Excerpted from the just released book War Is Never Just.
World War II is often called “the good war,” and has been since the U.S. war on Vietnam to which it was then contrasted. World War II so dominates U.S. and therefore Western entertainment and education, that “good” often comes to mean something more than “just.” The winner of the “Miss Italy” beauty pageant earlier this year got herself into a bit of a scandal by declaring that she would have liked to live through World War II. While she was mocked, she was clearly not alone. Many would like to be part of something widely depicted as noble, heroic, and exciting. Should they actually find a time machine, I recommend they read the statements of some actual WWII veterans and survivors before they head back to join the fun.[i] For purposes of this book, however, I am going to look only at the claim that WWII was morally just.
No matter how many years one writes books, does interviews, publishes columns, and speaks at events, it remains virtually impossible to make it out the door of an event in the United States at which you’ve advocated abolishing war without somebody hitting you with the what-about-the-good-war question. This belief that there was a good war 75 years ago is a large part of what moves the U.S. public to tolerate dumping a trillion dollars a year into preparing in case there’s a good war next year,[ii] even in the face of so many dozens of wars during the past 70 years on which there’s general consensus that they were not good. Without rich, well-established myths about World War II, current propaganda about Russia or Syria or Iraq or China would sound as crazy to most people as it sounds to me. And of course the funding generated by the Good War legend leads to more bad wars, rather than preventing them. I’ve written on this topic at great length in many articles and books, especially War Is A Lie.[iii] But I’ll offer here a few key points that ought to at least place a few seeds of doubt in the minds of most U.S. supporters of WWII as a Just War.
Mark Allman and Tobias Winright, the “Just War” authors discussed in previous chapters, are not very forthcoming with their list of Just Wars, but they do mention in passing numerous unjust elements of the U.S. role in WWII, including U.S. and U.K. efforts to wipe out the populations of German cities[iv] and the insistence on unconditional surrenders.[v] However, they also suggest that they may believe this war was justly engaged in, unjustly conducted, and justly followed through on via the Marshall Plan, etc.[vi] I’m not sure Germany’s role as host of U.S. troops, weapons, and communications stations, and as collaborator in unjust U.S. wars over the years is included in the calculation.
Here are what I think of as the top 12 reasons the Good War wasn’t good/just.
- World War II could not have happened without World War I, without the stupid manner of starting World War I and the even stupider manner of ending World War I which led numerous wise people to predict World War II on the spot, or without Wall Street’s funding of Nazi Germany for decades (as preferable to communists), or without the arms race and numerous bad decisions that do not need to be repeated in the future.
- The U.S. government was not hit with a surprise attack. President Franklin Roosevelt had quietly promised Churchill that the United States would work hard to provoke Japan into staging an attack. FDR knew the attack was coming, and initially drafted a declaration of war against both Germany and Japan on the evening of Pearl Harbor. Prior to Pearl Harbor, FDR had built up bases in the U.S. and multiple oceans, traded weapons to the Brits for bases, started the draft, created a list of every Japanese American person in the country, provided planes, trainers, and pilots to China, imposed harsh sanctions on Japan, and advised the U.S. military that a war with Japan was beginning. He told his top advisers he expected an attack on December 1st, which was six days off. Here’s an entry in Secretary of War Henry Stimson’s diary following a November 25, 1941, White House meeting: “The President said the Japanese were notorious for making an attack without warning and stated that we might be attacked, say next Monday, for example.”
- The war was not humanitarian and was not even marketed as such until after it was over. There was no poster asking you to help Uncle Sam save the Jews. A ship of Jewish refugees from Germany was chased away from Miami by the Coast Guard. The U.S. and other nations refused to accept Jewish refugees, and the majority of the U.S. public supported that position. Peace groups that questioned Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his foreign secretary about shipping Jews out of Germany to save them were told that, while Hitler might very well agree to the plan, it would be too much trouble and require too many ships. The U.S. engaged in no diplomatic or military effort to save the victims in the Nazi concentration camps. Anne Frank was denied a U.S. visa. Although this point has nothing to do with a serious historian’s case for WWII as a Just War, it is so central to U.S. mythology that I’ll include here a key passage from Nicholson Baker:
“Anthony Eden, Britain’s foreign secretary, who’d been tasked by Churchill with handling queries about refugees, dealt coldly with one of many important delegations, saying that any diplomatic effort to obtain the release of the Jews from Hitler was ‘fantastically impossible.’ On a trip to the United States, Eden candidly told Cordell Hull, the secretary of state, that the real difficulty with asking Hitler for the Jews was that ‘Hitler might well take us up on any such offer, and there simply are not enough ships and means of transportation in the world to handle them.’ Churchill agreed. ‘Even were we to obtain permission to withdraw all the Jews,’ he wrote in reply to one pleading letter, ‘transport alone presents a problem which will be difficult of solution.’ Not enough shipping and transport? Two years earlier, the British had evacuated nearly 340,000 men from the beaches of Dunkirk in just nine days. The U.S. Air Force had many thousands of new planes. During even a brief armistice, the Allies could have airlifted and transported refugees in very large numbers out of the German sphere.”[vii]
Perhaps it does go to the question of “Right Intention” that the “good” side of the war simply did not give a damn about what would become the central example of the badness of the “bad” side of the war.
- The war was not defensive. FDR lied that he had a map of Nazi plans to carve up South America, that he had a Nazi plan to eliminate religion, that U.S. ships (covertly assisting British war planes) were innocently attacked by Nazis, that Germany was a threat to the United States.[viii] A case can be made that the U.S. needed to enter the war in Europe to defend other nations, which had entered to defend yet other nations, but a case could also be made that the U.S. escalated the targeting of civilians, extended the war, and inflicted more damage than might have occurred, had the U.S. done nothing, attempted diplomacy, or invested in nonviolence. To claim that a Nazi empire could have grown to someday include an occupation of the United States is wildly far fetched and not borne out by any earlier or later examples from other wars.
- We now know much more widely and with much more data that nonviolent resistance to occupation and injustice is more likely to succeed—and that success more likely to last—than violent resistance. With this knowledge, we can look back at the stunning successes of nonviolent actions against the Nazis that were not well organized or built on beyond their initial successes.[ix]
- The Good War was not good for the troops. Lacking intense modern training and psychological conditioning to prepare soldiers to engage in the unnatural act of murder, some 80 percent of U.S. and other troops in World War II did not fire their weapons at “the enemy.”[x] The fact that veterans of WWII were treated better after the war than other soldiers before or since, was the result of the pressure created by the Bonus Army after the previous war. That veterans were given free college, healthcare, and pensions was not due to the merits of the war or in some way a result of the war. Without the war, everyone could have been given free college for many years. If we provided free college to everyone today, it would then require much more than Hollywoodized World War II stories to get many people into military recruiting stations.
- Several times the number of people killed in German camps were killed outside of them in the war. The majority of those people were civilians. The scale of the killing, wounding, and destroying made WWII the single worst thing humanity has ever done to itself in a short space of time. We imagine the allies were somehow “opposed” to the far lesser killing in the camps. But that can’t justify the cure that was worse than the disease.
- Escalating the war to include the all-out destruction of civilians and cities, culminating in the completely indefensible nuking of cities took WWII out of the realm of defensible projects for many who had defended its initiation—and rightly so. Demanding unconditional surrender and seeking to maximize death and suffering did immense damage and left a grim and foreboding legacy.
- Killing huge numbers of people is supposedly defensible for the “good” side in a war, but not for the “bad” side. The distinction between the two is never as stark as fantasized. The United States had a long history as an apartheid state. U.S. traditions of oppressing African Americans, practicing genocide against Native Americans, and now interning Japanese Americans also gave rise to specific programs that inspired Germany’s Nazis—these included camps for Native Americans, and programs of eugenics and human experimentation that existed before, during, and after the war. One of these programs included giving syphilis to people in Guatemala at the same time the Nuremberg trials were taking place.[xi] The U.S. military hired hundreds of top Nazis at the end of the war; they fit right in.[xii] The U.S. aimed for a wider world empire, before the war, during it, and ever since. German neo-Nazis today, forbidden to wave the Nazi flag, sometimes wave the flag of the Confederate States of America instead.
- The “good” side of the “good war,” the party that did most of the killing and dying for the winning side, was the communist Soviet Union. That doesn’t make the war a triumph for communism, but it does tarnish Washington’s and Hollywood’s tales of triumph for “democracy.”[xiii]
- World War II still hasn’t ended. Ordinary people in the United States didn’t have their incomes taxed until World War II and that’s never stopped. It was supposed to be temporary.[xiv] WWII-era bases built around the world have never closed. U.S. troops have never left Germany or Japan.[xv] There are more than 100,000 U.S. and British bombs still in the ground in Germany, still killing.[xvi]
- Going back 75 years to a nuclear-free, colonial world of completely different structures, laws, and habits to justify what has been the greatest expense of the United States in each of the years since is a bizarre feat of self-deception that isn’t attempted in the justification of any lesser enterprise. Assume I’ve got numbers 1 through 11 totally wrong, and you’ve still got to explain how an event from the early 1940s justifies dumping a trillion 2017 dollars into war funding that could have been spent to feed, clothe, cure, and shelter millions of people, and to environmentally protect the earth.
[i] Studs Terkel, The Good War: An Oral History of World War II (The New Press: 1997).
[ii] Chris Hellman, TomDispatch, “$1.2 Trillion for National Security,” March 1, 2011, http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175361
[iii] David Swanson, War Is A Lie, Second Edition (Charlottesville: Just World Books, 2016).
[iv] Mark J. Allman & Tobias L. Winright, After the Smoke Clears: The Just War Tradition and Post War Justice (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2010) p. 46.
[v] Mark J. Allman & Tobias L. Winright, After the Smoke Clears: The Just War Tradition and Post War Justice (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2010) p. 14.
[vi] Mark J. Allman & Tobias L. Winright, After the Smoke Clears: The Just War Tradition and Post War Justice (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2010) p. 97.
[vii] War No More: Three Centuries of American Antiwar and Peace Writing, edited by Lawrence Rosendwald.
[viii] David Swanson, War Is A Lie, Second Edition (Charlottesville: Just World Books, 2016).
[ix] Book and Film: A Force More Powerful, http://aforcemorepowerful.org
[x] Dave Grossman, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society (Back Bay Books: 1996).
[xi] Donald G. McNeil Jr., The New York Times, “U.S. Apologizes for Syphilis Tests in Guatemala,” October 1, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/02/health/research/02infect.html
[xii] Annie Jacobsen, Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America (Little, Brown and Company, 2014).
[xiii] Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States (Gallery Books, 2013).
[xiv] Steven A. Bank, Kirk J. Stark, and Joseph J. Thorndike, War and Taxes (Urban Institute Press, 2008).
[xv] RootsAction.org, “Move Away from Nonstop War. Close the Ramstein Air Base,” http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=12254
[xvi] David Swanson, “The United States Just Bombed Germany,” http://davidswanson.org/node/5134
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Photo Credit: C-SPAN
On September 9, the Obama administration revoked authorization for construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) on federally controlled lands and asked the pipeline's owners, led by Energy Transfer Partners, to voluntarily halt construction on adjacent areas at the center of protests by Native Americans and supporters.
Editor Note: President Obama calls on blacks to vote for Hillary Clinton to protect the first black president’s legacy, but there are questions about Clinton’s judgment and Obama’s legacy that deserve answers.
By Ray McGovern
Speaking at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation dinner on Saturday, President Barack Obama warned, in what has become for him a typically regal manner: “I will consider it a personal insult, an insult to my legacy, if this [African-American] community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election.”
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
Snowden: Whistles Are Blowing over Oliver Stone's Newest Film
Reviewed by Gar Smith
I just saw Oliver Stone's Snowden, a film that Los Angeles Times movie critic Kenneth Turan characterized as an "unashamed mythologizing of Edward Snowden." NPR's David Edelstein, seeming to begrudge director Stone's history as a "gonzo conspiracy theorist," offered diminished praise, calling the film a "textbook political conversion narrative." Time magazine dismissed Snowden as "lifeless," which, I assume, refers to the fact that the film contains no car chases, fistfights, or bloody shootouts. No body count? How ho-hum.
(A note of caution: there are some deaths in Snowden -- real ones, captured by US drones that routinely videotape human targets on the ground in distant countries moments before they are devoured by exploding US-launched Hellfire missiles.)
Outlier that I am, I found the film, well-crafted, thought-provoking and edgy. As a result, I'm granting the film a good review: Two thumb drives up!
Everybody Must Get Stone
Many critics seem to hold Stone at a distance, fearful of appearing too sympathetic to a filmmaker (and former soldier) who refuses to promote Washington's mythology of America as a benign "global policeman."
Edelstein, for instance, complains: "The funny thing about the movie is that it doesn't acknowledge there are terrorists and that the government surveillance equipment could actually be used to protect Americans. We only see agents blackmailing foreign officials to protect the interests of American corporations and using drones to wipe out unlucky families."
What Edelstein seems to miss here is that is the very acts of blackmailing foreign officials, promoting the profits of American corporations over human rights and civil liberties, and "using drones to wipe out unlucky families" are some of the very acts that continue to feed the growing, global blowback of anti-American "terrorism."
Clearly, there is more than a film review at stake in the release of this politically charged biopic. It coincides with a growing global campaign to demand that Pres. Obama grant a pardon to one of this century's two greatest whistleblowers (Chelsea Manning being the other). You can find a link to White House petition below.
It is no coincidence that, the day before the movie opened, members of the House Intelligence Committee signed a letter to the president insisting that he not pardon Snowden. The House committee also chose this day to release an unclassified summary of the 36-page investigation of the Snowden controversy. Was he a hero? Was he a traitor? The bipartisan House committee made their conclusion clear, describing Snowden as "a serial exaggerator and fabricator" who "caused tremendous damage to national security."
(Snowden's defenders continue to point out that, to date, no one has produced any evidence that any provable damage has been caused to "national security" by Snowden's revelations. However, the disclosures that our government was secretly conspiring to deprive American citizens of constitutionally protected First Amendment rights has certainly caused profound embarrassment within national security circles and triggered extreme indignation on the part of most Americans.)
The new corporate-funded African-American History museum in Washington, D.C., built on the former site of Camp Democracy and all sorts of protests and festivals, is getting a great deal of purely positive press before its doors have opened.
This press and the museum's own website suggest that the museum covers slavery, Jim Crow, racism, sports, and entertainment, but doesn't step out of the mold set by the Smithsonian when it celebrated the Enola Gay or began letting war profiteers fund and shape the exhibits in the Air and Space Museum or in the American History Museum, which has gone out of its way to glorify war.
The New York Times informs us about the new museum: "Above ground, the museum departs from the chronological narrative to examine African-American achievements in fields like music, art, sports and the military. Visitors can tour these brighter third-floor and fourth-floor themed Culture and Community galleries without venturing into the harsher history sections below."
Get it? War is part of a well-rounded liberal life alongside music and sports, unlike those "harsh" bits of history. The new museum's website promotes "Military" as a category of exhibit item. Click it and you'll find 162 things including smiling portraits of soldiers in uniforms, medals, letters, hats, binoculars, propaganda posters, etc. If you search the site for "Peace" you find one photo of an unidentified man wearing a peace sign necklace and one photo of unidentified men holding up a giant peace sign.
We know that Marin Luther King Jr. is to be found in the new museum, but we don't know if he's the corporate-approved Martin Luther King Jr. who opposed racism but never noticed war. We know that Muhammad Ali shows up in the sports section along with his head-gear and gloves. We don't know if his reasons for refusing the Vietnam War draft are included.
African Americans have been a major part of resistance to war, especially from the Korean War through the nomination of Barack Obama for president. Some of this history is told by Kimberley Phillips who will be speaking in Washington, D.C., as the museum opens, but speaking at a conference at American University called No War 2016.
Does the Smithsonian touch on African-American resistance to wars on Africa or the growth of Africom? Also speaking at No War 2016 will be Maurice Carney of Friends of the Congo. Is the story his group tells in the film Crisis in the Congo told by the Smithsonian? Also speaking on a panel on racism and war at No War 2016 will be Bill Fletcher Jr. and Darakshan Raja. Where is their wisdom at the Smithsonian? Where is any history of the ties between a racist foreign policy and domestic racism? What is the relationship between racism and war propaganda? I wouldn't enter the new museum holding your breath until you find that exhibit.
What public service is being offered by a museum that celebrates the Tuskeegee Airmen but thus far has given no public indication that it will explore the significance of the Tuskeegee Syphilis Experiment? Bombing foreigners who engage in human experimentation makes a better story than just bombing foreigners while engaging in human experimentation. The story can be told with the flaws of segregation, later remedied or in the process of quickly being repaired. There is value in that story. It's not without its merits. But it is fundamentally false and may just get us all killed.
This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
MEMORANDUM FOR: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Vice Chairman, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
By Dave Lindorff
Several weeks back I was invited to speak this coming October at a U.S. university on ending war and making peace. As I often do, I asked whether the organizers couldn't try to find a supporter of war with whom I could debate or discuss the topic, thus (I hoped) bringing in a larger audience of people not yet persuaded of the need to abolish the institution of warfare.
As had never happened before, the event organizers not only said yes but actually found a war supporter willing to take part in a public debate. Great! I thought, this will make for a more persuasive event. I read my future interlocutor's books and papers, and I drafted my position, arguing that his "Just War" theory could not hold up to scrutiny, that in fact no war could be "just."
Rather than planning to surprise my "just war" debate opponent with my arguments, I sent him what I had written so that he could plan his responses and perhaps contribute them to a published, written exchange. But, rather than respond on topic, he suddenly announced that he had "professional and personal obligations" that would prevent his taking part in the event in October. Sigh!
But the best event organizers ever have already found a replacement. So the debate will go forward at St. Michael's College, Colchester, VT, on October 5th. Meanwhile, I have just published as a book my argument that war is never just. You can be the first to buy it, read it, or review it here.
Part of the reason for advancing this debate now is that back on April 11-13th the Vatican held a meeting on whether the Catholic Church, the originator of Just War theory, should finally reject it. Here's a petition you can sign, whether or not you are Catholic, urging the church to do just that.
An outline of my argument can be found in my book's table of contents:
What Is A Just War?
Just War Theory Facilitates Unjust Wars
Preparing for a Just War Is a Greater Injustice Than Any War
Just War Culture Just Means More War
The Ad Bellum / In Bello Distinction Does Harm
Some Just War Criteria Are Not Measurable
Some Just War Criteria Are Not Possible
Reasonable Prospect Of Success
Noncombatants Immune From Attack
Enemy Soldiers Respected As Human Beings
Prisoners Of War Treated As Noncombatants
Some Just War Criteria Are Not Moral Factors At All
Waged By Legitimate And Competent Authority
The Criteria For Just Drone Murders Are
Immoral, Incoherent, And Ignored
Why Do Ethics Classes Fantasize About Murder So Much?
If All Just War Criteria Were Met War Still Wouldn't Be Just
Just War Theorists Do Not Spot New Unjust Wars Any Faster an Anyone Else
A Just-War Occupation Of A Conquered Country Is Not Just
Just War Theory Opens the Door To Pro-War Theory
We Can End War Without Waiting For Jesus
Who Would The Good Samaritan Carpet Bomb?
World War Two Was Not Just
The U.S. Revolution Was Not Just
The U.S. Civil War Was Not Just
War On Yugoslavia Was Not Just
War On Libya Is Not Just
War On Rwanda Would Not Have Been Just
War On Sudan Would Not Have Been Just
War On ISIS Is Not Just
Our Ancestors Lived In A Different Cultural World
We Can Agree On Just Peace Making
Here's the first section:
WHAT IS A "JUST WAR"?
Just War theory holds that a war is morally justified under certain circumstances. Just War theorists lay out and elaborate upon their criteria for the just beginning of a war, the just conduct of a war, and—in some cases, including Mark Allman's—the just occupation of conquered territories after some official announcement that a war is "over." Some Just War theorists also write about just pre-war conduct, which is helpful if it promotes behaviors that make war less likely. But no just pre-war conduct, in the view I lay out below, can justify the decision to launch a war.
Examples of Just War criteria (to be discussed below) are: right intention, proportionality, a just cause, the last resort, a reasonable prospect of success, noncombatants' immunity from attack, enemy soldiers respected as human beings, prisoners of war treated as noncombatants, war publicly declared, and war waged by a legitimate and competent authority. There are others, and not all Just War theorists agree on all of them.
Just War theory or the "Just War tradition" has been around since the Catholic Church joined up with the Roman Empire in the time of Saints Ambrose and Augustine in the fourth century CE. Ambrose opposed intermarriage with pagans, heretics, or Jews, and defended the burning of synagogues. Augustine defended both war and slavery based on his ideas of "original sin," and the idea that "this" life is of little importance in comparison with the afterlife. He believed that killing people actually helped them get to a better place and that you should never be so foolish as to engage in self-defense against someone trying to kill you.
Just War theory was further developed by Saint Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century. Aquinas was a supporter of slavery and of monarchy as the ideal form of government. Aquinas believed the central motive of war makers should be peace, an idea very much alive to this day, and not just in the works of George Orwell. Aquinas also thought that heretics deserved to be killed, though he believed the church should be merciful, and so preferred that the state do the killing.
Of course there was also much highly admirable about these ancient and medieval figures. But their Just War ideas fit better with their worldviews than with ours. Out of an entire perspective (including their views of women, sex, animals, the environment, education, human rights, etc., etc.) that makes little sense to most of us today, this one piece called "Just War theory" has been kept alive well beyond its expiration date.
Many advocates of Just War theory no doubt believe that by promoting criteria for a "just war" they are taking the inevitable horror of war and mitigating the damage, that they are making unjust wars a little bit less unjust or maybe even a lot less unjust, while making sure that just wars are begun and are properly executed. "Necessary" is a word that Just War theorists should not object to. They cannot be accused of calling war good or pleasant or cheerful or desirable. Rather, they claim that some wars can be necessary—not physically necessary but morally justified although regrettable. If I shared that belief, I would find courageous risk-taking in such wars to be noble and heroic, yet still unpleasant and undesirable—and thus in only a very particular sense of the word: "good."
The majority of the supporters in the United States of particular wars are not strict Just War theorists. They may believe a war is in some manner defensive, but have typically not thought through whether it's a "necessary" step, a "last resort." Often they are very open about seeking revenge, and often about targeting for revenge ordinary non-combatants, all of which is rejected by Just War theory. In some wars, but not others, some fraction of supporters also believe the war is intended to rescue the innocent or bestow democracy and human rights on the afflicted. In 2003 there were Americans who wanted Iraq bombed in order to kill a lot of Iraqis, and Americans who wanted Iraq bombed in order to liberate Iraqis from a tyrannical government. In 2013 the U.S. public rejected its government's pitch to bomb Syria for the supposed benefit of Syrians. In 2014 the U.S. public supported bombing Iraq and Syria to supposedly protect themselves from ISIS. According to much of recent Just War theory it shouldn't matter who is being protected. To most of the U.S. public, it matters very much.
While there are not enough Just War theorists to launch a war without lots of help from unjust war advocates, elements of Just War theory are found in the thinking of just about every war supporter. Those thrilled by a new war will still call it "necessary." Those eager to abuse all standards and conventions in the conduct of the war will still condemn the same by the other side. Those cheering for attacks on non-threatening nations thousands of miles away will never call it aggression, always "defense" or "prevention" or "preemption" or punishment of misdeeds. Those explicitly denouncing or evading the United Nations will still claim that their government's wars uphold rather than drag down the rule of law. While Just War theorists are far from agreeing with each other on all points, there are some common themes, and they work to facilitate the waging of war in general—even though most or all of the wars are unjust by the standards of Just War theory.
Bill Clinton’s War: Reviewing the attack on Yugoslavia and other Clinton war acts, a study of arbitrary power and media servility
By Paul W. Lovinger
Early in U.S. history, it was firmly established that Congress made the decision to fight a war. The Constitution assigned that grave decision to the national legislative body so it wouldn’t be made often or frivolously, in the manner of Old World kings. Nowadays, the United States wages wars constantly, on the whim of a single person.
Why does a president commit those unconstitutional acts? There are the official reasons, for which he (or she?) gets free time on television networks and which make the headlines. Then there is the truth.
To illustrate pure, presidential war-making, in which Congress and law played no direct role, take the actions of Bill Clinton. The Clintons may be back in the White House next year, albeit in reversed roles. In any event, Bill’s deeds have lessons for Americans. Had we learned them, maybe no U.S. forces would be fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and elsewhere.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Image Credit: Twitter
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been given much deserved credit for protesting racism by sitting out the Star Spangled Banner, which not only glorifies war (which everyone, including Kaepernick is totally cool with) but also includes racism in an unsung verse and was written by a racist slave owner whose earlier version had included anti-Muslim bigotry. As long as we're opening our eyes to unpleasant history hiding in plain sight, it's worth asking why the 49ers is not a team name that everyone associates with genocide. Why isn't Kaepernick protesting his uniform?
Of course, protesting one injustice is worthy of infinite thanks, and I don't actually expect anyone who speaks out on one thing to also protest everything else. But I've just read a terrific new book that I suspect unearths a history that most Californians are largely unaware of. The book is An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873, by Benjamin Madley, from Yale University Press. I doubt I've seen a better researched and documented book on anything ever. While the book maintains an engaging chronological account, and while there is plenty of uncertainty in the records used, the 198 pages of appendices listing particular killings, and the 73 pages of notes back up an overwhelming case of genocide by the UN's legal definition.
WHAT: Screening of Paying the Price for Peace: The Story of S. Brian Willson, and discussion with the director Bo Boudart and with peace activist David Swanson. See http://payingthepriceforpeace.com
WHEN: 7-11 p.m., Thursday, September 29
WHERE: Commonwealth Room, Newcomb Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.
HOST: Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine
COSPONSORS: World Beyond War, RootsAction.org, the Peace and Social Concerns Committee of Charlottesville Friends Meeting, Pax Christi, Amnesty International - Charlottesville, and Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice. (More welcome!)
COST: No one turned away. Donation appreciated: $10, or $20 to leave with a copy of the DVD. Donations pay for Bo Boudart's travel. You can also donate at http://payingthepriceforpeace.com
Please sign up on Facebook if you want to come, and please share it to spread the word: https://www.facebook.com/events/1591911061110859
Please retweet this tweet: https://twitter.com/davidcnswanson/status/776406756939399168
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
Now there you have two things that I never expected to write. How often is Congress right about anything or Stephen Kinzer wrong? Congress wants 9/11 victims' families to be able to sue Saudi Arabia for its role in those crimes. Kinzer does not.
It's not that he doesn't care about victims' families. It's not that he's worried about disturbing relations with the Saudi monarchy (which could perhaps stop selling the United States the fossilized poison it uses to ruin the earth's climate, or stop buying U.S. weapons and working with the U.S. military to blow up little children in Yemen, or perhaps increase or decrease its support for ISIS depending on which of those options the U.S. makes up its mind to oppose). No, Kinzer's concern is that if you let one set of criminals be held accountable for their crimes, other criminals might be held accountable for their crimes as well.
Kinzer's is an argument designed to win over Congress (which doesn't really answer to rational argumentation) or the President (who already agrees with it). But it's not an argument that should win over you or me.
"Americans have a right to be furious with some foreign governments," writes Kinzer. "People in other countries have an equal right to be furious with the United States. We best address that fury not with lawsuits, but by changing the way we approach the world."
If laws are to "address fury" I'd like to abolish every last one of them, domestic and international, as an embarrassment to our species. In reality, the best laws are powerful tools with which to "change the way we approach the world." Obamesque "looking forward" -- that is, granting immunity to all powerful law breakers and wishing they wouldn't continue their law breaking -- does not work. Neither, of course, does bombing families in Libya or Syria based on the flimsy allegation that someone powerful managed to break a law that happened to be the one law not to ignore that day.
Kinzer's concern that suing Saudi Arabia could result in law suits against the United States is misguided nationalism. Why does suing Saudi Arabia not bother him? Why does suing the United States bother him? If Saudi Arabia kills large numbers of people, every nonviolent tool at our disposal ought to be used to put an end to that, to deter its repetition, to seek restitution, and to work for reconciliation. And the exact same applies to the U.S. government.
This was the pretense at Nuremberg, that victor's justice would someday become universal justice, that the people of the United States would want their own government held to the rule of law. This is why 37 thousand U.S. citizens thanked Spain for trying to prosecute U.S. officials for war crimes a few years ago, when the U.S. government had made clear that it would never do so itself. Instead it brought pressure to bear on Spain that shut down the prosecution.
Of course, a country that doesn't want to be sued (by its own people as well as foreigners) could abide by the rule of law or enforce its treaty obligations itself, as legally required to do anyway. Of what real use is a law that a blatant violator cannot be brought to court over? The UN Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact make seven current U.S. wars illegal, plus numerous drone killings if you claim they constitute "war." They're illegal as murder is you claim they do not constitute "war." Kidnapping, torture, spying, sabotaging -- these things are crimes. Those instances of these crimes that are in the past should indeed be brought to court in the present, unless the United States sees its way clear to apologizing and making restitution to the satisfaction of the victims.
But here's the real problem. If disputes could be taken to court, instead of to war, potential terrorists would become potential litigants, and Pentagon propaganda for the next war would become a lawsuit instead. Did the latest "Hitler" really truly use the wrong kind of weapon? Don't bomb the residents of his capital. Take him to court instead. Take him to arbitration. Take him to a truth and reconciliation commission. Because if you don't, if you bomb some cities instead, you should have to expect that victims families will be taking you to court.
If U.S. officials find that they must constantly be looking over their shoulders to make sure they aren't going to be taken to court, they will simply be joining the rest of us who are -- horror of horrors! -- obliged to comply with every existing law every day of the year.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
G4S, a company hiring security staff to guard the hotly contested Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), also works to guard oil and gas industry assets in war-torn Iraq, and has come under fire by the United Nations for human rights abuses allegedly committed while overseeing a BP pipeline in Colombia and elsewhere while on other assignments.
Talk Nation Radio: Elizabeth Murray and John Kiriakou on Working in a Corrupt Government and Whistleblowing
John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer, who in 2007 became the first U.S. Government official to publicly confirm and describe CIA use of waterboarding on al-Qaeda prisoners, which he described as torture. In January 2013, Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months in prison and was released after serving more than 23 months. Since then, he has become a tireless writer and speaker on whistleblowing, torture, and civil liberties. Kiriakou is the sole U.S. Government official to have been jailed for any reason relating to CIA torture – a victim of the Obama administration’s unprecedented crackdown on government truth-tellers. When President Obama openly acknowledged at a White House press conference on August 1, 2014, “We tortured some folks,” John was in prison for having said essentially the same thing seven years earlier.
Elizabeth Murray served as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council before retiring after a 27-year career in the U.S. government. She is a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), and of Sam Adams Associates. She writes for Consortium News.
Murray and Kiriakou will be speaking at No War 2016. See http://worldbeyondwar.org/nowar2016
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A call to action from the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR):
As people of conscience and nonviolence we go to the Pentagon, the seat of the United States military might, to call for an end to the ongoing wars and occupations waged and supported by the US. War is directly linked to poverty and the destruction of the Earth’s habitat. The preparations for more war and a new US nuclear arsenal are a threat to all life on the planet.
This September as we observe the United Nations International Day of Peace, the great many actions around the country for Campaign Nonviolence, and the “No War 2016” conference in Washington, DC we call upon our political leaders, and those at the Pentagon to stop the planning and waging of war.
September 11, 2016 marked 15 years since the Bush regime used the criminal terrorist attacks as an excuse to wage a series of unending wars and occupations continuing still under President Obama. These wars and occupations waged by the US are in fact illegal and immoral and must end.
We demand that the planning and production for a new nuclear arsenal stop. As the first and only country to use nuclear weapons on civilians, we call upon the US to take the lead in real and meaningful nuclear disarmament initiatives so that one day all nuclear weapons will be abolished.
We demand an end to NATO and other military war-games around the world. NATO must be disbanded as it is clearly hostile to Russia thus threatening world peace. Military plans commonly referred to as the US’ “Asian Pivot” are provoking and creating ill will with China. Instead we call for real diplomatic efforts to address conflict with both China and Russia.
We demand that the US immediately start closing its military bases abroad. The US has hundreds of military bases and installations around the world. There is no need for the US to continue to have bases and military installations in Europe, Asia, and Africa while expanding its military alliances with India and the Philippines. All of this does nothing to create a secure and peaceful world.
We demand an end to environmental ecocide resulting from war. The Pentagon is the largest single polluter of fossil fuels in the world. Our dependence on fossil fuels is destroying Mother Earth. Resource wars are a reality we must avoid. An end to war and occupation will lead us on a path to saving our planet.
We demand an end to US military and foreign aid and support for proxy wars. Saudi Arabia is waging an illegal war against the people of Yemen. The US is supplying weapons and military intelligence to this corrupt undemocratic country ruled by a despotic and extremist royal family which oppresses women, LGBT people, other minorities, and dissidents within Saudi Arabia. The US gives billions of dollars in military aid to Israel where the Palestinian people have faced decades of oppression and dispossession. Israel has continuously used its military might on the unarmed Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank. It imposes an Apartheid state and prison camp conditions on the Palestinian people. We call on the US to cut off all foreign and military aid to these countries violating international law and human rights.
We demand the US government renounce regime change as a policy against the Assad government of Syria. It must cease funding Islamic extremists and other groups attempting to overthrow the Syrian government. Supporting groups fighting to overthrow Assad does nothing for peace and even justice for the people of Syria.
We demand the US government support refugees fleeing from war-torn countries. The unending wars and occupations have created the largest refugee crisis since the last world war. Our wars and occupations are causing human misery by forcing people to leave their homes. If the US cannot bring about peace in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and the Middle East then it must withdraw, end military funding for proxy wars and occupations, and allow others to work towards stability and peace.
Since September 11, 2001 US society has seen its local police forces become militarized, civil liberties attacked, mass surveillance by the government, the rise in Islamophobia, all while our children are still recruited in the schools by the military. The path to war since that day has not made us safer or the world more secure. The path to war has been an utter failure for almost all on the planet except for those who profit from war and the economic system which impoverishes us all in so many ways. We don’t have to live in a world like this. This is not sustainable.
Therefore, we go to the Pentagon where the empire’s wars are planned and waged. We demand an end to this madness. We call for a new beginning where Mother Earth is protected and where poverty will be eradicated because we will all share our resources and redirect our economy towards a world without war.
To join us, sign up at http://worldbeyondwar.org/nowar2016
We will also be delivering to the Pentagon a petition to close Ramstein Air Base in Germany, as U.S. whistleblowers and Germans together deliver it to the German government in Berlin. Sign that petition at http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=12254
The event at the Pentagon at 9 a.m. Monday, September 26, follows a three day conference, with a planning and training session at 2 p.m. on Sunday, September 25. See the full agenda:
Kobler: I call for immediate cessation of hostilities in oil crescent, respect for Libyan political agreement and recognizing Presidency Council / GNA as the sole executive authority in Libya - UNSMIL
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
Although the mass media failed to report it, a landmark event occurred recently in connection with resolving the long-discussed problem of what to do about nuclear weapons. On August 19, 2016, a UN committee, the innocuously-named Open-Ended Working Group, voted to recommend to the UN General Assembly that it mandate the opening of negotiations in 2017 on a treaty to ban them.
Snowden is the most entertaining, informing, and important film you are likely to see this year.
It's the true story of an awakening. It traces the path of Edward Snowden's career in the U.S. military, the CIA, the NSA, and at various contractors thereof. It also traces the path of Edward Snowden's agonizingly slow awakening to the possibility that the U.S. government might sometimes be wrong, corrupt, or criminal. And of course the film takes us through Snowden's courageous and principled act of whistleblowing.
We see in the film countless colleagues of Snowden's who knew much of what he knew and did not blow the whistle. We see a few help him and others appreciate him. But they themselves do nothing. Snowden is one of the exceptions. Other exceptions who preceded him and show up in the film include William Binney, Ed Loomis, Kirk Wiebe, and Thomas Drake. Most people are not like these men. Most people obey illegal orders without ever making a peep.
And yet, what strikes me about Snowden and many other whistleblowers I've met or learned about, is how long it took them, and the fact that what brought them around was not an event they objected to but a change in their thinking. U.S. officials who've been part of dozens of wars and coups and outrages for decades will decide that the latest war is too much, and they'll bail out, resign publicly, and become an activist. Why now? Why not then, or then, or then, or that other time?
These whistleblowers -- and Snowden is no exception -- are not passive or submissive early in their careers. They're enthusiastic true believers. They want to spy and bomb and kill for the good of the world. When they find out that's not what's happening, they go public for the good of the world. There is that consistency to their actions. The question, then, is how smart, dedicated young people come to believe that militarism and secrecy and abusive power are noble pursuits.
Oliver Stone's Ed Snowden begins as a "smart conservative." But the only smart thing we see about him is his computer skills. We never hear him articulate some smart political point of view that happens to be "conservative." His taste in books includes Ayn Rand, hardly an indication of intelligence. But on the computers, Snowden is a genius. And on that basis his career advances.
Snowden has doubts about the legality of warrantless spying, but believes his CIA instructor's ludicrous defense. Later, Snowden has such concerns about CIA cruelty he witnesses that he resigns. Yet, at the same time, he believes that presidential candidate Barack Obama will undo the damage and set things right.
How does one explain such obtuseness in a genius? Obama's statements making perfectly clear that the wars and outrages would roll on were publicly available. I found them with ordinary search engines, needing no assistance from the NSA.
Snowden resigned, but he didn't leave. He started working for contractors. He came to learn that a program he'd created was being used to assist in lawless and reckless, not to mention murderous, drone murders. That wasn't enough.
He came to learn that the U.S. government was lawlessly spying on the whole world and spying more on the United States than on Russia. (Why spying on Russia was OK we aren't told.) But that, too, wasn't enough.
He came to learn that the U.S. was spying on its allies and enemies alike, even inserting malware into allies' infrastructure in order to be able to destroy things and kill people should some country cease to be an ally someday. That, too, was not enough.
Snowden went on believing that the United States was the greatest country on earth. He went on calling his work "counter cyber" and "counter spying" as if only non-Americans can do spying or cyber-warfare, while the United States just tries to gently counter such acts. In fact, Snowden risked his life, refraining from taking medication he needed, so that he could continue doing that work. He defended such recklessness as justified by the need to stop Chinese hackers from stealing billions of dollars from the U.S. government. Apart from the question of which Chinese hackers did that, what did Snowden imagine it was costing U.S. taxpayers to fund the military?
Snowden's career rolled on. But Edward Snowden's brilliant mind was catching up with reality and at some point overtook it. And then there was no question that he would do what needed to be done. Just as he designed computer programs nobody else could, and that nobody else even thought to try, now he designed a whistleblowing maneuver that would not be stopped as others had.
Consequently, we must be grateful that good and decent people sometimes start out believing Orwellian tales. Dull, cowardly, and servile people never blow whistles.
As I read of the latest coup in Brazil, once again removing a democratically elected leader from power, my anger surged. Not again! However, as I see and read about the ongoing massive protests, as well as calls by prominent community leaders to mobilize in defense of your country's democracy, I feel great hope for Brazil. Having been a nonviolent activist for many years, I would like to support Brazilian activists to develop a nonviolent strategy that will increase your chances of success.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
U.S. Military Forgets to Mention Its Fuel Consumption, Carbon Footprint, Destruction of Nature During Presentations at World Conservation Congress
By Ann Wright
The worldwide, prestigious World Conservation Congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was held in Honolulu this week. The IUCN has come in for criticism for its lack of focus on the detrimental effects of wars and military operations on nature. Considering the degree of harm coming from these human activities one would think that the organization would have a specific theme and a series of workshops on that theme. Of the over 1300 workshops crammed into a 6-day marathon environmental meeting, followed by 4 days of discussion of internal resolutions, nothing specifically addressed the destruction of the environment by military operations and wars.
The heavy funding the IUCN gets from governments is undoubtedly the rationale for not addressing this "elephant in the room" in a conference for the protection of the endangered planet-a tragic commentary on a powerful organization that should acknowledge all pressures on the planet.
Monsanto is walking
With his best friend-with-benefits, the EPA:
So why are you dragging your heels
Signing off on glyphosate?