This Wednesday is a day of action that some are calling a national day of action against police brutality, with others adding "and mass incarceration," and I'd like to add "and war" and make it global rather than national. This Tuesday, the Governor of Pennsylvania is expected to sign a bill that will silence prisoners' speech, and people are pushing back. A movement is coalescing around reforming police procedures and taking away their military weapons. And a powerful book has just been published called Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence.
Saving Trayvon Martin would have required systemic reforms or cultural reforms beyond putting cameras on police officers. This young man walking back from a store with candy was spotted by an armed man in an SUV who got out of his vehicle to pursue Trayvon despite having been told not to when he called the police. George Zimmerman was not a police officer, though he wanted to be one. He'd lost a job as a security guard for being too aggressive. He'd been arrested for battery on a police officer. He had left Manassas, Va., and its climate of hatred for Latinos in which he participated, for Florida, where he was a one-man volunteer neighborhood watch group in a gated neighborhood. He'd phoned the police on 46 previous occasions. He apparently expressed his contempt for Trayvon Martin in racist terms. When the police arrived, they let Zimmerman ride in the front seat (no handcuffs, of course) and never tested him for drugs, testing instead the dead black boy he'd murdered. When public outrage finally put Zimmerman on trial, his defense displayed a photo of a white woman living in the neighborhood who had nothing to do with the incident but who was used to represent what Zimmerman had been "defending." He was found innocent.
Killing Trayvons is a rich anthology, including police records, trial transcripts, statements by President Obama, accounts of numerous similar cases, essays, poetry, and history and analysis of how we got here . . . and how we might get the hell out of here.
Recently I was playing a game with my little boy that must have looked to any observer like I was secretly spying on people. I found myself thinking that it was a good thing I wasn't black or I'd risk someone reporting me to the police, and I'd find myself struggling to explain the situation to them rather than yelling at them, and they wouldn't listen. "What do I tell my son," wrote Talib Kweli, "He's 5 years old and he's still thinking cops are cool / How do I break the news that when he gets some size / He'll be perceived as a threat and see the fear in their eyes." I remember a character of James Baldwin's explaining to a younger brother on the streets of New York that when walking in the rich part of town you must always keep your hands in your pockets so as not to be accused of touching a white woman. But a set of rules devised by Etan Thomas in Killing Trayvons includes: "Keep your hands visible. Avoid putting them in your pockets." Opposite advice, same injustice. I can recall how offended I was when, as a young white man, I became old enough for a strange woman in a deserted place to hurry away from me in panic. Maybe if I'd been black someone would have prepared me for that. Maybe I'd have experienced it a lot earlier. Maybe I'd have experienced it as racist. Maybe it would have been. But would I have come around to the conclusion, as I have, that there's nothing I have a right to be indignant about, that people's fear -- wherever it comes from -- is more important to reduce than other people's annoyance?
But what about fear that leads to murder? What about white fear of black violence that leads to the killing of so many African Americans -- and many of them women, suggesting that fear isn't all there is to it? Police and security guards kill hundreds of African Americans each year, most of them unarmed. In most cases, the killers claim to have felt threatened. In most cases they escape any accountability. Clearly this is a case of fear to be doubted and treated with appropriate skepticism, fear to be understood and sympathized with where real, but fear never to be respected as reasonable or justified.
We need a combination of addressing the fear through enlightenment and impeding the violence with application of the rule of law in a manner that does not treat murdering black kids as what any reasonable person would do. We need to rein in and hold accountable individuals and institutions -- groups like the NRA and ALEC that push racist policies on us. Police and neighbors should not see a black boy as an intruder in his own house when his foster parents are white. They also shouldn't spray chemical weapons in someone's face before asking him questions.
The editors of Killing Trayvons, Kevin Alexander Gray, Jeffrey St. Clair, and JoAnn Wypijewski put killing in context. What if Trayvon actually got into a fight with his stalker superhero? Would that have been a good reason to kill him? "It takes a jacked-up disdain for proportionality to conclude the execution is a reasonable response to a fistfight. And yet . . . high or low, power teaches such disdain every day. Lose two towers; destroy two countries. Lose three Israelis; kill a couple thousand Palestinians. Sell some dope; three strikes, you're out. Sell a loosey; choke, you're dead. Reach for your wallet; bang, you're dead. Got a beef; bang, you're dead."
This is exactly the problem. High and low includes supreme courts that kill black men like Troy Davis, and presidents who kill dark-skinned Muslim foreigners (some of them U.S. citizens) with drones, leading Vijay Prashad to call Zimmerman a domestic drone and Cornel West to call President Obama a global Zimmerman. Two bizarre varieties of murder have been legalized at the same time in the United States. One is Stand-Your-Ground killing justified by fear and applied on a consistently racist basis. The other is drone missile killing justified by fear and applied on a consistently racist basis. Both types of murder are much more obviously murder than other instances that have not been given blanket legalization.
Stand-your-ground murders are facilitated by racism; and racist propaganda that blames the victims protects the killers after the fact. Drone murders are driven by profit, politics, power lust, and racism; and the guilt of President Obama is sheltered by the prevalence of racist hatred for him -- which comes from generally the same group of people who support stand-your-ground laws. (How can Obama be guilty of any wrong in overseeing a global kill list, when racists hate him?) Millions of Americans think of themselves as above the ignorant whites who fear every black person they see, and yet have swallowed such a fear of ISIS that even giving ISIS a war it wants and benefits from seems justified. After all, ISIS is barbaric. If it were civilized, ISIS wouldn't behead people; it would have its hostages commit suicide while handcuffed in the backseat of police cars.
By Dr. Hakim
Imal, a 7 year old Afghan student in the 2nd grade, came to visit us in Kabul.
As Imal grew up, he kept asking his mother where his father was. His mother finally told Imal that his father had been killed by a drone when he was still a baby.
If you could see Imal in this video, you would want to hug Imal immediately.
If Imal were a white American kid, this tragedy would not have befallen his father. Which American would allow any U.S. citizen to be killed by a foreign drone?
Suppose the UK wanted to hunt ‘terrorists’ in the U.S., with their drones, and every Tuesday, David Cameron signed a ‘secret kill list’ like Obama does. Drones operated from Waddington Base in the UK fly over U.S. skies to drop bombs on their targets, and the bombs leave a 7 year old American kid, say, John, fatherless.
John’s father is killed, shattered to charred pieces by a bomb, dropped by a drone, operated by a human, under orders from the Prime Minister /Commander-in-Chief.
“John, we’re sorry that your father happened to be near our ‘terrorist’ target.’ He was collateral damage. It was ‘worth it’ for the sake of UK national security.”
Unfortunately, no U.S. official or military personnel had met with Imal’s widowed mother to apologize.
Raz, Imal’s uncle who brought him to visit us, asked his young nephew, “Will you bring me some marbles to play with?”
Imal was friendly, like any other 7 year old kid. “Yes!” His voice was a trusting one, eager to be a good friend and playmate.
“Do you also play with walnuts? Tell us how you play with walnuts,” Raz requests.
“We put them in a line, and flick a walnut to hit other walnuts, like playing with marbles,” Imal explains diligently, like he was telling a story we should all be interested in.
“Besides beans, what other food do you like?”
“I also like….potatoes...and meat……and….rice!” All of us were smiling with the familiar love of Afghan oiled ‘palao’ or ‘Qabuli’ rice.”
Imal knew what my laptop was. He said, “We can look at photos & watch films…”
But, then, it seemed that he took on the understanding of an older person when his voice became serious
”My father was killed by a computer.”
I wanted to tell Imal that nowadays, it takes children and young people like Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai to tell us adults the plain facts.
When Malala was 16 years old and met with the Obamas at the White House, Malala had told Obama that drones were fuelling terrorism.
Do we get it? Drones are employed in the ‘war against terrorism’, but instead, drones fuel terrorism.
How many drone attacks are there in Afghanistan every month, and how many women, children and young men like Imal’s father are killed?
We don’t know. It’s not a transparent strategy.
We would all want to know everything about the possible effects of a drone strategy on our children, especially if our country was the most drone-bombed country in the world, like Afghanistan is.
A Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s ‘Naming the Dead’ report says that fewer than 4% of the people killed by drone attacks in Pakistan have been identified by available records as named members of Al Qaeda. If this is true for drone attack victims in Afghanistan too, then 96% of drone victims in Afghanistan have been innocent civilians like Imal’s father.
In another Bureau of Investigative Journalism report, ‘Tracking drone strikes in Afghanistan’, (July, 2014),the Bureau states that “nobody systematically publishes insurgent and civilian deaths from drones on a strike-by-strike basis. Neither the US nor UK authorities publishes data on the casualties of their drone operations.”
So, we are unable to find out for Imal’s mother if it was a U.S./UK drone that killed her husband, and who the drone operator was.
If Imal were John, could he or his mother sue David Cameron? Stop the drone? Stop the human drone operator? Disable the computer?
We gave Imal a Borderfree blue scarf, and thanked him for coming.
His eyes were bright and cheerful, taking in the photos on the wall, including a poster of Gandhi and Badshah Khan. Badshah Khan was a Pashtun like Imal, and has been called the Frontier Gandhi for his lifelong struggle for nonviolence.
I have been thinking hard about Imal, about whether anyone would hear him, when few among the elites who declare wars and order drone strikes seem to have heard the now famous Malala, not even President Obama.
“I wish to tell the world, ‘We don’t want war. Don’t fight!’”
Imal with poster of Badshah Khan
Dr Hakim is a medical doctor from Singapore who has done humanitarian and social enterprise work in Afghanistan for the past 9 years, including being a friend and mentor to the Afghan Peace Volunteers, an inter-ethnic group of young Afghans dedicated to building non-violent alternatives to war. He is the 2012 recipient of the International Pfeffer Peace Prize.
By Linn Washington Jr.
(Part I of II)
Obscured by a current scandal involving pornographic emails currently rocking the top reaches of Pennsylvania’s state government, a scandal that has cast a shadow over embattled Pennsylvania Governor and former state's attorney general Tom Corbett and the state’s judiciary, including a state Supreme Court member, is another explosive scandal.
“Stop Killing Us” Say Strong Youth Leaders in Ferguson, Missouri’s Weekend of Resistance to Police Brutality
Shadow Report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture on the Review of the Periodic Report of the United States of America
Advocates for U.S. Torture Prosecutions
Dr. Trudy Bond, Prof. Benjamin Davis, Dr. Curtis F. J. Doebbler, and The International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School
Since the United States last reported to the Committee Against Torture in 2006, even more evidence has emerged confirming that civilian and military officials at the highest level created, designed, authorized, and implemented a sophisticated, international criminal program of torture. In August 2014, President Barack Obama conceded that the United States tortured people as part of its so-called “War on Terror,” yet the United States continues to shield senior officials from liability for these crimes, in violation of its obligations under the Convention Against Torture.
OPEN AS PDF.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
First off, I want to congratulate Naomi Klein on her inspiring book. This Changes Everything has helped her readers better understand the germination of a broad based, multi-dimensional climate movement from the ground up and its potential to galvanize and revitalize the Left. Also, she’s shown the courage to name the source of the problem—capitalism—when so many activists shrink from mentioning the “c” word. In addition, her focus on the fossil fuel industry as the strategic target of the movement clearly highlights the importance of isolating one of the most malignant sectors of industrial capitalism.
But despite her insightful and inspirational treatment of the climate movement’s potential to change everything, I believe Klein over-states her case and overlooks crucial features of the dangerously dysfunctional system we’re up against. By putting climate change on a pedestal, she limits our understanding of how to break capitalism’s death grip over our lives and our future.
For instance, Klein ignores the deep connection between climate chaos, militarism, and war. While she spends an entire chapter explaining why Virgin Airlines owner, Richard Branson, and other Green billionaires won’t save us, she devotes three meager sentences to the most violent, wasteful, petroleum-burning institution on Earth—the US military. Klein shares this blind spot with the United Nations’ official climate forum. The UNFCCC excludes most of the military sector’s fuel consumption and emissions from national greenhouse gas inventories. This exemption was the product of intense lobbying by the United States during the Kyoto negotiations in the mid-1990s. Ever since, the military establishment’s carbon “bootprint” has been officially ignored. Klein’s book lost an important opportunity to expose this insidious cover-up.
The Pentagon is not only the largest institutional burner of fossil fuels on the planet; it is also the top arms exporter and military spender. America’s global military empire guards Big Oil’s refineries, pipelines, and supertankers. It props up the most reactionary petro-tyrannies; devours enormous quantities of oil to fuel its war machine; and spews more dangerous toxins into the environment than any corporate polluter. The military, weapons producers, and the petroleum industry have a long history of corrupt collaboration. This odious relationship stands out in bold relief in the Middle East where Washington arms the region’s repressive regimes with the latest weaponry and imposes a phalanx of bases where American soldiers, mercenaries, and drones are deployed to guard the pumps, refineries, and supply lines of Exxon-Mobil, BP, and Chevron.
The petro-military complex is the most costly, destructive, anti-democratic sector of the corporate state. It wields tremendous power over Washington and both political parties. Any movement to counteract climate chaos, transform our energy future, and strengthen grassroots democracy cannot ignore America’s petro-empire. Yet oddly enough when Klein looks for ways to finance the transition to a renewable energy infrastructure in the US, the bloated military budget is not considered.
The Pentagon itself openly recognizes the connection between climate change and war. In June, a US Military Advisory Board’s report on National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change warned that “…the projected impacts of climate change will be more than threat multipliers; they will serve as catalysts for instability and conflict.” In response, the Pentagon is gearing up to fight “climate wars” over resources threatened by atmospheric disruption, like fresh water, arable land, and food.
Even though Klein overlooks the connection between militarism and climate change and ignores the peace movement as an essential ally, the peace movement isn’t ignoring climate change. Anti-war groups like Veterans for Peace, War Is A Crime, and the War Resisters League have made the connection between militarism and climate disruption a focus of their work. The climate crisis was a pressing concern of hundreds of peace activists from around the world who gathered in Capetown, South Africa in July 2014. Their conference, organized by War Resisters International, addressed non-violent activism, the impact of climate change, and the rise of militarism around the world.
Klein says she thinks climate change has a unique galvanizing potential because it presents humanity with an “existential crisis.” She sets out to show how it can change everything by weaving “all of these seemingly disparate issues into a coherent narrative about how to protect humanity from the ravages of a savagely unjust economic system and a destabilized climate system.” But then her narrative ignores militarism almost entirely. This gives me pause. Can any progressive movement protect the planet without connecting the dots between climate chaos and war or confronting this petro-military empire head on? If the US and other governments go to war over the planet’s shrinking reserves of energy and other resources, should we keep our focus locked on climate change, or should resisting resource wars become our most immediate concern?
Another important blind spot in Klein’s book is the issue of “peak oil.” This is the point when the rate of petroleum extraction has maxed out and begins to terminally decline. By now it’s become widely accepted that global CONVENTIONAL oil production peaked around 2005. Many believe this produced the high oil prices that triggered the 2008 recession and instigated the latest drive to extract expensive, dirty unconventional shale oil and tar sands once the price point finally made them profitable.
Although some of this extraction is a heavily subsidized, financially speculative bubble that may soon prove over-inflated, the temporary influx of unconventional hydrocarbons has given the economy a brief respite from recession. However, conventional oil production is predicted to drop by over 50 percent in the next two decades while unconventional sources are unlikely to replace any more than 6 percent. So the global economic breakdown may soon return with a vengeance.
The peak oil predicament raises important movement-building issues for climate activists and all progressives. Klein may have avoided this issue because some folks in the peak oil crowd downplay the need for a powerful climate movement. Not that they think climate disruption isn’t a serious problem, but because they believe we are nearing a global industrial collapse brought on by a sharp reduction in the net hydrocarbons available for economic growth. In their estimation, global fossil fuel supplies will drop dramatically relative to rising demand because society will require ever-increasing amounts of energy just to find and extract the remaining dirty, unconventional hydrocarbons.
Thus, even though there may still be enormous amounts of fossil energy underground, society will have to devote ever-greater portions of energy and capital just to get at it, leaving less and less for everything else. Peak oil theorists think this energy and capital drain will devastate the rest of the economy. They believe this looming breakdown may do far more to cut carbon emissions than any political movement. Are they right? Who knows? But even if they’re wrong about total collapse, peak hydrocarbons are bound to trigger escalating recessions and accompanying drops in carbon emissions. What will this mean for the climate movement and its galvanizing impact on the Left?
Klein herself acknowledges that, so far, the biggest reductions in GHG emissions have come from economic recessions, not political action. But she avoids the deeper question this raises: if capitalism lacks the abundant, cheap energy needed to sustain growth, how will the climate movement respond when stagnation, recession, and depression become the new normal and carbon emissions begin falling as a result?
Klein sees capitalism as a relentless growth machine wreaking havoc with the planet. But capitalism’s prime directive is profit, not growth. If growth turns to contraction and collapse, capitalism won’t evaporate. Capitalist elites will extract profits from hoarding, corruption, crisis, and conflict. In a growth-less economy, the profit motive can have a devastating catabolic impact on society. The word “catabolism” comes from the Greek and is used in biology to refer to the condition whereby a living thing feeds on itself. Catabolic capitalism is a self-cannibalizing economic system. Unless we free ourselves from its grip, catabolic capitalism becomes our future.
Capitalism’s catabolic implosion raises important predicaments that climate activists and the Left must consider. Instead of relentless growth, what if the future becomes a series of energy-induced economic breakdowns–a bumpy, uneven, stair-step tumble off the peak oil plateau? How will a climate movement respond if credit freezes, financial assets vaporize, currency values fluctuate wildly, trade shuts down, and governments impose draconian measures to maintain their authority? If Americans can’t find food in the supermarkets, money in the ATMs, gas in the pumps, and electricity in the power lines, will climate be their central concern?
Global economic seizures and contractions would radically reduce hydrocarbon use, causing energy prices to tumble temporarily. In the midst of deep recession and dramatic reductions in carbon emissions would climate chaos remain a central public concern and a galvanizing issue for the Left? If not, how would a progressive movement centered on climate change maintain its momentum? Will the public be receptive to calls for curbing carbon emissions to save the climate if burning cheaper hydrocarbons seems like the fastest way to kick start growth, no matter how temporary?
Under this likely scenario, the climate movement could collapse faster than the economy. A depression-induced reduction in GHGs would be a great thing for the climate, but it would suck for the climate movement because people will see little reason to concern themselves with cutting carbon emissions. In the midst of depression and falling carbon emissions, people and governments will be far more worried about economic recovery. Under these conditions, the movement will only survive if it transfers its focus from climate change to building a stable, sustainable recovery free from addiction to vanishing reserves of fossil fuels.
If green community organizers and social movements initiate nonprofit forms of socially responsible banking, production, and exchange that help people survive systemic breakdowns, they will earn valuable public approval and respect. If they help organize community farms, kitchens, health clinics and neighborhood security, they will gain further cooperation and support. And if they can rally people to protect their savings and pensions and prevent foreclosures, evictions, layoffs, and workplace shutdowns, then popular resistance to catabolic capitalism will grow dramatically. To nurture the transition toward a thriving, just, ecologically stable society, all of these struggles must be interwoven and infused with an inspirational vision of how much better life could be if we freed ourselves from this dysfunctional, profit-obsessed, petroleum-addicted system once and for all.
The lesson that Naomi Klein overlooks seems clear. Climate chaos is just one DEVASTATING symptom of our dysfunctional society. To survive catabolic capitalism and germinate an alternative, movement activists will have to anticipate and help people respond to multiple crises while organizing them to recognize and root out their source. If the movement lacks the foresight to anticipate these cascading calamities and change its focus when needed, we will have squandered a vital lesson from Klein’s previous book, The Shock Doctrine. Unless the Left is capable of envisioning and advancing a better alternative, the power elite will use each new crisis to ram through their agenda of “drilling and killing” while society is reeling and traumatized. If the Left cannot build a movement strong enough and flexible enough to resist the ecological, economic, and military emergencies of declining industrial civilization and begin generating hopeful alternatives it will quickly lose momentum to those who profit from disaster.
Craig Collins Ph.D. is the author of “Toxic Loopholes” (Cambridge University Press), which examines America’s dysfunctional system of environmental protection. He teaches political science and environmental law at California State University East Bay and was a founding member of the Green Party of California.
 According to rankings in the 2006 CIA World Factbook, only 35 countries (out of 210 in the world) consume more oil per day than the Pentagon. In 2003, as the military prepared for the Iraq invasion, the Army estimated it would consume more gasoline in only three weeks than the Allied Forces used during the entirety of World War II. “Connecting Militarism and Climate Change” Peace & Justice Studies Association https://www.peacejusticestudies.org/blog/peace-justice-studies-association/2011/02/connecting-militarism-climate-change/0048
 While the military’s domestic fuel use is reported, international marine and aviation bunker fuels used on naval vessels and fighter aircraft outside national borders are not included in a country’s carbon emissions total. Lorincz, Tamara. “Demilitarization for Deep Decarbonization,” Popular Resistance (Sept. 2014) http://www.popularresistance.org/report-stop-ignoring-wars-militarization-impact-on-climate-change/
 There is no mention of the military sector’s emissions in the latest IPCC assessment report on climate change to the United Nations.
 At $640 billion, it accounts for about 37 percent of the world total.
 The U.S. Department of Defense is the largest polluter in the world, producing more hazardous waste than the five largest American chemical companies combined.
 The National Priorities Project’s 2008 report, titled The Military Cost of Securing Energy, found that nearly one-third of US military spending goes toward securing energy supplies around the world.
 On page 114, Klein devotes one sentence to the possibility of shaving 25 percent off the military budgets of the top 10 spenders as a source of revenue to confront climate calamities—not to finance renewables. She fails to mention that the US alone spends as much as all those other nations combined. So an equal 25 percent cut hardly seems fair.
 Klare, Michael. The Race for What’s Left. (Metropolitan Books, 2012).
 Biello, David. “Has Petroleum Production Peaked, Ending the Era of Easy Oil?” Scientific American. Jan. 25, 2012. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/has-peak-oil-already-happened/
 Whipple, Tom. Peak Oil & the Great Recession. Post Carbon Institute. http://www.postcarbon.org/publications/peak-oil-and-the-great-recession/
and Drum, Kevin. “Peak Oil and the Great Recession,” Mother Jones. Oct. 19, 2011. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/10/peak-oil-and-great-recession
 Rhodes, Chris. “Peak Oil Is Not A Myth,” Chemistry World. Feb. 20, 2014. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/10/peak-oil-and-great-recession
By Kathy Kelly
On August 9, 1983, three people dressed as U.S. soldiers saluted their way onto a U.S. military base and climbed a pine tree. The base contained a school training elite Salvadoran and other foreign troops to serve dictatorships back home, with a record of nightmarish brutality following graduation. That night, once the base's lights went out, the students of this school heard, coming down from on high, the voice of Archbishop Oscar Romero.
"I want to make a special appeal to soldiers, national guardsmen, and policemen: each of you is one of us. The peasants you kill are your own brothers and sisters. When you hear a man telling you to kill, remember God's words, 'thou shalt not kill.' No soldier is obliged to obey a law contrary to the law of God. In the name of God, in the name of our tormented people, I beseech you, I implore you; in the name of God I command you to stop the repression."
The three in the tree with the loudspeaker weren't soldiers – two of them were priests. The recording they played was of Archbishop Romero's final homily, delivered a day before his assassination, just three years previous, at the hands of paramilitary soldiers, two of whom had been trained at this school.
Fr. Larry Rosebaugh, (who was killed in Guatemala on May 18, 2009), Linda Ventimiglia, and Fr. Roy Bourgeois, (a former missioner expelled from Bolivia who was later excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church because of his support for women’s ordination) were sentenced to 15 -18 months in prison for the stirring drama they created on the base that night. Romero's words were heard loud and clear, and even after military police arrived at the base of the tree and stopped the broadcast, Roy Bourgeois, who would later found a movement to close the school, continued shouting Romero's appeal as loudly as he could until he was shoved to the ground, stripped, and arrested.
As we approach the nightmare of renewed, expanded U.S. war in Iraq, I think of Archbishop Romero’s words and example. Romero aligned himself, steadily, with the most impoverished people in El Salvador, learning about their plight by listening to them every weekend in the program he hosted on Salvadoran radio. With ringing clarity, he spoke out on their behalf, and he jeopardized his life challenging the elites, the military and the paramilitaries in El Salvador.
I believe we should try very hard to hear the grievances of people in Iraq and the region, including those who have joined the Islamic State, regarding U.S. policies and wars that have radically affected their lives and well-being over the past three decades. It could be that many of the Iraqis who are fighting with Islamic State forces lived through Saddam Hussein’s oppression when he received enthusiastic support from the U.S. during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Many may be survivors of the U.S. Desert Storm bombing in 1991, which destroyed every electrical facility across Iraq. When the U.S. insisted on imposing crushing and murderous economic sanctions on Iraq for the next 13 years, these sanctions directly contributed to the deaths of a half million children under age five. The children who died should have been teenagers now; are some of the Islamic State fighters the brothers or cousins of the children who were punished to death by economic sanctions? Presumably many of these fighters lived through the U.S.-led 2003 Shock and Awe invasion and bombing of Iraq and the chaos the U.S. chose to create afterwards by using a war-shattered country as some sort of free market experiment; they’ve endured the repressive corruption of the regime the U.S. helped install in Saddam’s place.
The United Nations should take over the response to the Islamic State, and people should continue to pressure the U.S. and its allies to leave the response not merely to the U.N. but to its most democratic constituent body, the General Assembly.
But facing the bloody mess that has developed in Iraq and Syria, I think Archbishop Romero’s exhortation to the Salvadoran soldiers pertains directly to U.S. people. Suppose these words were slightly rewritten: I want to make a special appeal to the people of the United States. Each of you is one of us. The peoples you kill are your own brothers and sisters. When you hear a person telling you to kill, remember God's words, 'thou shalt not kill.' No soldier is obliged to obey a law contrary to the law of God. In the name of God, in the name of our tormented people, I beseech you, I implore you …I command you to stop the repression.
The war on the Islamic State will distract us from what the U.S. has done and is doing to create further despair, in Iraq, and to enlist new recruits for the Islamic State. The Islamic State is the echo of the last war the U.S. waged in Iraq, the so-called “Shock and Awe” bombing and invasion. The emergency is not the Islamic State but war.
We in the U.S. must give up our notions of exceptionalism; recognize the economic and societal misery our country caused in Iraq; recognize that we are a perpetually war-crazed nation; seek to make reparations; and find dramatic, clear ways to insist that Romero’s words be heard: Stop the killing.
This article first appeared on Telesur English.
Tom Engelhardt keeps churning out great books by collecting his posts from TomDispatch.com. His latest book, Shadow Government, is essential reading. Of the ten essays included, eight are on basically the same topic, resulting in some repetition and even some contradiction. But when things that need repeating are repeated this well, one mostly wants other people to read them -- or perhaps to have them involuntarily spoken aloud by everybody's iPhones.
We live in an age in which the most important facts are not seriously disputed and also not seriously known or responded to.
The United States' biggest public program of the past 75 years, now outstripping the rest of the world combined, is war preparations. The routine "base" military spending, not counting spending on particular wars, is at least 10 times the war spending, or enough to totally transform the world for the better. Instead it's used to kill huge numbers of people, to make the United States less safe, and to prepare for wars that are -- without exception -- lost disastrously. Since the justification of the Soviet Union vanished, U.S. militarism has only increased. Its enemies are small, yet it does its best to enlarge them. U.S. Special Operations forces are actively, if "secretly," engaged in war or war preparations in over two-thirds of the nations on earth. U.S. troops are openly stationed in 90 percent of the nations on earth, and 100 percent of the oceans. A majority of the people in most nations on earth consider the United States the greatest threat to world peace.
The U.S. military has brought death, terror, destruction, and lasting damage to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya -- and spilling out of Libya into Mali, sparked a Sunni-Shiite civil war in Iraq that has spread to Syria, rendered Pakistan and Yemen more violent and insecure with drone strikes, and fueled violence in Somalia that has spilled across borders.
These facts are well-established, yet virtually incomprehensible to a typical U.S. news consumer. So, if they can be repeated brilliantly and convincingly, I say: the more times the better.
We're rendering the earth uninhabitable, and the October 27, 2014, issue of Time magazine includes a section headlined "Why the Price of Oil Is Falling -- And What It Means for the World." In reality, of course, it means devastation for the world. In Time it means a happy American oil boom, more sales for Saudi Arabia, and a good reason for Russia to rein in its military. Yes, the same Russia that spends 7% of what the United States does on its military. To get a sense of how Russia could rein in that military, here is a video of a Pentagon official claiming that Russia has physically moved closer to NATO (and put little green men into Ukraine).
Years ago I wrote an article for TomDispatch called "Bush's Third Term." Now of course we're into Bush's fourth term, or Clinton's sixth. The point is that presidential power abuses and war-making expand when a president gets away with them, not when a particular party or individual wins an election. Engelhardt explains how Dick Cheney's 1 percent doctrine (justifying war when anything that has a 1% chance of being a danger) has now become a zero percent doctrine (no justification is needed). Along with war today comes secrecy, which encompasses complete removal of your privacy, but also -- Engelhardt notes -- the abandonment of actual secrecy for "covert" operations that the government wants to have known but not to have held to any legal standard.
The White House went to the New York Times prior to President Obama's reelection and promoted the story that Obama personally goes through a list of men, women, and children on Tuesdays and carefully picks which ones to have murdered. There's no evidence that this hurt Obama's reelection.
The Bush White House went to the New York Times and censored until after Bush's reelection, the story that the government was massively and illegally spying on Americans. The Obama White House has pursued a vendetta against whistleblower Edward Snowden for making public the global extent of the spying. While Engelhardt tells this story with the usual suggestion that Snowden let us in on a big secret, I always assumed the U.S. government was doing what people now know it is. Engelhardt points out that these revelations have moved European and Latin American governments against the U.S. and put the fear of major financial losses into Silicon Valley companies known to be involved in the spying.
Engelhardt writes that with the NSA and gang having eliminated our privacy, we can now eliminate theirs by publicizing leaked information. At the same time, Engelhardt writes that dozens of Snowdens would be needed for us to begin to find out what the U.S. war machine is doing. Perhaps the point is that the dozens of Snowdens are inevitable. I hope so, although Engelhardt explicitly says that the shadow government is an "irreversible way of life." I certainly hope not, or what's the point of opposing it?
Engelhardt notes that the U.S. government has turned against massive ground wars, but not against wars, so that we will be entering an era of "tiny wars." But the tiny wars may kill in significant numbers compared with wars of centuries gone by, and may spark wars by others that rage on indefinitely. Or, I would add, we might choose to stop every war as we stopped the Syrian missile crisis of 2013.
Engelhardt pinpoints a moment when a turning point almost came. On July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter proposed a massive investment in renewable energy. The media denounced his speech as "the malaise speech." "In the end, the president's energy proposals were essentially laughed out of the room and ignored for decades." Six months later, on January 23, 1980, Carter announced that "an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force." The media took this speech quite seriously and respectfully, labeling it the Carter Doctrine. We've been having increasing trouble with people whose sand lies over our oil ever since.
Confronting 13 Years of Permanent War
This month of October presents us with 13 years of permanent war for profit or, as the warmongers call it, the “war against terror”. This “operation” is killing and maiming millions of people especially in the oil rich Middle East. Simultaneously these Juggernaut nations “of the willing” are choking Mother Earth to death—polluting the air we breathe, the water we drink, the soil that spawns our food, and eradicating millions of species.
Most people are clearly aware that the main cause of climate change, which is destroying the planet, is human motivated. And many are acting against this. But most environmental organizations and activists ignore the wars that kill people while they pollute the planet.
People in the east and south are usually the major victims of the wars started or backed by the west, and they want no part of this violence. Most people in the west, however, are not upset enough about this warring to act against it, although when asked most acknowledge that they wish for peace. A minority in the warring countries does speak out and a few act against this permanent state of war.
The Danish Peace Watch (Fredsvagten) is made of such moral fiber. For thirteen years since October 19, 2011, these few dedicated pacifists have stood before the castle of war (Christiansborg) decrying that War is Terror. They took up their peace torch on the day that the Danish government bowed before its self-appointed superior in Washington and sent a corvette warship to assist US and UK bombing of Afghanistan.
(George Bush had ordered the Taleban government to extradite Osmana bin Laden/Al Qaeda for being behind the 9/11 terror attacks. Taleban asked the US for evidence of guilt. The US refused, and bombed the government out of office. The US then set CIA agent Hamid Karzai in as president under US scrutiny.)
We need more peace watchers. And we need to unite the movements against war and against environmental death. They are naturally joined given that the main cause of these miseries is the same: PROFIT and POWER GREED; and the consequences are the same: DEATH to humans and any and all other species.
Listen to what Bolivian President Evo Morales says about the causes in his “10 Commandments to Save the Planet, Humankind and Life”:
“There is no worse aggression against Mother Earth and her children than war. War destroys life. Nothing and nobody can escape war. Those who fight suffer as much as those who remain without food just to feed the war. Land and biodiversity suffer. Thus, the environment will never be the same after a war. Wars are the greatest waste of life and natural resources.”
In President Morales’ writing of 2008 he cites a study made by Oil Change International, written by Nikki Reisch and Steve Kretzmann. This study focuses on the damage to Iraq in the first five years of war (2003-08).
“1) Projected total US spending on the Iraq war could cover all of the global investments in renewable power generation that are needed between now and 2030 in order to halt current warming trends.
2) The war is responsible for at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) since March 2003. To put this in perspective:
• CO2 released by the war to date equals the emissions from putting 25 million more cars on the road in the US this year.
• If the war was ranked as a country in terms of emissions, it would emit more CO2 each year than 139 of the world’s nations do annually.
Military emissions abroad are not captured in the national greenhouse gas inventories that all industrialized nations, including the United States, [should] report under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It’s a loophole big enough to drive a tank through.”
The CIA reported in its 2006 Factbook that only 35 countries consume more oil per day than does the Pentagon. The US war machine destroyed millions of lives in its war against Southeast Asia and ruined forever 14% of Vietnam’s land. Today the US has 6,000 military facilities inside the country, and over 800 bases in 150 countries with a total of 1.4 million military personnel, plus tens of thousands of highly paid civilian mercenaries.
President Morales knows what the main cause of the wars against humanity and the planet is. His first commandment is, “To end with capitalism”. “We know that in order to cure Mother Earth it is necessary to be conscientious that this disease has a name: the global capitalist system.
“It is not sufficient, not fair, to say that the climate change is just the result of the activity of human beings on the planet. It is necessary to say that it is a system, a way of thinking and feeling, a way of producing wealth and poverty, a pattern of ‘development’ that is taking us to the edge of an abyss. It is the logic of the capitalist system that is destroying the planet…the endless logic of consumption, of using war as an instrument to obtain markets and appropriate markets and natural resources…there are no objects sacred or worthy of respect.”
Evo speaks simply, clearly. If we wish to stop the destruction of humankind, of all life and the planet we must put an end to the “culture of trash and death” and create the “culture of life and peace”—so that all can live well and not so that a few can live materially better than others.
The warmongers of the Wall Streets and their parliaments tell us there is not enough money for a decent social network system, for adequate health care and education. They tell us we must cut back. Yet there is plenty of money for their wars, and plenty of profits for the rich. Profits soar in the US, in Denmark and most western countries in this period of Permanent War.
Under Obama’s regime corporate profits after taxes has grown 171%, more than under any other presidency since World War 11. Profits are twice as high as their peak under the supra neo-liberal Reagan regime.
The numbers of billionaires increased to 2,325 this year, 155 more than in 2013. US has the most with 153 while little banana republic Denmark doubled its 2013 number to 11 this year.
The military-industrial complex garners extraordinary rates of profit.
According to a study by financial advisory firm Morgan Stanley, shares in the major US arms manufacturers have risen 27,699% over the past fifty years versus 6,777% for the broader market. In the past three years alone, arms corporation Lockheed Martin has returned 149% to their investors, Raytheon 124% and Grumman 114%.
About one-third of the more than 1000 organizations involved in the climate actions around the world last September 21 agreed to a declaration on the causes and solutions to our crises. Among the better known groups are: La Via Campesina, ATTAC (France), and Global Justice Alliance (US). The essence of this statement was inspired, in part, by the people’s world conference on climate held in April, 2010, in Bolivia. It was called by President Evo Morales following the COP 15 disaster in Copenhagen the previous December. 35,000 persons came from 100+ countries.
Here are extracts:
“Climate change is the result of an unjust economic system and to deal with the crisis, we must address the root causes and change the system. There will be no going back from the climate chaos if we do not fight for real solutions and do nothing to confront and challenge the inaction of our governments’ policy-making being hijacked by polluting corporations. It is crucial for us to unify and strengthen our economic, social and environmental struggles and focus our energies on changing the capitalist system.”
I emphasize three of their 10-point action program:
1. Stimulate the transition from industrialized, export-oriented agriculture for the global supermarket to community-based production to meet local food needs based on food sovereignty.
2. Develop new sectors of the economy designed to create new jobs that restore the balance and equilibrium of the Earth system such as climate jobs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and Earth restoration jobs.
3. Dismantle the war industry and military infrastructure in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by warfare, and divert war budgets to promote genuine peace.
I believe our most important task today is namely that which these environmental groups and President Morales indicate: we must unite our movements and fight with one strong fist.
Ron Ridenour can be reached through his website: www.ronridenour.com
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
By Joy First
Mount Horeb, Wisc. -- Bonnie Block, Jim Murphy, Lars and Patty Prip, Mary Beth Schlagheck, and I were at Rest Area 10 along I- 90/94, about 5 miles south of Mauston, from 10:00 am – noon on Thursday October 9, 2014. We had a model drone and a stack of flyers “6 Things You Should Know About Drones” to help us in reaching the public and so they can learn more about what is going on just up the road at Volk Field Air National Guard Base. We were there in solidarity with others around the country as part of “Keep Space for Peace Week” and global days of actions against drones sponsored by Code Pink, Know Drones, and other groups.
We chose to leaflet at this particular rest area because it is the closest one to Volk Field Air National Guard Base, about 20 miles south of the base. We, as Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, have been vigiling outside the gates of Volk Field for almost three years, protesting the training there of pilots who operate the Shadow Drones. We are at the base with our signs every 4th Tuesday of the month from 3:30-4:30. At 4:00 pm around 100 cars leave the base and drive right past us and so we have a lot of exposure.
Jim has been urging us to try leafleting at the rest area for a couple of years and it turned out to be an excellent opportunity for public education. We were able to connect with a real cross-section of middle America and we had a chance to hand out our leaflets and talk to people about what is going on at Volk Field, as well as in the drone wars overseas. A fair number of people were very supportive and engaged with us. Quite a few seemed like they did not have a lot of feelings about drone warfare one way or the other. There were a small number of people who were very unhappy to see us there and let loose with some pretty unfriendly language.
Shortly after we arrived at the rest area and began setting up the drone, the manager of the rest area came out and told us we would have to pack up and leave. We said we were on public property and that we planned to stay there until noon. We also told her that we would not block anyone or act threatening, and we gave her a flyer. She became upset and angry when we told her this and she said that if we didn’t leave she would have to call the State Patrol and she didn’t think that we would want it to go that far. We responded that we would like her to call the State Patrol because we knew we had the right to be there. She left in a huff.
It was 15 minutes or so before a plain clothes officer dressed in a suit with a neat crew cut and a badge around his neck approached us. He said that he had been told there was a disturbance, and he asked us if there was a disturbance. Jim responded by asking if it looked like there was a disturbance. The officer angrily replied that he would be asking the questions and we would answer.
We explained to him what we were doing, that we were on public property and it was our constitutional right to be there. We told him we were not blocking anyone and if they didn’t want a flyer we didn’t push it.
At that point a uniformed State Patrol officer arrived at the scene. The officer we were talking to said that the uniformed officer would be taking over. After the two of them talked for several minutes, the uniformed officer came over and we told him what we were doing. He told us that some people might not appreciate our position, and he said that if they started saying things we didn’t like we should turn the other cheek. We told him we practice nonviolence and are good at de-escalating those kinds of situations. He told us to have a good day and walked away. It felt like this was a small win for us. It is not often that the police are called and they end up telling us to go ahead and keep doing what we are doing.
Several minutes later a Juneau County Sheriff car pulled into the rest area and parked. He didn’t talk to us, but spent several minutes talking to someone in an unmarked police car before they both drove away. Citizen activism seemed to have won out for the day.
I want to relate a story about one man I talked to. As I handed him a leaflet, he said he was supportive of what we are doing. But, he said, his grandson was in the military and operated a camera for the drones and he didn’t kill children. (One of our signs said “Drones Kill Children”.) I replied that there are many innocent people, including many children, who are being killed by drone attacks in countries overseas. He said again that his grandson didn’t kill children. I told him that we had a list of names of many of the children who have been killed. He said again that his grandson was a family man with four children and he wouldn’t kill children. He added that he had been a nurse assisting in surgery with children for many years and he knew what it was like for traumatized children and his grandson would not kill children.
This story really illustrates the disconnect and denial going on in our society, about how much we want to believe that we are the good guys, that we wouldn’t hurt others. Yet, people are dying all around the world as a result of our government’s policies. It seems like there are not enough people speaking out against what is going on because so many people refuse to really look at the death and destruction our military is leaving all around the globe. It is so much easier to close our eyes. I think this was a genuinely good man that I talked to, and there are so many good people like him. How do we get these good people to wake up and join the fight, to be able to admit to and take responsibility for the horrors that our government, and we, are perpetrating around the world?
All six of us who were there felt like it was a successful venture and we all agreed that we need to go back to the rest area where we can reach people who would otherwise not be reached. It is impossible to know what kind of impact we may have had, but we are hopeful that we touched a few people.
Please consider rest areas near you as a possible place for demonstrations. We no longer have town squares. It is illegal, at least in Wisconsin, to protest at shopping malls because they are privately owned. It is not always easy to find a public space where there are a lot people, but this was a good test today and we discovered that the police will not try to prevent us from demonstrating at a rest area in Wisconsin. But then again, who knows what may happen the next time. All I know for sure is that we will be back.
Originally posted at AcroynmTV
Episode Breakdown |
Spoken word from Immortal Technique and Erica Violet Lee of Idle No More, plus:
3 interviews looking at the climate crisis from 3 angles:
Medea Benjamin of Code Pink talks about the links between the peace movement and the climate justice movement – and how Code Pink started as an Environmental group-
Then Howie Hawkins, as his momentum in the New York gubernatorial race is ramping up, talks about Green justice in the electoral arena.
Also, Occupy Sandy organizer Nastaran Mohit talks about our need to face down white privilege within the movement, and step out of our comfort zones.
Finally, Jill Stein points out that we have critical mass and critical momentum to win the day.
It seems like we just got through dealing with the argument that war is good for us because it brings peace. And along comes a very different twist, combined with some interesting insights. Here's a blog post by Joshua Holland on Bill Moyers' website.
"War has long been seen as an endeavor urged on by the elites who stood the most to gain from conflict – whether to protect overseas assets, create more favorable conditions for international trade or by selling materiel for the conflict – and paid for with the blood of the poor, the cannon fodder who serve their country but have little direct stake in the outcome.
". . . MIT political scientist Jonathan Caverley, author of Democratic Militarism Voting, Wealth, and War, and himself a US Navy veteran, argues that increasingly high-tech militaries, with all-volunteer armies that sustain fewer casualties in smaller conflicts, combine with rising economic inequality to create perverse incentives that turn the conventional view of war on its head. . . .
"Joshua Holland: Your research leads to a somewhat counterintuitive conclusion. Can you give me your thesis in a nutshell?
"Jonathan Caverley: My argument is that in a heavily industrialized democracy like the United States, we have developed a very capital intensive form of warfare. We no longer send millions of combat troops overseas – or see massive numbers of casualties coming home. Once you start going to war with lots of airplanes, satellites, communications – and a few very highly trained special operations forces — going to war becomes a check writing exercise rather than a social mobilization. And once you turn war into a check writing exercise, the incentives for and against going to war change.
"You can think of it as a redistribution exercise, where people who have less income generally pay a smaller share of the cost of war. This is especially important at the federal level. In the United States, the federal government tends to be funded largely from the top 20 percent. Most of the federal government, I’d say 60 percent, maybe even 65 percent, is financed by the wealthy.
"For most people, war now costs very little in terms of both blood and treasure. And it has a redistributive effect.
"So my methodology is pretty simple. If you think that your contribution to conflict will be minimal, and see potential benefits, then you should see an increased demand for defense spending and increased hawkishness in your foreign policy views, based on your income. And my study of Israeli public opinion found that the less wealthy a person was, the more aggressive they were in using the military."
Presumably Caverley would acknowledge that U.S. wars tend to be one-sided slaughters of people living in poor nations, and that some fraction of people in the United States are aware of that fact and oppose wars because of it. Presumably he is also aware that U.S. troops still die in U.S. wars and are still drawn disproportionately from the poor. Presumably he is also aware (and presumably he makes all of this clear in his book, which I have not read) that war remains extremely profitable for an extremely elite group at the top of the U.S. economy. Weapons stocks are at record heights right now. A financial advisor on NPR yesterday was recommending investing in weapons. War spending, in fact, takes public money and spends it in a way that very disproportionately benefits the extremely wealthy. And while public dollars are progressively raised, they are far less progressively raised than in the past. War-preparations spending is in fact part of what drives the inequality that Caverley says drives low-income support for wars. What Caverley means by his claim that war is (downwardly) redistributive is made a bit clearer further on in the interview:
"Holland: In the study you point out that most social scientists don’t see military spending as having a redistributive effect. I didn’t understand that. What some call “military Keynesianism” is a concept that’s been around for a long time. We located a ton of military investments in the Southern states, not only for defense purposes, but also as a means of regional economic development. Why don’t people see this as a massive redistribution program?
"Caverley: Well, I agree with that construction. If you watch any congressional campaign or you look at any representative’s communication with his or her constituents, you will see that they talk about getting their fair share of defense spending.
"But the larger point is that even if you don’t think about defense spending as a redistributive process, it is a classic example of the kind of public goods that a state provides. Everyone benefits from defense of the state – it’s not just rich people. And so national defense is probably one of the places you’re most likely to see redistributive politics, because if you’re not paying too much for it, you’re going to ask for more of it."
So, at least part of the idea seems to be that wealth is being moved from wealthy geographical sections of the United States to poorer ones. There is some truth to that. But the economics is quite clear that, as a whole, military spending produces fewer jobs and worse paying jobs, and has less overall economic benefit, than education spending, infrastructure spending, or various other types of public spending, or even tax cuts for working people -- which are by definition downwardly redistributive as well. Now, military spending can drain an economy and be perceived as boosting an economy, and the perception is what determines support for militarism. Similarly, routine "normal" military spending can carry on at a pace of over 10-times specific war spending, and the general perception on all sides of U.S. politics can be that it is the wars that cost large amounts of money. But we should acknowledge the reality even when discussing the impacts of the perception.
And then there's the notion that militarism benefits everyone, which conflicts with the reality that war endangers the nations that wage it, that "defense" through wars is in fact counter-productive. This, too, should be acknowledged. And perhaps -- though I doubt it -- that acknowledgement is made in the book.
Polls show generally diminishing support for wars except in particular moments of intense propaganda. If in those moments it can be shown that low-income U.S.ians are carrying a larger load of war support, that should indeed be examined -- but without assuming that war supporters have good reason for giving their support. Indeed, Caverley offers some additional reasons why they might be misguided:
"Holland: Let me ask you about a rival explanation for why poor people might be more supportive of military action. In the paper, you mention the idea that less wealthy citizens may be more prone to buy into what you call the “myths of empire.” Can you unpack that?
"Caverley: In order for us to go to war, we have to demonize the other side. It’s not a trivial thing for one group of people to advocate killing another group of people, no matter how callous you think humanity might be. So there is typically a lot of threat inflation and threat construction, and that just goes with the territory of war.
"So in my business, some people think that the problem is that elites get together and, for selfish reasons, they want to go to war. That’s true whether it’s to preserve their banana plantations in Central America or sell weapons or what have you.
"And they create these myths of empire — these inflated threats, these paper tigers, whatever you want to call it — and try to mobilize the rest of the country to fight a conflict that may not necessarily be in their interest.
"If they were right, then you would actually see that people’s foreign policy views – their idea of how great a threat is — would correlate with income. But once you control for education, I didn’t find that these views differed according to what your wealth or income is."
This seems a little off to me. There is no question that Raytheon executives and the elected officials they fund will see more sense in arming both sides of a war than the average person of any income or education level will tend to see. But those executives and politicians are not a statistically significant group when talking broadly about the rich and poor in the United States. Most war profiteers, moreover, are likely to believe their own myths, at least when speaking with pollsters. That low-income Americans are misguided is no reason to imagine that upper-income Americans are not misguided too. Caverley also says:
"What was interesting to me is that one of the best predictors of your desire to spend money on defense was your desire to spend money on education, your desire to spend money on healthcare, your desire to spend money on roads. I was really shocked by the fact that there is not much of a ‘guns and butter’ tradeoff in the minds of most respondents in these public opinion polls."
This seems exactly right. No large number of Americans has managed in recent years to make the connection between Germany spending 4% of U.S. levels on its military and offering free college, between the U.S. spending as much as the rest of the world combined on war preparations and leading the wealthy world in homelessness, food-insecurity, unemployment, imprisonment, and so on. This is in part, I think, because the two big political parties favor massive military spending, while one opposes and the other supports various smaller spending projects; so a debate develops between those for and against spending in general, without anyone ever asking "Spending on what?"
Speaking of myths, here's another one that keeps the bipartisan support for militarism rolling:
"Holland: The bumper sticker finding here is that your model predicts that as inequality increases, average citizens will be more supportive of military adventurism, and ultimately in democracies, this may lead to more aggressive foreign policies. How does this jibe with what’s known as “democratic peace theory” — the idea that democracies have a lower tolerance for conflict and are less likely to go to war than more authoritarian systems?
"Caverley: Well, it depends on what you think is driving democratic peace. If you think it’s a cost-avoidance mechanism, then this doesn’t bode well for the democratic peace. I’d say most people I talk to in my business, we’re pretty sure democracies like to fight lots of wars. They just tend not to fight with each other. And probably the better explanations for that are more normative. The public is just not willing to support a war against another public, so to speak.
"To put it more simply, when a democracy has the choice between diplomacy and violence to solve its foreign policy problems, if the cost of one of these goes down, it’s going to put more of that thing in its portfolio."
This is truly a lovely myth, but it collapses when put into contact with reality, at least if one treats nations like the United States as being "democracies." The United States has a long history of overthrowing democracies and engineering military coups, from 1953 Iran up through present day Honduras, Venezuela, Ukraine, etc. The idea that so-called democracies don't attack other democracies is often expanded, even further from reality, by imagining that this is because other democracies can be dealt with rationally, whereas the nations that ours attacks only understand the so-called language of violence. The United States government has too many dictators and kings as close allies for that to hold up. In fact it is resource-rich but economically poor countries that tend to be attacked whether or not they are democratic and whether or not the people back home are in favor of it. If any wealthy Americans are turning against this type of foreign policy, I urge them to fund advocacy that will replace it with a more effective and less murderous set of tools.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle[at]yahoo[dot]com, (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
By Robert C. Koehler
“During basic training, we are weaponized: our souls turned into weapons.”
Jacob George’s suicide last month — a few days after President Obama announced that the US was launching its war against ISIS — opens a deep, terrible hole in the national identity. George: singer, banjo player, poet, peace warrior, vet. He served three tours in Afghanistan. He brought the war home. He tried to repair the damage.
Finally, finally, he reached for “the surefire therapy for ending the pain,” as a fellow vet told Truthdig. He was 32.
Maybe another war was just too much for him to endure. Military glory — protection of the innocent -- is a broken ideal, a cynical lie. “Times for war veterans are tough because we know exactly what is going to happen with the actions that Obama talked about in his recent speech,” his friend Paul Appell told Truthdig. “Jacob and other war veterans know the pain and suffering that will be done to our fellow man no matter what terms are used to describe war, whether it is done from afar with drones and bombs or up close eye to eye.”
And wars don’t end. They go on and on and on, inside the psyches of the ones who fought and killed. War’s toxins hover in the air and the water. Landmines and unexploded bombs, planted in the earth, wait patiently to explode.
In a chapbook that George published called “Soldier’s Heart,” which contains the lyrics to a number of his songs accompanied by essays discussing the context in which they were written, he explains his song “Playground of War.” It was written when he returned to Afghanistan with a peace delegation — George was one of the first Afghan vets to do such a thing — and at one point visited, God help us, a landmine museum.
The guide, “hard-faced,” overflowing with emotion, explains, George writes, that “it would take over a hundred years of working seven days a week to clear every single landmine out of Afghanistan. He says their fathers and grandfathers used to work their fields with plows, but now they work their fields with metal detectors and wooden rods. Instead of harvesting potatoes, they harvest explosives. He tells me all kinds of things that change my life in a matter of minutes.”
This is war. War never ends. George came home with the war raging inside him and rode his bicycle across the country to promote peace. Inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh, he understood that veterans “can help lead the healing of the nation” In 2012, he marched in Chicago in protest of NATO and returned his medals. Marching with fellow vets, he led this cadence call: “Mama, Mama, can’t you see/What Uncle Sam has done to me?”
He called his peace work a “righteous rite of passage.” He said it was “how we transform PTSD into something beautiful.”
He also chipped the last letter off the acronym: post-traumatic stress is not a disorder, he realized, but a completely natural, sane reaction to causing harm to others. He called it a moral injury.
A fellow vet, Brock McIntosh, interviewed on “Democracy Now” shortly after George’s suicide, said: “. . . he saw a lot of killing in Afghanistan, and he also talked about seeing fear in the eyes of Afghans. And the idea that he could put fear in someone kind of haunted him. And he had lots of nightmares when he returned, and felt kind of isolated and didn’t really tell his story. But over the last few years, he’s had the opportunity to tell his story and to build long-lasting relationships, not only with other veterans who are like-minded, but also with Afghans.”
In “Soldier’s Heart,” George talked about the dehumanization process that begins in basic training. Young people’s souls are “turned into weapons.” This is an image I can’t move beyond. It’s an insight into the nature of war that cannot be allowed to remain trapped inside every used up vet — that our deepest hunger to do good, to contribute to the good of the world, is commandeered by selfish and cynical interests and planted back into the soil of our being like a landmine.
“Through my personal healing from PTSD, I’ve discovered it’s not possible to dehumanize others without dehumanizing the self,” he wrote in “Soldier’s Heart.”
George, unable to find a place in the society he thought he was leaving home to protect, spoke primarily to all the other returning vets trapped in the same existential hell. What he came to realize was that only by surrendering the rest of his life to the elimination of war could be himself find any peace. In doing so, he made a spiritual transition, from soldier to warrior.
“You see,” he wrote, “a soldier follows orders, a soldier is loyal, and a soldier is technically and tactically proficient. A warrior isn’t so good at following orders. The warrior follows the heart. A warrior has empathic understanding with the enemy, so much so that the very thought of causing pain or harm to the enemy causes pain to the warrior.”
And now one more warrior lets go just as another war begins.
“We have been at war for 12 years. We have spent trillions of dollars,” Bernie Sanders said recently on CNN. “What I do not want, and I fear very much, is the United States getting sucked into a quagmire and being involved in perpetual warfare year after year after year. That is my fear.”
I’m sure that was Jacob George’s fear as well. I’m sure he felt it in his soul.
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at email@example.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.
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GLOCK donates $50,000 to the Young Marines at the 2014 AUSA Annual Meeting
[WASHINGTON D.C. – Oct. 15, 2014] The Young Marines received a $50,000 donation from GLOCK on Monday, Oct. 13, at the Association of United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting & Expo which was held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon PL, NW, Washington D.C.
The check was gratefully accepted by Lt. Col. Mike Kessler USMC (Ret), the national executive director and CEO of the Young Marines and Young Marine of the Year, YM Sergeant Major Blake DeWeese of Beaverton, OR.
“GLOCK has been a champion of the Young Marines since 2004,” Kessler said. “I have had the great pleasure of dining with Mr. Glock and can attest to the fact that he supports our mission, our vision and our ideals. He has had first-hand knowledge at the many successes enjoyed by our members and wishes to see that continue. We are forever grateful to Mr. Glock and GLOCK, USA, for their support of our program.”
While attending their National Leadership Academy, members of the Young Marines received a comprehensive gun safety class and then had the opportunity to shoot the Scholastic Pistol Program series of targets. GLOCK provided the handguns, and Tori Nonaka, GLOCK’s national junior champion, provided demonstrations and assisted with the challenge.
“We are proud to have the GLOCK name associated with our National Leadership Academy,” Kessler said.
“It’s important for the future of all of us that we have organizations that help foster and champion young people into leaders of strong character,” said Josh Dorsey, VP of GLOCK, Inc. and also a Marine veteran. “The Young Marines organization has a proven track record of doing so.”
The Young Marines is a national non-profit 501c(3) youth education and service program for boys and girls, age eight through the completion of high school. The Young Marines promotes the mental, moral and physical development of its members. The program focuses on teaching the values of leadership, teamwork and self-discipline so its members can live and promote a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.
Since the Young Marines' humble beginnings in 1959 with one unit and a handful of boys, the organization has grown to over 300 units with 11,000 youth and 3,000 adult volunteers in 46 states, the District of Columbia, Germany, Japan and affiliates in a host of other countries.
For more information, visit the official website at: http://www.YoungMarines.com/.
(10/14) Thousands of rioters demanded special recognition for the Ukraine Insurgent Army, a resistance group that allied with Nazi Germany during World War II. The Ukraine political party, Svoboda, staged the demonstrations.
Svoboda, an extremist right wing party, played an important role in the United States supported transition government of Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Its influence continues in the current government of President Petro Poroshenko. The United States and European Union have offered across the board praise for Poroshenko's government. (Image)
SpiegelOnline, Mar 17, reported that the German Society for International Cooperation supported Svoboda members of Ukraine's parliament in financial reform efforts. The society is a non-government organization funded by the German government. The Konrad Adenauer political foundation, tied to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party, provided legislative training and instruction for Svoboda reported by Spiegel in the same article.
A Yemeni man, whose nephew and brother-in-law were killed in a 2012 drone strike, has travelled to Germany to sue the government for facilitating drone strikes of the sort in which his relatives died.
Faisal bin Ali Jaber, an engineer for the Yemeni environmental protection agency, lost his brother-in-law Salim, a local imam known for preaching against al-Qaeda, and his nephew Waleed, a policeman, in a drone strike in August 2012. Mr bin Ali Jaber has filed litigation asking the German government to stop the use of Ramstein Air Base in assisting the US’ covert drones programme. Mr bin Ali Jaber is also asking that the German government acknowledge that allowing the US to use Ramstein to facilitate drone strikes in Yemen – a country with which the US is not at war - is unlawful.
Ramstein Air Base, in South West Germany, is the crucial connector for all data transfer between the US and Yemeni air space. The data – which enables the pilots in the US to operate the drones in real time – is transferred via fibre optic cable from the US to Germany and the Air Base Ramstein. From there the data is transmitted through a satellite-relay-station to the drone which is started by technicians at the US military base in Djibouti.
Faisal is represented in the litigation, which was filed today, by international human rights NGO Reprieve and the European Centre for Constitutional Human Rights (ECCHR).
Faisal bin Ali Jaber, said: “Were it not for the help of Germany and Ramstein, men like my brother-in-law and nephew might still be alive today. It is quite simple: without Germany, US drones would not fly. I am here to ask that the German people and Parliament be told the full extent of what is happening in their country, and that the German government stop Ramstein being used to help the US’ illegal and devastating drone war in my country.”
Kat Craig, Legal Director at Reprieve, said: “The US’ covert drone war has killed thousands of civilians, including hundreds of children, in countries with which we are not at war. Without the help of the British and German governments these deaths would never have been possible. Europe cannot hide behind the US: by allowing the use of bases, personnel or technology, we are complicit in this drone war. If European governments withdrew their support, people like Faisal and his children would have a better chance for a future without this paralyzing threat from the skies.”
Andreas Schueller, head of the international crimes and accountability programme at ECCHR, said: “Ramstein is crucial for US drone warfare. Germany has to bring it to an end – if not it is complicit in the death of civilians. The German government must no longer hide behind status-of-forces agreements and admit its responsibility for civilian deaths caused by US drone warfare.”
FALL BOOK TOUR PUBLIC EVENTS
OCTOBER 1-14th NEW ENGLAND STATES
Oct. 2 Thursday
7pm Cambridge Friends Meeting, 5 Longfellow Park, Cambridge, MA Contact Skip Schiel 617-441-7756
October 3 Friday
7:00pm WAGING PEACE book talk and discussion at First Universalist Church, 59 Main Street in Essex, MA. Co-sponsored by North Shore Coalition for Peace and Justice, Merrimack Valley People for Peace, Amesbury Peace Center, Samantha Smith Chapter Veterans for Peace.
Rev. Art McDonald 978-768-3690 or 978-745-9019
October 5 Sunday
11am New England Peace Pagoda,100 Cave Hill Road, Leverett ,MA (just N. of Amherst) 25th Anniversary celebration with David offering keynote address. Ceremony, Interfaith Prayers, Lunch, Cultural Program.
Sr. Clare Carter 413-357-2202
October 6 Monday
Noon-1pm Hampshire College in Amherst, MA talk sponsored by Office on Sustainability and Spiritual Life Hampshire c/o Susal Stebbins Collins, 413-559-5282
4-5:30pm World Eye Bookstore, 156 Main St. in Greenfield,MA sponsored by Traprock Peace Center. Randy Kehler, 413-624-8858
7:30pm Putney Friend’s Meeting talk and discussion in Putney, VT (need street address) Contact Nancy Lang 802-365-0247
October 7 Tuesday
7pm Broadside Bookshop, 247 Main Street in Northampton, MA Andrea Ayvazian 413-584-5666 (Bookstore -413-586-4235)
October 9 Thursday
7pm Burlington Friends Meeting, 173 North Prospect, Burlington, VT Jean McCandless 802-862-8665
October 12 Sunday
10:30am Acadia Friends Meeting, Neighborhood House on Main Street, Northeast Harbor, Maine organizer: Martha Dickinson 207-667-5863
4pm College of the Atlantic student gathering at COA McCormick Lecture Hall, Bar Harbor. Contact Gray Cox or 667-5863
OCTOBER 14-27 PACIFIC NORTHWEST
October 15 Wednesday
7:30pm Annual Peace Lecture in Salem, OR at Hudson Recital Hall, Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center, Willamette University, 900 State Street Contact Peter Bergel 503-428-4280
October 16 Thursday
7pm Eugene Friends Meetinghouse, 2274 Onyx Street, Eugene, OR contact Peg Morton 541-342-2914
October 18 Saturday
2-4pm Discussion at Salem Friends Meetinghouse, 490 19th Street in Salem, OR
7:30pm Multnomah Friends Meeting, 4312 South East Stark, Portland, OR Joyce Zerwekh 503-282-0118
October 19 Sunday
7-9pm First Unitarian Church of Portland, Rm B 202, Buchan Bldg, Co-sponsored by Peace Action Group of Church and Veterans for Peace Chapter 72
October 20 Monday
6 pm Portland State Univ. Students United for Nonviolence (SUN) discussion in Rm. 333, Smith Memorial Student Union Building contact Adam Vogal 503-864-5910
October 21 Tuesday
7:30am – 8:30 AM Portland Pearl Rotary Club at 721 NW 9th Ave in Portland. Contact Jim Bowman
7:30 pm Olympia Friends Meetinghouse, 3201 Boston Harbor Road N.E., Olympia, WA
October 22 Wednesday
7pm University Temple United Methodist Church, 1415 N.E. 43rd St, Seattle, WA sponsored by University Bookstore, Eileen Harte 206-632-5167
October 23 Thursday
7pm Port Townsend, WA talk at Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 2333 San Juan Avenue, PT, co-sponsored with local Quakers.
October 24 Friday
1pm radio phone interview in Port Townsend
7pm Whidbey Island gathering with Tom Ewell – details to follow
October 26 Sunday
EAST COAST WAGING PEACE Book Tour
November 18-24 WASHINGTON, D.C.
**still working on tour details
November 18 Tuesday
11am-12:30pm Montgomery Community College in Rockville,MD Contact Alonzo Smith 240-994-0115
November 24-December 6 PHILA AREA
November 25 Tuesday
7pm Medford Leas talk, 661 Medford Leas, Medford, NJ 08055
Toby Riley 609-654-3661 or 609-556-3207
November 26 Wednesday
1:30pm Crosslands talk, William Penn Room at 16 Kendal Drive, Kennett Square, PA Oranizers: Clarkson Palmer and
Jean Barker, 484-770-8184
4 pm Kendal talk, Kennett Square, PA Organizers: Peggy Brick and Carlie Numi 610-388-1869 or cell 301-502-5349
November 30 Sunday
12:30 pm Central Philadelpia Quaker Meeting, 15th and Cherry Streets, Phila George Lakey 215-729-7458 or cell 610-95-6165
December 1 Monday
7 pm Talk at Pendle Hill, 338 Plush Mill Road, Wallingford, PA
December 2 Tuesday
2pm assembly at the theatre of Westtown School – Westtown, PA
December 4 Thursday
5pm book talk at Swarthmore (place to be announced) Lee Smithey
December 8-11 NEW YORK CITY
***We welcome ideas and contacts!!
CALIFORNIA Book Talks for Nov/Dec
Nov 2 Sunday
San Francisco 1pm SF Friends Meetinghouse, 65 9th Street
David Hartsough 415-751-0302
Nov 5 Wednesday
Chico 7pm Chico State University & Chico Peace Center
Dan Eberhardt 214-476-5846
November 9 Sunday
Berkeley 7pm Berkeley Unitarian Fellowship, Cedar and Bonita, Berkeley Cynthia Johnson 510-495-5132
December 16 Tuesday
Santa Rosa 7:15pm Friends House, 684 Benicia Drive, Santa Rosa Ann Scott, coordinator 707-573-4564
December 18 Thursday
Sacramento 7-9pm The Marxist school of Sacramento organized by PM Press – Sierra 2 Center, 2791 – 24th Street, Classroom 9 (between Castro Way and 4th Avenue)
For info or changes, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Alfredo Lopez
A couple of weeks ago, the mere mortals who lead the voracious giants of technology -- Google and Apple -- announced that they were striking a blow for protection against NSA spying by making "encryption" the default on Google cell phone software (which is used on most cell phones) and THEY software used on Apple mobile devices.
This affects equipment like the ubiquitous cell phone, although it is also relevant to some handheld computers and similar portable equipment.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Chevron made waves in the business world when it announced its October 6 sale of 30-percent of its holdings in the Alberta-based Duvernay Shale basin to Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company (KUFPEC) for $1.5 billion.
Photo Credit: Oil Fires in Kuwait During First Gulf War | Wikimedia Commons
Charles Lewis has been an investigative producer for ABC News and the CBS news program 60 Minutes. He founded The Center for Public Integrity. He is executive editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University School of Communication. And he is the author of 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America's Moral Integrity. We discuss his book.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
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By Roy Eidelson and Trudy Bond, CounterPunch
“The position of the American Psychological Association is clear and unequivocal: For more than 25 years, the association has absolutely condemned any psychologist participation in torture.”
-- Statement by the APA, November 2013
“The American Psychological Association, the largest professional organization for psychologists, worked assiduously to protect the psychologists who did get involved in the torture program.”
--James Risen, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War, October 2014
New information may soon be revealed by the Senate Intelligence Committee’s yet-to-be-released report on the CIA’s post-9/11 abusive and torturous detention and interrogation operations. But what already has been clear for a long time – through reports from journalists, independent task forces, congressional investigations, and other documents – is that psychologists and other health professionals were directly involved in brutalizing “war on terror” prisoners in U.S. custody. Of particular note, contract psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen have been identified as the architects of the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which included
At the same time, what has remained a matter of dispute is the extent to which the American Psychological Association (APA) collaborated with and worked to support the intelligence community and its program of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Critics (including both of us) have argued that the APA repeatedly failed to take the steps necessary to prevent the misuse of psychology, instead allowing perceived opportunities for a “seat at the table” to trump a firm commitment to professional ethics. In response to these allegations, the APA’s leadership has issued denials and statements asserting that the Association has always been steadfast in its opposition to torture.
Where the truth lies in this ongoing debate just became much clearer with the publication of James Risen’s new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War. In a chapter titled “War on Decency,” the Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist offers fresh evidence from an unexpected inside source: Scott Gerwehr, a RAND Corporation analyst with close ties to the CIA, the Pentagon, and the APA. When Gerwehr died in a motorcycle accident in 2008, he left behind an archive of personal emails, which Risen obtained while conducting research for his book.
These emails document that the CIA and the Bush Administration played a direct role in guiding APA’s stance and actions in regard to the ethics of psychologists’ involvement in national security detention and interrogation operations. As Risen writes:
The e-mail archives of one researcher with ties to the CIA, who died on the cusp of becoming a whistleblower, provide a revealing glimpse into the tight network of psychologists and other behavioral scientists so eager for CIA and Pentagon contracts that they showed few qualms about helping to develop and later protect the interrogation infrastructure. The e-mails show the secret, close relationships among some of the nation’s leading psychologists and officials at the CIA and Pentagon. And the e-mails reveal how the American Psychological Association (APA), the nation’s largest professional group for psychologists, put its seal of approval on those close ties – and thus indirectly on torture. (pp. 178-179)
The emails of particular interest are Gerwehr’s correspondence over several years with a small group of regular confidants and collaborators: the CIA’s chief behavioral scientist Kirk Hubbard (who introduced Mitchell and Jessen to the CIA as “potential assets” and then went to work for their firm when he retired from the CIA), White House science advisor Susan Brandon (who previously had been a senior scientist at the APA and is currently research director for the government’s High Value Detainee Interrogation Group), and the APA’s Director of Science Policy Geoff Mumford. Risen’s book offers important details about that collaboration.
In July 2004, shortly after the shocking photos from Abu Ghraib prison became public, senior APA staff from the Ethics Office and Science Directorate arranged a private meeting with officials from intelligence agencies and the Department of Defense (DOD). The email invitation from APA Ethics Office Director Stephen Behnke – to Hubbard from the CIA, Kirk Kennedy from DOD, and Gerwehr from RAND, among others – noted that the purpose of the meeting, at least in part, was to “identify the important questions, and to discuss how we as a national organization can better assist psychologists and other mental health professionals sort out appropriate from inappropriate uses of psychology” (p. 198).
But it is unclear how or why these particular invitees would be considered well suited to provide instruction to the APA on psychological ethics. Indeed Risen suggests a different motivation:
The invitation to the lunch meeting showed that the APA was opening the door to psychologists and other behavioral science experts inside the government's national security apparatus to provide advice and guidance about how to address the furor over the role of psychologists in torture before the APA went to its own membership. The insiders were being given a chance to influence the APA’s stance before anyone else. (p. 199)
According to Gerwehr’s emails, APA’s Behnke also highlighted the following in his invitation:
I would like to emphasize that we will not advertise the meeting other than this letter to the individual invitees, that we will not publish or otherwise make public the names of attendees or the substance of our discussions, and that in the meeting we will neither assess nor investigate the behavior of any specific individual or group. (p. 198)
It is difficult to discern how such constraints and reassurances could have served the interests of the public or the profession, or how they could have helped “sort out appropriate from inappropriate uses of psychology” as Behnke stated in his invitation. Rather, these pre-conditions ensured that the actions of the psychologists in question would be protected from scrutiny rather than questioned – and that the CIA and DOD would take the lead role in establishing the ethics for psychologists in U.S. counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence activities. The national security psychologists would also guide the APA’s response to resistance or uproar from the public or its own members.
From this private meeting of undisclosed participants emerged a proposal for the creation of the APA’s Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS). This task force met in June of 2005 at APA headquarters in Washington, DC. The small group quickly decided that it was ethical for psychologists to serve in various national security-related roles, including as consultants to detainee interrogations. Risen describes the events leading up to the weekend meeting this way:
Gerwehr’s e-mails show for the first time the degree to which behavioral science experts from within the government’s national security apparatus played roles in shaping the PENS task force. They show that APA officials were secretly working behind the scenes with CIA and Pentagon officials to discuss how to shape the organization’s position to be supportive of psychologists involved in interrogations – long before the task force was even formed. (p. 197)
In this regard, critics have long noted irregularities and possible collusion in the PENS process and the report itself. For example, most members selected for the task force worked for the military or intelligence agencies, and several had served in chains of command where detainee abuses reportedly took place. There were several participant-observers whose identities were never officially disclosed; among them were Susan Brandon, who had just recently left a position at the White House, and Russ Newman, a senior APA official whose spouse was a BSCT psychologist at Guantanamo. APA staff withheld the names of the task force members in response to press inquiries, and these names never appeared on the published report. The APA Board quickly adopted the PENS report in an inexplicable “emergency” session, without bringing it to the Association’s full governing body for review. The report included language nearly identical to the DOD language provided to the task force before the meeting had even started – namely, that psychologists serve to keep detention and interrogation operations safe, legal, ethical, and effective. And the task force and report prioritized the Bush Administration’s contorted interpretations of U.S. law over longstanding and broadly respected principles of international human rights law and health profession ethics.
Another email in Gerwehr’s archive reinforces these significant concerns. As Risen writes:
After succeeding in getting the PENS task force to endorse the continued involvement of psychologists in the interrogation program, congratulations were in order among the small number of behavioral scientists with connections to the national security community who had been part of the effort. In a July 2005 e-mail to Hubbard from Geoffrey Mumford (on which Gerwehr was copied), Mumford thanked Hubbard for helping to influence the outcome of the task force. “I also wanted to semi-publicly acknowledge your personal contribution... in getting this effort off the ground,” Mumford wrote. “Your views were well represented by very carefully selected task force members.” Mumford also noted that Susan Brandon had served as an “observer” at the PENS task force meetings and “helped craft some language related to research” for the task force report. (p. 200).
In unmistakable terms, the APA’s Science Policy Director Mumford first thanked Hubbard – a top CIA official with close professional ties to Mitchell and Jessen – for initiating the collaboration that led to the PENS report and then assured him that the task force members were carefully chosen with Hubbard’s own expressed objectives in mind. As well, the same email reveals that part of the responsibility for drafting the PENS report – a report that was supposed to reflect a full and careful consideration of the APA’s ethics code – was given to Susan Brandon, who only weeks earlier was working for the Bush White House.
Beyond the evidence highlighted here, Risen also offers a broader description of psychologists’ and the APA’s involvement with and acquiescence to U.S. government torture and abuse. Based on his research, he reports that those psychologists who supported the White House and CIA agenda “were showered with government money and benefits,” and that the APA “worked assiduously to protect the psychologists who did get involved in the torture program.” Risen also notes that changes to the APA’s ethics code in 2002 “gave greater professional cover for psychologists who had been helping to monitor and oversee harsh interrogations.” Indeed, he suggests that the entire “enhanced interrogation” program may have depended upon the willingness of the APA to go along with it. Finally, he refers to the desperate “spin control” that absorbed senior APA staff once journalists began to uncover the extent to which psychologists played essential roles in the torture program.
It is reasonable to wonder whether Risen’s investigative work will matter. For the past decade the APA’s leadership has repeatedly denied any collaboration with the military or intelligence agencies that engaged in torture and abuse. Such APA statements have consistently been coupled with a professed resolute commitment to defend the profession’s do-no-harm ethics. Even when these pronouncements have strained credulity, the APA’s rank-and-file members – eager to believe that critics’ assertions could not possibly be true – have accepted the claims of innocence and independence. This insistent benefit of the doubt, along with unwarranted deference to APA’s leaders, continues to insulate the Association from calls for investigations, accountability, and reform. To date, no psychologist has been held accountable for involvement in the abuse and torture of detainees, and no APA official has been held accountable for facilitating or protecting government programs that violated core professional ethics.
Several questions will be answered in the days immediately ahead, as the world’s largest organization of psychologists grapples with the damning revelations in Pay Any Price. Will APA members once again dutifully follow the Association’s leaders and drink from a polluted well of tired clichés and obfuscating language? Will they still find feeble justifications and implausible denials palatable? Or will the membership and the governing Council of Representatives finally demand the substantive independent investigation that is so long overdue? With the profession’s ethics and credibility hanging in the balance, we believe it is certainly time to hold the APA accountable for the choices it has made.
When New York Times reporter James Risen published his previous book, State of War, the Times ended its delay of over a year and published his article on warrantless spying rather than be scooped by the book. The Times claimed it hadn't wanted to influence the 2004 presidential election by informing the public of what the President was doing. But this week a Times editor said on 60 Minutes that the White House had warned him that a terrorist attack on the United States would be blamed on the Times if one followed publication -- so it may be that the Times' claim of contempt for democracy was a cover story for fear and patriotism. The Times never did report various other important stories in Risen's book.
One of those stories, found in the last chapter, was that of Operation Merlin -- possibly named because only reliance on magic could have made it work -- in which the CIA gave nuclear weapon plans to Iran with a few obvious changes in them. This was supposedly supposed to somehow slow down Iran's nonexistent efforts to build nuclear weapons. Risen explained Operation Merlin on Democracy Now this week and was interviewed about it by 60 Minutes which managed to leave out any explanation of what it was. The U.S. government is prosecuting Jeffrey Sterling for allegedly being the whistleblower who served as a source for Risen, and subpoenaing Risen to demand that he reveal his source(s).
The Risen media blitz this week accompanies the publication of his new book, Pay Any Price. Risen clearly will not back down. This time he's made his dumbest-thing-the-CIA-did-lately story the second chapter rather than the last, and even the New York Times has already mentioned it. We're talking about a "torture works," "Iraq has WMDs," "let's all stare at goats" level of dumbness here. We're talking about the sort of thing that would lead the Obama administration to try to put somebody in prison. But it's not clear there's a secret source to blame this time, and the Department of So-Called Justice is already after Sterling and Risen.
Sterling, by the way, is unheard of by comparison with Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden or the other whistleblowers Risen reports on in his new book. The public, it seems, doesn't make a hero of a whistleblower until after the corporate media has made the person famous as an alleged traitor. Sterling, interestingly, is a whistleblower who could only be called a "traitor" if it were treason to expose treason, since people who think in those terms almost universally will view handing nuclear plans to Iran as treason. In other words, he's immune from the usual attack, but stuck at the first-they-ignore-you stage because there's no corporate interest in telling the Merlin story.
So what's the new dumbness from Langley? Only this: a gambling-addicted computer hack named Dennis Montgomery who couldn't sell Hollywood or Las Vegas on his software scams, such as his ability to see content in videotape not visible to the naked eye, sold the CIA on the completely fraudulent claim that he could spot secret al Qaeda messages in broadcasts of the Al Jazeera television network. To be fair, Montgomery says the CIA pushed the idea on him and he ran with it. And not only did the CIA swallow his hooey, but so did the principals committee, the membership of which was, at least for a time: Vice President Dick Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, So-Called Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet, and Attorney General John Ashcroft. Tenet plays his usual role as dumber-than-a-post bureaucrat in Risen's account, but John Brennan is noted as having been involved in the Dennis Montgomery lunacy as well. The Bush White House grounded international flights as a result of Montgomery's secret warnings of doom, and seriously considered shooting planes out of the sky.
When France demanded to see the basis for grounding planes, it quickly spotted a steaming pile of crottin de cheval and let the U.S. know. So, the CIA moved on from Montgomery. And Montgomery moved on to other contracts working on other horse droppings for the Pentagon. And nothing shocking there. "A 2011 study by the Pentagon," Risen points out, "found that during the ten years after 9/11, the Defense Department had given more than $400 billion to contractors who had previously been sanctioned in cases involving $1 million or more in fraud." And Montgomery was not sanctioned. And we the people who enriched him with millions weren't told he existed. Nothing unusual there either. Secrecy and fraud are the new normal in the story Risen tells, detailing the fraudulent nature of drone murder profiteers, torture profiteers, mercenary profiteers, and even fear profiteers -- companies hired to generate hysteria. So forcefully has the dumping of money into militarism been divorced in public discourse from the financial burden it entails that Risen is able to quote Linden Blue, vice chairman of General Atomics, criticizing people who take money from the government. He means poor people who take tiny amounts of money for their basic needs, not drone makers who get filthy rich off the pretense that drones make the world safer.
The root of the problem, as Risen sees it, is that the military and the homeland security complex have been given more money than they can reasonably figure out what to do with. So, they unreasonably figure out what to do with it. This is compounded, Risen writes, by fear so extreme that people don't want to say no to anything that might possibly work even in their wildest dreams -- or what Dick Cheney called the obligation to invest in anything with a 1% chance. Risen told Democracy Now that military spending reminded him of the Wall Street banks. In his book he argues that the big war profiteers have been deemed too big to fail.
Risen tells several stories in Pay Any Price, including the story of the pallets of cash. Of $20 billion shipped to Iraq in $100 bills, he writes, $11.7 billion is unaccounted for -- lost, stolen, misused, or dumped into a failed attempt to buy an election for Ayad Allawi. Risen reports that some $2 billion of the missing money is actually known to be sitting in a pile in Lebanon, but the U.S. government has no interest in recovering it. After all, it's just $2 billion, and the military industrial complex is sucking down $1 trillion a year from the U.S. treasury.
When Risen, like everyone else, cites the cost of recent U.S. wars ($4 trillion over a decade, he says), I'm always surprised that nobody notices that it is the wars that justify the "regular" "base" military spending of another $10 trillion each decade at the current pace. I also can't believe Risen actually writes that "to most of America, war has become not only tolerable but profitable." What? Of course it's extremely profitable for certain people who exert inordinate influence on the government. But "most of America"? Many (not most) people in the U.S. have jobs in the war industry, so it's common to imagine that spending on war and preparations for war benefits an economy. In reality, spending those same dollars on peaceful industries, on education, on infrastructure, or even on tax cuts for working people would produce more jobs and in most cases better paying jobs -- with enough savings to help everyone make the transition from war work to peace work. Military spending radically increases inequality and diverts funding from services that people in many less-militarized nations have. I also wish that Risen had managed to include a story or two from that group making up 95% of U.S. war victims: the people of the places where the wars are waged.
But Risen does a great job on veterans of U.S. torture suffering moral injury, on the extensiveness of waterboarding's use, and on a sometimes comical tale of the U.S. government's infiltration of a lawsuit by 9/11 families against possible Saudi funders of 9/11 -- a story, part of which is given more context in terms of its impact in Afghanistan in Anand Gopal's recent book. There's even a story with some similarity to Merlin regarding the possible sale of U.S.-made drones to U.S. enemies abroad.
These SNAFU collection books have to be read with an eye on the complete forest, of course, to avoid the conclusion that what we need is war done right or -- for that matter -- Wall Street done right. We don't need a better CIA but a government free of the CIA. That the problems described are not essentially new is brought to mind, for me, in reading Risen's book, by the repeated references to Dulles Airport. Still, it is beginning to look as if the Dulles brothers aren't just a secretive corner of the government anymore, but the patron saints of all Good Americans. And that's frightening. Secrecy is allowing insanity, and greater secrecy is being employed to keep the insanity secret. How can it be a "State Secret" that the CIA fell for a scam artist who pretended to see magical messages on Al Jazeera? If Obama's prosecution of whistleblowers doesn't alert people to the danger, at least it is helping sell Jim Risen's books, which in turn ought to wake people up better than a middle-of-the-night visit in the hospital from Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card.
There's still a thin facade of decency to be found in U.S. political culture. Corrupt Iraqi politicians, in Risen's book, excuse themselves by saying that the early days of the occupation in 2003 were difficult. A New York Times editor told 60 Minutes that the first few years after 9/11 were just not a good time for U.S. journalism. These should not be treated as acceptable excuses for misconduct. As the earth's climate begins more and more to resemble a CIA operation, we're going to have nothing but difficult moments. Already the U.S. military is preparing to address climate change with the same thing it uses to address Ebola or terrorism or outbreaks of democracy. If we don't find people able to think on their feet, as Risen does while staring down the barrel of a U.S. prison sentence, we're going to be in for some real ugliness.