Phil Runkel, Dorothy Day Archivist and Activist, Found Guilty of Trespassing in Wisconsin

By Joy First

On Friday February 19 Phil Runkel was found guilty of trespassing in Juneau County, WI by Judge Paul Curran after a 22 minute trial.  Phil had joined nine other activists in attempting to walk onto the Volk Field Air National Guard base and meet with the commander to share our concerns about the training of drone pilots that takes place there.

District Attorney Mike Solovey followed his standard procedure of calling Sheriff Brent Oleson and Deputy Thomas Mueller to the stand and identifying Phil as one of the people who walked onto the base on August 25, 2015 and refused to leave.

Phil cross-examined Sheriff Oleson asking him about the purpose of the space between the gates and guard house.  Oleson responded that the space was used so that cars waiting to enter the base didn’t back up onto the county highway.  Phil asked when it was legal to be in that area, and Oleson responded that it was when you are given permission.  But that isn’t true.  Cars drive through the gates and about a block to the guard house and wait to talk to the guard without getting permission to wait in that space.

Phil asked Oleson if we were asked why we were there  so the base officials could determine if we were there for a valid reason, and the sheriff responded that he knew we weren’t there for a valid reason.

The state rested their case and Phil told the judge he would like to be sworn in to testify and then give a brief closing statement.

Testimony                                                                          

Your Honor:
I am employed by Marquette University, where it has been my privilege to have served since 1977 as archivist for the papers of sainthood candidate Dorothy Day. She has often been lauded for her performance of the works of mercy—most recently by Pope Francis--but scorned for her equally steadfast opposition to the works of war. This led to her arrest and imprisonment on three separate occasions for failure to take cover during civil defense drills in the 1950s. I am one of many who have been inspired by her example to seek peace and pursue it.

I respectfully plead not guilty to this charge. Following World War II the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg declared that “Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience imposed by the individual State.” (Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal, vol. I, Nürnberg 1947, page 223).This was one of the Nuremberg Principles adopted by the International Law Commission of the United Nations in 1950 to provide guidelines for determining what constitutes a war crime.  These

principles are arguably part of customary international law and part of domestic law in the United States under Article VI, paragraph 2 of the US Constitution  (175 U.S.677, 700) (1900).

Former US attorney general Ramsey Clark testified under oath, at a trial of drone protesters in Dewitt, NY, that in his legal opinion everyone is obligated under the law to try to stop their government from committing war crimes, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity
(http://www.arlingtonwestsantamonica.org/docs/Testimony_of_Elliott_Adams.pdf).

I acted out of a conviction that the use of drones for extrajudicial, targeted killing constitutes such a war crime, and I sought to apprise base commander Romuald of this fact. I intended to uphold international law. (As Ms. First noted at her trial last week, Judge Robert Jokl of Dewitt, New York, acquitted five resisters for their action at the Hancock drone base because he was persuaded that they had the same intention.)

Article 6(b) of the Nuremberg Charter defines War Crimes--violations of the laws or customs of war-- to include, among other things, murder or ill treatment of civilian population of or in occupied territory. Weaponized drones, assisted by reconnaissance and surveillance drones piloted from bases such as Volk Field, have killed between 2,494-3,994 persons in Pakistan alone since 2004. These include between 423 and 965 civilians and 172-207 children. Another 1,158-1,738 have been injured. This is data compiled by the award-winning Bureau of Investigative Journalism, based in London (https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/category/projects/drones/drones-graphs/).

According to the legal scholar
Matthew Lippman (Nuremberg and American Justice, 5 Notre Dame J.L. Ethics & Pub. Pol'y 951 (1991). Available at: http://scholarship.law.nd.edu/ndjlepp/vol5/iss4/4)    
citizens have “the legal privilege under international law to act in a non-violent proportionate fashion to halt the commission of war crimes. “  He contends that “Nuremberg… serves both as a sword which can be used to prosecute war criminals, and as a shield for those who are compelled to engage in conscientious acts of moral protest against illegal wars and methods of warfare.”

Lippman counters the common admonition for protesters to confine themselves to legally-sanctioned means of dissent, such as lobbying congresspeople. He cites Judge Myron Bright, of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. Dissenting in Kabat, Judge Bright stated that: “We must recognize that civil disobedience in various forms, used without violent acts against others, is engrained in our society and the moral correctness of political protesters' views has on occasion served to change and better our society.”

Examples he gave included the Boston Tea Party, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the more recent disobedience of “Jim Crow" laws, such as the lunch-counter sit-ins. Kabat, 797 F.2d at 601 United States v. Kabat, 797 F.2d 580 (8th Cir. 1986).

To Professor Lippman, “Today's obscenity may be tomorrow's lyric.”

I’ll conclude, then, with these words from a song many of us know: “Let there be peace on earth. And let it begin with me.”

Note that Phil was stopped in the fifth paragraph, giving statistics on the number of people killed by drones, when DA Solovey objected citing relevance and Curran sustained the objection.  Phil was not able to complete his statement, but it is included in this report because he provided valuable information that could be useful in future cases.

Curran asked Phil what his testimony has to do with trespassing and Phil began to talk about why he walked onto the base when the DA interrupted and said there is nothing about intent in the statute.  As Phil persisted in trying to explain his actions to the judge, Curran became increasingly agitated and angry.  He said he didn’t need to be lectured by Phil about Nuremberg.

Phil tried to explain he was acting under the belief that he was obliged to enter the base, and that we are compelled to engage in resistance to illegal warfare.  Again, Curran made his same old argument that his court is not going to tell Obama that what he is doing is illegal.  That continues to be a false argument that the judge makes in many of our trials.

Phil was very persistent in trying to get his point across and continued to argue his case, but the judge could not hear anything he was saying.

Finally the judge said guilty and $232 fine.  Phil said he wanted to give a closing statement.  Curran said it was too late, it was over, and got up and quickly left the courtroom.  I am concerned about a judge who refuses to allow a closing statement.  Is that legal?

This is the closing statement Phil would have liked to present.
I stand with my co-defendants in the conviction that silence in the face of the injustice of the immoral, illegal and counterproductive drone warfare being carried out by our government makes us complicit in these crimes.  And I fully endorse and support their testimonies before this court. 

In his book The New Crusade: America’s War on Terrorism, Rahul Mahajan wrote, “If terrorism is to be given an unbiased definition, it must involve the killing of noncombatants for political purposes, no matter who does it or what noble goals they proclaim.” I ask your honor to consider which poses the real threat to peace and right order—the actions of groups such as ours, or those of the CIA and other agencies responsible for our drones policy.

Again, a very disappointing outcome, but Phil reminds us of the importance of what we are doing and why we must continue as he states, “I was disappointed, of course, that Judge Curran didn’t allow me to finish my testimony or make a closing statement. But such rulings won’t deter
us from continuing to speak our truth to the powers that be.”

Mary Beth’s will be the final trial on February 25 at 9:00 am at the Juneau County “Justice” Center, 200 Oak. St. Mauston, WI.  Join us there.

Future of Draft for Men and Women Goes to Court and Congress

By Edward Hasbrouck

On Friday the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles that had dismissed the complaint in National Coalition for Men v. Selective Service System.

The Court of Appeals reinstated the complaint, and remanded the case to the U.S. District Court for consideration of the other issues in the case.

The next procedural step could be more written briefing on these issues, or a written scheduling order form the District Court, or an in-person or telephone “status conference” in Los Angeles, any of which could occur in a couple of weeks to a couple of months.

The most likely outcome of this and some other similar (although less far advanced) pending lawsuits is a court ruling that male-only draft registration in unconstitutional. Such a ruling would end draft registration, unless Congress changes the law.

The decision reinstating this case is likely to produce more pressure on Congress to take up the issue of draft registration sooner.  Both major parties are internally divided on draft registration: it’s a “wedge issue” already within each party as well as potentially between the parties.

Bills to extend draft registration to women have been introduced by both Democrats (H.R. 1509) and Republicans (H.R. 4478), and questions about whether women should be required to register have been asked in both Democratic and Republican Presidential primary debates.

Some Republican candidates have said that draft registration should be extended to women, others that it should be retained for men only. As a member of the House in 1994, Bernie Sanders voted to end draft registration. But so far as I have been able to determine, neither Bernie Sanders nor Hillary Clinton has said what they would do about draft registration, or propose that Congress do, if they are elected.

H.R. 4523, a bill to end draft registration entirely, abolish the Selective Service System, and repeal the Federal “Solomon Amendments” linking draft registration to Federal student aid, job training, and other programs has also been introduced in the House by a bipartisan group of sponsors. So far as I know, no Presidential candidate from either major party has endorsed H.R. 4523 or said that they would support ending draft registration. But this bill represents the best chance in more than 20 years to  end draft registration and abolish the Selective Service System.

Please support H.R. 4523 to end draft registration and abolish the Selective Service System. Please also support continued resistance to draft registration, by men and women, as long as it remains the law.

Opinion by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals:
http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/memoranda/2016/02/19/13-56690.pdf

Press release from the National Coalition for Men:
http://ncfm.org/2016/02/action/ncfm-wins-ninth-circuit-selective-service-appeal/

Details of H.R. 4523:
https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/4523

Petition in support of H.R. 4523:
http://diy.rootsaction.org/petitions/pass-the-new-bill-to-abolish-the-military-draft

Background:
https://hasbrouck.org/blog/archives/002204.html
http://www.resisters.info/#women

Focus: Syrian Kurds and Turkey - Feb 20, 2016


Backed by US strikes Kurdish-led force takes Islamic State stronghold Shaddadi in northeast Syria - AFP


Syrian Kurds further weaken Islamic State after taking Shaddadi, cutting off key supply route between Mosul and Raqqa - middleeasteye.net


Islamic State leaders, media official killed in American strike in the vicinity of Shaddadi city - ARA News


Turkish shelling in border areas continues: Syrian Kurds - The financial express


Syrian rebels say at least 2,000 reinforcements get free passage via Turkey heading into Azaz - todayszaman.com


Why Turkey is losing hope in Syrian border town of Azaz - Al-Monitor


CHP head again accuses Turkish gov’t of sending arms to jihadists - hurriyetdailynews.com


Erdoğan slams intellectuals who opposed going to war in Syria - todayszaman.com


Russia fails in UN bid to rein in Turkey over Syria - rappler.com


Syrian Kurds: Russia will fight ‘big war' to protect us from Turkey - breitbart.com


NATO Worried about Possible Turkey-Russia Hostilities - SPIEGEL ONLINE


Saudi king Salman, Putin hold talks on Syria crisis - Saudi Gazette


Saudi foreign minister says Syrian rebels should receive anti-aircraft missiles - Middle East Eye


Interview with Saudi foreign minister Adel al Jubeir on Syrian War - SPIEGEL ONLINE

 

-------------------------------------------------

Turkey asks US to cut ties with Syrian Kurds - ABNA


Turkey's Erdogan says saddened by U.S. arming of Syrian Kurdish militia - thestar.com


Turkish minister says US making conflicting statements over Syrian Kurdish YPG - todayszaman.com


In a telephone call with Erdogan Obama calls for 'restraint' from Turkey, Kurdish YPG in Syria - Yahoo News


Readout of the President’s call with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey - whitehouse.gov


Erdoğan says no doubt YPG behind Ankara attack, urges allies to label PYD as terrorist group - Reuters


Turkey claims they can change Incerlik airbase terms AND more if Washington doesn’t label PYD a terrorist group - Joshua Landis on Twitter


Syrian PYD leader rejects responsibility for Ankara attack - todayszaman.com


Turkey manufacturing reasons to invade Syrian Kurdistan: YPG spokesman - ekurd.net


Turkish-based Kurdish splinter group claims responsibility for Ankara bombing - DW.COM


Meet the obscure Kurdish fighters taking responsibility for the the Ankara bombing - Foreign Policy


To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)

Wrongs still need to be righted: Britain's Supreme Court Reverses Legal Practice Notorious For Prejudicial Enforcment

By Linn Washington, Jr.

London, UK

Often lost amidst the damning evidence of injustice in the enforcement of Britain’s notorious legal doctrine of joint enterprise are real people like Susan Williams –- persons whose lives have been shredded by the JE doctrine that Britain’s Supreme Court just gutted in a dramatic ruling today. Williams' grandson is serving a life sentence under joint enterprise which permits convictions carrying long sentences even of persons who did not commit a crime or even know a crime would occur.

Williams said her grandson was trying to break up a fight in 2010 that ended in a fatal shooting by others, yet led to his conviction under JE. The nightmare for Williams following the joint enterprise arrest and conviction of her grandson, Trevelle Williams, got much darker last November when her youngest daughter, the mother of Trevelle, committed suicide. Williams’ daughter, Tara Le, was distraught over her inability to free her son Trevelle, nicknamed Bluey, from what the Williams family and others saw as a wrongful conviction.

Striking out at the NY Times: Hit Piece on Sanders Proposals Relies on Pro-Clinton Economists Mislabeled as ‘Leftists’

By Dave Lindorff

 

As Bernie Sanders’ insurgent campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination continues to strengthen, so do the attacks on him by the establishment corporate media, which are reflexively backing the status quo corporatocracy.

 

Hillary Clinton & the Dogs of War

A poll taken in Iowa before the presidential caucus found that 70% of Democrats surveyed trusted Hillary Clinton on foreign policy more than Bernie Sanders.  But her record as Secretary of State was very different from that of her successor, John Kerry, who has overseen groundbreaking diplomatic breakthroughs with Iran, Cuba and, in a more limited context, even with Russia and Syria. 
 
In fact, Clinton’s use of the term “diplomacy” in talking about her own record is idiosyncratic in that it refers almost entirely to assembling “coalitions” to support U.S.

Stop Bombing Non-Hospitals

The United States has launched over 100,000 air strikes during its war on (or is it of) terror. It's blown up houses, apartments, weddings, dinners, town hall meetings, religious gatherings. It's killed senior citizens, children, men, women. It's tapped them, double tapped them, bugsplatted them, targeted them, kill-sported them, and collateral damaged them by the hundreds of thousands. It's killed civilians, journalists, mercenaries, opportunists, those trying to get by through support of the dominant force in their village, and those opposing the foreign occupation of their countries. It's killed kind people, smart people, dumb people, and nasty sadistic people who -- purely because of where they were born and raised -- had no opportunity to become U.S. presidential candidates.

Of course I would like all militaries to refrain from bombing hospitals, but I want to say a word in support of the not-yet-injured. Don't people of sound body have rights too? If there is a problem with bombing hospitals, why is there not a problem with bombing everywhere else? If there's not a problem with bombing everywhere else, why isn't it OK to bomb hospitals too?

I suppose in a certain fantasy of honorable war, brave soldiers only kill those on the battlefield trying to kill them, so that both sides can claim self-defense in a mutual moral scam. But then shouldn't the planes fight planes, the drones fight drones, the napalm do battle with other loads of napalm, the white phosphrous take on other launchers of white phosphorous, and the soldiers kicking in doors set up some houses so that other soldiers can kick their doors in? What in the name of all Hell does blowing up buildings with missiles have to do with honor? What does any of this have to do with honor? How do you explain to a war supporter who openly admits it's mass murder that there's something wrong with using torture, but that the mass murder is OK, as long as it stays away from hospitals?

Even operating under the delusion that everybody being intentionally blown up is a "combatant," while everyone nearby is a deeply regretted statistic, why are so many combatants blown up while retreating en masse or while eating dinner with their family or sipping tea at a cafe? What kind of slacker combatants is it only possible to find at weddings? Are they doing combat singing?

The United States has young people sitting in boxes, staring at computer screens, and blowing other human beings (and whoever's near them) to little bugsplatted bits thousands of miles away. Their victims are not alleged to be in the act of waging war. They're alleged to be on the side of waging war, to have previously done something to wage war and/or to be planning to possibly participate in war, or to appear likely to do so given their insolent choice to live where they were born.

Well, if you're murdering people at the command of the U.S. president because of who they are, not what they are doing, then it doesn't much matter if they are retreating or resting or registering for a self-help class, and it's hard to see why it matters if they're in a hospital. Clearly the Pentagon can't see the distinction and chooses not to pretend to, offering only the insult of a halfhearted lie that the hospital attacks are accidental.

The wars as a whole cannot be accidental, and if you pick them apart, bit by bit, eliminating each moral outrage, you'll be left with nothing. There's no legitimate core left standing. There's no "legitimate enemy." There's no battlefield. These are wars fought where people live. They are in these wars by force. You want to "support" the U.S. troops even when you oppose the policy, cheer as for a sports team even when the sport is murder? Well, what about the non-U.S. troops? Do they not get the same understanding?

10 Reasons Why Ending the Draft Helps End War

The military draft has not been used in the United States since 1973, but the machinery has remained in place (costing the federal government about $25 million a year). Males over 18 have been required to register for the draft since 1940 (except between 1975 and 1980) and still are today, with no option to register as conscientious objectors or to choose peaceful productive public service. Some in Congress have been making “enlightened” feminist noises about forcing young women to register as well. In most states young men who get driver’s licenses are automatically registered for the draft without their permission (and virtually all of those states’ governments claim that automatically registering people to vote would just not be realistic). When you apply for financial aid for college, if you’re male, you probably won’t get it until after a mandatory check to see if you’re registered for the draft.

A new bill in Congress would abolish the draft, and a petition in support of it has gained a good deal of traction. But a significant contingent among those who sincerely want peace vehemently opposes ending the draft, and in fact favors drafting young people into war starting tomorrow. Since coming out as a supporter of the new legislation, I’ve encountered far more support than opposition. But the opposition has been intense and sizable. I’ve been called naive, ignorant, ahistorical, and desirous of slaughtering poor boys to protect the elite children I supposedly care exclusively about.

Mr. Moderator, may I have a thirty-second rebuttal, as the distinguished demagogue addressed me directly?

We’re all familiar with the argument behind peace activists’ demand for the draft, the argument that Congressman Charles Rangel made when proposing to start up a draft some years back. U.S. wars, while killing almost exclusively innocent foreigners, also kill and injure and traumatize thousands of U.S. troops drawn disproportionately from among those lacking viable educational and career alternatives. A fair draft, rather than a poverty draft, would send — if not modern-day Donald Trumps, Dick Cheneys, George W. Bushes, or Bill Clintons — at least some offspring of relatively powerful people to war. And that would create opposition, and that opposition would end the war. That’s the argument in a nutshell. Let me offer 10 reasons why I think this is sincere but misguided.

  1. History doesn’t bear it out. The drafts in the U.S. civil war (both sides), the two world wars, and the war on Korea did not end those wars, despite being much larger and in some cases fairer than the draft during the American war on Vietnam. Those drafts were despised and protested, but they took lives; they did not save lives. The very idea of a draft was widely considered an outrageous assault on basic rights and liberties even before any of these drafts. In fact, a draft proposal was successfully argued down in Congress by denouncing it as unconstitutional, despite the fact that the guy who had actually written most of the Constitution was also the president who was proposing to create the draft. Said Congressman Daniel Webster on the House floor at the time (1814): “The administration asserts the right to fill the ranks of the regular army by compulsion…Is this, sir, consistent with the character of a free government? Is this civil liberty? Is this the real character of our Constitution? No, sir, indeed it is not…Where is it written in the Constitution, in what article or section is it contained, that you may take children from their parents, and parents from their children, and compel them to fight the battles of any war, in which the folly or the wickedness of government may engage it? Under what concealment has this power lain hidden, which now for the first time comes forth, with a tremendous and baleful aspect, to trample down and destroy the dearest rights of personal liberty?” When the draft came to be accepted as an emergency wartime measure during the civil and first world wars, it never would have been tolerated during peacetime. (And it’s still not anywhere to be found in the Constitution.) Only since 1940 (and under a new law in ’48), when FDR was still working on manipulating the United States into World War II, and during the subsequent 75 years of permanent wartime has “selective service” registration gone on uninterrupted for decades. The draft machine is part of a culture of war that makes kindergarteners pledge allegiance to a flag and 18-year-old males sign up to express their willingness to go off and kill people as part of some unspecified future government project. The government already knows your Social Security number, sex, and age. The purpose of draft registration is in great part war normalization.
  1. People bled for this. When voting rights are threatened, when elections are corrupted, and even when we are admonished to hold our noses and vote for one or another of the god-awful candidates regularly placed before us, what are we reminded of? People bled for this. People risked their lives and lost their lives. People faced fire hoses and dogs. People went to jail. That’s right. And that’s why we should continue the struggle for fair and open and verifiable elections. But what do you think people did for the right not to be drafted into war? They risked their lives and lost their lives. They were hung up by their wrists. They were starved and beaten and poisoned. Eugene Debs, hero of Senator Bernie Sanders, went to prison for speaking against the draft. What would Debs make of the idea of peace activists supporting a draft in order to stir up more peace activism? I doubt he’d be able to speak through his tears.
  1. Millions dead is a cure worse than the disease. I am very well convinced that the peace movement shortened and ended the war on Vietnam, not to mention removing a president from office, helping to pass other progressive legislation, educating the public, communicating to the world that there was decency hiding in the United States, and — oh, by the way — ending the draft. And I have zero doubt that the draft had helped to build the peace movement. But the draft did not contribute to ending the war before that war had done far more damage than has any war since. We can cheer for the draft ending the war, but four million Vietnamese lay dead, along with Laotians, Cambodians, and over 50,000 U.S. troops. And as the war ended, the dying continued. Many more U.S. troops came home and killed themselves than had died in the war. Children are still born deformed by Agent Orange and other poisons used. Children are still ripped apart by explosives left behind. If you add up numerous wars in numerous nations, the United States has inflicted death and suffering on the Middle East to equal or surpass that in Vietnam, but none of the wars has used anything like as many U.S. troops as were used in Vietnam. If the U.S. government had wanted a draft and believed it could get away with starting one, it would have. If anything, the lack of a draft has restrained the killing. The U.S. military would add a draft to its existing billion-dollar recruitment efforts, not replace one with the other. And the far greater concentration of wealth and power now than in 1973 pretty well assures that the children of the super-elite would not be conscripted.
  1. Don’t underestimate support for a draft. The United States has a much greater population than do most countries of people who say they are ready to support wars and even of people who say they would be willing to fight a war. Forty-four percent of U.S. Americans now tell Gallup polling that they “would” fight in a war. Why aren’t they now fighting in one? That’s an excellent question, but one answer could be: Because there’s no draft. What if millions of young men in this country, having grown up in a culture absolutely saturated in militarism, are told it’s their duty to join a war? You saw how many joined without a draft between September 12, 2001, and 2003. Is combining those misguided motivations with a direct order from the “commander in chief” (whom many civilians already refer to in those terms) really what we want to experiment with? To protect the world from war?!
  1. The supposedly non-existent peace movement is quite real. Yes, of course, all movements were bigger in the 1960s and they did a great deal of good, and I’d willingly die to bring back that level of positive engagement. But the notion that there has been no peace movement without the draft is false. The strongest peace movement the United States has seen was probably that of the 1920s and 1930s. The peace movements since 1973 have restrained the nukes, resisted the wars, and moved many in the United States further along the path toward supporting war abolition. Public pressure blocked the United Nations from supporting recent wars, including the 2003 attack on Iraq, and made supporting that war such a badge of shame that it has kept Hillary Clinton out of the White House at least once so far. It also resulted in concern in 2013 among members of Congress that if they backed the bombing of Syria they’d been seen as having backed “another Iraq.” Public pressure was critical in upholding a nuclear agreement with Iran last year. There are many ways to build the movement. You can elect a Republican president and easily multiply the ranks of the peace movement 100-fold the next day. But should you? You can play on people’s bigotry and depict opposition to a particular war or weapons system as nationalistic and macho, part of preparation for other better wars. But should you? You can draft millions of young men off to war and probably see some new resisters materialize. But should you? Have we really given making the honest case for ending war on moral, economic, humanitarian, environmental, and civil liberties grounds a fair try?
  1. Doesn’t Joe Biden’s son count? I too would love to see a bill passed requiring that congress members and presidents deploy to the front lines of any war they support. But in a society gone mad enough for war, even steps in that direction wouldn’t end the war making. It appears the U.S. military killed the Vice President’s son through reckless disregard for its own cannon fodder. Will the Vice President even mention it, much less make a move to end the endless warmaking? Don’t hold your breath. U.S. Presidents and Senators used to be proud to send their offspring off to die. If Wall Street can out-do the gilded age, so can the servants of the military industrial complex.
  1. We build a movement to end war by building a movement to end war. The surest way we have of reducing and then ending militarism, and the racism and materialism with which it is interwoven, is to work for the end of war. By seeking to make wars bloody enough for the aggressor that he stops aggressing, we would essentially be moving in the same direction as we already have by turning public opinion against wars in which U.S. troops die. I understand that there might be more concern over wealthier troops and greater numbers of troops. But if you can open people’s eyes to the lives of gays and lesbians and transgendered people, if you can open people’s hearts to the injustices facing African Americans murdered by police, if you can bring people to care about the other species dying off from human pollution, surely you can also bring them even further along than they’ve already come in caring about the lives of U.S. troops not in their families — and perhaps even about the lives of the non-Americans who make up the vast majority of those killed by U.S. warmaking. One result of the progress already made toward caring about U.S. deaths has been greater use of robotic drones. We need to be building opposition to war because it is the mass murder of beautiful human beings who are not in the United States and could never be drafted by the United States. A war in which no Americans die is just as much a horror as one in which they do. That understanding will end war.
  1. The right movement advances us in the right direction. Pushing to end the draft will expose those who favor it and increase opposition to their war mongering. It will involve young people, including young men who do not want to register for the draft and young women who do not want to be required to start doing so. A movement is headed in the right direction if even a compromise is progress. A compromise with a movement demanding a draft would be a small draft. That would almost certainly not work any of the magic intended, but would increase the killing. A compromise with a movement to end the draft might be the ability to register for non-military service or as a conscientious objector. That would be a step forward. We might develop out of that new models of heroism and sacrifice, new nonviolent sources of solidarity and meaning, new members of a movement in favor of substituting civilized alternatives for the whole institution of war.
  1. The war mongers want the draft too. It’s not only a certain section of peace activists who want the draft. So do the true war mongers. The selective service tested its systems at the height of the occupation of Iraq, preparing for a draft if needed. Various powerful figures in D.C. have proposed that a draft would be more fair, not because they think the fairness would end the warmaking but because they think the draft would be tolerated. Now, what happens if they decide they really want it? Should it be left available to them? Shouldn’t they at least have to recreate the selective service first, and to do so up against the concerted opposition of a public facing an imminent draft? Imagine if the United States joins the civilized world in making college free. Recruitment will be devastated. The poverty draft will suffer a major blow. The actual draft will look very desirable to the Pentagon. They may try more robots, more hiring of mercenaries, and more promises of citizenship to immigrants. We need to be focused on cutting off those angles, as well as on in fact making college free.
  1. Take away the poverty draft too. The unfairness of the poverty draft is not grounds for a larger unfairness. It needs to be ended too. It needs to be ended by opening up opportunities to everyone, including free quality education, job prospects, life prospects. Isn’t the proper solution to troops being stop-lossed not adding more troops but waging less war? When we end the poverty draft and the actual draft, when we actually deny the military the troops it needs to wage war, and when we create a culture that views murder as wrong even when engaged in on a large scale and even when all the deaths are foreign, then we’ll actually get rid of war, not just acquire the ability to stop each war 4 million deaths into it.

Thank you to Jim Naureckas for pointing out the gap from 1975-1980 now mentioned in the first paragraph.

Chomsky Wants You to Wake Up from the American Dream

If you've just seen Michael Moore's movie and are wondering how in the world the United States got diverted into the slow lane to hell, go watch Noam Chomsky's movie. If you've just seen Noam Chomsky's movie and are wondering whether the human species is really worth saving, go see Michael Moore's movie. If you haven't seen either of these movies, please tell me that you haven't been watching presidential debates. As either of these movies would be glad to point out to you, that's NOT HOW YOU CHANGE ANYTHING.

"Filmed over four years, these are his last long-form documentary interviews," Chomsky's film, Requiem for the American Dream, says of him at the start, rather offensively. Why? He seems perfectly able to give interviews and apparently gave those in this film for four years. And of course he acquired the insights he conveys over many more years than that. They are not new insights to activists, but they would be like revelations from another world to a typical U.S. resident.

Chomsky explains how concentrated wealth creates concentrated power, which legislates further concentration of wealth, which then concentrates more power in a vicious cycle. He lists and elaborates on ten principles of the concentration of wealth and power -- principles that the wealthy of the United States have acted intensely on for 40 years or more.

1. Reduce Democracy. Chomsky finds this acted on by the very "founding fathers" of the United States, in the creation of the U.S. Senate, and in James Madison's statement during debate over the U.S. Constitution that the new government would need to protect the wealthy from too much democracy. Chomsky finds the same theme in Aristotle but with Aristotle proposing to reduce inequality, while Madison proposed to reduce democracy. The burst of activism and democracy in the United States in the 1960s scared the protectors of wealth and privilege, and Chomsky admits that he did not anticipate the strength of the backlash through which we have been suffering since.

2. Shape Ideology. The Powell Memo from the corporate right, and the Trilateral Commission's first ever report, called "The Crisis of Democracy," are cited by Chomsky as roadmaps for the backlash. That report referred to an "excess of democracy," the over engagement of young people with civic life, and the view that young people were just not receiving proper "indoctrination." Well, there's a problem that's been fixed, huh?

3. Redesign the Economy. Since the 1970s the United States has been moved toward an ever larger role for financial institutions. By 2007 they "earned" 40% of corporate profits. Deregulation has produced wealth concentration and economic crashes, followed by anti-capitalist bailouts making for more wealth concentration. Offshore production has reduced workers' pay. Alan Greenspan testified to Congress about the benefits of promoting "job insecurity" -- something those Europeans in Michael Moore's film don't know about and might find it hard to appreciate.

4. Shift the Burden. The American Dream in the 1950s and 60s was partly real. Both the rich and the poor got richer. Since then, we've seen the steady advance of what Chomsky calls the plutonomy and the precariat, that is the wealthy few who run the show and get all the new wealth, and the precarious proletariat. Back then, taxes were quite high on corporations, dividends, and wealth. Not anymore.

5. Attack Solidarity. To go after Social Security and public education, Chomsky says, you have to drive the normal emotion of caring about others out of people's heads. The U.S. of the 1950s was able to make college essentially free with the G.I. Bill and other public funding. Now a much wealthier United States is full of "serious" experts who claim that such a thing is impossible (and who must strictly avoid watching Michael Moore).

6. Run the Regulators. The 1970s saw enormous growth in lobbying. It is now routine for the interests being regulated to control the regulators, which makes things much easier on the regulated.

7. Engineer Elections. Thus we've seen the creation of corporate personhood, the equation of money with speech, and the lifting of all limits under Citizens United.

8. Keep the Rabble in Line. Here Chomsky focuses on attacks on organized labor, including the Taft Hartley Act, but one could imagine further expansions on the theme.

9. Manufacture Consent. Obsessive consumers are not born, they're molded by advertising. The goal of directing people to superficial consumption as a means of keeping people in their place was explicit and has been reached. In a market economy, Chomsky says, informative advertisements would result in rational decisions. But actual advertisements provide no information and promote irrational choices. Here Chomsky is talking about, not just ads for automobiles and soap, but also election campaigns for candidates.

10. Marginalize the Population. This seems as much a result as a tactic, but it certainly has been achieved. What the public wants does not typically impact what the U.S. government does.

Unless the trends described above are reversed, Chomsky says, things are going to get very ugly.

Then the film shows us a clip of Chomsky saying the same thing decades earlier when he was still shown on U.S. television. He's been marginalized along with the rest of us.

I imagine every friendly critic of this film has a #11 to add, and that they are all different. In fact, I can think of lots of things to add, but I insist on mentioning one of them. It's the same one missing from Bernie Sanders' home movie starring Iowa and New Hampshire. Its the thing missing from all U.S. discourse but showing up in Michael Moore's movie as a great difference between the United States and Europe.

11. Dump Massive Funding into Militarism. Why should this be included? Well, militarism is the biggest public program in the United States. It's over half of federal discretionary spending. If you're going to claim that lobbyists are concentrating wealth through their influence on the government, why not notice the single budget item that eats up over half the budget? It does indeed concentrate wealth and also power. It's a vast pot of unaccountable funding for cronies. And it generates public interest in fighting foreign enemies rather than enemies hanging out on Wall Street. It does militarize the police for free, however, just in case Wall Street generates any disgruntled customers.

Chomsky does, of course, oppose militarism. As far as I know he's consistently opposed it for many years. We see B-roll of him in the movie with anti-war books in his office. And discussion of point #1 above mentions the peace movement of the 1960s. How the single biggest thing that the wealthy and powerful do in their effort to expand their power over the whole globe didn't make the top-10 list I don't know.

The film concludes with a call to build mass movements for change. The United States still has a very free society, Chomsky advises. A lot can be done, he tells us, if people will only choose to do it.

Focus: Clinton and Sanders in the Polls - Feb 18, 2016


POLL (Quinnipiac University): Dead heat: Sanders, Clinton in virtual tie nationwide - TheHill


POLL: Full results of the Quinnipiac University poll - quinnipiac.edu


POLL (Economist/YouGov): Hillary Clinton Least Trustworthy Of All Candidates - The Daily Caller


POLL: Hillary Clinton loses to four top Republican presidential contenders, including Donald Trump, - TheHill


POLL (Public Policy Polling): Clinton leading Sanders in 10 of 12 early March primary states - TheHill


POLL: Full results of Public Policy Polling - publicpolicypolling.com


POLL: Voters Say Money, Media Have Too Much Political Clout - Rasmussen Reports


POLL: Nevada: Clinton, Sanders tied; Trump way ahead - Las Vegas Sun


POLL: Clinton leads Sanders by 26 points in Tennessee - tennessean.com


POLL: Sanders ahead of Clinton in Mass., poll finds - The Boston Globe


POLL: Clinton, Trump lead in Va., poll says, but voters have doubts - The Daily Progress


POLL: Clinton, Trump leads getting smaller in North Carolina - abc11.com


POLL: Poll shows Democratic primary race tightening in Oklahoma - NewsOK.com


POLL: Trump, Clinton hold strong leads in South Carolina polls - FOX2now.com


Big Win For Bernie: AFL-CIO Holds Off On Presidential Endorsement - huffingtonpost.com


House Dem uses online poll to decide between Sanders, Clinton - TheHill


Hillary Clinton's Wal-Mart ties breed mistrust among liberals, boost Bernie Sanders - Washington Times


Superdelegates Could Affect US Presidential Nominee Selection - VOA


Lobbyist superdelegates tip nomination toward Hillary Clinton - theintercept.com


Unpacking the Role of the Superdelegate in the Democratic Party Primary - huffingtonpost.com


N.H. GOP urges Democratic superdelegates to support Sanders - AP


Trying to predict the election? Forget about Twitter, study concludes - The Guardian


Thomas Piketty op-ed on the rise of Bernie Sanders: the US enters a new political era - The Guardian


VIDEO: This looks like video evidence of Bernie Sanders getting arrested in 1963 as a young activist fighting racial discrimination - dailykos.com


Clinton email chain discussed Afghan national's CIA ties, official says - Fox News


To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)

A Swollen River of Refugees Fleeing War

By David Smith-Ferri

Last month, as US border patrol agents began rounding up Central American women and children denied asylum, a small group of international peace activists from Voices for Creative Nonviolence boarded a plane for Helsinki, Finland, to visit two longtime Iraqi friends who fled Baghdad last summer and somehow completed a perilous seven-week journey over land and sea to reach this northern seaport. Negotiating our way from the airport in Helsinki to Laajasalo, a small island and suburb where we were to stay with a Finnish journalist, we crossed a frozen and snow-covered Baltic Sea, as white flakes swirled in the streetlights and the temperature dropped to minus 25 degrees Celsius, a long, long way from Baghdad.

Visiting Waleed and Aose (5) (1)

Our friends Mohammad and his teenage son, Omar, come from a small farming village where they grow okra. Last autumn, like hundreds of thousands of others, they were part of the swollen river of refugees whose headwaters sprang from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, where endless war has devastated society and local violence has left so many people at grave risk. The journey to Europe is not merely a long, exhausting trip. It is treacherous from the start.

To begin with, while leaving their country of origin, people risk their lives traveling through contested parts of their country or over roads controlled by militias or warlords known to capture and kill people of their ethnicity or religious sect. Risks, we can be sure, they wouldn’t undertake except out of desperation. All of this merely to enter Turkey. In Istanbul, where refugees must try to find a trustworthy smuggler, make a deal with one of his agents, and pay a hefty fee – held in a sort of escrow until a specific, agreed-upon part of the trip is completed – Turkish police patrol the streets and coffee houses looking for migrants. Iraqis are particularly at risk. If captured in Turkey and identified, they are imprisoned and eventually turned over to Iraqi authorities. And in the charged, sectarian atmosphere in Iraq, refugees shudder to think what might follow.

From Turkey, Mohammad and his son planned to travel by bus to a port town – “Well, it’s not really a town, just a place at the beach” – and launch a rubber dinghy onto the Aegean Sea at night. Their hope was to reach Farmakonisi, a tiny, largely uninhabited Greek island five and three quarter miles from the Turkish coast.

Leaving Istanbul is itself like crossing open seas. It involved a nine-hour bus trip. The first trick is getting on the bus without being captured by police, and then again eluding police while traveling out of the city. No small feat. This isn’t a tourist bus or a standard bus route where you gather with other passengers trying to blend in at a regular, authorized location. It’s an empty mini-bus into which twenty refugees cram themselves and their luggage all at once. Not an easy thing to hide. “The bus, ”Mohammad told us, “will wait 2 minutes. No more.” Of course, people are anxious and on edge. He described three failed attempts to successfully leave Istanbul. In one attempt, the smuggler’s agent assigned a meeting place, then changed it four times over the next couple of hours, until the group, which included women and young children, crouched in the dark on the edge of a wood, looking down a dirt path to a street corner where, at a specified time, the bus was supposed to appear.

According to the smuggler’s agent’s directions, a phone call would alert the refugees that the bus was approaching the appointed pickup spot. In the meantime, they should organize themselves into four sub-groups of twenty people, the first sub-group dashing out when the first bus appears. By this point, however, and despite the best efforts of Mohammad and other group leaders, such discipline was beyond them. Sleep-deprived, frightened, and hungry, too many people ran out, and the mini-bus fled without boarding anyone, forcing the smuggler’s agent to reschedule the attempt for another day and leaving the refugees with nothing to show for their effort but an unfulfilled promise.

On another attempt, the refugees successfully boarded only to be spotted by police as they left the city. Two of the four buses were apprehended. In the third bus, Mohammad and Omar watched as their driver swerved recklessly around the police and drove breakneck down the road. “He has to do this,” Mohammad explained. “For him it is life or death because it is a twenty-year prison sentence if you are caught.” In the end, this attempt also failed, when the group was rounded up by police after being delivered to the beach. Mohammad describes what happened:

After a long wait, some tourists came down the side of the hill and saw women and children lying in the woods, and we were afraid they will tell the police. We could see police boats on the water, and hear their sirens. Eventually a Turkish man came and questioned us, we told him the truth, he said ‘ok, don’t worry,’ and he brought water and some biscuits. Another Turkish man came and said everyone should gather in one place. This was suspicious. Then suddenly the police opened fire, we hear the sound of bullets. Some young people run toward sea and start swimming, some run away into the woods. The police say they will keep us until everyone is here. The young people are captured, and we are taken back to Istanbul and held in jail for questioning. They hold us for six days, but they accept that the Iraqis in our group are Syrians and they let us go.

After this, Mohammad and his son spent two weeks in Istanbul, resting, thinking, planning, gathering their strength for another attempt. “Almost everyday in the coffee shops, we hear stories about people drowning [trying to cross the Aegean Sea], but we try to ignore this because we don’t want our motivation to weaken. This is why I waited two weeks to make the crossing, some people only wait a couple of days, but I am very careful, questioning the smuggler, asking his agent questions. Where is your crossing? Where do you land?...I saw that there were more women and children than men refugees, and this made me strong. They inspired me. If they can face death, I can too.”

Finally, on the fourth attempt, they succeeded. (“This time, we left during the day, and the police were right there. So we believe bribes were paid”). A nighttime sea crossing was set, and Mohammad, a mechanical engineer by training, agreed to pilot. The trip was harrowing, with the boat overloaded and passengers frantic, Turkish police on the waters, and navigation a literal shot in the dark. “I never drove a boat before…My son and I can’t swim. I believed we would die, but I thought, if I am going to face death, then I will face it carefully…Thank God we made it.”

On Thursday, January 21, at least forty-three refugees, including seventeen children, died when their boats capsized while trying to cross the Aegean Sea. One of the boats was headed to Farmakonisi.

It is two hundred twenty-five miles in a straight line across the sea from Farmakonisi to Athens. Before reaching the Greek capital, Mohammad and Omar had to travel to other small Greek Aegean islands, waiting on one for almost a week, with little food. “Everyday more refugees landed…the good thing is that I was able to beg some food for Omar, a bit of bread, a few dates…he was losing strength.”

Travel time by air from Athens to Helsinki is about six and a quarter hours, including a Munich layover. If you count the layover in Munich, the trip increases to six and a quarter hours. For Mohammad and Omar and those they met traveling overland, it took weeks, with the borders opening and closing like jaws before and behind them.

As a young man in Iraq, Mohammad had few chances to use his professional training. Following on the heels of a costly eight-year war with Iran (a conflict in which the US participated in a number of ways, including providing weapons to both sides), Iraq’s economy collapsed under the weight of international economic sanctions. In 1993, Mohammad began working for a French NGO working to provide medical relief to Baghdad’s malnourished children, a job that brought him a good deal of unwanted attention from Iraq’s intelligence services. It was work as a journalist for foreign media that brought the death threats that forced Mohammad and his family to flee their Baghdad home and go into hiding. Continued threats, the murder of his brother by a Shia militia, and the kidnapping and murder of his father forced him and Omar to flee their country. Omar’s mother and his six younger siblings remain in Iraq, waiting for the chance to reunite with Mohammad and Omar in Finland.

On an evening toward the end of our visit, Mohammad and I walked from the bus stop to our apartment. Snow danced lazily in the air. Without preamble, speaking thoughts that carried him from Baghdad to Finland, Mohammad said,

“I came here because of my children. If I stay in Iraq, they will kill me. And what will happen to them in such a society?”

In the silence that followed, his words rose into the air and joined the dance.

Photo credit:   Hakim, Afghan Peace Volunteers

Photo caption:  the author, Mohammad and Omar at a Finnish camp for asylum seekers, January 2016

David Smith-Ferri is a member of Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org) and the author, most recently, of  Where Days Are Stones, Afghanistan and Gaza Poems, 2012-2013. He recently returned from a VCNV delegation to Helsinki, where he visited with Iraqi friends who fled their country and are seeking asylum in Finland. He can be reached at dsmithferri@gmail.com

Ask TSA by Susan Richart

As TSA News readers know, the Transportation Security Administration has a nifty new “training academy” in Glynco, Georgia. Supposedly all new TSA hires from across the country, including Hawaii and Alaska, will attend this academy for two weeks of training (replacing the current four weeks of in-house local airport training), and all current TSA employees will be sent for additional training.

Chris Bray wrote about it

Read the rest at TSA News.

Focus: Syria/Turkey News - Feb 17, 2016

 

Kurdish-backed Syrian Democratic Forces take town near Turkish border, pushing towards Islamic State-held territory east of Azaz - Kurdpress


Pro-gov’t daily claims 500 rebels crossed into Syria through Turkey to prevent Kurds from advancing to rebel stronghold Azaz - Todays Zaman


Turkey will not allow Syrian town of Azaz to fall to Kurdish militia: PM - Reuters


Russia says Turkey supplies Islamic State via Syrian town of Azaz - Reuters


Azaz corridor: across a narrow strip of border territory a ferocious battle with huge implications for Syria’s civil war is playing out - AP


Syrian army is now 15 kilometres away from cutting ISIS in half - russia-insider.com


Syrian army charges toward the ISIS capital Raqqa - The Daily Caller


Syrian troops regain control of Aleppo power plant - Tasnim News Agency


Syria government allows humanitarian aid into 7 besieged areas: UN - Yahoo News


Aleppo rebels unite under former Ahrar al-Sham commander - Middle East Eye


MAP: This animated map portrays the advances of the Kurdish & loyalist forces over the last weeks north of Aleppo - Joshua Landis on Twitter


US DoS estimates Daesh at lowest level of manpower since 2014 - sputniknews.com


ISIS faces budget crunch, killing perks and slashing salaries - Fox 5 NY

 

---------------------------------------------------

Turkey calls on US, allies to launch ground operation in Syria - Fox News


Turkey renews shelling of YPG targets on fourth day - todayszaman.com


Russia-backed Syrian offensive aims to forge Kurdish militia corridor, Erdoğan says - todayszaman.com


UN Security Council expresses concern over Turkey strikes in Syria, urge it to comply with international law - Todays Zaman


US-Turkish Tensions Escalate Over Syrian Kurds - VOA


EU asks Turkey to stop bombing Kurds in Syria - Kurdpress News Aganecy


Turkey expresses dissatisfaction with French criticism of shelling of Kurdish YPG militia targets in Syria - Reuters


Russia blasts Turkey's 'provocative' shelling of Kurds in Syria - Yahoo News


Turkey-Russia Antagonism Draws Kurds Closer To Moscow - ibtimes.com


Russia has just deployed its most advanced spyplane to Syria - The Aviationist


Putin holds meeting with Iranian defense minister: Kremlin spokesman - TASS


Tehran: Saudi troops could battle Iranian Guard in Syria - WND


Hezbollah chief says Turkey, Saudi Arabia prefer war over political agreement in Syria - Yahoo News


To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)

Talk Nation Radio: Dahlia Wasfi on the Past Quarter Century of U.S. Bombing of Iraq

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-dahlia-wasfi-on-the-past-quarter-century-of-us-bombing-of-iraq

Dahlia Wasfi is an Iraqi-American justice activist who has written and spoken extensively on U.S. policy in the region of Iraq. She is currently writing a book on Iraq and recently published the article "Battling ISIS: Iran-Iraq War Redux." She discusses the past quarter century of U.S. bombing of Iraq.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

We Are Not Your Soldiers

By Debra Sweet, Stephanie Rugoff and Jay Becker

Early on in the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, a lot of veterans were speaking out.  Iraq Veterans Against the War was founded in 2004 and lots of anti-war veterans were accessible.  World Can’t Wait started to make visits to high schools and colleges with recent veterans in 2006 – the time when the military was desperate to recruit more youth, taking even those who hadn’t completed high school, had misdemeanors, etc.  We also sent Vietnam veterans to schools to talk about their experiences and make the connections between what happened in the 60’s and early 70’s with what’s happening now.

In the fall of 2008, immediately after the presidential election, several young veterans attended a World Can’t Wait national meeting.  One of them insistently pointed out that he got really upset when people say they are honoring veterans for their service when in actuality many of them had committed war crimes.  That was when we came up with the idea of starting the organized project which became We Are Not Your Soldiers.

We raised money and did a tour that went on for weeks in 2008 and then did another in 2009.  One of our youth organizers and a veteran went off on a tour of schools in Southern California and Seattle.  Another team of a World Can’t Wait activist and an Iraq vet went around the Midwest. We made up bandanas, palm cards and posters – one of our best shows a terrified Iraqi woman at the door of her home which is about to be forcibly entered by the US Army with words that say “Wrong. Army Wrong.”  For several years we tabled at the Warped Tour and Coachella. 

Over the years, war fighting has changed.  We Are Not Your Soldiers is still needed but the emphasis has changed too. Now, at the beginning of 2016, the government has announced it’s going to double the amount of recruiting.  The military is intensely looking for gamers. Brandon Bryant is a case in point – a young man with gaming skills who became a drone operator until his conscience made it impossible for him to continue with his assignment.

It has been challenging to maintain work over a long period.  Obama has changed the approach to waging the war of terror, partially withdrawing soldiers but expanding the scope of those wars with drones, bombing and the use of proxy forces.  Anti-war veterans deal with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and employment/unemployment issues – everything that affects veterans in general affects them as well.  There has been a turnover in the veterans who participate in the We Are Not Your Soldiers project.

The need to stop the United States’ aggressive militarism and wars against peoples around the world remains urgent.  We feel the necessity of keeping this generation of youth from getting caught up in fighting these seemingly endless wars of domination – and to build a conscious movement to stop this trajectory.  We understand from our years of experience that many young people sign up out of a misguided sense that they will be “helping people in other countries,” that the military will give them a “higher purpose.” The US military creates these dangerous illusions through sophisticated print and film ads that turn reality on its head. As one Iraq-era vet put it to a high school class in Chicago, “The military is NOT the Peace Corps!"

World Can’t Wait’s We Are Not Your Soldiers project brings Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans to classes to tell the truth about the wars and what the military is really recruiting for. Usually, we begin the presentation by showing a short video.  Sometimes we use a version of “Collateral Murder” narrated by veteran Ethan McCord which contains footage, released by Chelsea Manning, of the Bagdad killing of Reuters journalists and others.  Or we may show a clip from a feature film on a drone pilot stationed at a base here in the United States or some other video. The veterans then talk about their on-the-ground experiences in occupying countries, where civilians pay the price.  In-service and post-service issues such PTSD, medical/psychological care or lack thereof and homelessness are also addressed.  Students are provided with information and a perspective to which they may not otherwise be exposed. There is an additional possibility, in some areas of the country, to do a historical presentation with a Vietnam military resister and/or veteran.  This can be done in conjunction with the recent veteran’s class visit or separately.

We also do screenings of relevant films – on drones, torture and/or participation in the US military – and then engage students in a guided follow-up discussion.  This can be either a one-time event or a series of visits to a classroom.

In any of these options we work with educators to develop a customized presentation. Presenters engage in discussion with the students and answer their questions.  The students feel free to raise issues, ideas and questions in an environment where each person speaking is treated with respect. We provide resources to both prepare for and follow up on our visit/s.

This year, many students have returned to school with an increased consciousness of the systemic injustices towards people of color in this country. That awareness, while important in its own right, should be built on to include recognizing the injustices of empire and the US military in particular – and why it is neither in their interests nor those of the people of the world for them to enlist.  The wars for empire continue and are at the heart of the flood of refugees risking their lives to escape the war zones of the Middle East and Africa.

As stated in the Common Core State Standards on critical thinking, students have an opportunity to integrate information from diverse sources. Students can delineate and evaluate the arguments and claims to which they are exposed.  They can “analyze how two or more (sources) address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the (sources) take.”

The We Are Not Your Soldiers program has the potential to convince a lot of youth not to join up as well as exposing them to the anti-war movement.  Not only do we do the presentations described above, we also provide access to tools to discuss these issues with other students, such as flyers and links to information on-line to empower them to help friends avoid the trap of fighting, killing and possibly dying for a cause that is not in their interests or those of the people whose countries the US is attacking.  While we certainly recognize the difficult economic situations the students face, we present the moral issue of what these students are going to be doing with their lives – providing the context in which they can deliberate and make their own decisions.

Want to get involved with We Are Not Your Soldiers?

Email us:  wearenotyoursoldiers@worldcantwait.net

Call us: 646-807-3259

 

Debra Sweet is the Director of World Can’t Wait.

Stephanie Rugoff coordinates the We Are Not Your Soldiers project.

Jay Becker works actively in the Chicago chapter of World Can’t Wait.

 

New poem by TCBH resident poet Gary Lindorff -- 'Gun Tales of a Pacifist'

Gun tales of a pacifist

 

My brother and I learned to shoot

At summer camp.

That is where gunpowder

Military Exploits School Testing Opt Out Campaign

By Pat Elder, WarIsACrime.org

Enlistment exam provides alternate pathway to graduation

Thousands of New Jersey high school seniors may be taking the military’s enlistment exam to fulfill a graduation requirement because they opted out of the controversial PARCC tests when they were juniors.

Nearly 50,000 New Jersey high school seniors are required to take an alternative end-of-year assessment because they opted out of taking the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, (PARCC) test last year. School officials say  “a significant number” of these students will now likely have to take either the College Board’s ACCUPLACER test or the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, (ASVAB) as approved pathways to graduation. The costly ACCUPLACER is a product of the College Board, while the free-of-charge ASVAB is the military’s enlistment test that is given to 650,000 students in 14,000 schools across the country. Its primary purpose, according to military documents, is to procure leads for recruiters.

The staggering numbers of New Jersey 11th graders who opted out of taking the PARCC test last year may have done so as a result of a coordinated campaign. South Brunswick New Jersey’s Board of Education Vice President Dan Boyle explained during a board meeting last month, “Throughout the state, there are an inordinate amount of students that are not qualified to graduate,” Boyle said at the time. “That is almost directly a result of the (PARCC) opt-out movement.”

The robust testing opt-out movement in New Jersey and throughout the country has targeted the corporatization and standardization of American education. United Opt Out National serves as a focal point of resistance to corporatized education reform. The group demands “an equitably funded, democratically based, anti-racist, desegregated public school system for all Americans that prepares students to exercise compassionate and critical decision making with civic virtue.”

The group plans an Opt Out Conference in Philadelphia, February 26-28, 2016 with noted speakers Chris Hedges, Jill Stein, and Bill Ayers.

Even as students opt out of these outrageously expensive testing regimes, Pearson’s PARCC test will cost New Jersey about $108 million over 4 years. Pearson, the goliath textbook/testing company, has $8 billion in global sales. The company got in trouble in New York three years ago when it made a practice of treating school officials to European trips.

The Army, with a keen eye on educational currents, saw the opening and was eager to exploit the PARCC opt-out movement by offering it’s free ASVAB Career Exploration Program in place of the PARCC. After all, the Army reasoned, the kids must have a pathway toward graduation and the Army was honored to provide the “public service”. 

In 2014 New Jersey began allowing students to take the ASVAB as a substitute for the PARCC test. To graduate, students are expected to score a 31 on the Armed Forces Qualifications Test, (AFQT). A 31 is the minimum score for enlistment in the Army.  The AFQT uses sections of the ASVAB to calculate the score.

Recruiting commanders have widely distributed a Concordance Table that compares AFQT test results to those on the College Board’s SAT tests. According to the table a 31 on the AFQT equates to a 690 SAT composite score.  The SAT composite score is the total of SAT critical reading and math subsections. 

In 2006, 313 students of 1.37 million test takers scored 690 or below on the SAT composite score for a .02% score nationally. A 690 won’t gain admittance to a New Jersey state college.  A score of a 31 on the ASVAB is roughly equivalent to a 7th to 8th grade level, good enough to use for a ticket to a high school diploma in New Jersey.

The April, 2015 Army Recruiter Journal described the Army’s lobbying campaign in New Jersey and gloated that the ASVAB “would be accepted as a substitute competency test for students who fail to pass the PARCC.”

While the military routinely claims the ASVAB is being shut out of schools, the brass has managed to convince school officials in a half dozen states to make the ASVAB an alternative option for end-of-year senior year assessments to provide a path for students who cannot pass the front line tests. A thousand schools across the country require students to take the test.

Minnesota allows high school seniors who fail mandated exit exams to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) as an alternative assessment.

New Mexico allows a score of a 31 on the ASVAB to provide a path to graduation.

Mississippi wants a senior to score a 36 on the AFQT before he can graduate. 

Kentucky calls for a 55 on the AFQT for a student to earn a diploma. A 55 on the AFQT is the same as a composite SAT score of 840, according to the ASVAB Concordance Table. An 840 won't open many college doors. It represents the bottom 5th of national SAT scores.

Colorado is considering using the ASVAB as a potential graduation requirement.

Missouri has taken a different track to normalize military testing. The Missouri School Improvement Program calls on high schools to administer the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Career Exploration Program (ASVAB-CEP) to determine whether students are "Career Ready."

Military regulations allow the ASVAB-CEP to be administered without results being used for recruitment purposes, although school officials are convinced by representatives from the recruiting command to allow the release of student data to recruiters.

Historically, about 85% of students nationally who take the ASVAB at school have had their results sent to recruiters. Test results also include social security numbers and detailed demographic information.  Published reports from New Jersey and the states mentioned herein fail to address the raison d'etre of the ASVAB testing regime, which is to provide leads for recruiters. Furthermore, state departments of education and local school boards continuously suggest that school officials will be giving the ASVAB, when in fact, military officials give the test. 

It is an important distinction. The military is adamant about proctoring their enlistment exam, rather than relying on school administrators and teachers. If schools administered the 3-hour ASVAB, results would be regarded as educational records and therefore subject to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act or FERPA. This law precludes the release of sensitive student information to third parties without parental consent. ASVAB records are considered to be military documents when the DOD gives the test in the high schools. ASVAB results are the only information leaving American classrooms about children without providing for parental consent.

Pat Elder is the director of the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy, an organization that works to prohibit the release of student information to military recruiting services from the nation's high schools.  www.studentprivacy.org 

The Case for War Abolition That You Might Miss

erasmusI’m afraid that one of the best books I’ve read on war abolition may be overlooked by non-Catholics, because its title is Catholic Realism and the Abolition of War (by David Carroll Cochran). The book does draw on Catholic arguments against war and work to rebut Catholic arguments in favor of war, but in my view this enriches the debate and detracts not at all from Cochran’s universal argument for the elimination of all war — much of which has little or nothing to do with Catholicism. I’ve added this book to my war abolition shelf along with these books of my own and others:

  • Beyond War: The Human Potential for Peace by Douglas Fry (2009)
  • Living Beyond War by Winslow Myers (2009)
  • War Is A Lie by David Swanson (2010)
  • The End of War by John Horgan (2012)
  • Transition to Peace by Russell Faure-Brac (2012)
  • War No More: The Case for Abolition by David Swanson (2013)
  • Shift: The Beginning of War, the Ending of War by Judith Hand (2013)
  • War: A Crime Against Humanity by Roberto Vivo (2014)
  • Catholic Realism and the Abolition of War by David Carroll Cochran (2014)
  • A Global Security System: An Alternative to War by World Beyond War (2015)
  • War Is A Lie: Second Edition by David Swanson (April 5, 2016)

“War’s two great lies are its righteousness and its inevitability.” Thus begins Cochran’s book, and he demonstrates the truth of his statement beyond any reasonable doubt. He examines the lies that are told to start wars and the lies that are told about how wars are conducted. We might call these two kinds of lies mendacia ad bellum and mendacia in bello. Cochran puts a major emphasis on the latter, pointing out that war kills a large number of innocents — and always has, even in earlier epochs armed by very different weaponry. There never was any just ad bellum or jus in bello.

Cochran includes among the innocent both civilians and soldiers. Including only civilians is enough to make his point, as wars have always killed large numbers of civilians (though the percentage of dead who are civilian has increased in recent decades to the point where it is the vast majority of those killed). Cochran does not consider soldiers innocent because their side of a war is defensive. He considers them innocent on the side of the aggressor as well — and not only those soldiers who quietly regret what they are doing or those who honestly believe the propaganda that would justify their actions. No, even combatants who fully support the war are innocent, in a certain sense, in Cochran’s view.

This seems at odds with some Catholic tradition. I remember Erasmus urging that clergy refuse to bury in consecrated ground anyone slain in battle: “The unfeeling mercenary soldier, hired by a few pieces of paltry coin, to do the work of man-butcher, carries before him the standard of the cross; and that very figure becomes the symbol of war, which alone ought to teach every one that looks at it, that war ought to be utterly abolished. What hast thou to do with the cross of Christ on thy banners, thou blood-stained soldier? With such a disposition as thine; with deeds like thine, of robbery and murder, thy proper standard would be a dragon, a tiger, or wolf!”

I find Cochran’s case for soldiers’ innocence convincing, although I have really very little interest in whether his position is more properly Catholic than someone else’s. He points out that it is generally viewed as wrong to kill soldiers who are wounded or surrendering. This, Cochran writes, is because they have done nothing to deserve being slaughtered, although slaughtered they are in the general course of a war. One idea put forward by war supporters is that in the normal course of war, soldiers are mutually engaged in self-defense against each other, but Cochran points out that the justification of self-defense for individuals outside of war only works when an aggressor has attacked a victim. War is conducted on a very different scale and with very different norms. Soldiers during a war are not expected to try all nonviolent approaches first before resorting to violence, and in fact routinely kill other soldiers who do not pose any imminent threat. Most killing in historical battles has happened after one side has begun retreating. Remember how the United States killed 30,000 retreating Iraqi soldiers during the 1991 Gulf War.

The ultimate fallback justification for the mass-murder of war is that innocents can be slaughtered if the harm done is outweighed by the goals of the war. But such goals are often secret or lied about, and it is the war makers who get to decide whose deaths are outweighed by what goals. U.S. terrorist Timothy McVeigh blew up a government building in 1995 and claimed that the deaths that resulted were merely “collateral damage” because killing those people had not been his purpose. The U.S. military plays the same game, the only difference being that it is allowed to get away with it.

Partly the military gets away with it by constantly claiming to have found technological solutions to collateral damage. But, in fact, the latest such ploy — weaponized drones — kills more civilians than it kills people for whom anyone asserts any (always unsubstantiated) right to murder.

To call combatants innocent in analyzing the morality of war is not, in my view, to diminish the moral superiority of refusing to fight. Nor is it to suggest some sort of moral perfection in the individual lives of soldiers. Nor is it to set aside the Nuremberg standard that requires disobeying illegal orders. Rather, it is to understand that no justification exists for killing soldiers. There might be a justification for otherwise sanctioning their behavior, and — more so — the behavior of those who sent them into war, but not for killing them.

Not only is war dramatically different from normal individual relations in which one might speak of self-defense, but, Cochran shows, it is also radically different from police work. Legitimate, praiseworthy police work seeks to reduce and avoid violence. It targets people based on suspicion of wrongdoing unique to the individual targeted. It seeks to facilitate the work of courts of law. War, on the contrary, seeks to maximize violence, targets entire armies and populations, and pauses not for any court rulings but sees two sides each declare the other guilty en masse. Calling a war a “police action” or giving soldiers actual policing duties does not change the fact that war is not policing. While good policing creates “order,” war creates violence, chaos, and instability.

Opposing war because it is immoral, and opposing war because nonviolent tools work better, are not separate approaches at odds with each other. War is immoral in large part because it does not work, because it generates enemies and violence rather than reducing them.

The moral arguments of the first part of Catholic Realism and the Abolition of War are excellent, but the real high point of the book may be its review of past institutions of mass violence that were considered moral, natural, inevitable, and permanent, but which are now gone. You’ll find this case sketched out in most of the books listed at the top of this article, but Cochran does the best job of it I’ve seen. He includes discussions of dueling and slavery, but also the less commonly used examples of trial by ordeal and combat, and lynching.

In some ways, trial by ordeal and combat is the best example because the most dependent, as is much of war, on the actions of a government, albeit local level governments in many trial-by-ordeal-and-combat cases. While rulers understood that trial by ordeal and combat did not actually produce the truth it claimed, they went on using it for many years as they found doing so convenient. Catholics produced complex justifications for it, similar to those produced by “just war” theory. Trial by ordeal and combat was deemed moral and necessary for self-defense, protecting the innocent, and creating peace and stability. Gradually cultural and political changes ended the supposedly un-endable.

Dueling’s supporters also believed it necessary, and eliminating it naive and dreamy. They claimed that dueling maintained peace and order. Cultural and political change brought majorities to consider dueling laughable, barbaric, ignorant, shameful, and a threat to peace and order.

Slavery, in the form that has virtually vanished, rested on fundamental lies and contradictions, including recognizing and not recognizing the humanity of those enslaved. It also rested on “just war” theory which maintained that slavery was a generous alternative to the mass-murder of conquered peoples. As humanitarian warriors claim that wars are for the benefit of their victims, defenders of slavery claimed that it benefitted the people held captive. As war supporters today claim that it maintains a way of life that is by definition greedy and unfair, supporters of slavery contended that it was essential to the existing way of life of the slave owners.

Interestingly, Cochran stresses that the evidence shows the demise of chattel slavery not to have been driven by any economic forces but rather by a moral revolution. Just before slavery was ended, it was extremely profitable. But, writes Cochran, “globally minded political and economic elites came to see slavery as an embarrassing deviation from international norms.”

Lynching may not have been exactly legal, but it was an established institution, and the arguments used to maintain it closely resemble the fallacious claims made about other institutions of violence. Lynching, its supporters said, was defensive, defending the white race through an inevitable “racial instinct.” They believed, however, that it should be used as a “last resort.” That is, they believed that, until they gradually didn’t any longer believe it, until lynching gradually became seen, not as a defense of but as a threat to law and order.

If one section of the book is slightly weaker than the others, I think it is the concluding section on what to do to end war. I believe Cochran indulges in a bit too much Pinkerism in his claim that war has been reduced. I don’t place the value he does on spreading democracy in order to spread peace, in part because the leading war maker is a “democracy,” and in part because it has attacked numerous other “democracies.” I think there’s too much focus on blaming poor countries for war. As great a correlate with war as poverty is the presence of oil. And wars in poor countries that do not involve troops from wealthy ones, do involve weapons from wealthy ones.

“End the arms trade,” the Pope told the U.S. Congress, which cheered and escalated the arms trade.

Syria News - Feb 15, 2016


In phone call Obama urges Putin to end air strikes against Syrian opposition: White House - ndtv.com


US and Russia to chair a meeting with military officials next week to seek agreement on which areas of Syria can be bombed - Bloomberg


Medvedev warns against any foreign ground troops in Syria, says it will cause 'a full-fledged, long war' - ITV


VIDEO: Interview: Medvedev warns against foreign ground troops in Syria, says there would be chaos if Assad ousted -Euronews

 

TRANSCRIPT: Interview with Medvedev - euronews


Speech by Dmitry Medvedev at Munich Security Conference 2016 - voltairenet.org


At Munich Security Conference Senator McCain blasts Syria truce deal, says serves Putin's purposes - rferl.org


McCain favors U.S. and Turkish troops take Syria's Raqqa from ISIS, establishing a no-fly zone - New York News


Syrian rebels say a ceasefire is ‘not realistic, objective, or logical' - VICE News


Assad's army setting its sights on Isis stronghold of Raqqa - The Independent


Syrian Army reaches important crossroad in southern Raqqa - almasdarnews.com


TRANSCRIPT: President al-Assad speaks to AFP on Syrian and regional developments - Syrian Arab News Agency

 

---------------------------------------------------

Turkey vows not to be in ‘defensive position’ over Syria - hurriyetdailynews.com


Ankara: Turkey, Saudi Arabia ′could send ground troops to Syria′ - DW.COM


Main opposition Republican People’s Party ‘against all decisions to plunge Turkey into war’ - hurriyetdailynews.com


Turkey opposition Nationalist Movement Party warns of catastrophe in event of Syria incursion - todayszaman.com


Turkey shells Kurdish positions in Syria for second day, demands YPG militia withdraw from areas that it had captured - euronews


PYD rejects Turkish demands, warns against intervention - todayszaman.com


Turkish authorities allow 350 fighters to cross the Syria border and oversee their transition to the northern countryside of Aleppo - Syrian Observatory For Human Rights


Damascus says believes some Turkish forces entered Syria - Ynetnews


Saudi Arabia confirms sending jets to Turkey - Al Arabiya English


Saudi troop deployment in Syria up to U.S.-led coalition: foreign minister - Reuters


Saudi Arabia FM: If needed, remove Syria's Assad by force - CNN.com


Qatar ready to send troops to Syria - aa.com


20 nations join major military manoeuvre in Saudi Arabia - Zee News


Pundits rule out Jordan’s participation in possible ground intervention in Syria - Jordan Times


Iran warns against Saudi intervention in Syria: general - Business Standard News


To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)

Supreme Court Junket King Scalia Dies While Vacationing with Wealthy Patrons at Private West Texas Getaway

By Dave Lindorff

 

            It’s appropriate that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died at a luxury resort while freeloading as the guest of thus far unidentified wealthy sponsors as one of  40 guests at a private quail-hunting vacation party.

 

Get Well, Michael Moore

Your new movie, Where to Invade Next, is very powerful, your best so far for certain.

Get well.

Fast.

We need you.

You've packed a great many issues into this film, with visuals, with personalities, with entertainment. If people will watch this, they'll learn what many of us have struggled to tell them and more, as there was plenty that I learned as well.

I must assume that when U.S. audiences watch scenes that dramatically clash with their world yet seem humane and reasonable they'll be brought to the point of thinking.

You show us political candidates, not screeching for more prisons, but holding a televised election debate in a prison in an effort to win the votes of the prisoners, who are permitted to vote. What are we to make of that? You also show us scenes from U.S. prisons of grotesque brutality. Then you show us the effective rehabilitation achieved by Norwegian prisons (25% of U.S. recidivism rate). That doesn't just clash with what's familiar in the United States, but it also clashes with what the United States teaches about "human nature," namely that criminals cannot be rehabilitated. And you expose the driving force of vengeance that lies behind that pseudo-belief by showing the collective response of forgiveness and sanity with which Norway responded to a major terrorist incident. We all know how the U.S. has responded to those.

If we've read Steven Hills' book Europe's Promise or others like it, or lived in Europe and visited Europe or other parts of the world, we have some notion of much of what you show us: Italians and others with many weeks of paid vacation and parental leave plus 2-hour lunch breaks, Germans with paid weeks at a spa if they feel stress, Finland with soaring educational achievement reached by shunning standardized tests and homework while shrinking the school day, France with nutritious gourmet school lunches, Slovenia and dozens of other countries with free college, workers making up 50% of corporate boards in Germany, Portugal legalizing drugs (best line of the movie: "So does Facebook."). By bringing all of this together in a concise and intelligent and entertaining way, you've done us all a favor.

I was worried, I will confess. I apologize. I've been watching Bernie Sanders propose these sorts of changes without a real vision behind them and without daring to mention that the money is all being dumped into the U.S. military. And I've watched you, Michael, make some oddly supportive comments about Hillary Clinton who has spent decades working against everything this movie is about. So, I was worried, but I was wrong. Not only were you willing to point out that the United States pays nearly as much as these other countries in taxes, and much more when adding in the additional things paid for outside of taxes (college, healthcare, etc.), but you also included the elephant in the room, the 59% (in the figure you used) of U.S. income tax that goes to militarism. This movie, because you included that fundamental difference between the United States and other nations, is a terrific boost for the cause of ending war. That you point out the contrast between what Germans know and feel about the holocaust and what U.S. Americans know and feel about past U.S. wars, genocides, and slavery only adds to the value.

You included in a single 2-hour movie, in a clear and unrushed manner, not only all of the above, but also explanation of the popular resistance needed to create it, plus a critique of the racist U.S. drug war, mass incarceration, prison labor, and the death penalty. You showed us Muslim leaders in a largely Muslim nation more advanced on women's rights than is the United States. You showed us the openness of numerous nations to women sharing in power. I do, by the way, recognize the good intentions that may lie behind your interest in electing a female president, but I ask you if Margaret Thatcher advanced or impeded the cause. Does electing women create humane societies, or is it at least as much the case that humane societies elect women?

The other story you bring us from Iceland, in addition to women in power, is bankers prosecuted for their crimes. Odd, isn't it? Americans thirst for such revenge that they imprison small-time criminals for decades and brutalize them, but big-time criminals are rewarded. A shift to a more civilized system of justice would reduce the nastiness in one case but impose penalties that have been lacking in the other.

You allowed some powerful voices to speak in this movie. One of them suggested that Americans try taking an interest in the rest of the world. I've noticed, living abroad, that not only do other people want to know about the United States (and everywhere else), but they also want to know what Americans think of them. And I always have to reply with shame that Americans don't, in fact, think anything of them at all. Not only should we start to be curious about others, but we should start to be curious about what others think of us.

Peace,
David Swanson

P.S. -- I'm old enough to remember your film about Bush's Iraq lies, Michael. The leading Republican presidential candidate now says Bush lied. The trailing Democratic candidate doesn't, and told the same lies at the time herself. You helped make U.S. culture, not yet good enough to end homelessness, but good enough to get that question right. Thank you.

Duplicitous diplomacy: Ambassador Reflects on American Respect for Real Democracy

By Linn Washington, Jr.

 

Mohamed Yeslem Beisat, an ambassador for the Western Sahara, knew he faced a serious uphill struggle when began his position in Washington, D.C. years ago as the representative for his country that is located on the northwest coast of Africa.

Amariyah


by Art Laffin

February 13, 1991, 4:00 a.m.
Over 1,000 Iraqis, mostly women and children still sleeping, take refuge from the terror of U.S. bombs at a shelter in Amariyah, just outside Baghdad.
For several days a surveillance plane had flown over the shelter. U.S. officials say they think Saddam Hussein is there. The U.S. military knows different. A decision is made in secret by President George Bush, Defense (War) Secretary Dick Cheney and General Colin Powell — bomb the shelter, massacre the innocents!
First one “smart” bomb is dropped to make an opening in the roof, killing scores of people.
Then, through the opening, another bomb falls, reaching deep into the shelter basement, killing everyone in its path.
In total, nearly a thousand Iraqis are murdered, women and children burned alive. No more than 17 survive.
I see flesh still seared on a wall under the basement stairway. People, reduced to mere shadows, form a human silhouette on the stone wall.
A replay of Auschwitz, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Vietnam, El Salvador, Panama.
The crime, premeditated and barbarous.
The sin, mortal.
The perpetrators unrepentant!
Seven years later, eight peacemakers from the U.S. and the U.K. come to pay homage to the victims at this shelter,
turned inferno,
turned shrine.
Photos and drawings of the dead adorn the walls of the shelter.
We repent, we mourn, we witness
the ongoing nightmare of the survivors.
We eight do what we can –
to console the mourners,
offering love and solidarity to the Iraqi people, already crucified to a cross of economic sanctions.
We stand with the victims, the children, seeking to stay the death-dealing hand of the U.S. empire.

Focus: Hillary Clinton - Feb 13, 2016

 

POLL: Who won the Democratic debate? Hundreds of thousands voted online and declared overwhelmingly Sanders the winner - Huffington Post


POLL: Bernie Sanders closing the gap, pulls within 7 points of Hillary Clinton in national poll - morningconsult.com


POLL: Clinton, Sanders deadlocked in Nevada - Washington Examiner


Is the Clinton campaign panicking over Nevada? - slate.com


POLL: Sanders gaining on frontrunner Hillary Clinton in Illinois - The Daily Caller


Spearheading a $4.5 million effort Super PAC makes big play to lift Hillary Clinton in primary states - The Washington Post


DNC rolls back Obama ban on contributions from federal lobbyists, some suggested it could provide an advantage to Hillary Clinton’s fundraising efforts - The Washington Post


Hillary Clinton’s Congressional Black Caucus PAC endorsement approved by board awash in lobbyists - theintercept.com


VIDEO: Who endorsed Hillary Clinton? The Congressional Black Caucus or its PAC filled with lobbyists? - Democracy Now!


VIDEO: At Democratic debate Clinton and Sanders spar over super-PACs and megadonors - realclearpolitics.com


Hillary Clinton's paid speeches to large Wall Street banks reportedly bordered on 'gushy’ - Business Insider


------------------------------------------------------

FBI, foundation controversies missing from Clinton questioning at debate - Fox News


VIDEO: Fox News panel excoriates PBS moderators, Sanders for ignoring Hillary Clinton’s scandals - newsbusters.org


Clinton Foundation received subpoena from State Department investigators - The Washington Post


Clinton campaign accuses State Dept. IG of Targeting Hillary - newsmax.com


VIDEO: Hillary Clinton FBI investigation has 2 tracks: classified email & public corruption - YouTube


Judge orders Clinton’s last emails public before Super Tues. - KSN-TV


State Dept. won't rule out more 'top secret' Clinton emails - Washington Examiner


Official: Clinton aides also handled ‘top secret’ intel on server - Fox News


Emails appear to show how key Clinton aide manipulated media coverage - Fox News


Benghazi panel nears final report examining Clinton's response - Bloomberg Politics


To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)

Bernie Sanders: The 2016 Peace Candidate

On February 10, 2016, Peace Action—the largest peace organization in the United States—announced its endorsement of Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination for President.

Is This An Uprising?

The new book This Is An Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century by Mark Engler and Paul Engler is a terrific survey of direct action strategies, bringing out many of the strengths and weaknesses of activist efforts to effect major change in the United States and around the world since well before the twenty-first century. It should be taught in every level of our schools.

This book makes the case that disruptive mass movements are responsible for more positive social change than is the ordinary legislative "endgame" that follows. The authors examine the problem of well-meaning activist institutions becoming too well established and shying away from the most effective tools available. Picking apart an ideological dispute between institution-building campaigns of slow progress and unpredictable, immeasurable mass protest, the Englers find value in both and advocate for a hybrid approach exemplified by Otpor, the movement that overthrew Milosevic.

When I worked for ACORN, I saw our members achieve numerous substantive victories, but I also saw the tide moving against them. City legislation was overturned at the state level. Federal legislation was blocked by war madness, financial corruption, and a broken communications system. Leaving ACORN, as I did, to work for the doomed presidential campaign of Dennis Kucinich might look like a reckless, non-strategic choice -- and maybe it was. But bringing prominence to one of the very few voices in Congress saying what was needed on numerous issues has a value that may be impossible to measure with precision, yet some have been able to quantify.

This Is An Uprising looks at a number of activist efforts that may at first have appeared defeats and were not. I've listed previously some examples of efforts that people thought were failures for many years. The Englers' examples involve more rapid revelation of success, for those willing and able to see it. Gandhi's salt march produced little in the way of solid commitments from the British. Martin Luther King's campaign in Birmingham failed to win its demands from the city. But the salt march had an international impact, and the Birmingham campaign a national impact far greater than the immediate results. Both inspired widespread activism, changed many minds, and won concrete policy changes well beyond the immediate demands. The Occupy movement didn't last in the spaces occupied, but it altered public discourse, inspired huge amounts of activism, and won many concrete changes. Dramatic mass action has a power that legislation or one-on-one communication does not. I made a similar case recently in arguing against the idea that peace rallies fail where counter-recruitment succeeds.

The authors point to disruption, sacrifice, and escalation as key components of a successful momentum-building action, while readily admitting that not everything can be predicted. A plan of escalated disruption that involves sympathetic sacrifice by nonviolent actors, if adjusted as circumstances call for, has a chance. Occupy could have been Athens, instead of Birmingham or Selma, if the New York police had known how to control themselves. Or perhaps it was the skill of the Occupy organizers that provoked the police. In any case, it was the brutality of the police, and the willingness of the media to cover it, that produced Occupy. The authors note Occupy's many ongoing victories but also that it shrank when its public places were taken away. In fact, even as Occupiers continued to hold public space in numerous towns, its announced death in the media was accepted by those still engaged in it, and they gave up their occupations quite obediently. The momentum was gone.

An action that gains momentum, as Occupy did, taps into the energy of many people who, as the Englers write, are newly outraged by what they learn about injustice. It also, I think, taps into the energy of many people long outraged and waiting for a chance to act. When I helped organize "Camp Democracy" in Washington, D.C., in 2006, we were a bunch of radicals ready to occupy D.C. for peace and justice, but we were thinking like organizations with major resources. We were thinking about rallies with crowds bussed in by labor unions. So, we planned a wonderful lineup of speakers, arranged permits and tents, and brought together a tiny crowd of those already in agreement. We did a few disruptive actions, but that wasn't the focus. It should have been. We should have disrupted business as usual in a way carefully designed to make the cause sympathetic rather than resented or feared.

When many of us planned an occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., in 2011 we had somewhat bigger plans for disruption, sacrifice, and escalation, but in the days just before we set up camp, those New York police put Occupy in the news at a 1,000-year flood level. An occupy camp appeared nearby us in D.C., and when we marched through the streets, people joined us, because of what they'd seen from New York on their televisions. I'd never witnessed that before. A lot of the actions we engaged in were disruptive, but we may have had too much of a focus on the occupation. We celebrated the police backing down on efforts to remove us. But we needed a way to escalate.

We also, I think, refused to accept that where the public sympathy had been created was for victims of Wall Street. Our original plan had involved what we saw as an appropriately large focus on war, in fact on the interlocking evils that King identified as militarism, racism, and extreme materialism. The dumbest action I was part of was probably our attempt to protest a pro-war exhibit at the Air and Space Museum. It was dumb because I sent people straight into pepper spray and should have scouted ahead to avoid that. But it was also dumb because even relatively progressive people were, in that moment, unable to hear the idea of opposing war, much less opposing the glorification of militarism by museums. They couldn't even hear the idea of opposing the "puppets" in Congress. One had to take on the puppet masters to be understood at all, and the puppet masters were the banks. "You switched from banks to the Smithsonian!?" In fact, we'd never focused on banks, but explanations weren't going to work. What was needed was to accept the moment.

What made that moment still looks, in large part, like luck. But unless smart strategic efforts are made to create such moments, they don't happen on their own. I'm not sure we can announce on day 1 of anything "This is an uprising!" but we can at least continually ask ourselves "Is this an uprising?" and keep ourselves aimed toward that goal.

This book's subtitle is "How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century." But nonviolent revolt as opposed to what? Virtually nobody is proposing violent revolt in the United States. Mostly this book is proposing nonviolent revolt rather than nonviolent compliance with the existing system, nonviolent tweaking of it within its own rules. But cases are also examined of nonviolent overthrows of dictators in various countries. The principles of success seem to be identical regardless of the type of government a group is up against.

But there is, of course, advocacy for violence in the United States -- advocacy so enormous that no one can see it. I've been teaching a course on war abolition, and the most intractable argument for the massive U.S. investment in violence is "What if we have to defend ourselves from a genocidal invasion?"

So it would have been nice had the authors of This Is An Uprising addressed the question of violent invasions. If we were to remove from our culture the fear of the "genocidal invasion," we could remove from our society trillion-dollar-a-year militarism, and with it the primary promotion of the idea that violence can succeed. The Englers note the damage that straying into violence does to nonviolent movements. Such straying would end in a culture that ceased believing violence can succeed.

I have a hard time getting students to go into much detail about their feared "genocidal invasion," or to name examples of such invasions. In part this may be because I preemptively go into great length about how World War II might have been avoided, what a radically different world from today's it occurred in, and how successful nonviolent actions were against the Nazis when attempted. Because, of course, "genocidal invasion" is mostly just a fancy phrase for "Hitler." I asked one student to name some genocidal invasions not engaged in or contributed to by either the U.S. military or Hitler. I reasoned that genocidal invasions produced by the U.S. military couldn't fairly be used to justify the U.S. military's existence.

I tried to produce my own list. Erica Chenoweth cites the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, where armed resistance failed for years but nonviolent resistance succeeded. A Syrian invasion of Lebanon was ended by nonviolence in 2005. Israel's genocidal invasions of Palestinian lands, while fueled by U.S. weapons, have been resisted more successfully thus far by nonviolence than violence. Going back in time, we could look at the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia 1968 or the German invasion of the Ruhr in 1923. But most of these, I was told, are not proper genocidal invasions. Well, what are?

My student gave me this list: "The Great Sioux War of 1868, The Holocaust, Israel's genocidal invasions of Palestinian lands." I objected that one was U.S.-armed in recent years, one was Hitler, and one was many many years ago. He then produced the alleged example of Bosnia. Why not the even more common case of Rwanda, I don't know. But neither was an invasion exactly. Both were completely avoidable horrors, one used as an excuse for war, one allowed to continue for the purpose of a desired regime change.

This is the book that I think we still need, the book that asks what works best when your nation is invaded. How can the people of Okinawa remove the U.S. bases? Why couldn't the people of the Philippines keep them out after they did remove them? What would it take for the people of the United States to remove from their minds the fear of "genocidal invasion" that dumps their resources into war preparations that produce war after war, risking nuclear apocalypse?

Do we dare tell the Iraqis they must not fight back while our bombs are falling? Well, no, because we ought to be engaged 24-7 in trying to stop the bombing. But the supposed impossibility of advising Iraqis of a more strategic response than fighting back, oddly enough, constitutes a central defense of the policy of building more and more bombs with which to bomb the Iraqis. That has to be ended.

For that we'll need a This Is An Uprising that objects to U.S. empire.

Syria News - Feb 12, 2016


U.S. and Russia Announce Plan for Humanitarian Aid and a Cease-Fire in Syria - The New York Times


Statement of the International Syria Support Group - state.gov


VIDEO: Kerry, Lavrov and de Mistura holding a news conference on Syrian crisis (full) - YouTube


Syrian opposition says must see peace plan in action before political talks - Yahoo News


NATO 'exploring possibility' of joining anti-IS coalition: US - Yahoo News


NATO to backfill AWACS freeing up nations to use their own against the Islamic State, assist Europe with Syrian migrants - Defense News


Erdoğan says patience running out in Syria, Turkey could take action - todayszaman.com


Can Erdogan bully Turkey's armed forces into invading Syria? - Al-Monitor


Turkey threatens to open the gates and send refugees to Europe - Telegraph


US ignores Erdoğan’s call, insists on partnership with Syrian Kurds - todayszaman.com


Kurdish fighters surround rebel stronghold of Azaz in northern Aleppo (Map update) - almasdarnews.com


Saudi Arabia says it has made a 'final' decision to send troops into Syria - Business Insider


VIDEO (English): Saudi military spokesman: Decision to send troops in Syria ‘final’ - Al Arabiya English


New Saudi-led coalition against ‘terrorism’ to meet - nation.com.pk


Iraq PM says sending ground troops to Syria would be 'dangerous escalation’, comments aimed at Sunni Arab countries that have said they are prepared to enter the fray - Yahoo News


Iraq appreciates Russia’s support in freeing its territory from terrorists: minister - TASS


To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)

What Obama Did While You Were Watching Elections

Pass the popcorn! Wait till I tweet this! Did you see the look on his face?

Ain't elections exciting? We just can't get enough of them, which could be why we've stretched them out to a couple of years each, even though a small crowd of Super Delegates and a couple of state officials with computer skills could quite conceivably decide the whole thing anyway.

Through the course of this marvelous election thus far I've been trying to get any human being to ask any candidate to provide just the most very basic outline of the sort of budget they would propose if president, or at least some hint at the single item in the budget that takes up more than half of it. Do they think military spending should go up, go down, or stay right where it is?

Who knows! Aren't elections wonderful?

I'd even settle for the stupid "gotcha" question in which we find out if any of the candidates knows, even roughly, what percentage of the budget military spending is now.

Why is this topic, although seemingly central, scrupulously avoided?

  • The candidates all, more or less, agree.
  • None of the candidates brings it up.
  • Nobody in Congress, not even the "progressive" caucus, brings it up.
  • Nobody in the corporate media brings it up.
  • The corporate media outlets see war profiteers as customers who buy ads.
  • The corporate media outlets see war profiteers in the mirror as parts of their corporate families.
  • The fact that the military costs money conflicts with the basic premise of U.S. politics which is that one party wants to spend money on socialistic nonsense while the other party wants to stop spending money and build a bigger military.

Those seem like the obvious answers, but here's another. While you're being entertained by the election, President Obama is proposing a bigger military than ever. Not only is U.S. military spending extremely high by historical standards, but looking at the biggest piece of military spending, which is the budget of the Department of so-called Defense, that department's annual "Green Book" makes clear that it has seen higher spending under President Barack Obama than ever before in history.

Check out the new budget proposal from the President who distracted millions of people from horrendous Bush-Cheney actions with his "peace" talk as a candidate eight years ago. He wants to increase the base Do"D" budget, both the discretionary and the mandatory parts. He wants to increase the extra slush fund of unaccountable money for the Do"D" on top of that. This pot used to be named for wars, but wars have gotten so numerous and embarrassing that it's now called "Overseas Contingency Operations."

When it comes to nuclear weapons, Obama wants to increase spending, but when it comes to other miscellaneous extras for the military, he also wants to increase that. Military retirement spending, on the other hand, he'd like to see go up, while the Veterans Administration spending he proposes to raise. Money for fueling ISIS by fighting it, Obama wants raised by 50%. On increasing hostility with Russia through a military buildup on its border, Obama wants a 400% spending boost. In one analysis, military spending would jump from $997.2 billion this year to $1.04 trillion next year under this proposal.

That's a bit awkward, considering the shade it throws on any piddly little project that does make it into election debates and reporting. The smallest fraction of military spending could pay for the major projects that Senator Bernie Sanders will be endlessly attacked for proposing to raise taxes for.

It's also awkward for the whole Republican/Hillary discussion of how to become more militarized, unlike that pacifist in the White House.

And, of course, it's always awkward to point out that events just go on happening in the world rather than pausing out of respect for some inanity just uttered by Marco Rubio.

Speaking Events

CHOOSE LANGUAGE

Support This Site

Donate.

Get free books and gear when you become a supporter.

 

Sponsors:

Speaking Truth to Empire

***

Families United

***

Ray McGovern

***

Financial supporters of this site can choose to be listed here.

Buy Books

Get Gear

The log-in box below is only for bloggers. Nobody else will be able to log in because we have not figured out how to stop voluminous spam ruining the site. If you would like us to have the resources to figure that out please donate. If you would like to receive occasional emails please sign up. If you would like to be a blogger here please send your resume.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.