Focus: Russia - June 18, 2016


Putin calls on Europe to improve ties despite sanctions, 'we are willing to meet our European partners halfway' - AP


Putin: Russia ready to lift sanctions first, if certain that EU will follow suit - RT News


Russian economy overcomes recession: Putin - RT Business


Putin repeats praise of Trump for his comments on improving relations between Russia and the US, says he's a 'bright' person - POLITICO


VIDEO (and transcript): Putin speech at the Plenary session of St Petersburg International Economic Forum - President of Russia


VIDEO: Putin talks to world news agencies at St. Petersburg Economic Forum - YouTube


Putin hosts top EU official for talks in rare visit, Juncker says EU-Russia ties not broken beyond repair and must be mended - AP


Speech by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum - europa.eu


U.S. State Dept official confident EU will continue to back Russia sanctions, 'this is the price we all need to pay if we're to successfully resist Russian aggression' - rferl.org


VIDEO: U.S. State Dept official confident EU will continue to back Russia sanctions - YouTube


Ukraine furious over remarks on Russia by U.N. chief Ban - Reuters


Western leaders, CEOs visit Russia amid sanctions fatigue - AP


Calls for EU-Russia free trade agreement echo at St. Petersburg Forum - Sputnik


Italian leader Renzi wants to boost ties with Russia, says Europe and Russia share same values - ABC News


Foreign investment in Russia doubles despite sanctions, West Europeans lead - Russia Beyond The Headlines


To the first, the spoils - Western investors venture back to Russia - Reuters

 

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

Russia assails NATO's move to deploy troops near its border - AP


NATO military rotation in Eastern Europe poses threat to Russia: Envoy - Sputnik


NATO war games In Poland get Russia's attention - NPR


Russia's position regarding missile defense, NATO ignored: Putin - Sputnik


Russian lawmaker says US missile defense system deployment in Japan to affect security - TASS


Russia to watch US and NATO military activities in Black Sea: Grushko - TASS


US to Russia: We're staying in the Black Sea - Business Insider


‘I don’t need war’: Bulgarian PM rules out joining NATO flotilla in Black Sea - RT News


NATO watches warily as Russia conducts snap combat readiness test - Sputnik

 

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

Putin: New elections, not forced regime change, key for ending Syrian civil war - Fox News


Putin hopes US can convince Syrian opposition to talk with Damascus  -Sputnik


Russia failed to heed U.S. call to stop targeting Syrian rebels: U.S. - Reuters


Lavrov accuses US of sparing al-Qaeda's branch to topple Assad - Telegraph


State Department officials call for U.S. military action against Assad regime - CNNPolitics.com


Obama, despite dissent on Syria, not shifting toward strikes on Assad - Reuters


Diplomats’ dissent on Syria is a signal to their former boss Hillary Clinton - Bloomberg Politics


Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir rips White House on Syria - CNNPolitics.com


Erdogan sends letter to Putin, hopes for improved ties with Russia - Sputnik


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

 

Gorbachev Disagrees With Obama on Nukes

Mikhail Gorbachev and Barack Obama have radically different views on what is involved in doing away with nuclear weapons.

Reading Gorbachev's new book, The New Russia, is a bit disappointing, but it contains some key insights. It may also be a cure for insomnia; it's no page turner. It's part decades-long diary and travelogue, part petty self-aggrandizement (by someone in no need), and part ill-informed conservatism.

Gorby claims that Obama "honoured his promise to withdraw from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan." In fact, both are still raging, the never completed withdrawal from Iraq fell wildly short of the campaign-promise schedule, and Obama actually promised to escalate in Afghanistan, which he did, tripling the U.S. presence and making that war primarily his own in terms of deaths, days, and dollars. The fact that smart well-informed people abroad, like Gorbachev, fall for common U.S. myths is an indication of how very difficult foreign relations can be.

Women's Draft? Sign Me Up To Abolish War

By Rivera Sun

For too long, the women of this nation have been complacent while our brothers, sons, husbands, and fathers are sent to kill, maim, brutalize, destroy and even die in defense of our alleged liberty.

But now, the Senate has passed a $602 billion defense bill that includes an amendment for drafting women. If this bill were in effect today, I would be fined a quarter of a million dollars and face five years in prison for writing these words:

Women: do not register for the draft.

No one - man or woman - should register, or be required to register, for the draft. The draft should be completely eliminated. The military should be dismantled. War should be abolished. The bloated war budget should be returned to our children and students. The military industrial complex should be evicted from our politics and war profiteering should be completely and utterly outlawed.

According to the new bill, saying this and telling other women not to register for the draft is against the law, but I'll say these words as long as I live in every way I can . . . and I'll tell it to men, too. For too long, this nation has sat idle as horrific wars are waged in our names. Now, a Congress of the same predominantly rich, white, old men who send our brothers off to war would like the women of this country to pick up the weapons in our very own hands.

I refuse.

Why go to Russia?

By Kathy Kelly

Since 1983, Sharon Tennison has worked to develop ordinary citizens’ capacities to avert international crises, focusing on relations between the U.S. and Russia. Now, amid a rising crisis in relations between the U.S. and Russia, she has organized a delegation which assembled in Moscow yesterday for a two week visit.  I joined the group yesterday, and happened to finish reading Sharon Tennison’s book, The Power of Impossible Ideas, when I landed in Moscow.

An entry in her book, dated November 9, 1989, describes the excitement over the Berlin Wall coming down and notes that “Prior to the Wall’s removal, President Reagan assured Secretary General Gorbachev that if he would support bringing down the Wall separating East and  West Berlin, NATO would not move ‘a finger’s width’ closer to Russia than East Germany’s border. With this assurance Gorbachev gladly signed on.

Unreported Mass Killing Leaves Thousands Dead

In what's being called the worst mass killing by the United States in the past six months, numerous mentally disturbed individuals, with the extensive backing of a well-financed terrorist organization, and support from a growing circle of allied gang members, have gruesomely slaughtered 1,110 to 1,558 innocent men, women, and children.

This incident, which has left shocked and speechless a handful of people who've heard and thought about it, took place between December 1, 2015, and May 31, 2016, during which interval the killers got off 4,087 airstrikes, including 3,010 over Iraq and 1,077 over Syria.

Aiding and abetting the slaughter, and now also being sought by law enforcement, are France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Netherlands, Australia, Denmark, and Canada. In what is widely understood as an appeal for judicial mercy, Canada has expressed remorse. None of the other alleged perpetrators has done so. Several have openly acknowledged their participation, including by displaying the gang symbol of a U.S. flag tattooed on their glutei maximi.

An offshoot terrorist group said to have been inspired by the United States and going by the name of "Russia," during the same period has brutally murdered 2,792 to 3,451 innocents using similar techniques apparently copied from those of the U.S. gang.

Despite being well documented, these murders have gone largely unreported in U.S. media outlets working overtime to focus on a smaller slaughter in Orlando, Florida. The death counts are imprecise but highly selective, as they intentionally exclude all casualties deemed to be those of combatants.

In a coincidental connection, the Orlando killer blamed the U.S. bombings in Iraq and Syria for his own murderous rampage.

Adding to the bizarre connections, members of the U.S. public have been heard blaming the Orlando slaughter for additional airstrikes to come.

Commented an alien in a ship approaching the planet earth: "Reverse engines! Get us out of here! Let's try back in 10 years and see if anyone is left."

Supreme Hypocrisy in Pennsylvania: US High Court Opens Door to New Appeal by Mumia Abu-Jamal of His 1982 Conviction

By Linn Washington, Jr.

 

One unintended consequence of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a death penalty case that rebuked actions of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice and prosecutors in Philadelphia for conflict of interest was to open a new avenue for activist-journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal to appeal his own 1982 murder conviction in a trial that was tainted by the same exact type of conflict of interest.

Brexit Violence Deeply Rooted, With Lessons for U.S.

On Thursday, in a political move more typical of the United States than Europe, a member of the British Parliament was murdered. She was an opponent of Brexit (Britain exiting the European Union), and her murderer reportedly shouted "Britain First!"

There is a case to be made, on the one hand, that exiting the EU is actually the move away from violence. There are many areas, from banking to farming to militarism, that motivate Norway and Iceland to stay out, for all the right reasons, including resistance to war making -- as with Sweden's and Switzerland's staying out of NATO. I was rooting for Scotland's departure from the UK in the name of peace and disarmament, and looked forward to U.S. nukes and NATO being kicked out of that beautiful country.

The European Union has become the civilian arm of NATO, expanding ever nearer Russia at the insistence of the United States, which -- believe it or not -- is not actually a European nation at all. Were Norway to join the EU, that could mean trouble for Norway's fair and humane economy. But Britain? Britain is a drag on the EU, there at the insistence of the United States which needs puppet-veto power over any European moves toward independence, peace, environmental sustainability, or economic fairness. The EU's influence on Britain is largely to the benefit of the Brits.

There is perhaps a stronger case to be made that exiting the EU would be a move toward violence. This is the case for the EU as a model of peacemaking. For this argument I refer you to a new book by Vijay Mehta called Peace Beyond Borders: How the EU Brought Peace to Europe and How Exporting It Would End Conflicts Around the World. Let me make very clear that I think Mehta wildly exaggerates his case. Far more important to ending war in the world, I believe, are a number of other factors, the top two being: (1) Get the rich countries, led by the U.S. and Europe, to stop selling weapons to the world, and (2) Get the rich countries, led by the U.S. and Europe, to stop bombing, invading, and occupying poor countries.

The EU's supposed 70 years of peace leaves out massive warmaking abroad, as well as wars in Yugoslavia. The case for the EU's bringing of peace and prosperity has to explain Norwegian and Icelandic peace and prosperity as tangential effects of the EU's orbit. Bestowing a Nobel Prize on a leading warmaking region of the world, a prize meant to fund disarmament activists given to the EU which could fund itself by buying a bit less weaponry -- that was an insult to the world and to Alfred Nobel's will.

But, within its proper scope, there is nonetheless a major point to be made. Europe was for centuries the leading hotspot for war as well as its leading exporter. For an unprecedented 71 years Europe has been almost exclusively an exporter of war. The idea of a war within Europe is now almost unthinkable. Mehta argues that we ought to try thinking it, because a few slips could quickly bring it back again. Mehta credits the EU with having made peace normal through 10 mechanisms. I would add to these, of course, fear of nuclear holocaust, and cultural trends away from war acceptance. But here are the mechanisms:

Tomgram: Andrew Cockburn, Victory Assured on the Military's Main Battlefield -- Washington

 This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Orlando Killer's Secret Shared by Other Terrorists

As with becoming a whistleblower or an activist or an artist there must be numerous reasons why any individual becomes a terrorist -- whether military, contract, or independent. Various irrational hatreds and fears (and promises of paradise after death) and the ready availability of weaponry certainly play roles.

But did you know that every single foreign terrorist in the United States in recent decades, plus domestic terrorists claiming foreign motivations, plus numerous poor suckers set up and stung by the FBI, plus every foreign terrorist organization that has claimed or been blamed for attempted or successful anti-U.S. terrorism have all claimed the same motivation? I'm not aware of a single exception.

If one of them claimed to be motivated by the needs of Martians, we might set that aside as crazy. If every single one of them claimed to be acting on behalf of Martians, we would at least get curious about why they said that, even if we doubted Martians' existence. But every single one of them says something much more believable. And yet what they say seems to be a secret despite being readily available information.

We Should Be More Viking

A birth lottery winner, or a chooser behind a Rawlsian veil of ignorance, today would likely end up not as a U.S. billionaire's child (much less a random U.S. child), but as a child in Scandinavia. That is, whether you're looking for higher happiness, life-expectancy, health, education, safety, and quality of life, or you're looking for environmental sustainability, social justice, and relations of peace and generosity with the rest of the world, the model today is the land of the Vikings' descendants.

Traditionally it has not been popular in the United States to emulate others. Books on how Europe is better than here don't always fly off U.S. shelves. Michael Moore's latest movie is not his highest grossing. On the other hand, Senator Bernie Sanders made the Scandinavian model the core of his surprisingly successful campaign. Many voices were quick to tell him that his socialism doesn't work in theory. He was quick to reply that it has nonetheless been proven to work in practice.

Building Bridges of Peace instead of Fear-Citizen Diplomacy with Russia

By Ann Wright
 
I just flew across 11 times zones--from Tokyo, Japan to Moscow, Russia.  
 
Russia is the largest country in the world, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, nearly twice as large as the United States and has extensive mineral and energy resources, the largest reserves in the world. Russia has the world's ninth largest population with over 146.6 million people. The population of the U.S. of 321,400,000 is more than twice as large as Russia's.  
 
I haven't been back to Russia since the early 1990s when the Soviet Union dissolved itself and allowed 14 new countries to be created from it.  At the time I was a U.S. diplomat and wanted to be a part of the historic opening of U.S. Embassies in one of the newly formed countries.  I asked to be sent to a new country in Central Asia and soon found myself in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. 

Why I am Going to Russia

By David Hartsough

The US and Russian governments are pursuing dangerous policies of nuclear brinkmanship. Many people believe we are closer to nuclear war than at any time since the Cuba missile crisis in 1962.

Thirty-one thousand troops from the US and NATO countries are engaged in military maneuvers on the Russian border in Poland - together with tanks, military planes and missiles. The US has just activated an anti-ballistic missile site in Romania which the Russians see as part of an American first strike policy. Now the US can fire missiles with nuclear weapons at Russia, and then the anti-ballistic missiles could shoot down Russian missiles shot toward the west in response, the assumption being only the Russians would suffer from nuclear war.

A former NATO general has said he believes there will be nuclear war in Europe within a year. Russia is also threatening use of its missiles and nuclear weapons on Europe and the US if attacked.

ISIS and U.S. Weaponry: At Home and Abroad

When someone commits mass murder in the United States and is tied, however significantly, to a foreign terrorist group, there remains a section of the U.S. population willing to recognize and point out that no ideology, fit of hatred, or mental derangement can do the same damage without high-tech weaponry that it does with it. Why does this understanding vanish into the ether of ignorance and apathy at the water's edge?

ISIS videos display U.S. guns, U.S. Humvees, U.S. weaponry of all sorts. The profits and political corruption that bring those weapons into existence are the same as those that litter the United States with guns. Shouldn't we be bothered by both?

The same politicians who claim they'd like to restrict U.S. gun sales have flooded the world markets with the weaponry of mass slaughter. President Obama's administration has approved more weapons sales abroad than any other administration since World War II. Over 60 percent of those weapons have been sold to the Middle East. Add to that total huge quantities of U.S. weapons in the hands of the United States or its proxies in the Middle East -- or formerly in their hands but seized by ISIS.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waived restrictions at the State Department on selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar, all states that had donated to the Clinton Foundation. Saudi Arabia had chipped in at least $10 million, and Boeing added another $900,000 as Secretary Clinton made it her mission to get Saudi Arabia the planes with which it would attack Yemen.

In the past five years, the United States has sold weapons to at least 96 countries. As of 2011 the United States accounted for 79% of the value of transfer agreements to ship weapons to governments in the Middle East, 79% also to poor nations around the world, and 77% of the value of total agreements to ship weapons to other countries, according to the Congressional Research Service. By 2014, those percentages had dropped a bit but remained over 50%.

In 2013, the big war profiteers spent $65 million lobbying Congress. There's a big headline when the National Rifle Association spends $3 million. We ask if black lives matter. In addition, do foreign lives matter?

Toddlers with guns kill more people in the United States than do foreign terrorists -- even adding in domestic terrorists somehow tied to foreign ideas. But we don't hate toddlers. We don't bomb toddlers and whoever's near them. We don't think of toddlers as inherently evil or backward or belonging to the wrong religion. We forgive them instantly, without struggle. It's not their fault the guns were left lying around.

But is it the fault of ISIS that Iraq was destroyed? That Libya was thrown into chaos? That the region was flooded with U.S.-made weapons? That future ISIS leaders were tortured in U.S. camps? That life was made into a nightmare? Maybe not, but it is their fault they murder people. They are adults. They know what they are doing.

True enough. But could they do it without the weapons?

On the domestic scene, we are able to recognize that other nations have conflict, hatred, and crime, but that -- in the absence of all the guns -- the crimes do less damage. Australia got rid of its guns following a killing less deadly than Orlando. Now a gun in Australia costs more than anyone would be likely to get out of an armed robbery. Now Australia has no mass killings, apart from its participation in U.S. wars.

On the foreign scene, can we recognize that regions armed to the teeth with U.S. weapons, wars with U.S. weapons on both sides, and CIA and Pentagon proxies fighting each other in Syria are not the inevitable result of backwardness in Arab culture, but rather the result of giving free rein to merchants of death?

Focus: Saudi Arabia and Hillary Clinton - June 14, 2016

 

Powerful Saudi prince to meet Obama, amid policy differences with the United States over the war in Syria and relations with Iran - Reuters


Here’s who Saudi Arabia wants as the next US president: Clinton - NBC


POLL: Saudis strongly prefer Clinton over Trump - Arutz Sheva


Deleted official report says Saudi funding Hillary Clinton election - Middle East Eye


Roger Stone on Clinton aide Huma Abedin: 'Do we have a Saudi spy in our midst? Do we have a terrorist agent?' - POLITICO


Roger Stone: It's time America got some answers about Huma Abedin - Breitbart


RADIO: Interview with Roger Stone on Huma Abedin -  Breitbart


Podesta firm with close Clinton ties lobbied for Islamic Bank accused of financing terrorism - The Daily Caller


ARCHIVE: Hillary Clinton financier Podesta is lobbying for Saudi Arabia - The Daily Caller


ARCHIVE: Saudi government has vast network of PR, lobby firms in U.S. - The Washington Post

 

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

Clinton calls for the Saudis, Qataris, Kuwaitis and others 'to stop their citizens from funding extremist organizations' - freebeacon.com


Donald Trump demands that Clinton Foundation return $25 million from Saudis - POLITICO


VIDEO: Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Mook dodges question on Saudi donations to Clinton Foundation - freebeacon.com


Family close to Saudi royals pump millions into Clinton Foundation, Democratic coffers - freebeacon.com


Persian gulf sheikhs gave Bill and Hillary $100 Million - The Daily Caller


Revealed: The State Department’s hidden Hillary donors - The Daily Beast


ARCHIVE: Clinton Foundation donors got weapons deals from Hillary Clinton's State Department - ibtimes.com


ARCHIVE: While Saudi Arabia poured cash into the Clinton Foundation, Hillary's State Department armed Saudi Arabia to the teeth - FPIF


ARCHIVE: Emails show Hillary Clinton aides celebrating F-15 sales to Saudi Arabia: 'Good news' - theintercept.com


ARCHIVE: Hillary Clinton, Saudi Arabia and weapons manufactures - dailykos.com


ARCHIVE: Hillary Clinton on Saudi execution of 47 including prominent Shiite cleric: Not 'a smart decision', but she still calls Saudi Arabia a ‘friend' - Washington Examiner


ARCHIVE: Missing Clinton e-mail claims 'Sunni Islamists in Saudi Arabia' financed Benghazi attacks - Zero Hedge


ARCHIVE: McCain-linked nonprofit received $1 million from Saudi Arabia - Bloomberg Politics


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

 

Documents: Before Rightward Rebrand, an MSNBC 'Lean Forward' to Promote Fracking

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Cable TV network MSNBC has made headlines in recent days for apparently moving away from its "Lean Foward" progressive brand, catering instead to a more center-to-right-leaning crowd. 

"People might start accusing us of leaning too far to the right," the station says in a new advertisement featuring MSNBC's conservative personalities — an array of Republican identities such as Michael Steele, Steve Schmidt and Ben Ginsberg. 

Tomgram: Noam Chomsky, Tick... Tick... Tick...

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Talking About Forgiveness

By David Swanson

An atheist's sermon on Luke 7: 36-50 delivered at Saint Joan of Arc in Minneapolis, Minn., on June 12, 2016.

Forgiveness is a universal need, among those of us who are not religious and among believers in every religion on earth. We must forgive each other our differences, and we must forgive much more difficult occurrences.

Some things we can forgive easily -- by which, of course, I mean eliminating resentment from our hearts, not granting an eternal reward. If someone kissed my feet and poured oil on them and begged me to forgive her, frankly, I would have a harder time forgiving the kisses and oil than forgiving her a life of prostitution -- which is, after all, not an act of cruelty toward me but the violation of a taboo into which she was likely compelled by hardship.

But to forgive men who were torturing and killing me on a cross? That I would be very unlikely to succeed at, especially as my nearing end -- in the absence of a crowd to influence -- might convince me of the pointlessness of making my last thought a magnanimous one. As long as I live, however, I intend to work on forgiveness.

If our culture truly developed the habit of forgiveness, it would dramatically improve our personal lives. It would also make wars impossible, which would further dramatically improve our personal lives. I think we have to forgive both those who we think have wronged us personally, and those whom our government has told us to hate, both at home and abroad.

I suspect I could find well over 100 million Christians in the United States who do not hate the men who crucified Jesus, but who do hate and would be highly offended at the idea of forgiving Adolf Hitler.

When John Kerry says that Bashar al Assad is Hitler, does that help you feel forgiving toward Assad? When Hillary Clinton says that Vladimir Putin is Hitler, does that help you relate to Putin as a human being? When ISIS cuts a man's throat with a knife, does your culture expect of you forgiveness or vengeance?

Forgiveness is not the only approach one can take to curing war fever, and not the one I usually try.

Usually the case that's made for a war involves specific lies that can be exposed, such as lies about who used chemical weapons in Syria or who shot down an airplane in Ukraine.

Usually there is a great deal of hypocrisy one can point to. Was Assad already Hitler when he was torturing people for the CIA, or did he become Hitler by defying the U.S. government? Was Putin already Hitler before he refused to join in the 2003 attack on Iraq? If a particular ruler who has fallen out of favor is Hitler, what about all the brutal dictators whom the United States is arming and supporting? Are they all Hitler too?

Usually there is aggression by the United States that can be pointed to. The U.S. has aimed to overthrow the Syrian government for years and avoided negotiations for the nonviolent removal of Assad in favor of a violent overthrow believed to be imminent year after year. The U.S. has pulled out of arms reduction treaties with Russia, expanded NATO to its border, facilitated a coup in Ukraine, launched war games along the Russian border, put ships in the Black and Baltic Seas, moved more nukes into Europe, begun talking about smaller, more "usable" nukes, and set up missile bases in Romania and (under construction) in Poland. Imagine if Russia had done these things in North America.

Usually one can point out that no matter how evil a foreign ruler is, a war will kill large numbers of people unfortunate enough to be ruled by him -- people who are innocent of his crimes.

But what if we tried the approach of forgiveness? Can one forgive ISIS its horrors? And would doing so result in free reign for more such horrors, or in their reduction or elimination?

The first question is easy. Yes, you can forgive ISIS its horrors. At least some people can. I feel no hatred toward ISIS. There are people who lost loved ones on 9/11 who quickly began advocating against any vengeful war. There are people who've lost loved ones to small-scale murder and opposed cruel punishment of the guilty party, even coming to know and care for the murderer. There are cultures that treat injustice as something in need of reconciliation rather than retribution.

Of course, the fact that others can do it doesn't mean that you can or should do it. But it's worth recognizing how right were those family members of 9/11 victims who opposed war. Now several hundred times as many people have been killed, and the hatred toward the United States that contributed to 9/11 has been multiplied accordingly. A global war on terrorism has predictably and indisputably increased terrorism.

If we take a deep breath and think seriously, we can also recognize that the resentment that calls out for forgiveness is not rational. Toddlers with guns kill more people in the United States than do foreign terrorists. But we don't hate toddlers. We don't bomb toddlers and whoever's near them. We don't think of toddlers as inherently evil or backward or belonging to the wrong religion. We forgive them instantly, without struggle. It's not their fault the guns were left lying around.

But is it the fault of ISIS that Iraq was destroyed? That Libya was thrown into chaos? That the region was flooded with U.S.-made weapons? That future ISIS leaders were tortured in U.S. camps? That life was made into a nightmare? Maybe not, but it was their fault they murdered people. They are adults. They know what they are doing.

Do they? Remember, Jesus said they did not. He said, forgive them for they know not what they do. How could they possibly know what they are doing when they do things like what they have done?

When U.S. officials retire and quickly blurt out that U.S. efforts are creating more enemies than they are killing, it becomes clear that attacking ISIS is counterproductive. It also becomes clear that at least some people engaged in it know that. But they also know what advances their careers, what provides for their families, what pleases their associates, and what benefits a certain sector of the U.S. economy. And they can always hold out hope that perhaps the next war will be the one that finally works. Do they really know what they do? How could they?

When President Obama sent a missile from a drone to blow up an American boy from Colorado named Abdulrahman al Awlaki, one should not imagine that his head or the heads of those seated too close to him remained on their bodies. That this boy wasn't killed with a knife shouldn't make his killing any more or less forgivable. We should desire no revenge against Barack Obama or John Brennan. But we should not limit our outraged demand for truth, restorative justice, and the replacement of murderous with peaceful public policies.

A U.S. Air Force officer recently said that a tool that would allow dropping food accurately to starving people in Syria would not be used for such a purely humanitarian operation because it costs $60,000. Yet the U.S. military is blowing through tens of billions of dollars on killing people there, and hundreds of billions of dollars every year on maintaining the ability to do the same all over the world. We've got CIA-trained troops in Syria fighting Pentagon-trained troops in Syria, and -- as a matter of principle -- we can't spend money on preventing starvation.

Imagine living in Iraq or Syria and reading that. Imagine reading the comments of Congress members who support militarism because it supposedly provides jobs. Imagine living under a constantly buzzing drone in Yemen, no longer allowing your children to go to school or to go outside the house at all.

Now imagine forgiving the United States government. Imagine bringing yourself to see what looks like massive evil as in fact bureaucratic mishaps, systemic momentum, partisan blindness, and manufactured unawareness. Could you, as an Iraqi, forgive? I've seen Iraqis do it.

We in the United States can forgive the Pentagon. Can we forgive ISIS? And if not, why not? Can we forgive Saudis who look and sound like, and who support, ISIS, but who our televisions tell us are good loyal allies? If so, is it because we haven't seen Saudi victims of beheading or because of what those victims look like? If not, is it because of what Saudis look like?

If forgiveness came naturally to us, if we could do it immediately for ISIS, and therefore instantly for the neighbor who makes too much noise or votes for the wrong candidate, then marketing campaigns for wars would not work. Neither would campaigns to pack more Americans into prisons.

Forgiveness would not eliminate conflict, but it would render conflicts civil and nonviolent -- exactly what the peace movement of the 1920s had in mind when it moved Frank Kellogg of St. Paul, Minnesota, to create the treaty that bans all war.

This afternoon at 2 p.m. we are going to be dedicating a peace pole here on the grounds of this church. With permanent war ever present in our culture, we badly need such physical reminders of peace. We need peace in ourselves and in our families. But we need to be wary of the attitude taken by a school board member in Virginia who said he'd support a celebration of peace as long as everyone understood he wasn't opposing any wars. We need reminders that peace begins with the abolition of war. I hope you'll join us.

NEWS FLASH!: With 5 Million Votes Still Uncounted in the Democratic Primary, Sanders Could Still Win California!

By Dave Lindorff

 

FLASH! The Los Angeles Times, actually a Hillary Clinton backer, reports that not 3.6 million votes, as reported on election night, but 8 million votes were actually cast in the California Democratic primary -- a turnout of 47%. According to the Times article, the Secretary of State of California, Alex Padilla, concedes that 2.5 million of those votes, mostly mail-in ballots from young people and hispanic voters, both backers of Sanders, have been counted, and another 2 million have yet to be counted by local county officials.

"Modern Warfare Destroys Your Brain" in More Ways Than One

The most likely way to die in a U.S. war, by far, is to live in the country that the United States is attacking. But the most likely way in which a U.S. participant in a war will die is by suicide.

There are a couple of widely observed top causes of hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops returning from recent wars deeply disturbed in their minds. One is having been near an explosion. Another, which has been around longer than explosions have, is having killed, having nearly died, having seen blood and gore and suffering, having imposed death and suffering on innocents, having seen comrades die in agony, exacerbated in many cases by having lost faith in the sales pitch that launched the war -- in other words, the horror of war making.

The first of those two causes might be called traumatic brain injury, the other mental anguish or moral injury. But, in fact, both are physical events in a brain. And, in fact, both impact thoughts and emotions.  That scientists have a hard time observing moral injury in brains is a shortcoming of scientists that ought not to start us imagining that mental activity isn't physical or that physical brain activity isn't mental (and therefore that one is serious, while the other is sort of silly).

Here's a New York Times headline from Friday: "What if PTSD Is More Physical Than Psychological?" The article that follows the headline seems to mean by this question two things:

1) What if by focusing on troops having been near explosions we are able to distract attention away from the suffering induced by conditioning thinking human beings to mindlessly commit horrific acts?

2) What if having been near explosions impacts brains in a way that scientists happen to have figured out how to observe in a brain?

The answer to number 1 should be: We are not going to limit our brains to the New York Times as a source of information. Based on recent experience, including acts the Times has apologized for or retracted, that would be a sure way to create more modern warfare, thereby destroying more brains, risking a vicious cycle of war and destruction.

The answer to number 2 should be: Did you think the damage wasn't real because scientists hadn't found it in their microscopes yet? Did you think it was literally in soldiers' hearts? Did you think it was floating in the non-physical ether somewhere? Here's the New York Times:

"Perl's findings, published in the scientific journal The Lancet Neurology, may represent the key to a medical mystery first glimpsed a century ago in the trenches of World War I. It was first known as shell shock, then combat fatigue and finally PTSD, and in each case, it was almost universally understood as a psychic rather than a physical affliction. Only in the past decade or so did an elite group of neurologists, physicists and senior officers begin pushing back at a military leadership that had long told recruits with these wounds to 'deal with it,' fed them pills and sent them back into battle."

So, if the combination of afflictions that soldiers suffered from could not be observed by a neurologist, then they were all faking? They were suffering depression and panic attacks and nightmares in order to trick us? Or the wounds were real but necessarily minor, something to be "dealt with"? And -- importantly, there is a second implication here -- if the injury arose not from an explosion but from having stabbed to death a poor kid drafted into a different army, then it was not worthy of any concern important enough to outweigh the desirability of ignoring such matters.

Here's the New York Times in its own words: "Much of what has passed for emotional trauma may be reinterpreted, and many veterans may step forward to demand recognition of an injury that cannot be definitively diagnosed until after death. There will be calls for more research, for drug trials, for better helmets and for expanded veteran care. But these palliatives are unlikely to erase the crude message that lurks, unavoidable, behind Perl's discovery: Modern warfare destroys your brain."

Apparently the collective brain power of those of us who haven't joined the military suffers as well. Here we are faced with the understanding -- slanted and constrained though it may be -- that warfare destroys your brain; and yet we are meant to suppose that the only possible consequences of that realization are outcries for better medical care, better helmets, etc.

Allow me to suggest one other proposal: ending all warfare.

After Keystone XL: TransCanada Building North American Fracked Gas Pipeline Empire

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Though President Barack Obama and his State Department nixed the northern leg of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in November, the Canadian pipeline company giant has continued the fight in a federal lawsuit in Houston,  claiming the Obama Administration does not have the authority to deny a presidential pipeline permit on the basis claimed that he did.

Emails: US Senator Turned Exxon Lobbyist Limits Access to Public University-Based Archives

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Emails and documents obtained from Oklahoma State University (OSU) under the state's open records law depict an arrangement in which former U.S. Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) donated his U.S. Senate papers to OSU, a public university, but still maintains full control of the papers and who gets permission to view them. 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Fox in Hen House: Online Auctions For Public Lands Oil and Gas Bids May Be Industry-Owned, Run

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

If the recent past serves as prologue, then online leasing of oil and gas on U.S. federal lands may resemble the proverbial fox guarding the hen house, with one eBay-like company in particular standing to profiteer from the industry's proposed e-bidding scheme.

Image Credit: Willis Nowell | Flickr

The Foreign Policies of Sanders, Trump, and Clinton: America and the World in 2016 and Beyond

By Joanne Landy

The world today is faced with crises on virtually every front, and any assessment of the foreign policy positions of the two major parties’ 2016 presidential candidates must be measured against how well they respond to these crises.

BERNIE SANDERS

            The Sanders campaign has been a breath of fresh air on the American political scene. Bernie has taken into the political arena the Occupy movement’s outrage at the domination of the United States by the one percent. Whether or not he wins the nomination, his astounding success is a sign of the real potential for a new kind of politics in the country—inspiring whether or not one shares his Democratic Party strategy.

            Bernie has a strong domestic program—it calls for ending the domination of big money in politics, single-payer Medicare for All, free tuition at public colleges and universities, breaking up the big banks, raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy, support forworkers and their unions, confronting climate change, and questioning the government’s mass surveillance programs. Moreover, despite his stubborn tendency to sound at times (though less and less as the campaign goes on) like he believes that economic inequality takes precedence over social inequality, Sanders does have good positions in favor of abortion rights, reform of the criminal justice system, demilitarization of the police, and the need to oppose institutional racism.If his campaign doesn’t end up as a faction entrapped within the Democratic Party, these positions could be the basis for beginning to build a lasting independent political party that can offer an alternative to the status quo.

"Flag Day Has Been Canceled!"

If that headline sounds a bit like "God Is Dead" to you, you just might be from the United States. Only what the people who live in this one country of the American hemisphere call "an American" carries that variety of flag passion. If, on the other hand, you find watching paint dry more engaging than the suspense of waiting for the next Flag Day, you just might be a candidate for citizen of the world.

In fact, I think Flag Day needs to be canceled. It's not a holiday that the government, much less the military, much less the rest of the United States, actually takes off work. It's rumored, in fact, that any socialistic interruption in work schedules would be offensive to the flag herself.

So we can indeed cancel Flag Day just by totally ignoring it, along with the overlapping Flag Week, the simultaneous U.S. Army's Birthday, the mythological tales about Betsy Ross, and the celebration of a war in 1812 that failed to take over Canada, got Washington D.C. burned, and pointlessly killed lots of human beings in a battle we celebrate with bad singing auditions before every sporting event because a colored piece of cloth survived it.

This Flag Day, instead of trying to add, if possible, yet more publicly displayed U.S. flags to those already flying, take down a flag instead. Don't burn it, though. There's no sense in giving flag worshipers martyrs. Instead, I recommend Betsy Rossing it. Cut and stitch that flag into clothing you can donate to those in need of clothing -- a significant section of the public in fact in this incredibly over-wealthy country in which the wealth is concentrated beyond medieval levels -- a situation from which we are distracted in part by all the darn flags.

Here in Charlottesville, Virginia, we have a lovely city with tons of natural beauty, history, landmarks, available imagery, talented artists, an engaged citizenry capable of civil debate, and yet no Charlottesville flag. We do have a huge debate over whether to remove from their prominent positions all the statues of Confederate fighters. Less controversial, costly, and time-consuming would be to add to the local scene a Charlottesville flag that did not celebrate slavery, racism, war, or environmental destruction.

What? Now I'm in favor of flags? Of course, I'm in favor of pretty pieces of cloth waving around when they're not icons of war and separation. In the United States, local and state flags don't create any sense of superiority or hostility toward the rest of humanity. But the flag of war, the flag that the U.S. military has now planted in 175 countries, does just that.

UVA alumnus Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Flag Day the year before pushing the United States into World War I, as part of that propaganda campaign. Congress joined in the year before the war in Korea. Five years later "under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance, an oath originally written by a fascist preacher, originally administered with the pledgers holding their right arms straight, outward and up. This was changed to the hand-over-heart routine during World War II because the Nazis had adopted the original salute as their own. Nowadays, visitors from abroad are often shocked to see U.S. children instructed to stand and robotically chant an oath of obedience to a piece of colored cloth.

To many "Americans" it comes naturally. The flag has always been here and always will be, just like the wars under which it is fought, for which lives are taken and risked, for which lives are even exchanged. Families that lose a loved one in war are presented with a flag instead. A majority of Americans supports freedom of speech in many outrageous instances, including the right of massive media corporations to present us with false justifications for wars. But a majority supports banning the burning of flags -- or rather, of the U.S. flag. You can burn the flags of 96% of humanity. You can burn your state or local flag. You can burn a world flag. But burning a U.S. flag would be a sacrilege. Sacrificing young lives to that flag in yet another war is, however, a sacrament.

But the U.S. military now has robotic drones it can send to war. Robots are also perfectly capable of swearing the pledge of allegiance, although they have no hearts to put their hands over.

Perhaps we should reserve our actual human hearts for things robots cannot do. Perhaps we should liberate our landscape from both Confederate statues and the ubiquitous flag of the still crusading union empire.

Tomgram: Mark Wilkerson, Batman in a Hospital Bed

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Speaking Events

CHOOSE LANGUAGE

Support This Site

Donate.

Get free books and gear when you become a supporter.

 

Sponsors:

Speaking Truth to Empire

***

Families United

***

Ray McGovern

***

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

Buy Books

Get Gear

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