Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Tesoro Logistics — the company whose pipeline spilled more than 800,000 gallons of fracked Bakken Shale oil in rural North Dakota in September — has hired infamous contractor Witt O'Brien's to oversee its clean-up of the biggest fracked oil spill in U.S. history.
RollingJubilee.org has abolished over $14 million worth of people's debt to make the point that debt can be abolished. Aaron Smith explains how. Aaron Smith has been a participant in several initiatives of Occupy Wall Street, from park maintenance to research on the financial system. Currently, he is primarily involved in the Rolling Jubilee, a project to purchase defaulted debt on open markets and abolish it. The Rolling Jubilee is meant to demonstrate the injustice of the debt system and make lives better in the process. Aaron is a host of Occupy Wall Street Radio on WBAI.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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A Pre-Conspiracy Theory: What If Our Premature Nobel Laureate President’s Having a ’63-Style Kennedy Moment?
By Dave Lindorff
I’m going to engage here in a thought experiment which may make some readers a little queasy, but bear with me.
It’s been half a century since the wrenching experience of having a charismatic young president cut down by bullets in what most Americans apparently still believe was a dark conspiracy by elements of the US government unhappy with the direction he was taking the country in international affairs.
Report Back: Occupy Beale AFB and Resisting Drones, November 2013
On November 25-26, we held our monthly vigil that included a surprise “pre-emptive peace response”
direct action on Tuesday morning against drone warfare at Beale Air Force Base. We were wearing
white clothes with blue scarves in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan who want peace.
www.TheBlueScarf.org “The Blue Scarf represents the expansive blue sky we all share and has
become a global symbol for togetherness. It was set in motion by a brave group of women in
Afghanistan ready to be heard and is now being worn around the world as a way for people to
express their solidity as global citizens for a better world.”
On Monday afternoon, four of us from the Bay area went to the Doolittle Gate. There were another 6
at the Wheatland gate. Meeting at the main gate at 5:30pm, in the dark and cold, we were visited by a
security detail from the base during our potluck. They advised us of the nighttime cold. When Flora,
a local activist, arrived with MacGregor, we gladly accepted an offer of her warm house for the night.
After our potluck, we shared two birthday cakes to celebrate the completion of our 3rd year at Beale.
Three years ago this month, Toby, Martha, Lisa and Eleanor dared to come to Beale AFB in the dark of
the early November morning for the first drone warfare vigil. We have since had nearly 100 different
people join the vigil, 4 road blockades and numerous arrests. These past 3 years, many more people in
our country have become aware of the immoral use of drones against civilians, women and children in
other lands. As more and more innocents are being slaughtered by drones the outrage is intensifying.
On Tuesday morning, shortly after 5am we headed out to the Wheatland gate on S. Beale Rd., a heavily
used artery into the base. 12 of us were able to again block traffic into the base at the Wheatland
gate for over 30 minutes. Traffic had backed up for nearly a mile. We held out large banners with
messages of peace, including the beautiful drone victim quilt, with panels of paintings showing some
of the many children who have been murdered by drone warfare. The large NO DRONES light brigade
signs glowed brightly in the night. The vast majority of vehicles respected our blockade without physical
confrontation, but several irate motorists forced their way through the vigil. One dragged our drone
quilt and other visuals several hundred feet, and put one Veteran For Peace activist, John Reiger, at risk,
though luckily he was unharmed. (This led to a length discussion and learning experience for how to
deal with confrontational motorists: peacefully let them through). Not all of us were able to risk arrest,
thus we moved aside after Highway patrolman, Dan Yeager, arrived and gave several warnings. It is our
deepest hope that in that brief period of the morning, as the war machine was momentarily halted, that
maybe a human life in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia or elsewhere was saved.
Four of us, Shirley, Flora, Michael and MacGregor then walked about ½ mile down the road to the
waiting military police at the base boundary, McGregor handed over the vigil’s signed letter she
had prepared to the base commander demanding a halt in the base participation in the drone wars.
Michael, as a military veteran, told the soldiers he was there to speak on their behalf to condemn
the U.S. government for forcing our military personnel to be involved in war crimes against innocent
civilians. After waiting over 15 minutes for a representative of the commander, who never came, the
four of us walked onto the base and were immediately arrested. We were treated well and were
processed out just after 9am to the greetings of many of our fellow vigilers who had braved the cold
morning air another 2 hours to support us. We then closed our usual vigil with breakfast, debriefing
and planning for future drone resistance at the Brick Coffeehouse in Marysville. We will be back and we
hope you will join us the next time.
Written by Michael Kerr, Martha Hubert and Toby Blome
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Originally posted at AcronymTV
In the United Sates, One out of every three women has had an abortion. If you are a women living in Texas, that state has passed hundreds of laws in the last several years that strip a women’s right to privacy, limit access to abortion and shame women into thinking that their choice about what to do with their bodies is wrong.
As Cecil Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, put it:
When Barack Obama became president, there were 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. He escalated to over 100,000 troops, plus contractors. Now there are 47,000 troops these five years later. Measured in financial cost, or death and destruction, Afghanistan is more President Obama's war than President Bush's. Now the White House is trying to keep troops in Afghanistan until "2024 and beyond."
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is refusing to sign the deal. Here is his list of concerns. He'd like the U.S. to stop killing civilians and stop kicking in people's doors at night. He'd like the U.S. to engage in peace negotiations. He'd like innocent Afghan prisoners freed from Guantanamo. And he'd like the U.S. not to sabotage the April 2014 Afghan elections. Whatever we think of Karzai's legacy -- my own appraisal is unprintable -- these are perfectly reasonable demands.
Iran and Pakistan oppose keeping nine major U.S. military bases in Afghanistan, some of them on the borders of their nations, until the end of time. U.S. officials threaten war on Iran with great regularity, the new agreement notwithstanding. U.S. missiles already hit Pakistan in a steady stream. These two nations' concerns seem as reasonable as Karzai's.
The U.S. public has been telling pollsters we want all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan "as soon as possible" for years and years. We're spending $10 million per hour making ourselves less safe and more hated. The chief cause of death for U.S. troops in this mad operation is suicide.
When the U.S. troops left Iraq, it remained a living hell, as Libya is now too. But the disaster that Iraq is does not approach what it was during the occupation. Much less has Iraq grown dramatically worse post-occupation, as we were warned for years by those advocating continued warfare.
Humanitarian aid to Afghanistan -- or to the entire world, for that matter, including our own country -- would cost a fraction of what we spend on wars and war preparations, and would make us the most beloved nation on earth. I bet we'd favor that course if asked. We were asked on Syria, and we told pollsters we favored aid, not missiles.
We stopped the missiles. Congress members in both houses and parties said they heard from more people, more passionately, and more one-sidedly than ever before. But we didn't stop the guns that we opposed even more than the missiles in polls. The CIA shipped the guns to the fighters without asking us or the Congress. And Syrians didn't get the aid that we favored.
We aren't asked about the drone strikes. We aren't asked about most military operations. And we aren't being asked about Afghanistan. Nor is Congress asserting its power to decide. This state of affairs suggests that we haven't learned our lesson from the Syrian Missile Crisis. Fewer than one percent of us flooded Congress and the media with our voices, and we had a tremendous impact. The lesson we should learn is that we can do that again and again with each new war proposal.
What if two percent of us called, emailed, visited, protested, rallied, spoke-out, educated, and non-violently resisted 10 more years in Afghanistan? We'd have invented a new disease. They'd replace the Vietnam Syndrome with the Afghanistan Syndrome. Politicians would conclude that the U.S. public was just not going to stand for any more wars. Only reluctantly would they try to sneak the next one past us.
Or we could sit back and keep quiet while a Nobel Peace Prize winner drags a war he's "ending" out for another decade, establishing that there's very little in the way of warmaking outrages that we won't allow them to roll right over us.
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By Lori Spencer
I once did know a President
A way down South, in Texas.
And, always, everywhere he went,
He saw the Eyes of Texas.
The Eyes of Texas are upon you, all the livelong day.
The Eyes of Texas are upon you, you cannot get away.
Do not think you can escape them
At night or early in the morn
The Eyes of Texas are upon you 'til Gabriel blows his horn.
And people wonder what drones in U.S. skies will be used for!
Pakistan Deploys First Domestic Drones
The Pakistani military deployed its first fleet of domestically developed drones Monday, as police cracked down on a protest by demonstrators angry at the U.S. for using similar aircraft to attack Islamic militants in the country.
The new Burraq and Shahpar drones will be used by the Pakistani army and air force, the military said in a statement. It was unclear whether the aircraft are armed or unarmed, and military officials did not immediately respond to request for comment.
The announcement coincided with a move by Pakistani police to prevent activists protesting U.S. drone strikes from blocking trucks carrying NATO troop supplies to and from neighboring Afghanistan.
The intervention was the latest chapter in a saga that began Saturday, when thousands of protesters led by Pakistani politician and cricket star Imran Khan blocked a road in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which is used to ship goods to and from Afghanistan.
Khan's party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, said it would block NATO shipments until the U.S. ended drone attacks.
By Norman Solomon and Abba A. Solomon
More than ever, Israel is isolated from world opinion and the squishy entity known as “the international community.” The Israeli government keeps condemning the Iran nuclear deal, by any rational standard a positive step away from the threat of catastrophic war.
In the short run, the belligerent responses from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are bound to play badly in most of the U.S. media. But Netanyahu and the forces he represents have only begun to fight. They want war on Iran, and they are determined to exercise their political muscle that has long extended through most of the Washington establishment.
While it’s unlikely that such muscle can undo the initial six-month nuclear deal reached with Iran last weekend, efforts are already underway to damage and destroy the negotiations down the road. On Capitol Hill the attacks are most intense from Republicans, and some leading Democrats have also sniped at the agreement reached in Geneva.
A widespread fear is that some political precedent might be set, undercutting “pro-Israel” leverage over U.S. government decisions. Such dread is inherent in the negative reactions from Netanyahu (“a historic mistake”), GOP lawmakers like House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers (“a permission slip to continue enrichment”) and Senator Saxby Chambliss (“we’ve let them out of the trap”), and Democratic lawmakers like Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Robert Menendez (“this agreement did not proportionately reduce Iran’s nuclear program”) and Senator Charles Schumer (“it does not seem proportional”).
Netanyahu and many other Israelis -- as well as the powerhouse U.S. lobbying group AIPAC and many with similar outlooks in U.S. media and politics -- fear that Israel’s capacity to hold sway over Washington policymakers has begun to slip away. “Our job is to be the ones to warn,” Israel’s powerful finance minister, Yair Lapid, told Israeli Army Radio on Sunday. “We need to make the Americans to listen to us like they have listened in the past.”
This winter and spring, the Israeli government and its allies are sure to strafe U.S. media and political realms with intense barrages of messaging. “Israel will supplement its public and private diplomacy with other tools,” the New York Times reported Monday from Jerusalem. “Several officials and analysts here said Israel would unleash its intelligence industry to highlight anticipated violations of the interim agreement.” Translation: Israel will do everything it can to undermine the next stage of negotiations and prevent a peaceful resolution of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.
Looking ahead, as a practical political matter, can the U.S. government implement a major policy shift in the Middle East without at least grudging acceptance from the Israeli government? Such questions go to the core of the Israeli occupation now in its 47th year.
Israel keeps building illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank; suppression of the basic human rights of Palestinian people continues every day on a large scale in the West Bank and Gaza. There is no reason to expect otherwise unless Israel’s main political, military and economic patron, the United States, puts its foot down and refuses to backstop those reprehensible policies. They can end only when the “special relationship” between the USA and Israel becomes less special, in keeping with a single standard for human rights and against military aggression.
Such talk is abhorrent to those who are steeped in the notion that the United States must serve as a reliable enabler of Israel’s policies. But in every way that those policies are wrong, the U.S. government should stop enabling them.
The longstanding obstacles to such a halt stand a bit less tall today, but they remain huge. No less than before, as William Faulkner said, “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” This certainly applies to the history of gaining and maintaining unequivocal U.S. support for Israel.
Today’s high-impact American groups such as AIPAC (which calls itself “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby”), Christians United for Israel (“the largest pro-Israel organization in the U.S., with more than a million members,” according to the Jerusalem Post) and similar outfits have built on 65 years of broad and successful Israel advocacy in the United States.
Baked into the foundation of their work was the premise of mutuality and compatibility of Israeli and American interests. Until the end of the Cold War, routine spin portrayed aid to Israel as a way to stymie Soviet power in the region. Especially since 9/11, U.S. support for Israel has been equated with support for a precious bulwark against terrorism.
Ever since the successful 1947 campaign to press for UN General Assembly approval of Palestine partition, Israel’s leaders have closely coordinated with American Jewish organizations. Israeli government representatives in the United States regularly meet with top officers of American Jewish groups to convey what Israel wants and to identify the key U.S. officials who handle relevant issues. Those meetings have included discussions about images of Israel to promote for the American public, with phrases familiar to us, such as "making the desert bloom" and “outpost of democracy.”
As any member of Congress is well aware, campaign donations and media messaging continue to nurture public officials cooperative and sympathetic to Israel. For the rare officeholders and office seekers who stand out as uncooperative and insufficiently sympathetic, a formulaic remedy has been applied: withholding campaign donations, backing opponents and launching of media vilification. Those political correctives have proved effective -- along the way, serving as cautionary tales for politicians who might be tempted to step too far out of line.
The mainstream American Jewish Committee decided in 1953 that for its pro-Israel advocacy, “To the utmost extent, non-Jewish and non-sectarian organizations should be used as spokesmen.” Such a strategic approach has borne fruit for the overall Israel advocacy project in the USA. It is time-tested and mature; broadly distributing messages through organizations of most political flavors; and adept at touching almost all sizable media.
This year, Israeli leaders have intensified their lurid casting of Iran as the next genocidal Third Reich, and Israel as the protector absent for Jews during the Holocaust. For some, the theme is emotionally powerful. But it must not be allowed to prevent a diplomatic resolution of the nuclear dispute with Iran.
From now till next summer, the struggle over talks with Iran will be fierce and fateful. All signs point to determined efforts by Israel -- and its many allies in the United States -- to wreck prospects for a peaceful solution.
Norman Solomon is the founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and the author of “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Abba A. Solomon is the author of “The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein’s Speech ‘The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews,’ Given to the Baltimore Chapter American Jewish Committee, February 15, 1948.”
Torture is rampant in Bahrain, despite the passage of two years after the publication of the BICI damning report that confirmed that torture in Bahrain was “systematic”. The main recommendations of that report have not been implemented especially those related to ending impunity and discrimination against more than 70 percent of the population. Today, a Bahraini detainee pointed to one of the “prosecutors” present at the court saying: “He had forced me to sign false confessions and tortured me”. The “judge” who is himself an enemy of the victim ordered the immediate removal of the victim from the court. The lawyer of the group on trial, Mohsin Al Alawi, said that he had asked the “judge” to order examination of the victims on trial for torture marks but he waited more than two months until most torture marks disappeared. Another victim, Sajjad Al Alawi was convicted on basis of false confessions signed un der torture. His lawyer had asked the “judge” to examine him for torture marks but he refused to do so. Another victim of torture at the hands of one of the prosecutors is Talib Ali. He was asked by the prosecutor to sign the confessions or he would be returned to the torture cells. The boy shouted: I am not signing on something I had not done. The prosecutor became angry, pointed his gun to the victim’s face threatening to kill him, but the victim refused to sign. The prosecutor threw the cigarette ashtray on the victim.
In the early hours of 17th November Ebrahim Marhoon was abducted from his home and taken to unknown location. Several others have been summoned to the torture rooms at the prosecution office. Among them is an elderly citizen who is a keen protester despite his age. He was threatened with serious revenge if he continued his protests. Also the fathers of the two martyrs; Sayed Hashim Sayed Saeed and Yaseen Al Asfoor were summoned to receive more threats and asked to stop calling for the prosecution of the killers of their sons. Another senior figure received the same treatment. Sheikh Ali bin Ahmad Al Jidhafsi was also summoned and threatened by the prosecution office whose members also administer torture on Bahrainis.
The Alkhalifa regime has refused to allow representative of the international human rights bodies entry to the country to observe the trial of human rights activist: Naji Fateel. The judicial system is tightly controlled by the royal court and its sessions are held under strict conditions. These courts have become a trap for many detainees who would be tortured severely after their trial if they contradicted the charges laid against them. They have no right to seek examination for torture marks or withdraw their consent to confessions drawn under torture.
In the past two weeks Bahrain became “theatre of operations” with running battles between Bahrainis and Alkhalifa troops and members of Death Squads. This year those mercenaries wreaked havoc in the country; tearing banners and terrorising natives who held religious commemorations for the martyrs of Karbala and Bahrain. Police were video-taped removing banners, flags and images depicting the state-terrorism implemented against opponents of the state whether during Imam Hussain’s time or in today’s life. Bahrainis were incensed by these sectarian attacks by foreigner mercenaries.
On 17th November The Washington Post published an editorial titled: Bahrain crackdown intensifies amid U.S. retreat”. The paper said: In keeping with Mr. Obama’s new policy, the administration has ignored the Bahraini crackdown. As the president put it, “the United States will at times work with governments that do not meet, at least in our view, the highest international expectations, but who work with us on our core interests.” The paper ended its editorial saying: Mr. Obama’s 2011 speech spelled them out:
“A strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind. Moreover, failure to speak to the broader aspirations of ordinary people will only feed the suspicion that has festered for years that the United States pursues our interests at their expense.”
On Tuesday 19th November, BBC website published an article titled: (Bahrain opposition leadership “systematically targeted” BY Leana Hosea). It highlighted the regime’s attempts to split the opposition by claiming that part of it is engaged in terrorism. The writer quoted Sheikh Ali Salman, Secretary General of Al Wefaq Society, who blamed the regime for ill-treatment of Bahrainis and becoming more dictatorial.
Bahrain Freedom Movement
21st November 2013
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Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
The ever-wise Yogi Berra once quipped "It's like déjà vu all over again," a truism applicable to a recent huge decision handed down by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
from Caneyhead Pictures
In June of 2013 a group of peace activists set out for a walk across Iowa to protest the Predator drone control center planned for the Iowa National Guard Air Base in Des Moines. Beginning at the arms depot at Rock Island Illinois and ending at the National Guard Air Base in Des Moines, the intimate journey of 25 peace pilgrims is documented in the film Walking the Walk: a March Against Drone Warfare. For two weeks and one hundred ninety-five miles, the walkers discuss their mission, their hopes, fears and outrage. Among the walkers are a man just released from prison for attempting to deliver a letter to the commander of a drone base, a businessman who has left a lucrative career to walk and witness for peace, veterans who have witnessed war first hand and a lawyer and former government official deeply concerned with the legality of the United States' drone strike program. In discussions with locals they meet and public presentations in libraries, parks and colleges we hear the issue of armed drone strikes and assassinations discussed in all their ethical complexity. Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the world-wide peace action organization Code Pink called the film "Wonderful... Fantastic... Brilliant, it gets out so much info in such a humanizing way. And so beautifully filmed."
In Switzerland a petition from 100,000 people, or about 1.25% of the population, creates a public referendum. By this means, last March, Swiss voters created strict limits on executive pay.
On November 24, the Swiss will vote on whether to take a further step -- limiting executive pay to no more than 12 times the lowest salary in the company. Such a maximum wage policy allows the CEO pay increases, but only if workers get at least a twelfth as much.
A movement in the U.S. is asking: If Switzerland can do it, why can't we?
The Swiss are also set to vote, on a date yet to be set, to create a guaranteed basic income of $2,800 (2,500 Swiss francs) per month for every adult. That's about $16 per hour for a full-time worker, but it's guaranteed even for those who can't find work.
You know what country can afford such a measure even more easily, given its vast supplies of wealth? The United States of America.
Here in the United States, had the minimum wage kept pace with productivity since the 1960s it would now be $21.72 an hour, or $3,722 a month. The Congressional proposal of $10.10 an hour, which President Obama now says he supports, equals $1,751 a month for a fulltime job. The actual U.S. minimum wage of $7.25, which does not apply to all workers, makes $1,242 a month. But only if you can find work.
That's less than half what the Swiss are voting on, and Swiss workers also have their healthcare paid for, public transportation widely available, quality education and higher education free or affordable, 14 weeks paid parental leave, and a nearly endless list of other advantages provided by the government.
A basic income guarantee, currently practiced in Alaska and once supported by President Richard Nixon and the U.S. House of Representatives, would be far more efficient than targeted support programs, because every individual would receive the exact same check, with no stigma attached to it; and, yes -- believe it or not -- people who could find work would still work.
Switzerland has a greater percentage of its population made up by immigrants than the United States does. Switzerland has four national languages. What allows Switzerland to practice democracy so much more effectively?
Two major parts of the answer are obvious. Switzerland doesn't fight wars, and it doesn't redistribute its wealth upward creating an overclass of multibillionaires.
Perhaps its time to begin moving our own country in a peaceful, prosperous direction. A growing number of people have decided to try.
Originally posted at AcronymTV
There is a nagging trend towards treating workers humanly, including paying them a living wage, that has the Walmart Public Relations department working overtime to alter the public perception that the company is not a blood sucking tick on the face of humanity.
Originally posted at AcronymTV
ExxonMobil plans to build a toxin-spewing export terminal on the shores of Casco Bay in Maine.
According to 350.org:
“Such a terminal would allow the flow of millions of gallons of Canadian tar sands to be transported through the region, putting our planet, our local waterways, and community health at unacceptable risk.
All evidence indicates that ExxonMobil – the majority owner of the PMPL - wants to pump toxic tar sands oil through New England and South Portland is now a crucial battle line in the fight to stop them.
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Shifting from Defense to Offense: Americans Want Improved Social Security and Medicare and less Military Spending
By Dave Lindorff
A tectonic shift is occurring in the US body politic. Ignore the media-driven sideshow about the 2014 contest for control of the House or about the screwed-up Obamacare insurance-market website. The real political battle is over Social Security and Medicare, and there the story is a historic turn from fighting against Washington efforts to cut those programs to demanding that both be expanded.
Daddy Warbucks: May I have the first word?
Brother Pax: If I may have the last one.
DW: I'm sure you will, and you had the first one too. Before the drones came on the scene, you called them forth. You said "War costs too much money." You said "War kills too many soldiers." Well, here you go. War costs less money. And war kills nobody. And yet you aren't satisfied.
BP: Now, this will be a very short debate if my position is to protest the murdering of people with drones, and your position is that drones kill nobody. There must be more overlap in our worldviews than that if we are even to talk.
DW: You know perfectly well what I meant.
BP: It might be clearer if you tell me.
DW: Drones don't kill pilots or soldiers. They only kill the people who need to be killed.
BP: Let me grant you part of that. We've had pilots and soldiers killed by suicide, by accident, by friendly fire, and by suicide bombings at drone bases. But let's suppose they've been fewer than they might have been in some other form of war.
DW: There's no question.
BP: There is always a question. Sometimes it's a different question than the one being so insistently answered.
BP: If the question is whether to have this kind of war or that kind of war, then we must choose the better kind of war (if we can make out what it is). But if the question is whether to have peace or to have war, then a different answer is available.
DW: Well, of course. We all want peace. But that comes after.
BP: Does it? Let's go back to the "people who need to be killed."
BP: Who are they?
DW: Criminals, terrorists, threats to -- in fact -- kill a lot more people. Stopping them is the whole point.
BP: May I ask you a few questions that might seem unrelated?
DW: Go ahead.
BP: If the government doubled your taxes, would you trust it to do the right things with that money?
BP: Do you trust government officials' campaign promises?
BP: Are you confident that the inspectors who allowed the flooding of the Gulf of Mexico with oil are doing a good job now?
BP: Do you believe politicians tell you a straight story about their new healthcare reforms?
DW: Not exactly.
BP: When people in various cultures established public procedures, such as courts of law, to try to arrive at the truth in criminal cases, rather than just allowing a king or a magician to declare guilt or innocence, why do you think they did that?
DW: To be sure of being right.
BP: Now, why is it that you trust the government to kill thousands of people with missiles from drones, even though the government won't tell you who they are or why they are killed, nobody is indicted, nobody is prosecuted, nobody's extradition is sought, many cases have been established in which the person could quite easily have been arrested, the government's memos redefine "imminent threat" to mean nothing of the sort, the government's memos redefine "combatant" to mean dead male human being between 16 and 65, people are targeted without knowing their name, many of the victims are known to have been innocent, many have been children, many women, many elderly, many those attempting to rescue survivors of a previous strike, and the people in the places where the missiles land say peace negotiations are ruined, criminals are turned into heroes, hatred is created for the United States, and terrorist organizations are strengthened dramatically, in fact the counterproductive nature of these operations on their own terms is so stark that many speculate that creating enemies is the secret purpose or at least that Washington doesn't mind if new enemies are created considering how profitable war is for certain people, and . . .
DW: Now just a minute . . .
BP: Why? Why do you trust that this secretive government is only killing "people who need to be killed"?
DW: Because there are evil people in the world.
BP: Of course there are, but how can you be sure the government has found them? Has it looked everywhere well and hard? Has it created public procedures of verification? Has it looked into any mirrors?
DW: You can't publicly announce who you're going to kill and still be able to kill him.
BP: Have you heard the name Osama Bin Laden?
BP: Didn't they publicly announce they were going to kill him?
DW: Yes, but you can't always.
BP: Can you publicly announce that you're going to try someone in a court of law?
DW: Sure, but not during a war.
BP: Can I ask you another odd question?
BP: Thus far about 80 nations have weaponized drones. Which of those nations are justified in flying them over the United States and murdering people?
DW: No one's doing that.
BP: Let's just think this through, for the sake of argument. Not so many years back, nobody was using these weapons at all. If, next year, a nation flies a drone over the United States and murders someone, will that be justified? And will people in that other country be right to trust that their government did the right thing?
DW: Of course not.
BP: Why not?
DW: It just isn't the same.
BP: I agree.
DW: You do?
BP: Nothing is ever the same. But what are the differences? It's not terribly hard to imagine someone attacking the United States, while an attack on Canada sounds rather comical. But, then, Canada doesn't have troops in 177 other countries and weapons in outerspace and every ocean, doesn't spend as much on its military as every other country combined, doesn't account for 80% of foreign weapons sales to dictatorships and democracies alike, doesn't prop up vicious monarchies to exploit their resources, doesn't view its manhood as entirely dependent on its readiness to bomb anybody who looks at it funny.
DW: And your point?
BP: What if peace doesn't come after war? Is Afghanistan more peaceful now, or before the current war, or before the drawing in of the Soviet Union and the initiation of all of these recent wars? Is Iraq more peaceful now, or before the last war, or before the pair of wars and the sanctions? Is Libya more peaceful now, or before the war? Isn't peace a very hard thing to find during or after a war?
DW: Maybe, sometimes.
BP: But isn't peace right there, right within reach, before you start a war?
DW: We don't start wars.
BP: Is Yemen more peaceful? Is Pakistan more peaceful? Did we replace a ground war with a drone war? Or did we replace peace with a drone war?
DW: It's still a better option!
BP: Better than peace?
DW: No, not better than peace.
BP: Let me ask you one more odd-sounding question. Would you rather have cancer or the flu?
DW: Is this a joke?
BP: Just pick, in all seriousness, and I'll explain.
DW: The flu.
BP: Now, if there were only a few cases of cancer, and doctors were getting close to curing it, but the flu was extremely contagious, it spread rapidly around the globe, it could spring up anywhere with no known cure, and -- strange to say -- sometimes the flu began turning into a new kind of cancer -- Now, in this situation, which is worse, the few cases of cancer or the epidemic of flu?
DW: The epidemic, of course.
BP: You can have the last word.
DW: Let me think about it.
A diverse array of organizations today launched a campaign to enact major cuts in wasteful military spending, as part of the December 13 federal budget resolution.
The groups include peace, human service, economic and environmental justice organizations, food sovereignty and green energy groups, and grassroots community organizations. They are calling for long overdue reductions in military spending in order to meet dire needs at home and reinvest in our future.
The groups are launching a sign-on letter calling for cuts of 25-50% in the trillion dollar military budget that accounts for 53% of all discretionary federal spending. The groups will deliver the letter to Congress on December 10 - International Human Rights Day.
The groups want Congress to focus on:
- Adequately funding critical social needs, including food stamps, Social Security, improved and expanded Medicare for all, and public education including college,
- Creating a full employment public jobs program to jump start the green economy (a Green New Deal),
- Rebuilding vital infrastructure.
Groups initiating the campaign include the Backbone Campaign; Coalition Against Nukes; Code Pink; Fellowship of Reconciliation, Freepress.org; Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space; Green Shadow Cabinet; Hip Hop Congress; Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution; No FEAR Coalition; Organic Consumers Association; Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign; PopularResistance.org; RootsAction.org and others. Additional groups can sign on to the letter here.
According to David Swanson, Campaign Coordinator for RootsAction.org, "The United States is the wealthiest nation on earth, and its government is rolling in money. Pretenses otherwise would collapse if the U.S. reduced its military budget to anything remotely resembling other countries'. Redirecting the savings would save far more lives than are taken in our wars, and improve lives at home and abroad beyond our wildest imaginings."
"Do we want to feed hungry people or feed the weapons industry? It's critical to show that we, as a people, choose food, education and green energy over bombs," said Medea Benjamin of Code Pink.
Jill Stein, Green Shadow Cabinet president, noted, "After $5 trillion and a decade spent on bloody military excess, with no real gains for democracy, security or stability - it's time to put these resources where we need them, including an emergency full-employment program to jumpstart the Green economy, halt climate change and make wars for oil obsolete."
"It is time to heed the warning of former President Eisenhower about the Congressional-military-industrial complex. We can either feed the Pentagon, or feed, house, educate and serve the American people," stated Mark Dunlea, Director of the Hunger Action Network of NYS. Representing three thousand emergency food programs feeding 3 million New Yorkers annually, the Hunger Action Network is worried about the recent and pending cuts to food stamps (SNAP) and other safety net programs.
Renowned public interest advocate, Ralph Nader, commented, "Since we no longer have major adversaries, why is the overall military budget larger than ever – taking over half the discretionary expenditures of the federal government? Our country needs to rollback the Empire, really cut the so-called defense budget and apply those monies to repairing and rebuilding our public works with good paying green jobs everywhere that cannot be exported."
Reverend Kristin Stoneking, Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation added, "Money in itself is morally neutral, but what we do with money has ultimate moral significance. Our runaway military spending impairs and diminishes the very soul of our country as we ignore needs for food, jobs and health care among our citizens, and perpetuate a culture of violence abroad. Redirecting millions away from exporting violence and toward creating a culture of peace at home by responding to the basic needs of Americans is not only wise but right."
The groups want Congress to stop using the massive military budget to police the world. Instead they call for reviving the traditional approach of defending America from invasion or military aggression against our territorial integrity. Likewise they oppose militarization of our borders against nonexistent military threats, in violation of the human right to seek refuge from economic or political oppression. The groups want the US to pull American troops from Europe, Japan, Korea and from 1000 bases in nearly 130 countries which cost over a hundred billion dollars a year to maintain.
The groups also want Congress to stop the massive waste and fraud in Pentagon spending, war profiteering by military contractors, and the revolving door between government and military industries.
While many Congress members understand the need to cut military spending, virtually all Congress members protect defense contracts provided to their own districts. The groups are calling for retraining and guaranteed re-employment of any displaced military-industrial workers, and for impacted communities to have a lead role in planning their green economic transition.
The coalition proposal builds on similar, though less comprehensive, measures from within Congress. Senator Bernie Sanders' recent budget blueprint calls for hundreds of billions of dollars of cuts in the military budget. In the prior Congress, more than 50 representatives signed on to a letter by then-members Barney Franks and Ron Paul calling for a 25% cut.
Originally posted at AcronymTV
In what should be another colossal embarrassment for the United States- recently leaked internal documents show how little our government is prepared to take responsibility for the damage done by climate change, the negative effects of which are caused by our hyper capitalist culture of consumption without consequence.
Nithin Sethi, writing at the Hindu.com reports:
Washington, D.C.—In light of the newly public draft security agreement between the United States and Afghanistan suggesting the possibility of an American troop presence in Afghanistan past 2014 and into 2024, a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Walter Jones, Jr. (R-NC), and Jim McGovern (D-MA), have sent a letter today to President Obama calling for a full withdrawal of U.S. troops and asserting Congress’ role in approving any further presence.
“This revelation is outrageous. The possibility of a military presence into 2024 is unacceptable. There is no military solution in Afghanistan. After 13 years and more than $778 billion invested in an unstable country and the corrupt Karzai government, it’s time to bring our troops and tax dollars home. The American people have had enough of the endless, open-ended war. It is time to focus on bringing our brave men and women in uniform home and transition to full Afghan control,” said Congresswoman Lee.
The letter reads, “While many of us would support removing all U.S. troops and military contractors out of Afghanistan with no permanent bases left behind by the end of 2014, we want to underscore that if any long-term commitment of U.S. troops beyond 2014 is made, it must have congressional authorization. The U.S. simply no longer has compelling security interests in Afghanistan that justifies the maintenance of troops beyond December 2014.”
Full text of the letter is below.
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
November 20, 2013
Dear Mr. President:
The war in Afghanistan has just entered its 13th year, and the need to bring our troops home could not be any more clear. President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan suggested in a recent interview that he would be willing to see the permanent exit of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. President Karzai has also repeatedly stated that he sees no potential security benefit from an enduring U.S. security mission. Indeed at times President Karzai has claimed U.S. and NATO troops are the cause of insecurity in Afghanistan.
We believe that President Karzai’s comments raise serious doubts about the justification for a long-term military presence in Afghanistan. Lacking a supportive and viable political partner in Afghanistan, there simply is no military solution American troops can achieve, and extending U.S. troop presence will not serve vital U.S. security goals. Our men and women in uniform are immensely capable, but they cannot succeed with an openly hostile Afghan regime.
While many of us would support removing all U.S. troops and military contractors out of Afghanistan with no permanent bases left behind by the end of 2014, we want to underscore that if any long-term commitment of U.S. troops beyond 2014 is made, it must have congressional authorization. The U.S. simply no longer has compelling security interests in Afghanistan that justifies the maintenance of troops beyond December 2014. Furthermore, as coalition forces withdraw from Afghanistan, U.S.-funded reconstruction projects worth billions of dollars will soon be inaccessible for safe inspection, raising serious questions about our responsibility to conduct vigorous oversight of taxpayer supported efforts.
There is a growing bipartisan sentiment in Congress and across the country for an expedited end of military activities in Afghanistan. After twelve years of war, thousands of lives lost, and hundreds of billions of dollars spent, it is time to bring an end to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.
______________________ ______________________ ______________________
BARBARA LEE WALTER JONES JAMES P. MCGOVERN
Member of Congress Member of Congress Member of Congress
By Kathy Kelly
I’ve been a guest in Colorado Springs, Colorado, following a weeklong retreat with Colorado College students who are part of a course focused on nonviolence. In last weekend’s Colorado Springs Gazette, there was an article in the Military Life section about an international skype phone call between U.S. soldiers in Kandahar, Afghanistan and sixth grade girls at a private school in Maryland. (“Carson Soldiers Chat With Friends” November 17, 2013 F4)
Soldiers from Fort Carson’s Company C Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 4th Infantry Division had been receiving care packages and hand-written letters from sixth grade girls at a private school in Brooklandville, MD. The project led to a late October video chat session which allowed the soldiers and students to converse.
I read in the article that one of the U.S. soldiers in Kandahar assured the girls in Maryland that girls in Afghanistan now have better access to education than they did before the U.S. troops arrived. He also mentioned that women have more rights than before.
On November 21st, I’ll participate in a somewhat similar skype call, focused not on soldiers in Afghanistan but on the voices of young Afghans. On the 21st of every month, through Global Days of Listening, several friends in the U.S. arrange a call between youngsters in Afghanistan and concerned people calling or simply listening in from countries around the world. I long to hear the optimism expressed by the Fort Carson soldier reflected in the Afghan Peace Volunteers’ words. But our young friends in Afghanistan express regret that their families struggle so hard, facing bleak futures in a country racked and ruined by war.
According to Ann Jones, who has reported from Afghanistan since 2002, UNICEF’s 2012 report states that “almost half the “schools” supposedly built or opened in Afghanistan have no actual buildings, and in those that do, students double up on seats and share antiquated texts. Teachers are scarce and fewer than a quarter of those now teaching are considered “qualified,” even by Afghanistan’s minimal standards. Impressive school enrollment figures determine how much money a school gets from the government, but don’t reveal the much smaller numbers of enrollees who actually attend. No more than 10% of students, mostly boys, finish high school. In 2012, according to UNICEF, only half of school-age children went to school at all. In Afghanistan, a typical 14-year-old Afghan girl has already been forced to leave formal education and is at acute risk of mandated marriage and early motherhood. A full 76 percent of her countrywomen have never attended school. Only 12.6 percent can read.”
As for conditions among women in the area where the Fort Carson infantry are stationed, it’s worth noting that Kandahar is one of several southern provinces in Afghanistan where the UN reported, in September, 2012, that one million children suffer acute malnourishment.
Looking beyond southern Afghanistan, where the Fort Carson soldiers are based, the grim statistics persist. As of March 31, 2013, a total of 534,006 people were recorded by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) as internally displaced by conflict in Afghanistan. Increasing numbers of IDPs are moving to cities and towns, where they are co-settling with non-displaced urban poor, poor rural-urban internal migrants, and returning refugees. In Kabul there are 55 such informal settlements, housing about 31,000 individuals, and conditions are dire – especially with respect to shelter, access to water, hygiene and sanitation. I’ve personally visited some of these squalid, desperate camps, in Kabul, - one of the largest is directly across from a U.S. military base.
Outside Kabul and a few other major cities, almost no-one in Afghanistan even has electricity. (The World Bank estimates that 30% of the population has access to grid-based electricity.) Only 27% of Afghans have access to safe drinking water and 5% to adequate sanitation.
Photo: Gul Jumma, originally from Helmand, who fled from the war there after her father was killed in a NATO air raid. She goes to a tent-school run by Aschiana in an IDP camp in Kabul.
Recently, I studied the U.S. SIGAR (Special Inspector General on Afghanistan Reconstruction) report and puzzled over a chart which showed that even though U.S. non-military expenditures there approach 100 billion dollars spent since 2001, only 3 billion has been spent on humanitarian projects. And the military expenditures far outstrip these logistics expenses. The U.S. is now spending 2.1 million dollars per soldier, per year as part of expenses incurred by the drawdown of U.S. troops, while the Department of Defense maintains 107,796 security contractors, with the state department and USAID hiring several thousand more. The Pentagon’s request for operations in Afghanistan in 2013 is $85.6 billion, or $1.6 billion per week.
In Afghanistan, prospects may be looking up for U.S. corporate control of crucial oil pipelines in the region; for early military encirclement of anticipated superpower rival China; and for unrivalled access to some 1 trillion dollars’ worth of copper, gold and iron ore, and perhaps 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements vital to Western industry, all of it awaiting extraction from the earth beneath Afghans’ feet.
While mainstream media in U.S. locales with a strong military presence may suggest that the U.S. has convincingly promised enlightenment for Afghan people, regarding women’s rights and girls education, many Afghans wonder how they will fare caught between Western nations ruling the skies above their heads and the mineral resources which those nations are so uncontestably eager to bring out of darkness and into the light. Do they have a resource curse, they wonder, as other countries will want to avail themselves of these resources and jockey for control. Why is the U.S. so intent on maintaining security in Afghanistan? Whose interests do they want to secure?
I think it’s important to establish skype connections between people living in the U.S. and people who are in Afghanistan. Toward that purpose, I want to encourage people in Colorado Springs and beyond to search for hope and security by listening to young people in Afghanistan tell about their experiences longing for a better world, a world wherein women and children can survive hunger, disease, pollution and illiteracy. Please visit the Afghan Peace Volunteers at ourjourneytosmile.com and/