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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.
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 TheRealNews.com. 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 http://worldbeyondwar.org/nowar2016.
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 https://reeseerlich.com
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 http://coleenrowley.com
Coleen Rowley will be participating in No War 2016. See http://worldbeyondwar.org/nowar2016
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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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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]
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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]
- 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]
- 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, http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175361
[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, http://aforcemorepowerful.org
[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, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/02/health/research/02infect.html
[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] RootsAction.org, “Move Away from Nonstop War. Close the Ramstein Air Base,” http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=12254
[xvi] David Swanson, “The United States Just Bombed Germany,” http://davidswanson.org/node/5134
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.
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
Some Just War Criteria Are Not Possible
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
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:
WHAT IS A "JUST WAR"?
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.
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.
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 http://payingthepriceforpeace.com
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, RootsAction.org, the Peace and Social Concerns Committee of Charlottesville Friends Meeting, Pax Christi, and Amnesty International - Charlottesville. (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 http://payingthepriceforpeace.com
Please sign up on Facebook if you want to come, and please share it to spread the word: https://www.facebook.com/events/1591911061110859
Please retweet this tweet: https://twitter.com/davidcnswanson/status/776406756939399168
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
John 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.
Elizabeth 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 http://worldbeyondwar.org/nowar2016
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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
Snowden is the most entertaining, informing, and important film you are likely to see this year.
It's the true story of an awakening. It traces the path of Edward Snowden's career in the U.S. military, the CIA, the NSA, and at various contractors thereof. It also traces the path of Edward Snowden's agonizingly slow awakening to the possibility that the U.S. government might sometimes be wrong, corrupt, or criminal. And of course the film takes us through Snowden's courageous and principled act of whistleblowing.
We see in the film countless colleagues of Snowden's who knew much of what he knew and did not blow the whistle. We see a few help him and others appreciate him. But they themselves do nothing. Snowden is one of the exceptions. Other exceptions who preceded him and show up in the film include William Binney, Ed Loomis, Kirk Wiebe, and Thomas Drake. Most people are not like these men. Most people obey illegal orders without ever making a peep.
And yet, what strikes me about Snowden and many other whistleblowers I've met or learned about, is how long it took them, and the fact that what brought them around was not an event they objected to but a change in their thinking. U.S. officials who've been part of dozens of wars and coups and outrages for decades will decide that the latest war is too much, and they'll bail out, resign publicly, and become an activist. Why now? Why not then, or then, or then, or that other time?
These whistleblowers -- and Snowden is no exception -- are not passive or submissive early in their careers. They're enthusiastic true believers. They want to spy and bomb and kill for the good of the world. When they find out that's not what's happening, they go public for the good of the world. There is that consistency to their actions. The question, then, is how smart, dedicated young people come to believe that militarism and secrecy and abusive power are noble pursuits.
Oliver Stone's Ed Snowden begins as a "smart conservative." But the only smart thing we see about him is his computer skills. We never hear him articulate some smart political point of view that happens to be "conservative." His taste in books includes Ayn Rand, hardly an indication of intelligence. But on the computers, Snowden is a genius. And on that basis his career advances.
Snowden has doubts about the legality of warrantless spying, but believes his CIA instructor's ludicrous defense. Later, Snowden has such concerns about CIA cruelty he witnesses that he resigns. Yet, at the same time, he believes that presidential candidate Barack Obama will undo the damage and set things right.
How does one explain such obtuseness in a genius? Obama's statements making perfectly clear that the wars and outrages would roll on were publicly available. I found them with ordinary search engines, needing no assistance from the NSA.
Snowden resigned, but he didn't leave. He started working for contractors. He came to learn that a program he'd created was being used to assist in lawless and reckless, not to mention murderous, drone murders. That wasn't enough.
He came to learn that the U.S. government was lawlessly spying on the whole world and spying more on the United States than on Russia. (Why spying on Russia was OK we aren't told.) But that, too, wasn't enough.
He came to learn that the U.S. was spying on its allies and enemies alike, even inserting malware into allies' infrastructure in order to be able to destroy things and kill people should some country cease to be an ally someday. That, too, was not enough.
Snowden went on believing that the United States was the greatest country on earth. He went on calling his work "counter cyber" and "counter spying" as if only non-Americans can do spying or cyber-warfare, while the United States just tries to gently counter such acts. In fact, Snowden risked his life, refraining from taking medication he needed, so that he could continue doing that work. He defended such recklessness as justified by the need to stop Chinese hackers from stealing billions of dollars from the U.S. government. Apart from the question of which Chinese hackers did that, what did Snowden imagine it was costing U.S. taxpayers to fund the military?
Snowden's career rolled on. But Edward Snowden's brilliant mind was catching up with reality and at some point overtook it. And then there was no question that he would do what needed to be done. Just as he designed computer programs nobody else could, and that nobody else even thought to try, now he designed a whistleblowing maneuver that would not be stopped as others had.
Consequently, we must be grateful that good and decent people sometimes start out believing Orwellian tales. Dull, cowardly, and servile people never blow whistles.
I was fortunate enough to view a screening of the new Snowden movie Wednesday evening with some of the whistleblowers who have cameos in it and with its director Oliver Stone. I'm not allowed to review it until Saturday night, but it is a truly great movie and has the potential to be the most widely seen, heard, or read thing of any political decency or truth in the world this year. That's not, however, why I'm glad I saw it.
I'm glad I watched Snowden because it gave me an extra several hours of living on earth without having yet seen the NBC special on the Trumpillary war machine, in which first Hillary Clinton and then Donald Trump promised NBC they'd wage plenty of wars. Earlier, on Wednesday I had posted this on my Facebook page:
Here are a few of my favorite facts that you will not learn tonight from NBC, Donald Trump, or Hillary Clinton: Nonviolent resistance is more effective than violence and its victories longer lasting. Peaceful spending or even tax cuts for working people is economically superior to military spending. The war on terrorism has increased terrorism, including in the seven nations the United States has bombed this year. Over half of federal discretionary spending, through multiple departments, is dumped into war preparations each year, about as much as the rest of the world's nations combined. The U.S. is the top arms dealer to dictatorships abroad, and today's wars typically have U.S. weapons on both sides. The U.S. Army can't figure out what it did with $6.5 trillion this year, while the United Nations says that $30 billion a year could end starvation on earth. Every recent U.S. war has been illegal under the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg Briand Pact. Over 95% of the victims of every recent U.S. war have been on the other side, and the vast majority of them civilian. The top destroyer of the natural environment is the U.S. military. Routinely bombing Muslim countries, giving war weapons and war training to local police, and expecting non-racist, law-abiding policing cannot work. The U.S. backed a violent coup in Ukraine. Sitting out the National Anthem is not "true patriotism" but a truly courageous challenge to the poison of patriotism.
NBC did not disappoint. Matt Lauer did not ask Trumpillary how much money, even within a quarter trillion dollars or so, they would like spent. He did not ask which wars, if any, they would end or start. He did not ask how many people they would murder with drones. He did not ask if they would kidnap or torture or murder in prisons. He did not ask about foreign aid. He did not ask about leading by example. He did not ask about climate change. He did not ask about the arms trade or the bombing of Yemen. He did not ask about the announcement ISIS had just made of having named a U.S.-trained (and, of course, U.S.-armed) sniper as its Minister of War. He did not ask about the racism and violence permeating U.S. culture. I don't think any of the three people (Clinton, Trump, Lauer) or any of the veterans asking questions ever said the word "peace."
Lauer opened by claiming that September 11th launched years of war. In fact, the U.S. government launched years of war.
NBC then showed clips of 9/11 and of Obama announcing the killing of Osama bin Laden, but not a single image of a single body or bombed out house. After 15 years of immoral, illegal, catastrophic murder sprees, Clinton began by taking credit for her "experience" of having been part of making all those wars happen.
So, Lauer asked her, not about any of those wars, but about her emails. Eventually he turned to Iraq, and she claimed to have learned her lesson. Although she still wanted war in Libya and several other countries and still wants it badly in Syria (though Lauer didn't get into that), so she's clearly learned nothing. She did claim accurately that Trump backed war on Iraq and Libya too, while still claiming inaccurately that Gaddafi was planning a massacre. Lauer confirmed and corrected nothing.
What if Iran cheats on its nuclear agreement, Lauer wanted to know. Clinton then lied about Iranian hostility, blamed Iran for supporting Syria against U.S.-backed attacks, and "improved" Ronald Reagan's phrase to "distrust but verify."
Clinton promised no ground troops in Iraq, but there already are U.S. ground troops in Iraq. Lauer said nothing. Clinton promised to "go after" ISIS leader Baghdadi for the purpose of "focusing our attention." This is war for propaganda, not just propaganda for war.
Turning to Trump, he opened by claiming that Russian planes and Iranian ships are taunting the United States. Remind me again which coast of the United States the Baltic Sea and the Persian Gulf are on.
Trump then lied that he opposed attacking Iraq. Lauer said . . . (you guessed it) nothing. Trump also, if at odds with that lie, lied that Obama ended the war on Iraq and that so doing was a terrible thing.
Trump claimed, with as straight a face as he can manage, that it was a big success for him that the people who brought him to Mexico have now been thrown out of the government as a result.
A pre-approved veteran asked Trump how "defeating" a terrorist group won't just produce a new one. Trump talked a while without answering and then said "Take the Oil." Steal Iraq's oil. That was Trump's answer. If you steal their oil, then they can't have any power, he suggested. Trump seemed to believe no hostility or resentment would find any leverage after such a theft, that such a theft could be completed quickly, and that he was providing us with new information as "people don't know this about Iraq" (that it has among the world's largest reserves of oil).
Lauer asked Trump if he really has a plan to "defeat ISIS." It was clear he does not.
NBC had a veteran ask how Trump would deescalate tensions with Russia. He answered by claiming Russian airplanes are engaged in hostility against the United States. That ought to do it.
Then Lauer piled on, falsely and baselessly blaming Putin for aggression in Ukraine and interference in the U.S. election, and blaming Russia for supporting Syria and Iran.
Lauer and vets asked Trumpillary about caring for veterans, all taking it as unquestionable that more veterans must be produced through more wars. Trump even said that he'd let immigrants remain in the United States if they would "serve" . . . not his dinner apparently, but his war machine, Hillary's war machine, NBC's war machine, Comcast's war machine, the war machine of people who've watched this stuff for 15 years and started to believe it's the way normal decent human beings should be allowed to behave.
7 September 2016
Dear Mr. Kerrey,
We are writing with the heartfelt and urgent request that you resign from your position as chairman of the Fulbright University Viet Nam (FUV) board of trustees.
It is our firm belief that you should never have been offered this appointment and, having been offered it, should have declined the offer. We strongly believe that there are other more appropriate roles for you to play in support of FUV, and that there are better qualified people without your historical baggage.
Mark Bowyer, an expat in Viet Nam, expressed doubt in an early June 2016 blog post that “reminding the world of previously unpunished US atrocities in Viet Nam is a judicious use of the political capital accumulated during Barack Obama’s recent successful visit.”
Shawn McHale, a George Washington University colleague, wrote the following comment in response to your interview with WBUR’s “Here & Now” program:
Bob Kerrey is letting his ego get in the way of US-Vietnamese rapprochement. The man has done a lot of good -- but killing civilians, a war crime, makes him unfit to be head of the Fulbright University Vietnam Board of Trustees. For the good of the university, he should recognize that he is not the person for the job.
Finally, Linh Dinh, a Vietnamese-American writer, poet, and a signatory to this letter, wrote that
“This sick and vain spectacle is hurting not just him but the university. By hanging on, he's focusing the spotlight on his war crime.”
We agree with these assessments. Your appointment is a politically- and emotionally-charged issue that is not going to go away, least of all in Viet Nam. In early June, you told the New York Times via email that you would resign, if you felt your role were jeopardizing FUV. That time is now.
There are many US veterans who have returned to Viet Nam to do penance, so to speak, some on short trips and others for the long haul. They are each making a modest contribution, trying to find a way to give back, to make amends, to make whole that which they and their government tried to destroy. On a personal level, as you can imagine, they also find this experience to be therapeutic and even cathartic.
We’d like to take the liberty of offering you some advice. Travel to Thanh Phong. Arrange to meet with the victims’ family members and the survivors. Ask for their forgiveness. Burn incense and pray at the graves of the people you and your unit killed. And do all of this with the greatest sincerity, contrition, and humility.
Offer to meet a local need, to build something of lasting value that will benefit the community. We believe that these acts will be greatly appreciated and may help you find a measure of peace. You could even invite the other members of your unit to join you.
Thank you for taking the time to read our note. We look forward to hearing from you.
Wishing you peace and happiness,
Mark A. Ashwill
Hanoi, Viet Nam
Educator; First US American to be awarded a Fulbright Senior Specialist Grant to Viet Nam, 2003
Author of Bob Kerrey and Fulbright University – What were they thinking? (7-8-16)
Patrick Barrett, Ph.D.
Havens Center for Social Justice University of Wisconsin-Madison
Political essayist, fiction writer, poet and translator. Author of Postcards from the End of America
Army Medic Vietnam
C. J. Hopkins
Playwright, author of Horse Country, The Extremists, and screwmachine/eyecandy, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Big Bob
Conneaut Lake, PA
Lawyer, Labor Arbitrator, Educator – Lessons of the Vietnam War
Ann Hibner Koblitz
Professor of Women and Gender Studies, Arizona State University and Director of the Kovalevskaia Fund
Professor of Mathematics, University of Washington
Dr. Deepa Kumar
New Brunswick, NJ
Professor of Media Studies, Rutgers University Activist, Unionist, Author
Professor Emeritus, State University of New York
Author, American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration?
President, Green Cities Fund
Co-founder, Center for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery established in Saigon in 1966 to treat war-injured children
Co-founder Vietnam Green Building Council
Viet Thanh Nguyen
Los Angeles, CA
Aerol Arnold Chair of English and Associate Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at
the University of Southern California
Author of The Sympathizer, Awards: Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author
Author of Bob Kerrey and the ‘American Tragedy’ of Vietnam (6-20-16)
Kittery Point, ME
TV news and documentaries
State College, PA
Korean War veteran, co-founder of the State College Peace Center and creator of its documentary film series, lifetime member of Veterans for Peace.
Founder, Center for Media and Democracy
Author of books, including Weapons of Mass Deception
Jeffrey St. Clair
Editor of CounterPunch; Author of Born Under a Bad Sky
Iowa City, IA
Journalist and author of Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics
Director, World Beyond War
Author of books, including War Is A Lie
Michael Uhl, Ph.D.
Author of Vietnam Awakening: My Journey from Combat to the Citizens Commission of Inquiry on US War Crimes and The War I Survived Was Vietnam: Collected Writings of a Veteran and Antiwar Activist (Oct. 2016)
Author of The Phoenix Program
Peter Van Buren
New York City, NY Former US Diplomat
S. Brian Willson
Author of Blood on the Tracks: The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson
Subject of documentary, Paying the Price for Peace: The Story of S. Brian Willson www.Brianwillson.com
Viet Nam veteran, peace activist, and trained attorney
A major conference presenting alternatives to permanent war has been planned for September 23-25 at American University in Washington, D.C.
Events on the first two days and the third morning will be in the Founders Room of the School of International Service. Closing events will be at the Kay Center nearby on the campus of American University. Media cameras and journalists are welcome throughout. But RSVP. Rooms are expected to be at full capacity.
Speakers will include: Dennis Kucinich, Kathy Kelly, Miriam Pemberton, David Vine, Kozue Akibayashi, Harvey Wasserman, Jeff Bachman, Peter Kuznick, Medea Benjamin, Maurice Carney, David Swanson, Leah Bolger, David Hartsough, Pat Elder, John Dear, Mel Duncan, Kimberley Phillips, Ira Helfand, Darakshan Raja, Bill Fletcher Jr., Lindsey German, Maria Santelli, Mark Engler, Maja Groff, Robert Fantina, Barbara Wien, Jodie Evans, Odile Hugonot Haber, Gar Alperovitz, Sam Husseini, Christopher Simpson, Brenna Gautam, Patrick Hiller, Mubarak Awad, Michelle Kwak, John Washburn, Bruce Gagnon, David Cortright, Michael McPhearson, Sharon Tennison, Gareth Porter, John Reuwer, Pat Alviso, Larry Wilkerson, Thomas Drake, Larry Johnson, John Kiriakou, Craig Murray, Raed Jarrar, Alli McCracken, Lilly Daigle, and Alice Slater.
Speakers' bios and photos:
World Beyond War is a global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace.
Partners Include: Jubitz Family Foundation, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, RootsAction.org, Code Pink, International Peace Bureau, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Jane Addams Peace Association, Veterans For Peace, Delaware Peace Club, United for Peace and Justice.
Co-Sponsors Include: Washington Peace Center, Pace e Bene/Campaign Nonviolence, Liberty Tree Foundation, TheRealNews.com, Nonviolence International, Peace Action Montgomery, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Military Families Speak Out, Peace Action, WILPF-DC, International Movement for a Just World (JUST), Center for Bangladesh Studies, Society for Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University, Nuke Watch, Friends of Franz Jagerstatter, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR), WILPF-DC, International Society for Inter Cultural Study and Research (ISISAR), Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, On Earth Peace, The Virginia Defenders, UNAC, Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore, Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund/Peace Tax Foundation.
The following letter is being delivered to the New York U.N. consulate office of every nation on earth:
This year’s UN General Assembly comes at a critical moment for humanity – 3 minutes to midnight on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock. Recognizing our country’s primary role in this crisis, 11,644 Americans and 46 U.S.-based organizations have thus far signed this "Appeal from the United States to the World: Help Us Resist U.S. Crimes," which we are submitting to all the world’s governments. Please work with your colleagues at the General Assembly to respond to this appeal.
Since the end of the Cold War, the United States of America has systematically violated the prohibition against the threat or use of force contained in the UN Charter and the Kellogg Briand Pact. It has carved out a regime of impunity for its crimes based on its UN Security Council veto, non-recognition of international courts and sophisticated "information warfare" that undermines the rule of law with political justifications for otherwise illegal threats and uses of force.
Former Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin B. Ferencz has compared current U.S. policy to the illegal German "preemptive first strike" policy for which senior German officials were convicted of aggression at Nuremberg and sentenced to death by hanging.
In 2002, the late U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy described post-September 11th U.S. doctrine as "a call for 21st century American imperialism that no other nation can or should accept." And yet the U.S. government has succeeded in assembling alliances and ad hoc "coalitions" to support threats and attacks on a series of targeted countries, while other countries have stood by silently or vacillated in their efforts to uphold international law. In effect, the U.S. has pursued a successful diplomatic policy of "divide and conquer" to neutralize global opposition to wars that have killed about 2 million people and plunged country after country into intractable chaos.
As representatives of civil society in the United States, the undersigned U.S. citizens and advocacy groups are sending this emergency appeal to our neighbors in our increasingly interconnected but threatened world. We ask you to stop providing military, diplomatic or political support for U.S. threats or uses of force; and to support new initiatives for multilateral cooperation and leadership, not dominated by the United States, to respond to aggression and settle international disputes peacefully as required by the UN Charter.
We pledge to support and cooperate with international efforts to stand up to and stop our country's systematic aggression and other war crimes. We believe that a world united to uphold the UN Charter, the rule of international law and our common humanity can and must enforce U.S. compliance with the rule of law to bring lasting peace to the world we all share.
From David Swanson, Director of World Beyond War
I was very pleased to learn from Wolfgang Lieberknecht that the people of your two towns in central Germany, Treffurt and Wanfried, will be marching together this week with an orchestra from Russia and a message of friendship in opposition to the new Cold War.
I learned that your towns are seven kilometers apart but that until 1989 you were divided, one in East Germany, one in the West. It is wonderful to what an extent you have put that division behind you and made it part of known and regretted history. There is a piece of the Berlin wall displayed here in my town in Virginia, which otherwise displays primarily statues celebrating one side of a U.S. Civil War that ended over 150 years ago. The European Union, whose members assist in aggressive U.S. wars, has been given a Nobel Peace Prize for not going to war with itself.
But, as you know, the line of hostile division has simply been pushed east to the border of Russia. No longer is it the NATO vs. Warsaw Pact division that split your towns apart. Now it is the NATO vs. Russia division that divides people in Ukraine and other border states and threatens to bring down the world in a nuclear catastrophe.
And yet a Russian orchestra from Istra continues to travel to Germany every two years to build better relations. And you are hoping that your peace march will become a model for others. I hope so too.
There are still 100,000 U.S. and UK bombs in the ground in Germany, still killing.
U.S. bases violate the German Constitution by waging war from German soil, and by controlling U.S. drone murders around the globe from Ramstein Air Base.
The United States promised Russia when your two countries and towns reunited that NATO would not move an inch eastward. It has now moved relentlessly to the border of Russia, including by pushing for a relationship with Ukraine after the U.S. helped facilitate a military coup in that country.
I recently watched video of a panel on which the former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union at the time of your reunification told Vladimir Putin that all the new U.S. troops and equipment and exercises and missile bases are not meant to threaten Russia, rather they are just meant to create jobs in the United States. While I apologize to the world for such madness, and recognize that other and better and more U.S. jobs could have been created with peaceful spending, it’s worth pointing out that people in Washington, D.C., actually think this way.
This Wednesday night, two candidates for U.S. president will discuss war, war, and more war on television. These are people who are never in the same room with anyone who imagines abolishing war to be possible or desirable. These are people whose every bellicose utterance is cheered by their sycophants and funders. They truly have no idea what they are doing, and they need people like you to wake them up with a bit of beautiful musical noise on behalf of peace and sanity.
At World Beyond War we are working to increase understanding of the desirability and feasibility of phasing out and replacing the entire institution of war preparations. We’ll have a big event in Berlin on September 24th and hope you can come. Those of us in the United States look to those of you in Germany for leadership, support, and solidarity. We need you to take Germany out of NATO and kick the U.S. military out of Germany.
That’s a pro-U.S. request, in so far as the people of the United States will be better off not paying, financially and morally, and in terms of hostile blowback, for the pieces of the U.S. war machine that are based on German soil, including Africa Command — the U.S. military’s headquarters for dominating Africa, which has yet to find a home on the continent it seeks to control.
The United States and Germany must both face down the rightwing tendencies to blame the victims of Western wars who try to flee to the West.
And we must, together, make peace with Russia — a project for which Germany may be perfectly placed, and on which we thank you for taking the lead.
Christopher Simpson is a professor of Journalism known internationally for his expertise in propaganda, democracy, and media theory and practice. He has won national awards for investigative reporting, historical writing, and literature. His books include Blowback, The Splendid Blond Beast, Science of Coercion, National Security Directives of the Reagan and Bush Administrations, Universities and Empire, Comfort Women Speak and War Crimes of the Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank. Simpson’s work has been translated into more than a dozen languages. His current teaching and research includes macro-social dynamics of communication technologies, impact of geographic information systems on democratic decision-making and some aspects of communication law.
Kathy Kelly has recently returned from Russia. She has made 20 trips to Afghanistan as an invited guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APVs). She and her companions in Voices for Creative Nonviolence continually learn from the APVs perspective and actions. She has protested drone warfare by joining nonviolent civil resistance actions at U.S. military bases in Nevada, New York, Wisconsin, and Missouri. In 2015, for carrying a loaf of bread and a letter across the line at Missouri’s Whiteman AFB, Kelly served three months in federal prison. In 1988 she had been sentenced to one year in federal prison for planting corn on nuclear missile silo sites at Whiteman. She also spent three months in prison, in 2004, for crossing the line at Fort Benning’s military training school. As a war tax refuser, she has refused payment of all forms of federal income tax since 1980.
Simpson and Kelly will be speaking at No War 2016. See http://worldbeyondwar.org/nowar2016
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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
The U.S. government, for no stated reason, and after having approved his entry in the past, has denied Craig Murray the usual approval to enter the United States without a visa that is given to UK citizens. Craig Murray was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004.
Murray was forced out of the British public service after he exposed the use of torture by Britain's Uzbek allies. Murray is scheduled to chair the presentation of this year's Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence to CIA torture whistleblower John Kiriakou, and to speak about diplomacy as an alternative to war at a World Beyond War conference planned for September 23-25 in Washington, D.C.
In 2006 Murray was himself awarded the Sam Adams Award, and the citation included the following: "Mr. Murray learned that the intelligence authorities of the UK and the US were receiving and using information extracted by the most sadistic methods of torture by Uzbek authorities. He protested strongly to London, to no avail. He was forced out of the British Foreign Office, but has no regrets. There are more important things than career…Mr. Murray's light has pierced a thick cloud of denial and deception. He has set a courageous example for those officials of the 'Coalition of the Willing' who have first-hand knowledge of the inhuman practices involved in the so-called 'war on terror' but who have not yet been able to find their voice."
Shocked by the denial of approval to enter the United States without a visa, Murray stated: "I shall apply for a visa via the State Department as suggested but I must be on a list to be refused under the ESTA system, and in any event it is most unlikely to be completed before the conference."
"It is worth noting," Murray added," that despite the highly critical things I have published about Putin, about civil liberties in Russia and the annexation of the Crimea, I have never been refused entry to Russia. The only two countries that have ever refused me entry clearance are Uzbekistan and the USA. What does that tell you?
"I have no criminal record, no connection to drugs or terrorism, have a return ticket, hotel booking and sufficient funds. I have a passport from a visa waiver country and have visited the USA frequently before during 38 years and never overstayed. The only possible grounds for this refusal of entry clearance are things I have written against neo-liberalism, attacks on civil liberties and neo-conservative foreign policy. People at the conference in Washington will now not be able to hear me speak. Plainly ideas can be dangerous. So much for the land of the free!"
The following joint statement has been signed by members of the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence listed below:
News that former British Ambassador Craig Murray has been denied entry to the United States under the regular visa waiver program is both shocking and appalling. We Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII) had invited Craig to be Master of Ceremonies at our award ceremony honoring John Kiriakou, the CIA torture whistleblower (more details at samadamsaward.ch ), this September as part of the 'No War 2016' conference.
Now we're wondering which agency's long arms have reached out to disrupt our ceremony and to try to silence Craig.
Whatever they intend, it will be bound to backfire, since it only makes the US government look like some sort of monolithic repressive apparatus out to mimic the world's worst despotic regimes. Ambassador Murray notes in his blog that Uzbekistan -- whose government apparatchiks are notorious for torturing its citizens -- is the only other country to have barred his entry. Even Russia - which Ambassador Murray criticizes freely - allows him to travel there trouble-free. What are the implications for US democratic values?
We strongly urge the State Department to reverse its decision and allow Ambassador Murray freedom of travel and freedom of expression without hindrance in the United States of America.
William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA
Thomas Drake, former Senior Executive, NSA
Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)
Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan
Larry Johnson, CIA and State Dept. (ret.)
John Brady Kiesling, former US diplomat
John Kiriakou, Former CIA Counterterrorism Officer
Karen Kwiatkowski, Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.)
David MacMichael Ph.D., CIA, US Marine Corps captain (ret.)
Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East, CIA (ret.)
Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, JA, USA (ret.)
Diane Roark, former staff, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (ret.)
Coleen Rowley, retired FBI agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel
Peter Van Buren, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (ret.)
J. Kirk Wiebe, Senior Analyst, NSA (ret.)
World Beyond War has created a petition appealing to the State Department
World Beyond War, the organization behind the No War 2016 conference at which Murray is scheduled to speak, has created an online petition to the State Department.
David Swanson, Director of World Beyond War, said "This attempt to prevent a truth-teller from speaking in support of nonviolence is absolutely shameful. This is not a policy created to represent any view of the U.S. public, and we are not going to stand for it."
This is our lucky day for quite a few reasons. We haven't yet rendered the climate of this planet uninhabitable for our species. For those of us who are not in prison: we're not in prison -- and not because of some significant difference between us and many who are. For those of us not hungry or scared . . . (see note above re prisons). But there's another big reason that this is our lucky day -- a reason that is different in kind from these.
This is our luck day and we've had about 25,965 of them and counting. Ever since the creation of nuclear weapons there have been thousands of accidents, incidents, and close calls. Nuclear bombs have been accidentally dropped on the United States by the United States and come very close to detonating. The United States and the Soviet Union / Russia have come very close to believing the other had begun the nuclear apocalypse. In one case, the decency of a single Russian sailor, Vasili Arkhipov, probably saved the globe. Nuclear weapons have been lost in the ocean, been flown unwittingly across the country and left unguarded, and -- in an incident that is the chief focus of a new film -- accidentally blasted out of a bunker in Arkansas to land in a nearby field where the "warhead" did not explode in great part because September 19, 1980, was one of our lucky days.
Command and Control, a film based on a book by Eric Schlosser, tells the story of one weapon 600 times as powerful as the one dropped on Hiroshima. One weapon and one worker who chose one wrong tool causing him to drop one small part, causing a nuclear weapon to launch, not to hit the Soviet Union where it would have killed huge numbers of human beings and triggered an apocalypse, but instead to launch into a nearby field. As Schlosser points out, a system in which such a thing is possible is itself broken. Blaming one maintenance worker misses the problem.
The film plays out the suspenseful minute-by-minute response in Damascus, Arkansas. We watch the people who invented the term SNAFU, the U.S. military, confront the possibility that they may be about to nuke Governor Bill Clinton's Arkansas. Nobody with much useful knowledge of the weapon can apparently be found, but numerous people far removed from Arkansas get involved, and the most distant of them call the shots. The Keystone Cops, taking orders from afar, having locked themselves out of the missile silo, break their way back in but fail to prevent an explosion, after which they have to begin a search for the weapon, because -- like the U.S. Army's recently reported 6.5 trillion unaccounted for dollars -- they don't know where it went.
Harold Brown, then-Secretary of so-called Defense, is shown in the film saying that "accidents were not unusual in the Defense Department. There must have been several every day." Most were, no doubt, not nuclear. But a "Defense" Department report lists thousands of those over the years.
A television newscast from 1980 informs us that "The Titan is not to blame. It was human error." The Titan, apparently treated as an actual titan from ancient Greece, greater than a god, is the name of the inanimate weapon. The Pentagon and its media echo chamber defend the weapon from blame, choosing instead to put all the blame on members of the military.
This history of near misses with catastrophes is a well-kept secret. That the problem is structural rather than one of "a few bad apples" is a carefully avoided realization. And here's an even better buried secret: this problem is not in the past. The United States still has some 7,000 nuclear weapons, and as this film shows us, and as is generally agreed, oversight and attention to safety have gotten worse, not better, over the years.
The non-nuclear nations of the world are pushing for a ban on nuclear weapons. The United States is expanding its nuclear arsenal. Which is the right way to go? In the words of that model of lawless U.S. violence Dirty Harry, you've got to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?"
Laura Bentz of Keybridge Communications describes her company as "a boutique PR firm -- founded by a former writer for the Wall Street Journal -- that specializes in writing and placing op-eds. With some of the country's most influential trade groups and global corporations as clients, we run many of the major op-ed campaigns in the U.S. We place roughly 3,000 op-eds per year."
On its website, Keybridge openly claims to be able to "brand a CEO" by putting op-eds into newspapers in "virtually every major city."
Less openly, Keybridge carefully markets its services with a PDF that names people for whom it claims to have written and placed op-eds.
For a mere $5000, Keybridge offers this service in the PDF: "First, we write a 500-800 word op-ed. Then we place it in one or more newspapers around the country. If we're pitching to a national audience, we guarantee that we'll reach at least 50,000 readers. Includes media monitoring."
The PDF claims credit for and includes full images of op-eds in the following newspapers by these individuals:
- Wall Street Journal, an op-ed by Bill Ingram, vice president of Adobe Analytics and Adobe Social.
- Washington Post, an op-ed by Doc Woods, a member of Virginians for Quality Healthcare.
- Los Angeles Daily News, an op-ed by James G. Nondorf, vice president for enrollment and student advancement at the University of Chicago, and Jarrid J. Whitney, executive director of admissions and financial aid at Cal Tech.
- Newsday, an op-ed by Patricia Morton, Dean and Professor at the University of Utah College of Nursing.
- USA Today, an op-ed by Kevin Chou, CEO of Kabam.
Of course it goes without saying that organizations and political campaigns and businesses have staff ghost write or draft or assist with op-eds by their figureheads. So this could be described as merely outsourcing that service to a PR firm. But it's considerably more damaging to public communications than that, I think.
For one thing, there are millions of people with important and new and different things to say who do not have $5000 to spend on saying it. Read these op-eds in the PDF and see if you can claim they are in the top 1,000 you've seen. Is there one among them you'll have a hard time forgetting?
Additionally, paying $5000 for this service is not simply paying for research or editing. It's paying for the unfair advantage of having your op-ed pitched by people who've built cozy relationships with op-ed page editors, and who in at least some cases used to be op-ed page editors.
Even worse, it's paying for the insider skill of churning out or transforming an op-ed into just the sort of familiar, boring, cookie-cutter columns that clutter up the dying institution of the daily, dead-tree, advertising-and-rewritten-government-statement sheets we call major newspapers.
This is why the more stimulating op-eds are often to be found on independent websites.
But to the extent that this service can really reach 50,000 people whom one wouldn't have otherwise reached, it is part of the corruption of a thoroughly corrupt communications system. It's part of the rigging of everything that breeds cynicism and resentment.
Do op-ed page editors know that Keybridge pitches op-eds that it claims to have ghost written? Are they all completely, or only partially, ghost written? Those might be questions for some future WikiLeaks release.
Meanwhile, here's a fun fact: Keybridge is a supposedly savvy PR firm in Washington, D.C., that bears the name of a bridge named for Francis Scott Key who owned people as slaves, supported killings of African Americans, penned an anti-Muslim poem that later became a celebration of killing people escaped from slavery and of a flag surviving a battle that killed human beings during a war that failed to conquer Canada but succeeded in getting the White House burned. That revised poem became the U.S. national anthem. Great image, guys! I'd pay $5000 for that.
Speaking out against racism is one thing -- and a wonderful and admirable thing it is -- but choosing to do so by sitting out the U.S. national anthem, and then having others join in, or "come out" as routine national anthem sitters: this is fantastic!
A self-governing republic of thinking people (whose first thought should be "My god, what are we doing to the rest of the planet with all this pollution and all these wars?") ought to have no use for mandatory flag worship, required hand positions, or enforced recitations of pledges of allegiance to colored bits of cloth. Or if only some people outgrow such practices, others ought to leave them alone about it.
The protest thus far is severely limited, of course. The primary reason that it is useful to break down required patriotism rituals is their intimate connection to militarism. Yet many are claiming other motives and swearing their steadfast allegiance to militarism. That's OK. It's still an enormous step, and one that thousands are thanking Colin Kaepernick for taking.
Maurice Carney is co-founder and executive director of Friends of the Congo. He has worked with Congolese for two decades in their struggle for peace, justice, and human dignity. Carney served as the interim Africa Working Group coordinator for Jesse Jackson while Jackson was Special Envoy to Africa. Carney has worked as a research analyst for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and as a research consultant for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. He worked with civic associations in West Africa where he trained local leaders in research methodology and survey techniques.
Harvey Wasserman is a life-long activist who speaks, writes and organizes widely on energy, the environment, history, the drug war, election protection, and grassroots politics. He teaches (since 2004) history and cultural & ethnic diversity at two central Ohio colleges. He works for the permanent shutdown of the nuclear power industry and the birth of Solartopia, a democratic and socially just green-powered Earth free of all fossil and nuclear fuels. He writes for Ecowatch, solartopia.org, freepress.org and nukefree.org, which he edits. He helped found the anti-war Liberation News Service. In 1972 his History of the U.S., introduced by Howard Zinn, helped pave the way for a new generation of people’s histories. In 1973 Harvey coined the phrase “No Nukes” and helped found the global grassroots movement against atomic energy. In 1990 he became Senior Advisor to Greenpeace USA. Harvey’s America at the Brink of Rebirth: The Organic Spiral of U.S. History, which dissects our national story in terms of six cycles, will be published soon at www.solartopia.org.
Carney and Wasserman will be speaking at No War 2016. See http://worldbeyondwar.org/nowar2016
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I recall five years ago listening to an arms dealer on NPR respond to a question of what he would do if the war on Afghanistan were actually ended. He said he hoped there could be a big long war in Libya. And he laughed. And the "journalist" laughed. It was arms dealing as comedy.
The new Hollywood movie War Dogs is a comic biopic or a biographical crime war comedy-drama film but always described as some sort of comedy. The image above is of an ad for the film that one hopes is intended as funny, because otherwise it would be even worse than it is. The website it points you to purports to be an introduction to how you, too, can get stinking rich as a war profiteer. Then it shows youtube trailers of the movie, which appears to be all about sex, music, violence, punchlines, and arms dealing.
If you watch the movie itself, it starts out denouncing war as having nothing to do with what the propaganda suggests, as being all about weapons profiteering. But the rest of the movie shows almost nothing of war. Never is a single victim of all the weaponry that is bought and sold shown or even mentioned. Instead, we're given a version of The Big Short or The Wolf of Wall Street where the particular financial scam is selling weapons rather than repackaging mortgages.
Perhaps the early scenes of the movie touch momentarily on the hypocrisy of profiteering on war while denying even to oneself that one supports the wars. But these scenes also depict a society in which the only way a young person can earn a decent living is by selling weapons. It's a familiar tale from stories of drug dealing as the only route to significant wealth. But here the drug is weaponry, and the addict is the U.S. government.
And it's true that the (based on a true) story depicted in the film ends up in disaster. But we never see the slightest hint at how arming people to commit mass murder might harm anyone, any more than Wall Street crime movies introduce you to people made homeless by Wall Street scams. The moral lesson of War Dogs seems to be: Abide by proper bureaucratic procedures, buy the instruments of death from approved nations, maintain propriety and transparency in death dealing, and you'll get only slightly less stinking rich than these clowns did.
The cultural lesson, especially of the advertising, seems to be that joking about war profiteering is funny, cool, and edgy. Joking about cruelty to non-human animals would not be so acceptable in movie promotions. The industry of mass murder for human beings has become background noise in the era of permawar. All jokes about it will be labeled ironic, but the fact that it is an acceptable topic for joking says something very troubling about our culture.
The total acceptability of militarism extends well beyond the neoconservatives, the racists, the Republicans, the liberal humanitarian warriors, the Democrats, and the masses of political "independents" who find any talk of dismantling the U.S. military scandalous. Fredric Jameson is an otherwise leftist intellectual who's put out a book, edited by Slavoj Zizek, in which he proposes universal conscription into the military for every U.S. resident. In subsequent chapters, other purportedly leftist intellectuals critique Jameson's proposal with hardly a hint of concern at such an expansion of a machine of mass murder. Jameson adds an Epilogue in which he mentions the problem not at all.
What Jameson wants is a vision of Utopia. His book is called An American Utopia: Dual Power and the Universal Army. He wants to nationalize banks and insurance companies, seize and presumably shut down fossil fuel operations, impose draconian taxes on large corporations, abolish inheritance, create a guaranteed basic income, abolish NATO, create popular control of the media, ban rightwing propaganda, create universal Wi-Fi, make college free, pay teachers well, make healthcare free, etc.
Sounds great! Where do I sign up?
Jameson's answer is: at the Army recruiting station. To which I reply: go get yourself a different subservient order-taker willing to participate in mass murder.
Ah, but Jameson says his military won't fight any wars. Except for the wars it fights. Or something.
Utopianism is seriously much needed. But this is pathetic desperation. This is a thousand times more desperate than Ralph Nader asking the billionaires to save us. This is Clinton voters. This is Trump voters.
And this is U.S. blindness to the merits of the rest of the world. Few other countries in any way approach the militarized environmental destruction and death generated by the United States. This country lags very far behind in sustainability, peace, education, health, security, and happiness. The first step toward Utopia need not be such a harebrained scheme as a total takeover by the military. The first step should be catching up with places like Scandinavia in the realm of economics, or Costa Rica in the realm of demilitarization -- or indeed realizing full compliance with Japan's Article Nine, as mentioned in Zizek's book. (For how Scandinavia got where it is, read Viking Economics by George Lakey. It had nothing to do with forcing kids, grandparents, and peace advocates into an out of control imperial military.)
In the United States, it is the liberals in Congress who want to impose selective service on women, and who celebrate every new demographic admitted into greater status in the military. The "progressive" vision is now of slightly or radically leftist economics, side by side with a heaping platter of militarized nationalism (to the tune of $1 trillion per year) -- with the very idea of internationalism banished from consideration. The reformist view of the ever expanding American Dream is of the gradual democratization of mass murder. Bombing victims across the world may soon be able to look forward to being bombed by the first female U.S. president. Jameson's proposal is a radical advance in this same direction.
I hesitate to call attention to Jameson's book because it is so bad and this trend so insidious. But, in fact, the bits of his essay and of those critiquing it that address universal conscription, despite its centrality to Jameson's project, are few and far between. They could be contained in a small brochure. The rest of the book is a rambling assortment of observations on everything from psychoanalysis to Marxism to whatever cultural abomination Zizek just stumbled across. Much of this other material is useful or entertaining, but it stands in contrast to the apparently dim-witted acceptance of the inevitability of militarism.
Jameson is adamant that we can reject the inevitability of capitalism, and of just about anything else we see fit. "Human nature" he points out, quite rightly, does not exist. And yet, the notion that the only place where a U.S. government could ever put any serious money is the military is silently accepted for many pages and then explicitly stated as fact: "[A] civilian population -- or its government -- is unlikely to spend the tax money warfare demands on purely abstract and theoretical peacetime research."
That sounds like a description of the current U.S. government, not all governments past and future. A civilian population is unlikely as hell to accept universal permanent conscription into a military. That, not investment in peaceful industries, would be unprecedented.
Jameson, you'll notice, relies on "warfare" to motivate the power of his idea of using the military for social and political change. That makes sense, as a military is, by definition, an institution used for waging war. And yet, Jameson imagines that his military won't wage wars -- sort of -- but will for some reason go on being funded anyway -- and with a dramatic increase.
A military, Jameson maintains, is a way to compel people to mix with each other and form a community across all the usual lines of division. It's also a way to compel people to do exactly what they are ordered to do at every hour of the day and night, from what to eat to when to defecate, and to condition them to commit atrocities on command without stopping to think. That's not incidental to what a military is. Jameson hardly addresses the question of why he wants a universal military rather than, say, a universal civilian conservation corps. He describes his proposal as "the conscription of the entire population into some glorified National Guard." Could the existing National Guard be more glorified than its advertisements now depict it? It's so misleadingly glorified already that Jameson mistakenly suggests that the Guard answers only to state governments, even as Washington has sent it off to foreign wars with virtually no resistance from the states.
The United States has troops in 175 nations. Would it dramatically add to them? Expand into the remaining holdouts? Bring all the troops home? Jameson doesn't say. The United States is bombing seven nations that we know of. Would that increase or decrease? Here's all that Jameson says:
"[T]he body of eligible draftees would be increased by including everyone from sixteen to fifty, or if you prefer, sixty years of age: that is, virtually the entire adult population. [I can hear the cries of discrimination against 61 year-olds coming, can't you?] Such an unmanageable body would henceforth be incapable of waging foreign wars, let alone carrying out successful coups. In order to emphasize the universality of the process, let's add that the handicapped would all be found appropriate positions in the system, and that pacifists and conscientious objectors would be places in control of arms development, arms storage, and the like."
And that's it. Because the military would have more troops, it would be "incapable" of fighting wars. Can you imagine presenting that idea to the Pentagon? I would expect a response of "Yeeeeeeaaaah, sure, that's exactly what it would take to shut us down. Just give us a couple hundred million more troops and all will be well. We'll just do a bit of global tidying up, first, but there'll be peace in no time. Guaranteed."
And the "pacifists" and people with consciences would be assigned to work on weaponry? And they'd accept that? Millions of them? And the weaponry would be needed for the wars that wouldn't be happening any more?
Jameson, like many a well-meaning peace activist, would like the military to do the sort of stuff you see in National Guard ads: disaster relief, humanitarian aid. But the military does that only when and only as far as it's useful to its campaign to violently dominate the Earth. And doing disaster relief does not require total abject subservience. Participants in that kind of work don't have to be conditioned to kill and face death. They can be treated with the sort of respect that helps make them participants in a democratic-socialist utopia, rather than the sort of contempt that helps lead them to committing suicide outside a VA hospital admissions office.
Jameson praises the idea of "an essentially defensive war" which he attributes to Jaurès, and the importance of "discipline" which he attributes to Trotsky. Jameson likes the military, and he stresses that in his utopia the "universal military" would be the end-state, not a transition period. In that end-state, the military would take over everything else from education to healthcare.
Jameson comes close to acknowledging that there might be some people who would object to this on the grounds that the military industrial complex generates mass murder. He says that he is up against two fears: fear of the military and fear of any utopia. He then addresses the latter, dragging in Freud, Trotsky, Kant, and others to help him. He doesn't spare one word for the former. He later claims that the real reason people are resistant to the idea of using the military is because within the military people are compelled to associate with those from other social classes. (Oh the horror!)
But, fifty-six pages in, Jameson "reminds" the reader of something he hadn't previously touched on: "It is worth reminding the reader that the universal army here proposed is no longer the professional army responsible for any number of bloody and reactionary coups d'etat in recent times, whose ruthlessness and authoritarian or dictatorial mentality cannot but inspire horror and whose still vivid memory will certainly astonish anyone at the prospect of entrusting a state or an entire society to its control." But why is the new military nothing like the old one? What makes it different? How, for that matter, is it controlled at all, as it takes over power from the civilian government? Is it imagined as a direct democracy?
Then why don't we just imagine a direct democracy without the military, and work to achieve it, which seems far more likely to be done in a civilian context?
In Jameson's militarized future, he mentions -- again, as if we should have already known it -- that "everyone is trained in the use of weapons and nobody is allowed to possess them except in limited and carefully specified situations." Such as in wars? Check out this passage from Zizek's "critique" of Jameson:
"Jameson's army is, of course, a 'barred army,' an army with no wars . . . (And how would this army operate in an actual war, which is becoming more and more likely in today's multicentric world?)"
Did you catch that? Zizek claims this army will fight no wars. Then he wonders exactly how it will fight its wars. And while the U.S. military has troops and bombing campaigns underway in seven countries, and "special" forces fighting in dozens more, Zizek is worried that there might be a war someday.
And would that war be driven by weapons sales? By military provocation? By militarized culture? By hostile "diplomacy" grounded in imperialistic militarism? No, it couldn't possibly be. For one thing, none of the words involved are as fancy as "multicentric." Surely the problem -- albeit a minor and tangential one -- is that the multicentric nature of the world may start a war soon. Zizek goes on to state that, at a public event, Jameson has envisioned the means of creating his universal army in strictly Shock Doctrine terms, as an opportunistic response to a disaster or upheaval.
I agree with Jameson only on the premise with which he begins his hunt for a utopia, namely that the usual strategies are sterile or dead. But that's no reason to invent a guaranteed catastrophe and seek to impose it by the most antidemocratic means, especially when numerous other nations are already pointing the way toward a better world. The way to a progressive economic future in which the rich are taxed and the poor can prosper can only come through redirecting the unfathomable funds that are being dumped into war preparations. That Republicans and Democrats universally ignore that is no reason for Jameson to join them.
ABC Television's 20/20 will air a program on Friday called "The Girl Left Behind," the main thrust of which is already apparent on ABC's website.
The horribly tragic story is that of Kayla Mueller, an American held hostage and reportedly raped and tortured by ISIS before dying -- it's unclear how, possibly at the hands of ISIS, possibly killed by bombs dropped by U.S. ally Jordan.
Another hostage who was freed reported that ISIS blamed Kayla Mueller for U.S. actions in the Middle East. Among those actions, we learned this week, was imprisoning future ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at Abu Ghraib, not just at Camp Bucca as previously reported.
Mueller, like fellow ISIS victim James Foley, meant well and was in Syria to try to help people nonviolently. But U.S. policy has made it unsafe for Americans to travel to many places.
ABC will seek to pin blame for what happened to Mueller on Doctors Without Borders. She was kidnapped out of a Doctors Without Borders car, and that organization negotiated the freedom of its employees while refusing to help Mueller or even to trust her family enough to share with them information intended for them from ISIS.
But Doctors Without Borders was in Syria to help people and appears to have meant well. Blaming the doctors is easy to overdo here, and not just because the United States has been bombing its hospitals -- acts that may not involve rape or torture, but do involve murder and maiming. The U.S. government could have helped Mueller by never having destroyed Iraq in the first place, never having sought to overthrow Syria, never having overthrown Libya, or never having flooded the region with weapons. Or the U.S. government could have negotiated with ISIS or allowed victims' families to do so -- something it now allows, too late for Kayla Mueller. Or the U.S. government could have announced new policies that ISIS would likely have accepted as ransom.
ISIS asked, in exchange for Mueller's freedom, for the freedom of Aafia Siddiqui or $5 million Euros. If the U.S. government had, instead, offered an apology to the victims of its wars and prison camps, and massive reparations to the region, ISIS might very well have responded in kind. Instead, the U.S. government proceeded to bomb people, including many civilians, for a cost many times greater than $5 million Euros.
The telling of Mueller's story is, in itself, worthwhile. But the focus on an American victim of a war that is victimizing all kinds of people fuels dangerous attitudes. Focusing on the crimes of ISIS, but not of Saudi Arabia or Bahrain or, for that matter, the United States, looks like propaganda for more war. When a New Yorker like Jeffrey Epstein rapes, nobody proposes to bomb New York, but when Baghdadi allegedly rapes, the appropriate response is widely understood to be bombing people.
I don't think the suffering of Kayla Mueller or James Foley should be used to justify the infliction of more suffering. As 9/11 victims have been used as a justification to kill hundreds of times the number of people killed on 9/11, some of the victims' relatives have pushed back. James Foley is pushing back from the grave. Posted online is a video of Foley talking about the lies that are needed to launch wars, including the manipulation of people into thinking of foreigners as less than human. Foley's killers may have thought of him as less than human. He may not have viewed them the same way.
The video shows Foley in Chicago helping the late Haskell Wexler with his film Four Days in Chicago -- a film about a protest of NATO. I was there in Chicago for the march and rally against NATO. And I met Wexler who tried unsuccessfully to find funding for a film version of my book War Is A Lie.
In the video you can watch Foley discussing the limitations of embedded reporting, the power of veteran resistance, veterans he met at Occupy, the absence of a good justification for the wars, the dehumanization needed before people can be killed, the shallowness of media coverage -- watch all of that and then try to imagine James Foley accepting the use of his killing as propaganda for more fighting.
When Foley's mother sought to ransom him, the U.S. government repeatedly threatened her with prosecution. So, instead of Foley's mother paying a relatively small amount and possibly saving her son, ISIS goes on getting its funding from oil sales and supporters in the Gulf and free weapons from, among elsewhere, the United States and its allies. And we're going to collectively spend millions, probably billions, and likely trillions of dollars furthering the cycle of violence that Foley risked his life to expose.
Unrepentant, always wrong, U.S. warmongers Michael O'Hanlon and David Petraeus have authored "America’s Awesome Military: And How to Make It Even Better," to explain to the rest of us that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the greatest American frack-yeah military ever AND that it is in such a pitiably weak state that if trillions more aren't wasted on it we're all going to die.
Remember, this is the same military of which a single branch has just recently misplaced $6.5 trillion. And it needs more money. Why? Because it's soooooooooo damn awesome!
In fact it's about to win the wars it's embroiled in in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and Libya, but if you don't fork over trillions more it will lose badly and it'll be all your fault and the ghosts of the betrayed and sacred troops will haunt you instead of haunting the admissions offices of broken down VA hospitals.
Meanwhile Bill McKibben wants, as we've all long wanted, a "war" against the danger of climate destruction, only without taking the money out of the only place it can come from, the preparations for actual wars, and while hyping the awesomeness of the military to make sure the money stays there.
But, back to our favorite war mongers. Petraeus and O'Hanlon fill us in on the following secrets (and we didn't even have to have sex with them!):
"The United States has the best military in the world today, by far. U.S. forces have few, if any, weaknesses, and in many areas—from naval warfare to precision-strike capabilities, to airpower, to intelligence and reconnaissance, to special operations—they play in a totally different league from the militaries of other countries. Nor is this situation likely to change anytime soon, as U.S. defense spending is almost three times as large as that of the United States’ closest competitor, China, and accounts for about one-third of all global military expenditures—with another third coming from U.S. allies and partners."
This understates U.S. spending while overstating the idea that it serves some purpose other than ginning up terrorism and suffering, but you get the idea. Here comes the "nevertheless":
"Nevertheless, 15 years of war and five years of budget cuts and Washington dysfunction have taken their toll. The military is certainly neither broken nor unready for combat, but its size and resource levels are less than is advisable given the range of contemporary threats and the missions for which it has to prepare. No radical changes or major buildups are needed. But the trend of budget cuts should stop and indeed be modestly reversed, and defense appropriations should be handled more rationally and professionally than has been the case in recent years."
This is based on the lie that U.S. military spending has been decreasing. It has not. It's also based on denial of the existence of arms races and reverse arms races. Global spending follows U.S. spending up and could as easily follow it down. This is also based on denial of the U.S. role as not just far and away top spending on weaponry but also far and away top dealer of weaponry to the rest of the world, arming the hatred its own wars fuel, generating opportunities for more wars.
"Most major elements of U.S. defense policy are on reasonably solid ground, despite innumerable squabbles among experts over many of the details. Throughout the post–Cold War era, some variant of a two-war planning framework (with caveats) has enjoyed bipartisan support and should continue to do so for many years to come."
Good thing the U.S. is only in seven wars!
"Those who worry about an American military supposedly in decline should relax. The current U.S. defense budget of just over $600 billion a year exceeds the Cold War average of about $525 billion (in 2016 dollars) and greatly exceeds the pre-9/11 defense budget of some $400 billion. It is true that defense spending from 2011 through 2020 has been cut by a cumulative total of about $1 trillion (not counting reductions in war-related costs). But there were legitimate reasons for most of those reductions, and the cuts were made to a budget at a historically very high level."
Note that $1 trillion over 10 years is, in plain English, $100 billion, and in plainer English, false. Note also that the $600 billion leaves out the Department of so-called Homeland so-called Security, the Department of Energy, the State Department, the Veterans Administration, etc., etc. But why are we back to not worrying again? Can we just stop with that half of the propaganda and not switch back to fear mongering?
I realize that, living here in the United States, the nation doing the most in the world to create wars, proliferate nukes, and destroy the habitability of the earth's climate, I really have a duty to pick someone in the United States as the worst individual human being alive.
But the United States operates by incestuous swarm. We have another Cheney running for Congress and another Clinton running for president. We have Trump's campaign manager in trouble for taking money from Russians, much of which he funneled to Hillary Clinton's campaign chair's brother. Meanwhile, Trump's daughter has been hauled before a virtual Un-American Activities Committee for vacationing with the supposed girlfriend of Vladimir Putin who may or may not have cheated on Rupert Murdoch with Tony Blair -- Yes, the same Rupert Murdoch who raises funds for Hillary Clinton, and yes, that Tony Blair -- the one whose corrupt deal with Murdoch put him in power in the first place.
These characters, including Blair, are at least honorary Americans. But Blair is something even worse than the worst of the worst of them. Blair did to the Labour Party what Bill Clinton did to the Democratic Party -- what Jeremy Corbin is trying to undo and Hillary Clinton trying to permanently entomb. Blair did to Kosovo and Afghanistan and Iraq what Clinton, Bush, and Obama did to those places. But while Bush went home to paint pictures of himself in the bathtub, Blair went on a Clintonite mission to get rich and evangelize for war and corruption.
I don't know if it's fair to hold this against him, but Blair took into wars on Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq, a nation with far greater resistance to such lawless mass killing than the United States had. That is, he had people telling him openly that his actions would be criminal and reprehensible. He may now be the least popular person in Britain. He can't go outside without being protested. George W. Bush, like his daddy, in contrast, is just another respectable old retired emperor.
I do think, however, that it is perfectly fair to hold against Blair the fact that he shifted from mass killing straight into mass money making while promoting more death and destruction. Money grubbing British prime ministers from now on will know that they can become stinking rich upon retirement if they do the bidding of their corporate and foreign overlords while in office.
If you think I'm exaggerating, go watch George Galloway's new film, The Killing$ Of Tony Blair. This film tells the story of Blair's whole career, and it's ugly. He cuts a deal with Murdoch to allow media monopolies in exchange for press support. He takes money from a car racing plutocrat in exchange for allowing tobacco ads at car races. He sells out to corporations left and right. He peddles BAE jets to Indonesia for killing people in East Timor. He sells BAE air traffic control systems to Tanzania which has no air force. He simply shuts down a prosecutorial investigation of BAE's Saudi corruption in the deal that saw Bandar Bush pocket $2 billion. He privatizes schools and hospitals, anything that can make a buck for anybody who knows how to kick some back.
Blair joins with Clinton the First and then Obama in the killing in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and then shifts into former-prime-minister-now-"consultant" mode, taking millions from JP Morgan Chase, Petro Saudi, and other companies for providing his connections to other corrupt people around the world. He takes obscene speaking fees. He hires himself out to dictators in Kazakhstan, Egypt, Kuwait, and Libya. The film juxtaposes their atrocities with Blair's purchased praise of their many merits. Blair persuaded Bush to protect Gadaffi from lawsuits by alleged victims, but apparently forgot to tell Hillary not to bomb Gadaffi or get him killed.
What really wins Blair the prize of worst person on earth, though, is his acceptance of an appointment as Middle East Peace Envoy to Israel and Palestine, a job he apparently held right up until enough people realized it wasn't a fake report meant to be funny but an actual no-kidding job that he was actually engaged in.
For years and years, activists demanded that the U.S. government make public 28 (turned out to be 29) pages it had censored from a report, because it was suspected they would show a Saudi Arabian role in funding and facilitating the crimes of September 11, 2001. When the pages were finally made public, they showed a great deal of evidence of exactly that. But the U.S. government and its pet media outlets buried the story on a Friday evening, declared that verily this is that, and moved on.
If you happen to have caught wind of this and smelled a rat, you'll be interested in another 203 pages, those making up Medea Benjamin's new book, Kingdom of the Unjust. If you live in the United States, you should be aware of how much effort your government puts into facilitating and defending the crimes of Saudi Arabia in the United States, in Saudi Arabia, and in places like Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Nigeria, etc. If you pay U.S. taxes, you should know what you're buying. If you work for a U.S. weapons maker, you should know who's buying what you make, and what they're using it for. If you drive a car, you may be helping to destroy the earth's climate while funding the Saudi royalty.
The Saudi royals keep millions poor while blowing fortunes. They send religion police around to beat the hell out of people, while they themselves party with alcohol, cocaine, prostitutes, and gambling. Like many a televangelist closer to home, they don't believe their own bull, but they use it to abuse the people of Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. The religious police don't just want you to be religious. In fact most religions are banned and you can be imprisoned, tortured, mutilated, or beheaded for being a follower of them. And they don't just want you to be a fundamentalist Muslim of the proper variety. They want puritanical misogynist conformity -- or death. They beat a man to death for possessing alcohol, locked up a woman for riding alone in a taxi, and killed 15 girls by refusing to allow them to flee a burning building because they were not wearing their abayas, garments to completely hide their bodies.
With U.S. support, Saudi Arabia manages to be both the only nation that bans all churches and any non-Muslim religious building, and the leading proponent of global terrorism. Saudi Arabia actually bans Jews from entering the country, perhaps inspiring Donald Trump's plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States, while still creating at least an inconvenience for U.S. humanitarian warriors who are constantly wanting to bomb new countries in order to supposedly avoid a repeat of the holocaust -- even while urging Saudi Arabia to spend more on wars (as Trump and Bernie Sanders and President Barack Obama have done most prominently). In fact, Saudi Arabia spends three times as much per person as the U.S. does on its military, and it spends the biggest chunk of it buying weapons from U.S. profiteers.
An "indefinite waiver" upheld by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama lets Saudi Arabia off the hook in the U.S. State Department for its religious cruelty. Waivers by Bush and Obama also allow the U.S. military to go on training the Saudi military. A waiver created by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton allows U.S. weapons sales. Clinton made that her personal mission after Saudi Arabia put at least $10 million into the Clinton Foundation. As the U.S. State Department was and is well aware, there are no civil liberties in Saudi Arabia. People are jailed, whipped, and killed for speech, and speech is tightly censored. Saudi Arabia didn't even ban slavery until 1962 and maintains a labor system referred to as "a culture of slavery." The "sharia law" that U.S. bigots are constantly fearing will appear in their town actually takes a truly nasty form in Saudi Arabia under a brutal government propped up by U.S. funds and arms.
MEDEA BENJAMIN AT A RALLY
Saudi Arabia doesn't put its own atrocities on Youtube the way ISIS does, and doing so is a tremendous risk for ordinary people in Saudi Arabia. Nonetheless it is starting, and there are outrages you can watch if you are so inclined.
Saudi Arabia has yet to become a target of the Clintonite cabal of philanthropic warriors claiming to overthrow governments for women's rights, yet Saudi Arabia practices gender apartheid, with women forbidden most of the rights of men, women controlled by men utterly, women's testimony in court sometimes valued at half the worth of men's, and a woman's reporting of an attack by a man is considered to be a crime by the woman. You don't see Saudi women at the Olympics because they are forbidden to wear the attire required for the competitions. Saudi restaurants have front and back sections, with the front for men only. Saudi Arabia lives off fueling cars, yet is the only country in the world where women are forbidden to drive.
Are Saudi's made happy by their sadistic society? There are many indications otherwise, including emigration, travel, courageous protest, and including this: men who practice polygamy in Saudi Arabia are four times more likely to have heart disease.
Happy or not, Saudis have been proficient at exporting their madness. Hollywood could take lessons (and has helped out). Saudi schools have helped to create branches of Al Qaeda and other extremist groups across Western Asia and Northern Africa at least since the joint U.S.-Saudi operation in Afghanistan that created the Taliban, not to mention the Saudi role in Iran-Contra, but also including Boko Haram in Nigeria, and including in Europe. The terrorists who attacked in Paris last year and in Belgium this year came from an area in Belgium with strong Saudi influence. In 2014 the Saudi Interior Ministry conservatively estimated 1,200 Saudis had gone to Syria to join ISIS. A 2014 study by the Washington Institute found that private Saudi donations were critical to the growth of ISIS.
Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a 2009 cable (thank you, WikiLeaks), "Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide. . . . More needs to be done. . . ." So, what did Clinton do? Sold Saudi Arabia more weapons, of course! Saudi Arabia is now the biggest weapons customer for the United States, and therefore for anyone. That includes about $100 billion in U.S. weapons sales under the Obama regime, with more pending. Benjamin quotes Obama officials who have praised these sales as a means of creating jobs. This is of course despite the fact that peaceful spending creates more jobs, and the fact that the weapons create something else as well: death.
The United States keeps rushing more weapons to Saudi Arabia as it uses them -- with help from the U.S. military -- to bomb houses, hospitals, and schools in Yemen, killing civilians by the thousands and non-civilians by the thousands, including with the use of cluster bombs.
When Tunisia overthrew a dictatorship without a war in 2011, Saudi's royal thugs got excited. They offered refuge to the Tunisian ruler. They sent funds to Jordan and Morocco to prop up their brutal governments. They backed a military coup in Egypt. They smashed a nonviolent popular uprising in Bahrain with murder, torture, and imprisonment -- still underway. And, of course, they started bombing Yemen, once U.S. drone killings had done their damage and helped to distabilize that country. In fact, U.S. drones flying over Yemen take off from a U.S. base in Saudi Arabia, something Obama created after Bush pulled U.S. troops out of Saudi Arabia and closed the bases -- a move motivated by the crimes of 9/11 and the explicit and widely available answer to the stupid lament "Why do they hate us?" They said what they hated: the U.S. bases that Bush The First had put in Saudi Arabia. And Saudi Arabia had refused to kick them out when bin Laden demanded it because the Saudi government depends on the United States to maintain its unjust existence.
Obama, who recreated this fuel for violence, and who claims to be outraged by Saudi Arabia's atrocities, claims to back Saudi Arabia for the cause of "stability." "Sometimes," says Obama, "we have to balance our need to speak to them about human rights issues with immediate concerns that we have in terms of countering terrorism or dealing with regional stability." Yet Saudi Arabia is possibly the biggest cause (outside of the United States itself) of instability in its region, al Qaeda and ISIS are wreaking havoc within Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi government itself is about as stable as a cork in a volcano. To Obama's credit, he hardly ever means anything he says, and in fact he has backed down on holding Saudi Arabia to account when the Saudis have threatened to pull investments out of the United States, not when they have somehow appeared to be a source of stability and safety.
Still, some would take offense when a foreign government and its elites backed terrorism in your country (on 9/11) and then threatened to hurt you financially if you even said anything about it. But why doesn't anyone say anything about it? In 2015, according to The Hill, the Saudis employed eight DC lobbying firms including the Podesta Group, run by top Hillary Clinton fundraiser Tony Podesta, and cofounded by Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. Saudi Arabia dumps money into U.S. "think tanks" that would be forbidden to exist in Saudi Arabia, and other institutions including the Middle East Institute, Harvard, Yale, the Clinton Foundation, the Carter Center, etc.
For a further 275 Saudi Pages try Robert Vitalis's America's Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier. But start with Medea Benjamin's 203, which even includes some thoughts on what can be done moving forward. Saudi Arabia's oil, plus all the fossil fuels from everywhere else, is going to make Saudi Arabia uninhabitable long before much of the United States becomes so. Really looking forward, I think, means looking at the future of over 30 million refugees and our capacity to understand the society they are fleeing, our own role in creating it, and our responsibility to welcome them.
Photo by Thomas Good.
It's not hard to do. You can probably accomplish it at home quite easily. In These Times just published an article, for example, that calls Veterans For Peace, United National Antiwar Coalition, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, Seymour Hersh, Gareth Porter, Kathy Kelly, Counterpunch, Consortiumnews, Antiwar.com, and many more, including me supporters of Bashar al Assad.
How did I win this honor? I spent years denouncing war making by all parties in Syria. I wrote article and books questioning the hypocrisy that held Assad to have been a good torturer when he was working for the United States but a bad torturer now. I severely criticized my fellow peace activists when some of them cheered for Russian bombings in Syria. I even went after Russia for its warmaking in Syria repeatedly on Russian television. I wrote not one article or blog post and gave not one speech defending Assad's atrocities in any way, shape, or form. That record ought to have been enough, I suppose, to get me accused of supporting Assad and Putin. No good deed goes unpunished and all that.
But I also made the truly fateful mistake of trying to accommodate the "You're an Assad lover" crowd. Someone named Andy Berman sent me nasty messages with that false accusation. I proposed that he write down exactly what he thought I had been so nefariously censoring. He did. And I published it with my own response afterwards but with not a word or a comma edited. Here was an attempt at civil discourse over an issue that has divided peace activists, and what did it get me?
Andy Berman's wife, Terry Burke, is listed as the author of the attack piece for In These Times accusing me of all the same tired old lies. She didn't contact me. No editor, if In These Times has those, contacted me. There's no quote or paraphrase of anything I supposedly said. Instead, there's a denunciation of having been a speaker at a rally. But, as I would have pointed out if asked, I wasn't at the rally at all or within 500 miles of it. It was, however, a rally that I had helped promote before it happened. Burke might have looked at those promotions, rather than at what someone showed up at the rally waving, in order to figure out what I was for or against.
Clearly that would have been too much to ask. Others became Assad lovers on even less basis. Some were denounced for having gone to Syria and met with Assad. I interviewed someone who went on that trip and asked her whether they had confronted Assad with his crimes. You can listen to the response on my website. Clearly Burke didn't bother to even contact the people she libeled. But most of those condemned as Assadites by In These Times are so condemned on no stated basis whatsoever.
Now this is getting very tiresome after all of these years of it, and a couple of dangers loom ahead for activists who can't seem to graduate from preschool mentalities. The fact is, of course, as many of us are sick to death of having to explain, that denouncing the war making by all parties in Syria does not put you in the camp of cheering for whichever party somebody else has chosen as the Bad Guy.
If the United States and Russia escalate a joint bombing campaign in Syria, things will go from very bad to even worse for those not killed in the process. Will those who have thus far believed that bombing by only one of those parties or the other is evil come to grips with the evil in bombing conducted by the pair of them?
And if Hillary Clinton launches a greatly escalated effort to overthrow the Syrian government by bombing campaign, will those who oppose that criminal catastrophe have to listen to more chants of "Assad lover!" "Assad lover!" Does criticizing Hillary Clinton about anything win one the accusation of "privilege" anyway? As if living in one of the countries she doesn't want to bomb isn't a huge privilege for all of us!
This was my response to Berman's article:
Thank you to Andy Berman for giving me and Code Pink a bit of credit in this article. I think more credit is do more groups and individuals. In particular, I think the public pressure in the U.S., UK, and elsewhere that stopped a massive U.S. bombing campaign of Syria in 2013 deserves a great deal of credit and far from being an example of a peace movement that has completely failed constitutes the most noteworthy success for peace of recent years. Of course it was incomplete. Of course the U.S. went ahead with arming and training and bombing on a much smaller scale. Of course Russia joined in, killing even more Syrians with its bombs than the United States was doing, and it was indeed deeply disturbing to see U.S. peace activists cheer for that. Of course the Syrian government went on with its bombings and other crimes, and of course it’s disturbing that some refuse to criticize those horrors, just as it’s disturbing that others refuse to criticize the U.S. or Russian horrors or both, or refuse to criticize Saudi Arabia or Turkey or Iran or Israel.
All of this selectivity in moral outrage breeds suspicion and cynicism, so that when I criticize U.S. bombing I’m immediately accused of cheering for Syrian bombing. And when I read an article like this one that makes no mention of the 2013 bombing plan, no mention of Hillary Clinton’s desired “no fly zone,” no mention of her position that failure to massively bomb in 2013 was a mistake, etc., I have to struggle not to wonder why. Then when it comes to what we ought to do about this war, I’d love to have seen some acknowledgment that the party that has repeatedly blocked exactly what is proposed in point #5 (a negotiated settlement) has been the United States, including rejecting a Russian proposal in 2012 that included Assad stepping down — rejected because the U.S. preferred a violent overthrow and believed it was imminent.
I would also like to have seen greater recognition that people usually have the most influence over their own governments, as opposed to over the governments of others. I think one also has to have a view of U.S. imperialism to explain U.S. actions in Syria, including its failure to condemn Russian cluster bombs and incendiary bombs while U.S. cluster bombs are falling in Yemen, and while Fallujah is newly under siege. One has to have an understanding of Iraq and Libya to know where ISIS and its weapons and much of the weaponry of other fighters in Syria come from, as well as to understand the conflicted U.S. policy that can’t choose between attacking the Syrian government or its enemies and that has resulted in CIA and DOD trained troops fighting each other. I also think a negotiated settlement has to include an arms embargo and that the greatest resistance to that comes from the greatest arms dealer. But I think the broader point here, that we should oppose and be aware of and work to end war, regardless of who is doing it, is the right one. And I think part of making that work will be both including a comprehensive list of criticisms of all parties in any mention we make of a conflict, and giving each other the benefit of the doubt rather than making accusing each other our top priority.
Coleen Rowley added this comment to my response:
"A good place for Berman to look to regain some of his own dignity would be to stop pushing for U.S. “regime change” in Syria and elsewhere. When he parroted the official pre-condition for any peace negotiations that “Assad must go,” and when he constantly promoted speakers and writers, even neocon groups, engaged in the bloody effort to topple the Syrian government, they essentially doomed Syria to continuing and worsening war and the destabilizing vacuum that allowed ISIS to grow. From the start, Berman sided with speakers who advised not to worry about the al Qaeda presence among the “rebels” but to focus only on toppling the Syrian government. In any event, here is an article that Margaret Safrajoy and I co-wrote in December 2014 when this sick hypocrisy had become so painfully clear: https://consortiumnews.com/2014/12/25/selling-peace-groups-on-us-led-wars/
"Another sign of Berman’s constant pushing for more US military intervention on the side of the “rebels” (which includes jihadists aligned with Al Qaeda) can be seen in his social media posts encouraging people to contact members of Congress to support HR 5732, the “Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act.” The bill would be great if it actually would serve to protect civilians but in actuality, it increases sanctions against Syria and requires the U.S. President to present proposals regarding the establishment of safe zones and a no-fly zone as U.S. policy options in Syria. (“No fly zone” being a code used by “humanitarian war hawks” for bombing a country to smithereens if you recall what happened to Libya.)
"(Naturally) MN Rep Ellison who supported the previously announced plan to bomb Syria in 2013 (and I think even supported the earlier US-NATO bombing of Libya) is one of 17 co-sponsors of H.R 5237, which bill was introduced by Israel’s best friend, Eliot Engel, with uber-hawk Ros-Lehtinen another co-sponsor."