Since 2006, the We Are Not Your Soldiers project has visited many high school and college campuses bringing the message that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a deadly moral, psychological and physical toll on soldiers while bringing death, grievous injury, displacement and suffering to the people of those countries. The We Are Not Your Soldiers project is ready to visit your school or classroom in the Spring semester with Iraq/Afghanistan-era veterans to talk about their on-the-ground experience in occupying countries, where civilians pay the price.
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No New Authorization for the Use of Military Force
The U.S. Congress is considering another "Authorization for the Use of Military Force" -- a broad approval for more war.
This is the last thing we need. These wars are not making us safer but generating enemies. They are not surgical operations, but mass killings, as well as assaults on the natural environment and the public budget -- not to mention excuses for curtailing civil liberties.
Please sign this statement for delivery to the media and Congress:
By taking action you agree that you may be contacted by one or more of the participating organizations. This petition is a joint project of: Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Iraq Veterans Against the War, KnowDrones.com, Military Families Speak Out, Peace Action, Peace Action Montgomery, RootsAction.org, United National Antiwar Coalition, Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones, U.S. Labor Against the War, World Beyond War.
Dear WNPJ Members!
We are pleased to announce that we will be building off of the success of our Growing a Peaceful Future: Youth Film Festival last year and having our second annual this May 2nd from 1-4 pm in Madison WI.
We are asking high school students to make a video in response to the question: If you had $1 trillion, what would you do for yourself, your family and your community rather than spending it all on the military budget?
As many of you know the US spends almost as much as the entire rest of the world combined on military operations and weapons and we continue to have deficits in community needs such as education, health care, veterans benefits, and public transportation.
Over $1.5 trillion have been spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and each year, nearly $1 trillion is spent on the U.S. Military. Wisconsin alone has spent $23 billion on this years military budget and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and over the past 12 years.
Please encourage any high schoolers in your life to submit a video!
Here are some important dates and information to keep in mind:
March 8th 1-4 pm Workshop on How to Create a Successful Video! at UW Madison Vilas Hall Room 4050 on University Ave and North Park St. A workshop for high school students by UW Comm Arts Professor Lori Kido Lopez on how to create a video and what to add in the video.
April 15th Deadline for submitting a video at wnpj.org/video There are more details on the website.
May 2nd 1-4 pm in Madison Location TBA. We will be showcasing the finalists for the contest, presenting the scholarships, voting on the people's choice award, having good food, building community, and taking pictures on the red carpet! Save the date!
Scholarships will be awarded to the top four videos, judged for their createivity and content. The first prize winner will recieve $1,000, 2nd place $500, and 3rd place $250, and People's Choice $250.
Please visit wnpj.org/video for great information to help get started on the video entries.
If students are interested in submitting a video please RSVP online at: wnpj.org/video Feel free to contact us with any questions.
Z! Haukeness and the Growing a Peaceful Future Team.
By Dave Lindorff
If you want to get a good understanding of how thoroughly corrupted and sold-out our government in Washington is, you need only look at the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the latest in a series of trade “deals” that is heading towards passage right now, and that, like its predecessors, NAFTA and CAFTA, as well as the World Trade Organization, will be sucking jobs out of the US for years.
What can I be sure of after only one week in Havana? Very little. There are exceptions to every pattern, and sometimes more exceptions than patterns. But a few claims, I think, are possible:
1. The sea and this island in it are stupendously beautiful even to someone longing for people and places up north.
2. The people of Cuba are sincerely warm and friendly. And, although they know the history of U.S. aggression, they sharply distinguish the U.S. government from the U.S. people. They are surprised and delighted to encounter the latter. (Americans might do well, likewise, not to identify the Cuban people with their government.)
3. The poverty here does not approach that in much of Latin America and the Caribbean -- despite the blockade (what Cubans call the embargo since the U.S. effectively prevents other countries trading with Cuba too).
4. The safety, security, life expectancy and in many ways the quality of life are high by any standard. Key West has worse food, more alcoholism, more militarism, and more money.
5. U.S. tourists will love Cuba. For the left, Cuba has socialized education, healthcare, and a basic income guarantee. For the right, Cuba has meat, machismo, meat, the war on drugs, cigarette smoke at the next table, and more meat. Welcome here are atheism, Catholicism, Santeria, and whatever else you've got. For everyone, Cuba has the beauty, culture, and adventures to match any destination in this part of the globe.
Could I live in Cuba and write in Cuba? Possibly not. The rebels in Cuba rebel against the failures of their government, and that runs up against two problems. (1) People read. (2) The government fears dissent as U.S.-funded propaganda for regime change (which a lot of it is, to the tune of $20 million U.S. tax dollars per year). In the United States I can write because no one reads and the government trusts everyone to go shopping and watch TV -- which is full of commercials, unlike Cuban TV, thus producing more shopping.
The opening between the U.S. and Cuban governments is very, very strange, because the United States does indeed want to radically change or overthrow the Cuban government, and the United States allows terrorists who have repeatedly and openly attacked Cuba to live free in the U.S. For over a half-century the U.S. has used Cuba as a lab for testing military techniques, propaganda, infiltration, sabotage, and bio-warfare -- with the result being complete failure. But without recognizing the absoluteness of that failure, much less regretting the immorality of the crimes, the U.S. wants to "normalize" relations with a government it hates and wants to put an end to.
Will this normalization become a series of embarrassing new attempts to change Cuba in ways not tried before? Or will it lead to actual normalization in the sense of mutual respect and cooperation? One way in which I think a more positive result can be advanced is with an emphasis on education. This is more important than raising the flag at the embassy or allowing the importation of fancy Cuban soap. We need student exchanges, academic exchanges, and educational tourism.
Cubans shouldn't believe that U.S. roads have no potholes. They should come to the United States to see homelessness. And extravagance. They should see people walk by without saying hello on streets with no music under skies with no sun. They should add the flaws to the positives that they've learned from Hollywood's version of perfection. And if, when they start respecting copyrights, they ingest a little less Hollywood, so much the better.
Americans shouldn't believe the vast emptiness that fills the part of their brains where history is supposed to go. They should come to the Museum of the Revolution to learn Cuba's modern history. They should come to the Museum of the Ministry of the Interior to see the collection of weapons and gadgets captured from the hapless CIA. They should learn that their own government has for decades blown up buildings and airplanes, poisoned crops and livestock, spread diseases, and generally engaged in low-scale one-sided warfare (aka terrorism) against Cuba. Tours of Hemingway sites should include information on how he died.
American tourists should get free rum and cigars if they pass a quiz upon leaving a museum:
- What did Cubans want in 1898? (Hint, the United States is currently bombing [fill in current nation] in its name.)
- What did they get instead?
- What nation has killed 3,000 Cubans in terrorist attacks?
- Why has Cuba not invaded Afghanistan and Iraq in response?
- Has Cuba ever organized any attack on the United States?
- Why does the United States want to overthrow the Cuban government?
Five correct answers should be sufficient to pass the test. As answers to #6 "To fend off the Communist takeover of the world" should get the tourist a sympathetic kiss and a gentle kick in the ass. "To spread inequality" or "to increase poverty and insecurity" or "to maximize environmental destruction" should get the tourist a free pass to visit a Cuban psychiatric clinic. Anything along the lines of "The plutocrats who control Washington want to get their claws on Cuba too" or "Those wronged in the revolution are still in a rage" or "The mob wants its casinos and brothels back" should be considered close enough to win a free song by a live band on the steps of the museum.
And what if those who lost property in the revolution are compensated to their satisfaction, while the Cubans who have suffered under the blockade and the terrorist attacks are compensated to their satisfaction? This is, after all, part of the negotiations underway.
And what if the mob is shut out and the plutocrats partially restrained?
And what if U.S. public opinion evolves along with the acquisition of relevant information? What if the U.S. public were to insist on normal relations with Cuba that are actually normal?
If Cuba comes off the ridiculous terrorist list, the educational exchange opportunities could really open up. I hope Cuba knows how incredibly little Americans know, and how much difference it makes when they know something. Cuba has produced good movies. It should produce a new one, in English, with the Cuban Five played by five previous Oscar winners. That would be worth more than another pig farm.
And while I'm giving unsolicited advice: Here is the second priority: Build that wall higher along the sea, because it's rising and we want this beautiful city to stay right where it is.
Today in Havana, Mariela Castro Espin, director of the national center for sexual education and daughter of the president of Cuba, gave us a truly enlightened talk and question-and-answer session on LGBT rights, sex education, pornography (and why young people should avoid it if they want to have good sex) -- plus her view of what the Cuban government is doing and should be doing on these issues. She advocates equal rights for same-sex couples and a ban on discrimination, for example.
In other unusual Cuban phenomena, the U.S. government is allowing tourists to bring home $100 worth of rum and cigars. And the U.S. State Department is working on a forthcoming list of products that Cubans can export to the United States. The list will not include numerous life-saving medicines currently unavailable in the United States, and not apparently because the U.S. government believes rum and cigars are better for its people than life-saving medicines. No, the reason is bizarre yet predictable. Stop and guess for a minute before reading on.
Are you guessing?
The list of products that can be exported from Cuba for sale in the United States (from the point of view of the U.S. government) will include only products from private enterprise, nothing created by state-owned enterprises in Cuba.
In other words, this "opening" is a new tool intended to advance Cuban privatization whether Cubans want it or not -- a tool that may have some beneficial side effects, but not a tool designed to advance any relationship of friendship or respect. If U.S. Cuban relations are improved by this move (assuming the Cuban government agrees to it) it will be by accident.
Falling further down the Cuban rabbit hole, I've been thinking, talking, and reading about the status of Guantanamo. The United States took the Guantanamo site, and the Isle of Pines (now called Isle of Youth) by force. The 1903 Treaty of Relations was imposed at gun-point and in some ways superseded by the 1934 Treaty of Relations. That 1934 treaty, in important regard, simply reaffirmed the 1903 treaty:
"Until the two contracting parties agree to the modification or abrogation of the stipulations of the agreement in regard to the lease to the United States of America of lands in Cuba for coaling and naval stations signed by the President of the Republic of Cuba on February 16, 1903, and by the President of the United States of America on the 23d day of the same month and year, the stipulations of that agreement with regard to the naval station of Guantanamo shall continue in effect. The supplementary agreement in regard to naval or coaling stations signed between the two Governments on July 2, 1903, also shall continue in effect in the same form and on the same conditions with respect to the naval station at Guantanamo. So long as the United States of America shall not abandon the said naval station of Guantanamo or the two Governments shall not agree to a modification of its present limits, the station shall continue to have the territorial area that it now has, with the limits that it has on the date of the signature of the present Treaty."
The 1934 treaty fails to legitimate the 1903 documents or the Platt Amendment of the same period, which was imposed on Cuba by force and remained in the Cuban Constitution until 1940. That amendment gave the United States the right "to intervene for the preservation of Cuban independence, the maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty." This, by 1929, had been rendered illegal by the Kellogg-Briand Pact in which the United States, Cuba, and many other nations committed to settling their disputes without the use of force -- force, of course, being what "intervene" referred to and meant in practice. In the decades between 1903 and 1934 the United States did in fact intervene by force repeatedly in Cuba. The Cuban government of 1934 was no more legitimate than the government of 1903.
Interestingly, the Platt Amendment denied Cuba the Isle of Pines without claiming it decisively for the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court later ruled that there was no legal claim to the island for the United States, that the matter was purely "political." The U.S. Congress gave the island back to Cuba in 1925.
The argument of the U.S. government for its claim to Guantanamo really does not amount to anything. It amounts to the existence of an illegitimate treaty with an illegitimate government that no longer exists. The current government has refused to cash the rent checks the U.S. sends it. Sometimes the U.S. case is prettied up by claims that the "lease" is due to expire some day. It isn't. Not in anything written. The crime of stealing Guantanamo, like the Isle of Pines or Vieques or the Panama Canal or the closed bases in Ecuador or the Philippines is what is due to expire some day.
Seeking to change Cuba is openly the policy of the U.S. government, and from the Cuban point of view it amounts to an effort to overthrow the Cuban government. The United States spends $20 million a year through USAID and other agencies to fund activism and "education" or "communications" in Cuba aimed at reshaping Cuba in the image the United States desires. Much of this is done subversively, such as the recently exposed effort to create a Twitter-like tool that would propagandize Cubans without revealing its source.
The U.S. justification for this behavior is that Cuba falls short in the area of human rights. Of course, Cuba says the same of the U.S. based on a broader understanding of human rights. But were Cuba to fund activist groups in the United States those groups would be violating U.S. law due to Cuba's ridiculous presence on the U.S. government's terrorist list. And if the U.S. government were to try to honestly justify punishment of Cuba as a human rights violator alongside the absence of punishment of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and so many other human rights violators, the argument would have to be spoken by Alice's Queen of Hearts.
By Dave Lindorff
Finally some good news for a change!
At a packed session of the Philadelphia City Council Thursday morning, council members voted 14-2 to approve a bill mandating that all companies with 10 or more employees in this city of 1.5 million allow their workers to earn up to five days’ paid sick leave for themselves or to care for a sick or injured person at home.
Cuba and the Estados Unidos have been family for so long that relationships have been reversed, forgotten, turned inside out, and repeated.
In the 19th century, the Cuban community in the United States and their supporters there were the base for revolutionary democracy and the ousting of Spanish colonial rule. Americanism and Protestantism and capitalism were seen as progressive democratic challenges to colonial control -- and I mean by more than just the equivalent of Fox viewers.
Of course that's wildly different now. The United States is now willing to smack itself in the face repeatedly in hopes of occasionally landing a blow on Cuba. Here in the land of our Caribbean cousins it is commonly discussed that the United States is hurting its health, not just by eating crap food and denying people healthcare, but also by denying the U.S. people Cuban medical advances. There are 13 vaccines, the saying goes, for such things as meningitis, that Cuba has and the U.S. does not. Other medical advances are also part of this argument, including prominently a treatment of diabetes that saves people from amputations. There are also U.S. medical advances -- in particular expensive equipment -- that Cuba cannot have as long as the embargo rages on.
I remember Robin Williams telling Canada it was a nice friendly apartment over a meth lab. Unfortunately for Cuba it lives in the basement. The madness of its upstairs relatives is epitomized by the manner in which the militarism that lies at the root of the embargo directly impacts U.S. health. I mean beyond all the killing and injuries and pollution and environmental destruction, there's something more grotesque. I picture mad naked Nazis in boots -- and in the path of the hurricanes -- on Plum Island who almost certainly gave us Lyme disease and spread the West Nile virus and the Dutch duck plague and others -- all of them still spreading -- as part of the same program that weaponized Anthrax and just possibly spread Ebola.
The ongoing U.S. bio-warfare program may have caused more damage through testing and accidents than by intention, but it has intentionally brought hunger and death to Cuba as it was designed to do, introducing swine fever to the island as well as tobacco mold, and creating "an epidemic of hemorrhagic dengue fever in 1981, during which some 340,000 people were infected and 116,000 hospitalized, this in a country which had never before experienced a single case of the disease. In the end, 158 people, including 101 children, died."
Families will fight. The United States has behaved better at other times. In 1904, the U.S. signed, and in 1925 it ratified the returning of the Isle of Pine (now the Isle of Youth) to Cuba. The deep scar that deed left on the United States of America and the danger it placed all Americans in are of course ludicrous fantasies, and the same would be the case if the United States were to return Guantanamo to Cuba. Very few in the U.S. would even know about Guantanamo if it weren't being used as a human experimentation, torture, and death camp for illegal prisoners. Both Guantanamo and the Isle of Youth were stolen during what Cuba calls the Cuban-American War and the U.S. calls the Spanish-American War. If one can be given back, why not the other?
Cuba and the United States have been exchanging cultures and ideas and identities for so long that one cannot keep them straight. I'm delighted to have found Facebook and Twitter working in Cuba and to be able to get on the internet and see how handily the University of Virginia just beat N.C. State at basketball, but doing so with a live Cuban band jamming five feet away is a vast improvement. The live music and dancing at 10 in the morning, with rum drinks, that I have begun getting used to is arguably an improvement on quality of life that no quantity of home appliances or gated communities can match. I'd like to get my cell phone working but can't spare the hours to wait in the line at the Cuban phone office. But let that come later, for better or worse, along with the U.S. investors and the rising waters crashing over the wall along the Maracón.
I've seen poverty in Cuba, but not conspicuously extravagant wealth. I've seen begging for money but not hostility. I've seen genuine friendliness and what comes across as immediate intimacy. I've heard complaints of homophobia and police harassment and lack of same-sex marriage rights. I've heard complaints of racism. But these are points in common throughout our family.
I've met a woman who says she had an idyllic childhood growing up on the U.S. base at Guantanamo, which she believes should not exist. I've petted the loose dogs in the streets of Havana, which bear no resemblance to the U.S. breed known as Havanese.
Filmmaker Gloria Rolando told us at her house tonight that the 1898 war and the U.S. control of Cuba increased existing racism. In 1908, as one of her films recounts, the Independent Party of Color was founded. In 1912 a massacre killed 3,000 blacks. Similar incidents were happening in the North at the same time, incidents that the U.S. is struggling to remember.
Rolando's films tell a story of a Caribbean family, of people moving from island to island. In the 1920s and 1930s poor people in the pre-banking haven Cayman Islands came to work on the Isle of Pine. The complex history of immigrants moving to the United States and back, and to other islands and back, is a history of racial complexity as well. Cuba today has racial problems, Rolando says, but now it is possible to debate the topic, unlike 15 years ago. Some black people still favor light skin, she says, and very few blacks have family in Miami sending them money. "You have seen the ugly black dolls with cigars for sale to tourists," she says, and I have. I have also seen more mixed-race couples and groups here than ever up north.
Assata Shakur is the topic of one of Rolando's films, The Eyes of the Rainbow. In it, she remarks on Cubans' unnerving friendliness, something she grew used to after moving here.
Earlier today we traveled out of Havana to Las Terrazas, a sustainable model community in a reforested area of the mountains that used to be a French coffee plantation. This ideal model for tourists and visitors only turned to tourism recently. The 1,000 people who live there, and the gourmet vegetarian restaurant where we dined there (El Romero with chef Tito Nuñez Gudas), and the incredible beauty of the place are not representative of all of Cuba; but they are indications of what is possible.
I picked up a bottle of honey made at Las Terrazas and packaged in a re-used rum bottle. I wanted to bring it home until I realized something. Honey is a liquid. On an airplane it would be a terrorist threat or a reason to spend $50 on checking a suitcase.
We looked at the stone cells people slept in under guard when forced to work on the coffee plantation under the system of slavery. They were about the size of the slave cabins at Thomas Jefferson's house, a bit larger than the cages at Guantanamo.
Cuba and the United States have a great deal in common, but of course it all means nothing because their president is always a Castro and ours is changed every 4 or 8 years from one advocate of crazy militarism, consumption, and wealth concentration, to a nearly identical advocate of crazy militarism, consumption, and wealth concentration. When will Cuba catch up?
"It's behind us," Fernando Gonzales of the Cuban Five said with a smile when I told him just a few moments ago that I was sorry for the U.S. government having locked him in a cage for 15 years. It was nice of the New York Times to editorialize in favor of negotiations to release the remaining three, he said, especially since that paper had never reported on the story at all.
Gonzales said there is no ground for the United States keeping Cuba on its terrorist list. That there are Basques in Cuba is through an agreement with Spain, he said. The idea that Cuba is fighting wars in Central America is false, he added, noting that Colombian peace talks are underway here in Havana. "The President of the United States knows this," Gonzales said, "which is why he asked for the list to be reviewed."
Medea Benjamin recalled coming to Cuba back in an age when the United States was apparently trying to kill not only Cubans but also tourists who dared to come to Cuba. This, she said, is what the Cuban Five were trying to stop. So we're glad, she told Gonzales, that we can come here now without worrying about Obama putting a bomb in the lobby. A crazy worry? It wasn't always.
Earlier today we visited the Latin American School of Medicine, which is now misnamed as it educates doctors from all over the world, not just Latin America. It began in 1998 by converting a former navy school into a medical school at which to give free education to students from Central America. From 2005 to 2014, the school has seen 24,486 students graduate.
Their education is totally free and begins with a 20-week course in the Spanish language. This is a world-standard medical school surrounded by palm trees and sports fields on the very edge of the Caribbean, and students who are qualified for pre-med school -- which means two years of U.S. college -- can come here and become doctors without paying a dime, and without going hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt. The students do not then have to practice medicine in Cuba or do anything for Cuba, but rather are expected to return to their own countries and practice medicine where it is most needed.
Thus far 112 U.S. students have graduated, and 99 are currently enrolled. Some of them went with an aid "brigade" to Haiti. All of them, after graduating, have passed their U.S. exams back home. I spoke with Olive Albanese, a medical student from Madison, Wisconsin. I asked what she would do upon graduation. "We have a moral obligation," she replied, "to work where it's most needed." She said she would go to a rural or Native American area that has no doctors and work there. She said that the U.S. government should be offering this same service to anyone who wants it, and that people who graduate with student debt will not serve those most in need.
This morning we visited a still healthier place than the medical school: Alamar.
This organic farming cooperative on 25 acres east of Havana didn't choose to go organic. Back in the 1990s, during the "special period" (meaning catastrophically bad period) nobody had fertilizer or other poisons. They couldn't use them if they wanted to. Cuba lost 85% of its international trade when the Soviet Union broke up. So, Cubans learned to grow their own food, and learned to do so without chemicals, and learned to eat the things they grew. A meat-heavy diet began to incorporate a lot more vegetables.
Miguel Salcines, a founder of Alamar, gave us a tour, with camera crews from German television and the Associated Press following. The farm has been featured in a U.S. documentary called The Power of Community, and Salcines has given a TED talk. To Cuba's tradition of monocropping sugar, the USSR added chemicals and machinery, he said. The chemicals did damage. And the population was moving to cities. Big agriculture collapsed, and farming was transformed: smaller, more urban, and organic before anyone knew that name. People who resent the history of slavery and dislike the work of monocropping, he said, are now finding a better way of life working at organic farming coops. That includes 150 workers at Alamar, many of whom we observed and spoke with. Farm workers now include more women and more elderly Cubans.
There are more elderly Cubans working on organic farms because Cubans are living longer (life expectancy of 79.9 years) and they are living longer, according to Salcines, at least in part because of organic food. Eliminating beef has improved Cubans' health, he said. Biodiversity and beneficial insects and proper care for the soil replace fertilizers and pesticides, to everyone's benefit. Thousands of minerals must be replaced in farmed soil, he said, and replacing just a few of them results in illnesses, diabetes, heart problems, and much else, including a lack of libido -- not to mention more pests on the farm, which could be reduced by giving the plants proper nutrition. Even Cuba's bees are reportedly alive and well.
Salcines says Cuba produces 1,020,000 tons of organic vegetables per year, 400 tons of them at Alamar in great variety and at a rate of five crops per year. Alamar also produces 40 tons of worm compost per year, using 80 tons of organic matter to do so.
Salcines pointed to Cuba's healthy diet as something good that's come of the U.S. embargo. On top of that scandalous remark he declared his disagreement with Karl Marx. Population growth is exponential and food production linear, he said. Marx believed science would solve this problem, and he was wrong, declared Salcines. When women are in power, said Salcines, the population doesn't grow. So, put women in power, he concluded. The only way to feed the world, Salcines said, with an apology to Monsanto, is to reject the agriculture of killing in favor of an agriculture of life.
This evening, February 9, 2015, a handful of visitors from the land to the north asked an assistant (or "instructional" which I take to be a step below "assistant") professor of philosophy about his studies and his teaching experiences here in Cuba. One of our group made the mistake of asking whether this philosopher thought of Fidel as a philosopher. The result was an almost Fidel-length response that had little to do with philosophy and everything to do with criticizing the president.
Fidel Castro, according to this young man, had good intentions over a half century ago, but he grew stubborn and willing only to listen to advisers who said what he wanted to hear. Examples offered included a decision in the 1990s to solve a teacher shortage by making unqualified teenagers into professors.
When I asked about authors favored by Cuban philosophy students, and Slavoj Zizek's name came up, I asked if this was at all based on videos of him, given the lack of internet. "Oh, but they pirate and share everything," was the response.
This led to a discussion of the local internet people have set up in Cuba. According to this professor, people are relaying wireless signals on from house to house and running wires along telephone lines, and they are self-policing by cutting out anyone sharing pornography or other undesirable materials. In this man's view, the Cuban government could easily provide internet to many more people but chooses not to out of a desire to better control it. He himself, he said, has internet access through his job, but doesn't use email because if he did then he'd have no excuse for missing meetings announced by email.
This morning we had met with Ricardo Alarcon (Cuba's Permanent Representative to the United Nations for nearly 30 years and later Minister of Foreign Affairs before becoming President of the National Assembly of People's Power) and Kenia Serrano Puig (a member of Parliament and the President of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples or ICAP, which has already published this article).
Why so little internet? someone asked. Kenia replied that the main obstacle was the U.S. blockade, explaining that Cuba has to connect to the internet through Canada and that it is very expensive. "We'd like to have internet for everyone," she said, but the priority is to provide it to social institutions.
USAID, she noted, has spent $20 million per year to propagandize for regime change in Cuba, and USAID doesn't connect everyone to the internet, but only those whom they choose.
Cubans can speak against the Cuban government, she said, but many who do are paid by USAID, including widely read bloggers -- not dissidents, in her view, but mercenaries. Alarcon added that the Helms-Burton Act banned sharing of U.S. technology, but Obama has just changed that.
The philosophy professor acknowledged some truth to these claims, but thought it was fairly slight. I suspect there's as much a variation in perspective at work here as intentional deception. The citizen sees shortcomings. The government sees foreign dangers and price tags.
Still, it is wonderful to hear about people managing to create independent communications media in any country, including one long abused by the United States, and one that gets a great many things right.
An American who's been in Cuba for many years told me that often the government announces policies and services on television and in newspapers, but people don't watch or read, and because there's no way to find things out on a website, they never find out. This strikes me as a good reason for the Cuban government to want everyone to have the internet, and for the internet to be used to show the world what the Cuban government is doing when it is doing something creative or moral.
I'm trying to keep things in perspective. I haven't heard yet of any corruption to match the tales that Bob Fitrakis, one of our group, relates of Columbus, Ohio, politics. I haven't seen any neighborhood in as terrible shape as Detroit.
As we learn about the highs and lows of Cuban life, and their possible causes, one fact becomes clear: the excuse offered by the Cuban government for any failure is the U.S. embargo. Were the embargo to end, the excuse would certainly vanish -- and to some degree the actual problem would almost certainly be improved. By continuing the embargo, the United States provides an excuse for what it claims to be opposing, in its often hypocritical way: restrictions on freedom of the press and speech -- or what the U.S. thinks of as "human rights."
Cuba, of course, sees the rights to housing, food, education, healthcare, peace, etc., as human rights as well.
Not far from the Capitol building, modeled on the U.S. Capitol building and -- like it -- undergoing repairs, I bought a copy of the Cuban Constitution. Try putting the two preambles side by side. Try comparing the content of the Cuban and U.S. Constitutions. One is radically more democratic, and it's not the one belonging to the nation that bombs in Democracy's name.
In the U.S. the Capitol dome is one of few things that anyone bothers to repair. Havana, in contrast, is packed with repair shops for everything imaginable. The walkable streets with relatively few cars display beautiful cars that have been repaired and repaired and repaired for decades. The country's laws are reworked through very public processes. Cars tend to be much older than laws, unlike the U.S. situation in which basic laws tend to predate modern machinery.
Alarcon was very positive about recent developments in U.S.-Cuban relations but warned that a new U.S. embassy cannot work for the overthrow of the Cuban government. "We may denounce the U.S. police killing unarmed African-American boys," he said, "but we have no right to organize Americans to oppose that. To do so would be an imperialist approach."
Asked about restoring property to those who had it seized during the revolution, Alarcon said that the agrarian reform law of 1959 allows for that, but the United States refused to allow it. But, he said, Cubans have their own much larger claims due to damage from the illegal embargo. So all of that will need to be worked out between the two countries.
Is Alarcon worried about U.S. investment and culture? No, he said, Canadians have long been the top visitors to Cuba, so North Americans are familiar. Cuba has always pirated U.S. films and shown them in theaters at the same times they were showing in the United States. With normal relations, copyright laws will take effect, he said.
Why has the U.S. not sought out Cuba's market before? Because, he thinks, some visitors will inevitably find things of value in Cuba's way of running a country. Now, U.S. investors can come to Cuba but will need approval of the government for any projects, just as is the case in other Latin American countries.
I asked Kenia why Cuba needs a military, and she pointed to a history of U.S. aggression, but she said that Cuba's military is defensive rather than offensive. The Cuban Constitution is also dedicated to peace. Last year in Havana, 31 nations dedicated themselves to peace.
Medea Benjamin proposes a way in which Cuba could make a huge statement for peace, namely by turning the Guantanamo prison camp into an international center for nonviolent conflict resolution and experimentation in sustainable living. Of course, first the United States has to close the prison and give the land back.
We arrived in Havana tonight, February 8, 2015, or year 56 of the revolution, 150 of us filling an entire airplane, a group of U.S. peace and justice activists organized by CODEPINK. The place is hot and beautiful despite the rain.
The buildings, the cars, the sidewalks look as if time stopped in 1959. The tour guide on the bus from the airport to the hotel brags that the municipality around the airport has a psychiatric hospital and a spaghetti factory. Both the billboards and the tour guide fit Fidel into most every topic.
Back home en el Norte we often note that they don't build things like they used to. My own house predates the Cuban revolution. Prioritizing human needs over "growth" and gentrification is certainly something I would retroactively choose if I could.
But did Cuba choose to stop time on purpose? Or to stop it in certain ways? Or is it something one is not supposed to say or think? We'll be meeting with many Cubans in the coming week, those the government perhaps wants us to meet and those it perhaps doesn't.
Who's to blame and credit for the bad and good in Cuba? I don't yet know and am not sure how much I care. By one argument the U.S. sanctions have been disastrous. By another they've had no effect. By no argument does there seem to be any reason to continue them. Or course those claiming they've done no harm often suggest that Cuba should not be rewarded by lifting them. But incoherent nonsense is hard to respond to.
The United States waged a long terrorist war against Cuba but keeps Cuba on its terrorist list. That has to end regardless of whether Cuba has found the way to a sustainable democratic future.
An American in a hotel elevator said to me: "Shouldn't the people whose property was seized in the revolution have it restored to them?" I happen to know that at least some of them don't want it restored, but I replied, "Sure, that's worth considering, as is the United States giving Guantanamo back to Cuba." Without missing a beat, this Good American came back at me with a line he'd clearly used before: "Will you give me your car, then?" Once I'd figure out what he was saying, I pointed out that I hadn't stolen his car at gunpoint as the United States stole Guantanamo. He walked away.
I realize that carried to an extreme I'd have to ask the United States to give back the entire United States, but I'm not carrying it to that extreme. Why can't the U.S. give back Cuba's land and Cuba reform its worst political practices? Every government in the world needs to be reformed, and urging changes on one hardly endorses every action of the other 199.
The streets of Havana are dark at night, lit just enough to see and no more, but with no sense of danger, no sense of racial segregation, no threat of violence, no homeless people as one inevitably encounters in the land of capitalistic success. The bands play Guantanamera for what must be the gazillionth time, and play it like they mean it.
Taken all in all, and having just arrived, it's not a bad place to be cut off from the world. I have yet to find a SIM card or a phone. My hotel has no internet, at least not until mañana. The Hotel Nacional -- that of the Godfather movie -- tells me they have internet only in the day time. But the Havana Libre, formerly Havana Hilton, has live music, electric outlets with three holes, and slow but functioning internet (superior to Amtrak's) for 10 pesos an hour, not to mention mojitos.
Here's to Cuba!
By Winslow Myers
Ronald Reagan’s assertion back in 1984 that “a nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought” seems to have become accepted across the political spectrum in the U.S. and abroad. The level of destruction that would result would at best make it impossible for medical systems to respond adequately and at worst lead to climate change on a global scale. Reagan continued: “The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. But then would it not be better to do away with them entirely?”
Thirty years later, the paradox of deterrence—nine nuclear powers with weapons kept absolutely ready for use so that they will never have to be used—is far from resolved. Meanwhile 9-11 bent our imaginations toward suicidal nuclear terrorism. The possession of even our large and varied arsenal of nuclear weapons would not deter a determined extremist. Fear became so powerful that it motivated not only the grotesque proliferation of information-gathering agencies but also assassination and torture. Anything became justified, including trillion dollar stalemated wars, to preempt the wrong adversary from getting their hands on a nuke.
Are there flashpoints where systems designed for reliable and eternal deterrence blur into a new landscape of deterrence breakdown? The example du jour is Pakistan, where a weak government maintains a stable—we hope—deterrent balance of nuclear forces against India. At the same time Pakistan percolates with extremists with possible sympathetic connections to the Pakistani military and intelligence services. This focus upon Pakistan is conjectural. It may be unfair. A nuclear weapon could just as easily fall out of state control in regions like the Caucasus or—who knows?—even at some U.S. base where security was lax. The point is that fear of such scenarios distorts our thinking as we struggle to respond creatively to the reality that nuclear deterrence doesn’t deter.
To see the fruits of this fear comprehensively invites seeing the process across time, including future time. The familiar argument that nuclear deterrence has kept us safe for many decades starts to break down if we simply imagine two possible worlds: a world toward which we are heading hell-bent if we don’t change course, in which self-escalating fear motivates more and more nation possess nuclear weapons, or a world where nobody has them. Which world do you want your children to inherit?
Cold war deterrence was aptly called the balance of terror. The present division of irresponsible extremists and responsible, self-interested nation states encourages an Orwellian mental contortion: we conveniently deny that our own nuclear weapons are themselves a potent form of terror—they are meant to terrify opponents into caution. We legitimize them as tools for our survival. At the same time we project this denied terror upon our enemies, expanding them into perverted giants of evil. The terrorist threat of a suitcase nuke overlaps with the revived threat of the cold war turning hot as the West plays nuclear chicken with Putin.
Peace through strength must be redefined—to become peace as strength. This principle, obvious to the many smaller, non-nuclear powers, is reluctantly perceived and quickly denied by the powers that be. Of course the powers that be are not unhappy to have enemies because enemies are politically convenient to the robust health of the arms manufacturing system, a system that includes a prohibitively expensive refurbishment of the U.S. nuclear arsenal that wastes resources needed for the looming challenge of conversion to sustainable energy.
The antidote to the Ebola-like virus of fear is to begin from the premise of interrelationship and interdependence—even with enemies. The cold war ended because Soviets and Americans realized they had in common a desire to see their grandchildren grow up. However death-obsessed, cruel and brutal extremists seem to us, we can choose not to dehumanize them. We can keep our perspective by recalling the brutalities in our own history, including the fact that we were the first to use nuclear weapons to kill people. We can admit our own part in the creation of the rat’s nest of murderousness in the Mideast. We can dig into the root causes of extremist thinking, especially among the young. We can support vulnerable but worthy initiatives like the introduction of a compassion initiative in Iraq (https://charterforcompassion.org/node/8387). We can emphasize how many challenges we can only solve together.
In the early stages of the U.S. presidential campaign, candidates are unusually accessible—an opportunity for citizens to ask probing questions that penetrate beneath scripted answers and safe political bromides. What would a Middle East policy look like if it were based not in playing multiple sides against each other but rather in a spirit of compassion and reconciliation? Why can’t we use some of the pile of money we plan to spend to renew our obsolete weapons on securing loose nuclear materials around the world? Why is the U.S. among the top arms sellers instead of the top provider of humanitarian aid? As president, what will you do to help our nation live up to its disarmament obligations as a signer of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty?
Winslow Myers, the author of “Living Beyond War, A Citizen’s Guide,” writes on global issues and serves on the Advisory Board of the War Prevention Initiative.
Why did the peace movement grow large around 2003-2006 and shrink around 2008-2010? Military spending, troop levels abroad, and number of wars engaged in can explain the growth but not the shrinkage. Those factors hardly changed between the high point and the low point of peace activism.
Was pulling troops out of Iraq and sending them in huge numbers into Afghanistan a move the public favored? There's not much evidence for the second half of that, and it was never a demand of the peace movement at its height. Did the wars become more legal, more honest, more internationally accepted? Hardly. The United States escalated in Afghanistan and remained in Iraq as other nations ended their minor roles in those wars. The U.S. president began taking drone wars into a number of other countries with no domestic or international authorization at all, as he would later do with Libya, and then back into Iraq again (which Congress is considering possibly deliberating on whether to debate retroactively "authorizing").
The earlier period saw obvious lies about weapons in Iraq. The latter saw obvious lies about "success" in Iraq and imminent "success" in Afghanistan, not to mention the precision nature of drone "strikes," followed by lies about threats to civilians in Libya, chemical attacks in Syria, Russian invasions in Ukraine, and existential danger from ISIS and Russia.
Was the difference a matter of sheer exhaustion, then? Peace activists could perhaps only keep going for so long? Actually, no, activists moved to other issues more than they dropped out, and those who dropped out disproportionately had something in common: loyalty to the Democratic Party. I don't know this because I've chatted with a few people unscientifically selected as most likely to agree with whatever I say. I know it because I've just read a new book called Party in the Street: The Antiwar Movement and the Democratic Party after 9/11 by Michael T. Heaney and Fabio Rojas who have spent years studying this question using careful surveys of large numbers of activists. Their book begins with 93 pages of scholarly theoretical framework before getting to the data. You want careful examination of the influence of partisanship on activism? This is it.
"The 2006 elections and their immediate aftermath were the high point for party-movement synergy," write Heaney and Rojas. "At exactly the time when antiwar voices were most well poised to exert pressure on Congress, movement leaders stopped sponsoring lobby days. The size of antiwar protests declined. From 2007 to 2009, the largest antiwar rallies shrank from hundreds of thousands of people to thousands, and then to only hundreds."
What explains this?
"Our explanation centers on the shifting partisan alignments favoring the Democratic Party. We observe demobilization not in response to a policy victory, but in response to a party victory. The rising power of the Democratic Party may have convinced many antiwar activists that the war issue would be dealt with satisfactorily."
Is that what happened? The authors, in fact, have found strong evidence for these conclusions:
"Partisan identification tends to be stronger and longer-lasting than movement identification."
"While the Democratic Party was able to leverage antiwar sentiments effectively in promoting its own electoral success, the antiwar movement itself ultimately suffered organizationally from its ties to the Democratic Party."
"[T]he parties agree more on the substance of policy than their political rhetoric suggests."
"Overall, the findings offer strong support for the partisan identification theory as a way of understanding the mobilization of grassroots activists. Partisan identification fueled the growth of the antiwar movement during the Bush years but then trimmed the grass roots in the Obama era."
"Antiwar leaders crafted partisan frames to help get people into the streets. UFPJ's use of the slogan 'The World Says No to the Bush Agenda,' for the protest outside the 2004 Republican National Convention is a classic example of this strategy in operation."
"The bad news for the antiwar movement was that activists were more likely to favor their Democratic identities over their antiwar identities. Especially once Obama became president, there were too many good reasons to be a Democrat. The country had its first African American in the Oval Office, an important symbolic outcome after centuries of struggle for racial equality. The Democratic majority in Washington – which was nearly a supermajority – meant that comprehensive health care reform would stand a real chance for the first time in fifteen years. Thus, many former antiwar activists shifted their attention to other issues on the progressive agenda."
Heaney and Rojas and their surveys were features of antiwar events for years. Here are hypotheses they tested and found support for:
"h4.1. Partisan frames were more effective in drawing participants to the antiwar movement the greater the unity of Republican control in Washington, D.C. Partisan frames were less effective in drawing participants to the antiwar movement the greater the unity of Democratic control in Washington, D.C.
"h4.2. The participation of self-identified Democrats in the antiwar movement was more likely to be motivated by partisan frames than was participation of non-Democrats in the antiwar movement.
"h4.3. Self-identified Democrats were more likely to reduce their participation in the antiwar movement over time than were non-Democrats."
"h4.4. The more salient an individual's identification with social movements, the more likely that she or he maintained participation in the antiwar movement over time.
"h4.5. The more salient an individual's identification with the Democratic Party, the less likely she or he was to participate in the antiwar movement at all.
"h4.6 In cases of conflict, individuals participating in the antiwar movement were more likely to maintain their party loyalties than their movement loyalties.
"h4.7. Self-identified Democratic activists were more likely than non-Democrats to view wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as being managed well by the Obama administration.
"h4.8. After the election of President Obama, self-identified Democrats were more likely to shift their attention to nonwar issues than were non-Democrats."
Heaney and Rojas fend off some likely straw men:
"We do not claim that partisanship entirely explains the decline of the antiwar movement," they write. "There is no doubt that a long list of factors played a role. Activists were frustrated by a lack of policy success, meager resources, intramovement conflicts, and more. Many activists burned out from too many years of traveling to protests. Yet our analysis validates a very important role for partisanship in the decline. If partisan identities were not a contributing factor to the movement's decline, then we would not have observed differences between Democrats and non-Democrats in their behavior vis-à-vis the movement."
Now to quibbling. Heaney and Rojas, I think, fail to place the decisions that doomed the anti-Republican war movement quite early enough or to adequately distinguish the extent to which partisan organizations engaged in purely anti-Republican war activism even during the height of the movement. "[M]any of UFPJ's members no longer wanted to focus on antiwar opposition once a Democrat was in the White House," they write. In fact, I remember the big drop-off (whether driven by popular interest or funders or executive decisions) coming in 2007 as Democrats took more interest in electing a president than in opposing wars or building peace.
"While MoveOn formally continued to hold antiwar positions after Obama's election," write Heaney and Rojas, "it threw its weight behind health care organizing, rather than antiwar mobilizations." They add: "Neither MoveOn nor its members suddenly became 'prowar' in 2009. Instead, their issue priorities shifted with the rise of a new administration. With so many of its members identified with the Democratic Party, it was unlikely that MoveOn would maintain an agenda that was counter to the party's trajectory. Democratic identities outweighed antiwar identities within MoveOn, so, one of the leading players of the antiwar movement from 2003 to 2008 moved on to a different agenda."
But in fact, well before 2008, MoveOn was organizing antiwar events in the districts of prowar Republicans and not in the districts of prowar Democrats. In March 2007, shortly after the Democrats took power in Congress I wrote this analysis of MoveOn's refusal to lobby for peace as it had in years gone by:
"The Congress that was elected to end the war just voted to fund the war. Congresswoman Barbara Lee was not permitted to offer for a vote her amendment, which would have funded a withdrawal instead of the war. Groups that supported Lee's plan and opposed Pelosi's included United for Peace and Justice, Progressive Democrats of America, US Labor Against the War, After Downing Street, Democrats.com, Peace Action, Code Pink, Democracy Rising, True Majority, Gold Star Families for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, Backbone Campaign, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Voters for Peace, Veterans for Peace, the Green Party, and disgruntled former members of MoveOn.org.
"True Majority was a late addition to the list. The organization polled its members. Did they favor the Pelosi bill to fund the war but include various toothless restrictions on it, or did they favor the Lee plan to use the power of the purse to end the war by the end of the year? Needless to say, True Majority's membership favored the Lee plan.
"MoveOn polled its membership without including the Lee alternative, offering a choice of only Pelosi's plan or nothing. Amazingly, Eli Pariser of MoveOn has admitted that the reason MoveOn did this was because they knew that their members would favor the Lee amendment."
Heaney and Rojas, however, emphasize popular will as the decisive factor:
"Did the movement decline because individual antiwar activists stopped showing up at public demonstrations? Or was the absence of organizational leadership the culprit? Our evidence suggests that the declining magnitude of antiwar protests during the 2007–2008 period was in large part, if not entirely, due to decreased interest among individual activists. If anything, the major organizations and coalitions intensified their mobilization efforts in 2007–2008, reflecting their access to financial and human resources accumulated over the past few years. The institutionalized movement persisted in its opposition in 2007–2008, even in the face of declining interest among its mass constituency. Still, decisions by organizational leaders had a greater hand in the movement's decline in 2009–2010 than they had in the earlier period."
I'm not convinced. I have no doubt that public sentiment, and in particular political partisanship, was hugely important. But organizations that have been corrupted by closeness to power don't advertise their shifts in position. They "poll" their members and declare themselves "member-run." The most common comment on antiwar conference calls in 2008 was "People are too busy with the election." Were they? Some were, some weren't. The question wasn't really tested. The most common comment on antiwar conference calls in 2009 was "It's too early to be seen as protesting Obama." Was it? That wasn't tested either, but it seems easier to answer in retrospect. We're more ready to say that in fact we shouldn't have hacked our own legs off at the knees and transformed into a collective Nobel Committee handing out magical prizes. We should have demanded peace if we thought it likely, and we should have demanded peace if we thought it unlikely. In fact, Obama supporters frequently quoted him telling us to go out there and make him do it, even while advocating against going out there and making him do it. The fact that we'd already gone relatively silent in 2007-2008 tends to get forgotten.
Heaney and Rojas deal in actual views of numerous actual people. So there are no imaginary master plots of deception involved. The idea is not that everyone who turned out to march in February 2003 was actually indifferent to war but using the war as an excuse to protest Bush. Rather, protesting both war and Bush were desirable to many. Then, Heaney and Rojas, argue, protesting war became less important than demanding healthcare.
I think a couple of points are worth adding some emphasis on, however, that may darken the picture slightly. When the Democrats took Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008, it became necessary in protesting war to protest Democrats. That, in fact, was a worse fate in a lot of people's minds than accepting war. Democratic politicians do not typically try to be antiwar. They just work to be seen as less pro-war than Republicans (although many exceptions don't even do that). In addition, Democratic politicians pretend to favor things when they are out of power. In 2005 and early 2006, numerous Democrats in Congress were making commitments to end the war in Iraq. But by 2007, with the majority and the chairmanships in the House, 81 Representatives felt obliged to sign a letter committing to not fund more war just prior to, almost all of them, voting to fund more war. The activists who let them get away with that before moving onto healthcare were organized by groups that took direction from those very Democrats. They were forbidden to have signs reading "Single Payer" at their rallies or to advocate for anything not already in the legislation. It was a completely inverted relationship with public servants telling constituents what to demand of them. And now, with the Democrats back in the minority, they're starting to make noises about favoring progressive taxation and all sorts of things they stayed away from while in the majority.
Is all of this inevitable? I'm afraid the scholarly apparatus of scientistic studies tends to suggest it. Here are Heaney and Rojas: "The greater the size of the party in the street, the more likely a movement is to evolve toward using institutionally based political tactics. The smaller the size of the party in the street, the less likely a movement is to evolve toward using institutionally based political tactics." In other words, if you start to build numbers of people involved, they will move into lobbying and electioneering rather than nonviolent resistance or creative communication. Given that inevitability, the one thing that might seem unnecessary would be urging movements to make that turn voluntarily. Yet Heaney and Rojas have this advice for Occupy:
"A first step for the Occupy movement might be to recognize that many of its supporters and potential supporters identify with the Democratic Party. By taking such a strong stand against the Democratic Party, Occupy cuts itself off from a key part of its support base. Instead, the movement might look for ways to recognize and incorporate the intersectional identity of 'Occupy Democrats.' A second step might be to inaugurate some institutional structures within Occupy. These structures might help to raise funds, employ staff, and regularize communication with Occupy supporters. While this suggestion is somewhat counter to the nonhierarchical ethos of Occupy, some minimal level of organization may be necessary to make any systematic progress toward the movement's long-term policy goals. A third step might be to forge alliances with genuine allies in the progressive community. While it may be that alliances with the Democrats and MoveOn are untenable, perhaps Occupy could partner with the Green Party and other political organizations whose agendas are not incommensurate with Occupy's vision."
Weighing against that advice is evidence in this very book that a mere generation back the laws of movement politics were different:
"Public opinion was polarized according to party to a much greater degree during the 2000s than was the case during the Vietnam War era (Hetherington 2009, p. 442). Polarization was highly consequential in the formation of public opinion on the war. As Gary Jacobson (2010, p. 31) notes, 'the Iraq war has divided the American public along party lines far more than any other US military action since the advent of scientific polling back in the 1930s.' Americans often took their cues about how to make sense of developments in Iraq from their partisan identifications (Gelpi 2010). We argue that, as a result, the rhythms of the antiwar movement after 9/11 were driven by partisanship much more than was the case during the Vietnam antiwar movement."
Now, I am not proposing that we can turn back time. I have enough respect for laws of physics to discount that alternative. Heaney and Rojas cite the youth of the Vietnam-era movement as one possible factor weighing against partisanship. Clearly a draft is not the only possible way to involve youth in a movement. The contrast between war making nations with student debt and peaceful nations with free education is one possible lever. Another is education in exactly the field Heaney and Rojas have mastered. Surely if everyone in the country read this book its conclusions would be thereby rendered wildly wrong -- and in a good way. If people recognize that their partisanship is hurting the causes they support, they will surely begin to question
in it. I'd like to see research similar to Party in the Street but focused on those who move away from partisanship: what enables them to do that?
Shock and Awe is having a troubled adolescence. The U.S. government is killing children with flying robot death planes, keeping troops in 175 countries, actively using "special" forces in 150 countries, asking us to ignore what it's done to Libya so that we'll support more wars, going silent on Yemen as the supposed model of a country that U.S. warmaking improved rather than ruined, turning down an offer from North Korea to halt nuclear tests, continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with no end in sight and no longer any pretense of Congressional or United Nations approval, oscillating on the question of starting a war on Iran (and inviting a foreign leader to give Congress its marching orders), actively antagonizing Russia and sending troops to Ukraine, building new nukes, proposing to enlarge the world's largest military budget next year, and avoiding all accountability for such horrors as human experimentation at Guantanamo.
Nasty vicious celebrations of murder and torture are dominating U.S. entertainment. The militarized thinking and weaponry are reaching local police departments. A jury just convicted a whistleblower on zero evidence for allegedly revealing that the CIA had given nuclear weapons plans (with flaws added) to Iran. The earth's climate is going crazy, and the single biggest thing we do to worsen that crisis (war) is also the single greatest diversion of resources away from addressing it.
Admit it, if your 11-year-old boy or girl caused a fraction of this sort of trouble, you'd be worried. But you'd also see through to the better tendencies. The U.S. public said no to a war on Syria in 2013. And while it said OK to a war in 2014 it imagined a short, cheap, harmless, beneficial war. It doesn't want a war on Iran or Russia. It doesn't want this level of military spending. It favors non-military solutions whenever they are possible, as of course they always are, regardless of what Barbara Boxer might say.
Shock and Awe needs an initiation into a healthier adulthood. Luckily there is a peace movement planning an intervention for Shock and Awe's 12th birthday, coming up March 18-21 in Washington, D.C.
Spring Rising: An Antiwar Intervention in DC
Coming out of a meeting held in Washington, DC, on January 10, plans are coming together for an antiwar intervention in the U.S. capital. A series of events will be held just as the ongoing U.S. war in Iraq -- recently restarted in a new form -- passes the 12-year mark since the March 2003 invasion.
Here's the schedule so far:
Wednesday, March 18: Peace gathering and fellowship.
Thursday, March 19th: Lobbying on Capitol Hill, followed by a tour of the war machine: homes and offices of war criminals.
Friday, March 20th: Afternoon and evening teach-in: Ending Current Wars, Ending the Institution of War. (This event will examine ISIS and U.S. warmaking in Western Asia and elsewhere; the damage militarism does to the natural environment, economies, and civil rights; and how the war system can be replaced with a peace system.)
Saturday, March 21st: Protest at the White House, followed by march.
This nonviolent intervention was originally proposed by Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox and the Soapbox People's Network. It has been endorsed and will be supported by (thus far, the list is rapidly growing): Amnesty International Charlottesville, the ANSWER Coalition, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the Baltimore Pledge of Resistance, CND CYMRU, CODEPINK, the Granny Peace Brigade of New York City, KnowDrones.com, Maryland United for Peace and Justice, Military Families Speak Out, the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, the Network to Stop Drone Surveillance and Warfare, The No Fear Coalition, United National Antiwar Coalition, Veterans For Peace, Voices for Creative Non-Violence, WarIsACrime.org, Washington Peace Center, Witness Against Torture, World Beyond War, and World Can't Wait.
This series of events is just coming together with many decisions yet to be made, and I wouldn't dream of speaking for everyone involved, but I can say why I'll be going and why I think you should too.
It's Urgently Needed
We've reached a level of war normalization in which we accept and even celebrate limited war as the best possible policy, while the corporate media often proposes to us that only (1) war and (2) nothing exist as possible courses of action. We need a major public initiative that creates other alternatives, that answers the relentless question "Well if you wouldn't bomb them, what would you do?"
It's New and Creative
This is not just a protest. It's an intervention and a reenactment (of past peace movements). It's teach-ins that are being developed to address the many ways in which war destroys: war makes us less safe, damages the environment, erodes civil rights, drains economies, etc. It's lobbying and truth telling, nonviolent resistance and rallying, solidarity and outreach. It's opposing particular wars, but also the much larger and more expensive preparation for wars that has come to seem ordinary.
It's a United Movement
Second only to "End the wars" among peace activists has always been the demand "Unite the organizations." Check out that list of organizations a few paragraphs above. It may be twice as long very soon. Your organization can get involved too. This just might be that long-sought holy grail of unity. Let's not miss it! In fact, let's expand on it by inviting and including environmental organizations, economic justice organizations, student groups, civil liberties and human rights groups, and opponents of racism and every other injustice that serves the cause of war.
It's Pro-Peace and Antiwar
I've already had peace activists tell me they refuse to go to these events on principle because the word "antiwar" has been used. Had the word "pro-peace" been used, others would have said the same. But here's the deal, we're pro-peace AND antiwar. The elimination of war is a beautiful, ennobling, gloriously positive event. The establishment of peace requires the elimination of war. We can't fail to point out that we're antiwar because even the Pentagon claims to be pro-peace. We must distinguish ourselves as in favor of peace through means other than war. We also can't fail to state that we are pro-peace, because war will not be eliminated unless all the systems that support it are replaced by the construction of peaceful ones. We need legal, governmental, economic, and cultural structures that facilitate peace. But we won't build them if the wars rage on unopposed, and peace in our hearts won't prevent a single death unless it achieves some external expression.
It Meets the Standard of the Simplistiphiles
As we've all been told -- very slowly -- Thomas Jefferson had way too many complaints in the Declaration of Independence for it to have any sort of impact. We British subjects must have one simple demand if we are to be heard at all.
O.K. You want one simple demand? I've got your one simple demand :-)
/ / / / / \ \ \ \ \
END ALL THE WARS
\ \ \ \ \ / / / / /
It's Weekday and Weekend in Every Sense
This series of events has got lobbying Congress and protesting Congress. It's got weekday disruption and weekend crowd maximization. And if there's something it's lacking, you can add it.
Obama's Has Just About Settled In -- Finally
When President Obama was first elected there was still a sort of structure -- albeit defunded -- of a significant peace movement that turned out to have actually been a movement against Republican wars. This structure was simply crawling with people who had arrived at the considered opinion that it was too early to protest Obama. We needed to let him settle in first. After a while it was still too early. A bit later it was still too early. By the time the White House was trumpeting to the New York Times that Obama picked men, women, and children to murder each Tuesday, the movement was pretty well gone.
Well, here's a good moment in which to bring it back. I dare say Obama has pretty well settled in. The Occupy movement that took off after the last midterm elections is primed for a new start. And the next 18-month election "season" hasn't really kicked in yet. Once it does, all useful action will have two arms and a leg tied behind its back.
The moment is now.
There is, as a great one said, such a thing as being too late.
I'll see you in Washington.
Call for protests against the NATO Securityconference 2015
NO PEACE WITH NATO
Stop confrontationism and the new round of NATO armament
The so-called Munich International Security Conference ("SiKo") – contrary to what the organizers claim – is not about security or peace in the world. The conference is a gathering of economic, political, and military power elites, mainly from NATO and EU countries, to discuss strategies for maintaining their global dominance and joint military interventions.
But above all, SiKo is a propaganda forum with great resonance in the mass media for the justification of NATO, of the billions it spends on arms, and of its illegal wars based on lies, which are sold to the general population as "humanitarian interventions".
In 2014, German President Gauck used the SiKo as a platform for promoting greater German participation in these wars. Germany needed to involve itself militarily "sooner, more decisively, and more substantially", he said. German Foreign Minister Steinmeier and Minister of "Defence" von der Leyen pushed the same line. For our ruling power elite, the supposed "military restraint" is nothing but a relict of the past. Germany's new great-power politics – camouflaged as "global political responsibility" – has become a component of a propaganda offensive by government-lining politicians and media, and the guideline of German foreign policy. Even support for the regime in Kiev, with its fascist participation, is accepted.
There can be no peace with NATO
As the military arm of the wealthiest Western capitalist countries, NATO is a war-making alliance for implementing their economic and power-politics interests throughout the world. It is a threat to all humanity. It is the guarantor of a world order in which 1% of the people own 40% of the wealth of the world; an economic order that survives by the exploitation of human beings and nature, while destroying our vital resources.
After NATO's failures in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, the Russian bogey-man is now being revived, and an extremely dangerous course of confrontation is being steered: by establishing and expanding NATO military bases in eastern European countries, by setting up a 4,000-man-strong Rapid Reaction Force, by arming Kiev, by NATO maneuvers in Ukraine, and by expanding the NATO anti-missile facilities. And, last but not least, NATO is trying to justify and implement even higher expenditures on arms by reference to the new opponent.
Capitalism and war – two sides of the same coin
The more the crises of "neoliberal" capitalism intensify, the more brutally the profit interests of multinational corporations, banks and the arms industry are pushed through – economically by means of the planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Pact (TTIP) between the EU and the USA – and, if necessary, by military force.
And for years, Germany has not only provided the logistical military hub for the wars of aggression of the USA and NATO, but has also been involved directly and indirectly in these wars, in violation of its constitution. Germany continues to be the third-largest arms exporter in the world.
The balance sheet of imperial power politics is tens of thousands killed, hunger and poverty, the destruction of the environment and infrastructure, the expansion of ISIL terror – and thus endless misery with millions of refugees,
We say to the self-appointed "rulers of the world" who are coming to Munich for the SiKo, and to the heads of government at the G-7 summit in Elmau, Bavaria, in June 2015: You are not wanted here or anywhere else.
We are part of a growing worldwide movement seeking for a future without arms and war, with equivalent living conditions for all people.
For peace and justice in a world without exploitation of human beings or nature.
NO JUSTICE - NO PEACE
Come to the demonstration in Munich
on Saturday, 7 February 2015, at 1 p.m. On the Marienplatz
AKTIONSBÜNDNIS GEGEN DIE NATO-SICHERHEITSKONFERENZ
Declaration of Support (online entry) please sign (any time).
Individuals: 20 € / Small groups: 30 € / Larger organizations: 50 € or more
Bank account for Aktionsbündnis:
K. Schreer, account no.: 348 335 809, Postbank Munich, BLZ: 700 100 80, IBAN: DE44 700 100 800 348 335 809, BIC: PBNKDEFF, Purpose: SIKO 2015
Come learn more about the bitter and largely misunderstood situation on the ground in Iraq and Syria as we hear from some of the most well-informed analysts in the U.S. You will have an opportunity to ask questions following their presentations and discuss options we can take to curtail the violence.
When: Sat., Feb. 21, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockville, 100 Welsh Park Dr., Rockville
Speakers: Phyllis Bennis, Younes Benab, Raed Jarrar (bios below)
Following the speaker presentations and Q&A, refreshments will be served providing you an opportunity to talk informally with the speakers and the other members of the audience.
Don’t miss this exciting forum!
Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and is a fellow of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. She has been a writer, analyst, and activist on Middle East and UN issues for many years. In 2001 she helped found and remains on the advisory board of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. She writes and speaks widely across the U.S. and around the world as part of the global peace movement.
Dr. Younes Parsa Benab is retired dean and professor of political science, Strayer University. An active member of the Iranian diaspora, he is author of the two volume book: One Hundred Year History of Iranian Political Parties and Organizations (1904-2004) and over a hundred other articles about Iran and the world, in Persian and English.
Raed Jarrar serves as AFSC’s Policy Impact Coordinator at the Office of Public Policy and Advocacy in Washington, D.C. Since his immigration to the U.S. in 2005, he has worked on political and cultural issues pertaining to U.S. engagement in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Widely recognized as an expert on political, social, and economic developments in the Middle East, he has testified in numerous Congressional hearings and briefings and is a frequent guest on national and international media outlets in both Arabic and English.
Sponsored by Peace Action Montgomery, cosponsored by Sandy Spring Friends Peace Committee, Democratic Socialists of America/DC Metro, Montgomery County Coalition for Civil Rights, Nation Discussion Group/DC Metro, Maryland United for Peace and Justice (others being confirmed)
For directions: http://www.uucr.org/map-
Here's the appearances and protests for War Criminals for February 2015. Let us know if you are organizing something in your area and we will assist you in any way we can. You might download some of our posters and leaflets from our website.
Where’s the US ‘Syriza’ party?: Greek Voters Have Tossed a Grenade into the Banker/Bureaucrat-Controlled European Establishment
By Dave Lindorff
There is certainly exciting news from Greece today, with confirmation that the leftist coalition party Syriza has won a decisive victory, and, with the help of just one small party, the Greek Independence Party, is assured of a parliamentary majority. That means Syriza’s dynamic marxist leader, the 40-year-old former student radical
Alexis Tsipras, will shortly become Greece’s prime minister, pledged to undo years of crippling austerity and to turn Greece back into a real democracy, instead of a scene of corporate pillage.
THE NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR NONVIOLENT RESISTANCE ISSUES A CALL TO ACTION
In times of great injustice and despair, we are called to act from a place of conscience and courage. For all of you who are sick of heart over the destruction of the earth through pollution and militarization, we call on you to get involved in an action-oriented march that speaks to your heart and mind, marching from the EPA to the Pentagon on April 22, Earth Day.
For those of us who marched in New York City on September 21, 2014, we saw hundreds of thousands of citizens taking to the streets to save Mother Earth. There was a serious anti-war presence in the march making the connection between militarization and the destruction of the earth.
A lame-duck President Obama has, on occasion, done the right thing—supported the dreamers, recognized the insanity of official U.S. policy on Cuba and continues to release prisoners from the concentration camp in Guantanamo. It seems now is the time to challenge this administration to do more by ending the killer-drone program, and to convince environmentalists to be vocal critics of the Pentagon’s role in the destruction of Mother Earth.
The ineffectiveness of drone warfare, and thus the need to end it, is clear, Thanks to Wikileaks we have access to a July 7, 2009 secret report produced by the Central Intelligence Agency's Office of Transnational Issues discussing the failure of drone warfare in making the world safe. "The potential negative effect of HLT [High Level Targets] operations," the report states, "include increasing the level of insurgent support […], strengthening an armed group's bonds with the population, radicalizing an insurgent group's remaining leaders, creating a vacuum into which more radical groups can enter, and escalating or de-escalating a conflict in ways that favor the insurgents.”
The effect of militarization on the environment is clear. By starting the march at the Environmental Protection Agency, we will try to encourage environmentalists to join the action. A letter would be sent to Gina McCarthy, Environmental Protection Agency, Office of the Administrator, 1101A, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20460, to seek a meeting to discuss the Pentagon’s role in ecocide. If the EPA refuses to meet with the citizen activists, consideration would be given to do nonviolent civil resistance at the agency.
A letter would also be sent to Chuck Hagel, The Pentagon, 1400 Defense, Arlington, Virginia 22202, requesting a meeting to discuss the Climate Crisis, acerbated by U.S. warmongering. Again failure to get an appropriate response from Hagel’s office could result in nonviolent civil resistance.
The Call to Action highlights the need for the environmental agency to recognize the destructive role the military machine plays in climate chaos and to take action to remediate the situation.
According to Joseph Nevins in Greenwashing the Pentagon Monday, June 14, 2010, “The U.S. military is the world’s single biggest consumer of fossil fuels, and the single entity most responsible for destabilizing the Earth’s climate.”
The Pentagon is aware that national security could be affected by climate chaos. However as Nevin tells us, “Such ‘greenwashing’ helps to mask the fact that the Pentagon devours about 330,000 barrels of oil per day (a barrel has 42 gallons), more than the vast majority of the world’s countries. If the U.S. military were a nation-state, it would be ranked number 37 in terms of oil consumption—ahead of the likes of the Philippines, Portugal, and Nigeria—according to the CIA Factbook.”
To see another example of the military’s destructive nature, see Okinawa: A Small Island Resists U.S. Military's "Pivot to Asia" by Christine Ahn, which appeared December 26, 2014 in Foreign Policy in Focus. We are including some of the points made in the article:
“Takeshi Miyagi, a 44-year old farmer, said he abandoned his fields in July to join the resistance by monitoring the sea by canoe. Miyagi says he and other activists are ensuring the protection of the biologically rich ecosystem of the Henoko and Oura Bays and the survival of the dugong. The Japanese Ministry of the Environment lists the dugong — a marine mammal related to the manatee — as “critically endangered.” It is also on the list of U.S. endangered species.
“Okinawans are also pointing to the historic chemical contamination by U.S. military bases. Last month, the Japan Ministry of Defense began excavating at the Okinawa City soccer field where barrels containing toxic herbicides were discovered last year. In July, the Japanese government unearthed 88 barrels containing ingredients used to produce Agent Orange in reclaimed land next to the Kadena Air Force Base.”
Finally, read Climate Change Challenges by Kathy Kelly: “. . . it seems the greatest danger – the greatest violence – that any of us face is contained in our attacks on our environment. Today’s children and generations to follow them face nightmares of scarcity, disease, mass displacement, social chaos, and war, due to our patterns of consumption and pollution.”
She adds this: “What’s more, the U.S. military, with its more than 7,000 bases, installations, and other facilities, worldwide, is one of the most egregious polluters on the planet and is the world’s largest single consumer of fossil fuels. Its terrible legacy of forcing its own soldiers and their families, over decades, to drink lethally carcinogenic water on bases that should have been evacuated as contaminated sites is covered in a recent Newsweek story.”
If you are concerned by the challenges facing Mother Earth and want to end the killer drone program, get involved with the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance on April 22, Earth Day.
Can you join us in Washington, D.C. for the EPA to the Pentagon?
Can you risk arrest?
Would you be able to sign onto the letters?
If you can’t come to D.C., can you organize a solidarity action?
National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
mobuszewski at Verizon dot net
Here's our new downloadable poster about war criminal John Brennan which can be printed as 8.5 x 11 or 11 x 17.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
We in Veterans For Peace (VFP) invite you to join us as we put together a special Memorial Day 2015 service. As many of you know, the year 2015 marks the fiftieth anniversary of what some consider to be the beginning of the American War in Vietnam-- the deployment of the U.S. Marines to DaNang. The Department of Defense is very aware of the significance of this year and has mounted a heavily funded initiative to make sure that the younger generations of this country see the Vietnam War as a noble enterprise. Included in their efforts is a well-funded website as well as plans for annual celebrations, such as Memorial Day events around the country. They are planning to tell their version of the war for the next ten years.
However, we know that many of us disagree with their perspective, who see the war as, at the least, a grievous mistake if not an horrific crime. As we have already seen, the Pentagon will downplay or ignore this perspective in their narrative of the war. Thus, we in VFP have pledged to meet their campaign with one of our own -- we call it the Vietnam War Full Disclosure movement (http://www.vietnamfulldisclosure.org). Please join us in more fully opening up the dialogue of how the history of the American War in Vietnam has to be told. We need to hear your voice. To begin with, we need you to write a letter. A special letter.
"Supreme Court Seven" Arrested After Standing Up to Protest Infamous Money-in-Politics Ruling
Washington, DC—Seven activists with the democracy movement 99Rise disrupted the nation’s highest court this morning, issuing a series of statements calling for the justices to overturn their unpopular Citizens United decision, ruled on five years ago today. Each protester stood up and presented a demand to the Court before raising their index finger in the air. The gesture represents “one person, one vote” political equality, a principle which has been undermined by the limitless campaign spending facilitated by the activist Court.
“We have seen the consequences of the free flow of private money rushing into our public political system,” said 99Rise activist Curt Ries who risked arrest to protest the Court’s ruling. “Nearly $4 billion was spent in the 2014 Mid-Term Elections, and almost all of it came from a handful of wealthy individuals and organizations. The kind of influence that money buys fundamentally corrupts our electoral process by giving undue representation to wealthy donors and corporations. That's not a democracy, it's a plutocracy."
Last year 99Rise co-founder Kai Newkirk interrupted the Supreme Court in an unprecedented act of civil disobedience, which was caught on video. The seven people who disrupted the court today were: Alexandra Flores-Quilty, Curt Ries, Margaret Johnson, Mary Zeiser, Andrew Batcher, Katherine Philipson and Irandira Gonzales (who delivered her message to the Court in Spanish). 99Rise members again captured video footage from within the court chamber.
A recent study by Princeton University political scientists confirmed that analysis when it concluded that the will of the people has a “near-zero, statistically-insignificant impact on public policy.” Since the current Court has opened our elections to virtually unlimited sums of private money, 99Rise believes that the American people have no other choice but to fight for a Constitutional Amendment that would overturn Citizens United and guarantee political equality for all Americans, regardless of wealth.
99Rise is a grassroots organization waging nonviolent struggle to get money out of politics and reclaim democracy for the 99%. 99Rise organizers are urging the public to stand with the seven activists who were arrested today by signing their online petition at www.99rise.org.
The Council on Foreign Relations is inviting its members only to attend this "on the record "CIA’s Global Mission: Countering Shared Threats" presented by war criminal, CIA director John O. Brennan. Join us on Jan. 26, 2015 to protest outside from 12pm - 2:30 pm at 58 E. 68th St., Manhattan to protest U.S. war crimes and their perpetrators.
by Debra Sweet One of the presistent fallacies about the US torture camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, is that it was a “mistake” of the Bush Regime, a misguided attempt to “keep America safe.” You hear this from Democrat apologists, who for the last six full years, have been in position to close it.
World Can't Wait is sponsoring the US tour of Andy Worthington, a leading UK-based journalist covering Guantanamo. We are honored to host his speaking engagement here in Chicago at Grace Place, 637 S.Dearborn. He will be joined on the panel by Candace Gorman, attorney who has represented men held at Guantanamo, and Debra Sweet, national director of The World Can't Wait.