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Bernie’s right on free tuition -- we had it once: Free College for All Worked in the US for 100 Years Until Elite Took It Away
By Robert M. Nelson
Why was the US public willing to tolerate new US war-making in Iraq and Syria in 2014–2015, after having opposed it in 2013? This time the advertised enemy was not the Syrian government, but terrorists scarier than al Qaeda, called ISIS. And ISIS was shown to be cutting the throats of Americans on videos. And something switched off in people's brains and they stopped thinking -- with a few exceptions. A few journalists pointed out that the Iraqi government bombing Iraqi Sunnis was in fact driving the latter to support ISIS. As if to hammer this point home, ISIS produced a 60-minute movie depicting itself as the leading enemy of the United States and virtually begging the United States to attack it. (When the United States did attack, recruitment soared, just as ISIS had expected.) Even Newsweek published a clear-eyed warning that ISIS would not last long unless the United States saved it by bombing it. Matthew Hoh warned that the beheadings were bait not to be taken. And of course I shouted the warnings of this book everywhere I could. But the US government and much of the public took the bait.
READ THE REST AT Truthout.org.
Editorial: 1 in 4 NY voters prohibited from casting ballots because they do not belong to either party. Same fate will befall independents in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania - Bloomberg
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
By David Swanson, American Herald Tribune
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry say that allowing family members of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for its complicity in that crime would set a terrible precedent that would open the United States up to lawsuits from abroad.
Wonderful! Let the lawsuits rain down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream!
Suing Saudis over 9/11 will only set a precedent if it succeeds, which is to say if there is evidence of Saudi complicity. We know that there is, according to former Senator Bob Graham and others who have read 28 pages censored from a U.S. Senate report. Pressure is building in Congress both to reveal those 28 pages and to allow lawsuits. And yet another Senate bill gaining support would block further U.S. arming of Saudi Arabia.
The precedent of allowing international victims to sue those complicit in murder would not place you, dear reader, or I at risk of any lawsuits. It would, however, put numerous top U.S. officials and former officials at risk of suits from many corners of the globe, including from the seven nations that President Obama has bragged about bombing: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya. It's not as if any of these wars is legal under Kellogg-Briand or the U.N. Charter.
Combined with the possible precedent of allowing victims of U.S. domestic gun violence to sue gun manufacturers, the possibility could emerge for countless parents, children, and siblings of U.S. killings in countless countries to begin suing Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, etc.
Even just the precedent of allowing suits against Saudi Arabia could have far-reaching consequences before expanding it to other countries. Imagine if Yemenis could sue Saudis for the current slaughter from the air? If they could, then what about Boeing? And what about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who allowed Boeing to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia after Boeing gave her family foundation $900,000 and Saudi Arabia gave over $10 million?
In her last ditch effort at the presidency, Clinton has joined Senator Bernie Sanders in claiming that she supports allowing 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia -- something she is highly unlikely to take any other steps to advance.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is threatening to sell off $750 billion worth of U.S. properties. (No word on whether Hillary Clinton is listed among those properties.) I say let the sales commence! Let the U.S. government take three-quarter's of one-year's military spending, buy those properties, and give them to the public or use them to compensate the people of Yemen. Or freeze those assets now without buying them, and give them to the U.S. and Yemeni people.
Of course, Obama and Kerry may be raising the notion of a precedent for suing the U.S. mostly as cover for the fact that they are showing greater loyalty to the Saudi royalty than to 9/11 victims. The U.S. public needs only the slightest excuse to avoid recognizing where its rulers true loyalties lie. Italy has convicted CIA agents of kidnapping to torture, and never sought their extradition. Pakistani courts have already ruled against U.S. drone murders, and the U.S. has failed to so much as yawn in response. The U.S. has refused to join the International Criminal Court, and claims a unique status outside the rule of law -- a rogue status for which it would urge sanctions on any other nation claiming something similar while possessing too much oil or not enough U.S. weaponry.
Still, precedents can be set politically and legally, even against the will of one of the parties involved. For U.S. foreign policy to be compelled to treat 9/11 as the crime that it was, a crime committed by certain individuals, could mean a few important things: (1) a serious investigation of 9/11, (2) rejection of the idea that 9/11 was part of a war launched by the entire world, or the Muslim portion of the world, and in which the United States is entitled to seek revenge thousands of times over and without limits in time or space, (3) greater understanding that U.S. terrorism, just like 9/11 but on a larger scale, is criminal activity for which particular individuals can be held accountable.
What could answer the deepest needs of the 9/11 victims and family members could also answer many needs of U.S. victims in Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq, etc., and that is a truth and reconciliation commission. Getting to that will be accomplished by precedents and changes in thinking in our culture, not by any particular legal development. Such a procedure would be a success if afterwards the U.S. and Saudi and other governments began paying reparations in the form of humanitarian aid, costing them far less than they are now putting into wars, but doing a world of good for people rather than the criminal harm being done right now and for years past.
Last week, the Vatican hosted a conference on the theme of “Nonviolence and Just Peace: Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment to Nonviolence,” organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace along with the global Catholic peace network Pax Christi International. In their concluding appeal to Pope Francis, the 80 conference participants recommended that he reject Just War Doctrine as a viable or productive Catholic tradition. They also recommended that he write a new encyclical laying out the Catholic Church’s commitment to nonviolence in all of its manifestations—including nonviolent action as a means of engaging in conflict, nonviolent conflict resolution as a way of resolving conflict, and nonviolence as the principle doctrine of the Catholic Church.
If such an encyclical follows, this is a big deal. The just war tradition—which contains numerous doctrines morally justifying violence and war, as well as defining appropriate conduct during war—has served for the past 1500 years as the primary normative basis politicians have evoked (correctly or incorrectly) to validate their waging of war. Because the Catholic Church developed the doctrine between the 4th and 13th centuries, the just war canon has had a monopolistic influence on the way people in the West think about war and violence—whether they know it or not. Consequently, many people now take for granted concepts like the right to self-defense, the importance of weighing the goals of war against its potential human costs, the need to exhaust other options before going to war, and the necessity of only fighting wars you think you can win. Whether you’re the President of the United States in D.C., a police officer on the beat in Denver, or a student in a self-defense class in L.A., these moral concepts have probably had a deep impact on your thinking and your experience when it comes to the proper uses of violence.
Conference participants acknowledged the main sticking point for many skeptics of nonviolence—that promoting (or using) nonviolence can be difficult in the face of armed aggression. Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International and a participant at the conference, claimed that the group fully considered this challenge. Yet she argued that the international community hasn’t yet devoted resources to developing or discovering nonviolent alternatives to armed aggression because of our reflexive turn to violence as the only possible response. In her words, “as long as we keep saying we can do it with military force, we will not invest the creative energy, the deep thinking, the financial and human resources in creating or identifying the alternatives that actually could make a difference.”
So—why is the Catholic Church reconsidering now? Reporter Terrence Lynne argues that there are five primary reasons for this—among them the fact that contemporary weapons of war render obsolete any positive impacts that war might have; and what he calls “the compelling, thrilling saga of nonviolent action over the 60 years since Gandhi.” Indeed, among the arguments Pope Francis used to encourage the conference participants was the dramatic rise in the effectiveness of nonviolent resistance over the past century—a trend we hear a lot around the halls of the Korbel School. In fact, one of the participants in this landmark conference was my colleague Maria J. Stephan, whose work on civil resistance in a variety of struggles around the world helped to provide a strong empirical basis for this conference.
How’s that for engaged scholarship?
Erica Chenoweth is Professor & Associate Dean for Research | Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver. Originally published at Political Violence at a Glance, republishing permitted.
John Hanrahan, currently on the editorial board of ExposeFacts, is a former executive director of The Fund for Investigative Journalism and reporter for The Washington Post, The Washington Star, UPI and other news organizations. He also has extensive experience as a legal investigator. Hanrahan is the author of Government by Contract and co-author of Lost Frontier: The Marketing of Alaska. He has written extensively for NiemanWatchdog.org, a project of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.
We discuss these articles by Hanrahan at Truthout.org:
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My son left a 2015 Guinness Book of World Records lying around. It's largely a mix of athletic feats, extravagant spending, freakish body conditions and diseases, and people who do dumb stuff in order to get into the book. It also features two sections focused on mass-murder. One celebrates the technology used to kill people. In that section, the United States is featured almost exclusively. The other section looks more at the wars, killing, and dying. In that section, the United States could not be avoided, but every effort was made.
Starting with the celebration of the tools of death, Guinness chooses to include these awards for the United States of America:
Most sea craft.
Most total firepower.
Most expensive super carrier.
Longest range stealth mini-sub.
Most expensive drone.
Most expensive military aircraft program.
Largest air force.
Most common fighter aircraft.
Longest "serving" bomber.
Largest anti-mine naval exercise.
Largest aerial assault using poisoned mice.
First successful combat submarine.
First air-to-air refueling.
First pilotless aircraft to cross the Pacific.
First drone launched from a submerged submarine.
Highest number of firearms per person.
First 3-D printed pistol.
Wow! Cool! Exciting! Go, Science!
Now, flip to the pages with wars, and the U.S. role seems to shrink a bit. Lots of other nations emerge from the shadows. The United States is listed as spending the most money on militarism and launching the most drone strikes. And if you're paying attention, you'll notice that the "least peaceful" nations (Afghanistan, Somalia, and Syria) are all nations that the United States is bombing, and that the nation from which the most refugees have fled (Afghanistan) has seen that happen during a U.S. "liberation" or occupation. But every effort is made to depict war as emerging from somewhere other than the Pentagon.
The deadliest conflict for children is supposedly in Syria, with no mention of Iraq. The list of wars with the highest death tolls since 1955 includes the war on Vietnam, but no mention of Iraq at all. The highest number of civilian deaths in an undeclared war is supposedly Syria, perhaps because somebody is thinking that somebody else "declared" "War!" before destroying Iraq. The "least secure" nukes are supposedly in North Korea. Etc.
A serious look at world records would be a little different. It might look something like this:
Nation fighting greatest number of simultaneous wars: United States.
Nation with greatest number of troops stationed abroad: United States.
Nation with greatest number of foreign bases: United States.
Nation with troops in greatest number of nations: United States.
Nation with greatest number of troops at sea: United States.
Nation with greatest military use of outerspace: United States.
Nation selling the greatest quantity of weaponry to the world: United States.
Nation selling the greatest quantity of weaponry to the Middle East: United States.
Nation selling the greatest quantity of weaponry to poor nations: United States.
Nation giving the greatest quantity of weaponry to other nations: United States.
Nation giving the greatest quantity of weaponry to proxy fighters abroad: United States.
Nation whose weaponry is used on both sides of the greatest number of wars: United States.
Nation whose military most often trains two sets of troops to fight against each other: United States.
Nation holding out on ratifying the greatest number of treaties restricting weaponry and war-making: United States.
Only nation that has dropped nuclear bombs on cities: United States.
Nation using and selling the most cluster bombs, depleted uranium weapons, white phosphorus, and napalm: United States.
Nation whose military consumes the most petroleum: United States.
Nation that has overthrown the most other governments: United States.
Nation that has participated in the most wars since World War II: United States.
Nation that has dropped the most bombs since World War II: United States.
Nation that has killed the most people since World War II: United States.
Only nation in which a presidential candidate has been asked in a televised debate if he will be willing to kill thousands of innocent children as part of his basic duties if elected: United States.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Hooey –- silly talk/nonsense –- frequently has slimy characteristics and slime is slippery.
Former President Bill Clinton recently slipped on some silly talk when trying to dance around a slime trail oozing from his presidency during the 1990s.
Watch the video:
What in the world is he singing about? This: http://davidswanson.org/outlawry
By Bill Distler
"Privatization of Afghanistan's state-owned companies, which controlled many of the country's mineral resources, was ongoing but not complete." (From the 2011 edition of the U.S. Geological Survey's Minerals Yearbook)
We have been at war in Afghanistan for over 14 years. This answers the first four journalistic questions of who, what, where, and when, but it doesn’t answer the most important question. Why?
To understand U.S. involvement in Afghanistan today it might help if we re-learn a common term from the Old West. The term is “claim-jumping”. In the history of the Old West, as taught to us by Hollywood movies of the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, claim-jumpers were right up there with the bushwackers, dry-gulchers, cattle rustlers, and horse thieves who played the necessary villains of the story. Some of our greatest Hollywood heroes, including Audie Murphy (a World War II hero in real life), the Lone Ranger, Gabby Hayes, and John Wayne, had run-ins with these varmints.
This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com.
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The desire to punish for the joy of punishing, for revenge, or for racist or sadistic domination has always had certain difficulties hiding behind the pretense of punishing for protection from danger. Creating fear of (young, black, male) "super predators" was a propaganda tactic for politicians like Hillary Clinton that bore some similarity to the efforts by politicians like Hillary Clinton to create fear of Iraqi weapons that didn't exist. The latter was meant to hide U.S. aggression toward Iraq. The former was meant to hide mad, raging punitive vindictiveness that sought to put lots of people in cages for lots of time regardless of the damage done.
One of the difficulties that pretending to punish people for public safety has in hiding real motives for mass incarceration is that the people whom the punishers most want to lock up for the longest time (or execute) are generally the least likely people to commit another crime (even if guilty of the first one). A 2009 study cited in the remarkable new book, Boy With a Knife, found that those who had been incarcerated for homicide were the very least likely to commit any kind of crime. In California in 2011 almost 49% of prisoners released later returned to prison for new criminal convictions, but that figure was less than 1% for those released who had been convicted of murder.
Part of the explanation for this may be that those convicted of murder were kept longer in prison and that older people are less likely to murder than younger people. But many studies have also found that prison has the opposite effect of rehabilitation, that people who learn to survive in prison are learning how not to survive when released, and that being released with the label of "felon" and little to no assistance in finding employment or income makes rehabilitation less likely. But even the theory that age is a factor or a theory that prison actually rehabilitates people cuts against the theory of the "super predator," of the subhuman monster incapable of reform.
There's also overwhelming evidence that locking up children makes them more likely to commit crimes as adults. This is true in general, and most children who are locked up are locked up for minor, non-violent crimes, the sorts of crimes that tend to be repeated a lot more than murder does. Yet, the United States, now the only nation on earth that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which would put an end to such practices, locks up children in adult prisons and tells itself this outrage is justified by the need to protect the public from what Hillary Clinton used to call "super predators." The U.S. tries about 250,000 children in adult courts each year, not because this serves the children or adults or society, but because of a general sense of hatred of and fear of those children. Wildly out of proportion to actual levels of crime, 62% of the children tried in adult courts are African American.
Boy With a Knife provides this context but principally tells the true account of a crime and its punishment. In 1993 in Massachusetts a white boy named Karter Reed fatally stabbed another boy. Nothing excuses that action anymore than anything excuses flying an airplane into the World Trade Center. But learning the events that led up to it explains it, just as learning what U.S. foreign policy was during the 1990s explains 9/11. Reed was denied a father by incarceration. Reed grew up in a culture of violence and danger. Reed believed, just like the Pentagon, that being armed with deadly weaponry would keep him safe. Reed panicked and lashed out, not bombing Libya but sticking a knife into another boy's stomach. He did so not imagining the boy would die. Nobody dies from such things on television, after all. He did so in a crowded school classroom full of adults there to break up a fight, adults who were guaranteed to witness his action and to apprehend him.
Karter was tried in adult court and sent away to adult prison following a trial in which he was falsely presented as a monster who had killed joyfully. Beyond the actual crime, which was indeed monstrous, Karter was prosecuted for supposedly being rebellious, anti-social, cool and calculating, enjoying murder and reveling in it -- all of which happened not to be true, but none of which had anything to do with the suffering of the victim, the victim's loved-ones, the witnesses, or the community. How many decades should be added to a child's sentence in hell for having smiled or for having broken trivial prison rules since being locked up pre-trial? How is restitution made or justice restored by locking a child in a cage until he's old?
The answer, it seems, is: with great difficulty and struggle and rarity. Karter Reed's story is one of redemption, of beating the odds, of rehabilitating himself despite prison, not because of it. It's one of the better stories from among the thousands of stories that we know so little of and that should not have to exist.
Irish VFP Member Edward Horgan to Appear in Ennis Court for Attempting to Inspect US Military Planes at Shannon
On April 18th 2015, Dr Horgan was on his way to a peace conference in London when he saw four US Hercules C-130 jets lined up just beyond the Aer Lingus plane he was about to board. Knowing that the Gardaí were almost certainly not going to search them or to inform the public of the nature of these plane's reasons for being at Shannon, he felt compelled to search them.
In relation to the charges faced by Dr Horgan, John Lannon of Shannonwatch said:
"There are many unanswered questions about the US military and CIA use of Shannon, and about the type of operations they are engaged in. We have provided the Gardaí with information indicating complicity in torture, weapons transportation and war crimes but they have done nothing. Placing the onus on civil society organisations and individuals to produce concrete evidence, and then arresting and charging them when they try to get it, is not how the law should be enforced. But that is what has happened in Edward Horgan's case."
Despite government claims that US military planes at Shannon are all completely unarmed, carrying no arms, ammunition or explosives and are not part of military exercises or operations, Shannonwatch have evidence to the contrary. In September 2013, for example, a similar plane to the ones Edward Horgan was attempting to inspect was photographed at Shannon with a 30mm cannon mounted on the side.
"On that basis alone Dr Horgan was perfectly justified in inspecting the 4 Hercules jets he saw parked on the tarmac at Shannon" said John Lannon.
For more information phone 087 8225087 or email email@example.com.
By David Swanson
Remarks prepared for April 14 eventin Bellingham, Wash.
I believe that people in the United States often tend to have a particular hatred for taxes for three reasons above all others, but that many are not entirely clear in their thinking about these reasons. They are:
1) Unlike in many other countries, in the United States you don't really get very much for your taxes, so they seem like theft rather than a fair exchange.
2) To a greater extent than in many countries, U.S. taxes are not fairly applied. Working people often end up paying more than some very wealthy non-working people, as well as more than some very wealthy non-working non-people, otherwise known as corporations.
3) U.S. taxes originated as means to pay for wars, which were meant to be temporary, but our government has created a system of permanent war and permanent taxes (the majority of which go every year to wars and preparations for wars). Even those who cheer for wars can be upset when they find out the price tag. And those who recognize wars as immoral, counter-productive, one-sided slaughters of human beings see the resources wasted on wars as adding to the disaster of militarism in a major way because of what could have been done with those resources instead.
A bit more on these three points:
Michael Moore's Where to Invade Next and Steven Hill's Europe's Promise provide glimpses of what it must be like to pay taxes and receive something substantive in return. There are countries where, in exchange for your taxes, you receive guaranteed top-quality education from preschool through college, guaranteed comprehensive healthcare, up-to-date and relatively sustainable systems of parks, transportation, energy, and infrastructure, as well as laws guaranteeing paid parental leave and sick leave and vacation and retirement. These countries have better health, greater life-expectancy, smaller carbon footprints, higher happiness, and the freedoms and choices that come with not having to struggle for security all your life.
A governor of New York not long ago proposed spending a relatively paltry sum on college education for prisoners, to reduce recidivism, crime, and the greater expense of additional incarceration (and perhaps also to improve people's lives and those of their families and communities). The public threw such a fit that he withdrew the proposal. That would sound crazy in Europe, but in a country where most people have no easy way to go to college, a situation could have been created in which the simplest way to get to college would have been to commit a crime. Perhaps it was right to oppose that, but only if we instead create free college for all who want it.
The money now dodging taxes in Delaware, Nevada, and Wyoming likely dwarfs that found in Panama. The wealthy do not pay payroll taxes on most of their income. They don't pay taxes, or pay outrageously low taxes, on wealth, on financial transactions, on estates, on what's hidden in shell companies, on what rolls in from work done by others. Corporate owners' rank and file employees sometimes pay higher tax rates than they do. This sort of injustice breeds deep resentment, and as we've all been trained to admire the skills of the wealthy (or the so-called "successful") no matter how they cheat, the resentment becomes focused primarily on the IRS.
If you hate taxes but dutifully cheer for wars, it's lucky you also oppose school funding sufficient to produce historical literacy. Taxes are a byproduct of wars. Were it not for wars and war propaganda, this country would have never begun paying taxes. If we were to end wars, and only if we were to end wars, we could consider ending taxes too.
Between 1789 and 1815, tariffs produced 90 percent of government revenue. But taxes were needed for wars, including wars against protesters of the taxes -- such as President Washington's quashing of the Whiskey Rebellion.
A property tax was put in place in 1789 in order to build up a Navy. More taxes were needed in 1798 because of the troublesome French. But taxation really got going with the War of 1812 and took many forms, sales taxes, land taxes, etc.
The income tax was brought to you courtesy of the Civil War. The North began an income tax in 1862, and the Confederacy in 1863, both of them progressive and graduated. The income tax and the inheritance tax were dropped by 1872, and big taxation did not come back until World War I and its accompanying propaganda campaign. The Great War included an income tax, an estate tax, a munitions tax, an excess profits tax, and other big taxes on corporations and luxuries. Some of these taxes vanished after the war, but the income tax didn't. However, most ordinary people were still not seriously touched by taxation, which drew heavily from the wealthy.
World War II, which has in this and many other ways never ended, changed all that. The income tax became mainstream. By the end of World War II over 90% of U.S. workers were filing tax returns and the income tax had become the single biggest source of government funding. It was called "the Victory Tax." In a Disney cartoon, the narrator warned Donald Duck that "It takes taxes to beat the Axis!" An Irving Berlin song was titled "I Paid My Income Tax Today." Among the lyrics: "You see those bombers in the sky? Rockefeller helped to build them, So did I!"
Lucky me! We've never stopped building the bombers or paying the taxes. But the U.S. government has slashed taxes on corporations and on the wealthy and borrowed heavily. Increasingly the burden to pay is on working people, and what's paid for is largely the ongoing permanent preparations for war. Currently about 54% of discretionary spending goes into militarism. Imagine if, during tax week debates and interviews, the media were to ask presidential candidates whether they think 54% is low, high, or just right. We'd learn what they think about basic spending priorities, and many TV viewers might learn for the first time what our government's current spending priorities are.
The typical U.S. debate between spending more money on the one hand, and spending less money while building a bigger military on the other, is at odds with the reality in which the military takes a majority of the money, and in which additional big chunks go toward making the United States #1 in prisons and highways and fracking, etc. We need a debate not just on how much money the government gets, but on where it gets it from and what it spends it on. There's a movement called the Global Day of Action on Military Spending that cites UN reports to the effect that the world each year is spending about $25 billion on life-saving assistance to those harmed by wars and natural disasters, but $1,776 billion on creating more wars.
We could radically transform for the better the lives of people in the United States and abroad, with money to spare, if we moved a fraction of the U.S. military budget to productive peaceful spending.
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Hysterical Cold-War Style US Reporting as 2 Unarmed Russian Jets Buzz US Destroyer Sailing Near Russian Port
By Dave Lindorff
US news reports on an incident Tuesday in which two Russian jet fighters buzzed very close to a US destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, in the Baltic Sea, make it sound like a serious threat in which the US might have been justified in defending itself against a simulated attack on the high seas.
Nowhere in the reports in the US was it mentioned that the Cook was itself engaging in provocative behavior.
I'm going to start with a few brief opening remarks about what I think is the habit of thought that has made the United States #1 in the world in prisons and wars. And then I'll be glad to try to answer as many questions as you think of. These remarks will be published online at American Herald Tribune.
No matter how long I debunk and refute and mock and condemn arguments for wars, I continue over and over again to conclude that I'm still giving advocates for war too much credit. How ever little I take seriously as rational ideas the notions that U.S. wars can be defensive or humanitarian or peace-keeping, it's always too much. Wars' supporters, in large part, do not themselves actually hold such beliefs. Rather they have a lust for war that must be examined outside of any question of utilitarian impact.
I'm referring here to the mental processes of both top officials deciding to wage war, and ordinary members of the U.S. public expressing their approval. Of course, the two are not identical. Motives of profit are hushed up, while phony motives such as waging wars in order to "support the troops" are manufactured for public consumption but never ever mentioned in the private emails of war makers. Nonetheless, there is great overlap in the thinking of all members of a culture, including the thinking of cynical politicians in a corrupt regime, and there are points on which virtually all politicians, from best to worst, agree without giving the matter any thought.
One part of the common lust for war is the desire to punish wrongdoers. This motivation overlaps with revenge when depicted as a response to some wrong done to "us." It overlaps with defensiveness when depicted as punishing some person, force, or group that constitutes a dangerous threat. It overlaps with the drives for power and domination when presented as punishing a challenger to the authority of the U.S. government, or of the U.S. government and the handful of oligarchs who constitute "the international community." But this drive to punish can be distinguished as an important motivation that often seems to underpin more superficial rationalizations.
Look at a typical "humanitarian" war, such as the war to rescue Libyan civilians from imminent slaughter in 2011 or the war to rescue mountaintop dwellers from ISIS in 2013 which is ongoing and escalating. In both cases, the humanitarian rationale was essentially false. Gadaffi did not threaten to massacre civilians. The U.S. did not try to rescue civilians from ISIS; some were rescued by Kurds, some had no interest in being rescued. In both the case of Libya and that of ISIS, war supporters piled all sorts of other rationales on top of the humanitarian one, many of these related to punishment, including punishment of ISIS for beheading U.S. citizens with knives. Old grievances, some of them based on dubious claims themselves, were dredged up against Qadaffi. TV host Ed Schultz, for example, suddenly developed a passion for punishing Qadaffi for crimes that as far as I know hadn't disturbed Schultz's sleep for years prior if ever. Americans who could have all fit on a single and readily available airplane supposedly needed to be saved from the ISIS menace by a bombing campaign that focused on an oil-rich area, not on the threatened mountaintop.
In both cases, also, the humanitarian excuse was quickly abandoned. The rescues were quickly forgotten as the U.S. entered into a war to quickly overthrow the Libyan government and a war to slowly "destroy ISIS." In both cases, few questions were raised about this switch, and to many it was not perceived as a switch. Once you rescue helpless innocents from an evil menace, punishing the evil menace is just a normal follow through like completing a golf swing over your shoulder. In this way of thinking, the humanitarian argument isn't seen as a deceitful way to get a war started but as a justification for continuing the war until the wrongdoers are properly punished.
Look at a typical "defensive" war by the United States, like the vicious aggression against Iraq in 2003. Mixed in with all the lies about the supposed threat from Iraq was plenty of talk about punishing Iraq for violating UN resolutions and for that common reason given for bombing the people of a foreign nation: the tyrant of Iraq had "killed his own people" -- using, as is common, U.S. weapons. Similarly, the Gulf War had been punishment for the invasion of Kuwait, and the war on Afghanistan has been 15 years and counting of punishment for 9/11 of people who for the most part had never heard of 9/11.
What makes me turn from factually correcting a rational belief that these wars are somehow defensive to lamenting an irrational desire to punish somebody regardless of the consequences is the fact that when the wars are exposed as counterproductive, many of their supporters go right on supporting them and talking about the need to punish those who do evil -- even if the punishment itself constitutes a greater evil. Numerous top officials in the U.S. military and so-called intelligence so-called community admit the day after they retire that the drone wars and occupations are counterproductive, that they are generating more enemies than they are killing. This fact is casually referred to as self-evident in editorials by the biggest U.S. newspapers and in reports by U.N. rapporteurs, but never ever as an argument for ending these policies.
The global war on terrorism is predictably and admittedly generating more terrorism, and its supporters just don't care. The world's most expensive military, with troops in the most places and engagement in the most wars, creates for itself the most resentment and blowback, and the solution of the true believers is even more militarism.
What is the purpose of a war that brings more war? One answer can be found in listening to ordinary war supporters who ask whether war opponents want to just "let them get away with it," and in the remarks of President Obama who claims to be murdering with drones only individuals who could not possibly be apprehended and prosecuted. But, in fact, none of his victims has even been indicted, many if not most of them could easily have been apprehended, and most have not even been identified by name. The point of throwing around the word "prosecution" in discussing the new kill policy, as in discussing the old imprison-without-trial-and-torture policy is to convey the idea that what is being done is punishment.
We find, in fact, the drive to punish in arguments for wars going back for centuries. The Mexicans had to be punished for invading the United States, whether they did so or not. The Spanish had to be punished for blowing up the Maine, whether they did so or not. King George had to be punished for his crimes, the South had to be punished for seceding, the Vietnamese had to be punished for Tonkin whether it happened or not, etc. An especially curious thing about the drive to punish, as we see in foreign and domestic policy alike, is that it seems to be largely satisfied entirely regardless of whether the correct person is punished. And if the right person is punished, that person's background is of little concern.
Was ISIS created by the invasion of Iraq and the arming of fighters in Syria? Who cares? Does the bombing of ISIS kill innocents and boost ISIS recruiting? Who cares? Was a murderer and rapist brutally abused as a child? Who cares? Does DNA prove that he didn't do it at all? As long as that evidence can be kept from the judge or jury, who really cares? The important thing is to punish somebody.
There are probably more innocent men and women in prison in the United States now than there were people in prison here total -- innocent and guilty -- 30 years ago, or than there are total people in prison (proportionately or as an absolute number) in most nations on earth.
I don't mean that people are locked up for actions that shouldn't be considered crimes, although they are. I don't mean that people are policed and indicted and prosecuted by a racist system that makes some people far more likely to end up in prison than other people guilty of the same actions, although that is true, just as it's also true that the justice system works better for the wealthy than for the poor. I am referring rather to men and women who have been wrongly convicted of crimes they simply did not commit. I'm not even counting Guantanamo or Bagram or immigrants' prisons. I'm talking about the prisons just up the road, full of people from just down the road.
I don't know whether wrongful convictions have increased as a percentage of convictions. What has indisputably increased is the number of convictions and the lengths of sentences. The prison population has skyrocketed. It's multiplied several fold. And it's done so during a political climate that has rewarded legislators, judges, prosecutors, and police for locking people up -- and not for preventing the conviction of innocents. This growth does not correlate in any way with an underlying growth in crime. Nor have U.S. wars multiplied as the result of greater lawlessness among dictators who've fallen out of favor in Washington.
At the same time, evidence has emerged of a pattern of wrongful convictions. This emerging evidence is largely the result of prosecutions during the 1980s, primarily for rape but also for murder, before DNA testing had come into its own, but when evidence (including semen and blood) was sometimes preserved. Other factors have contributed: messy murderers, rapists who didn't use condoms, advances in DNA science that helps to convict the guilty as well as to free the innocent, avenues for appeal that were in some ways wider before the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, and the heroic work of a relative handful of people.
An examination of the plea bargains and trials that put people behind bars ought to make clear to anyone that many of those convicted are innocent. But DNA exonerations have opened a lot of eyes to that fact. The trouble is that most convicts do not have anything that can be tested for DNA to prove their guilt or innocence. There are very likely hundreds of thousands of innocent people in the U.S. prison system. Are they innocent of everything? Are they saints? Of course not. They are innocent of the crimes for which they were punished. In the minds of many that doesn't matter. After all, they are poor, they are black, they have bad friends, they were in bad places. This is the thinking that supports bombing foreign nations. Did everyone in that foreign nation supposedly blow up an airplane decades ago? Of course not, but they are Muslim, they have dark skin, they hate us for our freedoms. If we're punishing them for the wrong crime, it all evens out because we're punishing them for some other crime or for their general criminal evilness.
Peter Enns has just published a book called Incarceration Nation that makes the case that punitiveness in U.S. public attitudes has played a huge role in the growth of mass incarceration. It may also have played a huge role in the growth of the permanent state of war. In absolute numbers and per-capita the United States dwarfs the rest of the world in war making and incarceration, and has seen huge growth in both in recent years. Enns cites studies finding that U.S. mass incarceration may actually increase rather than reduce crime. That finding has impacted U.S. debates on criminal punishment like a massive oak falling in a deserted forest. Nobody cares. What does it matter if mass incarceration increases crime? That's not the point. The point is to punish. And many are willing to be treated as criminals in airports, in banks, in schools, in their own neighborhoods, if it means that criminals are being severely punished. Many are willing to give the police the benefit of every doubt if racial and religious groups demonized by war propaganda are alleged to be a threat nearby.
Ending the U.S. system of counterproductive criminal punishment is as unthinkable in U.S. politics as ending the counterproductive "destroying of ISIS."
These ideas have to be unthinkable, because thinking about them could lead to radical change. Militarism and incarceration drain incredible resources from actually beneficial projects, they do horrendous damage to their victims and those victims' families, but also to prison guards, police, and members of the U.S. military. They increase racism, sexism, homophobia, and violence. They erode civil liberties. They destroy communities. They spread hatred and violence. They ruin lives. Their damage spreads for generations. Why is the United States tops in both of these evils? Are they connected?
Public opinion matters in any society. The United States is very far from democratic, but a cheap and easy way to gain electoral support while simultaneously pleasing ones funders has been to press policies labeled tough on crime and tough on terrorism. That these policies may increase crime and terrorism in comparison with other available and unconsidered options doesn't change this fact as long as people cry out for punishment at all costs. Careers in Washington, D.C., are not typically advanced by opposing wars. Prosecutors are not typically celebrated or rewarded for refraining from prosecuting the innocent. This problem is so universal as to go almost unnoticed.
I recently noticed a study by U.S. academics in the Journal of Peace Research, a study of whether the loss of lives or dollars increased or decreased U.S. public support for wars. The study only considered the loss of U.S. lives, even though the single biggest result of U.S. wars is the killing of foreigners. The possibility that the loss of non-U.S. lives could have any impact on U.S. support for wars was not deemed worthy even of consideration. The same could be said in many contexts for the prosecution of innocents in U.S. courts.
Scientists at Yale University who run experiments observing babies and toddlers claim that very, very young U.S. citizens exhibit a desire to see wrongdoers punished, even at a cost to themselves or others. These are, however, very young people who have been rapidly inhaling U.S. culture for months or years. And if we accept the unproven and perhaps unprovable claim that babies are somehow born with such desires, we still have to accept that 96% of humanity seems to set them aside in ways that people in the United States, when they grow older, do not.
Still, the author of the book Just Babies is onto something. He cites the phenomenon of internet lynch mobs. A video of a woman putting a cat in a dumpster can result in death threats. The exoneration of a man who witnessed a vicious crime and did not prevent it has led to widespread efforts to ruin his life. People not involved in these incidents in any way, hear about them and organize ways to cause punishment. That inclination to punish, to lynch, to "bring to justice," is also an inclination that has helped kill millions of people in the Middle East in recent decades and helped ruin millions of lives at the hands of the U.S. police and prison system.
If I'm right about this, then we could help reduce and end wars and reduce and eliminate incarceration by eliminating or radically reducing and reforming the desire to punish wrongdoers for the sake of that punishment, for the Schadenfreude, the punishment for punishment's sake. And we might be able to advance that cause by developing restorative justice at home and abroad.
I recommend Rebecca Gordon's new book, American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes. But I don't want to see Bush or Obama or Rumsfeld or Hillary Clinton suffer. I want to see understanding of their crimes developed, repetition of their crimes deterred, restitution for their crimes attempted, remorse and reconciliation advanced. In urging yet another people's tribunal without the power to punish, Gordon urges the importance of making reparations and accomplishing public acknowledgment. The first such tribunal I testified at regarding Bush-Cheney war crimes was in January 2006, over a decade ago. The trick will clearly be to do one and simultaneously purchase a television network. The important point here, however, is that the desire for truth and reconciliation without punishment is not uncommon. Even in the United States there are many cases of murder victims' families opposing excessive punishment of those convicted of the murder. And there are families of 9/11 victims who have opposed from the start using 9/11 as an excuse for wars.
One year ago today Baltimore police murdered Freddie Gray, and many believed that because the police had done it, it was punishment -- for something. When people protested, police were brought in from all over the area, including police who had been trained in occupying enemy territory in Israel, police with weapons given them by the U.S. military, police trained by the federal government to think of themselves as at war with the public rather than serving the public.
The people of the city of Baltimore gave the federal government in taxes last year $606 million just for the Department of so-called Defense, not counting wars, not counting so-called Homeland Security, not counting nukes in the Department of Energy or Mercenaries in the Department of State or veterans care or debt on past spending. The people of Baltimore handed over further millions to pay for those things, possibly $1 billion in all. And another billion this year, and another the next. It's not clear what the people of Baltimore get for that beyond chaos, disaster and hatred of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, a militarized police force, the damage to U.S. troops from Baltimore, the erosion of our civil rights, the destruction of our natural environment, and the lack of funding for human needs.
Activist groups seem to be making these connections with events titled things like "From Ferguson to Palestine." A group in Los Angeles called Fight for the Soul of Our Cities is planning a march and rally on April 22nd against the militarization of police. There's a huge opportunity available if opponents of war and incarceration recognize that they are up against the same forces, the same mental habits, the same propaganda, the same corruption. If we can build a bigger movement, we can achieve bigger goals. But if we build that movement around the desire to punish the latest warmonger or police chief we may be shooting ourselves in the foot. We may get farther in the long run if we build a movement around a vision of a world without wars, prisons, or poverty -- and without the desire to punish people.
At a post-screening discussion where I questioned the director of Eye in the Sky about the disconnect between his drone-kill movie and reality, he launched into a bunch of thought-experiment stuff of the sort I've tried to avoid since finishing my master's in philosophy. Mostly I've avoided hanging out with torture supporters.
If this were a philosophy paper I would now tell you that I am going to show that consequentialism is the most useful ethical framework. Then I would show you that. Then I would tell you I'd just shown you that. And the annoyingness would be only beginning. Luckily, I'm out of school and have told you my central concern in the headline.
Consequentialism, the idea that we should base our actions on the good or bad of the expected consequences, has always been very troubling to philosophy professors, possibly because of some of these reasons:
> It leaves ethics up to humans without any sort of pseudo-divine guidance.
> It means otherwise brilliant people like Immanuel Kant were quite wrong.
> Concluding that consequentialism is the way to go would eliminate the entire academic discipline of debating what is the way to go.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
Clinton has a delegate lead thanks to 6 Deep South states: The Democratic Convention Pledged Delegates Story Nobody Talks About
By Dave Lindorff
Bernie Sanders is behind Hillary Clinton in the number of pledged delegates he has amassed over the course of just under two and a half weeks of primaries and caucuses. Her advantage in pledged delegates has fallen over the last month and a half from a high point of just over 300 to a current 213.