How short or long is a life lived --
In minutes, hours, days?
And in the ways we move with it --
How can it not amaze!
Thanks to Glenn Greenwald for pointing out that the U.S. media is acting as though Donald Trump just invented bigotry this week (one of those ugly details I'm happy to miss by never watching television). But not only is explicit bigotry toward Muslims not new, implicit bigotry toward Muslims has been the foundation of the largest public project in the United States for the past quarter century.
The driving forces behind war planning in Washington are power, domination, profit, politics, and the inertia of war planning as a path toward career success. These sociopaths are happy to bomb Germans or Yugoslavians. The value they place on sailors in Pearl Harbor or contemplated victims of Operation Northwoods, or U.S. troops stop-lossed into insanity is negligible. They don't think twice about overthrowing a democracy in Iran and laying the groundwork for Islamic power. They have no qualms about arming Muslim radicals in Afghanistan or Iraq, and toppling secular governments in Iraq or Libya or Syria. That most ISIS weaponry is U.S. weaponry seized from Iraq can only please the profiteers who will sell the weapons to combat ISIS. Their best friends are the killer Muslims running Saudi Arabia and nearby kingdoms. Their Christian hatred for Islam is as real as Karl Rove's integrity or Donald Trump's hair.
But you can't keep dumping $1 trillion a year into U.S. militarism without an enemy as frightening as -- actually it has to be more frightening than -- the Soviet Union and nuclear holocaust. In the irrational world of fear, a throat slitting is as frightening as a nuclear bomb, in fact more so. Many, many people in the United States, when they stop to think about it, recognize that the wars of recent decades have been counterproductive, creating enemies rather than eliminating them, endangering rather than protecting, costing a mountain of lives and of dollars, savagely destroying the natural environment, eroding civil liberties in the name of wars for "freedom," and brutalizing morality, justifying murder, torture, kidnapping, etc. But with fear and hatred of Muslims thrown into the mix, all of that clear understanding is erased by the need to kill Muslims. Suddenly a rich stew of World War II myths and Hollywood entertainment reminds everyone that only war works and nothing else is acceptable.
Donald Trump didn't vote for the war on Iraq that killed a million Muslims. He didn't vote to fund it and escalate it over and over again. Hillary Clinton did that. Which is not to say that Trump wouldn't have done so too, or worse, if he thought it would get him on TV more. The point is that the hatred is not new. Without it, basic U.S. policy would be understood as irrational.
There are now news stories from around the United States and the world about people shunning Trump businesses and expressing fear about living in Trump-branded buildings. They're concerned that there may be an attack. No doubt among those expressing this worry are some of that majority of Americans who tell pollsters they want more war. So, they recognize blowback. It's not a difficult concept. Hostility toward others produces hostility back toward you or someone taken to represent you. Pretty basic. But in advocating more war, millions of people are willing and able to hide their understanding of blowback in some fascist vault in a back corner of their brains. Sure, more war will produce more blowback, they may think, but hopefully it will hit somebody else -- especially if I unload my Trump condo and live somewhere else, perhaps a liberal gated community with an African-American guard whose name I even know.
I walked by a wall recently and took a photo of it. Someone had written "Anything war can do, peace can do better." Wisest thing I've ever seen on that wall. But someone else had scrawled underneath a poetic piece of pure ignorance from deep within the terrified soul of U.S. paranoia: "(Except stopping Hitler!)" I don't think the rest of the world finds it easy to get inside this type of U.S. thinking, in which the outside world is full of a menacing evil constantly analogized to Hitler, the "new Hitler," the "modern Hitler," -- and Hitler is understood as having arisen with no help from the Treaty of Versailles, no help from Wall Street, no assistance from the militarism of Western culture, and no possibility of being halted short of global domination except by massive violence.
Kids, dear world, in the United States, you should know are compelled to pledge allegiance to a U.S. flag every morning, and then to pray in what they call a "moment of silence." They are then taught a mythologized U.S. history year after year with hardly any mention of the other 96% of humanity. Then they're told that Muslims want to slit their throats. Why? What did they do? Nothing. They'd just been shopping and watching football and minding their own business. They had a flag out front and plenty of support-the-troops shit stuck to the SUV. Why? Must just be the barbarity of the Muslims. Why not kill them off? It worked with the Native Americans. Kill them off, but don't talk about it like that out loud.
Only, if there's a war on al Qaeda support it, and if there's a war with al Qaeda against Syria oppose it, and if it's repackaged as a war on al Qaeda under a new and even scarier name, support it with a passion. And if killing them is OK, what in the hell is all the fuss about over torturing them? And if torturing them is OK, what in the world could be wrong with denying them entry into the United States? This is the logic of war propaganda. Trump agrees with the Washington establishment, he just has some sort of media-driven Tourette syndrome that leads him to blurt things out. If he's made president, the second most dangerous place in this country will be a mosque. The first will remain anywhere between Trump and a television camera.
Sen. Sanders should consider the option of running as independent candidate in the presidential elections if Hillary Clinton is nominated by the Democratic party. The nomination of Clinton is not yet a fait accompli. Something may happen to turn the tide against Clinton and in favour of Sanders. But she may lock up the nomination with the help of the Democratic party machine, superdelegates, the endorsements of top Democratic politicians and major unions, super PACs, the Democratic National Committee, a favorable coverage by some big media outlets, etc. It may well be that Sanders will not win the Democratic nomination by virtue of his superior political platform and his activism; there are powerful interests that are opposing and trying to torpedo his candidacy. This is an aspect of the corrupt and rigged electoral system Sanders is talking about. There is also the possibility of a political cover up of Clinton misconducts regarding the private email server, the dealings of the Clinton Foundation and the Benghazi attack.
I believe that Sanders can win the November elections unlike past independent and third party candidates. First of all he has the backing of a progressive mass movement which will largely stick with him until the end. There is no other candidate that can represent it. Sanders is very popular; one more proof is that he has won the online readers’ poll for TIME Person of the Year, 'topping some of the world’s best-known politicians, activists and cultural figures as the most influential person of 2015 among those who voted.’ Sanders has the funding that will allow him to endure a protracted campaign. Democrats who will vote for Clinton in the November elections are a minority. A Gallup poll shows independents are the largest sector of the electorate, they are a key factor to win the Presidency. By running as independent Sanders will have more time to present his case to the American people, to make himself known to those that have not ‘heard enough’ of him, to gain political legitimacy and reputation as national and world leader.
By David Swanson
People in the United States want tighter gun laws within the United States. They probably can't be, and certainly aren't being, polled on the U.S. role as top weapons supplier to the world. You can't poll people on something they've never heard of.
People in the United States want more done to protect the environment. They have no clue that their government is politely destroying all hope for future human life at a nice conference in Paris. They've never heard that the U.S. military is the single biggest destroyer of the environment. These are topics you can't poll on.
People in the United States believe that ISIS is present within the United States trying to kill them. You can't poll them on what to do in the actual universe, because they're living in that one. In their la-la land they say the United States should wage more war on ISIS.
Even in an alternative universe in which ISIS members from Honduras have snuck Ebola into Planned Parenthood clinics, waging war on ISIS makes no sense. The war and the accompanying bigotry and hatred are the greatest gift ISIS could ask for. And it did ask for them. And the United States has obliged, helping ISIS's recruitment soar. Blowback isn't reduced by escalating. You can't use terrorism to eliminate terrorism.
But here's where the important delusions come in. More than a matter of immediate facts, good Americans suffer from a twisted worldview in which blowback is spontaneously generated by irrational subhuman urges in lesser races and religious groups, wars waged abroad by the United States don't hurt anyone -- other than evil beasts, the war on Iraq benefited Iraq, and wars can be made even better than normal by making them multicultural feminist environmentalist Geneva-Conventionized local efforts with dark-skinned inhabitants doing the dying but the United States doing the deciding.
Let's try a little context.
It is no more "defensive" now than it was in 2003 or any other year to bomb people's homes thousands of miles from your shores.
It is not an act of generosity -- except to the weapons makers -- to kill huge numbers of people for no good reason.
War is not a last resort, and imagining it is while cheering and pushing for it, is self-delusional in a very basic way, no matter how poorly informed you are.
As your World War II myths can probably be removed only with invasive surgery, just look at the past 70 years and find a war that worked on its own terms, that didn't produce more harm than it halted.
The politicians who lie to you about everything other than war, and the media that tries to bias you in disastrous directions on everything other than war, both do the exact same thing when it comes to war.
Two years ago you didn't want to join a war on Syria on the side of al Qaeda, but you didn't want to be bothered to really stop it, end the provision of arms and trainers, pull the CIA out, permit the world to negotiate peace. Now you want to join a war on Syria on the side of al Qaeda while simultaneously joining it on the side against al Qaeda under the new name ISIS.
Why? Because ISIS is evil, so evil you can't talk to them.
ISIS is a large and growing number of people. Do you intend to murder them all? Do you have any idea of the global storm of hatred and vengeance that doing so would unleash on the United States including from people within the United States who can't be kept out by some idiotic walls? Because if you don't intend to murder them all, but only some of them (generating more of them than you kill), then you're going to have to talk with those who survive.
I'm not even asking you to talk to them. I'm asking you to stop making matters worse. Stop bombing. Stop shooting. Stop flooding the region with weapons. Stop supporting governments that fund ISIS. Protect people at risk with actual defensive protection if needed, but don't use them as excuses for escalated war. Send in aid and peaceworkers. Let professionals at conflict resolution speak to ISIS. Go back to television and shopping. Just stop telling pollsters you want more war.
In the muddled midst of last week's mass killing in San Bernardino, California, a few words skittering across my Twitter feed gave me pause. "On this awful shooting: Is U.S. culture evil? Enemy of our civilization? Must all Americans apologize? Should we bar U.S. tourists as dangerous?" asked Simon Kuper, a columnist with the Financial Times.
By Dr Hakim
Former MSF Kunduz Hospital pharmacist, Khalid Ahmad, recuperating at Emergency Hospital in Kabul
“I feel very angry, but I don’t want anything from the U.S. military,” said Khalid Ahmad, a 20 year old pharmacist who survived the U.S. bombing of the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) / Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz on the 3rd of October, “God will hold them accountable.”
The actions of the U.S. military elicit the same contempt from Khalid and many ordinary Afghans as the actions of the Taliban or the ISIS.
Khalid was a little wary when Zuhal, Hoor and I were introduced to him in a ward of Emergency Hospital in Kabul, where he has been recuperating from a U.S. shrapnel injury to his spine that nearly killed him.
But, immediately, I saw his care for others. “Please bring a chair for him,” Khalid told his brother, not wanting me to be uncomfortable in squatting next to him, as we began our conversation in the corridor space outside the ward.
Having just recovered strength in his legs, he had walked tentatively to the corridor, making sure his urinary catheter bag wasn’t in the way as he sat down.
The autumn sun revealed tired lines on his face, as if even ‘skin’ can get permanently traumatized by the shock of bomb blasts.
“The Taliban had already taken control of all areas in Kunduz except the MSF Hospital and the airport. I felt I could still serve the patients safely because neither the Afghan /U.S. military forces nor the Taliban would bother us. At least, they’re not supposed to.” Khalid paused imperceptibly.
“As a neutral humanitarian service,” Khalid continued, “we treat everyone alike, as patients needing help. We recognize everyone as a human being.”
“I wasn’t scheduled to be on duty the night of the incident, but my supervisor asked me to help because the hospital was swarmed with larger numbers of patients that week.”
“I was sleeping when the bombing began at about 2 a.m. I went to see what was happening, and to my horror, I saw that the ICU was on fire, the flames appearing to shoot 10 meters up into the night sky. Some patients were burning in their beds.”
“I was petrified.”
“It was so frightening. The bombing and firing continued, and following after the bombs were showers of ‘laser-like flashes’ which were flammable, catching and spreading the fire.”
What were those laser-like flashes?
“With two other colleagues, I rushed to the guard house, which was about five metres from the hospital’s main gate. In the guard house were four security guards. We all decided to make a run for the hospital gate, to escape the bombing.”
Khalid’s eyes cringed a little, disappointment soaking his voice. Such shock can be too much for a human being to bear; irreparable disappointment at the U.S. military for attacking a humanitarian, medical facility, and an unfair guilty disappointment with self for having escaped death while colleagues were killed.
“The first person ran. Then another. It was my turn.”
“I took off and just as I reached the gate, with one foot outside the gate and one foot inside the hospital compound, a shrapnel hit me on my back.”
“I lost power in both legs, and fell. Dazed, I dragged myself to a nearby ditch and threw myself in.”
“I was bleeding quickly from my back, the blood pooling at my sides. Feeling that my end was near, I was desperate to call my family. My colleagues and I had taken out the batteries from our cell phones because the U.S. military has a way of tracking and target-killing people by picking up their cell phone signals. With one good arm, somehow, I pulled out my phone and inserted its battery.”
“Mom, I’m injured, and don’t have time. Could you pass the phone to dad?”
“What happened, my son?”
“Please pass the phone to dad!”
“What happened, my son?”
I could almost hear his distraught mother wondering what could have happened to her son who should have been safe in the hospital environment.
“Mom, there’s no time left. Pass the phone to dad.”
“I then asked my dad for forgiveness for any wrong I had done. I was feeling faint, and dropped the phone.”
“In my half-consciousness, the phone rang and it was my cousin. He asked me what had happened, and instructed me to use my clothes to stop the bleeding. I yanked a vest off myself, threw it behind my back and laid on it.”
“I must have passed out, as my next memory was of hearing my cousin’s voice and other voices, and being taken to the kitchen of the hospital where some basic first aid was being given to many injured persons.”
“I saw people with amputated limbs. Some of my colleagues, some of my colleagues….what wrong had we done? Is this what we get for serving people? ”
As I struggled emotionally to register Khalid’s story in my mind, I remembered my own training and practice as a doctor in hospitals, and I wished there was a global conversation about the failure of the Geneva Conventions to protect civilians, and health facilities. The European Council in Brussels in 2003 estimated that since 1990, almost 4 million people have died in wars, 90% of whom were civilians.
I also wished that more individuals could respond to UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres who declared in a June 2015 press releasethat “We are witnessing a paradigm change….It is terrifying that on the one hand there is more and more impunity for those starting conflicts, and on the other there is seeming utter inability of the international community to work together to stop wars and build and preserve peace.”
A positive way to respond would be to join MSF, as well as ICRC President Peter Maurer and UN Head Ban Ki Moon in saying, “Enough! Even war has rules!”, that is, we can sign MSF’s petition for an #independent investigationof the Kunduz MSF Hospital bombing.
Passively accepting the Pentagon’s confessional report of ‘human error’resulting in the killing of 31 staff and patients in the Kunduz Hospital bombing would allow the U.S. and other militaries to continue breaching laws and conventions with impunity, like in Yemen right now.
The International Committee of the Red Cross reported in October that nearly 100 hospitals in Yemen had been attacked since March 2015. Just as recently as 2nd December, Khalid’s haunting story repeated itself in Taiz, Yemen, where an MSF clinic was attacked by the Saudi coalition forces, prompting Karline Kleijer, MSF operational manager for Yemen, to say that every nation backing the Yemen war, including the U.S., must answer for the Yemen MSF clinic bombing.
Khalid’s story was already haunting me, “To transport me, they used body bags meant for the dead. Feeble as I was, I panicked and made sure they heard me protesting, ‘I’m not dead!’ I heard someone say, “We know, don’t worry, we have no choice but to make do.”
“My cousin brought me to a hospital in Baghlan Province which had unfortunately been abandoned because of fighting in the area. So, I was taken to Pul-e-Khumri, and on the way, because I had slightly long hair, I heard shouting directed at us, ‘Hey, what are you doing with a Talib?’. My cousin had to assure them that I was not a Talib.”
So many possible fatal ‘human errors’ and mistakes….
“There was no available help in Pul-e-Khumri too, so I was finally brought to this hospital in Kabul. I’ve had five surgical operations so far,” Khalid said, his voice fading off a little, “and I needed two litres of blood in all.”
It struck me from Khalid’s account that the U.S. military could bomb a health facility by what Kate Clark of the Afghan Analysts Network suggested as ‘ripping up the rule book’, and then, not take any measures whatsoever after the bombing to treat casualties like Khalid and many others. If you are a civilian bombed by the U.S. military, you’ll have to fend for yourself!
Khalid sighed, “I’m grateful that I’ve been given a second life. Some of my colleagues…they weren’t so lucky.”
Khalid was exhausted. I understood from working in Afghanistan over the past years of a worsening war that his exhaustion wasn’t just physical. “I’m angry. The U.S. military is killing us just because they want to be the Empire of the world.”
Khalid asked why we wanted to take his photograph. His question reminded me of what we as individuals can do: taking and seeing his photo in this article isn’t going to be enough.
He steadied himself in the chair, placed his urine bag out of the camera’s view and said with full dignity, “I want my story to be heard.”
Hakim, ( Dr. Teck Young, Wee ) is a medical doctor from Singapore who has done humanitarian and social enterprise work in Afghanistan for the past 10 years, including being a 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.
Guided by conscience, reason, and deeply held convictions, the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance calls upon all people of good will to come to Washington, DC on Tuesday January 12, 2016 to actively participate in a witness of nonviolent civil resistance, challenging President Barack Obama and the United States Congress to address the real state of the union, to immediately stop all U.S. acts of war, and to make significant changes that will put the people of the United States on the path to acting cooperatively with all in the world so that we can all live together in a world of peace, sharing our resources fairly.
The president will deliver his State of the Union speech to the U.S. Congress on that day and tragically for the world, without a doubt, his presentation will once again be a threadbare act of political theatre with no relevance to the masses of people here in the United States or around the world. The escalating violence and tyranny of an expanding American empire abroad is destabilizing the world. The US Congress is bought and paid for by corporations and a wealthy minority who believe that assertion of global military control is the only way to ensure their corporate success. Congress willingly rubber stamps empire’s ongoing wars, with U.S. citizens footing the bill, paying the trillions of dollars in military costs benefiting only the 1 percent while causing crippling injuries, deaths, extreme hardship and suffering for so much of the world. Congress is nothing more than a bipartisan betrayer of the people. The ongoing wars for empire must end if humanity is to survive.
To be more specific, the perpetual wars waged by the U.S. are illegal, immoral, and enriching the wealthy financial corporate elites as millions within the U.S. lack basic needs, and billions around the world live in extreme poverty. We see how the wars and occupations abroad, fueled by fear and profit, have literally and figuratively turned inwards against the American people, impoverishing and imprisoning us. The US drone wars are directed at the poorest and least powerful in places like Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries around the world. The people of Syria are now experiencing the US neocon strategy to "redraw the map of the Middle East", greatly exacerbating the international refugee crisis. The region is further threatened by the continued oppression and persecution of the Palestinians with US consent and complicity. The ultimate weapon in the U.S. arsenal still poses a serious danger to all on this planet and all these weapons must be eliminated by all countries which control them.
Furthermore, the racist nature of empire with its structures of violence and oppression are directed at all of us. Islamophobia, racism, police violence, and the growing security surveillance state must be resisted to protect the liberty of all. From schools to the prison industrial complex with mass incarceration and solitary confinement at home, to Guantanamo and other sites of indefinite detention and torture abroad, we are all caught up in the empire’s systemic violence threatening the freedom of all. Undocumented people, victims of US economic trade deals and support of oppressive governments, are rounded up, held in for-profit jails for extended periods of time before deportation. The empire’s short-sighted thirst for profit, strategic domination, control of fossil fuels and other natural resources are leading us to more war and destruction of earth’s habitat and climate. We must actively resist and oppose the racism and violence of empire! We must save Mother Earth! Our resources must be directed away from the war machine and used for peaceful purposes, placing people over profit, with the goal as nothing less than saving of all life on our planet.
We urge those who are not able to be in Washington on January 12 to organize actions locally. We especially encourage those who are already speaking out against drones across the country to consider a simultaneous action. We support our friends in California who are already working on an action there. For information on the actions at Creech and Beale, contact mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Join us in the streets of Washington, D.C., on January 12, 2016 as we all present ourmessage on the real State of the Union to President Obama and the Congress.
Eric Bonds is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He studies and writes about the often times overlapping fields of human rights, war/militarism, and the environment. His work has appeared in Z Magazine, Foreign Policy in Focus, and numerous academic venues. See:
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By David Swanson, for teleSUR
David Swanson unmasks the propaganda logic behind Amazon.com's "Man in the High Castle" and U.S. celebrations of failure
The United States is indisputably the world's most frequent and extensive wager of aggressive war, largest occupier of foreign lands, and biggest weapons dealer to the world. But when the United States peeps out from under the blankets where it lies shivering with fear, it sees itself as an innocent victim. It has no holiday to keep any victorious battle in everyone's mind. It has a holiday to remember the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor -- and now also one, perhaps holier still, to recall, not the "shock and awe" destruction of Baghdad, but the crimes of September 11, 2001, the "new Pearl Harbor."
Similar to Israel, but with a variation, the United States is deeply obsessed with World War II, overlaid of course on a Southern obsession with the U.S. Civil War. The Southern U.S. love for the Civil War is love for a war lost, but also for victimhood and the righteousness of the vengeance wreaked on the world year after year by the U.S. military.
The U.S. love for World War II is also, fundamentally, love for a war lost. That may seem odd to say, because it is simultaneously very much love for a war won. World War II remains the U.S. model for potentially some day winning a war again, as it's been losing them all over the world for the 70 years since World War II. But the U.S. view of WWII is also strangely similar to the Russian view. Russia was brutally attacked by the Nazis, but persevered and won the war. The United States believes itself to have been "imminently" attacked by the Nazis. That, after all, was the propaganda that took the United States to war. There was not one word about rescuing Jews or anything half that noble. Rather, President Franklin Roosevelt claimed to have a map of the Nazis' plans for carving up the Americas, a map that was an amateurish forgery provided by British "intelligence."
Hollywood has made very few movies and television shows about all other wars combined, in comparison with dramas about World War II, which may in fact be its most popular topic ever. We're really not drowning in movies glorifying the theft or northern Mexico or the occupation of the Philippines. The Korean War gets little play. Even the Vietnam War and all the more recent wars fail to inspire U.S. storytellers like World War II, and some 90% of those stories relate to the war in Europe, not Asia.
The European story is much preferred because of the particular evils of the German enemy. That the U.S. prevented a peace without victor in World War I by crushing Germany, and then punished it viciously, and then aided the Nazis -- all of that is far more easily forgotten than the nuclear bombs that the United States dropped on Japan. But it is the Japanese attack of December 7, 1941, together with the fantasized Nazi invasion, that persuades the U.S. public that waging war in Europe was defensive. So the history of the United States training Japan in imperialism and then antagonizing and provoking Japan must be forgotten as well.
Amazon.com, a corporation with a huge CIA contract, and whose owner also owns the Washington Post, has launched a television series called the Man in the High Castle. The story is set in the 1960s with the Nazis occupying three-quarters of the United States and the Japanese the rest. In this alternative universe, the ultimate redemption is found in Germany being the nation to have dropped nuclear bombs. The Axis victors, and their aging leaders, have created and maintained an old-fashioned empire -- not like U.S. bases in proxy states, but a full-blown occupation, like the United States in Iraq. It doesn't really matter how implausible this sounds. It is the most plausible scenario that can embody the U.S. fantasy of someone else doing to it what it does to others. Thus U.S. crimes here in the real 2015 become "defensive," as it is doing unto others before they can do unto it.
Nonviolent resistance does not exist in Season One Episode One of this soothing victim adventure, and apparently hasn't for years at that point in the tale. But how could it? A force stoppable through nonviolence -- even an imaginary one -- cannot serve to justify the violence of the actual U.S. military. The German and Japanese occupiers have to be confrontable only through violence, even anachronistically in an age in which nonviolent techniques were known, in which the civil rights movement was resisting U.S. fascism to great effect.
"Before the war ... every man was free," says one of the attractive young white people who constitute all the heroes and some of the villains in this drama. Instead of race riots, McCarthyism, Vietnam, and the sterilizing and experimenting on the powerless that actually happened, this alternative United States includes the burning of Jews, the disabled, and the terminally ill. The contrast to the imagined pre-Nazi past in which "every man [but not woman?] was free" is stark.
Amazon also shows us Nazis behaving much like the actual United States behaves: torturing and murdering enemies. Rikers Island is a brutal prison in this TV show and in reality. In this fantasy, the symbols of U.S. and Nazi patriotism have been merged seamlessly. In reality, the U.S. military incorporated much Nazi thinking along with the many Nazis it recruited through Operation Paperclip -- another way in which the U.S. actually lost WWII if we imagine victory as democracy defeating the sort of society in which someone like Donald Trump could thrive.
The United States today manages to view refugees from the wars it wages in distant lands as dangerous enemies, as new Nazis, just as leading U.S. politicians refer to foreign leaders as new Hitlers. With U.S. citizens shooting up public places on an almost daily basis, when one such killing is alleged to have been done by a Muslim, especially a Muslim with any sympathy for foreign fighters, well, then that's not just a shooting. That means that the United States has been invaded. And that means that anything it does is "defensive."
Does Venezuela elect leaders the U.S. disapproves of? That's a threat to "national security" -- a somewhat magical threat to invade and occupy the United States and compel it to torture and kill wearing a different flag. This paranoia doesn't come from nowhere. It comes from programs like The Man from the High Castle, which -- the world should be warned -- is only at Season 1, Episode 1 so far.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
By Norman Solomon
Here is a condensed version of President Obama's speech from the Oval Office on Sunday night, unofficially translated into plain English:
I kind of realize we can’t kill our way out of this conflict with ISIL, but in the short term hopefully we can kill our way out of the danger of a Republican victory in the presidential race next year.
As a practical matter, the current hysteria needs guidance, not a sense of proportion along the lines of what the New York Times just mentioned in passing: “The death toll from jihadist terrorism on American soil since the Sept. 11 attacks -- 45 people -- is about the same as the 48 killed in terrorist attacks motivated by white supremacist and other right-wing extremist ideologies.... And both tolls are tiny compared with the tally of conventional murders, more than 200,000 over the same period.”
While I’m urging some gun control, that certainly doesn’t apply to the Pentagon. The Joint Chiefs and their underlings have passed all the background checks they need by virtue of getting to put on a uniform of the United States Armed Forces.
As much as we must denounce the use of any guns that point at us, we must continue to laud the brave men and women who point guns for us -- and who fire missiles at terrorists and possible terrorists and sometimes unfortunately at wedding parties or misidentified vehicles or teenagers posthumously classified as “militants” after signature strikes or children who get in the way.
We can’t see ourselves in the folks we kill. But I know that we see ourselves with friends and coworkers at a holiday party like the one in San Bernardino. I know we see our kids in the faces of the young people killed in Paris.
Also I know we don’t see ourselves in the blameless individuals who have been beheaded by our ally Saudi Arabia, which has executed 150 people this year mostly by cutting off their heads with swords.
Nor should we bother to see ourselves in the people the Saudi government is slaughtering with airstrikes in Yemen on a daily basis. We sell the Saudis many billions of dollars worth of weapons that make the killings in San Bernardino look smaller than puny. But that’s the way it goes sometimes.
I gave a lofty major speech a couple of years ago about how a democratic society can’t have perpetual war. I like to talk about such sugary ideals; a spoonful helps the doublethink medicine go down.
Let me now say a word about what we should not do. We should not be drawn once more into a long and costly ground war in Iraq or Syria. The United States of America has colossal air power -- and we’re going to use it. No muss, little fuss: except for people under the bombs, now being utilized at such a fast pace that the warhead supply chain is stretched thin.
Yes, we’re escalating a bit on the ground too, with hundreds of special operations forces going into Syria despite my numerous public statements -- adding up to more than a dozen since August 2013 -- that American troops would not be sent to Syria. Likewise we’ve got several thousand soldiers in Iraq, five years after I solemnly announced that “the American combat mission in Iraq has ended.”
But here’s the main thing: In the Middle East, the USA will be number one in dropping bombs and firing missiles. Lots of them! It’s true that we keep making enemies faster than we can possibly kill them, but that’s the nature of the beast.
In Afghanistan too. At the end of last year I ceremoniously proclaimed that “the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion” and the United States “will maintain a limited military presence in Afghanistan.” But within 10 months I changed course and declared that 5,500 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan into 2017.
Midway through this fall -- even before the terrorist attacks in Paris -- the United States had launched an average of about 50 airstrikes per week in Syria during the previous year, and the New York Times reported that the U.S. military was preparing “to intensify airstrikes against the Islamic State” on Syrian territory.
And according to official Pentagon figures, the U.S.-led aerial bombing in Iraq has topped 4,500 airstrikes in the last year -- approaching an average rate of 100 per week.
Our military will hunt down terrorist plotters where they are plotting against us. In Iraq and Syria, airstrikes are taking out some of the latest ISIL leaders, heavy weapons, oil tankers, infrastructure. I’ve got to tell you that these actions will defeat ISIL, but I’ve got to not tell you that the airstrikes will kill a lot of civilians while launching new cycles of what gave rise to ISIL in the first place -- inflaming rage and grief while serving as a powerful recruitment tool for people to take up arms against us.
In the name of defeating terrorist forces, our air war has the effect of recruiting for them. Meanwhile, in Syria, our obsession with regime change has propelled us into closely aligning with extremist jihadi fighters. They sure appreciate the large quantities of our weapons that end up in their arsenals.
You don’t expect this policy to make a lot of sense, do you?
Norman Solomon is the author of “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of RootsAction.org.
According to this article, "Ninety-one percent of Democratic respondents to Quinnipiac’s poll said they thought Hillary had “strong leadership qualities,” and 96 percent said they thought she had the right experience. About 30 percent less of those respondents thought the same about Bernie.” Clearly the Democratic voters did not get the message that Hillary Clinton record and experience as leader is abysmal. I am talking about foreign policy which is my field, not domestic issues. From Iraq to Libya to Syria she has been pro-war and pro-regime change through violent means.
Unfortunately Obama followed her advice on Libya when she urged the President to wage a war against Gaddafi. To date she defends her position and characterizes it as “smart power at its best.” The spectacle of what is Libya today is in front of our eyes: oil field shutdowns, economic decline, disintegration of central authority, soaring number of refugees some of them dead on the sea before arrival to the countries of destination, rising power of armed militias including the Islamic State and Qaeda which pose a security risk to Africa, Europe and also United States. Her "leadership qualities" were again tested on Benghazi when the State Department denied repeated requests by Ambassador Stevens and others to improve security of the American compounds in Libya, when Clinton failed to send any assistance to protect Stevens and his aides while they were under attack, never speaking at all to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta or Joint Chiefs Chairman Dempsey to request such military assistance.
On Syria she promoted the hardline strategy of massively arming the Syrian rebels in their struggle against Assad, establishing a Libyan-style no-fly zone and coordinating the action with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar which are fomenting the war and supporting the Islamic estremists . This time Obama said no to Hillary, leaving open the door to a diplomatic political solution of the Syrian crisis. Given her past “experience", is she going to pursue regime change also in Venezuela and other Latin American countries?
Clinton takes a tough line on Russia, refusing to recognize its legitimate interests in Ukraine and Syria. Her animosity towards Putin is well known likening the moves of the Russian President to the actions of Adolf Hitler and faulting European leaders for being “too wimpy” about challenging him. Regarding the Russian military intervention in Syria she said: "I think it's important too that the United States make it very clear to Putin that it's not acceptable for him to be in Syria.” According to the Washintgton Times, Hillary Clinton’s hawkish position on Russia troubles even the GOP. With this foreign policy record what kind of world are we going to live under President Clinton?
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
By Pat Elder
In the aftermath of the San Bernardino mass shooting it is heartening that President Obama recently signed common-sense gun legislation in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. The President stood up to critics of his community policing and counter-terrorism policies by approving a measure that would order the Army, despite its objection, to offer 100,000 of its .45 caliber semi-automatic M1911's pistols for sale to the public through the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP).
In its short-sighted view, the Army said it was concerned about the "loss of accountability of weapons" after transfer to the CMP. The Army also expressed an unwarranted fear of "expanding the scope of CMP's mission to include handguns" and the potential negative impacts on public safety "from the large amount of semi-automatic and concealable pistols."
Now, thank goodness, more Americans will have access to the kinds of weapons they should be carrying to protect themselves from dangerous criminals and terrorists. The one thing Americans have learned from Paris and attacks du jour like San Bernardino is that an unarmed population can't bring down the bad guys. The NRA has applauded President Obama for his courageous stance.
Although some liberals have argued that civilized nations destroy their outdated weaponry, it is our visionary Congress and President that encourage the mass distribution of these warehoused, yet perfectly operational semi-automatic handguns. Obviously, Americans need more handguns to protect themselves so we should salute our lawmakers for enacting this needed legislation.
Critics have also foolishly pointed to concerns by the Department of Justice that the handguns are "virtually untraceable" and that they are popular "crime guns." Over the last 10 years, the DOJ traced an average of 1,768 M1911 pistols used yearly in crimes with a significant percentage ultimately identified as surplus U.S. military firearms. Our lawmakers (including Obama!) should be applauded for resisting this faulty logic. After all, guns don't kill people; bad people do.
Contact the Congressionally chartered CMP to find out how to order firearms and ammunition today! Call your congressman to demand the Pentagon release for sale millions of additional surplus rifles and pistols. Those guns should be on the streets!
"You can't debate satire. Either you get it or you don't." — Michael Moore
We now know this. A young man who had successfully killed on a large scale went to his religious leader with doubts and was told that mass killing was part of God's plan. The young man continued killing until he had participated in killing sprees that took 1,626 lives -- men, women, and children.
I repeat: his death count was not the 16 or 9 or 22 lives that make top news stories, but 1,626 dead and mutilated bodies.
Do such things bother you?
What if you learned that this young man's name was Brandon Bryant, and that he killed as a drone pilot for the U.S. Air Force, and that he was presented with a certificate for his 1,626 kills and congratulated on a job well done by the United States of America? What if you learned that his religious leader was a Christian chaplain?
Do such things still bother you?
What if you learned that most of the people killed by U.S. drones are civilians? That the pilots "double-tap," meaning that they send a missile into a wedding party or a house and then wait for people to try to help the injured and send a second missile into them? That as a result one hears the injured screaming for hours until they die, as no one comes to help? That a drone pilot sent a missile into a group of children from which three children survived who recognized their dead brothers but had no idea that various pieces of flesh were what was left of their Mom and Dad and consequently cried out for those now gone-forever individuals?
Is this troubling?
What if President Obama's claim of few or no civilian deaths was proven false by well-documented reporting? And by the fact that most victims are targeted without even knowing their names?
What if a leading candidate for president in the past week were to both declare that the way to win a war is to start killing whole families, and stage a public Christian prayer session in order to win over a certain demographic of voters?
Is that bothering?
What if it became clear that police officers in the United States have been murdering people at a higher rate than drone pilots? Would you want to see police videos of their killings? Would you want to see drone videos of their killings? We have thus far gained limited access to the former and none to the latter.
What if it were discovered that gun murders in San Bernardino are almost routine. Would they all be equally tragic?
My point is not to cease caring about the tragedy that the television stations tell you to care about. I wish everyone would care 1,000 times more, and even better do something to take away the guns and the hatred and the culture of violence and the economic injustice and the alienation.
My point is that there are other tragedies that go unmentioned, including larger ones. And exploiting one tragedy to fuel hatred toward a large segment of the human population of earth is madness.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
By reinforcing the Turkish military presence along the routes of ISIS oil to Turkey, NATO is protecting the illicit ISIS oil trade that supports the reviled terrorist organization.
(Washington, DC 12/02) NATO announced Tuesday that it would send patrol aircraft and missile defense systems to bolster Turkey’s air defenses at that nation’s border with Syria. This announcement was made on the same day that the Russian Defense Ministry produced satellite imagery and other evidence showing what has been claimed for months, namely that Turkey is receiving oil sent by truck from ISIS oil wells in Iraq and Syria. (Image)
The United States government dismissed the Russian evidence consisting of images of miles of oil trucks originating at ISIS oil wells then crossing the Turkish border. ISIS oil ends up at two primary destinations, the Batman oil refinery in southeastern Turkey and Mediterranean ports near Turkey’s Adana province. The value of the oil trade via Turkey is estimated between $50 and $100 million a month. Without this income, ISIS would face considerable obstacles to its ongoing military aggression, terrorist activities around the world, and subjugation of Syrians and Iraqis living under ISIS rule.
Editor's note: This was revised at 3:30 pm ET December 3, 2015
By Gar Smith / Berkeley Daily Planet
After at least 14 people were murdered and 17 wounded in San Bernardino by assailants armed with assault weapons, Assistant Director in Charge of the Los Angeles FBI Field Office David Bowditch told the press: "We do not know if this is a terrorist incident."
How can this NOT be an act of terror?
According to the U.S. Code (18 U.S.C. § 2331), it takes more than mass killing of unarmed citizens to constitute an act of terror. Under Federal law, "domestic terrorism" must "Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law" and meet three characteristics. First, an attack must appear "intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population." The San Bernardino violence certainly qualifies on this point.
But now let's examine the other two requirements:
The slaughter of innocent civilians must also be intended to "influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion" or designed to "affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping."
In other words, it's not enough to kill innocent Americans: the act has to be accompanied by an intent to "send a message" to Washington -- or Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, or Paris.
So the question becomes: Why would anyone wish to "influence the policy of a government"? Why would anyone want to "affect the conduct of a government"?
Most likely because that government has done something that has deeply angered the would-be attackers.
In other words, for an act of wanton slaughter to qualify as "terrorism" it has to be in retaliation for some provocative action or policy committed or imposed by a "government." It has to be an act of revenge. An act of retaliation.
So someone who murders people at a Planned Parenthood facility because of a twisted Christian conviction of "the sanctity of life" is not a terrorist.
Someone who storms into a crowded office after losing his job and opens fire on co-workers is not a terrorist.
Someone who plants a bomb in a mosque, church, or synagogue out of religious hatred is not a terrorist.
Someone who dons a hood and lynches a family out of racial hatred is not a terrorist.
The man who shot and killed a waitress in Wichita after she asked him to stop smoking is not a terrorist.
It's not terrorism unless a "government" is involved.
It's not terrorism unless a "government" feels it is being pressured to reconsider its policies.
It's not terrorism unless a "government" concludes that someone is attempting to "affect" its "conduct."
So terrorism (under the definition of Federal law) is not about dead civilians. It is all about a government maintaining its unhampered ability to impose sanctions, topple elected leaders, impose puppet regimes, and cross sovereign borders -- to engage in occupations and brutal foreign wars that claim thousands of innocent civilian lives -- without fear of being "influenced" or "affected."
This definition is a comfort to the National Rifle Association. Under the FBI's definition, angry and/or mentally unstable, white racist males who take it upon themselves to mass-murder family members and strangers, cannot be called "terrorists." The NRA cannot be accused of advocating the arming of potential "terrorists."
Unless, of course, your name is Cliven Bundy.
In April 2014, Nevada cattle rancher Bundy took issue with the Federal government's claim that he owed $1.2 million in unpaid fees for grazing his 500 cows on federal land.
Bundy definitely intended to "influence" and "affect" the government's "conduct" and he was willing to resort to armed violence to do so. Along with 400 armed supporters of a "citizens' militia," Bundy stared down the agents of the Bureau of Land Management. And Washington blinked.
Fortunately, no shots were fired.
In Bundy's case, the mere threat of terrorism (Note: it is a crime to point an armed weapons at a federal officer) appears to have won out. As The Guardian noted on June 1, 2015, more than a year since the headline-making confrontation, Bundy "has not seen a single federal official or vehicle on his 600,000-acre property, which sprawls 80 miles north of Las Vegas, and feels no pressure to pay a cent of the $1.2m."
If Bundy's showdown had resulted in bloodshed, he would have been labeled a "terrorist" under the definition of the US Code. But it is unlikely that we would be hearing the NRA placing that label on Bundy and his armed militia.
As America becomes increasingly plagued by the trauma of mass shootings, it is important to recognize where the real threats lie. When we hear the word "terrorists," we are supposed to think of people with foreign names, unfamiliar religions and ancient grudges. But, according to a study by The Guardian, Americans are 58 times more likely to be killed by police bullets than by a terrorist's bomb. (And, even Fox News admits the chances of an American being killed by a Christian conservative right-wing extremist are seven times greater than the odds of being killed by a Muslim jihadist.)
Gar Smith is co-founder of Environmentalists Against War and author of Nuclear Roulette: The Truth about the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth.
According to the Nation magazine and many others, there are two options available to the U.S. government. One is increased hostility perhaps leading to nuclear war with Russia. The other is a joint U.S.-Russia-and-others war on ISIS.
Many in the United States who generally oppose war and who look for information outside the U.S. corporate media manage to recognize the U.S. focus on overthrowing the Syrian government, with Iran next on the list. They notice the lack of U.S. concern over Saudi and Turkish assistance to ISIS. And at least in the backs of their minds they remember that the destruction of Iraq was the critical ingredient in the creation of ISIS. But they've been as frightened by the beheading videos as any Donald Trump fanatic screaming for the eradication of Muslims -- all right, maybe a bit less frightened, but still very frightened. So they find refuge in the idea that Russia really wants to destroy ISIS, and they urge the United States to help. The alternative of war with Russia is unthinkable. But why in the world should that be the only alternative?
A Russian media outlet, no doubt hoping I would advocate a unified war on ISIS, sent me these questions on Thursday. First they wanted me to comment on this remark by President Vladimir Putin: "Today we are again facing the destructive barbaric ideology and we do not have the right to allow that the newly found obscurantists reach their goals. We need to throw away all arguments and differences to create one powerful fist, a united antiterrorist front which would act on the basis of international law and under the UN auspices."
Second, they wanted me to comment on these statements by Putin: "Russia has many old, reliable friends in Turkey, who should know we don't put them on level with ruling top officials." and "Russia knows who in Turkey [is] making money on stolen oil, recruiting fighters."
I sent back these answers, asking them to use all or nothing, which I suspected meant they would use nothing:
1. What President Putin proposes and many even on the left in the United States support, a united front against terrorism sounds right until you examine the details. He means a united war, a united bombing of people's homes, a united counterproductive effort to make things better that will make things worse, using large scale terrorism to produce more small scale terrorism. This may be better than a disunited front. It's certainly better than a nuclear confrontation between Russia and the maniacs so respectably running Washington D.C. straight toward armageddon, but it's not a solution to the problem, it's not an alternative to destructive cycles of violence, it's just a different spin on the same wheel.
2. Washington would rather be wrong than agree with Russia. NATO would rather die than agree with Russia, for if it agrees with Russia it loses its reason to exist and dies anyway. What does bringing the world down with it matter? Yes, of course, the United States is less interested in destroying ISIS than in destroying Syria, but a big strong united focus on destroying ISIS will never destroy ISIS. It will only spread it across the globe. Imagine the a united front kills everyone in half of Syria and Iraq, as would have to be done to destroy ISIS. Muslim hatred of the United States would sweep the globe and Muslim hatred of Russia, and bombs in Russian airplanes, right along with it. Is that what Putin wants? Is that what Russians want? A united attempt to actually seriously reduce, rather than increase, terrorism would establish a ceasefire, an arms embargo, humanitarian aid, assistance to refugees, and the sort of intense investment in green energy that right now only goes into killing people.
To these comments I received the reply:
"I would use all, personally. Some of the things you wrote here, I’m afraid, are controversial for our editorial board as the main idea here in Russia is that it is 'better to fight IS in Syria and Iraq than on Russian territory.' Many Islamist volunteers from Northern Caucasus promise to come back to Russia and kill innocent people in terrorist acts. We have lost a full plane of civilians flying from Cairo and many people here are afraid. However, I promise to send your message (which I think was your main point) that 'a big strong united focus on destroying ISIS will never destroy ISIS.' This quote I will necessarily include. Thank you for your understanding!"
Sound familiar? Fight em there, not here. Use blowback to justify escalation. Where have we seen this movie before?
I failed to be understanding and asked them to use nothing of my quote rather than part of it. They agreed to use nothing, no hard feelings. I encouraged them to think about this:
Generating more terrorism is not a solution to terrorism, and the excuse of being scared and unable to think straight still leaves mistaken thinking. The United States has demonstrated these mistakes for years now. I remember when Russians pointed out that the United States had made all of Russia's earlier mistakes in Afghanistan and moved on to new ones; that was right, and the United States refused to listen. Don't, Russia, make all of the U.S. mistakes in Iraq and start inventing your own. This path leads to hell.
I sent that to my Russian journalist friend who was sounding identical to a war-supporting American of exactly the sort that peace activists usually disagree with. The next response I received only heightened the similarity with U.S. war advocates and U.S. media:
"I personally agree however I do not understand how could we stop Islamic State. What is your recipe?"
I sent back this:
I've been answering this for well over a year many dozens of times at http://davidswanson.org
Here's my latest.
Here's Johan Galtung's answer.
I got back: "Thanks, I'll read that."
I believe that was sincere. But I wonder what the "editorial board" will read. I suspect Russian and U.S. editorial boards could swap their reading lists and hardly notice, just like ISIS and anti-ISIS fighters swapping the U.S. bullets in their U.S. guns.
I checked the Twitter account of Tad Devine, the chief strategist of Bernie Sanders. I was surprised by some of his tweets.
On Dec 2 he tweets a Washington Post article which talks about the future of the Democratic Party without delving into the substance of the crucial issues affecting society. No distinction between the the Clinton and Sanders plans. Just a reference to the "progressive economic agenda that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have begun to talk about in their campaigns.” Why Sanders’s chief political strategist called attention to this article?
He Tweets: "Iowa (IA) Poll - November 25, 2015 - Clinton Leads Iowa Dem Caucus, | Quinnipiac University Connecticut https://t.co/jed8huwkRK”. In his tweet, Devine does not mention 42 percent for Sen. Bernie Sanders in the same poll, compared with 51 percent for Clinton. Furthermore the poll shows that 47 percent of Democrats say Sanders can best handle the economy, while 42 percent say Clinton is best on this issue.
On Nov 7 he retweeted: "Clinton proposes changing marijuana from a Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 drug so researchers can study impact of medical marijuana.” Why he did not reply that changing marijuana from a Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 is weak proposal compared to Bernie Sanders' support for repealing federal prohibition. Quoting Sanders, marijuana must be legalized “if we are serious about criminal justice reform and preventing many thousands of lives from being impacted because of criminal convictions for marijuana possession."
On Nov 15 he tweeted a New York Time article: As Mayor, Bernie Sanders Was More Pragmatist Than Socialist. I am not going to comment on this because I have no knowledge of Sanders mayorship. Maybe Sanders should take a look at it to see if it is truthful.
I checked the political work of Tad Devine on Wikipedia. He worked for Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis in the field of delegate tracking and selection in their nomination campaigns. Later he served as a senior strategist to the campaigns of Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. Without entering into the merits of each presidential candidate, it is a long string of failed campaigns. Regarding the 2008 Democratic presidential primary he was noncommittal about Obama and Clinton supporting neither candidate.
Devine also advised foreign leaders which I will not mention except Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in 2002. Protesters, angry for his gas policy, sparked a rebellion which forced him to flee to the U.S. Reportedly more than 60 people died and hundreds were injured as the military cracked down on opposition protests. De Lozada was the architect of the energy sector privatization and an unpopular income tax recommended by the IMF. To date Devine defends the former Bolivian President.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
Regime change in Chicago!: Cover-Up of a Police Murder Requires Resignation of Chicago Mayor Emanuel
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a bold yet belated move when he fired his embattled police superintendent in the wake of a national uproar surrounding the release of a chilling video that captured the police killing of a teen--a ward of the city of Chicago.
Clinton on Russians: "I want them at the table. They don't have to participate in it, but I want them to understand that there has to be safe areas [i.e. no-fly zones] on the ground” (VIDEO) - TheHill
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
Back in 2010 I wrote a book called War Is A Lie. Five years later, after having just prepared the second edition of that book to come out next spring, I came across another book published on a very similar theme in 2010 called Reasons to Kill: Why Americans Choose War, by Richard E. Rubenstein.
Rubenstein, as you can tell already, is much more polite than I. His book is very well done and I'd recommend it to anyone, but perhaps especially to the crowd that finds sarcasm more offensive than bombs. (I'm trying to get everyone except that crowd to read my book!)
Pick up Rubenstein's book if you want to read his elaboration on this list of reasons why people are brought around to supporting wars: 1. It's self-defense; 2. The enemy is evil; 3. Not fighting will make us weak, humiliated, dishonored; 4. Patriotism; 5. Humanitarian duty; 6. Exceptionalism; 7. It's a last resort.
Well done. But I think Rubenstein's respect for war advocates (and I don't mean that in a derogatory sense, as I think we must respect everyone if we are to understand them) leads him toward a focus on how much they believe their own propaganda. The answer to whether they do believe their own propaganda is, of course -- and I assume Rubenstein would agree -- yes and no. They believe some of it, somewhat, some of the time, and they try hard to believe a bit more of it. But how much? Where do you put the emphasis?
Rubenstein begins by defending, not the chief war marketers in Washington, but their supporters around the United States. "We agree to put ourselves in harm's way," he writes, "because we are convinced that the sacrifice is justified, not just because we have been stampeded into okaying war by devious leaders, scaremongering propagandists, or our own blood lust."
Now, of course, most war supporters never put themselves within 10,000 miles of harm's way, but certainly they believe a war is noble and just, either because the evil Muslims must be eradicated, or because the poor oppressed peoples must be liberated and rescued, or some combination. It is to the credit of war supporters that increasingly they have to believe wars are acts of philanthropy before they'll support them. But why do they believe such bunk? They're sold it by the propagandists, of course. Yes, scaremongering propagandists. In 2014 many people supported a war they had opposed in 2013, as a direct result of watching and hearing about beheading videos, not as a result of hearing a more coherent moral justification. In fact the story made even less sense in 2014 and involved either switching sides or taking both sides in the same war that had been pitched unsuccessfully the year before.
Rubenstein argues, rightly I think, that support for war arises not just out of a proximate incident (the Gulf of Tonkin fraud, the babies out of incubators fraud, the Spanish sinking the Maine fraud, etc.) but also out of a broader narrative that depicts an enemy as evil and threatening or an ally as in need. The famous WMD of 2003 really did exist in many countries, including the United States, but belief in the evil of Iraq meant not only that WMD were unacceptable there but also that Iraq itself was unacceptable whether or not the WMD existed. Bush was asked after the invasion why he'd made the claims he'd made about weapons, and he replied, "What's the difference?" Saddam Hussein was evil, he said. End of story. Rubenstein is right, I think, that we should look at the underlying motivations, such as the belief in Iraq's evil rather than in the WMDs. But the underlying motivation is even uglier than the surface justification, especially when the belief is that the whole nation is evil. And recognizing the underlying motivation allows us to understand, for example, Colin Powell's use of fabricated dialogue and false information in his UN presentation as dishonest. He didn't believe his own propaganda; he wanted to keep his job.
According to Rubenstein, Bush and Cheney "clearly believed their own public statements." Bush, remember, proposed to Tony Blair that they paint a U.S. plane with UN colors, fly it low, and try to get it shot. He then walked out to the press, with Blair, and said he was trying to avoid war. But he no doubt did partially believe some of his statements, and he shared with much of the U.S. public the idea that war is an acceptable tool of foreign policy. He shared in widespread xenophobia, bigotry, and belief in the redemptive power of mass murder. He shared faith in war technology. He shared the desire to disbelieve in the causation of anti-U.S. sentiment by past U.S. actions. In those senses, we cannot say that a propagandist reversed the public's beliefs. People were manipulated by the multiplication of the terror of 9/11 into months of terrorizing in the media. They were deprived of basic facts by their schools and newspapers. But to suggest actual honesty on the part of war makers is going too far.
Rubenstein maintains that President William McKinley was persuaded to annex the Philippines by "the same humanitarian ideology that convinced ordinary Americans to support the war." Really? Because McKinley not only said the poor little brown Filipinos couldn't govern themselves, but also said that it would be bad "business" to let Germany or France have the Philippines. Rubenstein himself notes that "if the acerbic Mr. Twain were still with us, he would very likely suggest that the reason we did not intervene in Rwanda in 1994 was because there was no profit in it." Setting aside the damaging U.S. intervention of the previous three years in Uganda and its backing of the assassin that it saw profit in allowing to take power through its "inaction" in Rwanda, this is exactly right. Humanitarian motivations are found where profit lies (Syria) and not where it doesn't, or where it lies on the side of mass killing (Yemen). That doesn't mean the humanitarian beliefs aren't somewhat believed, and more so by the public than by the propagandists, but it does call their purity into question.
Rubenstein describes the Cold War thus: "While fulminating against Communist dictatorships, American leaders supported brutal pro-Western dictatorships in scores of Third World nations. This is sometimes considered hypocrisy, but it really represented a misguided form of sincerity. Backing anti-democratic elites reflected the conviction that if the enemy is wholly evil, one must use 'all means necessary' to defeat him." Of course a lot of people believed that. They also believed that if the Soviet Union ever collapsed, U.S. imperialism and backing for nasty anti-communist dictators would come to a screeching halt. They were proved 100% wrong in their analysis. The Soviet threat was replaced by the terrorism threat, and the behavior remained virtually unchanged. And it remained virtually unchanged even before the terrorism threat could be properly developed -- although it of course has never been developed into anything resembling the Soviet Union. In addition, if you accept Rubenstein's notion of sincere belief in the greater good of doing evil in the Cold War, you still have to acknowledge that the evil done included massive piles of lies, dishonesty, misrepresentations, secrecy, deception, and completely disingenuous horseshit, all in the name of stopping the commies. Calling lying (about the Gulf of Tonkin or the missile gap or the Contras or whatever) "really ... sincerity" leaves one wondering what insincerity would look like and what an example would be of someone lying without any belief that something justified it.
Rubenstein himself doesn't seem to be lying about anything, even when he seems to have the facts wildly wrong, as when he says the most of America's wars have been victorious (huh?). And his analysis of how wars start and how peace activism can end them is very useful. He includes on his to-do list at #5 "Demand that war advocates declare their interests." That is absolutely crucial only because those war advocates do not believe their own propaganda. They believe in their own greed and their own careers.
Editor Note: The risk of Syria becoming a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia became real last week when Turkey and Syrian jihadists used U.S.-supplied weaponry to shoot down a Russian warplane and rescue helicopter, killing two Russians.
By Ray McGovern
Belatedly, at a sidebar meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Paris climate summit on Monday, President Barack Obama reportedly expressed regret for last week’s killing of a Russian pilot who was shot down by a Turkish air-to-air missile fired by a U.S.-supplied F-16 and the subsequent death of a Russian marine on a search-and-rescue mission, apparently killed by a U.S.-made TOW missile.
Peter Werbe is a radio host in Detroit. He discusses his long involvement with The Fifth Estate, which has been publishing radical ideas for 50 years now. See:
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Producer: David Swanson.
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