be desecrated, although human beings can be desecrated in large numbers for the good of the flag.
How does empathy get us out of this fix? Chappell turns, late in the book, to the topic of beauty, arguing not just against the often criticized standards of the beauty products industry, but for truly seeing all humans as beautiful, regardless of their age, health, race, or culture. We should have a reverence for life, he writes, using language that has, I’m afraid, been damagingly taken over by the abortion debate.
Chappell has a vision of people someday seeing, not just that little black boys and black girls in Alabama are able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers, but seeing every person on the whole earth as part of their own family: “When a baby is born anywhere on earth, even to people whose skin color differs from yours, about 99.9 percent of your DNA is passed on.” You want biological descendants? There’s no need to have eight kids. There’s a need to protect your human family.
The term “racism,” Chappell writes, dates only to the 1930s, and “sexism” to the 1960s. Here’s one more we might add: “American exceptionalism.” I’ve read somewhere that it dates to 1929. Perhaps it will be a thing of the past by 2029. Perhaps if it isn’t we all will be.