The similarities between mass incarceration and mass murder have been haunting me for a while, and I now find myself inspired by Maya Schenwar's excellent new book Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better. This is one of three books everyone should read right away. The others are The New Jim Crow and Burning Down the House, the former with a focus on racism in incarceration, the latter with a focus on the incarceration of youth. Schenwar's is an overview of incarceration in all its absurd and unfathomable evil -- as well as being a spotlight leading away from this brutal institution.
Locked Down, Locked Out is both an incomparably put together report incorporating statistics and studies with individual quotations and anecdotes, and a personal story of how incarceration has impacted the author's own family and how the author has thought through the complex issues.
Yes, I did recently write an article specifically criticizing the widespread habit of calling everything a "war," and I do still want to see that practice ended -- but not because the linguistic quirk offends me, rather because we make so many things, to one degree or another, actually be like wars. As far as I have seen, no other practice bears remotely as much similarity to war as does prison. How so? Let me count the ways.
1. Both are distinctly American. No other nation spends as much on its military or its prisons, engages in as many wars or locks up as many people.
2. Both are seemingly simple and easy solutions that don't solve anything, but seek to hide it away at a distance. Wars are waged thousands of miles from home. Prisoners are stored out-of-sight hundreds or thousands of miles from home.
3. Both are fundamentally violent and dependent upon the notion that a state "monopoly" on violence prevents violence by others, even while the evidence suggests that it actually encourages violence by others.
4. Both rely on the same process of dehumanizing and demonizing people, either enemies in a war or criminals in a prison. Never mind that most of the people killed by bombs had nothing to do with the squabble used as motivation for the war. Never mind that most of the prisoners had nothing to do with the sort of behavior used to demonize them. Both populations must be labeled as non-human or both institutions collapse.
5. Both are hugely profitable and promoted by the profiteers, who constitute a small clique, the broader society actually being drained economically by both enterprises. Weapons factories and prisons produce jobs, but they produce fewer and lower-paying jobs than other investments, and they do so with less economic benefit and more destructive side-effects.
6. Both are driven by fear. Without the fear-induced irrational urge to lash out at the source of our troubles, we'd be able to think through, calmly and clearly, far superior answers to foreign and domestic relations.
7. Both peculiar institutions are themselves worse than anything they claim to address. War is a leading cause of death, injury, trauma, loss of home, environmental destruction, instability, and lasting cycles of violence. It's not a solution to genocide, but its wellspring and its big brother. U.S. prisons lock up over 2 million, control and monitor some 7 million, and ruin the lives of many millions more in the form of family members impacted. From there the damage spreads and the numbers skyrocket as communities are weakened. No damage that incarcerated people could have done if left alone, much less handled with a more humane system, could rival the damage done by the prison industry itself.
8. Both are default practices despite being demonstrably counter-productive by anybody's measure, including on their own terms. Wars are not won, do not build nations, do not halt cruelty, do not spread democracy, do not benefit humanity, do not protect or expand freedom. Rather, freedoms are consistently stripped away in the name of wars that predictably endanger those in whose name they are waged. The nation waging the most wars generates the most enemies, thus requiring more wars, just as the nation with the most prisoners also has the most recidivists. Almost all prisoners are eventually released, and over 40% of them return to prison. Kids who commit crimes and are left alone are -- as many studies have clearly and uncontroversially documented -- less likely to commit more crimes than kids who are put in juvenile prison.
9. Both are classist and racist enterprises. A poverty draft has replaced ordinary conscription, while wars are waged only on poor nations rich in natural resources and darkish in skin tone. Meanwhile African Americans are, for reasons of racism and accounting for all other factors, far more likely than whites to be reported to the police, charged by the police, charged with higher offenses, sentenced to longer imprisonment, refused parole, and held to be violating probation. The poor are at the mercy of the police and the courts. The wealthy have lawyers.
10. The majority of the casualties, in both cases, are not those directly and most severely harmed. Injuries outnumber deaths in war, refugees outnumber the injured, and traumatized and orphaned children outnumber the refugees. Prisoners' lives are ruined, but so are the greater number of lives from which theirs have been viciously removed. A humane person might imagine some leniency for the convict who has children. On the contrary, the majority of U.S. prisoners have children.
11. Both institutions seem logical until one imagines alternatives. Both seem inevitable and are upheld by well-meaning people who haven't imagined their way around them. Both appear justifiable as defensive measures against inscrutable evil until one thinks through how much of that evil is generated by optional policies and how extremely rare to nonexistent is the sort of evil dominating the thinking behind massive industries designed for a whole different scale of combat.
12. Both war and prisons begin with shock and awe. A SWAT team invades a home to arrest a suspect, leaving an entire family afraid to go to sleep for years afterward. An air force flattens whole sections of a city, leaving huge numbers of people traumatized for life. Another word for these practices is terrorism.
13. Both institutions include extreme measures that are as counterproductive as the whole. Suicidal prisoners put into solitary confinement as punishment for being suicidal are rendered more suicidal, not less. Burning villages or murdering households with gunfire exacerbate the process of making the aggressor more hated, more resented, and less likely to know peace.
14. Both institutions hurt the aggressor. An attacking nation suffers morally, economically, civilly, environmentally; and its soldiers and their families suffer very much as prisoners and prison guards suffer. Even crime victims suffer the lack of apology or restitution or reconciliation that comes with an adversarial justice system that treats the courtroom as a civilized war.
15. Both horrors create alternative realities to which people sometimes long to return. Prisoners unable to find work or support or friendship or family sometimes return to prison on purpose. Soldiers unable to adapt to life back home have been known to choose a return to war despite suffering horrifically from a previous combat experience. The top killer of U.S. soldiers is suicide. Suicide is not uncommon among prisoners who have recently been released. Neither members of the military nor prisoners are provided serious preparation for reintegrating into a society in which everything that has been helping them survive will tend to harm them.
16. Both war and prisons generate vicious cycles. Crime victims are more likely to become criminals. Those imprisoned are more likely to commit crimes. Children effectively orphaned by incarceration are more likely to become criminals and be incarcerated. Nations that have been at war are more likely to be at war again. Solving Libya's problems three years ago by bombing it predictably created violent chaos that even spilled into other nations. Launching wars on Iraq to address the violence created by previous wars on Iraq has become routine.
17. Both institutions are sometimes supported by their victims. An endangered family can prefer incarceration of a violent or drug-addicted loved one to nothing, in the absence of alternatives. Members of the military and their families can believe it is their duty to support wars and proposals for new wars. Prisoners themselves can see prison as preferable to starving under a bridge.
18. Both institutions are disproportionately male in terms of guards and soldiers. But the victims of war are not. And, when families are considered, as Schenwar's book considers them so well, the victims of incarceration are not.
19. Both institutions have buried within them rare stories of success, soldiers who matured and grew wise and heroic, prisoners who reformed and learned their lessons. No doubt the same is true of slavery or the holocaust or teaching math by the method of applying a stick to a child's hands.
20. Both institutions are often partially questioned without the possibility of questioning the whole ever arising. When Maya Schenwar's sister gives birth in prison and then remains in prison, separated from her baby, people ask Schenwar "What's the point? How is Kayla being in prison helping anyone?" But Schenwar thinks to herself: "How isanyone being in prison helping anyone?" Candidate Barack Obama opposed dumb wars, while supporting massive war preparations, eventually finding himself in several wars, all of them dumb, and one of them the very same war (or at least a new war in the very same nation) he had earlier described in those terms.
21. Both institutions churn along with the help of thousands of well-meaning people who try to mitigate the damage but who are incapable of redeeming fundamentally flawed systems. Reforms that strengthen the system as a whole tend not to help, while actions that shrink, limit, or weaken support for the whole machinery of injustice deserve encouragement.
22. Both are 19th century inventions. Some form of war and of slavery may go back 10,000 years, but only in the 19th century did it begin to resemble current war and incarceration. Changes through the 20th and early 21st centuries expanded on the damage without fundamentally altering the thinking involved.
23. Both include state-approved murder (the death penalty and the killing in war) and both include state-sanctioned torture. In fact much of the torture that has made the news in war prisons began in domestic prisons. A current war enemy, ISIS, had its leadership developed in the cauldron of brutal U.S. war prisons. Again, the aggressors, the torturers, and their whole society are not unharmed.
24. Crime victims are used to justify an institution that results in more people being victimized by crime. Victims of warlike abuse by others are used to justify wars likely to harm them and others further.
25. Prisoners and veterans often leave those worlds without the sort of education valued in the other world, the "free world" the prisoners dream of and soldiers fantasize that they are defending. A criminal record is usually a bar to employment. A military record can be an advantage but in other cases is a disadvantage as well in seeking employment.
26. Beyond all the damage done by war and prisons, by far the greatest damage is done through the trade-off in resources. The money invested in war could pay for the elimination of poverty and various diseases worldwide. A war-making nation could make itself loved for far less expense than what it takes to make itself hated. It could hang onto a much smaller, more legitimately defensive military like those of other nations while attempting such an experiment. The money spent on prisons could pay for drug treatment, childcare, education, and restorative justice programs. A nation could go on locking up violent recidivists while attempting such a change.
27. Restorative justice is the essence of the solution to both war and prison. Diplomacy and moderated reconciliation are answers to the common problem of writing an enemy off as unreachable through words.
I might go on, but I imagine you get the idea. Huge numbers of Americans are being made seriously worse citizens, and almost all of them will be back out of prison trying to survive. And, if that doesn't do it for you, consider this: when incarceration is this widespread, there's every possibility that it will someday include you. What if you're falsely accused of a crime? What if somebody puts a link on a website to illegal pornography and you -- or someone using your computer -- clicks it? Or you urinate in public? Or you use marijuana in a state that legalized it, but the feds disagree? Or you blow the whistle on some abuse in some branch of the government that you work for? Or you witness something and don't report it? Or you work so hard that you fall asleep driving your car? An injustice to one is an injustice to all, and injustice on this scale is potentially injustice to every one.
What to do?
Californians just voted on their ballots to reduce prison sentences. Get that on your ballot. For the first time ever, this week, a prosecutor was sent to prison for falsely convicting an innocent person. We need a whole reworking of the rewards and incentives for prosecutors who have long believed that locking people up was the path to success. We need activist resistance to prison expansion, divestment from for-profit prison companies, and educational efforts to begin changing our culture as well as our laws. Locked Down, Locked Out provides a terrific list of organizations to support, including those that can help you become a prisoner's pen-pal. Schenwar explains that there is nothing prisoners need more, as long as they are locked up. Those not receiving mail are seen as the easiest targets for abuse by guards and other prisoners. And our receiving their letters may be the best way for us to learn about the hidden world in our midst.
By Linn Washington Jr.
Repeated lies and law-breaking forced the 1974 resignation of then U.S. President Richard M. Nixon, leading to Nixon’s subsequent, and continued inclusion on the list of the "Worst Presidents" in American history.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
Leslie Cagan has worked in a wide range peace and social justice movements for almost 50 years: from the Vietnam war to racism at home, from nuclear disarmament to lesbian/gay liberation, from fighting sexism to working against U.S. military intervention. Most recently, Leslie was co-coordinator of the People’s Climate March on Sept. 21, 2014, which brought 400,000 people into the streets of NYC demanding action on the global climate crisis. Leslie helped create and served as the National Coordinator of United for Peace and Justice, a coalition that grew to over 1,400 member groups. She discusses her recent activism and what we can do going forward.
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By John Grant
When you tuck your children in at night
Don’t tell ‘em it’s for freedom that we fight
- Emily Yates
Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War
Remembrance Day, November 11, was established to mark and mourn the 20 million deaths that occurred during WWI. Unlike most nations, the US has shifted the original focus of the commemoration from the victims of war to the practitioners -- US soldiers, living and dead.
Before there was a 'Veterans Day' -- complete with flags and marches to celebrate aging soldiers -- November 11 was an international day of peace. Ninety-six years ago, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, fighting ceased in the "war to end all wars." Congress passed an Armistice Day resolution calling for "exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding . . . inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples." November 11th was to be "a day dedicated to the cause of world peace."
Something that should be remembered on "Veterans Day" is the long list of foreign countries that the US has attacked, invaded and occupied over the past two centuries. Here is a partial list of some of the foreign lands Washington has invaded since America's founding in 1776. Countries attacked since the outbreak of "The War to End All Wars," 100 years ago, are highlighted in bold:
• French Territory (1798)
• Libya (1801-05; 1981; 1986; 1989)
• Spanish Mexico (1806)
• Britain (in the War of 1812)
• Marquesas Island (1813)
• French, British and Spanish Caribbean (1814-1825)
• Algiers and Tripoli (1815)
• Spanish Cuba (1822-1825)
• Greece (1827; 1947-49)
• Falkland/Malvinas Islands (1831)
• Sumatra (1832; 1838)
• Argentina (1833; 1890)
• Peru (1835-1836)
• Mexico (1836; 1846-48; 1859; 1876; 1913' 1914; 1915-16)
• Canada (1837)
• Fiji (1840-41; 1858)
• Samoa (1841; 1885; 1888; 1889; 1899)
• China (1843; 1859; 1866; 1894-1895; 1900; 1911-1941; 1927-1927; 1927-1934; 1934; 1940-34; 1934; 1946-49)
• Ivory Coast (1843)
• Ottoman Empire/Turkey (1849)
• Nicaragua (1854; 1867; 1894; 1896; 1898; 1899; 1907; 1910; 1912-1933)
• Japan (1854; 1863; 1864; 1868; 1981-1990)
• Uruguay (1855; 1868)
• Columbia (1856; 1860; 1865; 1866; 1870; 1873; 1885; 1895; 1901; 1902; 1903)
• Hawaii (1856; 1874; 1887; 1893)
• Paraguay (1859)
• Portuguese West Africa (1860)
• Formosa Island/Taiwan (1867)
• Midway Island (1867)
• Korea (1871; 1894-1896; 1904-05; 1950-53).
• British Egypt (1882)
• Haiti (1888; 1891; 1914-1934; 1959; 1991; 1994-96; 2004)
• Chile (1891; 1973)
• Guam (1898; 1903)
• Cuba (1898; 1906-09; 1912; 1917-1933; 1933; 1961; 1962)
• Puerto Rico (1898)
· Philippines (1898; 1899; 1948-54; 1989)
· Panama (1901; 1902; 1903; 1908; 1912; 1918-1920; 1925; 1958; 1964; 1989-1990)
· Honduras (1903; 1907; 1911; 1912; 1919; 1924-25; 1983-89)
· Dominican Republic (1903; 1914; 1916-1924; 1965)
· Russia (1918-1922)
· Yugoslavia (1919)
· Guatemala (1920; 1954; 1966-67)
· Turkey (1922)
· El Salvador (1932; 1981-1992)
· Iran (1946; 1953; 1980; 1984; 1987-1988)
· Italy (1948)
· Vietnam (1954; 1960-64; 1965-1975)
· Lebanon (1958; 1982-1984)
· Congo (1960; 1965)
· Laos (1962; 1965-73; 1971-73)
· Ecuador (1963)
· Brazil (1964)
· Indonesia (1965)
· Ghana (1966)
· Cambodia (1969-75; 1975)
· Oman (1970)
· Angola (1976-92)
· Iran (1980)
· Libya (1981)
· Grenada (1983)
· Lebanon (1983)
· Bolivia (1986)
· Libya (1986)
· Iran (1987-1988)
· Libya (1989)
· Liberia (1990; 1997)
· Iraq (1990-91; 1991-2003; 1998; 2003-6)
· Saudi Arabia (1991)
· Kuwait (1991)
· Somalia (1992-1994)
· Yugoslavia (1992-94; 1999)
· Bosnia (1993-95)
· Croatia (1995)
· Saudi Arabia (1996)
· Zaire (1996-97)
· Sudan (1998)
· Afghanistan (1998; 2001-)
· Kosovo (1999)
· Yemen (2000)
· Macedonia (2001)
· Philippines (2002-)
· Yemen (2002-)
· Colombia (2003)
· Iraq (2003)
· Liberia (2003)
· Pakistan (2004-)
· Haiti (2004 – 2005)
· Pakistan (2005-)
· Somalia (2007-)
· Syria (2008)
· Yemen (2009)
· Libya (2011)
· Iraq (2014-)
· Syria (2014-)
And How Many of These Nations Are Now Thriving 'Democracies'?
If there were any truth to the myth that the US uses its military might to promote democracy around the world, the most democratic countries on Earth would be the countries the US has spent the most time invading. By this reasoning, the most democratic nations on Earth would be:
• Honduras (7 interventions)
• Haiti (7)
• Cuba (7)
• Mexico (7)
• Nicaragua (9)
• Panama (10)
• Colombia (11)
• China (12)
Civil Society Statement to the United Nations First Committee, 28 October 2014
At the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, states parties reaffirmed their commitment to a “diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies to minimize the risk that these weapons ever be used and to facilitate the process of their total elimination.” Nearly five years have passed; another Review Conference is in the offing. Nuclear stockpiles of civilization-destroying size persist, and progress on disarmament has stalled.
The commitment to diminish the role of nuclear weapons in security policies assumed that de-coupling nuclear weapons from conventional military forces would help facilitate elimination of nuclear arsenals. Yet there has been little progress in reducing the role of nuclear weapons. All nuclear-armed states are modernizing their nuclear arsenals. Modernization efforts include development by the leading nuclear weapons states of new nuclear-capable missiles, aircraft, and submarines that will incorporate advances in stealth and accuracy. Publicly available information shows that nuclear weapons continue to have a central role in security policies, and in the case of the United States, the integration of conventional and nuclear forces in current war planning. Potential adversaries of the United States see its advantage in long-range conventional forces as a rationale for retaining and modernizing their nuclear arsenals.
The decoupling of nuclear from conventional military forces is further impeded by arms-racing in non-nuclear weapons of strategic significance. These include missile defenses, more accurate and powerful stand-off weapons, and concepts such as “prompt global strike” that aim to hit targets anywhere on earth with a non-nuclear payload in an hour or less. The United States has taken the lead, but many others are participating in this accelerating new arms race which is not constrained to a bi-polar confrontation.
Nuclear war will not come as a bolt from the blue. It will come when national elites misjudge one another’s interests in a conflict on the borderlands of some nuclear-armed country, and “conventional” warfare escalates out of control. This is all the more likely in the 21st century strategic context where stealthy, precision stand-off weapons and delivery platforms face sophisticated and increasingly capable air and missile defenses, while electronic warfare measures target sensors and data-dependent systems. These elements can interact at levels of speed and complexity that defy human comprehension, much less rational decision-making.
For more than two decades, the political and military elites of the leading nuclear-armed states have engaged in perilous double-think about their arsenals. They have assured their publics that the continued existence of nuclear weapons in civilization-destroying numbers no longer presented a real danger because the risk of war among nuclear-armed states was a feature of the Cold War, now safely past. At the same time, they have done everything necessary to keep catastrophe-capable nuclear arsenals long into the future, as a hedge against the day when the most powerful states again might make war with one another.
Today we see a new round of confrontations among nuclear-armed states, in economic and political circumstances that bear worrisome resemblances to those that brought about the devastating wars of the 20th century. Amidst one crisis after another from Ukraine to the Western Pacific, the world’s most powerful militaries brandish their nuclear arms, while claiming that “routine” exercises with weapons of mass destruction pose no danger, could never be misconstrued or get out of hand.
To those who view the world from the heights of power and privilege in nuclear-armed states, all this only gives further reason to hold on to the weapons they have, and to develop more. For the vast majority of humanity, struggling just to get by in a world of immensely stratified wealth and power, it means a return to madness, to a world where at any moment the people can be annihilated to preserve the state. The lack of urgency on disarmament in the ruling circles of the most powerful states should shock the conscience of every person who still has one.
The growing risks of great power war and use of nuclear weapons make the abolition of nuclear weapons all the more imperative. It is far more likely to succeed if linked to economic equity, democracy, climate and environmental protection, and dismantlement of highly militarized security postures. For our part, Abolition 2000 members and partner groups are organizing a large-scale civil society conference, march and rally on these themes on the eve of the 2015 NPT Review Conference, the presentation of millions of signatures calling for the total ban and elimination of nuclear weapons, and local actions around the world.
-- Statement coordinated by Western States Legal Foundation, Oakland, California, USA, a member of the Abolition 2000 Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons. Endorsed by 100 international, national, regional and local civil society organizations in 11 countries (plus 8 individuals for organizational identification only).
Statement endorsed by:
Action AWE, London, United Kingdom
Arab Human Security Network, Damascus, Syria
Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility, USA
Ban All Nukes generation(BANg, international)
Basel Peace Office, Basel, Switzerland
Beacon Presbyterian Fellowship, Oakland, California, USA
Beyond Nuclear, Takoma Park, Maryland, USA
Brooklyn for Peace, New York City, New York, USA
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, United Kingdom
Christians For The Mountains, Dunmore, West Virginia, USA
Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), India
Code Pink Golden Gate Chapter(Bay Area Code Pink), California, USA
Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
Crabshell Alliance, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Democratic World Federalists (international)
Ecumenical Peace Institute/CALC(Clergy and Laity Concerned), Berkeley, California, USA
Fairmont, MN Peace Group, Fairmont, Minnesota, USA
Fellowship of Reconciliation, USA
Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation,Washington, USA
Friends Committee on National Legislation, USA
Fukushima Response Bay Area, northern California, USA
German chapter, International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, Berlin, Germany
Green Shadow Cabinet, USA
International Network of Engineers and Scientists(INES)
INND(Institute of Neurotoxicology & Neurological Disorders), Seattle, Washington, USA
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War(IPPNW)
International Peace Bureau
Japan Council against A and H Bombs (Gensuikyo),Japan
Jeannette Rankin Peace Center, Missoula, Montana, USA
Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, New York City, New York, USA
Le Mouvement de la Paix, France
LEPOCO Peace Center, Lehigh-Pocono Committee of Concern, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA
Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives, Garden City, New York, USA
Los Altos Voices for Peace, Los Altos, California, USA
Metta Center for Nonviolence, Petaluma, California, USA
MLK (Martin Luther King) Coalition of Greater Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA
Montrose Peace Vigil, Montrose, California, USA
Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center, Walnut Creek, California, USA
Multifaith Voices for Peace & Justice, Palo Alto, California, USA
Nafsi Ya Jamii community center, Oakland, California, USA
Nevada Desert Experience, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
No Nukes Action Committee, northern California, USA/Japan
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Santa Barbara, California, USA
Silicon Valley Chapter, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Menlo Park, California, USA
Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Takoma Park, Maryland, USA
Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
Nukewatch, Luck, Wisconsin, USA
Oakland CAN(Community Action Network), Oakland, California, USA
Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA
Office of the Americas, Santa Monica, California, USA
Oregon PeaceWorks, Salem, Oregon, USA
Our Developing World, Saratoga, California, USA
Pacem in Terris, Wilmington, Delaware, USA
Pax Christi International
Pax Christi USA
Pax Christi Long Island, New York, USA
Pax Christi Metro New York, New York City, USA
Peace Action, USA
Peace Action West, California, USA
Peace Action Staten Island, Staten Island, New York, USA
Peace Boat, Japan/international
Peace Foundation, New Zealand
Peaceworkers, San Francisco, California, USA
People for Nuclear Disarmament, Australia
Physicians for Social Responsibility, USA
Physicians for Social Responsibility– Kansas City, Kansas City, Missouri, USA
San Francisco Bay Area Chapter Physicians for Social Responsibility, California, USA
Popular Resistance, USA
Prague Vision Institute for Sustainable Security, Prague, Czech Republic
Proposition One Campaign, Tryon, North Carolina, USA
Rachel Carson Council, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
Reach and Teach, San Mateo, California, USA
Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Boulder, Colorado, USA
Scientists for Peace, Germany
Sisters of Charity Federation, North America
Sisters of Charity of New York, New York City, New York, USA
Soka Gakkai International(SGI)
Swedish Peace Council. Sweden
The Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy,
The Colorado Coalition for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Denver, Colorado, USA
The Ecological Options Network, EON, Bolinas, California, USA
The Human Survival Project, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
The Nuclear Resister, USA
The Peace Farm, Amarillo, Texas, USA
The United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society(international)
Topanga Peace Alliance. California, USA
Tri-Valley CAREs(Communities Against a Radioactive Environment), Livermore, California, USA
2020 Action, USA
United for Peace and Justice, USA
United Nations Association, San Francisco, California, USA
US Peace Council, USA
Veterans for Peace, USA
War Prevention Initiative, Portland, Oregon, USA
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – US Section(WILPF US)
World Future Council(international)
World Peace Now, Point Arena, California, USA
Dr. Joseph Gerson, American Friends Service Committee, USA*
Stephen McNeil, American Friends Service Committee, Wage Peace program, San Francisco, California, USA*
Aaron Tovish, International Campaign Director, Mayors for Peace 2020 Vision Campaign*
David McReynolds, former Chair, War Resisters International*
Rev. Marilyn Chilcote, Parish AssociateSt. John's Presbyterian Church, Berkeley, California, USA*
Sarah H. Lorya, MA, School Outreach Coordinator,
Don Eichelberger, Abalone Alliance Safe Energy Clearinghouse, San Francisco, California, USA*
Libbe HaLevy, Nuclear Hotseat Podcast, USA*
*for purposes of identification only
 2000 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Final Document, Volume I, NPT/CONF.2000/28 (Parts I and II), p.15; reaffirmed by 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Final Document, Volume I, p.19.
 See Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Worldwide deployments of nuclear weapons, 2014,”Bulletin of Atomic Scientists online, 2014.
 Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Slowing Nuclear Weapon Reductions and Endless Nuclear Weapon Modernizations: A Challenge to the NPT,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 2014 No.70 p.94.
 Nuclear weapons continue to be a core element of NATO’s strategic concept, with the nuclear arsenals of the United States, France, and the United Kingdom considered to be the “supreme guarantee of the security of the Allies.” Active Engagement, Modern Defence : “Strategic Concept For the Defence and Security of The Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation,” Adopted by Heads of State and Government in Lisbon, 19th November 2010. The 2014 Master Plan of the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command, responsible for the missile and bomber elements of U.S. nuclear forces, states that “AFGSC [Air Force Global Strike Command] will maintain and improve its ability to employ nuclear weapons in a range of scenarios, to include integration with conventional operations….” U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command, Strategic Master Plan 2014, p.9. Russia’s most recent publicly available military doctrine document states that “ [t]he Russian Federation reserves the right to utilize nuclear weapons in response to the utilization of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and (or) its allies, and also in the event of aggression against the Russian Federation involving the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is under threat.” http://carnegieendowment.org/files/2010russia_military_doctrine.pdf
 Call to Action: Spring 2015 Mobilization for a nuclear free, fair, democratic, ecologically sustainable and peaceful futurewas released on 26 September, 2014, the first International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. http://www.abolition2000.org/?p=3546
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
The following is excerpted and adapted from War Is A Lie.
We learn a lot about the real motives for wars when whistleblowers leak the minutes of secret meetings, or when congressional committees publish the records of hearings decades later.War planners write books.They make movies.They face investigations.Eventually the beans tend to get spilled.But I have never ever, not even once, heard of a private meeting in which top war makers discussed the need to keep a war going in order to benefit the soldiers fighting in it.
The reason this is remarkable is that you almost never hear a war planner speak in public about the reasons for keeping a war going without claiming that it must be done for the troops, to support the troops, in order not to let the troops down, or so that those troops already dead will not have died in vain. Of course, if they died in an illegal, immoral, destructive action, or simply a hopeless war that must be lost sooner or later — and the majority of them die from suicide — it’s unclear how piling on more corpses will honor their memories. But this is not about logic.
The idea is that the men and women risking their lives, supposedly on our behalf, should always have our support — even if we view what they’re doing as mass murder. Peace activists, in contrast to war planners, say the very same thing about this in private that they say in public: we want to support those troops by not giving them illegal orders, not coercing them to commit atrocities, not sending them away from their families to risk their lives and bodies and mental well-being.
War makers’ private discussions about whether and why to keep a war going deal with all the motives that tend to be discussed in private.They only touch on the topic of troops when considering how many of them there are or how long their contracts can be extended before they start killing their commanders. In public, it’s a very different story, one often told with smartly uniformed troops positioned as a backdrop. The wars are all about the troops and in fact must be extended for the benefit of the troops. Anything else would offend and disappoint the troops who have devoted themselves to the war.
Our wars employ more contractors and mercenaries now than troops. When mercenaries are killed and their bodies publicly displayed, the U.S. military will gladly destroy a city in retaliation, as in Fallujah, Iraq. But war propagandists never mention the contractors or the mercenaries. It’s always the troops, the ones doing the killing, and the ones drawn from the general population of just plain folks, even though the troops are being paid, just like the mercenaries only less.
WHY ALL THE TROOP TALK?
The purpose of making a war be about the people (or some of the people) fighting it is to maneuver the public into believing that the only way to oppose the war would be to sign on as an enemy of the young men and women fighting in it on our nation’s side. Of course, this makes no sense at all. The war has some purpose or purposes other than indulging (or, more accurately, abusing) the troops. When people oppose a war, they do not do so by taking the position of the opposite side. They oppose the war in its entirety. But illogic never slowed down a war maker. “There will be some nervous Nellies,” said Lyndon Johnson on May 17, 1966, “and some who will become frustrated and bothered and break ranks under the strain. And some will turn on their leaders and on their country and on our fighting men.”[i]
Try to follow the logic: Troops are brave.Troops are the war.Therefore the war is brave.Therefore anyone opposing the war is cowardly and weak, a nervous Nelly. Anyone opposing a war is a bad troop who has turned against his or her Commander in Chief, country, and the other troops — the good troops. Never mind if the war is destroying the country, bankrupting the economy, endangering us all, and eating out the nation’s soul. The war is the country, the whole country has a wartime leader, and the whole country must obey rather than think. After all, this is a war to spread democracy.
On August 31, 2010, President Obama said in an Oval Office speech:
“This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war [on Iraq] from its outset. Yet no one can doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security.”
What can this mean? Never mind that Obama voted repeatedly to fund the war as a senator and insisted on keeping it going as president. Never mind that, in this same speech, he embraced a whole series of lies that had launched and prolonged the war, and then pivoted to use those same lies to support an escalated war in Afghanistan. Let’s suppose that Obama really did “disagree about the war” with Bush. He must have thought the war was bad for our country and our security and the troops. If he’d thought the war was good for those things, he’d have had to agree with Bush. So, at best, Obama is saying that despite his love (never respect or concern; with troops it’s always love) for the troops and so forth, Bush did them and the rest of us wrong unintentionally. The war was the biggest accidental blunder of the century. But no big deal. These things happen.
Because Obama’s speech was about war, he spent a big chunk of it, as is required, praising the troops:
“[O]ur troops fought block by block to help Iraq seize the chance for a better future.They shifted tactics to protect the Iraqi people,” etc.
True humanitarians. And it will no doubt be for their benefit that the War on Afghanistan and other wars drag on in the future, if we don’t put an end to the madness of militarism.
YOU’RE FOR THE WAR OR AGAINST THE TROOPS
The media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) noticed in March, 2003, as the War on Iraq began, that media outlets were doing something peculiar to the English language. The Associated Press and other outlets were using “pro-war” and “pro-troops” interchangeably. We were being offered the choices of being pro-troop or anti-war, with the latter apparently necessitating that we also be anti-troop:
“For example, the day after bombing of Baghdad began, the AP ran a story (3/20/03) under the headline Anti-War, Pro-Troops Rallies Take to Streets as War Rages. Another story (3/22/03), about pro- and anti-war activities, was labeled Weekend Brings More Demonstrations — Opposing War, Supporting Troops. The clear implication is that those who call for an end to the invasion of Iraq are opposed to U.S. troops, as in the story Protesters Rally Against War; Others Support Troops (3/24/03).“[ii]
This media practice does not outright call one side of a debate “anti-troop,” but neither does it call one side “pro-war,” despite that side’s clear purpose of promoting war. Just as those defending the right to abortion don’t want to be called pro-abortion, war supporters don’t want to be called pro-war. War is an unavoidable necessity, they think, and a means toward achieving peace; our role in it is to cheer for the troops. But war proponents are not defending their nation’s right to wage war if needed, which would be a better analogy with abortion rights. They’re cheering for a specific war, and that specific war is always a fraudulent and criminal enterprise. Those two facts should disqualify war proponents from hiding behind the label “pro-troops” and using it to slander war opponents, although if they’d like to start using the label “anti-peace” I wouldn’t protest.
One of the most inconvenient pieces of information for campaigns to prolong war to “support the troops” is anything telling us what the troops currently engaged in the war actually think of it. What if we were to “support the troops” by doing what the troops wanted? That’s a very dangerous idea to start floating around. Troops are not supposed to have thoughts. They’re supposed to obey orders. So supporting what they’re doing actually means supporting what the president or the generals have ordered them to do. Taking too much interest in what the troops themselves actually think could be very risky for the future stability of this rhetorical house of cards.
A U.S. pollster was able to poll U.S. troops in Iraq in 2006, and found that 72 percent of those polled wanted the war to be ended in 2006. For those in the Army, 70 percent wanted that 2006 ending date, but in the Marines only 58 percent did. In the reserves and National Guard, however, the numbers were 89 and 82 percent respectively.[iii] Since wars are fought to “support the troops” shouldn’t the war have ended?And shouldn’t the troops, revealed in the poll to be badly misinformed, have been told the available facts about what the war was and was not for?
Of course not.Their role was to obey orders, and if lying to them helped get them to obey orders, then that was best for all of us. We never said we trusted or respected them, only that we loved them. Perhaps it would be more accurate for people to say that they love the fact that it is the troops out there willing to stupidly kill and die for someone else’s greed or power mania, and not the rest of us. Better you than me. Love ya! Ciao!
The funny thing about our love for the troops is how little the troops get out of it. They don’t get their wishes regarding military policy. They don’t even get armor that would protect them in war as long as there are war-profiteering CEOs that need the money more desperately. And they don’t even sign meaningful contracts with the government that have terms the troops can enforce. When a troop’s time in war is done, if the military wants him or her to stay longer, it “stop losses” them and sends them right back into a war, regardless of the terms in the contract. And — this will come as a surprise to anyone who watches congressional debates over war funding — whenever our representatives vote another hundred billion dollars to “fund the troops,” the troops don’t get the money. Usually the money is about a million dollars per troop. If the government actually offered the troops their share of that supportive funding and gave them the option of contributing their shares to the war effort and staying in the fight, if they so chose, do you think the armed forces might experience a wee little reduction in numbers?
JUST SEND MORE OF THEM
The fact is that the last thing war makers care about — albeit the first thing they talk about — is the troops. There’s not a politician alive in the United States who hasn’t uttered the phrase “support the troops.” Some push the idea to the point of requiring the slaughter of more troops, and the use of troops in the slaughter of more non-Americans. When the parents and loved-ones of those troops already dead denounce the war that has harmed them and call for its termination, war supporters accuse them of failing to honor the memory of their dead. If those already dead died for a good cause, then it ought to be more persuasive to simply mention that good cause. Yet, when Cindy Sheehan asked George W. Bush what good cause her son had died for, neither Bush nor anyone else was ever able to provide an answer. Instead, all we heard was the need for more to die because some already had.
Even more frequently we’re told that a war must be continued simply because there are troops currently fighting in it. This sounds sadistic at first. We know that war damages many of its participants horribly. Does it really make sense to continue a war because there are soldiers in the war? Shouldn’t there be some other reason? And yet that’s what happens. Wars are continued when Congress funds them. And even many professed “opponents” of wars in Congress fund them to “support the troops,” thus prolonging what they claim to oppose. In 1968, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, George Mahon (D., Texas) said voting to fund the War on Vietnam was no measure of whether or not one supported the War on Vietnam. Such a vote, he said,
“. . . does not involve a test as to one’s basic views with respect to the war in Vietnam. The question here is that they are there, regardless of our views otherwise.”[iv]
Now, the “they are there, regardless” argument, which seems to never grow stale is an odd one, to say the least, since if the war were not funded the troops would have to be brought home, and then they would not be there. To get out of this logical cul-de-sac, war supporters invent scenarios in which Congress stops funding wars, but the wars continue, only this time without ammunition or other supplies. Or, in another variation, by defunding a war Congress denies the Pentagon the funding to withdraw the troops, and they are simply left behind in whatever little country they’ve been terrorizing.
Nothing resembling these scenarios has happened in the real world. The cost of shipping troops and equipment home or to the nearest imperial outpost is negligible to the Pentagon, which routinely “misplaces” greater sums of cash. But, purely to get around this nonsense, anti-war congress members including Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), during the Wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, began introducing bills to defund the war and to provide new funds purely for the withdrawal. War supporters nonetheless denounced such proposals as . . . guess what? . . . failures to support the troops.
The Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee from 2007 through 2010 was David Obey (D., Wisc.). When the mother of a soldier being sent to Iraq for the third time and being denied needed medical care asked him to stop funding the war in 2007 with a “supplemental” spending bill, Congressman Obey screamed at her, saying among other things:
“We’re trying to use the supplemental to end the war, but you can’t end the war by going against the supplemental. It’s time these idiot liberals understand that. There’s a big difference between funding the troops and ending the war. I’m not gonna deny body armor. I’m not gonna deny funding for veterans’ hospitals, defense hospitals, so you can help people with medical problems, that’s what you’re gonna do if you’re going against the bill.”[v]
Congress had funded the War on Iraq for years without providing troops with adequate body armor. But funding for body armor was now in a bill to prolong the war. And funding for veterans’ care, which could have been provided in a separate bill, was packaged into this one. Why? Precisely so that people like Obey could more easily claim that the war funding was for the benefit of the troops. Of course it’s still a transparent reversal of the facts to say that you can’t end the war by ceasing to fund it. And if the troops came home, they wouldn’t need body armor. But Obey had completely internalized the crazy propaganda of war promotion. He seemed to actually believe that the only way to end a war was to pass a bill to fund it but to include in the bill some minor and rhetorical anti-war gestures.
On July 27, 2010, having failed for another three and a half years to end the wars by funding them, Obey brought to the House floor a bill to fund an escalation of the War on Afghanistan, specifically to send 30,000 more troops plus corresponding contractors into that hell. Obey announced that his conscience was telling him to vote No on the bill because it was a bill that would just help recruit people who want to attack Americans. On the other hand, Obey said, it was his duty as committee chair (apparently a higher duty than the one to his conscience) to bring the bill to the floor. Even though it would encourage attacks on Americans? Isn’t that treason?
Obey proceeded to speak against the bill he was bringing to the floor. Knowing it would safely pass, he voted against it. One could imagine, with a few more years of awakening, David Obey reaching the point of actually trying to stop funding a war he “opposes,” except that Obey had already announced his plan to retire at the end of 2010. He ended his career in Congress on that high note of hypocrisy because war propaganda, most of it about troops, has persuaded legislators that they can be “critics” and “opponents” of a war while funding it.
YOU CAN CHECK OUT ANYTIME YOU LIKE, BUT YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE
You might imagine from the efforts Congress goes to in avoiding and recklessly rushing through debates on whether to initially launch wars that such decisions are of minor importance, that a war can be easily ended at any point once it has begun. But the logic of continuing wars as long as there are soldiers involved in them means that wars can never be ended, at least not until the Commander in Chief sees fit. This is not brand new, and goes back as many war lies do, at least as far as the first U.S. invasion of the Philippines. The editors of Harpers Weekly opposed that invasion.
“Echoing the president, however, they concluded that once the country was at war, everyone must pull together to support the troops.”[vi]
This truly bizarre idea has penetrated U.S. thinking so deeply, in fact, that even liberal commentators have fantasized that they’ve seen it enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Here’s Ralph Stavins, speaking of the War on Vietnam:
“Once the blood of a single American soldier had been spilled, the President would assume the role of Commander in Chief and would be obliged to discharge his constitutional duty to protect the troops in the field. This obligation made it unlikely that troops would be removed and far more likely that additional troops would be sent over.”[vii]
The trouble with this is not just that the clearest way to protect troops is to bring them home, but also that the president’s constitutional obligation to protect the troops in the field doesn’t exist in the Constitution.
“Supporting the troops” is often expanded from meaning that we need to keep troops in a war longer to meaning that we also need to communicate to them our appreciation for the war, even if we oppose it. This could mean anything from not prosecuting atrocities, pretending the atrocities are extreme exceptions, pretending the war has succeeded or met some of its goals or that it had different goals more easily met, or sending letters and gifts to troops and thanking them for their “service.”
“When the war begins, if the war begins,” said John Kerry (D., Mass.) just before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, “I support the troops and I support the United States of America winning as rapidly as possible.When the troops are in the field and fighting — if they’re in the field and fighting — remembering what it’s like to be those troops — I think they need a unified America that is prepared to win.” Kerry’s fellow presidential candidate Howard Dean called Bush’s foreign policy “ghastly” and “appalling” and loudly, if inconsistently, opposed attacking Iraq, but he stressed that if Bush started a war, “Of course I’ll support the troops.”[viii] I’m sure troops would like to believe everyone back home supports what they’re doing, but don’t they have other things to worry about during a war? And wouldn’t some of them like to know that some of us are checking up on whether they’ve been sent to risk their lives for a good reason or not? Wouldn’t they feel more secure in their mission, knowing that a check on recklessly turning them into cannon fodder was alive and active?
In August 2010, I compiled a list of about 100 congressional challengers, from every political party, who swore to me that they would not vote a dime for the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.One Independent Green Party candidate in Virginia refused to sign on, pointing out to me that if he did, his Republican opponent would accuse him of not supporting the troops. I pointed out to him that a majority of the voters in his district wanted the war ended and that he could accuse war supporters of subjecting troops to illegal orders and endangering their lives for no good reason, in fact for a bad reason. While this candidate still did not sign on, preferring to represent his opponent rather than the people of his district, he expressed surprise and approval for what I told him, which was apparently new to him.
That’s typical. Atypical are congress members like Alan Grayson (D., Fla.). In 2010 he was perhaps the most vocal opponent of the War on Afghanistan, urging the public to lobby his colleagues to vote against funding bills. This led to predictable attacks from his opponents in the next election — as well as more corporate spending against him than any other candidate. On August 17, 2010, Grayson sent out this Email:
“I’ve been introducing you to my opponents. On Friday, it was Dan Fanelli, the racist. Yesterday, it was Bruce O’Donoghue, the tax cheat. And today, it’s Kurt Kelly, the warmonger.
“In Congress, I am one of the most outspoken opponents of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Before I was elected, I spent years prosecuting war profiteers. So I know what I’m talking about.
“Unlike chickenhawk Kurt Kelly. On Fox News (where else?) Kelly said this about me: ‘He put our soldiers, and our men and women in the military in harm’s way, and maybe he wants them to die.’
“Yes, Kurt. I do want them to die: of old age, at home in bed, surrounded by their loved ones, after enjoying many Thanksgiving turkeys between now and then. And you want them to die: in a scorching desert, 8000 miles from home, alone, screaming for help, with a leg blown off and their guts hanging out of their stomachs, bleeding to death.”
Grayson has a point. Those who fail to “support the troops” can’t very well be accused of putting the troops at risk, since “supporting the troops” consists precisely of leaving the troops at risk. But warmongers like to believe that opposing a war is the equivalent of siding with an enemy.
ONLY THE ENEMY OPPOSES A WAR
Imagine an atheist’s position on a debate over whether God is a holy trinity or just a single being. If the atheist opposes the holy trinity position, he’s quickly accused of backing the single being, and vice versa, by those who can’t wrap their minds around the possibility of honestly not wanting to take one side or the other. To those for whom opposition to a war’s existence is incomprehensible, failure to cheer for the red, white, and blue must equate with cheering for some other flag. And to those marketing the war to these people, waving an American flag is enough to nudge them to this conclusion.
In 1990, Chris Wallace of ABC News asked the former commander of the War on Vietnam William Westmoreland the following question:
“It’s become almost a truism by now that you didn’t lose the Vietnam War so much in the jungles there as you did in the streets in the United States. How worried should the president and the Pentagon be now about this new peace movement?”[ix]
With that kind of question, who needs answers? The war has already been sold before you open your mouth.
When Congressmen Jim McDermott (D., Wa.) and David Bonior (D., Mich.) questioned the Iraq war lies in 2002, Washington Post columnist George Will wrote “Saddam Hussein finds American collaborators among senior congressional Democrats.”[x] These war pitchers were equating criticizing a war with fighting a war — on the side of the enemy! Thus ending a war because we the people are against it is the same thing as losing a war to the enemy. Wars can neither be lost nor ended. They must simply be continued indefinitely for the good of the troops.
And when the war makers want to escalate a war, they pitch that idea as a means toward ending the war. But when it comes time to demand the funding and force Congressman Obey to reject his conscience, then the escalation is disguised as a mere continuation. It’s easier to fund a war on behalf of the troops out there in harm’s way if nobody knows that what you’re funding is actually the shipping of another 30,000 troops to join the ones already deployed, in which case rejecting the funding couldn’t conceivably strand any troops without bullets; it would just mean not sending more troops to join them.
At the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010, we had a good democratic debate over whether to escalate the war in Afghanistan, a debate in the corporate media between the Commander in Chief and his generals. Congress and the public were largely left out. In 2009 President Obama had already launched a similar escalation with no debate at all. For this second round, once the President had caved in to the generals, one of whom he would later fire for a seemingly much more minor act of insubordination, the media ended the story, conducted no more polls, and considered the escalation done. In fact, the President went ahead and started sending the troops. And congress members who had sworn they opposed the escalation began talking about the need to fund the “troops in the field.” By the time six months had gone by, it was possible to make the vote on the funding a big story without mentioning that it was for an escalation at all.
Just as escalations can be described as support-the-troop continuations, war continuations can be disguised as withdrawals. On May 1, 2003, and August 31, 2010, presidents Bush and Obama declared the War on Iraq, or the “combat mission,” over. In each case, the war went on. But the war became ever more purely about the troops as it shed any pretences of having some purpose other than prolonging its own existence.
SUPPORT THE VETERANS?
No matter how much government officials talk about the troops as their motivation for action, they fail to take action to care for veterans who’ve already been deployed. War veterans are abandoned rather than supported. They need to be treated with respect and to be respectfully told that we disagree with what they did, and they need to be provided healthcare and education. Until we can do that for every living veteran, what business do we have creating more of them? Our goal, in fact, should be to put the Veterans Administration out of operation by ceasing to manufacture veterans.
Until that time, young men and women should be told that war is not a smart career move.Yellow ribbons and speeches won’t pay your bills or make your life fulfilling. War is not a good way to be heroic. Why not serve as a member of an emergency rescue crew, a firefighter, a labor organizer, a nonviolent activist? There are many ways to be heroic and take risks without murdering families. Think of the Iraqi oil workers who blocked privatization and formed a labor union in the face of U.S. attacks in 2003. Picture them ripping off their shirts and saying, “Go ahead and shoot.” They were taking risks for their nation’s independence. Isn’t that heroic?
I understand the desire to support those making sacrifices supposedly for us, and those who already have made the “ultimate sacrifice,” but our alternatives are not cheering for more war or joining the enemy, creating more veterans or abusing the ones we have. There are other options. That we don’t think so is purely the result of our televisions spouting nonsense with great frequency for so long it begins to smell sensible. Comedian Bill Maher (whom I mention without condoning his islamophobia which really took off after this was written) expressed his frustration this way:
“For the longest time, every Republican election has been based on some sentimental bullshit: the flag, or the flag pin, or the Pledge, or the, ‘It’s morning in America.’ Bill Clinton got a blowjob in the Oval Office. And the Dixie Chicks insulted President Bush on foreign soil. And when that happens, it hurts the feelings of our troops. And then Tinkerbell’s light goes out and she dies. Yes, yes, the love of our troops, the ultimate in fake patriotism. Are you kidding? The troops, we pay them like shit, we fuck them and trick them on deployment, we nickel and dime them on medical care when they get home, not to mention the stupid wars that we send them to. Yeah, we love the troops the way Michael Vick loves dogs. You know how I would feel supported if I was a troop overseas? If the people back home were clamoring to get me out of these pointless errands. That’s how I would feel supported. But, you know, don’t hold your breath on that one fellas because, you know, when America invades a country, we love you long time. Seriously, we never leave, we leave like Irish relatives: not at all.”
If we all purged ourselves, as Maher has, of the “support-the-troops” propaganda, we wouldn’t have to say “Support the Troops, Bring Them Home.” We could skip half of that and jump ahead to “Bring them home and prosecute the criminals who sent them.” It should go without saying that we wish the troops well. That’s one of the main reasons we don’t want them pointlessly killing and dying!
But we do not actually approve of what they are doing. Our praise is reserved for those soldiers who refuse illegal orders and nonviolently resist. And we approve of the work being done courageously and with great dedication by Americans in hundreds of professions other than war. We ought to say we support them once in a while. We all fail to do that, and fortunately we don’t accuse each other of wanting all those people dead, the way we do if someone fails to say “I support the troops.”
SUPPORT THE MASS MURDER?
Blogger John Caruso collected a list of news items reporting things he especially did not support, things that get brushed aside as too inconvenient when we delude ourselves into believing that wars are fought on behalf of the soldiers fighting them. Here’s part of the list:[xi]
From the New York Times :
“We had a great day,” Sergeant Schrumpf said. “We killed a lot of people.”
But more than once, Sergeant Schrumpf said, he faced a different choice: one Iraqi soldier standing among two or three civilians. He recalled one such incident, in which he and other men in his unit opened fire. He recalled watching one of the women standing near the Iraqi soldier go down.
“I’m sorry,” the sergeant said. “But the chick was in the way.”
“Raghead, raghead, can’t you see? This old war ain’t — to me,” sang Lance Cpl. Christopher Akins, 21, of Louisville, Ky., sweat running down his face in rivulets as he dug a fighting trench one recent afternoon under a blazing sun.
Asked whom he considered a raghead, Akins said: “Anybody who actively opposes the United States of America’s way . . . If a little kid actively opposes my way of life, I’d call him a raghead, too.”
From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
The 20-year veteran of the Marine Corps said he found the soldier after dark inside a nearby home with the grenade launcher next to him. Covarrubias said he ordered the man to stop and turn around.
“I went behind him and shot him in the back of the head,” Covarrubias said. “Twice.”
Did he feel any remorse for executing a man who’d surrendered to him? No; in fact, he’d taken the man’s ID card off of his dead body to keep as a souvenir.
From the Los Angeles Times:
“I enjoy killing Iraqis,” says Staff Sgt. William Deaton, 30, who killed a hostile fighter the night before. Deaton has lost a good friend in Iraq. “I just feel rage, hate when I’m out there. I feel like I carry it all the time. We talk about it. We all feel the same way.”
[i]Solomon, War Made Easy, p. 155.
[ii]Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, “Using ‘Pro-Troops’ To Mean ‘Pro-War’ Is Anti-Journalistic,” by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), March 26, 2003,Accessed October 7, 2010, http://www.fair.org/activism/pro-troops.html.
[iii]Zogby, “Press Release:U.S. Troops in Iraq.”
[iv]Stavins et alia, Washington Plans an Aggressive War, p. 273.
[v]David Swanson, Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union, (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2009), p. 158.
[vi]Brewer, Why America Fights.
[vii]Stavins et alia, Washington Plans an Aggressive War, p. 42.
[ix]Solomon, War Made Easy, p. 157.
[xi]John Caruso, “Support the Troops?” A Tiny Revolution, April 7, 2010.AccessedOctober 7, 2010, http://www.tinyrevolution.com/mt/archives/003243.html.
Four Months into Iraq War 3.0, the Cracks Are Showing -- on the Battlefield and at the Pentagon
By Peter Van Buren
Karl von Clausewitz, the famed Prussian military thinker, is best known for his aphorism “War is the continuation of state policy by other means.” But what happens to a war in the absence of coherent state policy?
Actually, we now know. Washington’s Iraq War 3.0, Operation Inherent Resolve, is what happens. In its early stages, I asked sarcastically, “What could possibly go wrong?” As the mission enters its fourth month, the answer to that question is already grimly clear: just about everything. It may be time to ask, in all seriousness: What could possibly go right?
Knowing Right from Wrong
The latest American war was launched as a humanitarian mission. The goal of its first bombing runs was to save the Yazidis, a group few Americans had heard of until then, from genocide at the hands of the Islamic State (IS). Within weeks, however, a full-scale bombing campaign was underway against IS across Iraq and Syria with its own “coalition of the willing” and 1,600 U.S. military personnel on the ground. Slippery slope? It was Teflon-coated. Think of what transpired as several years of early Vietnam-era escalation compressed into a semester.
And in that time, what’s gone right? Short answer: Almost nothing. Squint really, really hard and maybe the “good news” is that IS has not yet taken control of much of the rest of Iraq and Syria, and that Baghdad hasn’t been lost. These possibilities, however, were unlikely even without U.S. intervention.
And there might just possibly be one “victory” on the horizon, though the outcome still remains unclear. Washington might “win” in the IS-besieged Kurdish town of Kobane, right on the Turkish border. If so, it will be a faux victory guaranteed to accomplish nothing of substance. After all, amid the bombing and the fighting, the town has nearly been destroyed. What comes to mind is a Vietnam War-era remark by an anonymous American officer about the bombed provincial capital of Ben Tre: “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”
More than 200,000 refugees have already fled Kobane, many with doubts that they will ever be able to return, given the devastation. The U.S. has gone to great pains to point out just how many IS fighters its air strikes have killed there. Exactly 464, according to a U.K.-based human rights group, a number so specific as to be suspect, but no matter. As history suggests, body counts in this kind of war mean little.
And that, folks, is the “good news.” Now, hold on, because here’s the bad news.
The U.S. Department of State lists 60 participants in the coalition of nations behind the U.S. efforts against the Islamic State. Many of those countries (Somalia, Iceland, Croatia, and Taiwan, among them) have never been heard from again outside the halls of Foggy Bottom. There is no evidence that America’s Arab “allies” like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, whose funding had long-helped extreme Syrian rebel groups, including IS, and whose early participation in a handful of air strikes was trumpeted as a triumph, are still flying.
Absent the few nations that often make an appearance at America's geopolitical parties (Canada, the Brits, the Aussies, and increasingly these days, the French), this international mess has quickly morphed into Washington's mess. Worse yet, nations like Turkey that might actually have taken on an important role in defeating the Islamic State seem to be largely sitting this one out. Despite the way it’s being reported in the U.S., the new war in the Middle East looks, to most of the world, like another case of American unilateralism, which plays right into the radical Islamic narrative.
The ultimate political solution to fighting the war in Iraq, a much-ballyhooed “inclusive” Iraqi government uniting Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds, has taken no time at all to fizzle out. Though Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi chose a Sunni to head the country’s Defense Ministry and direct a collapsed Iraqi army, his far more-telling choice was for Interior Minister. He picked Mohammed Ghabban, a little-known Shia politician who just happens to be allied with the Badr Organization.
Even if few in the U.S. remember the Badr folks, every Sunni in Iraq does. During the American occupation, the Badr militia ran notorious death squads, after infiltrating the same Interior Ministry they basically now head. The elevation of a Badr leader to -- for Sunnis -- perhaps the most significant cabinet position of all represents several nails in the coffin of Iraqi unity. It is also in line with the increasing influence of the Shia militias the Baghdad government has called on to defend the capital at a time when the Iraqi Army is incapable of doing the job.
Those militias have used the situation as an excuse to ramp up a campaign of atrocities against Sunnis whom they tag as “IS,” much as in Iraq War 2.0 most Sunnis killed were quickly labeled "al-Qaeda." In addition, the Iraqi military has refused to stop shelling and carrying out air strikes on civilian Sunni areas despite a prime ministerial promise that they would do so. That makes al-Abadi look both ineffectual and disingenuous. An example? This week, Iraq renamed a town on the banks of the Euphrates River to reflect a triumph over IS. Jurf al-Sakhar, or “rocky bank,” became Jurf al-Nasr, or “victory bank.” However, the once-Sunni town is now emptied of its 80,000 residents, and building after building has been flattened by air strikes, bombings, and artillery fire coordinated by the Badr militia.
Meanwhile, Washington clings to the most deceptive trope of Iraq War 2.0: the claim that the Anbar Awakening -- the U.S. military’s strategy to arm Sunni tribes and bring them into the new Iraq while chasing out al-Qaeda-in-Iraq (the “old” IS) -- really worked on the ground. By now, this is a bedrock truth of American politics. The failure that followed was, of course, the fault of those darned Iraqis, specifically a Shia government in Baghdad that messed up all the good the U.S. military had done. Having deluded itself into believing this myth, Washington now hopes to recreate the Anbar Awakening and bring the same old Sunnis into the new, new Iraq while chasing out IS (the “new” al-Qaeda).
To convince yourself that this will work, you have to ignore the nature of the government in Baghdad and believe that Iraqi Sunnis have no memory of being abandoned by the U.S. the first time around. What comes to mind is one commentator's view of the present war: if at first we don’t succeed, do the same thing harder, with better technology, and at greater expense.
Understanding that Sunnis may not be fooled twice by the same con, the State Department is now playing up the idea of creating a whole new military force, a Sunni “national guard.” Think of this as the backup plan from hell. These units would, after all, be nothing more than renamed Sunni militias and would in no way be integrated into the Iraqi Army. Instead, they would remain in Sunni territory under the command of local leaders. So much for unity.
And therein lies another can't-possibly-go-right aspect of U.S. strategy.
The forces in Iraq potentially aligned against the Islamic State include the Iraqi army, Shia militias, some Sunni tribal militias, the Kurdish peshmerga, and the Iranians. These groups are, at best, only in intermittent contact with each other, and often have no contact at all. Each has its own goals, in conflict with those of the other groups. And yet they represent coherence when compared to the mix of fighters in Syria, regularly as ready to slaughter each other as to attack the regime of Bashar al-Assad and/or IS.
Washington generally acts as if these various chaotically conflicting outfits can be coordinated across borders like so many chess pieces. President Obama, however, is no Dwight Eisenhower on D-Day at Normandy pointing the British to one objective, the Canadians to another, ultimately linking up with the French resistance en route to the liberation of Paris. For example, the Iranians and the Shia militias won't even pretend to follow American orders, while domestic U.S. politics puts a crimp in any Obama administration attempts to coordinate with the Iranians. If you had to pick just one reason why, in the end, the U.S. will either have to withdraw from Iraq yet again, or cede the western part of the country to IS, or place many, many boots on the ground, you need look no further than the strategic incoherence of its various fractious “coalitions” in Iraq, Syria, and globally.
The Islamic State
Unlike the U.S., the Islamic State has a coherent strategy and it has the initiative. Its militants have successfully held and administered territory over time. When faced with air power they can’t counter, as at Iraq’s giant Mosul Dam in August, its fighters have, in classic insurgent fashion, retreated and regrouped. The movement is conducting a truly brutal and bloody hearts and minds-type campaign, massacring Sunnis who oppose them and Shias they capture. In one particularly horrific incident, IS killed over 300 Sunnis and threw their bodies down a well. It has also recently made significant advances toward the Kurdish capital, Erbil, reversing earlier gains by the peshmerga. IS leaders are effectively deploying their own version of air strikes -- suicide bombers -- into the heart of Baghdad and have already loosed the first mortars into the capital’s Green Zone, home of the Iraqi government and the American Embassy, to gnaw away at morale.
IS's chief sources of funding, smuggled oil and ransom payments, remain reasonably secure, though the U.S. bombing campaign and a drop in global oil prices have noticeably cut into its oil revenues. The movement continues to recruit remarkably effectively both in and outside the Middle East. Every American attack, every escalatory act, every inflated statement about terrorist threats validates IS to its core radical Islamic audience.
Things are trending poorly in Syria as well. The Islamic State profits from the power vacuum created by the Assad regime’s long-term attempt to suppress a native Sunni "moderate" uprising. Al-Qaeda-linked fighters have just recently overrun key northern bastions previously controlled by U.S.-backed Syrian rebel groups and once again, as in Iraq, captured U.S. weapons have landed in the hands of extremists. Nothing has gone right for American hopes that moderate Syrian factions will provide significant aid in any imaginable future in the broader battle against IS.
Trouble on the Potomac
While American strategy may be lacking on the battlefield, it’s alive and well at the Pentagon. A report in the Daily Beast, quoting a generous spurt of leaks, has recently made it all too clear that the Pentagon brass “are getting fed up with the short leash the White House put them on.” Senior leaders criticize the war’s decision-making process, overseen by National Security Adviser Susan Rice, as “manic and obsessed.” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel wrote a quickly leaked memo to Rice warning that the president’s Syria strategy was already unraveling thanks to its fogginess about the nature of its opposition to Assad and because it has no “endgame.” Meanwhile, the military's “intellectual” supporters are already beginning to talk -- shades of Vietnam -- about “Obama's quagmire.”
Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey has twice made public statements revealing his dissatisfaction with White House policy. In September, he said it would take 12,000 to 15,000 ground troops to effectively go after the Islamic State. Last month, he suggested that American ground troops might, in the future, be necessary to fight IS. Those statements contrast sharply with Obama's insistence that there will never be U.S. combat troops in this war.
In another direct challenge, this time to the plan to create those Sunni National Guard units, Dempsey laid down his own conditions: no training and advising the tribes will begin until the Iraqi government agrees to arm the units themselves -- an unlikely outcome. Meanwhile, despite the White House's priority on training a new Syrian moderate force of 5,000 fighters, senior military leaders have yet to even select an officer to head up the vetting process that’s supposed to weed out less than moderate insurgents.
Taken as a whole, the military's near-mutinous posture is eerily reminiscent of MacArthur's refusal to submit to President Harry Truman's political will during the Korean War. But don’t hold your breath for a Trumanesque dismissal of Dempsey any time soon. In the meantime, the Pentagon’s sights seem set on a fall guy, likely Susan Rice, who is particularly close to the president.
The Pentagon has laid down its cards and they are clear enough: the White House is mismanaging the war. And its message is even clearer: given the refusal to consider sending in those ground-touching boots, Operation Inherent Resolve will fail. And when that happens, don't blame us; we warned you.
The U.S. military came out of the Vietnam War vowing one thing: when Washington went looking for someone to blame, it would never again be left holding the bag. According to a prominent school of historical thinking inside the Pentagon, the military successfully did what it was asked to do in Vietnam, only to find that a lack of global strategy and an over-abundance of micromanagement from America's political leaders made it seem like the military had failed. This grew from wartime mythology into bedrock Pentagon strategic thinking and was reflected in both the Powell Doctrine and the Weinberger Doctrine. The short version of that thinking demands politicians make thoughtful decisions on when, where, and why the military needs to fight. When a fight is chosen, they should then allow the military to go all in with overwhelming force, win, and come home.
The idea worked almost too well, reaching its peak in Iraq War 1.0, Operation Desert Storm. In the minds of politicians from president George H.W. Bush on down, that “victory” wiped the slate clean of Vietnam, only to set up every disaster that would follow from the Bush 43 wars to Obama's air strikes today. You don’t have to have a crystal ball to see the writing in the sand in Iraq and Syria. The military can already sense the coming failure that hangs like a miasma over Washington.
In or out, boots or not, whatever its own mistakes and follies, those who run the Pentagon and the U.S. military are already campaigning strategically to win at least one battle: when Iraq 3.0 collapses, as it most surely will, they will not be the ones hung out to dry. Of the very short list of what could go right, the smart money is on the Pentagon emerging victorious -- but only in Washington, not the Middle East.
Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during the Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. A TomDispatch regular, he writes about current events at his blog, We Meant Well. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.
Copyright 2014 Peter Van Buren
A case can be made that democracy worked in this month's U.S. midterm elections, while representative democracy failed miserably.
On ballot initiatives all across the country, people in so-called red and blue states voted for raising the minimum wage, banning fracking, funding schools, taxing millionaires and billionaires, legalizing marijuana, reducing prison sentences, providing paid sick leave, and imposing background checks on gun purchases.
Want smaller government? I think we've found a worthy replacement. Let people govern themselves. They do a fine, fine job of it.
Imagine if candidates or a political party pushed for restoring a decent value to the minimum wage, banning fracking, and the whole rest of that agenda. I bet some people would vote for such candidates. And I mean even with the gerrymandering, the suppression and intimidation, the unverifiable voting machines, the disgusting negative advertising, the even more disgusting media coverage, and the legalized bribery system in all its glory, you would still see more people turn out to vote and to vote for progressive candidates -- if there were progressive candidates on the ballot and in the media in the same way that the current crop of Democrats and Republicans are.
But the candidates would have to be believable. People would have to get the sense that there were things the candidates cared about and would work their hardest for, that they couldn't be bought off with dollars or favors or rewards from a party leadership. The fact is that busy overworked and under-informed voters and potential voters primarily want to reject the current broken system. With nobody proposing to make the system better, those proposing to make it even worse attract support away from those proposing to muddle along more or less in the same dreary mess with a grumbled complaint or two. And, yes, every single candidate looked unworthy of voting for to the majority of potential voters. They stayed home.
Early indications are that neither the new Republican Congress nor the Democratic minority (nor President Obama) will be pushing for national legislation on the model of what voters just passed in ballot initiatives.
On the contrary, the Republican Congress expects to find a willing partner in President Obama for a conservative agenda that only a minority of Americans support. The White House and Republicans are talking up the NAFTA-on-steroids Trans-Pacific Partnership that nobody campaigned on.
Obama apparently will delay until January a vote on the war he's already intensifying in Iraq and Syria. His FCC is pushing for the elimination of internet neutrality. (Obama himself just spoke again in support of net neutrality, but whether actions follow words is always a big question.) The new Congress will be pushing for the tar sands pipeline that Obama has for years refused to stop.
Obama's surveillance state will have a willing partner, as will his agenda of burying information on the crimes of his predecessor.
And if you expect Congressional Democrats to push back strongly in support of middle class and working class Americans, you see something in them that many voters don't.
After the last midterms, the Occupy movement and related resistance movements began germinating. What sort of independent popular pressure will be brought to bear now? One place to start is by saying no to Republibama government.
Dr Hakim / Dr Teck Young, Wee
“You didn’t know about the decision of the Singapore government to join the fight against ISIS?” she asked.
I was catching up with another Singaporean, Lynette ( a pseudonym to respect her privacy ), who had previously worked in Kabul and who was back in Afghanistan to do a month-long community-based survey with a U.S. university, looking at the impact of disability on Afghan communities.
“Military force is necessary to blunt IS on the ground but missiles and rockets alone cannot and will not bring peace,” said Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam at a recent Singapore Parliamentary session. “…the true fight has to be in the arena of ideas.” At the same Parliamentary meeting, Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen, to explain why Singapore had decided to join in the U.S.-led coalition fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, said that Singapore Armed Forces participation in Afghanistan “was found to be effective.”
Writing from Kabul where the U.S./NATO coalition has fought a war over the past 13 years, a coalition which at one point included Singapore in its rank and file of 50 countries, I wish Mr Shanmugam and Dr Ng would re-examine the ‘idea’ of the military strategy in Afghanistan being ‘effective’, especially in the light of the United Nations reporting an increasing number of Afghan civilian casualties in the past year, the majority of whom are Afghan children.
Imal, whose father was a civilian casualty of a U.S./NATO drone attack in 2008,
wearing the blue scarf at the Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre in Kabul
I wish Dr Ng and Shanmugan could live with me and ordinary Afghans in Kabul for a while, to hear the occasional bomb blasts greeting us in the mornings, to see the worry etched on the faces of Afghan mothers looking out for the return of their children from school, to know that while the U.S./NATO/Afghan coalition conducts attacks, night raids, drone bombings, and targeted killings, the Taliban have taken control of quite a few places in the provinces neighbouring Kabul.
An online report, dated 5th November, stated that ‘The SAF's deployment ( to join the U.S. led coalition fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq ) will include liaison and planning officers, a KC-135R air-to-air refuelling aircraft, and an imagery analysis team.’
If Dr Ng and Shanmugan could sense the anger, hatred, hunger and discontent on the faces of the ‘Taliban’ or other fighters in Afghanistan, they would know that we cannot ‘fight an ideology’ with KC-135R air-to-air refuelling aircraft or imagery analysis teams.
They would understand why the war against ‘terrorism’ has increased ‘terrorism’. The more Singaporean and other coalition forces support military operations to identify and kill fighters in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the angrier these fighters will become. Bombing the IS ideology from skies far away from Singapore makes its followers more intensely vengeful. Everyone becomes more endangered.
If an ideology is inhumane, like the one ISIS is promoting, we can trust Iraqis, Syrians, Afghans and Singaporeans to reject it, or we could present the huge variety of happier alternative ideas that will crowd it out. We should shift our focus to non-military ideas in the arena.
Underlying this lack of alternative ideas is another crisis: education systems all over the world are test-based, elitist and militarized. Our human ideas, imagination, thinking and empathy are increasingly limited by the narrow narratives of profit and force.
I was really happy to receive some Thai curry spices from kind Lynette, and to hear her updates from Singapore.
As we talked about the impact of disability on Afghan communities, I mentioned to Lynette that, second to Israel, Singapore is the most militarized nation in the world. Lynette acknowledged having recently learned that Singapore hasn’t signed the UN Mine Ban Treaty. “In fact,” she told me, “Singapore is probably still manufacturing land mines!”
Afghanistan has about 10 million land mines and Kabul is the most heavily land-mined capital in the world. Between 1999 and 2008 Afghanistan had the highest number of landmine casualties (12,069) in the world, according to the Landmine Monitor Report 2009. Though official statistics on disability in Afghanistan are non-existent, there are an estimated 400,000 to 655,930 disabled people, according to World Bank and Handicap International reports, many with wounds sustained during three decades of conflict.
We were sitting in the Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre. The room has comfortable cushions and blue décor, matching the blue scarves which the Afghan Peace Volunteers at the Centre use to symbolize their working belief that ‘all human beings live under the same blue sky.’
A team of four Afghan girls and four Afghan boys had gathered in the next room to discuss plans to abolish war which they have realized is an outmoded human method of resolving conflict. They have experienced this method of war in Afghanistan over the past four decades, resulting in the loss of at least 2 million Afghan loved ones. They are tired of war and know how ineffective it is.
I thought, “We need more of such pacifist-leaning, nonviolent ideas. These eight Afghan Muslim youth are engaging in the arena of ideas and have a lot to share with us who live in sheltered comfort away from the arena of war.”
Three weeks ago, Siavash and Christoffer from the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society held a three-day Disarmament Workshop at the Centre.
Another idea: Christoffer asked, “Can you tell me, as people who have grown up experiencing the daily effects of war, whether you would feel more secure if I walked into this room with a weapon or without?”
My mind drifted back to the disability survey Lynette had helped to conduct.
Sometimes, ideas are one-track, and they are delivered with the closed-end, unscientific finality of officialdom. I told Lynette about a time when I was helping some Singaporean tetraplegic patients to set up a support group, many years ago. The Head of Land Transport Authority, at the time, was a former Chief of Army named Han Eng Juan. He had said that ‘providing public transport facilities for the disabled was not a black and white issue -- to make it accessible or not accessible. It is a question of how far to go -- it can be limitless and we can make it so elaborate but unaffordable’”
My tetraplegic friends and I felt devalued by Han’s calculations.
I was reminded that some ideas may at one point seem to be the only idea, or the best idea. But….
We should be willing to converse about and embrace diverse ideas, to learn, to educate one another from life’s school, and to wonder, for example, why Afghanistan is in worse straits after the most powerful militaries in the world have kept up the same coalition strategy of killing.
Faced with a serious crisis of state and non-state ‘terrorism’, we can address the root causes of ‘terrorism’, like power-grabbing, profiteering, inequality, poverty, corruption, extreme ideologies etc. We can lessen the anger and despair that fuels terrorism by seeking ways to share resources fairly, by upholding egalitarian livelihoods and pedagogies, by promoting use of non-fossil fuels. We can strengthen abilities to use dialogue, mediation, reconciliation, restorative justice, compassion and critical pedagogies in resolving conflicts. Theater, music, arts and culture can bring us together. The potential non-military solutions in the arena of ideas are limitless, and kinder.
Also, the unsustainable politics of concentrated wealth and power in the hands of a few can be replaced by genuinely democratic, non-corporatized governance where the people, and not the ‘central governments’ of today, decide how they can resolve all human conflicts without war.
As an advocate of nonviolence, I disagree with the use of force. I don’t believe in killing. But even Lee Kuan Yew recognized the limitations of military force when he said in a Newsweek interview in 2003 that “In killing terrorists, you will only kill the worker bees ……Americans, however, make the mistake of seeking a largely military solution.”
Singapore, in joining the U.S. led coalition against ISIS, is making the same mistake.
Dr Hakim is a medical doctor from Singapore who has done humanitarian and social enterprise work in Afghanistan for the past 10 years, including being a friend and mentor to the Afghan Peace Volunteers, an inter-ethnic group of young Afghans dedicated to building non-violent alternatives to war. He is the 2012 recipient of the International Pfeffer Peace Prize.
By Ted Glick
“The people gonna rise like the waters,
Gonna calm this crisis down.
I hear the voice of my great granddaughter
Saying shut FERC down right now.”
Who would have thought it? On Friday morning, November 7th, for 2 ½
hours, the determined and courageous nonviolent activists of Beyond
Extreme Energy shut down the DC headquarters of the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission, FERC.
All three entrances to the building were successfully blockaded, and
virtually no one was getting in.
By 9 am there were about 150 FERC employees massed on the sidewalks in
front of FERC, waiting for the police to clear away five fracking
fighters who had successfully locked down at 7 am with lock boxes
across the driveway into the FERC parking garage. The driveway had
been the route used by police to funnel FERC employees into the
building for the four days previous when BXE activists had
successfully blockaded the two pedestrian entrances.
For short periods of time during those four days, no more than for
maybe 20 minutes at a time, we had been able to prevent pedestrian use
of that driveway (we prevented car use for the entire week). We did so
by forming a long enough line of people to prevent anyone getting
through, until the cops moved in and made arrests after their required
three warnings. About 70 people were arrested over the course of the
But Friday morning was different. And because of the successful lock
box action and total blockade, it was different in a way none of the
BXE organizers had even thought about.
Friday was the day for additional fracktivists and extractivists from
the severely fracked-up state of Pennsylvania to join BXE. So as those
150 FERC employees waited to get into the building, we organized a
teach-in on the front sidewalk, right in the midst of the employees.
For fifteen or twenty minutes people like Maggie Henry and Veronica
Coptis spoke from the heart, shedding tears but fighting through them,
to let the silent and listening FERC employees know the human toll
that their support of the gas rush has caused. There were no catcalls,
no boos, no one publicly questioning the truth of what was being said.
It was a very special moment.
We had been talking with and distributing material to FERC employees
and others passing by all week. The leaflet we distributed to FERC
employees said, in part:
“We apologize for any disruption to your work day, but that’s what
we’re here for—to disrupt the workings of FERC, which continues to
approve gas infrastructure projects that threaten the health and
quality of life for millions of Americans and the whole planet through
increased greenhouse gas emissions.
“Many of you work at FERC because you think it does a good job of
balancing the needs of industry and economic development with the
health and environmental challenges of impacted communities. But the
Obama Administration’s ‘all of the above’ strategy is condemning us to
runaway climate chaos while condemning families in fracking’s path to
a hellish existence. FERC should be prioritizing the emergence of
renewable energy as a growing sources of our electrical power.”
We found surprisingly little hostility from the close to 2,000 people
we distributed our flyers to. We even found, to our surprise,
indications of support from some of the Federal Protective Services
and DC Metro police who were doing their best to keep FERC open
despite our blockading. Going into the week, our lawyer had said to us
that he expected that they would get more aggressive as the week went
by, but that turned out, in general and with exceptions, not to be the
Exceptions included a couple of people tasered on Friday after we
heard talk of it earlier in the week, several people falsely charged
with “assault” for standing their nonviolent ground as part of a
blockade and some police assistance to a small number of aggressive
FERC employees who tried to push through us.
Central to the success of this action were the sisters and brothers
from the Great March for Climate Action who were there for all, or
most, of the week. The decision to do this action during election week
had a lot to do with the plan of the Great March to arrive in DC on
November 1, ending on that day their eight month walk across the
United States. Many of us not part of that march were impressed by the
depth of commitment and soulful strength and organizing smarts they
collectively brought to the November 1-7 week.
We received more than a little bit of criticism about our decision to
do this week during election week, and we understood why. We were not
doing this to make a statement about how messed up our electoral
system is and that people should forget voting—not at all. In our call
to action we said, right up at the top, “vote we must, but we must
also do more.” If the Great March had not been arriving on November 1
we probably would have moved things back a week or two.
But as it turns out, it was very timely that Beyond Extreme Energy did
happen during election week, during a week when the Republicans took
back the Senate and Democrats generally did pretty badly—in large part
because of the willingness of far too many, once again, to be
It is time, in 2015 and 2016, for many, many more of us to “vote” with
our whole lives through massive, serious, strategic nonviolent direct
action campaigns that are as coordinated as we can make them.
Investors in the fossil fuel industry, Democrats and others who want
our votes, members of the mass media and the American people generally
need to get it that the climate justice movement, increasingly aligned
with other movements for progressive social change, refuses to accept
“all of the above” and “business as usual.” We know what time it
is—there is little time left—and we are the leaders we have been
waiting for. Now must be, has to be, our time to rise up in large
numbers and with a spirit of love, a nonviolent discipline and a
willingness to sacrifice that cannot be ignored.
Ted Glick was one of the organizers of Beyond Extreme Energy,
representing the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Past writings and
other information can be found at http://tedglick.com, and at twitter
Right now, there's a law called the Second Chance Act that recently expired and needs to be reauthorized. In 2008, it was passed by bipartisan majorities of both Houses of Congress, funding over 600 programs in 49 states to reduce recidivism, and help ex-offenders reintegrate into their communities. These programs - dealing with drug treatment, job opportunities, and mental health - have been tremendously successful at reducing crime rates and helping people successfully rebuild their lives.
There are 2.2 million inmates in the United States, nearly all of whom will be released. Making sure that they have the ability to build a life and contribute to their communities is critical to ensuring they don't ever go back.
Signing the petition will generate messages to your Members of Congress.
A bipartisan team of Senators and Representatives, led by Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Portman (R-OH), and Representatives Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Davis (D-IL), has been working to reauthorize this critical bill (S. 1690/H.R. 3465), but they need your help. There's a great chance to pass the bill in the lame duck session, but Congress will be faced with lots of other issues. We need you to remind your Members of Congress about the Second Chance Act, and to make it clear that it's important to you, their constituents.
It's not hard. All you have to do is sign the petition.
If we can get it to a vote, the Second Chance Act will pass easily. But we need your help to get those votes. Support the Second Chance Act today!
Bob Baskin, President
P.S. "Like" us on Facebook if you haven't already. Keep up to date on all kinds of great peace information.
This advertisement for permanent war appeared in my local newspaper today.
By pointing out this fact I am neither opposing working with religious groups that favor peace nor asserting that Martin Luther King Jr. was a warmonger.
But religious peace activists could, as far as anyone can tell, be peace activists without the religion.
This advertisement could NOT promote war without religion. Its entire basis for promoting war is religion, for which no substitute is imaginable.
Exactly like an argument for abolition of war, the ad begins by asking why we should engage in so much killing and destruction at such great expense, while other crises cry out for our attention.
Why? Because magic.
An ancient book says there must be war. And that settles it.
Clearly one can attribute magical powers to that book and choose to ignore selected parts that our culture has outgrown.
Why not the part about war?
Because we have a culture of war, and religious support for it is only one part. But it's a part we can set aside if we choose to, in a process of learning to think more critically. And that could have far-reaching results.
Imagine all the people living life in peace.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
Bush Family, Inner Circle at Center of Lawsuits vs. Denton, TX Fracking Ban<p>On November 4, <a href="http://www.desmogblog.com/
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
George P. Bush; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
On November 4, Denton, Texas, became the first city in the state to ban the process of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") when 59 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of the initiative. It did so in the heart of the Barnett Shale basin, where George Mitchell — the "father of fracking" — drilled the first sample wells for his company Mitchell Energy.
As promised by the oil and gas industry and by Texas Railroad Commission commissioner David Porter, the vote was met with immediate legal backlash. Both the Texas General Land Office and the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA) filed lawsuits in Texas courts within roughly 12 hours of the vote taking place, the latest actions in the aggressive months-long campaign by the industry and the Texas state government to fend off the ban.
The Land Office and TXOGA lawsuits, besides making similar legal arguments about state law preempting local law under the Texas Constitution, share something else in common: ties to former President George W. Bush and the Bush family at large.
In the Land Office legal case, though current land commissioner Jerry Patterson signed off on the lawsuit, he will soon depart from office. And George Prescott Bush — son of former Florida Governor and prospective 2016 Republican Party presidential nominee Jeb Bush and nephew of former President George W. Bush — will take his place.
George P. Bush won his land commissioner race in a landslide, gaining 61 percent of the vote. Given the cumbersome and lengthy nature of litigation in the U.S., it appears the Land Office case will have only just begun by the time Bush assumes the office.
The TXOGA legal complaint was filed by a powerful team of attorneys working at the firm Baker Botts, the international law firm named after the familial descendants of James A. Baker III, a partner at the firm.
Baker III served as chief-of-staff under both President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush, Secretary of State under George H.W. Bush and as a close advisor to President George W. Bush on the U.S. occupation of Iraq. He gave George P. Bush a $10,000 donation for his campaign for his race for land commissioner.
Photo Credit: Texas Land Commission
The Energy Policy Act of 2005, which exempts the oil and gas industry from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act for fracking, is seen by critics as the legacy of ashes left behind by the George W. Bush Administration.
Yet almost a decade later, the two lawsuits filed against Denton show the Bush oil and gas legacy clearly lives on and stretches from the state where the fracking industry was born all the way to Iraq and back again.
From World Beyond War:
Open this PDF for a joint statement from over 20 peace organizations and what you can do: Alternatives-to-War
Here’s a more in-depth answer to “What About ISIS?” from World Beyond War.
November 11 is Armistice Day. Here’s a tool kit from Veterans For Peace that you can use in celebrating and educating. And here’s an article describing how Armistice Day or Remembrance Day has been changed from a day of peace to a day of war — a history we have to know if we are going to change it.
Here’s a tool kit for all kinds of events developed by World Beyond War.
The first thing we can all do is sign the peace pledge if you haven’t, and ask others to do so if you have.
Are you keeping up with war abolition news on our blog?
Are you working on anything we can help with? Let us know!
Our Strategy Committee is putting the finishing touches on an educational booklet making the case to newcomers for why and how to end all war on earth.
If you’d like to join the Strategy Committee or the Media or Outreach or Events or Fundraising or Nonviolence or Research or Speakers Committees, please let us know.
If you don’t have the time to be that involved, do you have the ability to chip in a small donation to help fund our work?
Gen. Petraeus will be back and so will we!
This time around, he will be the honorary conversant at a benefit of Youth, I.N.C.
Cocktail Reception and Live Entertainment
Private Dinner for Youth, I.N.C. Guests
Because antiwar activists and medical humanitarians are pushing the issue, the United Nations will be discussing the U.S. use of depleted uranium in weapons, particularly in Iraq, even as the U.S. military makes plans to use them again in the new campaign of bombings. We call your attention to these developments. Our friend Dr. Mozhgan Savabiesfahani, a toxicologist, is studying the environmental destruction of Iraq during the U.S.
Last Thursday evening, at the 92nd Street & in Manhattan — which has a reputation for being a center of culture and freedom of expression — Ray McGovern (the outspoken anti-war activist and former CIA analyst) was confronted by name and denied entry to an event where General David Petraeus was speaking. Very quickly after being blocked by 92nd Street Y security, Ray was injured by the NYPD, arrested, held overnight in Central Booking (formerly known as The Tombs), and charged with "criminal trespass" in the third degree, and "resisting arrest."
To contact Bartolo email peaceloversingle[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
Hot tub poll shows Republicans don’t like their politicians: Election Night Wasn’t a GOP Victory, It was a Democratic Rout
By Dave Lindorff
The sclerotic Democratic Party was trounced yet again yesterday, as Republicans outdid projections and appear to have taken at least seven Senate seats away from the Democrats, giving them control of the both houses of Congress.
By Robert C. Koehler
“Individuals and peoples have a right to peace.”
In the beginning was the word. OK. This is the beginning, and these are the words, but they haven’t arrived yet — at least not officially, with full force of meaning.
It’s our job, not God’s, to create the new story of who we are, and millions — billions — of people fervently wish we could do so. The problem is that the worst of our nature is better organized than the best of it.
The words constitute Article 1 of the U.N.’s draft declaration on peace. What alerts me that they matter is the fact that they’re controversial, that “there is a lack of consensus” among the member states, according to the president of the Human Rights Council, “about the concept of the right to peace as a right in itself.”
David Adams, former UNESCO senior program specialist, describes the controversy with a little more candor in his 2009 book, World Peace through the Town Hall:
“At the United Nations in 1999, there was a remarkable moment when the draft culture of peace resolution that we had prepared at UNESCO was considered during informal sessions. The original draft had mentioned a ‘human right to peace.’ According to the notes taken by the UNESCO observer, ‘the U.S. delegate said that peace should not be elevated to the category of human right, otherwise it will be very difficult to start a war.’ The observer was so astonished that she asked the U.S. delegate to repeat his remark. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘peace should not be elevated to the category of human right, otherwise it will be very difficult to start a war.’”
And a remarkable truth emerges, one it’s not polite to talk about or allude to in the context of national business: In one way or another, war rules. Elections come and go, even our enemies come and go, but war rules. This fact is not subject to debate or, good Lord, democratic tinkering. Nor is the need for and value of war — or its endless, self-perpetuating mutation — ever pondered with clear-eyed astonishment in the mass media. We never ask ourselves, in a national context: What would it mean if living in peace were a human right?
“The real story of the rise of ISIS shows that US interventions in Iraq and Syria were central in creating the chaos in which the group has thrived,” writes Steve Rendall in Extra! (“Addicted to Intervention”). “But that story doesn’t get told in US corporate media. . . . The informed input of actual experts on the region, who don’t march in lockstep with Washington elites, might put a crimp in the public’s support for the war, support largely informed by pro-war pundits and reporters, and the familiar retired military brass — often with ties to the military/industrial complex.
“With pundits reflexively calling for more attacks,” Rendall adds, “there’s virtually no one to note that US wars have been catastrophic for the people in the targeted countries — from Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya.”
It’s a remarkable system that makes no sense from the point of view of compassion and planetary solidarity, and would surely be dismantled in an honest democracy, in which who we are and how we live is always on the table. But that’s not how nation-states work.
“The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form,” Gandhi said, as quoted by Adams. “The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence.”
And those who speak for the nation-state embody the addiction to violence and fear, and always see threats that require forceful reaction, never, of course, considering either the horror that force will inflict on those in its way or the long-term (and often enough short-term) blowback it will bring about.
Thus, as Rendall notes, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Fox News that “if ISIS wasn’t stopped with a full-spectrum war in Syria, we were all going to die: ‘This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home.’”
“Rise to the occasion” is how we talk about inflicting concentrated violence on random, faceless people we’ll never know in their full humanity, except for the occasional picture of their suffering that shows up in the war coverage.
Regarding the accumulation of enemies, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently announced that the military has begun preparing to defend the United States against . . . climate change.
Kate Aronoff, writing at Waging Nonviolence, notes the extraordinary irony of this in view of the fact that the Pentagon is the biggest polluter on the planet. In the name of national defense, no environmental regulation is so important that it can’t be utterly ignored and no piece of Earth is so pristine that it can’t be trashed for eternity.
But that’s what we do, as long as national identity defines the limits of our imagination. We go to war against every problem we face, from terrorism to drugs to cancer. And every war creates collateral damage and new enemies.
The beginning of change may simply be acknowledging that peace is a human right. The U.N.’s member states — at least the major ones, with standing armies and stockpiles of nuclear weapons — object. But how could you trust such a declaration if they didn’t?
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at commonwonders.com.
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