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By Richard Rubenstein
Comrades and friends, I am not writing to advise you how to resist the Trump regime. There are as many action proposals in circulation as there are anti-Trump groups, with “resistance” the buzzword of the moment. But resistance against what, exactly, and for what purposes? Most of the tactical proposals I have seen are strangely devoid of political content. It seems that anti-Trump is more a mood than a movement with shared aims. It is a negative sentiment shared by most of the identity and interest groups that formed part of the Democratic Party coalition (or, as the President himself would put it, by the losers) during the 2016 election.
The spread of public protests against the new regime’s immigration ban and other initiatives is heartening to those who oppose these measures. Yet, protest by itself doesn’t create a movement. Spending one’s days reacting to Donald Trump’s misstatements, prejudices, and cruelties risks repeating the mistakes of the presidential campaign, when the country split 50-50, more or less, and a right-wing populist appeal aimed primarily at working class Americans generated an electoral vote majority for the Tweeter-in-Chief. Outrage provoked by Trump’s character, rhetoric, and behavior is inevitable. Even so, this is a time for hard thinking and conversation, not just outraged action. (This is the point of Slavoj Zizek’s 2015 video, “Don’t act, just think.” Take a look at it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLOTi2498xg.)
We dearly need to spend more time talking with each other about what the underlying problems are and what kinds of organization and action are needed to start solving them. I have a few preliminary ideas about how to frame the issues requiring discussion. If you find any of them interesting, let’s talk further about what a credible program for real change would look like, and how to organize a coherent movement to realize it.
Canada is becoming a major weapons dealer, a reliable accomplice in U.S. wars, and a true believer in “humanitarian” armed peacekeeping as a useful response to all the destruction fueled by the weapons dealing.
William Geimer’s Canada: The Case for Staying Out of Other People’s Wars is an excellent antiwar book, useful to anyone seeking to understand or abolish war anywhere on earth. But it happens to be written from a Canadian perspective of possibly particular value to Canadians and residents of other NATO countries, including being valuable right now as Trumpolini demands of them increased investment in the machinery of death.
By “other people’s wars” Geimer means to indicate Canada’s role as subservient to leading war-maker the United States, and historically Canada’s similar position toward Britain. But he also means that the wars Canada fights in do not involve actually defending Canada. So, it’s worth noting that they don’t involve actually defending the United States either, serving rather to endanger the nation leading them. Whose wars are they?
Geimer’s well-researched accounts of the Boer war, the world wars, Korea, and Afghanistan are as good a depiction of horror and absurdity, as good a debunking of glorification, as you’ll find.
It’s unfortunate then that Geimer holds out the possibility of a proper Canadian war, proposes that the Responsibility to Protect need merely be used properly to avoid “abuses” like Libya, recounts the usual pro-war tale about Rwanda, and depicts armed peacekeeping as something unlike war all together. “How,” Geimer asks, “did Canada in Afghanistan slip from actions consistent with one vision, to those of its opposite?” I’d suggest that one answer might be: by supposing that sending armed troops into a country to occupy it can be the opposite of sending armed troops into a country to occupy it.
But Geimer also proposes that no mission that will result in the killing of a single civilian be undertaken, a rule that would completely abolish war. In fact, spreading understanding of the history that Geimer’s book recounts would likely accomplish that same end.
World War I, which has now reached its centennial, is apparently a myth of origins in Canada in something of the way that World War II marks the birth of the United States in U.S. entertainment. Rejecting World War I can, therefore, be of particular value. Canada is also searching for world recognition for its contributions to militarism, according to Geimer’s analysis, in a way that the U.S. government could really never bring itself to give a damn what anyone else thinks. This suggests that recognizing Canada for pulling out of wars or for helping to ban landmines or for sheltering U.S. conscientious objectors (and refugees from U.S. bigotry), while shaming Canada for participating in U.S. crimes, may have an impact.
While Geimer recounts that propaganda surrounding both world wars claimed that Canadian participation would be defensive, he rightly rejects those claims as having been ludicrous. Geimer otherwise has very little to say about the propaganda of defensiveness, which I suspect is much stronger in the United States. While U.S. wars are now pitched as humanitarian, that selling point alone never garners majority U.S. public support. Every U.S. war, even attacks on unarmed nations halfway around the earth, is sold as defensive or not successfully sold at all. This difference suggests to me a couple of possibilities.
First, the U.S. thinks of itself as under threat because it has generated so much anti-U.S. sentiment around the world by means of all of its “defensive” wars. Canadians should contemplate what sort of an investment in bombings and occupations it would take for them to generate anti-Canadian terrorist groups and ideologies on the U.S. scale, and whether they would then double down in response, fueling a vicious cycle of investment in “defense” against what all the “defense” is generating.
Second, there is perhaps less risked and more to be gained in taking Canadian war history and its relationship with the U.S. military a bit further back in time. If Donald Trump’s face won’t do it, perhaps remembrance of U.S. wars gone by will help sway Canadians against their government’s role as U.S. poodle.
Six-years after the British landing at Jamestown, with the settlers struggling to survive and hardly managing to get their own local genocide underway, these new Virginians hired mercenaries to attack Acadia and (fail to) drive the French out of what they considered their continent. The colonies that would become the United States decided to take over Canada in 1690 (and failed, again). They got the British to help them in 1711 (and failed, yet again). General Braddock and Colonel Washington tried again in 1755 (and still failed, except in the ethnic cleansing perpetrated and the driving out of the Acadians and the Native Americans). The British and U.S. attacked in 1758 and took away a Canadian fort, renamed it Pittsburgh, and eventually built a giant stadium across the river dedicated to the glorification of ketchup. George Washington sent troops led by Benedict Arnold to attack Canada yet again in 1775. An early draft of the U.S. Constitution provided for the inclusion of Canada, despite Canada’s lack of interest in being included. Benjamin Franklin asked the British to hand Canada over during negotiations for the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Just imagine what that might have done for Canadian healthcare and gun laws! Or don’t imagine it. Britain did hand over Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana. In 1812 the U.S. proposed to march into Canada and be welcomed as liberators. The U.S. supported an Irish attack on Canada in 1866. Remember this song?
Secession first he would put down
Wholly and forever,
And afterwards from Britain’s crown
He Canada would sever.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy.
Mind the music and the step
and with the girls be handy!
Canada, in Geimer’s account, has lacked ambition to dominate the globe through empire. This makes ending its militarism quite a different matter, I suspect, from doing the same in the United States. The problems of profit, corruption, and propaganda remain, but the ultimate defense of war that always emerges in the United States when those other motives are defeated may not be there in Canada. In fact, by going to war on a U.S. leash, Canada makes itself servile.
Canada entered the world wars before the U.S. did, and was part of the provocation of Japan that brought the U.S. into the second one. But since then, Canada has been aiding the United States openly and secretly, providing first and foremost “coalition” support from the “international community.” Officially, Canada stayed out of wars between Korea and Afghanistan, since which point it has been joining in eagerly. But to maintain that claim requires ignoring all sorts of war-participation under the banner of the United Nations or NATO, including in Vietnam, Yugoslavia, and Iraq.
Canadians must be proud that when their prime minister mildly criticized the war on Vietnam, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson reportedly grabbed him by the lapel, lifted him off the ground, and shouted “You pissed on my rug!” The Canadian prime minister, on the model of the guy Dick Cheney would later shoot in the face, apologized to Johnson for the incident.
Now the U.S. government is building up hostility toward Russia, and it was in Canada in 2014 that Prince Charles compared Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. What course will Canada take? The possibility exists of Canada offering the United States a moral and legal and practical Icelandic, Costa Rican example of a wiser way just north of the border. If the peer pressure provided by Canada’s healthcare system is any guide, a Canada that had moved beyond war would not by itself end U.S. militarism, but it would create a debate over doing so. That would be a continental step ahead of where we are now.
This April 4th will be 100 years since the U.S. Senate voted to declare war on Germany and 50 since Martin Luther King Jr. spoke out against the war on Vietnam (49 since he was killed on that speech’s first anniversary). Events are being planned to help us try to finally learn some lessons, to move beyond, not just Vietnam, but war.
That declaration of war on Germany was not for the war that makes up the single most common theme of U.S. entertainment and history. It was for the war that came before that one. This was the Great War, the war to end all wars, the war without which the conditions for the next war would not have existed.
As well recounted in Michael Kazin’s War Against War: The American Fight for Peace 1914-1918, a major peace movement had the support of a great deal of the United States. When the war finally ended (after the U.S. had actually been in it for about 5% the length of the war on Afghanistan thus far) just about everybody regretted it. The losses in life, limb, sanity, property, civil liberties, democracy, and health were incredible. Death, devastation, a flu epidemic, prohibition, a permanent military and the taxes to go with it, plus predictions of World War II: these were the results, and a lot of people remembered that they had been warned, as well as that the ending of all war had been promised.
The peace activists had warned the U.S. government to stay out of the war (not out of foreign relations, just out of mass-murdering foreign relations). And they had been right. The regret was intense and lasting. It lasted right up until the worst result of World War I came along in the form of World War II. At that point, regret was replaced with forgetting. World War I was erased from popular history, and its child on steroids was celebrated rather than mourned, and has been celebrated with growing reverence ever since.
The massive peace movement that outlawed war in 1928, had been widespread, mainstream, and aggressive before 1917 as well. Antiwar Congress members had entered into the Congressional Record a sample of the flood of letters and petitions they had received urging that the U.S. stay out of war. Peace groups had held marches and rallies, sent delegations to Europe, met with the president, and pushed to require a popular vote before the launching of any war, believing that the public would vote war down. We’ll never know, because the vote was never taken. Instead, the United States jumped into the war, thereby preventing a negotiated settlement and creating a total victory followed by vicious punishment of the losing side — the very fuel for Nazism, as well as for Italian fascism, Japanese imperialism, and the Sykes-Picot carving up of the Middle East so beloved by that region’s residents to this day.
An antiwar exhibit that toured the U.S. in 1916 included a life-sized model stegosaurus that represented the fatal consequences of having heavy armor but no brains. The idea of preparing for war in order to achieve peace, which today is simple commonsense, was widely found to be a great source of humor, as Washington cynically pursued “preparedness.” Morris Hillquit, an eloquent socialist — something of a Bernie Sanders without the 21st-century militarism — asked why European nations, having fully armed themselves to avoid war, hadn’t avoided it. “Their antiwar insurance turned out to be a bad case of over-insurance,” he said. You prepare for war, and you get war — remarkably enough.
Woodrow Wilson won reelection on an antiwar platform, and could not have won it otherwise. After he opted for war, he was unable to raise an army to fight his war without a draft. And he was unable to sustain a draft without imprisoning people who spoke against it. He saw to it that conscientious objectors were brutally tortured (or, as we would say today, interrogated). Yet people refused, deserted, evaded, and violently fought recruiters by the thousands. The wisdom to reject war was not lacking. It just wasn’t followed by those in power.
The understanding that war should be ended, which reached its peak perhaps in the 1920s and 1930s, saw something of a comeback during what the Vietnamese call the American War. Martin Luther King did not propose a different war or a better war, but leaving behind the entire war system. That awareness has grown even as the Vietnam Syndrome has faded and war been normalized. Now, the U.S. popular mind is a mass of contradictions.
In a recent poll, 66% of people in the United States are worried that the U.S. will become engaged in a major war in the next four years. However, the U.S. is engaged in a number of wars right now that must seem pretty major to the people living through them, wars that have created the greatest refugee crisis so far on the planet and threatened to break similar records for starvation. In addition, 80% of the U.S. public in the very same poll say they support NATO. There’s a 50/50 split on whether to build yet more nukes. A slim majority favors banning refugees who are fleeing the wars. And over three-quarters of Democrats believe, for partisan rather than empirical reasons, that Russia is unfriendly or an enemy. Despite the warnings of the wise for over a century, people are still imagining they can use war preparations to avoid war.
One thing that could help keep us out of more wars is the Trump face now placed on the wars. People who will hate Russia because they hate Trump may at some point oppose Trump’s wars because they hate Trump. And those getting active to support refugees may also want to help end the crimes that create the refugees.
Meanwhile, German tanks are again rolling toward the Russian border, and instead of soliciting denunciations from groups like the Anne Frank Center, as recently done to combat Donald Trump’s anti-Semitism, U.S. liberals are generally applauding or avoiding any awareness.
One thing is certain: we will not survive another 100 years of this. Long before then, we will have to try something else. We will have to move beyond war to nonviolent conflict resolution, aid, diplomacy, disarmament, cooperation, and the rule of law.
World Beyond War is planning events everywhere, including these:
Remembering Past Wars . . . and Preventing the Next
April 3rd at NYU, New York, NY. (details TBA)
Speakers: Joanne Sheehan, Glen Ford, Alice Slater, Maria Santelli, David Swanson.
April 4, 6-8 p.m. Busboys and Poets, 5th and K Streets NW, Washington, D.C.
Speakers: Michael Kazin, Eugene Puryear, Medea Benjamin, David Swanson, Maria Santelli.
May 25, 6-8 p.m., Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA.
Speakers: Jackie Cabasso, Daniel Ellsberg, David Hartsough, Adam Hochschild.
L.A. Kauffman is the author of Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism. She has spent more than 30 years immersed in radical movements, as a journalist, historian, organizer, and strategist. Her writings on grassroots activism and social movement history have been published in The Nation, The Progressive, Mother Jones, the Village Voice, and many other outlets. She served as executive editor for the radical theory journal Socialist Review and as an award-winning national political columnist for SF Weekly, focusing on dissent and activism. Kauffman was the mobilizing coordinator for the massive February 15, 2003 antiwar protest in New York City. She continued in this role through the years of major antiwar protests, including those that greeted the 2004 Republican National Convention.
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Will you stand for peace?
Petition to the organizers of the April 29 People’s Climate March
Your website at PeoplesClimate.org proposes a march on Washington on April 29, 2017, to “unite all our movements” for “communities,” “climate,” “safety,” “health,” “the rights of people of color, workers, indigenous people, immigrants, women, LGBTQIA, young people, and more,” “jobs and livelihoods,” “civil rights and liberties,” “everything and everyone we love,” “families,” “air,” “water,” “land,” “clean energy jobs and climate justice,” to “reduce greenhouse gas and toxic pollution,” for “a transition to an equitable and sustainable New Energy and Economic Future,” “that every job pays a wage of at least $15 an hour, protects workers, and provides a good standard of living, pathways out of poverty, and a right to organize,” “massive investments in infrastructure systems from water, transportation, and solid waste to the electrical grid and safe, green building and increasing energy efficiency that will also create millions of jobs in the public and private sector,” . . . but not peace.
We wish to make you aware that approximately half of federal discretionary spending is going into wars and war preparation, and that this institution constitutes our single biggest destroyer of the environment. More on that here.
Will you please add “peace” to the list of things you are marching for?
If you will, it will become a list of things that WE are marching for, as we will join you.
The Washington Post proclaims: "Protesters mob provocative Va. governor candidate as he defends Confederate statue." Six seconds of video of the incident involved is likely to show up eventually here or here.
I was there on Saturday shouting down the "provocative" celebrator of racism and war, together with my kids and some friends. The only hostility I saw came from supporters of keeping the giant statue of Robert E. Lee in the park here in Charlottesville.
This was an email I had sent around the night before:
"Republican Candidate for Governor Corey Stewart is coming to Charlottesville Saturday to do a Facebook Live event at 10:00 AM in Lee Park to denounce the Charlottesville City Council for voting to remove a symbol of racism and war. Here's a report on his efforts to deport immigrants. Here's an announcement of Saturday's event. Please show up at 9:45 and bring posters. Here are some ideas:
Black Lives Matter
Celebrate Racism and War Somewhere Else
Love Beyond Flags
Love Trumps Hate
Welcome Refugees, Not Bigots
make up your own!"
These were the chants that were chanted and which I joined in on:
"Hey Hey Ho Ho White Supremacy Has Got to Go!"
"You take Lee. We'll take freedom!"
"Well what are you?" demanded a bewildered elderly white man of me when I opposed white supremacy and failed to be impressed by his showing me an American flag and shouting "This is an American flag!"
Presumably he didn't suppose you could look at someone and tell that they were a white supremacist. Presumably he just didn't make a distinction between being white and being a white supremacist. What am I? I'm a human being. You can put whatever antiquated labels you like on my appearance, but I'm not on your team if everyone isn't.
"But he wasn't a racist!" a woman explained to me about General Lee. Is that the point? To arrive at the mental state of the dead guy depicted in the sculpture? This monumental soldier on a horse was put in a whites-only park by a wealthy racist in the 1920s. And if that urban "benefactor," too, was "not a racist," that hardly impacts the fact that thousands of people are offended by the statue and its glorification of war -- and of war for the maintenance and expansion of slavery.
"You don't want war? Well, this statue makes people think before they go to war?" I was told.
"Yeah, a glorified giant on a horse does that?"
"Yes, look at how he's contemplating."
"A realistic depiction of war would show missing limbs and screams of agony."
"Why in the world would you want to do that?"
"To make people think before they go to war."
"But that's what this does."
Are these useful conversations? Perhaps.
Should we let racist, bigoted, glorifiers of war and demonizers of immigrants parade through our town denouncing democratic decisions like the one made after lengthy public debate to remove an old and obnoxious statue? Do we have to let Candidate Confederacy -- actually a racist Northerner who claims to out-Trump Trump -- have his video-op on the corporate news, and then wait our turn until we're six feet under to offer an appropriate rebuttal?
I don't think so. I don't think this is that moment.
First they came for the Muslims and the pacifists. And we said: "Not this time!"
I spoke with a friendlier individual away from the Confederate flags and shouts of "Anti-American!" This person agreed with my point that wars make the United States less safe, but within the next breath came: "But my only concern is if some of the people serving in the military defending us might not like the idea of removing the statue."
The wars are endangering us. The people fighting in them are "defending us," even if they aren't. This is what we're up against. Un-indoctrinating people with troop propaganda requires conversations that don't fit on television. Those are very worthwhile, but they take lots of time.
A political commercial for racism and war glorification is a different matter entirely. Let the would-be governor send his comments in via Skype. Our message is: Charlottesville is no place for that.
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, the city of Charlottesville, Va., city council has voted to remove an imposing statue of Robert E. Lee (and the horse he never rode in on) from Lee Park, and to rename and redesign the park.
The statue of this non-Charlottesvillian had been put up in a whites-only park during the 1920s at the whim of an extremely wealthy and racist individual. So, for a representative government to vote, following a very public deliberative process with voluminous and diverse input from city residents is -- if nothing else -- a step toward democracy.
I think it's much more as well. There are two issues at stake here, neither of them dead issues from the past. One is race. The other is war.
Airport resistance is the biggest step forward by the U.S. public in years.
Why do I say that? Because this is unfunded, largely unpartisan activism that is largely selfless, largely focused on helping unknown strangers, driven by compassion and love, not political ideology, greed, or vengeance, and in line with activism around the globe. It's also targeted at the location of the harm, directly resisting the injustice, and achieving immediate partial successes, including very meaningful successes for certain individuals. It's gaining support from people never before engaged in any activism. And it shows no signs of any significant undesirable side-effects. This is a movement to be built on, and I have an idea what a next step should be.
Of course it is not at all uncommon for people to selflessly act for strangers. Much of the charity industry is driven by that sort of generosity year after year. But activist organizations are constantly telling themselves that this is not the case, for example that ending the bombing of distant unknown families can only be accomplished by advertising the financial cost of it or instituting a draft or making known the harm to veterans of the military doing the bombing. Yet when the peace movement in the United States has been stronger, in the 1920s in particular and also in the 1960s, acting on behalf of others has been central, as it was to the first big activist campaign, that begun against the slave trade in London, and as it has been in countless campaigns. Working to protect the natural environment is work for future generations. You can't get more selfless or enlightened than that.
But what's unique about this moment of sympathy and solidarity with refugees from nations the United States has bombed (plus Iran which it has gone after in other ways) is that it runs counter to U.S. government propaganda, it replaces fear with courage, hatred with love. This isn't just love stepping into a void. This is a transformation into love from its opposite. This is why I think another major step might be possible.
Remarks in Arlington, Va., January 29, 2017
Happy Year of the Rooster!
Thank you for inviting me. Thank you to Archer Heinzen for setting this up. Of course I wouldn't have come had I known UVA's basketball team would be playing Villanova at 1 o'clock. I'm kidding, but I'll catch it on the radio or watch the replay without the commercials. And when I do I can guarantee only this: the announcer will thank U.S. troops for watching from 175 countries, and nobody will wonder whether 174 wouldn't be just about enough.
I wish I could also guarantee that UVA will win, but this is where sports monkeys around with rational thinking. I don't actually have any say over whether UVA wins. So I can turn my wish into a prediction "We will win" and then declare that "we" won as if I'd been involved. Or let's say that UVA blows it. Then I can remark that "we" decided to keep London Perrantes in the game even though he had a sprained wrist and the flu and had just lost one leg in a car accident, even though the obvious fact is that were I really the coach I would never have done that, just as -- if I fully controlled the U.S. government -- I wouldn't actually spend a trillion dollars a year on war preparations.
Time’s running out: As his Last Act in Office, President Obama Should Right a Terrible Wrong and Free Leonard Peltier
Eight years ago Yes! Magazine published a political platform of progressive policies, along with polling showing strong majority support for each proposal. Now, eight years later, we can show almost total failure to advance any of the proposals, most of which were focused on the U.S. federal government.
Where there have been any small successes, they have mostly come at the state or local level or outside the United States. New York State just took a step toward free college and Washington State toward shutting down fossil fuels while everyone was watching Donald Trump's twitter feed. Most of the world's nations are working on a new treaty to ban nuclear weapons from the earth, while Obama's government has invested heavily in new nukes and (far more offensively, I'm told) Trump has tweeted about them.
The general federal-level failure in the United States is very clearly because the U.S. government in Washington D.C. is a financially corrupted and anti-democratic structure, and because the U.S. public is generally disinclined to hold it accountable. The United States enjoys remarkably less activism than many other countries, and suffers as a result.
A huge reason for the activism shortage is partisan loyalty. Of that minority of people who will do anything at all, many will only make demands of or protest members of one political party. For the other party all is forgiven. And most policy positions are utterly expendable at the slightest shift in the party line. Witness the current Democratic fever for believing the CIA on faith and desiring hostility toward Russia.
By Johhn Grant
The War I Survived Was Vietnam: Collected Writings of a Veteran and Antiwar Activist
By Rev. John Dear
Today, Pope Francis released the annual World Day of Peace Message for January 1, 2017, called “Nonviolence—A Style of Politics for Peace.” This is the Vatican’s fiftieth World Day of Peace message, but it’s the first statement on nonviolence, in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—in history.
We need to make “active nonviolence our way of life,” Francis writes at the start, and suggests nonviolence become our new style of politics. “I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values,” Francis writes. “May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life. When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking. In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.”
In his historic statement, Pope Francis discusses the violence of the world, Jesus’ way of nonviolence, and the viable alternative of nonviolence for today. His message is a breath of fresh air for all of us, and offers a framework for all of us to envision our lives and our world.
Happy Human Rights Day, and what ever happened to the right to life?
We need to stop imagining that when wars come home to the land of their creators that the suffering created is something separate from war. And we need to stop imagining that racist cruelty at home doesn't fuel the distant wars.
Imagine a country in which people condemn gun violence and police violence while actively pushing for a new cold war with Russia or urging the bombing of Syria or cheering a string of drone murders and tolerating the expansion of the U.S. military presence to darn near the whole globe. Or a peace movement that condemns foreign drone murders while failing to focus on the higher number of murders creating by U.S. police officers.
Weapons dealing is an integrated global enterprise that feeds on racist, bigoted, violent, and macho ideologies wherever it can find them. Trying to defeat it with separate anti-gun and anti-war movements not united in their work won't succeed. Most of the guns are sold abroad, many of them deployed against U.S. fighters in the wars. Many gun owners' fantasies are closely related to war.
When local police are given weapons by the U.S. military and training by the militaries of the United States and other nations, and when they employ veterans of the military, which employs veterans of the police and prison industries in turn, demanding that the warlike behavior that results on our streets and in our homes be restricted to foreign wars will not work, not practically and not morally. It makes as much sense as a protester asking that an oil pipeline be rerouted somewhere else. The damage to the earth will still be done, no matter the route. Donald Trump says he'll have less war but more military spending. That's like having more ice cream to lose weight.
This text is the foreword to a new book by Pat Elder called Military Recruiting in the United States.
Most people in the United States are far from aware of the full extent of military marketing, advertising, and recruitment efforts. We run into movies and comic books and video games and toys and school worksheets and science fairs and television shows and websites all the time that have been funded by and created in collaboration with the U.S. military. But we don’t know it. Or we know it, but we have so internalized the idea that the most expensive and extensive military the earth has ever known is simply normal, that we don’t think of its role in our educational and entertainment systems as in any way questionable. We don’t even think of the military’s marketing as being aimed at recruitment, much less ask each other whether that’s a good thing or being done in a proper way, or whether we ourselves should be forking over some $600 million a year just for the military’s advertising budget.
Chip Gibbons is the Policy and Legislative Counsel for the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. He is also a writer whose work has been featured in Jacobin, Truthout, and Counterpunch. We discuss U.S. Congressional efforts to censor criticism of the Israeli government, and to create a new McCarthyite Anti-Russia Committee.
The petition we mention is here.
The account of a sleeping Congress Member we mention is here.
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Charlottesville City Council Member Wes Bellamy is being widely denounced for tweets he tweeted years ago. I think he should be given a break.
I don't know Bellamy well and have not communicated with him about this. I don't support everything he's done even in recent years. I have almost nothing but contempt for the Democratic Party. I don't believe Bellamy deserves more of a break than would anyone else from some other demographic. I don't sympathize in the least with the disgusting things he tweeted.
And yet I find this criticism of him outrageous. And I find it consistent with some disturbing trends that extend well beyond Charlottesville.
Bellamy speaking at a rally on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville.
The problem of unfair privilege here is not one of race or class or gender but of age and position. If you grew up before every Spring Break lunacy and adolescent pretense was enshrined forever on the internet (outside of wise European efforts to provide a Right to Be Forgotten), you must be very careful in criticizing those who have grown up since that underappreciated age. If you have not stuck your neck out into the fire of partisan politics, you must give careful consideration to what most-ugly and most-deeply-forgotten thing you would be at risk of becoming known for if you did.
[NOTE: The website for this blog post [ www.afriendlyletter.com ] abruptly disappeared from the web about 36 hours after it was posted. As of this writing, three days later, the site is still down; the host says only that it is “working on it.” This version has been pieced together for distribution by other means.]
Millennials Organize Gun Violence Prevention Intersectionality Summit to Bring People Together Post-Election to Combat Divisiveness and Hate for a Day of Education, Organizing, Solidarity, and Art
Strength in Synergy Summit to be help December 10th at American University, DC
WASHINGTON, DC – On Saturday, December 10 from 9:30am - 7:30pm, a gun violence prevention summit organized by millennials will hold workshops, panel discussions, breakout grassroots organizing sessions, and conclude with a concert featuring local DC artists such as: Shepard Kings, Terry Gibson, and WERK for Peace. Workshops will be led by April Goggans (Black Lives Matter), Rachel Graber (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence), Miriam Pembleton (Institute for Policy Studies), and other significant members of gun violence prevention actions. To find more information about workshops and presenters click here.
Leading a workshops on intersections between domestic and foreign violence and racism will be David Swanson (World Beyond War and RootsAction.org), Jamani Montague (RootsAction.org), and Leah Muskin-Pierret.
Sign up: http://strengthinsynergy.com
“My host sister was murdered in Portland in 2008 by a man who bought a gun from a gun show with no background check; she was one of the many victims that would be alive today if we had a comprehensive, inclusive response to gun violence. Preventing the type of horror that affected my family is one of the most important issues to me. I recognize that gun violence is a deeply intersectional issue with the many oppressions that people face. With Trump’s violent and hateful rhetoric being quickly normalized, now is the time to bring our communities together.”
- Martha Durkee-Neuman, 20, CODEPINK.
Co-sponsoring/co-organizing organizations include: the Brady Campaign, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Black Lives Matter DC, the Institute for Policy Studies, the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, CODEPINK, WERK For Peace, Gays Against Guns, the Coalition of Concerned Mothers, the Timothy Dawkins El Project, Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action, the DC Anti-Violence Project, and MomsRising.
Visit http://strengthinsynergy.com for more information,
or on Facebook: https://facebook.com/events/157950498008430
NATIONAL BIRD This incendiary new film was produced by legendary filmmakers Wim Wenders and Errol Morris. Three U.S. military veterans have recently become whistleblowers by breaking the silence surrounding America’s secret drone war. Tortured by guilt for their participation in the killing of faceless people in foreign countries, and despite the threat of being prosecuted under the Espionage Act, these three veterans offer an unprecedented look inside this secret program. Filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck follows one of the protagonists to war torn Afghanistan where she sees firsthand the human cost of America’s global drone strikes. Her journey gives some hope for peace and redemption. (92 mins)
David Swanson is the author of War Is A Lie and War Is Never Just. He is an activist, journalist, and public speaker. His previous books include When the World Outlawed War, and War No More: The Case forAbolition. Swanson serves as director of World Beyond War, and host of Talk Nation Radio. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He is based in Charlottesville, Va.
Wounded Knee III in the making?: It’s Cowboy Cops Cavalry against Peaceful Indians and their Anglo Supporters at Standing Rock
By Dave Lindorff
There’s a chapter in a new book by Dorothie and Martin Hellman called A New Map for Relationships that outlines seven international relationships between the United States and others in which many people in the United States have not understood their government’s abusive behavior. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book.
What would people in the United States make of the information, if they had it, that Russians are infuriated when the West doesn’t recognize their suffering in the course of their defeat of Nazi Germany? The single city where Vladimir Putin’s parents lived lost more civilian lives to Germany in WWII than all U.S. military losses in the war. Yet the U.S. boycotts Russia’s 70th anniversary victory celebration in order to protest the choice of the people of Crimea to rejoin Russia following a violent right-wing coup in Ukraine facilitated by the United States. And Russians remember Harry Truman saying that the United States should help Germany if Russia was winning and Russia if Germany was winning, so that more people would die. They remember the U.S. delay for years in launching D-Day until Russia had been bled dry. The remember Winston Churchill’s proposal to launch a war on Russia using Nazi troops within hours of the Nazi defeat. They remember the U.S.-British-French invasion of 1917. They remember the U.S. promise not to expand NATO eastward when Germany reunited. They watch every military expansion on their border. They listen to every lie and provocation. And people in the United States remain oblivious, aloof, arrogant, and abusive. If this were a marriage, one partner would be told to do a little bit better listening.
How many people in the United States know that Jimmy Carter met with North Korea’s government in 1994 and made an agreement between the United States and North Korea that North Korea upheld for years? How many know that the United States chose not to uphold its side of the agreement while at the same time labeling North Korea part of an “axis of evil,” invading Iraq, and declaring in a “National Security Strategy” the U.S. right to attack such other countries? And that only after that, North Korea pulled out of the Nonproliferation Treaty and kicked out inspectors, and four years later conducted its first nuclear test? How many have considered the North Korean perspective on Libya’s agreement to give up nuclear weapons, followed by the violent overthrow of the Libyan government and the savage torture and murder of Libya’s president? Is there any awareness in the United States that North Korea views U.S./South Korean simulations of bombing North Korea (again) as threatening? Without, needless to say, declaring any partner in any relationship to be a saint (except my wife who actually is), isn’t it possible that a good counselor for this relationship would gently invite the United States to remove its head from its posterior?
A New Map for Relationships looks at these two and five other relationships from the perspective of personal, specifically marriage, relations. While I found other sections of the book analyzing the authors’ own marriage far less valuable, that could be in part because I already largely agreed with them. I appreciate their particular insights and facts once they turn to foreign policy, but someone inclined to believe hostility and arrogance to be entirely appropriate in foreign policy might be shaken in that perspective if they read the book in its entirety. (And if you think such people don’t exist, go back and watch Senator Ron Paul booed in a presidential primary debate in South Carolina for suggesting that foreign policy utilize the Golden Rule.)
That being said, I think there are a couple of dangers that must be carefully avoided every time we do the personal-to-international analogy. One is that propagandists and propagandizees are not identical. Those concocting fraudulent justifications for war are often completely aware of what they are doing. We have Pentagon officials now openly talking about hyping the Russian threat for bureaucratic and profit motives. Those are very different problems than lack of information or empathy. And empathy and understanding may not be the tools we principally need to apply in order to alter the actions of the propagandists; sometimes massive nonviolent disruption may be more useful. The distinction between those in power and those out is muddied by the use (by these authors and virtually every human being in the United States) of the term “we” to refer to the United States military or government.
A second problem is false equivalence. In a marriage, two partners should be, and in many ways usually are, relatively equal. In a relationship between the United States and Iran, for example, one of them spends hundreds of times what the other does on militarism, has bases on the other’s borders, threatens the other with war, has invaded the other’s neighbors, possesses nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, routinely engages in wars and drone murders, spies on and assassinates members of and sabotages the other, and has attempted to frame the other and falsely accuse the other of crimes. This same “equal partner” once overthrew the other’s democracy and installed and for years propped up a brutal dictator, and then assisted the other’s neighbor in a war against it that included massive killing with chemical weapons, to which the other chose not to respond in kind. In this sort of situation, asking each equal partner to admit equal blame is not a path to resolution. Asking each partner to admit some blame may make sense, but there’s an obvious reason why one of them should go first.
With those caveats, there is much to be gained by examining the sometimes-overlapping attitudes toward international relations of the public and those in power. Doing so allows the Hellmans to reach key insights about Los Alamos scientists, presidents, and dictators. And, I think, as presidents more and more closely resemble dictators, their nations’ foreign policy more and more resembles their personal relationships. When Donald Trump is handed the power, not to execute the laws of Congress, but to make laws and launch wars and spy and kidnap and imprison and torture and murder at will, it becomes very relevant how he relates to people or nations. It begins to matter that he has personal property all over the globe, some of which will almost certainly be attacked by terrorists. It begins to matter more that he may be more insecure and paranoid than Richard Nixon. But if he swears off hostility toward other nations and tries to work with them as partners, that may be an enormous silver lining to his cloudy rise to power. If on the other hand he wants war, there may be a silver lining for our resistance: if he is more naively open about his motivations — if he blurts out “steal their oil!” and “kill their families!” — then the rest of us may have an easier time avoiding the trap of imagining that the people he wants to slaughter have deeply offended us.
President Obama waited until after the election last week to propose an unpopular idea. He asked Congress for $11.6 billion extra — outside the huge existing military budget — for wars. Here’s his letter including all the gory details. Please read it yourself when you begin to hope that I’m making up some of what follows.
This massive pile of money, equivalent to the annual spending that the United Nations says could end the lack of clean drinking water globally, adds between 1% and 2% to U.S. military spending — but is by itself more than the entire military budget of all but 14 other nations on earth, 12 of which top-spending nations are U.S. allies.
I knew John Heuer was elderly from the day I met him, years ago, and came to know him as one of the most dedicated advocates of peace on earth. Losing him is a blow. He was youthful, vibrant, recently married, and intent on ridding the world of pointless mass slaughter. John was active in every organization and independently. He advanced nonviolent action, lobbying, education, and inspiration.
John wrote this four years ago:
Dear young citizens,
First, I want to congratulate you on your many accomplishments. Second, I want to counsel you on your roles as citizens.
When I graduated 8th grade in 1960, citizens could not vote until they were 21. Boys could be drafted into the army and sent to war at age 18, but they could not fully participate as citizens, including engagement in public, democratic decisions about whether or not the nation should send our boys to war. This travesty was somewhat remedied by passage of the 26th amendment to the US Constitution in 1971, granting the right to vote to 18 year-olds.
I say “somewhat” a remedy, because the issue of the rights, responsibilities, privileges and duties of citizens under the age of 18 have not been addressed. It is these rights, responsibilities, privileges and duties about which I write today: Your citizenship.
As rising 9th graders, you are well aware that your education is, as yet, incomplete. But it will come as a surprise to many and a shock to some to learn that your education has contained deep strains of fraud, about who actually runs our government and how. Here are three examples:
OLF – The US Navy proposed construction of “Outlying Landing Fields” (OLF) in wildlife sanctuaries near North Carolina’s east coast, in order to practice landings and take-offs for military aircraft. Public outcry caused the Navy to scuttle these plans.
Sonar Training Field off the Florida—Georgia coast. The Navy has proposed designating hundreds of square miles of Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the southern US for submarine sonar training, despite opposition of environmental groups which point out that these areas are breeding grounds for whales, and that high frequency sonar is known to drive marine mammals insane. The US Supreme Court overruled the environmentalists with the judgment that, while there could be incidental injury, there was also a lack of proof that the sonar testing area would threaten any species’ extinction.
$185 Billion Dollars is what our government proposes to spend in the next 10 years to modernize our nuclear weapons arsenal. It is difficult to measure (or imagine) $185 Billion, but it would pay for a lot of school lunches, teachers’ salaries and school nurses. Besides, what business do we have maintaining a military arsenal designed to incinerate cities?
When you consider these government programs, you have to wonder if our government has gone mad, and what we, as citizens, of all ages, can do about it.
Why don’t we hear more about these grave assaults on planet earth and this terrible squander of our wealth? The fact is that the agents that propose these travesties are the same ones that often own our newspapers and write your textbooks.
So, what are we to do? One of the 1st steps, I think, is for you to understand that the wealth being squandered and the planet being desecrated belongs to you, your generation, your children, grand children and posterity.
The 2nd step is to realize, however painfully, that your parents and grandparents have failed to establish your legacy of peaceful nations living together on an abundant earth.
The 3rd is to exercise your rights, responsibilities, privileges and duties of your citizenship to carefully study your local resources in order to propose a reconfiguration of those resources to meet the needs of your community, and to engage your peers in an earnest identification of those needs. Start with identifying the military footprint in your district and discuss how much, if any, that investment enhances the security of your community, and how redirecting that investment could improve the security of your community. Use your networking capabilities not just for socializing, but for building solidarity among your peers. Use that solidarity to demand a school curriculum that addresses the needs of your community or create your own curriculum.
Finally, a word about citizenship. Many of you go to school with non-citizens of the USA. Please recognize them as guests, and afford them as much hospitality as you can. Remember, your US citizenship may be established by the Constitution and subsequent laws, but we are all world citizens by virtue of our birth.
Here's a proposal backed by RootsAction.org, WorldBeyondWar.org, Pax Christi Charlottesville, Amnesty International Charlottesville, the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, and 257 people who have signed this petition: http://bit.ly/cvillepeacepole
Charlottesville, Virginia, has the potential to be a leader for peace at home and abroad. Our city council in recent years passed resolutions against the war on Iraq, against threatening Iran, against drones, and in favor of moving resources from wasteful and deadly military spending to human and environmental needs. Other cities and towns followed Charlottesville's lead on some of these measures. Our voices were heard in Richmond and in Washington.
We now need to be a voice for peace and nonviolence more than ever. Wearing a safety pin is a wonderful way to communicate that one is a safe person not inclined toward bigotry or violence. But we need something more visible as well.
Charlottesville's monuments to wars, including the Native American genocide, the defense of slavery, and the slaughter of 3.8 million Vietnamese, dominate public space. Charlottesville's support for peace is nowhere visible on the public landscape.
Charlottesville has four sister cities, and signs indicating them are visible in Charlottesville. But the motto of Sister Cities International, "Peace Through People," is nowhere to be found. There is no location set aside to celebrate these relationships, as there could be in combination with a peace pole.
A couple of dozen young people marched back and forth through downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, Saturday evening shouting "Love Not Hate!" and "No Human Being Is Illegal!" and "Black Lives Matter!" and similar anti-Trump inspired slogans. They didn't hand out flyers or interact with other people at all, though I cheered for them.
Meanwhile some people my age looked on and made scornful condescending comments to the effect that the election was over and these fools should get over it. And one drunk guy, restrained by his wife or girlfriend, announced that "Black lives aren't worth s---!"
My response is different, if perhaps equally cynical. I'd like all the fools not marching and rallying to recognize that the dream of self-governance is over and to get over it. I'd like everyone to have gotten over it last month or last year or last decade.
I love that people march around shouting "Love Not Hate!" And the fact that anyone would object to that statement of preference ought to deeply disturb the most apathetic voter/consumer/spectator. In fact I've just helped set up a petition that reads:
"We will not stand by as hatred and violence are promoted by our president-elect. Racism and bigotry at home have been fueled by U.S. wars abroad, but also make more such wars easier. We commit to nonviolently resisting hateful attacks on our fellow human beings wherever they live."
I also love and am practicing the new trend of wearing a safety pin to indicate that one is a safe and caring person to anyone who might be worried about any variety of bigotry.
But here's where I get a bit cynical. Hillary Clinton told a room full of Goldman Sachs bankers that creating a no fly zone in Syria would require killing lots of Syrians. And she told the public she wanted to create that no fly zone. And if she had been declared the winner of the election, I can guarantee you that nobody would have been marching up and down my street yelling "Love Not Hate."
So, I worry that even those who value kindness to others value it only for the 4% of humanity in the United States but not so much for the other 96%, or value it only as directed by the less hateful of the two big political parties.
I also worry that it's even worse than that. I worry that, as cheerleaders for one political party over the other, people have lost touch with the idea of bringing demands from the public to the government. For seven years we had protests of the war on Afghanistan, for example. Then for eight years we didn't, even as the U.S. forces there grew by over 300 percent before declining. Perhaps next year those protests will recommence, but probably only in the unlikely event that the Democratic Party raises the issue.
Where was the outrage over the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Or over the lack of single-payer healthcare? Or over the failure to restrain inequality or environmental destruction? Or over the threat of a nuclear war with Russia? Why the selective outrage on-command as directed by televised coverage of the model or template protest in New York City?
But, really, what choice do people have? If they want others to join in, if they want the local media to cover them, they have to go where the momentum is. And when the momentum is for love against hate, everybody should be cheering and joining.
But we should also be directing our energy toward strategic areas for systemic change.
Is it a problem that the winner of the popular vote can be denied the U.S. presidency? Then let's compel our state legislatures to change the law to distribute electors in proportion to actual votes.
Is it a problem that a small cartel of major media corporations can choose to give someone like Donald Trump wall-to-wall free airtime, effectively handing him a nomination for president? Then let's channel widespread (including Trump's) disdain for the media into breaking up that cartel.
Is it a problem that the Democratic Party can slant the playing field of its primary to guarantee a win to a weak candidate? We should disempower and democratize parties, including by ending the corruption of privately financed elections, and by creating ranked-choice voting in the other 49 states as Maine's voters just did there.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead for the moment, and the president-elect made at least 1,000 speeches condemning NAFTA. Let's put an end to NAFTA, and not replace it with something worse.
It took President Obama two days after the election to put in his request for more billions for more war. Trump has already said he wants to end the arming of fighters in Syria. Let's end that supplemental spending bill along with that policy. And let's make clear that we won't stand for another form of escalation in Syria or Iraq.
Is it too early to impeach Trump? Then let's focus on blocking his horrendous cabinet nominations.
Much of recent Trump-driven hatred took the form of voter suppression. Let's demand investigations and prosecutions.
And what about loving future generations? Let's work to advance a wiser environmental policy at the local, state, and international levels, and to make clear to Congress and the president-elect that we will not stand for the destruction of the earth's climate.
Let's energize and strategize with everyone marching against the recent election. Let's take these protests where their leaders think they need to go. Even if we're just telling each other and the world that we're not among those accepting hatred and violence, that's all to the good.
But let's not start to believe that activism is principally for displaying our identities. Let's make sure we're transforming major structures that impact millions and billions of those whom we need to love and not hate.
Of silver linings: Trump’s Presidency, the Demise of the Major Parties, and the Need for a New Progressive Movement
By Dave Lindorff
Let’s look on the bright side.