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Talk Nation Radio: Timeka Drew on Protecting Voter Rights

Timeka Drew is National Director of the Liberty Tree Foundation, a position she has served in since February of 2016. Previously she served as Liberty Tree's Communications Director and worked as lead organizer of the Global Climate Convergence. Timeka came to the Liberty Tree community via her work with the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) and local democracy, food sovereignty, and anti-racist organizing in Los Angeles and her hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana.                         

For more information, see and     

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at

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Slavery Was Abolished

By David Swanson, World Beyond War

I recently debated a pro-war professor on the topic “Is war ever necessary?” (video). I argued for abolishing war. And because people like to see successes before doing something, no matter how indisputably possible that thing is, I gave examples of other institutions that have been abolished in the past. One might include such practices as human sacrifice, polygamy, cannibalism, trial by ordeal, blood feuds, dueling, or the death penalty in a list of human institutions that have been largely abolished in some parts of the earth or which people have at least come to understand could be abolished.

Of course, an important example is slavery. But when I claimed that slavery had been abolished, my debate opponent quickly announced that there are more slaves in the world today than there were before foolish activists imagined they were abolishing slavery. This stunning factoid was meant as a lesson to me: Do not try to improve the world. It cannot be done. In fact, it may be counter-productive.

But let’s examine this claim for the 2 minutes necessary to reject it. Let’s look at it globally and then with the inevitable U.S. focus.

David Swanson: “We need to unite globally around opposition to the entire institution of war”


This post is also available in: Italian

David Swanson: “We need to unite globally around opposition to the entire institution of war”
(Image by Ragesoss, Wikimedia Commons)

In your website you say: “We strive to replace a culture of war with one of peace, in which nonviolent means of conflict resolution take the place of bloodshed”. So which role and value can nonviolence have in building such a culture?

Nonviolent action can play at least three roles here.

  1. It can demonstrate a superior means of resisting tyranny that causes less suffering, is more likely to succeed, and is likely to have a longer lasting success. While most of the examples, such as Tunisia 2011, are of overcoming domestic tyranny, there is a growing list of successful nonviolent resistance actions against foreign invasion and occupation as well — and a growing understanding of how to apply the lessons of domestic nonviolence to resistance to foreign attack.
  1. It can model a world that has outgrown war. Nations can lead by example, by joining international bodies and treaties, abiding by the rule of law and enforcing it. The International Criminal Court could indict a non-African. The United States which has stopped manufacturing cluster bombs could join the ban on them. Truth and reconciliation commissions could be expanded. Disarmament talks, humanitarian aid on a new scale, and the closure of foreign bases could be the change we want to see.
  1. Nonviolent protest and resistance tools can be used by activists to resist bases, weapons manufacture, military recruitment, and new wars. We didn’t stop Dal Molin in Vicenza, but we don’t have to accept it. The U.S. military should not be permitted to use facilities in Sicily to murder with drones in Asia and Africa. A year’s service to one’s country should not involve participating in a military.  Public and private funds must be divested from weapons companies. Et cetera.

Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn't

By David Swanson, originally published by the Fairbanks Alaska Daily Miner

I would not rank Vladimir Putin high on a list of leaders. If I lived in Russia I'd be working for major reforms in my government, just as I'm doing where I do live, in the United States. I regularly go on Russian media and criticize the Russian government. Russia is illegally and immorally bombing people in Syria, just as the United States is doing in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.

But there are Putin Halloween masks for sale in U.S. stores. Time magazine has Putin on the cover accusing him of trying to damage U.S. elections. A Google search for "Hitler Putin" brings back 11 million results. This demonization of a foreign leader should frighten us more than that leader himself.

Wars do not only kill, if they kill at all, a foreign leader. But they do kill large numbers of children, grandparents, mothers, and fathers. They enrage people, endanger us, damage the natural environment, justify the removal of our rights, and divert unfathomable resources from areas where they could have done a world of good.

The actual Adolph Hitler had no plans or ability to invade the United States and was defeated primarily by Russians who lost at least 27 million lives in the process. For over 70 years, since the end of World War II, the United States has bombed dozens of nations, and in every case that I am aware of U.S. officials have labeled a targeted individual "Hitler."

In May the Politico newspaper reported on Pentagon testimony in Congress to the effect that Russia had a superior and threatening military, but followed that with this: "'This is the "Chicken-Little, sky-is-falling" set in the Army,' the senior Pentagon officer said. 'These guys want us to believe the Russians are 10 feet tall. There's a simpler explanation: The Army is looking for a purpose, and a bigger chunk of the budget. And the best way to get that is to paint the Russians as being able to land in our rear and on both of our flanks at the same time. What a crock."

Politico then cited a less-than-credible "study" of Russian military superiority and aggression and added: "While the reporting about the Army study made headlines in the major media, a large number in the military's influential retired community, including former senior Army officers, rolled their eyes."

The United States has overseen the expansion of NATO to Russia's border. The buffer zone of the last Cold War is gone. U.S./NATO missile bases are now in Romania and being built in Poland. The U.S. has organized in Eastern Europe the largest military exercises seen there since World War II. The U.S. role in supporting a violent coup that created an anti-Russian government in Ukraine was exposed before the coup. When the people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to rejoin Russia, the U.S. media characterized Russian actions that resulted in total casualties of zero as "an invasion of Ukraine."

Without presenting us with any evidence, the U.S. government has accused Russia of shooting down an airplane, of exposing the corruption within the Democratic National Committee (shouldn't we be grateful?), and of somehow sabotaging the upcoming U.S. election. Every atrocity committed by Russia or Syria in Syria is big news. Every U.S. atrocity there is a yawn.

The stakes are high every time the United States overthrows a government. The disasters of Iraq and Libya have fueled the current catastrophes in those countries and Syria and around the region. But the stakes are higher when the United States and Russia confront each other. These are nuclear nations. Russia has announced that it is considering re-opening a base in Cuba. The Cuban Missile Crisis, in case anyone has forgotten, was one of the many times since the creation of nuclear weapons that humanity has come close to intentionally or accidentally destroying itself.

The nukes are of far greater strength now. And our understanding has grown of how a limited nuclear war anywhere on earth would create a crop-destroying nuclear winter followed by mass starvation. We don't need to take this sort of risk. To avoid it we need to turn away from war. And that means we need to stop using human rights abuses by targeted governments as excuses to bomb people.

We should protect human rights through leadership by example and consistent application of the rule of law. Doing so would then open the United States up to the possibility of opposing human rights abuses by some of the nasty governments that it props up and sells or gives weapons to, beginning perhaps with Saudi Arabia, a monarchy that makes Vladimir Putin look like Mohandas Gandhi.

David Swanson is speaking at the University of Alaska Schaible Auditorium at 7 p.m. on October 22nd. His books include War Is A Lie and War Is Never Just. He is a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.


The 2016 Republican presidential primary was rigged. It wasn't rigged by the Republicans, the Democrats, Russians, space aliens, or voters. It was rigged by the owners of television networks who believed that giving one candidate far more coverage than others was good for their ratings. The CEO of CBS Leslie Moonves said of this decision: "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS." Justifying that choice based on polling gets the chronology backwards, ignores Moonves' actual motivation, and avoids the problem, which is that there ought to be fair coverage for all qualified candidates (and a democratic way to determine who is qualified).

The 2016 Democratic presidential primary was rigged. It wasn't rigged by bankers, misogynists, Russians, Republicans, or computer hackers. It was rigged by the Democratic National Committee and its co-conspirators in the media, many of whom have helpfully confessed (in case it wasn't obvious) in emails leaked from the DNC and from John Podesta. The DNC chose Hillary Clinton and worked hard to make sure that she "won." Nobody has produced a hint of evidence as to who leaked the emails that added unnecessary confirmation of this rigging, but they should be thanked for informing us, whoever they are.

The FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton's misuse of email was as rigged as the non-prosecution of the CEO of Wells Fargo. The U.S. political system is bought and paid for. Without millions of dollars to funnel to television networks for advertising, any candidate is rigged right out of participating. This rigging of the system is not fixed by someone like Donald Trump pretending for a while that he won't take bribes, that he'll spend only his own money, because most people don't have that kind of money to spend. This rigging is not fixed by making someone like Hillary Clinton take her bribes through her family foundation or requiring that her political action committees remain theoretically separate from the campaign they are collaborating hand-in-glove with, because money buys power.

The debates are rigged by a private entity with no official status that calls itself the Commission on Presidential Debates and transforms open debates among multiple candidates into exclusively bipartisan joint appearances with many large and fine points negotiated beforehand.

Talk Nation Radio: Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein on why they shut down pipelines

Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein face felony charges for having shut down fossil fuel pipelines.

Johnston says:

To be honest, I’d love to be able to lead a quiet life right now—building things, reading and writing all day, taking long walks with my dog, having time for dinners and vacations with my loved ones.

But to live like that at this moment in time would be to shrug off responsibility for the very world I was busy loving; we’re in a crisis of unimaginable proportions, and the fact that we here in the US can (between terrible storms and terrible droughts) live normal daily lives, doesn’t mean that we aren’t.

I’ve said enough about why I’m doing this: it needs to be done. I feel incredibly privileged to be alive in this moment, when so much is still so beautiful, and there’s still a chance to save it. But for years (decades, for some people) we’ve tried the legal, incremental, reasonable methods, and they haven’t been anything like enough; without a radical shift in our relationship to this Earth, all that we love will disappear. My fear of that possibility is far greater than my fear of jail. My love for the beauties of this world is far greater than my love of an easy life.

If others feel the same way, there’s hope for us yet.


Klapstein says:

My name is Annette Klapstein. I am a retired attorney and the mother of 2 grown children.  Three words embody my decision to take action: love, solidarity and responsibility. 

It is my job as an older person to step up and put my body on the line to protect my children and all children. Being retired and freed from those obligations, there is nothing more important than insuring a habitable planet for all our children. Our political system has failed to respond to the grave threat of climate change - this is my taking responsibility.

There was a call for International Days of Prayer and Action with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe this week - this is my prayer and this is my action.  My life is only marginally affected by climate change right now, but there are mothers and children around the world in frontline communities - mostly low-income communities of color - who are being drastically affected right now. This is my act of solidarity.

Like mothers everywhere, I act from a deep love for my own children that extends out to all children and young people, and all living beings on this planet.  I have signed hundreds of petitions, testified at dozens of hearings, met with most of my political representatives at every level, to very little avail. I have come to believe that our current economic and political system is a death sentence to life on earth, and that I must do everything in my power to replace these systems with cooperative, just, equitable and love-centered ways of living together. This is my act of love.

For more information, see

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at

and at

Will the Gulf of Tonkin Fit into the Red Sea?

Just a geography question. Or maybe it's a different sort of question.

Do a web search for "USS Mason" and you will find countless "news" reports about how this poor innocent U.S. ship has been fired upon, and fired upon again, and how it has fired back "countermeasures" in self-defense.

But you might stumble onto one article from CNN (don't watch the totally misleading video posted just above the text) that says:

"Officials Saturday night were uncertain about what exactly happened, if there were multiple incoming missiles or if there was a malfunction with the radar detection system on the destroyer."

So, was the poor wittle innocent destroyer fired at or not?

What Hillary Clinton Privately Told Goldman Sachs

At first glance, Hillary Clinton's speeches to Goldman Sachs, which she refused to show us but WikiLeaks claims to have now produced the texts of, reveal less blatant hypocrisy or abuse than do the texts of various emails also recently revealed. But take a closer look.

Clinton has famously said that she believes in maintaining a public position on each issue that differs from her private position. Which did she provide to Goldman Sachs?

Yes, Clinton does profess her loyalty to corporate trade agreements, but at the time of her remarks she hadn't yet started (publicly) claiming otherwise.

I think, in fact, that Clinton maintains numerous positions on various issues, and that those she provided to Goldman Sachs were in part her public stances, in part her confidences to co-conspirators, and in part her partisan Democratic case to a room of Republicans as to why they should donate more to her and less to the GOP. This was not the sort of talk she'd have given to labor union executives or human rights professionals or Bernie Sanders delegates. She has a position for every audience.

In the speech transcripts from June 4, 2013, October 29, 2013, and October 19, 2015, Clinton was apparently paid sufficiently to do something she denies most audiences. That is, she took questions that it appears likely she was not secretly briefed on or engaged in negotiations over ahead of time. In part this appears to be the case because some of the questions were lengthy speeches, and in part because her answers were not all the sort of meaningless platitudes that she produces if given time to prepare.

White Helmets More Gray

"People always think something's all true." —Holden Caulfield

When a wonderful program like Democracy Now does a story on the White Helmets in Syria, the problem is not that the White Helmets don't exist, or that they're not rescuing anyone, or that they're actually filmed in Los Angeles -- all of which is ridiculously untrue.

Or perhaps it's not ridiculous. Syria has been the subject of a tidal wave of faked videos, many of them filmed elsewhere. But those things are untrue.

The problem is that the guest who's on Democracy Now to promote the rescuers repeatedly claims that the war in Syria consists of people being slaughtered by Syria and Russia -- and nothing else. And nobody corrects that. There is no mention of people killed by U.S. bombs or by U.S. weapons given to fighters on the ground.

The problem is that the White Helmets' partners, media allies, and funders promote a one-sided story and, far from working for peace, promote an escalation of the war, demanding a "No Fly Zone" from which to work for the overthrow of the government. In fact, the U.S. government gave the White Helmets $23 million with which to work on "transition" to a different government.

It's good media practice to reveal funders. We protest when retired generals go on CNN to push for war without revealing their financial ties to weapons makers. We should protest when promoters of the White Helmets go on TV without revealing that they're funded by Western governments, including the U.S. government which has been pushing for the overthrow of Syria for years.

Now, when the U.S. government funds something good, we ought to celebrate that. A color revolution in someplace like Serbia that develops creative new techniques and nonviolently overthrows a dictator to create a more democratic country is not wholly evil because the U.S. government supported it. But neither should we blind ourselves to that support or its motivations.

And when those motivations, at the highest levels of the U.S. government, appear disreputable, that of course does not tell us the motivations of all the staff people and volunteers involved. The U.S. government's dishonest demonization of someone like Milosevic doesn't make him a beloved and law-abiding leader. The U.S. facilitation of a coup in Ukraine doesn't mean there weren't Ukrainians with good grievances. The world is just not a simple place.

When it comes to Syria we need to recognize that many people in Syria had and have legitimate grievances against their government, and that the United States and allies have been working for many years now to overthrow the Syrian government, and that U.S. actions in Iraq and Libya and Syria have played a huge role in creating the current disaster, and that Russia and Saudi Arabia and Turkey and Qatar and Iran and ISIS and al Nusra and other "extremist" mass murderers and "moderate" mass murderers and the United States and Syria have Syrian blood up to their shoulders.

We also need to recognize that there are a lot of people trying to help, trying to make things better. And their good work should not be used, with or without their consent, as propaganda for further escalation of the killing and destruction. The way to peace does not lie through greater war. And greater war is the goal of the organized demonization of one side, of the manufacturing of selective outrage. On the contrary, the way to peace lies through taking a different approach entirely, an approach that faces all of the facts and treats as the enemy, not this side of the war or that side of the war, but the institution of war.

ISIS uses U.S. weapons which the U.S. continues supplying to fighters in Syria who are trying to overthrow the government. Meanwhile Russia is backing the government against those fighters. In that context, the U.S. and Russia are proposing to work together while threatening each other. These are nuclear nations. What we need is not slick demonization of one side through appeals to our humanitarian concerns, but disarmament, cease-fire, and actual aid on a much greater scale.

The spokespeople for the White Helmets say they don't work in government controlled areas because the government will not let them. That may be true. And it may be true because of suspicions that are easy to understand. But it is also probably true that if the White Helmets were making movies of themselves rescuing people on that side of the war, much of their funding would dry up.

Remember that the U.S. government tried to make a case for bombing Syria in 2013 by claiming that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons. President Obama claimed to have solid evidence of that, which three years later we still haven't seen. The public prevented that escalation. But a year later, following the release of ISIS videos, the U.S. public put up little resistance to the U.S. entering the war on multiple sides, including the opposite side from what it had advertised for in 2013.

But the U.S. government was stuck with a problem. How to direct the war against Syria when the U.S. public seemed not to be upset about Syria at all but seemed willing to be scared entirely out of its mind about ISIS? For the past two years we've witnessed campaigns aimed at demonizing Assad and Putin. That the White Helmets are saving lives doesn't change the fact that they are part of those campaigns. We need to observe them with open eyes.

There is, after all, a potential for support of the White Helmets to backfire against war mongers. If the general public caught on that nonviolent aid is the decent, effective, noble, and heroic path, perhaps the U.S. government would shift more than a tiny fraction of a percent of its Syria budget to that approach. If actual humanitarian aid and unarmed civilian peacework (and videography) were scaled up and done in an actually neutral manner, war would end -- and the White Helmets would have shown the way.

What Police Videos Teach Us About Wars


Before people had an easy way to see video footage of police murders, headlines crediting the police with just and noble actions couldn’t be effectively questioned.

We’re still back there in the dark ages when it comes to war murders, but we can overcome the lack of quickly shared videos if we choose to. When the headlines celebrate some sort of “victory” in Mosul or anywhere else, we can point out that the videos of people being blown up in their houses would be truly horrific if we had them. This is not, after all, a point on which there can actually be any question.

The police who murder innocents say they serve a grander purpose of maintaining law and order. Watching the videos of what they do eliminates all possibility of taking that seriously.

The war makers say they serve a grander purpose of . . . well, it depends; sometimes it’s also law and order, other times spreading democracy, other times weapons elimination, other times simply revenge. Imagining the videos we aren’t seeing should help us understand why these justifications do not hold up.

The U.S. has, in recent years, bombed Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. None of them is safer, less armed, more democratic, more peaceful, more prosperous, or less of a threat to others. Quite the contrary. “Defeating” ISIS by bombing people will fuel more suffering and violence, just as “defeating” the government of Saddam Hussein fueled ISIS.

Picture a woman in Mosul who lacks permission to go outside without a male guardian. Now picture that woman’s roof collapsing on her and her children with a thunderous crash and a cloud of dust. Is she better off? Do those who love her appreciate her “liberation”? Would the video be allowed on U.S. media outlets unless we shared it on social media as many times as we do a police video?

“One unfortunate incident.” “Collateral damage.” “A few bad apples.”

No. Police murder routinely and with immunity. Wars murder extensively, immorally, counterproductively, and illegally with immunity. There can be good policing. But there cannot be good war making. It’s all illegal under the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact. The war on terrorism has been increasing terrorism for years. The U.S. government itself admits it has no idea who most of the people are that it murders with drones.

“So you’re on the side of the criminals.” “You must love ISIS.” “Putin LOVER!”

In fact, this childish retort is more common on the question of war and, tragically, is sometimes fueled by a grain of truth. Even so-called peace groups have fallen for the “pick a side” routine on Syria for years. I know people opposed to U.S. war-making in Syria but not to the U.S. providing weapons to others. I know people opposed to both of those things but not to Syrian government war-making with help from Russia and others. I know people opposed to Syrian and Russian war-making but not to anything directed at overthrowing the Syrian government. I know people in favor of war against ISIS but not against Syria. I know people in favor of any war making armed and funded by Saudi Arabia or Qatar or Turkey but not by the United States or Russia. I could list 18 more variations, all from people claiming — as does the Pentagon — to favor peace.

I oppose war in the way I oppose dueling or blood feuds, not by supporting one side. I oppose the U.S.-led arming of Western Asia the way I oppose pushing heroin in poor neighborhoods, not by wanting particular people to get it all. I oppose murder by police or soldiers in the way that I oppose capital punishment — that is: not because videos make my social media browsing unpleasant, but because people’s lives are being taken.

It’s time we put an end to war as if we could see it.

Renewable Revolutionary Railroad Renaissance

The forthcoming book from creative activist and kayaktivist extraordinaire Bill Moyer and his Backbone Campaign colleagues should remake the United States and limit the oncoming onslaught of climate suffering. It's called Solutionary Rail: A People Powered Campaign to Electrify America's Railroads and Open Corridors to a Clean Energy Future.

Here's the idea. There is huge potential for solar and wind energy in vast open spaces of the United States. There is a need for pathways through which to transmit renewable-produced electricity to where it's needed in big cities and small towns. Meanwhile, under-used railroad lines crisscross the country. As coal and oil use drop, those lines will be even more under-used, unless we change something. Yet, trains are more efficient than trucks even now, and would be much more so if electrified. So, we should run electricity lines along newly-improved railroad lines, and use some of the electricity to cleanly power a lot more trains.

By electrifying rail, you make rail less expensive as well as cleaner. With improvements to tracks you also make it faster. More freight and passengers find their way to rail. More jobs are produced in renewable energy. People living near trains get a cleaner and quieter environment. Traffic is lessened on highways, reducing accidents, deaths, injuries, and wear and tear on the roads. Electric trains cost less, take less maintenance, and last longer. Regenerative braking can produce still more power.

This is a solution to air pollution, but its benefits just keep piling up. Electric rail is like the hemp of infrastructure. Faster, more efficient trains would take freight from trucks and planes, and people from planes and cars. Electric trains start and stop more quickly and can run more closely together than diesel trains. They run better on grades. They can run much faster than current U.S. trains on existing upgraded tracks. Restoring or adding double tracks provides three to four times the capacity of a single track.

Unless you're going all the way across the United States, for any shorter distance trip, a fast train from downtown to downtown is going to look mighty appealing when the alternative is a plane ride that involves: traveling to an exurban airport, being treated like a terrorism suspect, waiting hours, flying to an out-of-the-way city to wait additional hours switching planes, never being sure you'll be on time, buying much more expensive tickets, squeezing into a tiny seat with no chance to walk around, airplane food instead of a dining car, lousy internet, obnoxious announcements, and the knowledge that you're contributing mightily to the destruction of the earth's climate.

Talk Nation Radio: Ann Wright on the Women's Boat to Gaza and Being Kidnapped by Israel in International Waters

Ann Wright is a retired U.S. State Department official and army colonel who resigned in 2003 in protest of the war on Iraq. She's just returned from another attempt to reach Gaza by sea.

For more information, see

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport when I'm able to get the audioport website to work, which is not this week.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at

and at

I'm Headed to Alaska

David Swanson to speak in Fairbanks, Alaska, on "How we abolish the institution of war"

WHO: David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.

WHERE: University of Alaska, Schaible Auditorium, Bunnell Building, 303 Tanana Loop, Fairbanks, AK 99775

WHEN: 7 p.m. on October 22, 2016

SPONSORS: University Peace Club and Alaska Peace Center




Talk Nation Radio: Samantha Nutt on the Harm of Weapons Dealing and Investment

Samantha Nutt is an award-winning humanitarian, bestselling author and acclaimed public speaker. A medical doctor and a founder of the renowned international humanitarian organization War Child, Dr. Nutt has worked with children and their families at the frontline of many of the world’s major crises – from Iraq to Afghanistan, Somalia to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sierra Leone to Darfur, Sudan.

Dr. Nutt is a respected authority for many of North America's leading media outlets. In November 2015, Dr. Nutt spoke at TED Talks Live “War & Peace” at The Town Hall Theater in New York, which aired on PBS on May 30, 2016. Dr. Nutt’s TED Talk can be viewed on

Dr. Nutt’s critically-acclaimed debut book, entitled Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies and Aid, was released by McClelland and Stewart Ltd. (a division of Random House) in October 2011 and was a #1 national bestseller in both hardcover and paperback. 

For more information, see or

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport when I'm able to get the audioport website to work, which is not this week.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at

and at

Upcoming Debate on "Is War Necessary." Please Come.

Is War Necessary?

A Debate

David Swanson (War Is A Lie) vs. Roger Bergman ("There are just wars.")

Oct. 5, 7:00 p.m., McCarthy Arts Center, St. Michael's College.

Campus Road, Colchester, Vermont 05439 (just outside of Burlington).

Sponsored by the Peace and Justice Club and the Edmundite Center for Peace and Justice.

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Damned Nations, Cursed Arms Trade

Samantha Nutt has spent decades working on humanitarian aid in war zones. Her book, Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies, and Aid, is rich in wisdom drawn from experience. But more powerful and pointed, and worth beginning and ending with, is her talk titled "The Real Harm of the Global Arms Trade."

Nutt describes child armies across the global south including eight-year-olds who have never been to school but have fought and killed using automatic weapons. Yet, she says, war can be ended despite its being "as old as existence." (I think part of the path to ending it may involve rejecting myths like the one that war is as old as existence, but never mind that.)

Nutt describes a root cause of war that the wealthy of the world could easily eliminate, because it's not found in the "human nature" of Africans but in the financial records of educated, well-off, comfortable people typically not involved in war directly.

There are 800,000,000 small arms and light weapons in use in the world, Nutt says. There are places where you can get an AK47 for $10, and where you can get an automatic weapon more easily than a glass of clean water. (Of course it would cost a tiny fraction of military spending to provide the world with clean water -- $11.3 billion per year, says the U.N.)

Nutt shows two maps of the world, one highlighting the locations of wars, the other the locations of the big weapons exporters. There's no overlap. Like alcohol for Native Americans and opium for Chinese, weapons of war are products that the United States and Europe (and Russia and China) push on targeted populations. Eighty percent of all war weapons, Nutt says, come from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany.

Nutt shows two other statistics. One is that small arms sales are up three-fold in the past 15 years. The other is that deaths caused by them are up over three-fold in the same time. Arms shipped to Iraq and Syria are in the hands of ISIS, she notes. Arms shipped to Libya are in the hands of Boko Haram. Weapons' first stop is rarely their last.

So, Nutt concludes, what we need is "transparency" in arms sales. Ignore that bit. I know that even transparency is too much to ask of the U.S. government, but that doesn't make it an appropriate demand. What we need is an end to weapons gifts and weapons sales. Everybody knows the U.S. is selling Saudi Arabia weapons with which to blow people up in Yemen, boost terrorism, and destabilize the region. Knowing it doesn't help anything. And stopping it wouldn't make a single other weapons sale or gift to a single other nation, or to Saudi Arabia next month, morally defensible. There's no proper way to deal arms.

So, if you live in the United Kingdom, make Jeremy Corbin your prime minister. And if you live in any other wealthy northern country, bring nonviolent pressure to bear on your society and your rotten government to end the arms trade. If we can divest from Israeli war crimes and nukes, we can divest from the overarching evil, which is war. Nutt also suggests weapons divestment in her book, along with numerous suggestions for improving and expanding humanitarian aid.

Antiwar and pro-aid activists need to work more closely together. Antiwar groups need Nutt's wisdom on where to best direct aid. Nutt, in my humble opinion, could use a bit more understanding of what's wrong with war. That sounds ridiculous for me to say from the safety of my home as she travels from war zone to war zone, but citing six million Jews as the greatest killing ever done by war misses the problem. And I don't mean by omitting the three million non-Jews killed in the camps (though why omit them?). I mean the 50 million or more killed in the war outside the camps, a war justified in U.S. mythology by the deaths of the Jews, despite the U.S. and U.K. governments' refusals to evacuate them or accept them as refugees.

Perpetuating World War II myths in an antiwar book for Americans is as ill advised as any of the counterproductive amateur attempts at aid that Nutt critiques. (Never mind the reduction by ten fold of the number of Iraqis killed since 2003 in the statistic Nutt uses, or her repetition of the "erase the state of Israel from the map" line/lie, or her claim that arming Paul Kagame is an example of good weapons proliferation, or her claim that we couldn't know Iraq had no nukes or chemical or biological weapons until years after 2003.)

Nutt's focus is not on debunking propaganda for war but on providing aid. She claims that "the single greatest impediment to peace [is] the marginalization of women and girls." Really? I don't deny its significance. But the single greatest impediment? Just a few pages later, Nutt is recognizing NATO's interest in pretending to have a reason to exist as a cause of the violence she's discussing in Somalia -- a place that does not manufacture the weapons used in it and still wouldn't if it stopped marginalizing women. A few lines later, Nutt is describing how using militaries trained and armed for war to provide aid tends to produce, on the contrary, war. Not only does the U.S. invest many times more in war than in aid, but it ruins prospects for private aid organizations by destroying, as Nutt recounts in Somalia, the ability of aid groups to claim neutrality, and the ability of suffering people to trust the advice of foreign doctors.

Nutt writes as well as anyone on the topic of Western society's deep financial investment in war:

"The New York State Teachers' Retirement System, for example, has nearly $2 billion invested in weapons manufacture. When teachers start betting on a boom in weapons sales to see them through their golden years, it's time to load the trunk of the car with flashlights and soup cans."

Later, Nutt writes:

"Peace, development, and security will remain stubbornly out of reach for any civilian population choking on weapons fed to them by countries with eighty times their GDP."

That strikes me as right, and as grounds for putting our efforts into ending arms dealing.

Talk Nation Radio: Benjamin Madley on the California Indian Catastrophe

Benjamin Madley is an associate professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he is also chair of American Indian Studies. He discusses his new book, An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

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Pacifica stations can usually download from Audioport, but I couldn't get the sample rate to be acceptable to the website this week, as the show was recorded elsewhere.

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Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital

The United States government recently gave more than a million dollars to the family of one victim it had killed in one of its wars. The victim happened to be Italian. If you were to find all the Iraqi families with any surviving members who had loved ones killed by the United States it might be a million families. A million times a million dollars would be enough to treat those Iraqis in this respect as if they were Europeans. Who can tell me — raise your hand — how much is a million times a million?

That’s right, a trillion.

Now, can you count to a trillion starting from one. Go ahead. We’ll wait.

Actually we won’t wait, because if you counted one number per second you would get to a trillion in 31,709 years. And we have other speakers to get to here.

A trillion is a number we can’t comprehend. For most purposes it’s useless. The greediest oligarch doesn’t dream of ever seeing a fraction of that many dollars. Teeny fractions of that many dollars would transform the world. Three percent of it per year would end starvation on earth. One percent per year would end the lack of clean drinking water. Ten percent per year would transform green energy or agriculture or education. Three percent per year for four years, in current dollars, was the Marshall Plan.

Acting on Bill Ayers' Radical Manifesto

Bill Ayers' short new book, Demand the Impossible: A Radical Manifesto, is different from the typical liberal view of a better world in two ways. First, its goals are a bit grander, more inspiring. Second, it adds as the first and most important goal one that others don't include at all.

A typical proposal that a lesser evilist might give for "voting against Donald Trump" might include minor economic or police or prison reforms, a bit of environmentalism, healthcare, or education. Ayers wants to abolish prisons, end capitalism, disarm the police, redesign schools, create universal healthcare, and nationalize energy companies. And he's right. The radical vision is the better one, not just because it leads to a better place but also because the incrementalist approach will get us all killed -- only a bit more slowly than doing nothing.

The more important, because rarer, difference in Ayers' manifesto is the addition of the missing topic. Most U.S. "progressives" imagine a world of greater economic equality and opportunity, environmental sustainability, fewer police killings, shorter prison sentences, investment in human needs, and the withering away of all sorts of bigotries, prejudices, sexisms, racisms, and other sorts of unfairness and cruelty -- resulting in a multicultural community all united in our support for dumping a trillion dollars a year into preparing for battle with our collectively loathed foreign enemies, and supporting the weapons trade as a supposed economic program.

Ayers takes a different approach. "What," he asks, "if we broke from the dogma of militarism -- rejecting the anemic and seemingly endless debates about whether the United States should bomb this country or instead boycott some other country . . . -- and organized an irresistible social upheaval strong enough to stop U.S. invasions and conquest[?] What if we occupied bases, blocked munitions shipments and private militias, boycotted arms dealers, sabotaged surveillance operations and drone manufacturers -- and forced the U.S. government to disarm and close all foreign military bases within a year? . . . Or what if we built a colossal transnational movement that organized shadow elections (initially), inviting any resident of a country with a U.S. military presence within its borders to vote in U.S. national elections?"

Ayers proposes that we take on the culture of militarism, not just the industrial structure of it. "[I]magine," he writes, "any bit of the war culture transformed into a peace-and-love culture: the Super Bowl opening with thousands of local school kids rushing through the stands distributing their poetry, and then everyone singing 'This Land Is Your Land,' or 'Give Peace a Chance,' or 'We Shall Overcome'; an airlines or bus terminal clerk saying, 'We want to invite any teachers or nurses in the gate area to board first, and we thank you for your service'; urban high schools eliminating ROTC and banning military recruiters in favor of school-wide assemblies for peace recruiters featuring Code Pink, and after-school programs led by Black Youth Project 100 and the American Friends Service Committee."

Some of us like this idea so much we've organized an event this weekend to try to advance it. The event is called #NoWar2016. This Friday and Saturday, you can watch the live stream at Videos of Friday through Sunday will be quickly posted online. Sunday will include activism workshops and a planning session for a protest at the Pentagon at 9 a.m. Monday morning. The details are all at

Talk Nation Radio: Reese Erlich and Coleen Rowley on Syria, War, and Peace

Reese Erlich is a foreign correspondent and book author. The paperback edition of Erlich's book Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect, has just been published this week. See

Coleen Rowley is an FBI whistleblower, peace activist, retired FBI agent, former legal counsel who taught law enforcement ethics, and member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and of Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence. See

Coleen Rowley will be participating in No War 2016. See

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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World War Two Was Not a Just War

By David Swanson

Excerpted from the just released book War Is Never Just.

World War II is often called “the good war,” and has been since the U.S. war on Vietnam to which it was then contrasted. World War II so dominates U.S. and therefore Western entertainment and education, that “good” often comes to mean something more than “just.” The winner of the “Miss Italy” beauty pageant earlier this year got herself into a bit of a scandal by declaring that she would have liked to live through World War II. While she was mocked, she was clearly not alone. Many would like to be part of something widely depicted as noble, heroic, and exciting. Should they actually find a time machine, I recommend they read the statements of some actual WWII veterans and survivors before they head back to join the fun.[i] For purposes of this book, however, I am going to look only at the claim that WWII was morally just.

No matter how many years one writes books, does interviews, publishes columns, and speaks at events, it remains virtually impossible to make it out the door of an event in the United States at which you’ve advocated abolishing war without somebody hitting you with the what-about-the-good-war question. This belief that there was a good war 75 years ago is a large part of what moves the U.S. public to tolerate dumping a trillion dollars a year into preparing in case there’s a good war next year,[ii] even in the face of so many dozens of wars during the past 70 years on which there’s general consensus that they were not good. Without rich, well-established myths about World War II, current propaganda about Russia or Syria or Iraq or China would sound as crazy to most people as it sounds to me. And of course the funding generated by the Good War legend leads to more bad wars, rather than preventing them. I’ve written on this topic at great length in many articles and books, especially War Is A Lie.[iii] But I’ll offer here a few key points that ought to at least place a few seeds of doubt in the minds of most U.S. supporters of WWII as a Just War.

Mark Allman and Tobias Winright, the “Just War” authors discussed in previous chapters, are not very forthcoming with their list of Just Wars, but they do mention in passing numerous unjust elements of the U.S. role in WWII, including U.S. and U.K. efforts to wipe out the populations of German cities[iv] and the insistence on unconditional surrenders.[v] However, they also suggest that they may believe this war was justly engaged in, unjustly conducted, and justly followed through on via the Marshall Plan, etc.[vi] I’m not sure Germany’s role as host of U.S. troops, weapons, and communications stations, and as collaborator in unjust U.S. wars over the years is included in the calculation.

Here are what I think of as the top 12 reasons the Good War wasn’t good/just.

  1. World War II could not have happened without World War I, without the stupid manner of starting World War I and the even stupider manner of ending World War I which led numerous wise people to predict World War II on the spot, or without Wall Street’s funding of Nazi Germany for decades (as preferable to communists), or without the arms race and numerous bad decisions that do not need to be repeated in the future.
  1. The U.S. government was not hit with a surprise attack. President Franklin Roosevelt had quietly promised Churchill that the United States would work hard to provoke Japan into staging an attack. FDR knew the attack was coming, and initially drafted a declaration of war against both Germany and Japan on the evening of Pearl Harbor. Prior to Pearl Harbor, FDR had built up bases in the U.S. and multiple oceans, traded weapons to the Brits for bases, started the draft, created a list of every Japanese American person in the country, provided planes, trainers, and pilots to China, imposed harsh sanctions on Japan, and advised the U.S. military that a war with Japan was beginning. He told his top advisers he expected an attack on December 1st, which was six days off. Here’s an entry in Secretary of War Henry Stimson’s diary following a November 25, 1941, White House meeting: “The President said the Japanese were notorious for making an attack without warning and stated that we might be attacked, say next Monday, for example.”
  1. The war was not humanitarian and was not even marketed as such until after it was over. There was no poster asking you to help Uncle Sam save the Jews. A ship of Jewish refugees from Germany was chased away from Miami by the Coast Guard. The U.S. and other nations refused to accept Jewish refugees, and the majority of the U.S. public supported that position. Peace groups that questioned Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his foreign secretary about shipping Jews out of Germany to save them were told that, while Hitler might very well agree to the plan, it would be too much trouble and require too many ships. The U.S. engaged in no diplomatic or military effort to save the victims in the Nazi concentration camps. Anne Frank was denied a U.S. visa. Although this point has nothing to do with a serious historian’s case for WWII as a Just War, it is so central to U.S. mythology that I’ll include here a key passage from Nicholson Baker:

“Anthony Eden, Britain’s foreign secretary, who’d been tasked by Churchill with handling queries about refugees, dealt coldly with one of many important delegations, saying that any diplomatic effort to obtain the release of the Jews from Hitler was ‘fantastically impossible.’ On a trip to the United States, Eden candidly told Cordell Hull, the secretary of state, that the real difficulty with asking Hitler for the Jews was that ‘Hitler might well take us up on any such offer, and there simply are not enough ships and means of transportation in the world to handle them.’ Churchill agreed. ‘Even were we to obtain permission to withdraw all the Jews,’ he wrote in reply to one pleading letter, ‘transport alone presents a problem which will be difficult of solution.’ Not enough shipping and transport? Two years earlier, the British had evacuated nearly 340,000 men from the beaches of Dunkirk in just nine days. The U.S. Air Force had many thousands of new planes. During even a brief armistice, the Allies could have airlifted and transported refugees in very large numbers out of the German sphere.”[vii]

Perhaps it does go to the question of “Right Intention” that the “good” side of the war simply did not give a damn about what would become the central example of the badness of the “bad” side of the war.

  1. The war was not defensive. FDR lied that he had a map of Nazi plans to carve up South America, that he had a Nazi plan to eliminate religion, that U.S. ships (covertly assisting British war planes) were innocently attacked by Nazis, that Germany was a threat to the United States.[viii] A case can be made that the U.S. needed to enter the war in Europe to defend other nations, which had entered to defend yet other nations, but a case could also be made that the U.S. escalated the targeting of civilians, extended the war, and inflicted more damage than might have occurred, had the U.S. done nothing, attempted diplomacy, or invested in nonviolence. To claim that a Nazi empire could have grown to someday include an occupation of the United States is wildly far fetched and not borne out by any earlier or later examples from other wars.
  1. We now know much more widely and with much more data that nonviolent resistance to occupation and injustice is more likely to succeed—and that success more likely to last—than violent resistance. With this knowledge, we can look back at the stunning successes of nonviolent actions against the Nazis that were not well organized or built on beyond their initial successes.[ix]
  1. The Good War was not good for the troops. Lacking intense modern training and psychological conditioning to prepare soldiers to engage in the unnatural act of murder, some 80 percent of U.S. and other troops in World War II did not fire their weapons at “the enemy.”[x] The fact that veterans of WWII were treated better after the war than other soldiers before or since, was the result of the pressure created by the Bonus Army after the previous war. That veterans were given free college, healthcare, and pensions was not due to the merits of the war or in some way a result of the war. Without the war, everyone could have been given free college for many years. If we provided free college to everyone today, it would then require much more than Hollywoodized World War II stories to get many people into military recruiting stations.
  1. Several times the number of people killed in German camps were killed outside of them in the war. The majority of those people were civilians. The scale of the killing, wounding, and destroying made WWII the single worst thing humanity has ever done to itself in a short space of time. We imagine the allies were somehow “opposed” to the far lesser killing in the camps. But that can’t justify the cure that was worse than the disease.
  1. Escalating the war to include the all-out destruction of civilians and cities, culminating in the completely indefensible nuking of cities took WWII out of the realm of defensible projects for many who had defended its initiation—and rightly so. Demanding unconditional surrender and seeking to maximize death and suffering did immense damage and left a grim and foreboding legacy.
  1. Killing huge numbers of people is supposedly defensible for the “good” side in a war, but not for the “bad” side. The distinction between the two is never as stark as fantasized. The United States had a long history as an apartheid state. U.S. traditions of oppressing African Americans, practicing genocide against Native Americans, and now interning Japanese Americans also gave rise to specific programs that inspired Germany’s Nazis—these included camps for Native Americans, and programs of eugenics and human experimentation that existed before, during, and after the war. One of these programs included giving syphilis to people in Guatemala at the same time the Nuremberg trials were taking place.[xi] The U.S. military hired hundreds of top Nazis at the end of the war; they fit right in.[xii] The U.S. aimed for a wider world empire, before the war, during it, and ever since. German neo-Nazis today, forbidden to wave the Nazi flag, sometimes wave the flag of the Confederate States of America instead.
  1. The “good” side of the “good war,” the party that did most of the killing and dying for the winning side, was the communist Soviet Union. That doesn’t make the war a triumph for communism, but it does tarnish Washington’s and Hollywood’s tales of triumph for “democracy.”[xiii]
  1. World War II still hasn’t ended. Ordinary people in the United States didn’t have their incomes taxed until World War II and that’s never stopped. It was supposed to be temporary.[xiv] WWII-era bases built around the world have never closed. U.S. troops have never left Germany or Japan.[xv] There are more than 100,000 U.S. and British bombs still in the ground in Germany, still killing.[xvi]
  1. Going back 75 years to a nuclear-free, colonial world of completely different structures, laws, and habits to justify what has been the greatest expense of the United States in each of the years since is a bizarre feat of self-deception that isn’t attempted in the justification of any lesser enterprise. Assume I’ve got numbers 1 through 11 totally wrong, and you’ve still got to explain how an event from the early 1940s justifies dumping a trillion 2017 dollars into war funding that could have been spent to feed, clothe, cure, and shelter millions of people, and to environmentally protect the earth.


[i] Studs Terkel, The Good War: An Oral History of World War II (The New Press: 1997).

[ii] Chris Hellman, TomDispatch, “$1.2 Trillion for National Security,” March 1, 2011,

[iii] David Swanson, War Is A Lie, Second Edition (Charlottesville: Just World Books, 2016).

[iv] Mark J. Allman & Tobias L. Winright, After the Smoke Clears: The Just War Tradition and Post War Justice (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2010) p. 46.

[v] Mark J. Allman & Tobias L. Winright, After the Smoke Clears: The Just War Tradition and Post War Justice (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2010) p. 14.

[vi] Mark J. Allman & Tobias L. Winright, After the Smoke Clears: The Just War Tradition and Post War Justice (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2010) p. 97.

[vii] War No More: Three Centuries of American Antiwar and Peace Writing, edited by Lawrence Rosendwald.

[viii] David Swanson, War Is A Lie, Second Edition (Charlottesville: Just World Books, 2016).

[ix] Book and Film: A Force More Powerful,

[x] Dave Grossman, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society (Back Bay Books: 1996).

[xi] Donald G. McNeil Jr., The New York Times, “U.S. Apologizes for Syphilis Tests in Guatemala,” October 1, 2010,

[xii] Annie Jacobsen, Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America (Little, Brown and Company, 2014).

[xiii] Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States (Gallery Books, 2013).

[xiv] Steven A. Bank, Kirk J. Stark, and Joseph J. Thorndike, War and Taxes (Urban Institute Press, 2008).

[xv], “Move Away from Nonstop War. Close the Ramstein Air Base,”

[xvi] David Swanson, “The United States Just Bombed Germany,”

The African American History Missing from the Smithsonian

The new corporate-funded African-American History museum in Washington, D.C., built on the former site of Camp Democracy and all sorts of protests and festivals, is getting a great deal of purely positive press before its doors have opened.

This press and the museum's own website suggest that the museum covers slavery, Jim Crow, racism, sports, and entertainment, but doesn't step out of the mold set by the Smithsonian when it celebrated the Enola Gay or began letting war profiteers fund and shape the exhibits in the Air and Space Museum or in the American History Museum, which has gone out of its way to glorify war.

The New York Times informs us about the new museum: "Above ground, the museum departs from the chronological narrative to examine African-American achievements in fields like music, art, sports and the military. Visitors can tour these brighter third-floor and fourth-floor themed Culture and Community galleries without venturing into the harsher history sections below."

Get it? War is part of a well-rounded liberal life alongside music and sports, unlike those "harsh" bits of history. The new museum's website promotes "Military" as a category of exhibit item. Click it and you'll find 162 things including smiling portraits of soldiers in uniforms, medals, letters, hats, binoculars, propaganda posters, etc. If you search the site for "Peace" you find one photo of an unidentified man wearing a peace sign necklace and one photo of unidentified men holding up a giant peace sign.

We know that Marin Luther King Jr. is to be found in the new museum, but we don't know if he's the corporate-approved Martin Luther King Jr. who opposed racism but never noticed war. We know that Muhammad Ali shows up in the sports section along with his head-gear and gloves. We don't know if his reasons for refusing the Vietnam War draft are included.

African Americans have been a major part of resistance to war, especially from the Korean War through the nomination of Barack Obama for president. Some of this history is told by Kimberley Phillips who will be speaking in Washington, D.C., as the museum opens, but speaking at a conference at American University called No War 2016.

Does the Smithsonian touch on African-American resistance to wars on Africa or the growth of Africom? Also speaking at No War 2016 will be Maurice Carney of Friends of the Congo. Is the story his group tells in the film Crisis in the Congo told by the Smithsonian? Also speaking on a panel on racism and war at No War 2016 will be Bill Fletcher Jr. and Darakshan Raja. Where is their wisdom at the Smithsonian? Where is any history of the ties between a racist foreign policy and domestic racism? What is the relationship between racism and war propaganda? I wouldn't enter the new museum holding your breath until you find that exhibit.

What public service is being offered by a museum that celebrates the Tuskeegee Airmen but thus far has given no public indication that it will explore the significance of the Tuskeegee Syphilis Experiment? Bombing foreigners who engage in human experimentation makes a better story than just bombing foreigners while engaging in human experimentation. The story can be told with the flaws of segregation, later remedied or in the process of quickly being repaired. There is value in that story. It's not without its merits. But it is fundamentally false and may just get us all killed.

War Is Never Just: The End of "Just War" Theory

Several weeks back I was invited to speak this coming October at a U.S. university on ending war and making peace. As I often do, I asked whether the organizers couldn't try to find a supporter of war with whom I could debate or discuss the topic, thus (I hoped) bringing in a larger audience of people not yet persuaded of the need to abolish the institution of warfare.

As had never happened before, the event organizers not only said yes but actually found a war supporter willing to take part in a public debate. Great! I thought, this will make for a more persuasive event. I read my future interlocutor's books and papers, and I drafted my position, arguing that his "Just War" theory could not hold up to scrutiny, that in fact no war could be "just."

Rather than planning to surprise my "just war" debate opponent with my arguments, I sent him what I had written so that he could plan his responses and perhaps contribute them to a published, written exchange. But, rather than respond on topic, he suddenly announced that he had "professional and personal obligations" that would prevent his taking part in the event in October. Sigh!

But the best event organizers ever have already found a replacement. So the debate will go forward at St. Michael's College, Colchester, VT, on October 5th. Meanwhile, I have just published as a book my argument that war is never just. You can be the first to buy it, read it, or review it here.

Part of the reason for advancing this debate now is that back on April 11-13th the Vatican held a meeting on whether the Catholic Church, the originator of Just War theory, should finally reject it. Here's a petition you can sign, whether or not you are Catholic, urging the church to do just that.

An outline of my argument can be found in my book's table of contents:

What Is A Just War?
Just War Theory Facilitates Unjust Wars
Preparing for a Just War Is a Greater Injustice Than Any War
Just War Culture Just Means More War
The Ad Bellum / In Bello Distinction Does Harm

Some Just War Criteria Are Not Measurable
            Right Intention
            Just Cause

Some Just War Criteria Are Not Possible
            Last Resort
            Reasonable Prospect Of Success
            Noncombatants Immune From Attack
            Enemy Soldiers Respected As Human Beings
            Prisoners Of War Treated As Noncombatants

Some Just War Criteria Are Not Moral Factors At All
            Publicly Declared
            Waged By Legitimate And Competent Authority

The Criteria For Just Drone Murders Are
Immoral, Incoherent, And Ignored
Why Do Ethics Classes Fantasize About Murder
 So Much?
If All Just War Criteria Were Met War Still
 Wouldn't Be Just
Just War Theorists Do Not Spot New Unjust
 Wars Any Faster an Anyone Else
A Just-War Occupation Of A Conquered Country 
Is Not Just
Just War Theory Opens the Door To Pro-War Theory

We Can End War Without Waiting For Jesus
Who Would The Good Samaritan Carpet Bomb?

World War Two Was Not Just
The U.S. Revolution Was Not Just
The U.S. Civil War Was Not Just
War On Yugoslavia Was Not Just
War On Libya Is Not Just
War On Rwanda Would Not Have Been Just
War On Sudan Would Not Have Been Just
War On ISIS Is Not Just

Our Ancestors Lived In A Different Cultural World
We Can Agree On Just Peace Making


Here's the first section:


Just War theory holds that a war is morally justified under certain circumstances. Just War theorists lay out and elaborate upon their criteria for the just beginning of a war, the just conduct of a war, and—in some cases, including Mark Allman's—the just occupation of conquered territories after some official announcement that a war is "over." Some Just War theorists also write about just pre-war conduct, which is helpful if it promotes behaviors that make war less likely. But no just pre-war conduct, in the view I lay out below, can justify the decision to launch a war.

Examples of Just War criteria (to be discussed below) are: right intention, proportionality, a just cause, the last resort, a reasonable prospect of success, noncombatants' immunity from attack, enemy soldiers respected as human beings, prisoners of war treated as noncombatants, war publicly declared, and war waged by a legitimate and competent authority. There are others, and not all Just War theorists agree on all of them.

Just War theory or the "Just War tradition" has been around since the Catholic Church joined up with the Roman Empire in the time of Saints Ambrose and Augustine in the fourth century CE. Ambrose opposed intermarriage with pagans, heretics, or Jews, and defended the burning of synagogues. Augustine defended both war and slavery based on his ideas of "original sin," and the idea that "this" life is of little importance in comparison with the afterlife. He believed that killing people actually helped them get to a better place and that you should never be so foolish as to engage in self-defense against someone trying to kill you.

Just War theory was further developed by Saint Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century. Aquinas was a supporter of slavery and of monarchy as the ideal form of government. Aquinas believed the central motive of war makers should be peace, an idea very much alive to this day, and not just in the works of George Orwell. Aquinas also thought that heretics deserved to be killed, though he believed the church should be merciful, and so preferred that the state do the killing.

Of course there was also much highly admirable about these ancient and medieval figures. But their Just War ideas fit better with their worldviews than with ours. Out of an entire perspective (including their views of women, sex, animals, the environment, education, human rights, etc., etc.) that makes little sense to most of us today, this one piece called "Just War theory" has been kept alive well beyond its expiration date.

Many advocates of Just War theory no doubt believe that by promoting criteria for a "just war" they are taking the inevitable horror of war and mitigating the damage, that they are making unjust wars a little bit less unjust or maybe even a lot less unjust, while making sure that just wars are begun and are properly executed. "Necessary" is a word that Just War theorists should not object to. They cannot be accused of calling war good or pleasant or cheerful or desirable. Rather, they claim that some wars can be necessary—not physically necessary but morally justified although regrettable. If I shared that belief, I would find courageous risk-taking in such wars to be noble and heroic, yet still unpleasant and undesirable—and thus in only a very particular sense of the word: "good."

The majority of the supporters in the United States of particular wars are not strict Just War theorists. They may believe a war is in some manner defensive, but have typically not thought through whether it's a "necessary" step, a "last resort." Often they are very open about seeking revenge, and often about targeting for revenge ordinary non-combatants, all of which is rejected by Just War theory. In some wars, but not others, some fraction of supporters also believe the war is intended to rescue the innocent or bestow democracy and human rights on the afflicted. In 2003 there were Americans who wanted Iraq bombed in order to kill a lot of Iraqis, and Americans who wanted Iraq bombed in order to liberate Iraqis from a tyrannical government. In 2013 the U.S. public rejected its government's pitch to bomb Syria for the supposed benefit of Syrians. In 2014 the U.S. public supported bombing Iraq and Syria to supposedly protect themselves from ISIS. According to much of recent Just War theory it shouldn't matter who is being protected. To most of the U.S. public, it matters very much.

While there are not enough Just War theorists to launch a war without lots of help from unjust war advocates, elements of Just War theory are found in the thinking of just about every war supporter. Those thrilled by a new war will still call it "necessary." Those eager to abuse all standards and conventions in the conduct of the war will still condemn the same by the other side. Those cheering for attacks on non-threatening nations thousands of miles away will never call it aggression, always "defense" or "prevention" or "preemption" or punishment of misdeeds. Those explicitly denouncing or evading the United Nations will still claim that their government's wars uphold rather than drag down the rule of law. While Just War theorists are far from agreeing with each other on all points, there are some common themes, and they work to facilitate the waging of war in general—even though most or all of the wars are unjust by the standards of Just War theory.

Read the rest

Who Killed the People of California? Should Kaepernick Protest His Uniform?

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been given much deserved credit for protesting racism by sitting out the Star Spangled Banner, which not only glorifies war (which everyone, including Kaepernick is totally cool with) but also includes racism in an unsung verse and was written by a racist slave owner whose earlier version had included anti-Muslim bigotry. As long as we're opening our eyes to unpleasant history hiding in plain sight, it's worth asking why the 49ers is not a team name that everyone associates with genocide. Why isn't Kaepernick protesting his uniform?

Of course, protesting one injustice is worthy of infinite thanks, and I don't actually expect anyone who speaks out on one thing to also protest everything else. But I've just read a terrific new book that I suspect unearths a history that most Californians are largely unaware of. The book is An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873, by Benjamin Madley, from Yale University Press. I doubt I've seen a better researched and documented book on anything ever. While the book maintains an engaging chronological account, and while there is plenty of uncertainty in the records used, the 198 pages of appendices listing particular killings, and the 73 pages of notes back up an overwhelming case of genocide by the UN's legal definition.

Paying the Price for Peace to be screened with the director at UVA on 9/29

WHAT: Screening of Paying the Price for Peace: The Story of S. Brian Willson, and discussion with the director Bo Boudart and with peace activist David Swanson. See

WHEN: 7-11 p.m., Thursday, September 29

WHERE: Commonwealth Room, Newcomb Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

HOST: Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine

COSPONSORS: World Beyond War,, the Peace and Social Concerns Committee of Charlottesville Friends Meeting, Pax Christi, Amnesty International - Charlottesville, and Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice. (More welcome!)

COST: No one turned away. Donation appreciated: $10, or $20 to leave with a copy of the DVD. Donations pay for Bo Boudart's travel. You can also donate at

Please sign up on Facebook if you want to come, and please share it to spread the word:

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Suing Saudi: Congress Is Right, Stephen Kinzer Is Wrong

Now there you have two things that I never expected to write. How often is Congress right about anything or Stephen Kinzer wrong? Congress wants 9/11 victims' families to be able to sue Saudi Arabia for its role in those crimes. Kinzer does not.

It's not that he doesn't care about victims' families. It's not that he's worried about disturbing relations with the Saudi monarchy (which could perhaps stop selling the United States the fossilized poison it uses to ruin the earth's climate, or stop buying U.S. weapons and working with the U.S. military to blow up little children in Yemen, or perhaps increase or decrease its support for ISIS depending on which of those options the U.S. makes up its mind to oppose). No, Kinzer's concern is that if you let one set of criminals be held accountable for their crimes, other criminals might be held accountable for their crimes as well.

Kinzer's is an argument designed to win over Congress (which doesn't really answer to rational argumentation) or the President (who already agrees with it). But it's not an argument that should win over you or me.

"Americans have a right to be furious with some foreign governments," writes Kinzer. "People in other countries have an equal right to be furious with the United States. We best address that fury not with lawsuits, but by changing the way we approach the world."

If laws are to "address fury" I'd like to abolish every last one of them, domestic and international, as an embarrassment to our species. In reality, the best laws are powerful tools with which to "change the way we approach the world." Obamesque "looking forward" -- that is, granting immunity to all powerful law breakers and wishing they wouldn't continue their law breaking -- does not work. Neither, of course, does bombing families in Libya or Syria based on the flimsy allegation that someone powerful managed to break a law that happened to be the one law not to ignore that day.

Kinzer's concern that suing Saudi Arabia could result in law suits against the United States is misguided nationalism. Why does suing Saudi Arabia not bother him? Why does suing the United States bother him? If Saudi Arabia kills large numbers of people, every nonviolent tool at our disposal ought to be used to put an end to that, to deter its repetition, to seek restitution, and to work for reconciliation. And the exact same applies to the U.S. government.

This was the pretense at Nuremberg, that victor's justice would someday become universal justice, that the people of the United States would want their own government held to the rule of law. This is why 37 thousand U.S. citizens thanked Spain for trying to prosecute U.S. officials for war crimes a few years ago, when the U.S. government had made clear that it would never do so itself. Instead it brought pressure to bear on Spain that shut down the prosecution.

Of course, a country that doesn't want to be sued (by its own people as well as foreigners) could abide by the rule of law or enforce its treaty obligations itself, as legally required to do anyway. Of what real use is a law that a blatant violator cannot be brought to court over? The UN Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact make seven current U.S. wars illegal, plus numerous drone killings if you claim they constitute "war." They're illegal as murder is you claim they do not constitute "war." Kidnapping, torture, spying, sabotaging -- these things are crimes. Those instances of these crimes that are in the past should indeed be brought to court in the present, unless the United States sees its way clear to apologizing and making restitution to the satisfaction of the victims.

But here's the real problem. If disputes could be taken to court, instead of to war, potential terrorists would become potential litigants, and Pentagon propaganda for the next war would become a lawsuit instead. Did the latest "Hitler" really truly use the wrong kind of weapon? Don't bomb the residents of his capital. Take him to court instead. Take him to arbitration. Take him to a truth and reconciliation commission. Because if you don't, if you bomb some cities instead, you should have to expect that victims families will be taking you to court.

If U.S. officials find that they must constantly be looking over their shoulders to make sure they aren't going to be taken to court, they will simply be joining the rest of us who are -- horror of horrors! -- obliged to comply with every existing law every day of the year.

Talk Nation Radio: Elizabeth Murray and John Kiriakou on Working in a Corrupt Government and Whistleblowing

maxresdefaultJohn Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer, who in 2007 became the first U.S. Government official to publicly confirm and describe CIA use of waterboarding on al-Qaeda prisoners, which he described as torture. In January 2013, Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months in prison and was released after serving more than 23 months. Since then, he has become a tireless writer and speaker on whistleblowing, torture, and civil liberties. Kiriakou is the sole U.S. Government official to have been jailed for any reason relating to CIA torture – a victim of the Obama administration’s unprecedented crackdown on government truth-tellers. When President Obama openly acknowledged at a White House press conference on August 1, 2014, “We tortured some folks,” John was in prison for having said essentially the same thing seven years earlier.

kathyElizabeth Murray served as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council before retiring after a 27-year career in the U.S. government. She is a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), and of Sam Adams Associates. She writes for Consortium News.

Murray and Kiriakou will be speaking at No War 2016. See

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

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