This weekend I participated in an interesting exercise. A group of activists staged a debate in which some of us argued that peace and environmental and economic justice are possible, while another group argued against us.
The latter group professed to not believe its own statements, to be dirtying itself with bad arguments for the sake of the exercise — in order to help us refine our arguments. But the case they made for the impossibility of peace or justice was one I hear often from people who at least partially believe it.
A core of the U.S. argument for the inevitability of war and injustice is a mysterious substance called “human nature.” I take belief in this substance to be an example of how thoroughly U.S. exceptionalism pervades the thinking of even those who oppose it. And I take exceptionalism to mean not superiority over but ignorance of everybody else.
Let me explain. In the United States we have 5 percent of humanity living in a society dedicated to war in an unprecedented manner, putting over $1 trillion every year into war and preparations for war. Going to the other extreme you have a country like Costa Rica that abolished its military and thus spends $0 on war. Most nations of the world are much closer to Costa Rica than to the United States. Most nations of the world spend a small fraction of what the United States spends on militarism (in real numbers or per capita). If the United States were to reduce its military spending to the global average or mean of all other countries, suddenly it would become difficult for people in the United States to talk about war as “human nature,” and going that last little bit to complete abolition wouldn’t look so hard.
But isn’t the other 95 percent of humanity human now?
In the United States we live a lifestyle that destroys the environment at a far greater pace than do most human beings. We flinch at the idea of radically reducing our destruction of the earth’s climate — or, in other words, living like Europeans. But we don’t think of it as living like Europeans. We don’t think of it as living like South Americans or Africans. We don’t think about the other 95 percent. We propagandize them through Hollywood and promote our destructive lifestyle through our financial institutions, but we don’t think about people who aren’t imitating us as humans.
In the United States we have a society with greater inequality of wealth and greater poverty than in any other wealthy nation. And activists who oppose this injustice can sit in a room and describe particular aspects of it as part of human nature. I’ve heard many do this who were not faking their beliefs.
But imagine if the people of Iceland or some other corner of the earth got together and discussed the pros and cons of their society as “human nature” while ignoring the rest of the world. We’d laugh at them, of course. We might also envy them if we listened long enough to catch on to what they supposed “human nature” to be.
In a recent article about Shirley Jackson, the president since 1999 of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)―a private university located in Troy, New York―the Chronicle of Higher Education revealed that, in 2012 (the latest year for which statistics are available), she received over $7 million from that institution. Like many modern campus administrators, President Jackson was also given a large mansion, first class air travel, and a chauffeured luxury car to transport her around the campus.
Thanks to the fact that Jackson also serves on at least five corporate boards, including those of IBM and Marathon Oil, she supplements this income with more than a million dollars a year from these sources.
Making a joke of the Supreme Court: Justice Antonin Scalia is a Publicity-Seeking Intellectual Midget
By Dave Lindorff
Sometimes you really don't need to write much to do an article on something. Writing about the inanity of Justice Antonin Scalia, the ethics-challenged, lard-bottomed, right-wing anchor of the Supreme Court, is one of those times.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement on a massive $1.01 trillion spending bill that the Senate plans to take up later today:
“At a time when the middle class continues to disappear, and the gap between the very rich and everyone else grows wider, this bill comes nowhere close to reflecting the needs and priorities of America’s working families.
“Instead of helping to strengthen Social Security, Medicare and other programs that help working families, this bill would allow the Pentagon to spend almost as much as the rest of the world combined on our military and seemingly never-ending wars in the Middle East.”
“Instead of investing in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and creating millions of decent-paying jobs, this bill would let companies renege on promises they made to their workers by cutting the pension benefits of current retirees.
“Instead of cracking down on Wall Street CEOs whose greed and illegal behavior plunged the country into a terrible recession, this bill allows too-big-to-fail banks to make the same risky bets on derivatives that led to the largest taxpayer bailout in history and nearly destroyed the economy.
“Instead of cutting back on the ability of billionaires to buy elections, this bill outrageously gives the wealthy even more power over the political process.
“Instead of giving the Environmental Protection Agency the tools it needs to begin dealing with the planetary crisis of global warming, this bill would cut spending by the EPA.”
By Kathy Kelly
On December 10, International Human Rights Day, federal Magistrate Matt Whitworth sentenced me to three months in prison for having crossed the line at a military base that wages drone warfare. The punishment for our attempt to speak on behalf of trapped and desperate people, abroad, will be an opportunity to speak with people trapped by prisons and impoverishment here in the U.S.
Our trial was based on a trespass charge incurred on June 1, 2014. Georgia Walker and I were immediately arrested when we stepped onto Missouri’s Whiteman Air Force where pilots fly weaponized drones over Afghanistan and other countries. We carried a loaf of bread and a letter for Brig Gen. Glen D. Van Herck. In court, we testified that we hadn’t acted with criminal intent but had, rather, exercised our First Amendment right (and responsibility) to assemble peaceably for redress of grievance.
A group of Afghan friends had entrusted me with a simple message, their grievance, which they couldn’t personally deliver: please stop killing us.
I knew that people I’ve lived with, striving to end wars even as their communities were bombed by drone aircraft, would understand the symbolism of asking to break bread with the base commander.
Judge Whitworth said he understood that we oppose war, but he could recommend over 100 better ways to make our point that wouldn’t be breaking the law.
The prosecution recommended the maximum six month sentence. “Ms. Kelly needs to be rehabilitated,” said an earnest young military lawyer. The judge paged through a four page summary of past convictions and agreed that I hadn’t yet learned not to break the law.
What I’ve learned from past experiences in prison is that the criminal justice system uses prison as a weapon against defendants who often have next to no resources to defend themselves. A prosecutor can threaten a defendant with an onerously long prison sentence along with heavy fines if the defendant doesn’t agree to plea bargain.
In his article “Why Innocent People Plead Guilty,” Jed S. Rakoff draws attention to the institution of plea bargaining which now ensures that less than 3% of federal cases go to trial at all. “Of the 2.2 million U.S. people now in prison,” Rakoff writes, “well over 2 million are there as a result of plea bargains dictated by the government’s prosecutors, who effectively dictate the sentence as well.”
“In 2012, the average sentence for federal narcotics defendants who entered into any kind of plea bargain was five years and four months,” Rakoff writes, “while the average sentence for defendants who went to trial was sixteen years.”
It’s one thing to read about the shameful racism and discrimination of the U.S. criminal justice system. It’s quite another to sit next to a woman who is facing ten or more years in prison, isolated from children she has not held in years, and to learn from her about the circumstances that led to her imprisonment.
Many women prisoners, unable to find decent jobs in the regular economy, turn to the underground economy. Distant relatives of mine knew plenty about such an economy several generations ago, in Boston. They couldn’t get work, as Irish immigrants, and so they got into the bootlegging business when alcohol was prohibited. But no one sent them to prison for 10 years if they were caught.
Women prisoners may feel waves of guilt, remorse, defiance, and despair. In spite of facing extremely harsh punishment, harsh emotions, and traumatic isolation, most of the women I’ve met in prison have shown extraordinary strength of character.
When I was in Pekin Prison, we would routinely see young men, shackled and handcuffed, shuffling off of the bus to spend their first day in their medium-high security prison next door. The median sentence there was 27 years. We knew they’d be old men, many of them grandfathers, by the time they walked out again.
The U.S. is the undisputed world leader in incarceration, as it is the world leader in military dominance. Only one in 28 of drone victims are the intended, guilty or innocent, targets. One third of women in prison worldwide, are, at this moment, in U.S. prisons. The crimes that most threaten the safety and livelihood of people in the U.S. of course remain the crimes of the powerful, of the corporations that taint our skies with carbon and acid rainfall, peddle weapons around an already suffering globe, shut down factories and whole economies in pursuit of quick wealth, and send our young people to war.
Chief Executive Officers of major corporations that produce products inimical to human survival will most likely never be charged much less convicted of any crime. I don’t want to see them jailed. I do want to see them rehabilitated
Each time I’ve left a U.S. prison, I’ve felt as though I was leaving the scene of a crime. When I return to the U.S. from sites of our war making, abroad, I feel the same way. Emerging back into the regular world seems tantamount to accepting a contract, pledging to forget the punishments we visit on impoverished people. I’m invited to forget about the people still trapped inside nightmare worlds we have made for them.
On January 23, 2015, when I report to whichever prison the Bureau of Prisons selects, I’ll have a short time to reconnect with the reality endured by incarcerated people. It’s not the rehabilitation the prosecutor and judge had in mind, but it will help me be a more empathic and mindful abolitionist, intent on ending all wars.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
In his December 8 "Colbert Report" appearance, President Barack Obama gave his strongest signal yet that he may reject a presidential permit authorizing the Alberta to Cushing, Oklahoma northern leg of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
Photo Credit: Comedy Central Screenshot
Yet just a week earlier, and little noticed by comparison, the pipeline giant Enbridge made an announcement that could take the sails out of some of the excitement displayed by Obama's "Colbert Report" remarks on Keystone XL North. That is, Enbridge's "Keystone XL Clone" is now officially open for business.
"Keystone XL Clone," as first coined here on DeSmogBlog, consists of three parts: the U.S.-Canada border-crossing Alberta Clipper pipeline; the Flanagan, Illinois to Cushing Flanagan South pipeline; and the Cushing to Freeport, Texas Seaway Twin pipeline.
Enbridge announced that Flanagan South and its Seaway Twin connection are now pumping tar sands crude through to the Gulf of Mexico, meaning game on for tar sands to flow from Alberta to the Gulf through Enbridge's pipeline system.
Alberta Clipper, now rebranded Line 67, was authorized by Hillary Clinton on behalf of the Obama State Department in August 2009 and got a quasi-official permit to expand its capacity by the State Department over the summer. That permit is now being contested in federal court by environmental groups.
Flanagan South, meanwhile, exists due to a legally contentious array of close to 2,000 Nationwide Permit 12 permits handed out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which — as with Alberta Clipper expansion — has helped Enbridge usurp the more democratic and transparent National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process.
10 December 2014. After many months of preparations, the IPB is delighted to announce the launch of the all-year-round Global Campaign on Military Spending (GCOMS). Today is Human Rights Day, so the timing is very appropriate! Today's launch sees the unveiling of our new Campaign website - at the same address as the GDAMS one: www.demilitarize.org. Check it out! See the Global Campaign on Military Spending (GCOMS) brochure for a full description.
The new campaign was announced today at the Future of Human Rights Forum event entitled 'Divest from War: Invest in Our Future' at the UN in Geneva. You may check out Global Day for specific information about the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS).
What you can do:
- Disseminate this info through your networks--website, newsletter, social media, e-groups
- Start planning your group's events/actions -- for the next Global Day (April 13, 2015) or at any other time.
- Consider longer-term plans for involvement in the GCOMS World Congress, to be held in BERLIN on 23-25 Sept 2016. You may wish to join the 'prepcomms' before that.
- Send us your news, proposals, pictures, videos, comments.... let's make this an ongoing festival-of-protest against the militarism of our times!
- Please write to: email@example.com
Jack Gilroy was released from Jamesville Penitentiary the day after Thankgiving. Below is his sentencing statement given before the Town of DeWitt Court near Syracuse, NY. The Assistant DA for Syracuse asked that he be given a year and 15 days. "Mr. Gilroy is a criminal. His sentencing statement is a clear indication that he has no remorse for his criminal acts." Gilroy tells me: "My crime, of course, was a die in before the gate of the 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Drone assassination. My message was to stop the killling. Currently, I am confined to Broome County, NY. I will need a travel pass to go to another county to see my appeal lawyers. Additionally, my Probation Officer said in all her years she has never seen such a large community service sentence...1500 hours."
STATEMENT MADE IN COURT:
I thank the court for the opportunity to make a statement.
To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness...
Howard Zinn….WWII Bombardier who became one of the great nonviolent peace makers of the 20th century
Your honor, all of us who resist violence are hopeful that someday, the judicial system will recognize the right to speak out in opposition to violence without being charged with a crime.
My conviction of trespass and obstructing government administration is in itself an obstruction of my United States Constitutional right to object to the crimes of my government.
Yet it has to be asked: Is judicial support of illegal acts of the United States government unconstitutional? Are judicial decisions that allow illegal government acts simply enablers of the system of illegality? Is the refusal by this court to hear the truth of assassinations emanating from Hancock mask the immorality and illegality of drones fired from Hancock into areas only the Gang of Eight, the NSA and CIA know?
Is the court acting out of Fear? Are you acting out of a sense of local and national duty to follow illegal and immoral orders?
Judge Jokl, if you really wanted to get to the reasons so many nonviolent people take the nonviolent message to the gates of Hancock Drone base to STOP THE KILLING then you would have allowed my only witness, Professor Mary Ellen O’Connell of Notre Dame School of Law. You rejected her by masking the assassinations that we protest. Assassinations known by Prof. O’Connell-- a major legal voice for justice –to be illegal.
Here is part of what Professor O’Connell, a leading expert on United States Constitutional law, and who has testified several times before Congress on International Law—letting the truth be known that international law is accepted by our US Constitution as supreme law of the land:
“International Law is the law of the United States. As such, it is obligatory upon all whose actions are attributable to the United States under international law, it is binding on Congress, on the President of the United States and the Executive Branch, on the states—on state legislatures and state officials, down to the lowest official of city, town or village, on the courts, on the federal courts, from the Supreme Court down to the federal magistrate or administrative judge and on states courts, from the highest court of appeals to the village magistrate or police court judge”
Judge JokI, I practiced my first amendment right of nonviolent speech, assembly, and petition… to call on my government to stop the killing of innocent people. I practiced my first amendment right to assemble, to speak, to practice my Catholic Social teaching that killing is wrong and that the first principle of Catholic Social teaching is the dignity and worth of human beings…I participated in a solemn funeral procession to clearly announce that my government is engaging in killing of innocent people…
Those of us who took oaths of nonviolence before we practiced our constitutional rights are not criminals. We’re the messengers…practicing a long respected tradition of American history. The real criminals are those who order the killings including the President of the United States and his gang of eight who each week decide who will die without being officially charged, without having a hearing, having a trial….Yet, this DeWitt Court acts to suppress our nonviolent right of assembly and speech and charge us as criminals.
Our national leaders with Town and Village courts in support kill suspects and surrounding family and friends based on so called “intelligence”. A US military drone operator noted how very little is done to insure civilians are not killed in strikes. He said as reported by journalists Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald: People get hung up that we’re targeting a list of bad guys. It’s really like we’re targeting a cell phone. We’re not going after people we’re going after their cell phones in the hope the other person on the other end of the missile is the bad guy.”
Years ago, I was at a protest near the Pentagon of another type of assassination our country and their enabling courts have protected. Specifically, …training Latino soldiers to kill teachers, union leaders and clergy who are considered enemies of the state in many Latin American countries. As we gathered about 60 people lied on the ground outside of the Pentagon doing a die in with fake blood on their bodies. It was April, a cold day and many of the people lying on the concrete were elderly. Federal Marshalls took hoses and fired the cold water on the people lying down. A woman next to me asked the US Marshall if he would do the same if it was poison gas. He answered: “If I’m given orders, Mame, I’d just do my duty.”
Are you just doing your duty, Judge Jokl? Is your demeanor, your attitude, your very evident dislike of those of us who practice our legal right to object to the killings part of your duty?
I have honorable discharges from both the US Navy and US Army. I took an oath to do my duty but to not obey an illegal order.
Judge Jokl, you are an enabler of those who order extrajudicial killings. Shame on all those mask crimes by calling the protestors the criminals.
Whatever your sentence of me, I forgive you. I may not accept the injustice but know how you and others in the system are trapped. I only hope that your conscience will some day awaken you to recognize the real criminals, the national and local purveyors of violence….that is not us, the nonviolent resisters who call out to stop the killing.
My final hope is that you will somehow find the courage to stand in support of our nonviolent constitutionally correct resistance to assassinations by speaking out for truth. It may cost you your job but it could make your life more livable.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 – The Senate today advanced a Department of Defense bill that would authorize $560 billion for the military. The vote was 85-14. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voted “no” and issued the following statement:
“I am voting no because I have very serious concerns about our nation's bloated military budget and the misplaced national priorities this bill reflects.
“At a time when our national debt is more than $18 trillion and we spend nearly as much on defense as the rest of the world combined, the time is long overdue to end the waste and financial mismanagement that have plagued the Pentagon for years.
“The situation is so absurd that the military is unable to even account for how it spends all of its money. The non-partisan watchdog agency, the Government Accountability Office, said ‘serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense made its financial statements un-auditable.’
“I support a strong defense system for our country and a robust National Guard and Reserve that can meet our domestic and foreign challenges. At a time when the country is struggling with huge unmet needs, however, it is unacceptable that the Defense Department continues to waste massive amounts of money.”
A psychologist who played a key role in a U.S. torture program said on a video yesterday that torture was excusable because blowing up families with a drone is worse (and nobody's punished for that). Well, of course the existence of something worse is no excuse for torture. And he's wrong that no one is punished for drone murders. The protesters are. Latest example:
"Missouri judge convicts and sentences two peace activists for protesting drone warfare at Whiteman Air Force Base.
"Jefferson City, MO—On December 10, a federal magistrate found Georgia Walker, of Kansas City, MO and Chicagoan Kathy Kelly guilty of criminal trespass to a military installation as a result of their June 1 effort to deliver a loaf of bread and a citizens’ indictment of drone warfare to authorities at Whiteman AFB. Judge Matt Whitworth sentenced Kelly to three months in prison and Walker to one year of supervised probation.
"In testimony, Kelly, who recently returned from Afghanistan, recounted her conversation with an Afghan mother whose son, a recent police academy graduate, was killed by a drone as he sat with colleagues in a garden. “I’m educated and humbled by experiences talking with people who’ve been trapped and impoverished by U.S. warfare,” said Kelly. 'The U.S. prison system also traps and impoverishes people. In coming months, I’ll surely learn more about who goes to prison and why.'
"During sentencing, prosecution attorneys asked that Walker be sentenced to five years of probation and banned from going within 500 feet of any military base. Judge Whitworth imposed a sentence of one year probation with a condition that Walker refrain from approaching any military base for one year. Walker coordinates an organization that provides re-entry services to newly released prisoners throughout Missouri. Noting that the condition to stay away from military bases will affect her ability to travel in the region, Walker expressed concern that this condition will limit her work among former prisoners.
"Kelly’s work as a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence places her alongside people in a working class neighborhood of Kabul. She said that the day’s proceedings offered a valuable opportunity to shed light on experiences of Afghan families whose grievances are seldom heard. At the conclusion of the sentencing, Kelly said that every branch of U.S. government, including the judicial branch, shares responsibility for suffering caused when drones target and kill civilians."
On December 3, Mark Colville, a protester of drone murders at Hancock Air Base in New York, was sentenced to a one year conditional release, $1000 fine, $255 court costs, and to give a DNA sample to NY State. "This sentence was a great departure from what Judge Jokl threatened to give Mark," said Ellen Grady. "We are relieved that the judge did not give him the maximum and we in the courtroom were very moved by Mark's powerful statement to the court. May the resistance continue!"
This was Colville's statement in court:
"I am standing here before you tonight because I tried to intervene on behalf of a family in Afghanistan whose members have experienced the unspeakable trauma of witnessing loved ones being blown to pieces, murdered by hellfire missiles fired from remote control aircraft like those flown from the 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Airbase. I stand here, under judgement in this court, because a member of that family, Raz Mohammad, wrote an urgent plea to the courts of the United States, to our government and military, to stop these unprovoked attacks on his people, and I made a conscientious decision to carry Mr. Mohammad’s plea to the gates of Hancock. Make no mistake: I am proud of that decision. As a husband and father myself, and as a child of God, I do not hesitate to affirm that the actions for which I stand subject to punishment in this court tonight were responsible, loving and nonviolent. As such, no sentence that you pronounce here can either condemn me or deligitimize what I’ve done, nor will it have any impact on the truth of similar actions undertaken by dozens of others who are still awaiting trial in this court.
"The drone base within your jurisdiction is part of a military/intelligence undertaking that is not only founded upon criminality, but is also, by any sober analysis, allowed to operate beyond the reach of law. Extrajudicial killings, targeted assassinations, acts of state terrorism, the deliberate targeting of civilians- all of these crimes form the essence of the weaponized drone program that the United States government claims to be legal in its prosecution of the so called “war on terror”. Recent studies have shown that for every targeted person killed in a drone strike, twenty eight people of undetermined identity have also been slaughtered. The military admits to employing a mode of operation called “double-tapping”, in which a weaponized drone is directed back to strike a target a second time, after first responders have arrived to help the wounded. Yet never has any of this been subject to congressional approval or, more importantly, to the scrutiny of U.S. courts. In this case, you had the opportunity, from where you sit, to change that. You’ve heard the testimony of several trials similar to mine; you know what the reality is. You also heard the desperate plea of Raz Mohammad, which was read in open court during this trial. What you chose was to further legitimize these crimes by ignoring them. The faces of dead children, murdered by our nation’s hand, had no place in this court. They were excluded. Objected to. Irrelevant. Until that changes, this court continues to take an active, crucial role in condemning the innocent to death. In so doing, this court condemns itself.
"And I think it's fitting to end with the words of Raz that were sent to me this afternoon on behalf of his sister, widowed after a drone attack killed her young husband:
"'My sister says that for the sake of her 7 year old son, she doesn’t want to bear any grudges or take revenge against the U.S./NATO forces for the drone attack that killed his father. But, she asks that the U.S./NATO forces end their drone attacks in Afghanistan, and that they give an open account of deaths cause by drone attacks in this country.'"
Plans are being made for big national protests at Shaw Air Base in South Carolina (dates to be determined) and at Creech Air Base in Nevada (that one March 1-4).
Actions at Hancock Air Base in New York are ongoing, as at Beale in CA and Battle Creek, MI.
Want to get involved in opposing drone murder?
Organize with KnowDrones
Support Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Brian Terrell, who has spent 6 months behind bars already for opposing murder by drone, offers some useful insights in an article called Redefining “Imminent”.
So does a victim's child in My father was killed by a computer, says 7 year old Afghan child.
As does drone murder protester Joy First in What Happens When You Talk With Americans About Drone Murders.
Find more articles here.
By Joseph Cirincione, Defense One
VIENNA, Austria — While Iran negotiations get screaming headlines, recent conferences on the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons have not gotten much attention. Maybe they should. They are generating a growing movement that could have a bigger impact on U.S. nuclear policy than many have assumed.
Most security analysts were only dimly aware, if at all, that a conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons was held in Oslo, Norway, in March 2013, then a second conference, somewhat larger, in Nayarit, Mexico, in February 2014. I personally did not pay much attention — and nuclear policy is my job.
But a third Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons conference is underway this week in Vienna that could be changing the calculus. It is the largest yet, with 800 delegates from almost 160 nations. I am attending for the first time, as are dozens of my colleagues. More importantly, the United States has sent an official delegation, as have the United Kingdom, India and Pakistan. This is a first for the nuclear-weapon states, who shunned the previous discussions.
The grand, historic Hofburg Palace is filled with officials and scores of nongovernment groups who jam the galleries and mingle in the hallways debating strategies. The nongovernment groups held a separate “civil forum,” sponsored by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN, in the two days preceding the official conference. It was packed with over 600 participants, with most in their twenties and thirties.
There’s clearly something happening here, but, as Buffalo Springfield said, “What it is, ain’t exactly clear.” The ICAN conference pushed a new treaty to ban the bomb. The official Vienna conference does not have that goal, in part, because the U.S. and the nuclear-weapon states strongly oppose it. It is uncertain how many nations favor a new treaty, but they are searching for new ideas, new initiatives – something that can jump-start the moribund efforts to reduce nuclear dangers.
Speaker after speaker at the conferences warn of the dangers of keeping 16,000 nuclear weapons in fallible human hands 25 years after the end of the Cold War. The use of one modern nuclear weapon would be a catastrophe many times worse than Hiroshima and Nagasaki, triggering global economic turmoil. The use of a dozen would be destruction never seen before in human history. The use of just one hundred in a regional war would trigger a nuclear winter that could starve one billion people. A global nuclear war would be the end of human civilization.
Nuclear risks are growing, the speakers warn, from increased risk of accidents and miscalculation, from tensions in South Asia, from new nuclear use doctrines in Russia. Worse, they say, nearly every one of the nine nations with nuclear weapons is modernizing their arsenal. The United States alone is on track to spend an estimated $1 trillion on nuclear weapons over the next 30 years.
Such “spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations,” Pope Francis said in a statement to the conference. The Catholic Church has long opposed nuclear weapons, but had accepted the policy of deterrence during the Cold War. This week, however, the Pope said that threatening to use nuclear weapons, even to prevent others from using them, is no longer justifiable. “Nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutually assured destruction cannot be the basis for an ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence among peoples and states,” he said. Nuclear weapons must be “banned once and for all.”
This may seem completely alien to defense experts in Washington and the capitals of other nuclear-weapon states. For many, nuclear weapons are an essential part of a national security strategy. They hesitate to reducing their arsenals, least they appear weak to their adversaries or political opponents, even though few imagine actually using the weapons.
But what if they were used? What would happen? “We believe the world needs to know more about the devastating consequences of nuclear weapons use,” over 100 experts and former global government leaders wrote in an open letter to the Vienna conference. “The risks pose by nuclear weapons and the international dynamics that could lead to nuclear weapons being used are under-estimated or insufficiently understood by world leaders.” Signers included former Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar, Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright, ret., former British Ministers Margaret Beckett, David Owen and Des Browne, and this author.
The letter signers urged the conference delegates to move to a sustained public education effort on the “catastrophic consequences” of nuclear use. This may well happen. A fourth “impact” conference is already planned. New films, reports, panels and citizen actions are in the works. Some groups are eager to follow the model of the successful land mine ban treaty, which began with a few states signing and snowballed into an effective global pact. The organizers of these conferences are encouraged by their success, excited by their potential, and angry at what they see as the failure of many elected leaders to do anything about the real and present nuclear dangers.
Call it part of the “we don’t trust government” movement. Or see it as a revival of the anti-nuclear movements of the 1950’s or 1980’s. Or think of it as nuclear Paul Revere’s racing to warn of coming threats.
Whatever you think, the Vienna conference signals the maturing of a new, significant current in the nuclear policy debate. Government policy makers would be wise to take this new factor into account.
By Joseph Cirincione // Joe Cirincione is president of Ploughshares Fund and the author of Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late.
Dec. 5, 2014, NTI
His Excellency Sebastian Kurz
Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs
Dear Minister Kurz:
We are writing to commend publicly the Austrian government for convening the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. As members of global leadership networks developed in cooperation with the U.S.-based Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), we believe it is essential for governments and interested parties to state emphatically that the use of a nuclear weapon, by a state or non-state actor, anywhere on the planet would have catastrophic human consequences.
Our global networks–comprised of former senior political, military and diplomatic leaders from across five continents–share many of the concerns represented on the conference agenda. In Vienna and beyond, in addition, we see an opportunity for all states, whether they possess nuclear weapons or not, to work together in a joint enterprise to identify, understand, prevent, manage and eliminate the risks associated with these indiscriminate and inhumane weapons.
Specifically, we have agreed to collaborate across regions on the following four-point agenda for action and to work to shine a light on the risks posed by nuclear weapons. As we approach the 70th anniversary of the detonations over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we pledge our support and partnership to all governments and members of civil society who wish to join our effort.
Identifying Risk: We believe the risks posed by nuclear weapons and the international dynamics that could lead to nuclear weapons being used are under-estimated or insufficiently understood by world leaders. Tensions between nuclear-armed states and alliances in the Euro-Atlantic area and in both South and East Asia remain ripe with the potential for military miscalculation and escalation. In a vestige of the Cold War, too many nuclear weapons in the world remain ready to launch on short notice, greatly increasing the chances of an accident. This fact gives leaders faced with an imminent potential threat an insufficient amount of time to communicate with each other and act with prudence. Stockpiles of the world’s nuclear weapons and materials to produce them are insufficiently secure, making them possible targets for terrorism. And while multilateral non-proliferation efforts are underway, none are adequate to growing proliferation dangers.
Given this context, we urge international leaders to use the Vienna Conference to launch a global discussion that would more accurately assess steps to reduce or eliminate the risk of intentional or unintentional use of nuclear weapons. The findings should be shared for the benefit of policymakers and wider public understanding. We commit to support and engage fully in this endeavor by working together through our global networks and other interested parties.
Reducing Risk: We believe insufficient action is being taken to prevent nuclear weapons use, and we urge conference delegates to consider how best to develop a comprehensive package of measures to reduce the risk of nuclear weapons use. Such a package could include:
- Improved crisis-management arrangements in conflict hotspots and regions of tension around the world;
- Urgent action to lower the prompt-launch status of existing nuclear stockpiles;
- New measures to improve the security of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons-related materials; and
- Renewed efforts to tackle the increasing threat of proliferation from state and non-state actors.
All nuclear-armed states should attend the Vienna Conference and engage in the Humanitarian Impacts Initiative, without exception, and while doing so, should acknowledge their special responsibility on this set of issues.
At the same time, all states should re-double efforts to work toward a world without nuclear weapons.
Raising Public Awareness: We believe the world needs to know more about the devastating consequences of nuclear weapons use. It is therefore imperative that the Vienna discussions and findings are not limited to Conference delegations. A sustained effort should be made to engage and educate a global audience of policymakers and civil society on the catastrophic consequences of the use—intentional or accidental—of a nuclear weapon. We commend the Conference organizers for taking a broad approach to addressing the effects of a detonation, including the wider environmental impacts. The latest climate modeling suggests major and global environmental, health and food security consequences from even a relatively small scale regional exchange of nuclear weapons. Given the potential global impact, the use of a nuclear weapon anywhere is the legitimate concern of people everywhere.
Improving Readiness: The Conference and the ongoing Humanitarian Impacts Initiative must ask what more the world can do to be prepared for the worst. Time and again, the international community has been found wanting when it comes to preparedness for major international humanitarian crises, most recently in the shamefully slow response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa. Preparedness must include a focus on the resilience of domestic infrastructure in major population centers to reduce the death tolls. Since no state is capable of responding to a nuclear weapon detonation sufficiently by relying solely on its own resources, preparedness also must include generating plans for a coordinated international response to an incident. This could save tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of lives.
We wish all those engaged in the Vienna Conference well, and pledge our ongoing support and partnership for all those involved in its important work.
- Nobuyasu Abe, former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament, Japan.
- Sergio Abreu, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and current Senator of Uruguay.
- Hasmy Agam, Chair, National Human Rights Commission of Malaysia and former Permanent Representative of Malaysia to the United Nations.
- Steve Andreasen, former Director for Defense Policy and Arms Control on the White House National Security Council; National Security Consultant, NTI.
- Irma Arguello, Chair, NPSGlobal Foundation; LALN Secretariat, Argentina.
- Egon Bahr, former Minister of the Federal Government, Germany
- Margaret Beckett MP, former Foreign Secretary, UK.
- Álvaro Bermúdez, former Director of Energy and Nuclear Technology of Uruguay.
- Fatmir Besimi, Deputy Prime Minister and former Minister of Defense, Macedonia.
- Hans Blix, former Director General of the IAEA; Former Foreign Minister, Sweden.
- Jaakko Blomberg, former Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Finland.
- James Bolger, former Prime Minister of New Zealand.
- Kjell Magne Bondevik, former Prime Minister, Norway.
- Davor Božinović, former Minister of Defence, Croatia.
- Des Browne, NTI Vice Chairman; ELN and UK Top Level Group (TLG) Convener; Member of the House of Lords; former Secretary of State for Defence.
- Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, former Deputy Foreign Minister, Netherlands.
- Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister, Norway.
- Alistair Burt MP, former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, UK.
- Francesco Calogero, former Secretary General of Pugwash, Italy.
- Sir Menzies Campbell MP, member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, UK.
- General James Cartwright (Ret.), former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S.
- Hikmet Çetin, former Foreign Minister, Turkey.
- Padmanabha Chari, former Additional Secretary of Defence, India.
- Joe Cirincione, President, Ploughshares Fund, U.S.
- Charles Clarke, former Home Secretary, UK.
- Chun Yungwoo, former National Security Advisor, Republic of Korea.
- Tarja Cronberg, former Member of the European Parliament; former Chair of the European Parliament Iran delegation, Finland.
- Cui Liru, former President, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.
- Sérgio de Queiroz Duarte, former United Nations Under Secretary for Disarmament Affairs and member of Brazil's diplomatic service.
- Jayantha Dhanapala, President of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs; former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament, Sri Lanka.
- Aiko Doden, Senior Commentator with NHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation.
- Sidney D. Drell, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Professor Emeritus, Stanford University, U.S.
- Rolf Ekéus, former Ambassador to the United States, Sweden.
- Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Denmark.
- Vahit Erdem, former Member of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, Chief Adviser to President Süleyman Demirel, Turkey.
- Gernot Erler, former German Minister of State; Coordinator for Intersocietal Cooperation with Russia, Central Asia and the Eastern Partnership Countries.
- Gareth Evans, APLN Convener; Chancellor of the Australian National University; former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia.
- Malcolm Fraser, former Prime Minister of Australia.
- Sergio González Gálvez, former Deputy Secretary of External Relations and member of Mexico's diplomatic service.
- Sir Nick Harvey MP, former Minister of State for the Armed Forces, UK.
- J. Bryan Hehir, Practice of Religion and Public Life professor, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, U.S.
- Robert Hill, former Defence Minister of Australia.
- Jim Hoagland, journalist, U.S.
- Pervez Hoodbhoy, Professor of Nuclear Physics, Pakistan.
- José Horacio Jaunarena, former Minister of Defense of Argentina.
- Jaakko Iloniemi, former Minister of State, Finland.
- Wolfgang Ischinger, current Chair of the Munich Security Conference; former Deputy Foreign Minister, Germany.
- Igor Ivanov, former Foreign Minister, Russia.
- Tedo Japaridze, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Georgia.
- Oswaldo Jarrin, former Minister of Defense of Ecuador.
- General Jehangir Karamat (Ret.), former chief of Pakistan’s Army.
- Admiral Juhani Kaskeala (Ret.), former Commander of the Defence Forces, Finland.
- Yoriko Kawaguchi, former Foreign Minister of Japan.
- Ian Kearns, Co-Founder and Director of the ELN, UK.
- John Kerr (Lord Kerr of Kinlochard), former UK Ambassador to the US and the EU.
- Humayun Khan, former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan.
- Lord King of Bridgwater (Tom King), former Defence Secretary, UK.
- Walter Kolbow, former Deputy Federal Minister of Defence, Germany.
- Ricardo Baptista Leite, MD, Member of Parliament, Portugal.
- Pierre Lellouche, former President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, France.
- Ricardo López Murphy, former Minister of Defense of Argentina.
- Richard G. Lugar, Board Member, NTI; former U.S. Senator.
- Mogens Lykketoft, former Foreign Minister, Denmark.
- Kishore Mahbubani, Dean, Lee Kuan Yew School, National University of Singapore; former Permanent Representative of Singapore to the United Nations.
- Giorgio La Malfa, former Minister of European Affairs, Italy.
- Lalit Mansingh, former Foreign Secretary of India.
- Miguel Marín Bosch, former Alternate Permanent Representative to the United Nations and member of Mexico's diplomatic service.
- János Martonyi, former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hungary.
- John McColl, former NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, UK.
- Fatmir Mediu, former Defence Minister, Albania.
- C. Raja Mohan, senior journalist, India.
- Chung-in Moon, former Ambassador for International Security Affairs, Republic of Korea.
- Hervé Morin, former Defence Minister, France.
- General Klaus Naumann (Ret.), former Chief of Staff of the Bundeswehr, Germany.
- Bernard Norlain, former Air Defense Commander and Air Combat Commander of the Air Force, France.
- To Nu Thi Ninh, former Ambassador to the European Union, Vietnam.
- Sam Nunn, Co-Chairman and CEO, NTI; former U.S. Senator
- Volodymyr Ogrysko, former Foreign Minister, Ukraine.
- David Owen (Lord Owen), former Foreign Secretary, UK.
- Sir Geoffrey Palmer, former Prime Minister of New Zealand.
- José Pampuro, former Minister of Defense of Argentina.
- Maj. Gen Pan Zennqiang (Ret.), Senior Adviser to the China Reform Forum, China.
- Solomon Passy, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bulgaria.
- Michael Peterson, President and COO, Peterson Foundation, U.S.
- Wolfgang Petritsch, former EU Special Envoy to Kosovo; former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria.
- Paul Quilès, former Defence Minister, France.
- R. Rajaraman, Professor of Theoretical Physics, India.
- Lord David Ramsbotham, ADC General (retired) in the British Army, UK.
- Jaime Ravinet de la Fuente, former Minister of Defense of Chile.
- Elisabeth Rehn, former Defence Minister, Finland.
- Lord Richards of Herstmonceux (David Richards), former Chief of the Defence Staff, UK.
- Michel Rocard, former Prime Minister, France.
- Camilo Reyes Rodríguez, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Colombia.
- Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP, Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, former Foreign Secretary, former Defense Secretary, UK
- Sergey Rogov, Director of Institute for US and Canadian Studies, Russia.
- Joan Rohlfing, President and Chief Operating Officer, NTI; former Senior Advisor for National Security to the U.S. Secretary of Energy.
- Adam Rotfeld, former Foreign Minister, Poland.
- Volker Rühe, former Defence Minister, Germany.
- Henrik Salander, former Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, Secretary-General of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, Sweden.
- Konstantin Samofalov, Spokesman for the Social Democratic Party, Former MP, Serbia
- Özdem Sanberk, former Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Turkey.
- Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg, former Minister of Science and Technology and member of Brazil's diplomatic service.
- Stefano Silvestri, former Under Secretary of State for Defence; consultant for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministries of Defence and Industry, Italy.
- Noel Sinclair, Permanent Observer of the Caribbean Community - CARICOM to the United Nations and member of Guyana's diplomatic service.
- Ivo Šlaus, former member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Croatia.
- Javier Solana, former Foreign Minister; former Secretary-General of NATO; former EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Spain.
- Minsoon Song, former Foreign Minister of Republic of Korea.
- Rakesh Sood, former Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, India.
- Christopher Stubbs, Professor of Physics and of Astronomy, Harvard University, U.S.
- Goran Svilanovic, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Serbia.
- Ellen O. Tauscher, former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security and former seven-term U.S. Member of Congress
- Eka Tkeshelashvili, former Foreign Minister, Georgia.
- Carlo Trezza, Member of the Advisory Board of the UN Secretary General for Disarmament Matters and Chairman of the Missile Technology Control Regime, Italy.
- David Triesman (Lord Triesman), Foreign Affairs spokesperson for the Labour Party in the House of Lords, former Foreign Office Minister, UK.
- Gen. Vyacheslav Trubnikov, Former First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Former Director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, Russia
- Ted Turner, Co-Chairman, NTI.
- Nyamosor Tuya, former Foreign Minister of Mongolia.
- Air Chief Marshal Shashi Tyagi (Ret.), former Chief of the Indian Air Force.
- Alan West (Admiral the Lord West of Spithead), former First Sea Lord of the British Navy.
- Wiryono Sastrohandoyo, former Ambassador to Australia, Indonesia.
- Raimo Väyrynen, former Director at Finnish Institute of International Affairs.
- Richard von Weizsäcker, former President, Germany.
- Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, Chair, Global Task Force on Nuclear Weapons, World Evangelical Alliance, U.S.
- Isabelle Williams, NTI.
- Baroness Williams of Crosby (Shirley Williams), former Advisor on Non-Proliferation issues to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, UK.
- Kåre Willoch, former Prime Minister, Norway.
- Hide Yuzaki, Governor of Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan.
- Uta Zapf, former Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-proliferation in the Bundestag, Germany.
- Ma Zhengzang, former Ambassador to the United Kingdom, President of China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, and President of the China Institute of International Studies.
Asia Pacific Leadership Network (APLN): A network of more than 40 current and former political, military, and diplomatic leaders in the Asia Pacific region—including from nuclear weapons-possessing states of China, India and Pakistan—working to improve public understanding, shape public opinion, and influence political decision-making and diplomatic activity on issues concerning nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. The APLN is convened by former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans. www.a-pln.org
European Leadership Network (ELN): A network of more than 130 senior European political, military and diplomatic figures working to build a more coordinated European policy community, define strategic objectives and feed analysis and viewpoints into the policy-making process for nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament issues. Former UK Defense Secretary and NTI Vice Chairman Des Browne is Chair of the Executive Board of ELN. www.europeanleadershipnetwork.org/
Latin American Leadership Network (LALN): A network of 16 senior political, military, and diplomatic leaders across Latin America and the Caribbean working to promote constructive engagement on nuclear issues and to create an enhanced security environment to help reduce global nuclear risks. The LALN is led by Irma Arguello, founder and chair of Argentina-based NPSGlobal. http://npsglobal.org/
Nuclear Security Leadership Council (NSLC): A newly formed Council, based in the United States, brings together approximately 20 influential leaders with diverse backgrounds from North America.
Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to reduce threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. NTI is governed by a prestigious, international board of directors and is co-chaired by founders Sam Nunn and Ted Turner. NTI’s activities are directed by Nunn and President Joan Rohlfing. For more information, visit www.nti.org. For more information about the Nuclear Security Project, visit www.NuclearSecurityProject.org.
By Dave Lindorff
In all the media debate about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s release, finally, of a heavily redacted report on officially sanctioned torture by the CIA and the US military during the Bush/Cheney administration and the so-called War on Terror, there has been little said about the reality that torture, as clearly defined in the Geneva Convention against Torture which went into effect in 1987, is flat-out illegal in the US as a signatory of that Convention.
Why people want to become fans of a senator rather than pushing senators to serve the public is beyond me.
Why people want to distract and drain away two years of activism, with the planet in such peril, fantasizing about electing a messiah is beyond me.
And when people who've chosen as their messiah someone who isn't even running for the office they're obsessed with, respond to criticism with "Well, who else is there?" -- that makes zero sense. They've made the list and could make it differently.
But here's what's really crazy about talking to Elizabeth-Warren-For-Presidenters. If you complain that she hasn't noticed the military budget yet, they tell you that doing so would cost her the election. And when you reject that contention, they tell you that wars are just one little issue among a great many.
Now, when Congress was cooking up a Grand Bargain to solve the debt "crisis," people who were polled almost universally rejected any of the acceptable solutions under consideration, such as smashing Social Security. Instead, they said they wanted the rich taxed and the military cut. When pollsters at the University of Maryland show people the federal budget, a strong majority wants big cuts to the military. This is nothing new. People favor cutting war spending. People who elected Obama believed (falsely) that he intended to cut the military.
A different and more substantiated argument would be that turning against military spending would cost Warren the support of wealthy funders and the tolerance of media gatekeepers. But that does not seem to be the argument that Warren-For-Presidenters make.
It's the "just one issue among many" thing that's truly nuts. Look at this:
One little item makes up over half the discretionary budget, the things a Senator votes to spend money on or not spend money on. Does Warren think this massive investment in war preparation is too much, too little, or just the right amount? Who the hell knows? Can anyone even be found who cares?
The cost of one weapons system that doesn't work could provide every homeless person with a large house.
A tiny fraction of military spending could end starvation at home and abroad.
The Great Student Loan Struggle takes place in the shadow of military spending unseen in countries that simply make college free, countries that don't tax more than the United States, countries that just don't do wars the way the U.S. does. You can find lots of other little differences between those countries and the U.S. but none of them on the unfathomable scale of military spending or even remotely close to it.
Financially, war is what the U.S. government does. Everything else is a side show.
In the typical U.S. Congressional election, the military budget is never mentioned by any candidate or commentator. But surely it's fair to ask Senator Warren, with her great interest in financial questions and economic justice, whether she knows the military budget exists and what she thinks of it.
When a candidate is never asked about a subject, most people simply imagine the candidate shares their own view. This is why it's important to ask.
Of course, many people actually think that war is only one little issue among many others and that, for example, funding schools is totally unrelated to dumping over half the budget into a criminal enterprise. To them I say, please look carefully at the graphic above.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
In recent years, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has come under fire for disallowing scientists working for the Canadian government to speak directly to the press.
Photo Credit: U.S. Department of State
An article published in August by The New Republic said "Harper's antagonism toward climate-change experts in his government may sound familiar to Americans," pointing to similar deeds done by the George W. Bush Administration. That article also said that "Bush's replacement," President Barack Obama, "has reversed course" in this area.
Society for Professional Journalists, the largest trade association for professional journalists in the U.S., disagrees with this conclusion.
In a December 1 letter written to Gina McCarthy, administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the society chided the Obama administration for its methods of responding to journalists' queries to speak to EPA-associated scientists.
"We write to urge you again to clarify that members of the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) and the twenty other EPA science advisory committees have the right and are encouraged to speak to the public and the press about any scientific issues, including those before these committees, in a personal capacity without prior authorization from the agency," said the letter.
"We urge you...to ensure that EPA advisory committee members are encouraged share their expertise and opinions with those who would benefit from it."
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
“Dear Fredrik, Last Friday I went to an event organized by the Carnegie Corporation on the anniversary of the end of WWI. I was struck by how similar Andrew Carnegie’s ideas, as well as his philanthropy, were to Alfred Nobel’s. Do you know whether they were ever in contact? All best, Peter [Weiss].
“These are Peter’s questions: Why the similarities? Were Carnegie and Nobel ever in contact? And this is mine: Why is the connection so interesting – and consequential? –Fredrik S. Heffermehl.”
The above was the announcement of a contest at NobelWill.org that I just won with the following:
We do not know of, but also cannot exclude, a meeting face to face, or an exchange of letters, between Alfred Nobel and Andrew Carnegie that can explain how strikingly “similar Andrew Carnegie’s ideas, as well as his philanthropy, were to Alfred Nobel’s.” But the similarity is partially explained by the culture of the day. They were not the only tycoons to fund war abolition, just the wealthiest. It may be further explained by the fact that a primary influence on both of them in their peace philanthropy was the same person, a woman who met them both in person and was in fact very close friends with Nobel — Bertha von Suttner. Further, Nobel’s philanthropy came first and was itself an influence on Carnegie’s. Both offer fine examples for today’s super-rich — far richer, of course, than even Carnegie, but none of whom have put a dime into funding the elimination of war. They also offer excellent examples for the legally mandated operation of their own institutions which have strayed so far off course.
Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) and Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) lived in an era with fewer super-wealthy individuals than today; and even Carnegie’s wealth did not match that of today’s wealthiest. But they gave away a higher percentage of their wealth than today’s wealthy have done. Carnegie gave away a higher amount, adjusted for inflation, than all but three living Americans (Gates, Buffett, and Soros) have thus far given.*
No one in the Forbes list of top 50 current philanthropists has funded an effort to abolish war. Nobel and Carnegie funded that project heavily while they lived, and engaged in promoting it apart from their financial contributions. Before they died, they arranged to leave behind them a legacy that would continue funding efforts to reduce and eliminate war from the world. Those legacies have done a great deal of good and have the potential to do a great deal more, and to succeed. But both have survived into an era that largely disbelieves in the possibility of peace, and both organizations have strayed far from their intended work, changing their missions to match the times, rather than resisting a militarization of culture by sticking to their legal and moral mandates.
What is interesting and consequential about the similarities between Nobel and Carnegie is the extent to which their philanthropy for peace was a product of their time. Both became engaged in peace activism, but both favored the abolition of war before becoming so engaged. That opinion was more common in their age than now. Philanthropy for peace was also more common, though usually not with the same scale and consequence that Nobel and Carnegie managed.
What is most interesting is that the consequences of what Nobel and Carnegie did remain to be determined, by the actions living people take to fulfill the promise of the Nobel Peace Prize and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, as well as by the actions we take to pursue the peace agenda outside of those institutions, and perhaps by current philanthropists who might find ways to emulate these past examples. In 2010, Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates encouraged billionaires to donate half their wealth (not up to the Nobel-Carnegie standard, but still significant). Buffett described the first 81 billionaires’ signatures on their pledge as “81 Gospels of Wealth,” in tribute to “The Gospel of Wealth,” an article and book by Carnegie.
It would be hard to prove that Carnegie and Nobel never corresponded. We are dealing here with two prolific letter writers in an age of letter-writing, and two men whose letters we know have vanished from history in huge numbers. But I have read a number of biographical works of the two of them and of friends they had in common. Some of these books refer to both men in such a way that if the author knew them ever to have met or corresponded it certainly would have been mentioned. But this question may be a red herring. If Nobel and Carnegie came into contact with each other, it was clearly not extensive and certainly not what made them similar in attitudes toward peace and philanthropy. Nobel was a model for Carnegie, as his peace philanthropy preceded Carnegie’s in time. Both men were urged on by some of the same peace advocates, most importantly Bertha von Suttner. Both men were exceptional, but both lived in an era in which funding progress toward the elimination of warfare was something that was done, unlike today when it is something that just isn’t done — not even by the Nobel Committee or the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
One could list a hundred similarities and dissimilarities between Nobel and Carnegie. Some of the similarities that might have a slight bearing here include these. Both men had immigrated in their youth, Nobel from Sweden to Russia at age 9, Carnegie from Scotland to the United States at age 12. Both were sickly. Both had little formal schooling (not as rare back then). Both were longtime bachelors, Nobel for life, and Carnegie into his 50s. Both were lifelong travelers, cosmopolitans, and (particularly Nobel) loners. Carnegie wrote travel books. Both were writers of numerous genres with a wide array of interests and knowledge. Nobel wrote poetry. Carnegie did journalism, and even happened to remark of the power of news reporting that “Dynamite is child’s play compared to the press.” Dynamite was of course one of Nobel’s inventions, and also a product someone once used to try to blow up Carnegie’s house (something one historian I asked pointed to as the closest connection between the two men). Both were in part but not primarily war profiteers. Both were complex, contradictory, and certainly to some extent guilt ridden. Nobel tried to rationalize his manufacture of weapons with the thought that extreme enough weapons would persuade people to abandon war (a somewhat common idea up through the age of nuclear nations waging and losing numerous wars). Carnegie used armed force to suppress workers’ rights, had got his break running telegraphs for the U.S. government during the U.S. Civil War, and profited from World War I.
The argument that those who grow rich will know best what to do with their hoarded wealth is actually supported by the examples of Nobel and Carnegie, although they are in this regard — of course — exceptional cases rather than the rule. It is very hard to argue with the general thrust of what they did with their money, and the assignment that Carnegie left behind for his Endowment for Peace is something of a model of morality that puts any professor of ethics to shame. Carnegie’s money was to be spent on eliminating war, as the most evil institution in existence. But once war has been eliminated, the Endowment is to determine what the next most evil institution is, and begin working to eliminate that or to create the new institution that would do the most good. (Isn’t this what any ethical human being should be engaged in, whether paid for it or not?) Here’s the relevant passage:
“When civilized nations enter into such treaties as named or war is discarded as disgraceful to civilized men, as personal war (dueling) and man selling and buying (slavery) have been discarded within the wide boundaries of our English-speaking race, the trustees will please then consider what is the next most degrading remaining evil or evils, whose banishment — or what new elevating element or elements if introduced or fostered, or both combined — would most advance the progress, elevation and happiness of man, and so on from century to century without end, my trustees of each age shall determine how they can best aid man in the upward march to higher and higher stages of developments unceasingly, for now we know that as a law of his being man was created with the desire and capacity for improvement to which, perchance, there may be no limit short of perfection even here in this life upon earth.”
Here’s the key passage from the will of Alfred Nobel, which created five prizes including:
“one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
Both Nobel and Carnegie found their way to opposing war through the general culture around them. Nobel was a fan of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Carnegie’s notion quoted above of progress in overcoming slavery, dueling, and other evils — with war to be added to the list — could be found in early U.S. abolitionists (of slavery and war) like Charles Sumner. Carnegie was a 1898 anti-imperialist. Nobel first raised the idea of ending war to Bertha von Suttner, not the other way around. But it was the relentless advocacy of von Suttner and others that moved the two men to engage as they did in what was a very top-down, respectable, not to say aristocratic peace movement that advanced through the recruitment of VIPs and the holding of conferences with high-level government officials, as opposed to marches, demonstrations, or protests by anonymous masses. Bertha von Suttner persuaded first Nobel and then Carnegie to fund her, her allies, and the movement as a whole.
Both Nobel and Carnegie viewed themselves as a bit heroic and viewed the world through that lens. Nobel established a prize for an individual leader, though it has not always been administered as intended (sometimes going to more than one person or to an organization). Carnegie similarly created a Hero Fund to fund, and to make the world aware of, heroes of peace, not war.
Both men, as cited above, left formal instructions for the continued use of their money for peace. Both intended to leave a legacy to the world, not just to their personal families, of which Nobel didn’t have any. In both cases the instructions have been grossly disregarded. The Nobel Peace Prize, as well detailed in the writings of Fredrik Heffermehl, has been awarded to many who have not fit the requirements, including some who have even favored war. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has openly rejected its mission of eliminating war, moved on to numerous other projects, and re-categorized itself as a think tank.
Of numerous individuals who reasonably might have been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize but have not been — a list that usually begins with Mohandas Gandhi — one nominee in 1913 was Andrew Carnegie, and the laureate in 1912 was Carnegie’s associate Elihu Root. Of course, mutual friend of Nobel and Carnegie, Bertha von Suttner received the prize in 1905 as did her associated Alfred Fried in 1911. Nicholas Murray Butler received the prize in 1931 for his work at the Carnegie Endowment, which included lobbying for the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928. Frank Kellogg got the prize in 1929, and Aristide Briand already had in 1926. When U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt received the prize in 1906 it was Andrew Carnegie who persuaded him to make the trip to Norway to accept it. There are numerous connections of this sort that all came after Nobel’s death.
Bertha von Suttner, mother of the war abolition movement, became a major international figure with the publication of her novel Lay Down Your Arms in 1889. I don’t think it was false modesty but accurate assessment when she attributed the success of her book to a sentiment already spreading. “I think that when a book with a purpose is successful, this success does not depend on the effect it has on the spirit of the times but the other way around,” she said. In fact, both are certainly the case. Her book tapped into a growing sentiment and dramatically expanded it. The same can be said for the philanthropy (truly loving of people) of Nobel and Carnegie that she encouraged.
But the best laid plans can fail. Bertha von Suttner opposed one of the first nominees for the peace prize, Henri Dunant as a “war alleviator,” and when he received it, she promoted the view that he’d been honored for supporting the abolition of war rather than for his work with the Red Cross. In
1905 1906, as noted, the prize went to warmonger Teddy Roosevelt, and the year after to Louis Renault, causing von Suttner to remark that “even war could get the prize.” Eventually people like Henry Kissinger and Barack Obama would make the list of laureates. A prize meant to fund demilitarization work was awarded in 2012 to the European Union, which could fund demilitarization most easily by spending less money on weaponry.
It did not take long for Carnegie’s legacy to slip off track as well. In 1917 the Endowment for Peace backed U.S. involvement in World War I. After a second world war, the Endowment put leading warmonger John Foster Dulles on its board along with Dwight D. Eisenhower. The same institution that had backed the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which bans all war, backed the UN Charter which legalizes wars that are either defensive or UN-authorized.
As the disregard of climate change in the 1970s and 1980s helped create today’s climate crisis, disregard of Nobel’s and Carnegie’s intentions and legal mandates in the early and mid-twentieth century helped create today’s world in which U.S. and NATO militarism are widely acceptable to those in power.
Jessica T. Mathews, current President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writes: “The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is the oldest international affairs think tank in the United States. Founded by Andrew Carnegie with a gift of $10 million, its charter was to ‘hasten the abolition of war, the foulest blot upon our civilization.’ While that goal was always unattainable, the Carnegie Endowment has remained faithful to the mission of promoting peaceful engagement.”
That is, while denouncing without argument my required mission as impossible, I have remained faithful to that mission.
No. It doesn’t work that way. Here’s Peter van den Dungen:
“The peace movement was especially productive in the two decades preceding World War I when its agenda reached the highest levels of government as manifested, for instance, in the Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907. A direct result of these unprecedented conferences – which followed an appeal (1898) by Tsar Nicholas II to halt the arms race, and to substitute war by peaceful arbitration – was the construction of the Peace Palace which opened its doors in 1913, and which celebrated its centenary in August 2013. Since 1946, it is of course the seat of the International Court of Justice of the UN. The world owes the Peace Palace to the munificence of Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-American steel tycoon who became a pioneer of modern philanthropy and who was also an ardent opponent of war. Like no one else, he liberally endowed institutions devoted to the pursuit of world peace, most of which still exist today.
“Whereas the Peace Palace, which houses the International Court of Justice, guards its high mission to replace war by justice, Carnegie’s most generous legacy for peace, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), has explicitly turned away from its founder’s belief in the abolition of war, thereby depriving the peace movement of much-needed resources. This could partly explain why that movement has not grown into a mass movement which can exert effective pressure on governments. I believe it is important to reflect on this for a moment. In 1910 Carnegie, who was America’s most famous peace activist, and the world’s richest man, endowed his peace foundation with $10 million. In today’s money, this is the equivalent of $3.5 billion. Imagine what the peace movement – that is, the movement for the abolition of war – could do today if it had access to that kind of money, or even a fraction of it. Unfortunately, while Carnegie favoured advocacy and activism, the trustees of his Peace Endowment favoured research. As early as 1916, in the middle of the First World War, one of the trustees even suggested that the name of the institution should be changed to Carnegie Endowment for International Justice.”
I’m not sure any two economists calculate the value of inflation the same way. Whether $3.5 billion is the right number or not, it is orders of magnitude larger than anything funding peace today. And $10 million was only a fraction of what Carnegie put into peace through the funding of trusts, the building of buildings in DC and Costa Rica as well as the Hague, and the funding of individual activists and organizations for years and years. Imagining peace is difficult for some people, perhaps for all of us. Maybe imagining someone wealthy investing in peace would be a step in the right direction. Maybe it will help our thinking to know that it’s been done before.
*By some calculations some of the early robber barons were, in fact, wealthier than some of our current ones.
By Dave Lindorff
I’m going to say it: I am ashamed to be a US citizen. This doesn’t come easily, because having lived abroad and seen some pretty nasty places in my time, I know there are a lot of great things about this country, and a lot of great people who live here, but lately, I’ve reached the conclusion that the US is a sick and twisted country, in which the bad far outweighs the good.
By Dave Lindorff
I’m going to say it: I am ashamed to be a US citizen. This doesn’t come easily, because having lived abroad and seen some pretty nasty places in my time, I know there are a lot of great things about this country, and a lot of great people who live here, but lately, I’ve reached the conclusion that the US is a sick and twisted country, in which the bad far outweighs the good.
UNAC is the major national antiwar coalition in the U.S. today. The existence of a United National Antiwar Coalition is vital and we need your financial support to continue our work and to expand.
With U.S. wars today accelerating and expanding globally in various forms – from drone attacks on Yemen and Pakistan, never-ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, support to neo-fascists in Ukraine, and proliferating Africom forces to threats of war for regime change in Syria – we have an obligation to do whatever is possible to educate the public and to take action to stop the carnage.
The wars abroad are connected to global warming with most wars fought over energy resources with the U.S. war machine as the largest polluter.
At home, we see hugely growing income inequality, a militarized and racist police force, mass incarceration of Blacks and Latinos, and a massive police state apparatus that includes global surveillance and laws to quell dissent.
In spite of the trillions spent by the U.S. corporate war government and its controlled media propaganda machine to keep us in check, the people are fighting back. We’ve been inspired and strengthened by the hundreds of thousands of new activists taking to the streets of this country to stop police brutality, to build Occupy encampments, to fight for decent wages, to demand full rights for immigrants, to win marriage equality, to end global warming, to demonstrate solidarity with the besieged people of Gaza, and to protest unending U.S. wars.
UNAC has played an active, often leadership role, in all of the antiwar and social justice movements of our time. While most activists are focused on their particular issues, the most vital role we can play is to connect the issues to their source. All of the injustices and crimes we protest, stem from the imperialist insatiable drive for expanding profit and control – and the U.S. is the largest imperialist power militarily and economically. When there should be plenty for all, only the obscenely wealthy benefit while the rest of the 99% struggle just to survive.
Some of our recent major accomplishments:
· Initiated protest against NATO and 15,000 marched in Chicago in 2012.
· Called for immediate actions against threats of war and coups directed at Libya, Iran, No. Korea, Africa, Latin America, Ukraine, and maintaining the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.
· Organized a national tour for Afghan leader Malalai Joya.
· Sent representatives to international NATO protests and conferences.
· Serve on the Board of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms to act against Islamophobia , racist attacks on Muslims, and attacks on our civil liberties.
· Participated in national efforts to organize anti-drone actions.
· Campaigned to defend victims of government repression who speak out and expose Washington’s crimes, including Rasmea Odeh, Mumia abu Jamal, Lynne Stewart, Chelsea Manning, and the Midwest activists targeted by the FBI.
· Produced national educational conference calls featuring experts on topics such as U.S. intervention in Africa, the destruction of Libya, the developing wars in Syria, and others.
· Built an antiwar contingent in the massive New York City Climate Change march and built Climate Change action in other cities around the country.
· Helped organize protests against Israel’s attack on Gaza
· Helped organize protests against the murder of Blacks by white police and the militarization of the police forces in the U.S.
UNAC has a history of bringing hundreds of activists together at large national conferences to learn about the issues of the day, to discuss the way forward and to vote on an Action Program for the coming period.
The UNAC conference next May will bring activists from all the movements in motion to cross-fertilize these struggles. We are particularly dedicated to bringing young activists together to support and learn from each other. For this, we need your help to offer subsidies to leaders from Ferguson, from the border wars in the southwest, from the Native Americans who are fighting against the pipelines ruining their lands, from the Students for Justice in Palestine, and many others.
Please give generously so that we can continue our work to bring harmony and justice to the peoples of this earth.
You can send a check to UNAC at PO Box 123, Delmar, NY 12054 or click the button below to contribute on-line with your credit or debit card.
The murder of black men by white police officers is nothing new in the United States. The fact that the media is taking notice is what is newsworthy. Despite Civil Rights laws enacted decades ago, racism is deeply embedded in the fabric of U.S. society.
The recent cases of Eric Gardner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, victims of horrendous cruelty and murder, only received coverage due to the outrage their deaths, and the almost immediate impunity their killers received, caused across the nation. But is white police brutality against blacks something new? Anecdotal evidence presented here indicates that that is hardly the case.
Lia Tarachansky discusses her new film On the Side of the Road which looks at the creation of Israel and the erasure of what was there before. Learn more at: http://naretivproductions.com
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!
Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
Go to war and every politician will thank you, and they’ll continue to do so -- with monuments and statues, war museums and military cemeteries -- long after you’re dead. But who thanks those who refused to fight, even in wars that most people later realized were tragic mistakes? Consider the 2003 invasion of Iraq, now widely recognized as igniting an ongoing disaster. America’s politicians still praise Iraq War veterans to the skies, but what senator has a kind word to say about the hundreds of thousands of protesters who marched and demonstrated before the invasion was even launched to try to stop our soldiers from risking their lives in the first place?
What brings all this to mind is an apparently heartening exception to the rule of celebrating war-makers and ignoring peacemakers. A European rather than an American example, it turns out to be not quite as simple as it first appears. Let me explain.
December 25th will be the 100th anniversary of the famous Christmas Truce of the First World War. You probably know the story: after five months of unparalleled industrial-scale slaughter, fighting on the Western Front came to a spontaneous halt. British and German soldiers stopped shooting at each other and emerged into the no-man’s-land between their muddy trenches in France and Belgium to exchange food and gifts.
That story -- burnished in recent years by books, songs, music videos, a feature film, and an opera -- is largely true. On Christmas Day, troops did indeed trade cigarettes, helmets, canned food, coat buttons, and souvenirs. They sang carols, barbecued a pig, posed for photographs together, and exchanged German beer for British rum. In several spots, men from the rival armies played soccer together. The ground was pocked with shell craters and proper balls were scarce, so the teams made use of tin cans or sandbags stuffed with straw instead. Officers up to the rank of colonel emerged from the trenches to greet their counterparts on the other side, and they, too, were photographed together. (Refusing to join the party, however, was 25-year-old Adolf Hitler, at the front with his German army unit. He thought the truce shocking and dishonorable.)
Unlike most unexpected outbreaks of peace, the anniversary of this one is being celebrated with extraordinary officially sanctioned fanfare. The British Council, funded in part by the government and invariably headed by a peer or knight, has helped distribute an “education pack” about the Truce to every primary and secondary school in the United Kingdom. It includes photos, eyewitness accounts, lesson plans, test questions, student worksheets, and vocabulary phrases in various languages, including “Meet us halfway,” “What are your trenches like?,” and “Can I take your picture?” The British post office has even issued a set of stamps commemorating the Christmas Truce.
An exhibit of documents, maps, uniforms, and other Truce-related memorabilia has been on display at city hall in Armentières, France. A commemorative youth soccer tournament with teams from Britain, Belgium, France, Austria, and Germany is taking place in Belgium this month. The local mayor and the British and German ambassadors were recently on hand for a soccer game at a newly dedicated “Flanders Peace Field.”
Volunteers from several countries will spend three days and two nights in freshly dug trenches reenacting the Truce. Professional actors, complete with period uniforms, carol-singing, and a soccer match, have already done the same in an elaborate video advertisement for a British supermarket chain. One of the judges for a children’s competition to design a Truce memorial is none other than Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.
What Won’t Be Commemorated
Given the rarity of peace celebrations of any sort, what’s made the Christmas Truce safe for royalty, mayors, and diplomats? Three things, I believe. First, this event -- remarkable, spontaneous, and genuinely moving as it was -- did not represent a challenge to the sovereignty of war. It was sanctioned by officers on the spot; it was short-lived (the full fury of shelling and machine gunning resumed within a day or two, and poison gas and flamethrowers soon added to the horror); and it was never repeated. It’s safe to celebrate because it threatened nothing. That supermarket video, for instance, advertises a commemorative chocolate bar whose sales proceeds go to the national veterans organization, the Royal British Legion.
Second, commemorating anything, even peace instead of war, is good business. Belgium alone expects two million visitors to former battle sites during the war’s four-and-a-half-year centenary period, and has now added one or two peace sites as visitor destinations. The country is putting $41 million in public funds into museums, exhibits, publicity, and other tourism infrastructure, beyond private investment in new hotel rooms, restaurants, and the like.
Finally, the Christmas Truce is tailor-made to be celebrated by professional soccer, now a huge industry. Top pro players earn $60 million or more a year. Two Spanish teams are each worth more than $3 billion. The former manager of Britain’s Manchester United team, Sir Alex Ferguson, even teaches at the Harvard Business School. Five of the world’s 10 most valuable teams, however, are in Britain, which helps account for that country’s special enthusiasm for these commemorations. The Duke of Cambridge is the official patron of the sport’s British governing body, the Football Association, the equivalent of our NFL. It has joined with the continent-wide Union of European Football Associations in promoting the Christmas Truce soccer tournament and other anniversary hoopla. That packet of material going to more than 30,000 British schools is titled “Football Remembers.”
While such sponsorship represents only a tiny percentage of the public relations budgets of these organizations, they have surely calculated that associating soccer with schoolchildren, Christmas, and a good-news historical event can’t hurt business. All industries keep a close eye on their public image, and soccer especially so at the moment, since in many parts of Europe audiences for it are declining as a barrage of other activities competes for people’s leisure time and spending.
For nearly four years, as we reach the centenary mark for one First World War milestone after another, there will be commemorations galore across Europe. But here’s one thing you can bank on: the Duke of Cambridge and other high dignitaries won’t be caught dead endorsing the anniversaries of far more subversive peace-related events to come.
For example, although soldiers from both sides on the Western Front mixed on that first Christmas of the war, the most extensive fraternization happened later in Russia. In early 1917, under the stress of catastrophic war losses, creaky, top-heavy imperial Russia finally collapsed and Tsar Nicholas II and his family were placed under house arrest. More than 300 years of rule by the Romanov dynasty was over.
The impact rippled through the Russian army. An American correspondent at the front watched through binoculars as Russian and German enlisted men met in no-man’s-land. Lack of a common language was no barrier: the Germans thrust their bayonets into the earth; the Russians blew across their open palms to show that the Tsar had been swept away. After November of that year, when the Bolsheviks -- committed to ending the war -- seized power, fraternization only increased. You can find many photographs of Russian and German soldiers posing together or even, in one case, dancing in couples in the snow. Generals on both sides were appalled.
And here are some people who won't be celebrated in “education packs” sent to schools, although they were crucial in helping bring the war to an end: deserters. An alarmed British military attaché in Russia estimated that at least a million Russian soldiers deserted their ill-fed, badly equipped army, most simply walking home to their villages. This lay behind the agreement that halted fighting on the Eastern Front long before it ended in the West.
In the final weeks of the war in the West, the German army began melting away, too. The desertions came not from the front lines but from the rear, where hundreds of thousands of soldiers either disappeared or evaded orders to go to the front. By early autumn 1918, the Berlin police chief estimated that more than 40,000 deserters were hiding in the German capital. No wonder the high command began peace negotiations.
Don’t hold your breath either waiting for official celebrations of the war’s mutinies. Nothing threatened the French army more than the most stunning of these, which broke out in the spring of 1917 following a massive attack hyped as the decisive blow that would win the war. Over several days, 30,000 French soldiers were killed and 100,000 wounded, all to gain a few meaningless miles of blood-soaked ground.
In the weeks that followed, hundreds of thousands of troops refused to advance further. One group even hijacked a train and tried to drive it to Paris, although most soldiers simply stayed in their camps or trenches and made clear that they would not take part in additional suicidal attacks. This “collective indiscipline,” as the generals euphemistically called it, was hushed up, but it paralyzed the army. French commanders dared launch no more major assaults that year. To this day, the subject remains so touchy that some archival documents on the mutinies remain closed to researchers until the 100th anniversary in 2017.
Parades for Whom?
From Bavaria to New Zealand, town squares across the world are adorned with memorials to local men “fallen” in 1914-1918, and statues and plaques honoring the war’s leading generals can be found from Edinburgh Castle to Pershing Square in Los Angeles. But virtually nothing similar celebrates those who served the cause of peace. The Polish-German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, who argued against the suppression of free speech both in the Kaiser’s Germany and in Soviet Russia, spent more than two years in a German prison for her opposition to the war. The eloquent British philosopher Bertrand Russell did six months’ time in a London jail for the same reason. The American labor leader Eugene V. Debs, imprisoned for urging resistance to the draft, was still in a federal penitentiary in Atlanta in 1920, two years after the war ended, when he received nearly a million votes as the Socialist Party candidate for president.
The French socialist Jean Jaurès spoke out passionately against the war he saw coming in 1914 and, due to this, was assassinated by a French militarist just four days before the fighting began. (The assassin was found innocent because his was labeled a “crime of passion.”) Against the opposition of their own governments, the pioneer social worker Jane Addams and other women helped organize a women’s peace conference in Holland in 1915 with delegates from both warring and neutral countries. And in every nation that took part in that terrible war, young men of military age -- thousands of them -- either went to jail or were shot for refusing to fight.
Jump half a century forward, and you’ll see exactly the same pattern of remembrance. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the first official U.S. combat troops in Vietnam, and already a duel is shaping up between the thankers and those who want to honor the antiwar movement that helped end that senseless tragedy.
The Pentagon has already launched a $15 million official commemorative program whose purpose (does this sound familiar?) is “to thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War... for their service and sacrifice.” Meanwhile, more than 1,000 people, many of us veterans of the U.S. military, the anti-war movement, or both, have signed a petition insisting that “no commemoration of the war in Vietnam can exclude the many thousands of veterans who opposed it, as well as the draft refusals of many thousands of young Americans, some at the cost of imprisonment or exile.”
A recent New York Times article covered the controversy. It mentioned that the Pentagon had been forced to make changes at its commemoration website after Nick Turse, writing at TomDispatch.com, pointed out, among other things, how grossly that site understated civilian deaths in the notorious My Lai massacre.
Perhaps when the next anniversary of the Iraq War comes around, it’s time to break with a tradition that makes ever less sense in our world. Next time, why not have parades to celebrate those who tried to prevent that grim, still ongoing conflict from starting? Of course, there’s an even better way to honor and thank veterans of the struggle for peace: don’t start more wars.
Adam Hochschild’s most recent book, To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918, won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. During the Vietnam era, he was a U.S. Army Reservist and a founder of the Reservists Committee to Stop the War.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.
Copyright 2014 Adam Hochschild