Congress Members Write to Obama on Iraq, Mention Law, But Not Its Enforcement Mechanism (Impeachment)
Dear Mr. President:
We join you and with those in the international community who are expressing grave concern over the rise in sectarian violence in Iraq over the last days and weeks. The consequences of this development are particularly troubling given the extraordinary loss of American lives and expenditure of funds over ten years that was claimed to be necessary to bring democracy, stability and a respect for human rights to Iraq.
We support your restraint to date in resisting the calls for a "quick" and "easy" military intervention, and for your commitment not to send combat troops back to Iraq. We also appreciate your acknowledgement that this conflict requires a political solution, and that military action alone cannot successfully lead to a resolution.
We do not believe any such intervention could be either quick or easy. And, we doubt it would be effective in meeting either humanitarian or strategic goals, and we are certain that it could very well be counter-productive. This is a moment for urgent consultations and engagement with all parties in the region who could bring about a cease fire and launch a dialogue that could lead to a reconciliation of the conflict that is spreading like a conflagration through the region.
Any solution to this complex political crisis can only be achieved through such an effort, and nothing short of that can successfully bring stability to Iraq or the region and only if the process and outcome is inclusive of all segments of the Iraqi population.
As you consider options for U.S. intervention, we write to urge respect for the constitutional requirements for using force abroad. The Constitution vests in Congress the power and responsibility to authorize offensive military action abroad.
The use of military force in Iraq is something the Congress should fully debate and authorize. Members of Congress must consider all the facts and alternatives before we can determine whether military action would contribute to ending this most recent violence, create a climate for political stability, and protect civilians from greater harm.
We stand ready to work with you to this end.
John J. Duncan Jr.
Henry C. "Hank" Johnson Jr.
Joseph P. Kennedy III
Ann McLane Kuster
John. B. Larson
James P. Moran
Richard P. Nolan
Eleanor Holmes Norton
Scott E. Rigell
Robert C. "Bobby" Scott
Talk Nation Radio: Paul Findley, 93, Key Author of the War Powers Resolution on How It Might Be Complied With
Paul Findley served as a Republican member of United States House of Representatives from Illinois for 22 years. He was a key author of the War Powers Resolution and a leader in securing its enactment by overriding the veto of President Richard Nixon. The federal building in Springfield, Ill. is named for him. He discusses the legality, or lack thereof, of recent wars and proposals for wars, including in Syria and Iraq.
Total run time: 29:00
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Producer: David Swanson.
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The Obama Administration is resisting giving religious rights to Guantanamo detainees on the basis that they are “not…‘person[s]’” entitled to the protection of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) – unlike US corporation Hobby Lobby.
Responding to attempts by the detainees’ attorneys at international human rights organization Reprieve to ensure that their religious freedoms are recognised, Department of Justice lawyers argue that last week's Supreme Court decision that “defines a ‘person’ to include ‘corporations’” makes no difference to their view that Guantanamo detainees remain non-persons.
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby was legally a ‘person’ entitled to religious freedom under the RFRA. In their submission to the US District Court in Washington, D.C. which is considering the case brought by lawyers for detainees Emad Hassan and Ahmed Rabbani, President Obama’s lawyers do not contest that ruling. However, they do take issue with the argument that Guantanamo prisoners should be considered ‘people’ under the same law.
In court documents filed last night ahead of a hearing tomorrow (Thursday July 10), the DoJ claims that “Guantanamo detainees […] are not protected “person[s]” within the meaning and scope of RFRA.” They note that “In Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court held RFRA rights extend to for profit
closely held corporations, reasoning in part that the Dictionary Act defines a “person” to include “corporations,”’ but argue that “that opinion cannot be read as extending RFRA rights to [Guantanamo detainees].”
The court will tomorrow hear arguments concerning whether Guantanamo detainees can be denied the right to communal prayer, a key part of their faith during the current Ramadan period.
Cori Crider, an attorney at international human rights organisation Reprieve, which represents Mr Hassan and Mr Rabbani, said: “It is staggering that the Obama administration is prepared to argue that Guantanamo prisoners aren’t people, while accepting that corporations are. I fail to see how the President can stand up and claim Guantánamo is a scandal while his lawyers call detainees non-persons in court. If the President is serious about closing this prison, he could start by recognising that its inmates are people – most of whom have been cleared by his own Government.”
1. The next hearing on Mr Hassan and Mr Rabbani’s emergency motion is expected at 10am (EST) on Thursday July 10th at the DC District Court.
2. For the full court filing, see here.
3. For a full timeline of the force-feeding litigation, see here.
4. The motions filed by Reprieve can be accessed here (Emad Hassan and Ahmad Rabbani)
3. Details of the separate force-feeding case Dhiab v Obama can be accessed here.
4. For further information, please contact Reprieve's press office in the US: email@example.com / 001 (929) 258 2754 or UK: alice.gillham@reprieve.
Sign up to join our press mailing list.
As this is being written, Israel is once again bombing the Gaza Strip. There are a few key points that the U.S. government, and the populace, seem to constantly overlook:
· Palestine has no army, navy or air force.
· All of the borders of the Gaza Strip are controlled by Israel. Only goods and people that Israel allows can cross those borders, and the restrictions are extreme.
· In the West Bank, occupied by Israel illegally in the eyes of the international community, Israel-controlled internal check points make the simple task of going to the market an hours-long ordeal.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle_at_gmail.com (replacing _at_ with @)
Vast Surveillance; Denying Women Access to birth control & abortion; Detention & Deportation of Children
Originally posted at PopularResistance.org
Imagine the impact if a player from one of the remaining FIFA semifinal World Cup teams (Germany, Brazil, The Netherlands, or Argentina) were to engage in an act of protest against FIFA for it’s Imperial practices that have literarily displaced at least 250,000 Brazilians? Imagine if Lionel Messi, Thomas Muller,Arjen Robben, or even the injured Neymar were to pull a John Carlos sometime during the semifinals or finals of the World Cup?
By Kathy Kelly
During my recent visit to Gangjeong, on Jeju Island, South Korea, where a protest community has struggled for years to block construction of a U.S. military base, conversations over delicious meals in the community kitchen were a delightful daily event. At lunchtime on my first day there I met Emily and Dongwon, a young and recently married couple, both protesters, who had met each other in Gangjeong. Emily recalled that when her parents finally travelled from Taiwan to meet her partner, they had to visit him in prison.
Dongwon, who is from a rural area of South Korea, had visited Gangjeong and gotten to know the small protest community living on the Gureombi Rock. Drawn by their tenacity and commitment, he had decided to join them. When a barge crane was dredgingthe sea in front of Gureombi Rock, Dongwon had climbed up to its tip and declined to come down. On February 18, 2013, a judge had sentenced him to one year in prison for the nonviolent action.
Emily laughs happily as she recalls how muscular she became while she was learning to become a sailor. She had wanted to be able to transport herself and others to and around the islands that in this region tend disproportionately to be affected by militarization, such as Taiwan, Okinawa, and Jeju Island. Boats have factored significantly into civil disobedience against the construction of Jeju’s naval base. Emily had recently returned from an international meeting with Okinawan islanders. Participants were eager to develop flotilla actions, defending peace in Asian seas, where the U.S. military, as part of its “Asia Pivot,” plans to create a ring of militarized islands in order to contain (even at the cost of provoking) emerging superpower rival China and other nations of concern.
Meanwhile, Dongwon was arranging a conference at Jeju University to explore conscientious objection to war. He and his friend Mark do not want to be conscripted into military service, but failure to comply with the Republic of Korea’s mandatory service could result in extremely severe punishments. Worldwide fully 90 per cent of those presently incarcerated for conscientious objection to military service are to be found in South Korean prisons.
It’s a privilege and a challenge to confer with new, young friends in places like Jeju Island and Kabul, Afghanistan.
Today, as I write these thoughts, Bowe Bergdahl is adjusting to life in the United States. While serving with the U.S. military in Afghanistan he experienced a crisis of conscience. His experiences in Afghanistan suggested that his platoon was as ready to massacre the local population as to serve it. His youth had been filled with an aspiration to courageous and fierce independence in the pursuit of integrity, and in response to a letter home his father had instructed: “follow your conscience.” Unarmed, he had walked away from his base with the apparent intention to continue walking in the mountains. Picked up by a militant group, he was held as a prisoner of war for half a decade before his release in exchange for five of the 149 prisoners of war held by the U.S. government at its Guantanamo base. While some of these prisoners are military fighters, others are acknowledged civilians suffering their second decade of detention without trial or promise of eventual release.
This exchange, and seemingly the very prospect of Bowe Bergdahl’s release under any conditions, enraged some U.S. critics who blamed Bergdahl for daring to place the dictates of conscience before those of the United States Government.
Some also blamed Bergdahl for casualties among the troops which the U.S. had sent into battle. These soldiers were required to defend the prestige of a U.S. government that takes prisoners of war by the hundreds, shackling them for decades with no prospect of release, even when it’s proven that they are civilians who never took up arms, who were uninvolved in any militia, and who were caught “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Meanwhile, speaking of the five prisoners of war exchanged for Bergdahl (as one of a series of halting but desperately needed steps towards a peace treaty and withdrawal from Afghanistan) Senator John McCain, himself a former prisoner of war, raged, “"They're the five biggest murderers in world history! … They killed Americans!" (http://www.rollingstone.com/
Bergdahl listened to conscience; listened to the best he knew of the United States; and, heedless of the danger to himself, walked away from war. His military superiors knew that he was troubled, that his platoon was barely functional, and that he needed to find a way out, but they weren’t listening to the voice of compassion. They were listening to the voice of war.
War – this war and the many others like it – has changed us. It demands that a young man brutalized in captivity, that over a hundred of his counterparts brutalized daily in Guantanamo, never meet with any compassion from us ever again. And from Iraq to Syria, Afghanistan to the Ukraine, U.S. war makers will demand newer wars of us, more rage, and more fear cloaked in expressions of our exceptional humanitarian concern for others. We are absolutely forbidden ever to walk away from war.
That is the voice of war. South Korea’s own ongoing war is screaming at it to destroy young conscientious objectors with punitive jail sentences. Dissenting island communities face ever-increasing militarization in service of future U.S. superpower clashes. Worldwide the rage screaming in our ears wherever our power is blocked and our instructions defied drives us further and further into destructive madness in the clutches of which we should be pitied almost as much as feared. But we each do have a choice: We can choose not to listen to war, and act on this choice. For me, it was a saving grace to be able to listen to young people exchanging stories of hope, humor, dedication, and courage over lunches in the Gangjeong community kitchen.
This article will appear on its source site, the new Telesur English, in the third week of July, when that new site goes online.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Ever since the horrors of submarine warfare became a key issue during World War I, submarines have had a sinister reputation. And the building of new, immensely costly, nuclear-armed submarines by the U.S. government and others may soon raise the level of earlier anxiety to a nuclear nightmare.
By Gar Smith
Sometime this year -- with turmoil in the Middle East at a fever pitch -- the US Navy plans to deploy a new laser weapon aboard the USS Ponce, a naval vessel that has been assigned to engage in "war exercises" off the coast of Iran.
In videos released by the Pentagon, an invisible, yet powerful, beam of energy sets fire to an unmanned drone aircraft flying overhead at some distance. The flaming aircraft tumbles into the ocean. This is the Laser Weapons System (LaWS) at work. The current weapon is a low-power (15-50 kilowatt) prototype of a planned 100 kW "death ray" that could someday fry guided missiles in mid-trajectory.
According to Pentagon officials, the current low-power LaWS could prove useful against (1) slow-flying drones and (2) small boats. The current design is not effective against any target traveling at advanced speeds because the heat-effect builds up slowly – i.e., "it needs time to work."
The distinction is important: This means the laser has no use as a "defensive" weapon. It is an "offensive" weapon, plain and simple.
The Pentagon frequently stages US military exercises off the shores of distant nations as a way of "showing the flag" and "sending a message." The countries targeted for such unsolicited displays of naval might understandably view these intrusions as provocations. Conducting US "war games" in the Persian Gulf region is a dangerous stunt that is fraught with peril. Especially since it runs the risk of a face-off between the US and Iran.
Iran in known to monitor US warships in the waters near its borders and Tehran uses both pilotless drones and speedboats for this purpose. Were the US to use this new laser weapon against Iran's ships or aerial surveillance craft, it could be seen as an act of aggression — risking injury and death to Iranian sailors. If US "field tests" of the new LaWS system happened to bring down and Iranian drone or sink an Iranian patrol boat, that could trigger retaliation from Tehran, leading to further escalations.
Torching Speedboats and Drones
In a test off the California coast in April 2011, the Navy's experimental Maritime Laser Demonstrator (MLD), a solid-state 15-kilowatt solid-state laser, was able to ignite the engines on a small targeted boat. In a matter of seconds, the vessel was set on fire.
In less than three years after Northrop Grumman won a $98 million Navy contract to design the MLD, the prototype – in its very first at-sea trial -- demonstrated its ability to cause "catastrophic failure" on a moving vessel in the open sea.
In an interview with Spencer Ackerman, then the host of Wired magazine's Danger Room blog, Rear Adm. Nevin Carr beamed, "I never thought we'd see this kind of progress this quickly, where we're approaching a decision of when we can put laser weapons on ships."
Solid-state lasers operating in the tens of kilowatts have shown they can be both accurate and deadly – as long as the targets are slow-moving or stationary. Before laser weapons are able to take down a supersonic jet or an incoming missile, it will be necessary to ramp up the weapon's power significantly – to at least 100 kilowatts.
While buoyed by the success of the MLD, Adm. Carr wasn't satisfied. While the MLD's destruction of a small speedboat was "an important data point," he noted, "I still want the Megawatt Death Ray."
The Megawatt Class Death Ray
In 2011, scientists at a weapons lab in Newport News, Virginia, were able to produce a 500kV blast from an electron gun. This success promised to accelerate the development and deployment of a "megawatt-class" laser capable of taking down a missile or slicing holes in an enemy vessel.
The Navy's goal is to perfect a Free Electron Laser (FEL), an energy-beam weapon with adjustable wavelengths that could bore through dust and sea spray to deliver a knockout blow -- burning through enemy vehicles and vessels at the rate of 2,000-feet-of-steel-per-second. (By comparison, the world's most powerful free-electron laser currently is capable of cutting through 20-feet-of-steel-per-second.)
According to Admiral Carr, the arrival of the FEL and the Navy's Mach-8 electromagnetic rail gun will enable the US to begin "fighting at the speed of light and hypersonics."
But for the moment, the Navy must make do with the solid-state MLD.
Death Rays in the Gulf
The timing of a joint US-South Korea "war game" in the waters near North Korea recently lead that country's leader to threaten to rain nuclear-tipped missiles on US holdings from Guam to Nebraska. Despite the rising tensions in the Gulf Region (where Israel's cross-border airstrikes into Syria raise the risks of a spreading regional war), the Pentagon scheduled a major military exercise in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) ran from May 6-30 and involved vessels and personnel from 30 countries.
Commodore Simon Ancona, the deputy commander of the Combined Maritime Forces, described the military show-of-force as a "multidisciplinary defense exercise" designed to protect oil tankers, oil terminals and oil and gas exporters in the region. In addition to placing a first-generation "death ray" on board a ship plowing through the waters near Iran, the Pentagon plans to launch drones to provide surveillance information to US-military forces in the region.
Drones are part of the tension equation in the Persian Gulf. On March 14, 2013, Iran scrambled a jet fighter to chase down a US Predator drone that strayed too close to Iranian airspace. The US had two military aircraft shadowing the drone in international waters and, according to CNN, the Iranian jet retreated after "a verbal warning." In November 2012, Iran shot down a US drone over the Persian Gulf.
In April 2013, the New York Times reflected that bolting a death ray to the deck of a US naval vessel "seemed meant as a warning to Iran not to step up activity in the Gulf." As if to drive the message home, the Navy released a video of a LaWS system being tested in the waters off San Diego. A laser beam was trained on a slow-flying drone. In less than five seconds, the aircraft burst into flame and plummeted into the sea.
The 14-kilovolt solid-state LaWS the Navy has installed on the USS Ponce is capable of burning holes in small boats and propeller-driven aircraft. The Navy notes the LaWS will allow US sailors in the Persian Gulf "to easily defeat small boat threats and aerial targets without using bullets." The term "aerial targets" refers to drones.
The Pentagon is well aware of the fact that Iran's favored response to US military activities in Persian Gulf waters is to dispatch small fleets of "fast boats" and swarms of aerial drones.
In the sanitized language of Washington, the depiction of "defeating small boat threats" intentionally ignores the fact that any boats (and aircraft) targeted for destruction will be manned by human beings who will not simply be "defeated," they will also be burned, scarred and incinerated by a new kind of weapon the likes of which the world has never known.
The Pentagon estimates it would take a laser with a power-punch in the 100-kilovolt range to offer any practical defense against an attack from an incoming artillery shell, fighter jet or missile. This underscores the fact that the LaWS can only be used as an offensive weapon, trained on non-threatening or low-threat "targets of opportunity."
Peter A. Morrison, an ONR program officer with the LaWS program, has praised these new laser weapons that the Pentagon is rushing to the battlefield. "The solid-state laser is a big step forward to revolutionizing modern warfare with directed energy, just as gunpowder did in the era of knives and swords," Morrison observes.
But is it reasonable to characterize each new Pentagon weapon as an "advancement"? Especially since every military innovation – from flame-throwers to nuclear bombs – has eventually been duplicated and adopted by "enemy" nations. Instead of securing the threat of unique capacities of devastation in the hands of a single, unchallengeable Superpower, each new military breakthrough has led to new round of proliferation allowing new, ever-deadlier weapons of war to spread around the planet.
Electronic "death rays" pose such a unique danger that a growing chorus of voices are calling for a moratorium on deployment. Ultimately, critics insist, such weapons should be outlawed and banned from the battlefield – like chemical gases and anti-personal weapons.
Gar Smith is co-founder of Environmentalists Against War and author of Nuclear Roulette.
By Erin Niemela
A relatively new group engaging in non-state political violence, ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, recently called for the creation of an Islamic state in Iraq and Syria and a continuation and strengthening of jihad during Ramadan, according to a video that emerged through social media. ISIS, born of Al Qaeda members in Iraq and matured in the Syrian civil war power vacuum, is so radical that Al Qaeda “disowned” it. As if its goals of coerced dominance aren’t bad enough, Al Qaeda criticized ISIS for its brutality against civilians and Muslims. Repeat: Al Qaeda criticized ISIS. For brutality.
Enough is enough. All violent counterterrorism-intervention policies have completely failed. We’re sowing and reaping perpetual tragedy with this violence machine and the only people benefitting are sitting on top of a mountain of cash in the conflict industry (I’m looking at you, Lockheed Martin.) It’s time for a major shift in conflict management strategies. Can we finally start listening to the numerous scholars and studies with scientifically supported strategies for nonviolent counterterrorism? Here is a three-step strategy all sensible persons (and politicians) should advocate:
First, immediately stop sending funds and weapons to all involved parties. This is the easiest of the three. Ten years of terrorism-making and we still think our guns aren’t going to fall into the “wrong” hands? The hands they fall into are already “wrong.” If you need a good example, take a look at our darlings, the Free Syrian Army, and their blatant human rights violations, such as using child soldiers, documented by Human Rights Watch in 2012 and2014.
Second, fully invest in social and economic development initiatives in any region in which terrorist groups are engaged. In his 2004 book, “Nonviolent Response to Terrorism,” Tom Hastings, Ed.D., professor of conflict resolution at Portland State University, questions: “What if the terrorists – or the population base from which they draw – had enough of life’s necessities? What if they had secure jobs, decent living standards, drinkable water and healthy food for their children? Do we seriously think they would provide a recruiting base for terrorism?” Harvard lecturer Louise Richardson, author of the 2007 book “What Terrorists Want” makes the same argument, and Kim Cragin and Peter Chalk of the Rand Corporation drew the same conclusion from their 2003 study on social and economic development to inhibit terrorism. ISIS gained some of its current strength from economically providing for the families of fallen fighters, promising education to young boys (and then handing each a weapon), and capitalizing on grief and anger in Syrian communities. If we want to weaken ISIS and any other group engaging in terrorist activities, we have to start focusing on the needs they fill in those communities. Local communities in the region should be self-sustainable and civilians should feel empowered to provide for themselves and their families without taking up arms or using violence.
Third, fully support any and all nonviolent civil society resistance movements. Whoever is left – give them whatever support is needed the most. Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephen, in their 2011 groundbreaking study on civil resistance, “Why Civil Resistance Works,” found that “between 1900 and 2006, nonviolent resistance campaigns were nearly twice as likely to achieve full or partial success as their violent counterparts.” In addition, successful nonviolent resistance campaigns are less likely to descend into civil war and more likely to achieve democratic goals. We should have fully supported the nonviolent Syrian revolution when we had the chance. Instead, we gave legitimacy to the violent rebel factions – those same groups now fighting alongside Al Qaeda and ISIS. If we send our unconditional support to whatever nonviolent civil society actors are left on the ground in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, we might just find that the best remedy for terroritis has been right in front of us the entire time – civil society.
These are three easy paths any rational politician could advocate that will decrease hostilities, prevent the emergence of new terrorism recruiting environments and empower local communities to engage in nonviolent conflict resolution strategies. We’ve had centuries to discover that violence doesn’t work, hasn’t worked and won’t work. It’s time to try something different. Global leaders need to get on board the logic train and put some serious and sustained effort into nonviolent counterterrorism strategies. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before ISIS starts criticizing the next group for wanton violence and human rights abuses.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle_at_gmail.com (replacing _at_ with @)
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle_at_gmail.com (replacing _at_ with @)
Originally posted at PopularResistance.org
watch the full show here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNRoP9Hs0tU
Eleanor Goldfield is a creative activist and writer based in Los Angeles. She works with organizations to create digital content as well as live events to combine pop culture and politics - art killing apathy; her political hard rock band Rooftop Revolutionaries being a primary example of this. As a writer, she writes for several political publications on our corporatocratic government and all the issues stemming from that.
A majority of conservative old Catholic men: What’s Next? A Ruling that Workers’ Insurance Doesn’t Have to Cover Transfusions?
By Dave Lindorff
The vote by the US Supreme Court’s five conservative Catholic male members in the Hobby Lobby case, declaring that companies substantially owned by people who on religious grounds believe that contraception is a sin can not be compelled to offer coverage for it in any health plan provided to their employees raises a few important questions.
Well, I'm finally back from three weeks away. Judging by the lack of posts at TSA News, the civil liberties watchdog site I run, I guess it was a quiet time on the TSA front.
Though not anymore.
By David Swanson
Remarks at Independence from America event outside Menwith Hill "RFA" (NSA) base in Yorkshire.
First of all, thank you to Lindis Percy and everyone else involved in bringing me here, and letting me bring my son Wesley along.
And thank you to the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases. I know you share my view that accountability of American bases would lead to elimination of American bases.
And thank you to Lindis for sending me her accounts of refusing to be arrested unless the police disarmed themselves. In the United States, refusing any sort of direction from a police officer will get you charged with the crime of refusing a lawful order, even when the order is unlawful. In fact, that's often the only charge levied against people ordered to cease protests and demonstrations that in theory are completely legal. And, of course, telling a U.S. police officer to disarm could quite easily get you locked up for insanity if it didn't get you shot.
Can I just say how wonderful it is to be outside of the United States on the Fourth of July? There are many wonderful and beautiful things in the United States, including my family and friends, including thousands of truly dedicated peace activists, including people bravely going to prison to protest the murders by drone of others they've never met in distant lands whose loved ones will probably never hear about the sacrifices protesters are making. (Did you know the commander of a military base in New York State has court orders of protection to keep specific nonviolent peace activists away from his base to ensure his physical safety -- or is it his peace of mind?) And, of course, millions of Americans who tolerate or celebrate wars or climate destruction are wonderful and even heroic in their families and neighborhoods and towns -- and that's valuable too.
I've been cheering during U.S. World Cup games. But I cheer for neighborhood, city, and regional teams too. And I don't talk about the teams as if I'm them. I don't say "We scored!" as I sit in a chair opening a beer. And I don't say "We won!" when the U.S. military destroys a nation, kills huge numbers of people, poisons the earth, water, and air, creates new enemies, wastes trillions of dollars, and passes its old weapons to the local police who restrict our rights in the name of wars fought in the name of freedom. I don't say "We lost!" either. We who resist have a responsibility to resist harder, but not to identify with the killers, and certainly not to imagine that the men, women, children, and infants being murdered by the hundreds of thousands constitute an opposing team wearing a different uniform, a team whose defeat by hellfire missile I should cheer for.
Identifying with my street or my town or my continent doesn't lead the same places that identifying with the military-plus-some-minor-side-services that calls itself my national government leads. And it's very hard to identify with my street; I have such little control over what my neighbors do. And I can't manage to identify with my state because I've never even seen most of it. So, once I start identifying abstractly with people I don't know, I see no sensible argument for stopping anywhere short of identifying with everybody, rather than leaving out 95% and identifying with the United States, or leaving out 90% and identifying with the so-called "International Community" that cooperates with U.S. wars. Why not just identify with all humans everywhere? On those rare occasions when we learn the personal stories of distant or disparaged people, we're supposed to remark, "Wow, that really humanizes them!" Well, I'd like to know, what were they before those details made them humanized?
In the U.S. there are U.S. flags everywhere all the time now, and there's a military holiday for every day of the year. But the Fourth of July is the highest holiday of holy nationalism. More than any other day, you're likely to see children being taught to pledge allegiance to a flag, regurgitating a psalm to obedience like little fascist robots. You're more likely to hear the U.S. national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner. Who knows which war the words of that song come from?
That's right, the War of Canadian Liberation, in which the United States tried to liberate Canadians (not for the first or last time) who welcomed them much as the Iraqis would later do, and the British burned Washington. Also known as the War of 1812, the bicentennial was celebrated in the U.S. two years ago. During that war, which killed thousands of Americans and Brits, mostly through disease, during one pointless bloody battle among others, plenty of people died, but a flag survived. And so we celebrate the survival of that flag by singing about the land of the free that imprisons more people than anywhere else on earth and the home of the brave that strip-searches airplane passengers and launches wars if three Muslims shout "boo!"
Did you know the U.S. flag was recalled? You know how a car will be recalled by the manufacturer if the brakes don't work? A satirical paper called the Onion reported that the U.S. flag had been recalled after resulting in 143 million deaths. Better late than never.
There are many wonderful and rapidly improving elements in U.S. culture. It has become widely and increasingly unacceptable to be bigoted or prejudiced against people, at least nearby people, because of their race, sex, sexual orientation, and other factors. It still goes on, of course, but it's frowned upon. I had a conversation last year with a man sitting in the shadow of a carving of confederate generals on a spot that used to be sacred to the Ku Klux Klan, and I realized that he would never, even if he thought it, say something racist about blacks in the United States to a stranger he'd just met. And then he told me he'd like to see the entire Middle East wiped out with nuclear bombs.
We've had comedians' and columnists' careers ended over racist or sexist remarks, but weapons CEOs joke on the radio about wanting big new occupations of certain countries, and nobody blinks. We have antiwar groups that push for celebration of the military on Memorial Day and other days like this one. We have so-called progressive politicians who describe the military as a jobs program, even though it actually produces fewer jobs per dollar than education or energy or infrastructure or never taxing those dollars at all. We have peace groups that argue against wars on the grounds that the military needs to be kept ready for other, possibly more important wars. We have peace groups that oppose military waste, when the alternative of military efficiency is not what's needed. We have libertarians who oppose wars because they cost money, exactly as they oppose schools or parks. We have humanitarian warriors who argue for wars because of their compassion for the people they want bombed. We have peace groups that side with the libertarians and urge selfishness, arguing for schools at home instead of bombs for Syrians, without explaining that we could give actual aid to Syrians and ourselves for a fraction of the cost of the bombs.
We have liberal lawyers who say they can't tell whether blowing children up with drones is legal or not, because President Obama has a secret memo (now only partially secret) in which he legalizes it by making it part of a war, and they haven't seen the memo, and as a matter of principle they, like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, ignore the U.N. Charter, the Kellogg Briand Pact, and the illegality of war. We have people arguing that bombing Iraq is now a good thing because it finally gets the U.S. and Iran talking to each other. We have steadfast refusals to mention a half-million to a million-and-a-half Iraqis based on the belief that Americans can only possibly care about 4,000 Americans killed in Iraq. We have earnest crusades to turn the U.S. military into a force for good, and the inevitable demand of those who begin to turn against war, that the United States must lead the way to peace -- when of course the world would be thrilled if it just brought up the rear.
And yet, we also have tremendous progress. A hundred years ago Americans were listening to snappy tunes about how hunting Huns was a fun game to play, and professors were teaching that war builds national character. Now war has to be sold as necessary and humanitarian because nobody believes it's fun or good for you anymore. Polls in the United States put support for possible new wars below 20 percent and sometimes below 10 percent. After the House of Commons over here said No to missile strikes on Syria, Congress listened to an enormous public uproar in the U.S. and said No as well. In February, public pressure led to Congress backing off a new sanctions bill on Iran that became widely understood as a step toward war rather than away from it. A new war on Iraq is having to be sold and developed slowly in the face of huge public resistance that has even resulted in some prominent advocates of war in 2003 recently recanting.
This shift in attitude toward wars is largely the result of the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq and the exposure of the lies and horrors involved. We shouldn't underestimate this trend or imagine that it's unique to the question of Syria or Ukraine. People are turning against war. For some it may be all about the money. For others it may be a question of which political party owns the White House. The Washington Post has a poll showing that almost nobody in the U.S. can find Ukraine on a map, and those who place it furthest from where it really lies are most likely to want a U.S. war there, including those who place it in the United States. One doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. Yet the larger trend is this: from geniuses right down to morons, we are, most of us, turning against war. The Americans who want Ukraine attacked are fewer than those believing in ghosts, U.F.O.s, or the benefits of climate change.
Now, the question is whether we can shake off the idea that after hundreds of bad wars there just might be a good one around the corner. To do that we have to recognize that wars and militaries make us less safe, not safer. We have to understand that Iraqis aren't ungrateful because they're stupid but because the U.S. and allies destroyed their home.
We can pile even more weight on the argument for ending the institution of war. These U.S. spy bases are used for targeting missiles but also for spying on governments and companies and activists. And what justifies the secrecy? What allows treating everyone as an enemy? Well, one necessary component is the concept of an enemy. Without wars nations lose enemies. Without enemies, nations lose excuses to abuse people. Britain was the first enemy manufactured by the would-be rulers of the United States on July 4, 1776. And yet King George's abuses don't measure up to the abuses our governments now engage in, justified by their traditions of war making and enabled by the sort of technologies housed here.
War is our worst destroyer of the natural environment, the worst generator of human rights abuses, a leading cause of death and creator of refugee crises. It swallows some $2 trillion a year globally, while tens of billions could alleviate incredible suffering, and hundreds of billions could pay for a massive shift to renewable energies that might help protect us from an actual danger.
What we need now is a movement of education and lobbying and nonviolent resistance that doesn't try to civilize war but to take steps in the direction of abolishing it -- which begins by realizing that we can abolish it. If we can stop missiles into Syria, there's no magical force that prevents our stopping missiles into every other country. War is not a primal urge of nations that must burst out a little later if once suppressed. Nations aren't real like that. War is a decision made by people, and one that we can make utterly unacceptable.
People in dozens of countries are now working on a campaign for the elimination of all war called World Beyond War. Please check out WorldBeyondWar.org or talk to me about getting involved. Our goal is to bring many more people and organizations into a movement not aimed at a specific war proposal from a specific government, but at the entire institution of war everywhere. We'll have to work globally to do this. We'll have to throw our support behind the work being done by groups like the Campaign for Accountability of American Bases and the Movement for the Abolition of War and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Veterans For Peace and so many more.
Some friends of ours in Afghanistan, the Afghan Peace Volunteers, have proposed that everyone living under the same blue sky who wants to move the world beyond war wear a sky blue scarf. You can make your own or find them at TheBlueScarf.org. I hope by wearing this to communicate my sense of connection to those back in the United States working for actual freedom and bravery, and my same sense of connection to those in the rest of the world who have had enough of war. Happy Fourth of July!
A World Can't Wait Panel at the Left Forum, June 1, 2014 With 1100+ bases, the US military is the single largest user of fossil fuels in this century, while at the same time it fights wars and engages in occupations both to ensure strategic access to those resources and deny rivals control. In its military operations, it uses weapons of mass destruction, such as Agent Orange (in Vietnam) and depleted uranium (in the former Yugoslavia and in Iraq) which cause horrendous suffering including cancer and birth defects and remain over time as potent environmental toxins. The ecological effects of war, such as the burning of oil fields and the destruction of large urban constructions, spreads poisonous fumes and dust, with devestating effects on land, humans, flora and fauna.
A World Can't Wait Panel at the Left Forum, June 1, 2014 CUNY has restored ROTC on a number of campuses after it was driven out by protest 40 years ago. General David Petraeus, architect of the "surge" in Iraq, one-time CENTCOM and CIA Director, is teaching at Macaulay Honors College. The US military is shifting recruiting to diverse urban campuses like CUNY, saying that in 15 years it needs officers who "reflect the geographic and demographic diversity of the country." What is the challenge for those who want to stop unjust wars? How did students and professors at Rutgers University, a NJ state institution, force the withdrawal of Condoleezza Rice as commencement speaker?
A World Can't Wait Panel at the Left Forum, June 1, 2014. The US government collects billions of bytes of "metadata" on phone calls, emails, bank traffic, text messaging, chats - content, recipients, etc. - storing everything for future use, if not needed immediately. Edward Snowden and others in the field say the amount of data collected doubles every two years. The ramifications of this data collection and storage process goes beyond issues of civil liberties and abstract rights.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle_at_gmail.com (replacing _at_ with @)
On KPFA's 'Project Censored' program: Discussing Homeland Security's Labeling of ThisCantBeHappening! as a 'Threat'
By Dave Lindorff
Dave Lindorff is interviewed by Mickey Huff and Peter Phillips of Project Censored on their June 27 program on San Francisco public radio station KPFA. Lindorff tells Huff and Phillips about how TCBH! learned, from a Department of Homeland Security document obtained recently thanks to a Freedom of Information Act filing by the Partnership for Civil Justice, that ThisCantBeHappening! had been labeled a "threat" by the DHS.