Humans almost invariably imagine humans to be far more imaginative and original than they are. But most of our ideas come from (often imperfect and improvised) imitation. And even more powerful than our tendency to imitate is our inability to refrain from imitating, to shake an idea out of our heads once it's there, to "not think of an elephant."
Anthropologists have found cultures whose members cannot conceive of killing. "Why won't you shoot an arrow at those slave raiders?" "Because it would kill them."
In Western culture, children hear of killing in fairy tales, cartoons, Harry Potter books, video games, the TV news, the newspaper, the games played in the park. It's everywhere. Usually it's frowned upon, although often a distinction is made between bad killing by bad guys and good killing by good guys, or inexplicable random killing and killing justified and sanctified by bitter revenge.
But even when a behavior is frowned upon, the listener or viewer has now heard of that behavior. There have been studies of children's responses to stories and television dramas in which fictional children misbehave for three-quarters of the episode and then learn an important moral lesson at the end. Guess what? Kids don't retroactively view the whole story as a package and wipe the bad behavior out of their minds. Instead they display a tendency to try out the behavior demonstrated to them in so many of the isolated moments that they lived while watching or listening to the story.
Humans also almost invariably imagine humans to be far kinder and far more selfless than they are. Most of us very much want others to be kind to us, and we try our best to be kind to others. So, when we see behaviors and institutions that cause horrendous suffering, we like to imagine there is a rational cause, a greater good, or that the explanation is incompetence or stupidity -- anything other than the most obvious explanation: vicious, evil sadism.
We are often encouraged to picture vicious cruelty and irrational evil in certain foreign groups of humans. But usually this perspective is intended to help us avoid seeing cruelty in those who are supposedly like ourselves.
These thoughts arise as I'm confronted by the polling showing that 95% of Israelis deem the slaughter of Gazans to be just, and the realization that for many in Israel "just" is a rather disgusting euphemism for "satisfyingly sadistic." People are sitting on hills watching the missiles hit the homes, some of them telling cameras they want everyone killed, and then explaining that their thoughts are "a little bit fascist."
This week we'll be remembering Harry Truman's bombing of Japan with nuclear weapons, and we'll be told that he must have believed those acts of mass murder would help end the war, even though the evidence shows he knew otherwise. Truman had earlier advocated aiding the Russians or the Germans, whoever was losing, so that as many people as possible would die, he said. Top U.S. military officials wanted Japan cleansed of all human life. The most likely explanation for the nukes, namely that Truman viewed killing lots of Japanese as an advantage to be weighed along with impressing the Russians and so forth, is too ugly, so we turn away. We even have to turn away from his own statement on the occasion, which justified the bombing in terms of revenge, not in terms of ending the war.
Also this week we'll mark 50 years since the Gulf of Tonkin fraud. We like to imagine such incidents, even when they result in the deaths of 4 million foreigners, as misunderstandings. But during the course of the savagery that followed, how was progress gauged? That's right: by body counts.
Examples of evil policies, in one's own or other parts of the world, flood in the moment you begin to look for them. The evidence is clear that locking kids up in juvenile prisons makes them more likely, not less likely, to grow into criminals. But we just go on locking them up for other motives we don't care to examine too closely. We've learned what it's impolite to mention. Support for wars in Afghanistan or Iraq is discussed on television in terms of "strategic interests" and other such blather, but the counter-demonstrators across the street from a peace rally sometimes have different desires, including the death of foreigners -- and of the peace activists with them.
Courageous peace activists in Israel have been facing hostile counter-demonstrations from those in their society who have moved in a different direction.
There are many reasons why I shouldn't make any observation on Israeli society, beginning with the fact that I know very little about it. But when a nation is continually engaging in the most horrific and massive crimes, using weapons and criminal immunity provided by my nation, and protests are raging around the earth, when the news is packed with information, analysis, propaganda, and poisonous pontificating, when the peace meetings I go to discuss the matter at great length, when the guests on my radio show and the books I read and Israelis I meet begin to inform me a little, and when the problem appears enormous and glaring but guarded by a protection of intimidation and obedience, then I think tossing an idea into the mix may be justified, despite being dramatically more impolite by U.S. standards than criticizing Harry Truman or LBJ.
Israel is a nation where children grow up learning about the holocaust, marking the holocaust with holidays, planning trips to Germany to visit the camps. U.S. children dress up as Pilgrims and Indians, but nobody tells them that the Pilgrims ended up murdering the Indians, or what it was like to be an Indian child preparing to be murdered or watching your loved ones murdered. The U.S. origin story is, appropriately enough, one of feasting, not one of genocide. I'm speaking of how it is told, of course, rather than what actually happened.
To criticize the Israeli government for its wars, even though I also criticize every other government for their wars, generates inevitable and truly stupid accusations of anti-Semitism. But criticizing the teaching of the holocaust, which I've never done before, seems likely to go beyond that into an area of accusations of holocaust denial. I have, of course, been there. I've been accused of denying the holocaust for opposing bombing Iran because someone in Iran supposedly denied the holocaust. I've been accused of denying the holocaust for criticizing World War II, even though the actions I express a wish had been taken include opposing fascism in its early years instead of waiting, defunding the Nazis rather than supporting them as preferable to Communists, and finding homes for Jewish refugees when they needed them, rather than turning them away. But this is all ridiculously dumb: denying the holocaust and flooding society with its ubiquitous presence are not the only two choices, any more than leveling people's homes in Gaza and "doing nothing" are the only two choices.
To say that people are behaving like Nazis is not to say that they are exactly identical to Nazis, any more than to say that your child's piano playing is exactly like Mozart. Without question, Nazism is a source of imitation for rightwingers around the world, including in Israel. Might a lesser focus on its significance be helpful? Would a greater emphasis on peace studies do any harm?
From this wonderful song book:
By Irving Berlin in 1914 (100 years ago):
Stay Down Here Where You Belong
Sat the Devil talking to his son
Who wanted to go
He cried, "It's getting too warm for me down here and so
I'm going up on Earth where I can have a little fun”.
The Devil simply shook his head and answered his son:
Stay down here where you belong
The folks who live above you don't know right from wrong.
To please their kings they've all gone out to war
And not a one of them knows what he's fighting for.
Way up above they say that I'm a Devil and I'm bad
Kings up there are bigger devils than your dad.
They're breaking the hearts of mothers
Making butchers out of brothers
You'll find more hell up there than there is
Kings up there
They don't care
For the mothers who must stay at home
Their sorrows to bear
Stay at home
Don't you roam
Although it's warm down below,
you'll find it's warmer up there
If e'er you went up there, my son,
I know you'd be surprised
You'd find a lot of people are not civilized.
The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Updated
Mine eyes have seen the orgy of the launching of the Sword;
He is searching out the hoardings where the stranger's wealth is stored;
He hath loosed his fateful lightnings, and with woe and death has scored;
His lust is marching on.
I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded him an altar in the Eastern dews and damps;
I have read his doomful mission by the dim and flaring lamps—
His night is marching on.
I have read his bandit gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my pretensions, so with you my wrath shall deal;
Let the faithless son of Freedom crush the patriot with his heel;
Lo, Greed is marching on!"
We have legalized the strumpet and are guarding her retreat;
Greed is seeking out commercial souls before his judgement seat;
O, be swift, ye clods, to answer him! be jubilant my feet!
Our god is marching on!
In a sordid slime harmonious Greed was born in yonder ditch,
With a longing in his bosom—and for others' goods an itch.
As Christ died to make men holy, let men die to make us rich—
Our god is marching on.
And one more:
Bring Back My Daddy To Me
A sweet little girl, with bright golden curls,
Sat playing with toys on the floor,
Her dad went away, to enter the fray,
At the start of this long bitter war;
Her mother said, "Dear your birthday is near,
Tomorrow your presents I'll buy."
The dear little child, quickly looked up and smiled,
And said with a tear in her eye:
"I don't want a dress or a do-ly,
'Cause dollies get broken 'round here,
I don't want the skates, the books or the slates,
You bought for my birthday last year;
If you'll bring the present I ask for,
Dear Mother, how happy I'll be;
You can give all my toys To some poor girls and boys,
But bring back my Daddy to me!"
By Kathy Kelly
Kabul—Last week, here in Kabul, the Afghan Peace Volunteers welcomed activist Carmen Trotta, from New York, who has lived in close community with impoverished people in his city for the past 25 years, serving meals, sharing housing, and offering hospitality to the best of his ability. Put simply and in its own words, his community, founded by Dorothy Day, exists to practice “the works of mercy” and to “end the works of war.” We wanted to hear Carmen’s first impressions of traveling the streets of Kabul on his way from the airport to the working class neighborhood where he’ll be staying as the APVs’ welcome guest.
He said it was the first time he’d seen the streets of any city so crowded with people who have no work.
Carmen had noticed men sitting in wheelbarrows, on curb sides, and along sidewalks, unemployed, some of them waiting for a day labor opportunity that might or might not come. Dr. Hakim, the APV’s mentor, quoted Carmen the relevant statistics: the CIA World Fact Book uses research from 2008 to put Afghanistan’s unemployment rate at 35% - just under the figure of 36% of Afghans living beneath the poverty level. That’s the CIA’s unemployment figure - Catherine James, writing in The Asian Reviewthis past March, noted that “the Afghan Chamber of Commerce puts it at 40%, the World Bank measures it at 56% and Afghanistan’s labor leaders put it at a shocking 86%.”
Overall statistics for Afghanistan are grim. A recent article in the UK’s Independent reported that one million children under five are acutely malnourished, 54 per cent of girls do not go to school and war has displaced 630,000 Afghans within their own country. Relentlessly, the fighting continues. Now, on average, 40 children are maimed or killed in fighting every week.
Rustom Ali, a cobbler – a shoemaker, born here in Kabul – visited with me the day after Carmen’s arrival, and explained more about employment in his city, and the prospects for Afghans surviving this latest decade out of a near-half-century of near-constant foreign invasion. He had to find time out of a 12 hour workday to meet with me.
Rustom mends shoes, or waits for shoes to mend, 7 days a week, from 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., at the roadside. His “shop” consists of a box containing equipment and a primitive, portable overhead shelter. He sits on a ledge, under the blazing sun, (or in freezing cold during Afghanistan’s harsh winter).
Each day he earns about 250 Afghanis, equivalent to roughly four and a half dollars in U.S. money. Dependent on him for food and shelter are his wife Fatima, his daughter Narghis (age 7), and five-year-old Mehdi, his son; Rustom’s father also lives with them and has no work. Each day, the price of bread to feed the family is 100 Afghanis ($1.76). Beyond supplying bread, rice, beans and oil, he must also pay for rent and gas. He will never be able to save money at this rate, despite his fierce yearning for a better future for his two children.
Twenty years ago, Rustom had hoped for a far different life for himself. He had travelled to Iran and, although Iranians generally discriminated against Afghans, he was able to go to school, where he was an excellent student, always working part time as a cobbler. He enjoyed sports, and also liked learning English in his spare time. He showed me two notebooks he had begun then, filled with details about his family history and reflections about his life.
One day, when he was 18 years old and still living in Iran, a car carrying flowers to a wedding hit him as he crossed an intersection, catapulting him into the air. He landed on his head. After 48 days in hospital and then three more months spent recovering at home, he was finally able to walk and speak again. His speech and memory are still affected by the accident.
Rustom hired a lawyer, hoping a judge would compel the driver who caused the accident to pay some reparations. But the driver was a native to Iran and Rustom was an Afghan. “I endured great pain and permanent brain damage because of the accident,” he said, “But being treated as though I wasn’t a human being,” – the reaction of the Iranian court – “it was more painful. Every day I could see this kind of discrimination against Afghans in Iran.” And so he took his chances and returned to Kabul.
When I asked Rustom about his greatest hopes for his own children, he said that he and his wife teach them, every day, never to discriminate against others the way he was discriminated against in Iran. He had been sorely hurt when the courts there refused to see him, a foreigner, as a human being.
Abdulhai, an Afghan Peace Volunteer, translated between me and Rustom, having developed a friendship with Rustom since they first sat and talked several months ago. Abdulhai had confessed to Rustom that he was struggling with loneliness and sadness. Rustom offered comfort and encouragement. He has great hopes for Abdulhai, who has, in his view, a future much brighter than so many here, given his enrolment in school and his interest in learning new skills. Rustom said that after four years sitting daily in the same place waiting to repair shoes, Abdulhai was the first person to engage him in a genuine conversation.
Dehumanization is central to war. Rustom Ali’s and Abdulhai’s friendship defies dehumanizing forces in their impoverished society, so battered by war makers ‘predatory ventures.
This morning, Carmen and Faiz, another APV member, took a long, early morning walk through a main street in the neighbourhood where we live. By now, Carmen is recognizing faces and names. He knows the bakers who’ve stopped their work to share a cup of tea with him. Sayyaf, who lost both legs during civil war in Kabul and survives by selling glasses and mousetraps from a somewhat ramshackle cart, waved to Carmen with a broad smile and offered him a cup of tea.
As the U.S. cobbles together justifications for its ongoing, foolhardy war in Afghanistan, glimmers of hope persist in small communities like Carmen’s in New York and the APVs in Kabul. They agitate against war. They believe that doing the works of mercy helps us set aside the works of war. And, they’re renewed, consistently, by solidarity with others longing to form humane relations and, as Carmen’s community puts it, “build a new world within the shell of the old.”
Photo credit: Abdulhai Safarali
Sarah Ali is a Palestinian living in the Gaza Strip. She has lost friends and neighbors in the current war on Gaza. She speaks to us about conditions under the bombing. Sarah Ali studied English and literature and currently is working as a teacher in Gaza City. She contributed a short story called "The Story of the Land" to the book Gaza Writes Back: Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestine. We close the show by reading that story.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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Civil Disobedience at Israeli Embassy with CodePink
July 30 at 11am at Israeli Embassy, 3514 International Drive, N.W., Washington DC
Update: July 30: ADC has vigil for Gaza at the White House at 7pm.
August 1 Briefing on Gaza on Capitol Hill
Peace Witnesses for Hiroshima and Nagasaki
with Jonah House Community, Dorothy Day Catholic Worker and other friends from the Atlantic Life Community.
August 6 Nonviolent witness at the Pentagon. Meet on corner of Army-Navy Drive and Fern St. @ 11:45 a.m. Witness from Noon - 1:00 p.m.
August 9 Meet at 16th and H St. NW at 11:45 a.m. and process to White House for a Noon - 1:00 p.m. witness.
August 9, An Evening for a World Beyond War
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle_at_gmail.com (replacing _at_ with @)
Originally posted at PopularResistance.org
“We are a diverse group of people who have come together against the Israeli occupation and against the massacre. However,” says Kash Nikazmrad, an organizer with Students for Justice in Palestine, “every massacre, every occupation, every act of colonialism always has a mechanism and a supporter. The supporter in this situation has been America.”
Nikazmrad is one of the organizers behind the Los Angeles “Stop The Massacre in Gaza” events.
Editor Note: With the July 17 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine turning a local civil war into a U.S. confrontation with Russia, former U.S. intelligence veterans urge President Obama to release what evidence he has about the tragedy and silence the hyperbole.
MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: Intelligence on Shoot-Down of Malaysian Plane
Save the Date! Join Our Contingent at the People’s Climate March. Sunday, September 21, 2014 in NYC
Stop the Crimes Against Our Planet! Humanity and the Planet Must Come First! The World Can't Wait!
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle_at_gmail.com (replacing _at_ with @)
On Gaza, Israel, and Hamas: an Open Letter To Bill Maher
Originally posted at PopularResistance.org
Bill Maher should be praised for how efficiently he elucidated exactly what the Israel propaganda machine, with full support and cooperation of the United States government, would have us believe when he took to twitter and remarked: “Dealing w/ Hamas is like dealing w/ a crazy woman who's trying to kill u - u can only hold her wrists so long before you have to slap her.”
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Greenpeace USA has released a major new report on an under-discussed part of President Barack Obama's Climate Action Plan and his U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) carbon rule: it serves as a major endorsement of continued coal production and export to overseas markets.
As Israel continues its unspeakable brutality, violating not only international law but basic human decency by targeting children, hospitals, mosques and private residences, its many outrages are being widely publicized, thanks to social media. One can access YouTube and see Israeli soldiers using Palestinian children as human shields. Facebook is awash with pictures of bloody, dismembered, dead children, victims of ‘the most moral army in the world’. Twitter is filled with links, all showing not only the horrors that Israel is inflicting, but the many worldwide demonstrations supporting Palestine. Numerous large such demonstrations have been held in Israel itself.
War and cancer are among our leading causes of human death around the world. They can't be strictly separated and compared since war is a major cause of cancer, as is war preparation. (And a small fraction of the U.S. budget for war preparations could fund cancer research well beyond all the money raised by public and private funding and by all the 5-K races for a cure and other activities we've become familiar with.) War and cancer, by their nature, also can't be addressed with the same sort of responses.
Cancer prevention, including possibly radical changes in industrial and energy policies, is fairly off-limits, whereas cancer treatment and the search for a cure is almost certainly our most widespread and publicly visible form of altruistic charity and advocacy. When you see athletes or celebrities marked with bright pink, or a public event packed with pink shirts or ribbons, or -- alongside a road -- a giant pink inflatable anything, you are now less likely to think "WTF is that?" than "We need to help cure breast cancer."
War prevention, including radical redirection of our resources and economy away from war, re-education away from the propaganda of beneficial violence, support for nonviolent conflict resolution, and promotion of international law and the prosecution of war makers, is likewise fairly off-limits. But war treatment and the search for a cure for war once begun, seems significantly less useful than the search for a cure for cancer. War is indisputably and entirely human-made. Most of its fatal victims die immediately. Halting a war once begun is immensely more difficult than refraining from starting it, as no one party can control a war's path, and support-the-troops propaganda convinces people that ending a war is more evil than continuing it. Once a war ends, undoing the resentment and hatred and habits of violence, and the environmental destruction (and the cancer epidemics), and the destruction to liberties and democracy, all adds up to an immense -- if not impossible -- task compared to that of avoiding wars before they're started.
So, when we compare a public demand to abolish cancer with one to abolish war, the latter seems to require halting our biggest public program, whereas the former allows us to go on driving our SUVs to Wal-Mart as long as we stick a pink ribbon on the back to indicate that doctors and scientists should continue the great march of progress. And of course they should. We should be investing vastly more in curing cancer, not to mention Alzheimer's which is as big a killer as cancer but opposed by far less funding (and not a particular threat to that favorite of all body parts: the breast).
But abolishing war may be the more pressing demand. Nuclear weapons could be used intentionally or accidentally and destroy us all. The resources dumped into war are badly needed for the work of averting environmental catastrophe (not to mention curing cancer). What if a campaign to abolish war were to learn a few tricks from the campaign to abolish breast cancer?
Following the lead of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, Campaign Nonviolence, World Beyond War, and other peace groups are encouraging everyone to use sky blue scarves and bracelets as symbols of peace and support for ending all wars. What if sky blue symbols became as widespread as pink ones? What would that look like?
I started seeing graphics pop up on social media sites this past week that said about Gaza: "It's not war. It's murder." So I started asking people what exactly they think war is if it's distinct from murder. Well, war, some of them told me, takes place between armies. So I asked for anyone to name a war during the past century (that is, after World War I) where all or even most or even a majority of the dying was done by members of armies. There may have been such a war. There are enough scholars here today that somebody probably knows of one. But if so, it isn't the norm, and these people I was chatting with through social media couldn't think of any such war and yet insisted that that's just what war is. So, is war then over and nobody told us?
For whatever reasons, I then very soon began seeing a graphic sent around that said about Gaza: "It's not war. It's genocide." And the typical explanation I got when I questioned this one was that the wagers of war and the wagers of genocide have different attitudes. Are we sure about that? I've spoken to advocates for recent U.S. wars who wanted all or part of a population wiped out. Plenty of supporters of the latest attacks on Gaza see them as counter-terrorism. In wars between advanced militaries and poor peoples most of the death and injury is on one side and most of it -- by anyone's definition -- civilian. This is as true in Afghanistan, where war rolls on largely unchallenged, as in Gaza, about which we are newly outraged.
Well, what's wrong with outrage? Who cares what people call it? Why not criticize the war advocates rather than nitpicking the war opponents' choice of words? When people are outraged they will reach for whatever word their culture tells them is most powerful, be it murder or genocide or whatever. Why not encourage that and worry a little more about the lunatics who are calling it defense or policing or terrorist removal? (Eight-year-old terrorists!)
Yes, of course. I've been going after CNN news readers for claiming Palestinians want to die and NBC for yanking its best reporter and ABC for claiming scenes of destruction in Gaza that just don't exist in Israel are in fact in Israel -- and the U.S. government for providing the weapons and the criminal immunity. I've been promoting rallies and events aimed at swaying public opinion against what Israel has been doing, and against the sadistic bloodthirsty culture of those standing on hills cheering for the death and destruction below, quite regardless of what they call it. But, as you're probably aware, only the very most open-minded war advocates attend conventions of Veterans For Peace. So, I'm speaking here backstage, as it were, at the peace movement. Among those of us who want to stop the killing, are there better and worse ways to talk about it? And is anything revealed by the ways in which we tend to talk about it when we aren't hyper-focused on our language?
I think so. I think it's telling that the worst word anyone can think of isn't war. I think it's even more telling that we condemn things by contrasting them with war, framing war as relatively acceptable. I think this fact ought to be unsettling because a very good case can be made that war, in fact, is the worst thing we do, and that the distinctions between war and such evils as murder or genocide can require squinting very hard to discern.
We've all heard that guns don't kill people, people kill people. There is a parallel belief that wars don't kill people, people who misuse wars, who fight bad wars, who fight wars improperly, kill people. This is a big contrast with many other evil institutions. We don't oppose child abuse selectively, holding out the possibility of just and good incidents of child abuse while opposing the bad or dumb or non-strategic or excessive cases of child abuse. We don't have Geneva Conventions for proper conduct while abusing children. We don't have human rights groups writing reports on atrocities and possible law violations committed in the course of abusing children. We don't distinguish UN-sanctioned child abuse. The same goes for numerous behaviors generally understood as always evil: slavery or rape or blood feuds or duelling or dog fighting or sexual harassment or bullying or human experimentation or -- I don't know -- producing piles of I'm-Ready-for-Hillary posters. We don't imagine there are good, just, and defensible cases of such actions.
And this is the core problem: not support for bombing Gaza or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq or anywhere else that actually gets bombed, but support for an imaginary war in the near future between two armies with different colored jerseys and sponsors, competing on an isolated battlefield apart from any villages or towns, and suffering bravely and heroically for their non-murderous non-genocidal cause while complying with the whistles blown by the referees in the human rights organizations whenever any of the proper killing drifts into lawless imprisonment or torture or the use of improper weaponry. Support for specific possible wars in the United States right now is generally under 10 percent. More people believe in ghosts, angels, and the integrity of our electoral system than want a new U.S. war in Ukraine, Syria, Iran, or Iraq. The Washington Post found a little over 10 percent want a war in Ukraine but that the people who held that view were the people who placed Ukraine on the world map the furthest from its actual location, including people who placed it in the United States. These are the idiots who favor specific wars. Even Congress, speaking of idiots, on Friday told Obama no new war on Iraq.
The problem is the people, ranging across the population from morons right up to geniuses, who favor imaginary wars. Millions of people will tell you we need to be prepared for more wars in case there's another Adolf Hitler, failing to understand that the wars and militarism and weapons sales and weapons gifts -- the whole U.S. role as the arsenal of democracies and dictatorships alike -- increase rather than decrease dangers, that other wealthy countries spend less than 10 percent what the U.S. does on their militaries, and that 10 percent of what the U.S. spends on its military could end global starvation, provide the globe with clean water, and fund sustainable energy and agriculture programs that would go further toward preventing mass violence than any stockpiles of weaponry. Millions will tell you that the world needs a global policeman, even though polls of the world find the widespread belief that the United States is currently the greatest threat to peace on earth. In fact if you start asking people who have opposed every war in our lifetimes or in the past decade to work on opposing the entire institution of war, you'll be surprised by many of the people who say no.
I'm a big fan of a book called Addicted to War. I think it will probably be a powerful tool for war abolition right up until war is abolished. But its author told me this week that he can't work to oppose all wars because he favors some of them. Specifically, he said, he doesn't want to ask Palestinians to not defend themselves. Now, there's a really vicious cycle. If we can't shut down the institution of war because Palestinians need to use it, then it's harder to go after U.S. military spending, which is of course what funds much of the weaponry being used against Palestinians. I think we should get a little clarity about what a war abolition movement does and does not do. It does not tell people what they must do when attacked. It is not focused on advising, much less instructing, the victims of war, but on preventing their victimization. It does not advise the individual victim of a mugging to turn the other cheek. But it also does not accept the disproven notion that violence is a defensive strategy for a population. Nonviolence has proven far more effective and its victories longer lasting. If people in Gaza have done anything at all to assist in their own destruction, it is not the supposed offenses of staying in their homes or visiting hospitals or playing on beaches; it is the ridiculously counterproductive firing of rockets that only encourages and provides political cover for war/ genocide/ mass murder.
I'm a huge fan of Chris Hedges and find him one of the most useful and inspiring writers we have. But he thought attacking Libya was a good idea up until it quite predictably and obviously turned out not to be. He still thinks Bosnia was a just war. I could go on through dozens of names of people who contribute mightily to an anti-war movement who oppose abolishing war. The point is not that anyone who believes in 1 good war out of 100 is to blame for the trillion dollar U.S. military budget and all the destruction it brings. The point is that they are wrong about that 1 war out of 100, and that even if they were right, the side-effects of maintaining a culture accepting of war preparations would outweigh the benefits of getting 1 war right. The lives lost by not spending $1 trillion a year in the U.S. and another $1 trillion in the rest of the world on useful projects like environmental protection, sustainable agriculture, medicine and hygiene absolutely dwarf the number of lives that would be saved by halting our routine level of war making.
If you talk about abolishing war entirely, as many of us have begun focusing on through a new project called World Beyond War, you'll also find people who want to abolish war but believe it's impossible. War is natural, they say, inevitable, in our genes, decreed by our economy, the unavoidable result of racism or consumerism or capitalism or exceptionalism or carnivorism or nationalism. And of course many cultural patterns interact with and facilitate war, but the idea that it's in our genes is absurd, given how many cultures in our species have done and do without it. I don't know what -- if anything -- people usually mean when they call something "natural" but presumably it's not the provocation of suicide, which is such a common result of participating in war, while the first case of PTSD due to war deprivation has yet to be discovered. Most of our species' existence, as hunter-gatherers, did not know war, and only the last century -- a split-second in evolutionary terms -- has known war that at all resembles war today. War didn't used to kill like this. Soldiers weren't conditioned to kill. Most guns picked up at Gettysburg had been loaded more than once. The big killers were diseases, even in the U.S. Civil War, the war that the U.S. media calls the most deadly because Filipinos and Koreans and Vietnamese and Iraqis don't count. Now the big killer is a disease in our thinking, a combination of what Dr. King called self-guided missiles and misguided men.
Another hurdle for abolishing war is that the idea rose to popularity in the West in the 1920s and 1930s and then sank into a category of thought that is vaguely treasonous. War abolition was tried and failed, the thinking goes, like communism or labor unions and now we know better. While abolishing war is popular in much of the world, that fact is easily ignored by the 1% who misrepresent the 10% or 15% who live in the places that constitute the so-called International Community. Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come or weaker than an idea whose time has come and gone. Or so we think. But the Renaissance was, as its name suggests, an idea whose time came again, new and improved and victorious. The 1920s and 1930s are a resource for us. We have stockpiles of wisdom to draw upon. We have example of where things were headed and how they went of track.
Andrew Carnegie took war profits and set up an endowment with the mandate to eliminate war and then to hold a board meeting, determine the second worst thing in the world, and begin eliminating that. This sounds unique or eccentric, but is I believe a basic understanding of ethics that ought to be understood and acted upon by all of us. When someone asks me why I'm a peace activist I ask them why in the hell anyone isn't. So, reminding the Carnegie Endowment for Peace what it's legally obligated to do, and dozens of other organizations along with it, may be part of the process of drawing inspiration from the past. And of course insisting that the Nobel Committee not bestow another peace prize on a war-thirsty presidential candidate or any other advocate of war is part of that.
The case against war that is laid out at WorldBeyondWar.orgincludes these topics:
I find the case to be overwhelming and suspect many of you would agree. In fact Veterans For Peace and numerous chapters and members of Veterans For Peace have been among the first to sign on and participate. And we've begun finding that thousands of people and organizations from around the world agree as people and groups from 68 countries and rising have added their names on the website in support of ending all war. And many of these people and organizations are not peace groups. These are environmental and civic groups of all sorts and people never involved in a peace movement before. Our hope is of course to greatly enlarge the peace movement by making war abolition as mainstream as cancer abolition. But we think enlargement is not the only alteration that could benefit the peace movement. We think a focus on each antiwar project as part of a broader campaign to end the whole institution of war will significantly change how specific wars and weapons and tactics are opposed.
How many of you have heard appeals to oppose Pentagon waste? I'm in favor of Pentagon waste and opposed to Pentagon efficiency. How can we not be, when what the Pentagon does is evil? How many of you have heard of opposition to unnecessary wars that leave the military ill-prepared? I'm in favor of leaving the military ill-prepared, but not of distinguishing unnecessary from supposedly necessary wars. Which are the necessary ones? When sending missiles into Syria is stopped, in large part by public pressure, war as last resort is replaced by all sorts of other options that were always available. That would be the case anytime any war is stopped. War is never a last resort any more than rape or child abuse is a last resort. How many of you have seen opposition to U.S. wars that focuses almost exclusively on the financial cost and the suffering endured by Americans? Did you know polls find Americans believing that Iraq benefitted and the United States suffered from the war that destroyed Iraq? What if the financial costs and the costs to the aggressor nation were in addition to moral objections to mass-slaughter rather than instead of? How many of you have seen antiwar organizations trumpet their love for troops and veterans and war holidays, or groups like the AARP that advocate for benefits for the elderly by focusing on elderly veterans, as though veterans are the most deserving? Is that good activism?
I want to celebrate those who resist and oppose war, not those who engage in it. I love Veterans For Peace because it's for peace. It's for peace in a certain powerful way, but it's the being for peace that I value. And being for peace in the straightforward meaning of being against war. Most organizations are afraid of being for peace; it always has to be peace and justice or peace and something else. Or it's peace in our hearts and peace in our homes and the world will take care of itself. Well, as Veterans For Peace know, the world doesn't take care of itself. The world is driving itself off a cliff. As Woody Allen said, I don't want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen, I want to live on in my apartment. Well, I don't want to find peace in my heart or my garden, I want to find peace in the elimination of war. At WorldBeyondWar.org is a list of projects we think may help advance that, including, among others:
- Creating an easily recognizable and joinable mainstream international movement to end all war.
- Education about war, peace, and nonviolent action — including all that is to be gained by ending war.
- Improving access to accurate information about wars. Exposing falsehoods.
- Improving access to information about successful steps away from war in other parts of the world.
- Increased understanding of partial steps as movement in the direction of eliminating, not reforming, war.
- Partial and full disarmament.
- Conversion or transition to peaceful industries.
- Closing, converting or donating foreign military bases.
- Democratizing militaries while they exist and making them truly volunteer.
- Banning foreign weapons sales and gifts.
- Outlawing profiteering from war.
- Banning the use of mercenaries and private contractors.
- Abolishing the CIA and other secret agencies.
- Promoting diplomacy and international law, and consistent enforcement of laws against war, including prosecution of violators.
- Reforming or replacing the U.N. and the ICC.
- Expansion of peace teams and human shields.
- Promotion of nonmilitary foreign aid and crisis prevention.
- Placing restrictions on military recruitment and providing potential soldiers with alternatives.
- Thanking resisters for their service.
- Encouraging cultural exchange.
- Discouraging racism and nationalism.
- Developing less destructive and exploitative lifestyles.
- Expanding the use of public demonstrations and nonviolent civil resistance to enact all of these changes.
I would add learning from and working with organizations that have been, like Veterans For Peace, working toward war abolition for years now and inspiring others to do the same. And I would invite you all to work with WorldBeyondWartoward our common goal.
David Swanson is Director of World Beyond War, host of Talk Nation Radio, author of books including War No More: The Case for Abolition, War Is A Lie, and When the World Outlawed War.
As the Bahrainis poured onto the streets to protest the Israeli aggression against Gaza, the regime has intensified its attacks on those peaceful protests. Many Bahrainis have been injured in those attacks in which chemical gases and gunshots were extensively used against peaceful demonstrators. The revolutionary forces had announced a series of activities in solidarity with Gaza. The towns of Demstan, Karzakkan, Sitra and Duraz witnessed increased pro-Palestinian activities braving intensified repression and collective punishment by regime’s forces. Both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are accused of supporting Israel and encouraging its attack on Gaza.
The wave of arrests has continued. Yesterday two brothers, Hussain and Mirza Al Saffar were arrested at the Bahrain-Saudi causeway and taken to torture dungeons. In the early hours of yesterday Qassim Ali Jassim was arrested when his house in Sitra was raided by members of Death Squads. Detainee Jamil Abdul Ghani was transferred to intensive care when his condition deteriorated. He was on hunger strike in protest at the ill-treatment and lack of medical care.
On Monday 21st July, the Alkhalifa juvenile court sentenced three boys to 15 years in jail for opposing the hereditary regime. The three, Mohammad Abdul Rasool, Ali Hassan and Hussain Ahmad (from Sanabis) were also asked to pay 1000 BD each. Human rights activists condemned the ruling for using “confessions” extracted under torture as evidence. Yesterday another youth, Majed Ahmad Habib was sentenced to 15 years under the Alkhalifa terrorism act which had been condemned worldwide by lawmakers and human rights activists. The detention of 13-years old Ahmad Zakariya Abdul Karim was renewed for one more week. Another child, Mohammad Al Shamlan had also his detention extended by one week. The detention of another 15-years boy, Firas Mohammad Al Saffar was also extended by 45 days. On 17th July, Mohammad Mansoor Abdul Hussain, 14, was jailed for six months for opposing the Alkhalifa regime
As UK Parliament went to recess the number of MPs who signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) rose to 36. It calls on the Alkhalifa regime to overhaul the justice system which is oppressive and lacks the international standards of justice. It calls for implementation of BICI recommendations and end culture of impunity of torturers. The EDM “calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners including Ibrahim Sharif, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, Hassan Mushaima, Naji Fateel and Abdulwahab Husain; is further concerned at the failure of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to list Bahrain as a country of concern in its 2014 Human Rights Report; and further calls on the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to condemn human rights abuses in Bahrain and list it as a country of concern in order to promote accountability and transparency within Bahrain's justice system.”
Meanwhile the political stakes were raised by the regime’s threat to ban the largest political society. Al Wefaq National Islamic Society is now being actively targeted by Bahrain’s dictator and his clique for declaring boycott of the elections of the powerless shura council. The dictator has pinned his hopes of international forgiveness for his crimes on running smooth “elections” to his powerless council, hoping it will convince the world that he is a “democrat”. The people’s Revolution has created an atmosphere of total boycott of the tribal regime to pave the way for a democratic system based on “one-man-one-vote” principle. The threat by the Alkhalifa minister of justice to issue a court verdict to ban AlWefaq is a serious escalation that has exposed deep unwillingness to reform the hereditary dictatorship.
Eighteen Congressmen have sent a letter to Bahrain’s tyrant urging that Assistant Secretary Malinowski be welcomed back to the country so that he can resume his diplomatic efforts aimed at improving human rights in Bahrain. The Government of Bahrain recently expelled Mr. Tom Malinowski, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. The signatories made it clear that “good bilateral relations cannot flourish if a top US diplomat is barred from Bahrain”. The letter is an indictment of the Alkhalifa dictators who have repeatedly proven their inability to comprehend modern standards of statehood, and remained entrenched in their tribal antiquated world.
Bahrain Freedom Movement
23rd July 2014
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle_at_gmail.com (replacing _at_ with @)
Washington DC – Today, the House of Representatives overwhelming passed the bipartisan McGovern-Jones-Lee resolution which requires the President to seek Congressional authorization before deploying armed services engaged in combat operations in Iraq.
“This resolution reclaims Congressional responsibility in matters of war and peace. In 2001, Congress gave the Administration a blank check for endless war and it’s long past time for Congress to take back that authority,” said Congresswoman Lee. “Enough is enough. After more than decade of war, the American people are war-weary; we must end the culture of endless war and repeal the AUMFs.”
Recent polling by Public Policy Polling found seventy-four percent of American voters oppose military action in Iraq.
“There is no military solution in Iraq,” said Congresswoman Lee. “Any lasting solution must be political and respect the rights of all Iraqis.”
“This resolution is a step in the right direction but Congress needs to repeal the AUMFs that serve as a blank check for endless war,” added Congresswoman Lee.
Congresswoman Lee authored H.R. 3852 to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. Congresswoman Lee joined Congressman Rigell in a bipartisan letter signed by more than 100 Members of Congress calling on President Obama to seek Congressional authorization before taking military action in Iraq.
Originally posted at PopularResistance.org
An interview with Jason Leopold.
There are many crimes committed in the pursuit of, or as an accessory to, the crimes of US Foreign Policy. I’m not exactly sure where to rank the operation of Guantanamo Bay on that list, but consider these numbers, compiled by the Center for Constitutional Rights:
779 men and boys have been imprisoned at Guantánamo since January 2002. 100% of them are Muslim.
Of the 149 who remain there, 78 have been cleared for release for years but are still imprisoned. President Obama’s Task Force has designated 38 men for indefinite detention without charge or trial.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle_at_gmail.com (replacing _at_ with @)
For those of us interested in understanding what is driving the conflict in Ukraine, now seriously complicated by the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet – which has raised the potential of the conflict to explode into a nuclear war with devastating consequences for humanity – it is worth delving into the psychology of key parties to the conflict and particularly those elite individuals and their agents in politics, industry, academia and the media who are driving it.
Chris Hedges says that Palestinians have the right to self-defense in the form of rockets, without including any consideration of whether the rockets make the Palestinians more or less defended. There is, after all, a reasonable argument that the rockets are counter-productive and endangering, rather than protecting, Palestine.
Legally, if we ignore the Kellogg-Briand Pact and stick to the U.N. Charter, much less its frequent abuse by the powerful nations of the world, there is no doubt that Hedges is correct. If demolishing Iraqi or Afghan or Libyan or Pakistani or Yemeni homes is "defense" of the United States, then surely the people of Gaza, under actual attack, have the legal right to shoot rockets at Israel. That's just basic Western consensus with the hypocrisy removed.
"[M]any Palestinians, especially young men trapped in overcrowded hovels where they have no work and little dignity," writes Hedges, "will risk immediate death to defy the slow, humiliating death of occupation. I cannot blame them."
Here are the false choices framed: either we blame the victims of Israel's vicious and massive assault on a trapped population, blame them for reacting as virtually anyone else in the so-called developed world would, or we advocate for the right to fight defensive wars -- regardless of whether it helps or hurts the situation. Those are not the only options.
I'm not sure I can prove that the rockets hurt the situation, but to render the question inadmissible seems fatally flawed. The justification that the U.S. Congress and White House use for arming Israel and seeking to shelter Israel from legal consequences is always and exclusively the rockets. The justification that Israeli spokespeople use on television is likewise almost entirely the rockets. In a world without the rockets, would other excuses prove successful? It's hard to say for sure. But the rockets provide the public packaging for Israeli war-making, accomplish virtually nothing in military terms, and almost certainly do more to frighten and enrage the people of Israel than to bring Israelis around to sympathizing with the plight of their government's victims.
I've just spoken by phone with a smart writer in Gaza named Sarah Ali for an upcoming edition of Talk Nation Radio. She explained to me quite eloquently how Israeli attacks on Gaza were generating support for Hamas and violence against Israel. She described the emotional need to fight back. So, I asked her if rocket attacks on Israel weren't likewise counterproductive. No, she said, she imagined that Israelis saw the rockets and began to understand the point of view of Palestinians. In the absence of any evidence of that phenomenon, I can only say that I'll believe it when I see it. In every case I'm aware of in which one nation has militarily attacked another, it has done far more to enrage than to stimulate sympathy in the people coming under attack.
Of course, I have no right to tell the people of Gaza what to do or not do from the comfort of my home in the heart of the imperial monster that is funding their apocalypse. Of course I cannot know the situation as they know it. But it's not clear to me that every Gazan has as deep a familiarity with Israelis or every Israeli with Gazans as one might imagine from their geographic vicinity. The division between these two societies is extreme. How else could Israelis imagine children as their enemies? And how else could those children's parents imagine that firing rockets would win over hearts and minds?
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Deploying the age-old "Friday news dump," President Barack Obama's Interior Department gave the green light on Friday, July 18 to companies to deploy seismic air guns to examine the scope of Atlantic Coast offshore oil-and-gas reserves.
Probably the biggest news story of 1928 was the war-making nations of the world coming together on August 27th and legally outlawing war. It's a story that's not told in our history books, but it's not secret CIA history. There was no CIA. There was virtually no weapons industry as we know it. There weren't two political parties in the United States uniting in support of war after war. In fact, the four biggest political parties in the United States all backed abolishing war.
Cue whining, polysyllabic screech: "But it didn't wooooooooork!"
I wouldn't be bothering with it if it had. In its defense, the Kellogg-Briand Pact (look it up or read my book) was used to prosecute the makers of war on the losing sides following World War II (an historic first), and -- for whatever combination of reasons (nukes? enlightenment? luck?) -- the armed nations of the world have not waged war on each other since, preferring to slaughter the world's poor instead. Significant compliance following the very first prosecution is a record that almost no other law can claim.
The Kellogg-Briand Pact has two chief values, as I see it. First, it's the law of the land in 85 nations including the United States, and it bans all war-making. For those who claim that the U.S. Constitution sanctions or requires wars regardless of treaty obligations, the Peace Pact is no more relevant than the U.N. Charter or the Geneva Conventions or the Anti-Torture Convention or any other treaty. But for those who read the laws as they are written, beginning to comply with the Kellogg-Briand Pact makes far more sense than legalizing drone murders or torture or bribery or corporate personhood or imprisonment without trial or any of the other lovely practices we've been "legalizing" on the flimsiest of legal arguments. I'm not against new national or international laws against war; ban it 1,000 times, by all means, if there's the slightest chance that one of them will stick. But there is, for what it's worth, already a law on the books if we care to acknowledge it.
Second, the movement that created the Pact of Paris grew out of a widespread mainstream international understanding that war must be abolished, as slavery and blood feuds and duelling and other institutions were being abolished. While advocates of outlawing war believed other steps would be required: a change in the culture, demilitarization, the establishment of international authorities and nonviolent forms of conflict resolution, prosecutions and targeted sanctions against war-makers; while most believed this would be the work of generations; while the forces leading toward World War II were understood and protested against for decades; the explicit and successful intention was to make a start of it by outlawing and formally renouncing and rendering illegitimate all war, not aggressive war or unsanctioned war or inappropriate war, but war.
In the never-ending aftermath of World War II, the U.N. Charter has formalized and popularized a very different conception of war's legality. I've just interviewed Ben Ferencz, aged 94, the last living Nuremberg prosecutor, for an upcoming edition of Talk Nation Radio. He describes the Nuremberg prosecutions as happening under the framework of the U.N. Charter, or something identical to it, despite the chronological problem. He believes that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was illegal. But he claims not to know whether the U.S. invasion and ongoing over-12-year war on Afghanistan is legal or not. Why? Not because it fits either of the two gaping loopholes opened up by the U.N. Charter, that is: not because it is U.N.-authorized or defensive, but -- as far as I can make out -- just because those loopholes exist and therefore wars might be legal and it's unpleasant to acknowledge that the wars waged by one's own nation are not.
Of course, plenty of people thought more or less like that in the 1920s and 1930s, but plenty of people also did not. In the era of the United Nations, NATO, the CIA, and Lockheed Martin we have seen steady progress in the doomed attempt, not to eliminate war, but to civilize it. The United States leads the way in arming the rest of the world, maintaining a military presence in most of the world, and launching wars. Western allies and nations armed, free-of-charge, by the United States, including Israel, advance war-making and war-civilizing, not war-abolition. The notion that war can be eliminated using the tool of war, making war on war-makers in order to teach them not to make war, has had a far longer run than the Kellogg-Briand Pact had prior to its supposed failure and the Truman Administration's remaking of the U.S. government into a permanent war machine in the cause of progress.
Civilizing war for the benefit of the world has been an abysmal failure. We now have wars launched on unarmed defenseless people thousands of miles away in the name of "defense." We now have wars depicted as U.N.-authorized because the U.N. once passed a resolution related to the nation being destroyed. And just seconds before the Israeli military blows up your house in Gaza, they ring you up on the telephone to give you a proper warning.
I remember a comedy sketch from Steve Martin mocking the phony politeness of Los Angeles: a line of people waited their turn to withdraw cash from a bank machine, while a line of armed robbers waited their turn in a separate line to politely ask for and steal each person's money. War is past the point of such parody. There is no space left for satire. Governments are phoning families to tell them they're about to be slaughtered, and then bombing the shelters they flee to if they manage to flee.
Is mass-murder acceptable if done without rape or torture or excessive targeting of children or the use of particular types of chemical weapons, as long as the victims are telephoned first or the murderers are associated with a group of people harmed by war several decades back?
Here's a new initiative that says No, the abolition of the greatest evil needs a renaissance and completion: WorldBeyondWar.org.