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ICYMI the SOTU Is SNAFU

A mountain of bad, in fact deadly, ideas that Congress will eagerly support, and a handful of good proposals that no one will work for and Congress will strive to bury: the SOTU is SNAFU, ICYMI. 

Obama's hiring Romney campaign staff, pushing for a massive corporate trade deal with Europe as well as the Pacific nations, militarizing the Mexican border, and promising not to spend a dime before listing all the good things he'll spend it on.  He'll defend human rights in Egypt (but not mention billions of dollars' worth of weapons he'll give the Egyptian government).  "Sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness," he said.  Readiness for what, Mr. President?

"We have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts," Obama lied about his drone kill program, and Congress cheered.  He said he'd end the war on Afghanistan, and they cheered.  They sat silently through the next few sentences as he promised NOT to end that war, and then they picked up the cheering again.  He hyped the military as a jobs program.  He committed to cutting Medicare.  Cheers, cheers, cheers.

"We produce more oil at home," he bragged.  "We produce more natural gas than ever."  We need "a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on."  Inspiring!


EXTREME WHETHER

I recently read the script of a new play by Karen Malpede called "Extreme Whether."  The title picks up on the crisis of global warming and the choice it presents to our species.  The play will be performed in New York as part of a Festival of Conscience along with Malpede's brilliant antiwar play "Another Life."

"Extreme Whether" is a riff on the story of James Hansen, the NASA scientist who has been trying to tell Congress that the environment is collapsing since 1988.  Malpede invents  a family story for a character like Hansen.  At least in reading (much different from watching) the story at first seems insufficiently tragic.  But as the play advances, so does its vision of the damage being done.  Yet the closer the play gets to communicating the apocalypse that may be to come, the more it appears to have fallen short, although it is of course the play itself that is waking one up to the horror.  Some things defy description even as they're told to you.  In the end, the play is sufficiently tragic, but it presents an image of people as irrational, hedonistic, and therefore hopeless -- an image we should be constantly correcting if possible, except that it, too, seems pretty accurate.

The real Hansen will be speaking at the Festival of Conscience, as will I.  See the schedule below.

 

FEBRUARY 17th

First, this Sunday is a day to rally in Washington, D.C., for serious action on climate change.  Be there.  And make sure anyone who's not on board with this movement watches a performance of "Extreme Whether."

And that evening, help mark 10 Years of D.C. Poets Against the War.

Ann B. Knox, read a poem called "This Moment" in front of the White House on February 12, 2003:

 

We meet in this wind-harsh square

            with some expectation,

some hope our presence will count,

            our voices be heard.

 

We speak from what we know

            and we know no poem

stirs from a closed mind.

            Has the mailed fist

so closed on its own purpose

            we speak to stone?

 

Pay attention, our words matter,

            these bare trees matter,

the Potomac flowing black

            under white ice matters,

kids, woods, a leashed dog,

            poems matter.

 

All our lives converge

            on this moment

and what follows tonight,

            tomorrow, next week

will change our whole

            desperate earth.

 

##

 

"Sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness," he said. 

Readiness for what, Mr. President?

 

##

 

ANOTHER LIFE
Written by KAREN MALPEDE

ANOTHER LIFE
Performances Thursday - Sunday, March 28 - April 21
Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8:00pm
Sunday at 3:00pm

starring George Bartenieff with Abbas Noori Abbood, Christen Gifford, Abraham Makany, Alex Tavis & Di Zhu. 

Another Life is a surreal romp through the post-9/11 decade; an out-sized mogul (George Bartenieff) controls, cashes-in, and is undone in the only American play about the U.S. torture program.  Another Life has been excerpted in The Kenyon Review, given a staged reading at the National Theater of Kosovo, was a centerpiece of the Art of Justice: 9/11 Performance Project at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater, and was further acclaimed during a workshop run at the Irondale Center last March.  The play, written in a fast-paced lyric language, is based on research, interviews, testimonies, the words of torturers and tortured, and has been widely praised by experts in the field of human rights, for its inventiveness, power and ability to create empathy.  George Bartenieff gives a tour de force performance as the Cheneyesque mogul Handel. Christin Clifford is his wife Tess and Abbas Noori Abood his prisoner Abdul.  Di Zhu is  his wounded physician daughter who becomes a whistle-blower; Alex Tavis a disgraced F.B.I. officer becomes head of Handel’s private contracting interrogation business. Abraham Makany is Geoff, Lucia’s fiancé who died in the Twin Towers, and retains the innocence of a previous age.  With lighting by Tony Giovennetti, video design by Luba Lukova, costumes by Sally Ann Parsons and Carissa Kelly, set by Robert Eggers and music by Arthur Rosen, and written and directed by Karen Malpede, Another Life is a challenge to the legacy of torture. March 28-April 21, Thurs-Sat. at 8pm, Sun at 3pm; special Saturday, April 13 matinee at 3 pm.

Please Note: On Saturday, April 13, there will be a 3pm Matinee performance of ANOTHER LIFE. There will be no 8pm performance on April 13.

EXTREME WHETHER
Play reading Monday, April 8 at 7pm
Saturday, April 13 at 8pm

Extreme Whether, a new play, will be given two premiere readings; itdraws inspiration from two earlier eco-conscious writers, Ibsen and Chekhov. It is a family drama set on an endangered wilderness estate in an endangered world; as immediate and startling as today’s extreme weather news.  With fierce commitment to truth-telling and heroic persistence against the censorship of science a famous climate scientist and his younger colleague and lover battle industry climate change deniers to alert the wider public to the need for action.  An old environmentalist, a wise child and a frog complete the cast.  An original musical score by Arthur Rosen creates the cosmic dance.  George Bartenieff, Kathleen Chalfant, Zack Grenier lead the cast alongside Soraya Broukhim, Kathleen Purcell and Alex Tavis in the two readings of this new play by Karen Malpede.  April 8 at 7pm and April 13 at 8 pm, only.

FESTIVAL OF CONSCIENCE

Both plays are presented in conjunction with A Festival of Conscience, a series of post-show dialogues with major voices.  These post-show talks are free to all.

March 28: Noor Elashi, writer, daughter of Ghassan Elashi, currently serving 65 years in a CMU prison in Colorado, for having led a Muslim charity that sent donations to Gaza, Pardiss Kabriaei, CCR lawyer representing Muslim’s in the U.S.

Thursday, April 4, David Swanson, author War Is A Lie, blogger, radio host

Sunday, April 7 (post-matinee): Elizabeth Holtzman, Cheating Justice & Karen J. Greenberg, Director, Center on National Security, Fordham Law.

Monday, April 8: 8 pm Reading Extreme Whether, post-show talk by Dr. James Hansen, NASA, America’s foremost climate scientist

Thursday, April 11, 8pm Another Life, tba post-show discussion

Friday, April 12, 8 pm Another Life, post-show Victoria Brittan, journalist, co-author, Guantanamo: Honour Bound to Defend Duty; Shadow Lives: The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror

Saturday, April 13: 2 pm matinee of Another Life. 4:30-6 Post-show panel, Ramzi Kassem, lawyer for Gitmo detainees, Jesselyn Radack, Government Accountability Project, lawyer for many of the whistle blowers, including John Kiriakou; and Tom Drake, whistle blower and former intelligence officer.

Sunday, April 14: 2 pm matinee of Another Life. 4:30-6 post-show panel, Michael Ratner, Exec. Director of CCR and lawyer for Julian Assange; and Christian Parenti, author of Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence, and other books, and contributing editor to The Nation.

Drones and Our National Religion

The national religion of the United States of America is nationalism.  Its god is the flag.  Its prayer is the pledge of allegiance. 

The flag's powers include those of life and death, powers formerly possessed by traditional religions.  Its myths are built around the sacrifice of lives to protect against the evils outside the nation.  Its heroes are soldiers who make such sacrifices based on unquestioning faith.  A "Dream Act" that would give citizenship to those immigrants who kill or die for the flag embodies the deepest dreams of flag worship.  Its high priest is the Commander in Chief.  Its slaughter of infidels is not protection of a nation otherwise engaged, but an act that in itself completely constitutes the nation as it is understood by its devotees.  If the nation stopped killing it would cease to be.

What happens to myths like these when we discover that flying killer robots make better soldiers than soldiers do?  Or when we learn that the president is using those flying robots to kill U.S. citizens?  Which beliefs do we jettison to reduce the dissonance in our troubled brains?

Some 85% of U.S.ians, and shrinking rapidly, are theists.  Flag worship may be on the decline as well, but its numbers are still high.  A majority supports a ban on flag burning.  A majority supports the power of the president to kill non-U.S.ians with drones, while a significantly smaller percentage supports the president's power to kill U.S. citizens with drones abroad.  That is to say, if the high priest declares someone an enemy of god, many people believe he should have the power to kill that enemy . . . unless that enemy is a U.S. citizen.  In secular terms, which make this reality seem all the crazier, many of us support acts of murder based on the citizenship of the victim.

Of course, the Commander in Chief kills U.S. citizens all the time by sending them into wars.  Drones don't change that.  Drone pilots have committed suicide.  Drone pilots have been targeted and killed by retaliatory suicide bombings.  Drones have killed U.S. citizens through accidental "friendly" fire.  The hostility that drones are generating abroad has motivated terrorist attacks and attempted attacks abroad and within the national borders of the United States. 

But feeding corpses to our holy flag looks different when we're feeding them directly to the president's flying robots without a foreign intermediary.  And yet to approximately a quarter of the U.S. public it doesn't look different after all.  The president, in their own view, should have the power to kill them, or at least the power to kill anyone (including U.S. citizens) so contaminated as to be standing outside the United States of America -- a frightening and primitive realm that many U.S.ians have never visited and feel no need to ever visit.

Popular support for murder-by-president drops off significantly if "innocent civilians may also be killed."  But a religious belief system perpetuates itself not through the positions it takes on existing facts so much as through its ability to select which facts one becomes aware of and which facts remain unknown.  

Many U.S.ians have avoided knowing that U.S. citizens, including minors, have been targeted and killed, that women and children are on the list of those to be killed, that hundreds of civilian deaths have been documented by serious journalists including victims' names and identities, that U.S. peace activists went to Pakistan and met with victims' families, that the U.S. ambassador in Pakistan said there was a U.S. government count of how many civilians had been killed but he wouldn't say what it was, that the vast majority of those killed are not important leaders in any organization, that people are targeted and killed without knowing their name, that people are targeted and killed merely for the act of trying to rescue victims of previous strikes, that the wounded outnumber the dead, that the traumatized outnumber the wounded, that the refugees who have fled the drone strikes are over a million, that the drone wars did not replace ground wars but began war making in new nations so destabilized now by the drone strikes that ground wars may develop, that some top U.S. military officials have said the drones are creating more new enemies than they kill, or that what drones are doing to our reputation abroad makes Abu Ghraib look like the fun and games our media pundits said it was.

If our courts killed without trials there would be by definition a risk of killing the innocent.  The same should be understood when a president and his flying robots, or missiles, or night raids, kill without trial. 

If we were being bombed we would not deem it any more acceptable to kill those who resisted than those who did not.  Therefore, the category of "innocent civilian" (as distinct from guilty non-civilian) is suspect at best.

The vast majority of the "worst of the worst" locked away in Guantanamo have been exonerated and freed, something that cannot be done with drone victims.  Yet John Brennan, once deemed unacceptable for his role in detention and torture, is now deemed acceptable.  The goodness of his murdering evil beings outweighs the badness of his detaining and torturing people who were sometimes misidentified.  The dead cannot be misidentified.  The president has declared that any unidentified dead male of fighting age was, by definition, a militant.  After all, he was killed.

Yet, this we know for certain: He was someone's child. He was someone's loved one.  He was someone's friend. 

We have a responsibility right now to grow up very, very quickly.  Our government is breaking down the rule of law and stripping away our rights in the name of protecting us from an enemy it generates through the same process.  Drones are not inevitable. Drones are not in charge of us.  We don't have to fill our local skies with "surveillance" drones and "crowd control" drones.  That's a choice that is up to us to make.  We don't have to transfer to mindless hunks of metal the heroism heretofore bestowed just as nonsensically on soldiers.  There is no excuse for supporting the murder of foreigners in cases in which we would not support the murder of U.S. citizens.  There is no excuse for supporting a policy of murdering anyone at all. 

There is no excuse for allowing your government to take your son or daughter and give you back a flag.  There is no excuse for allowing your government to take someone else's son or daughter.  Ever.  Anywhere.  No matter how scared you are.  No matter what oath of loyalty you've robotically pledged to a colored piece of fabric since Kindergarten.  Actual robots can perform the pledge of allegiance as well as any human.  They do not, however, have any heart to place their hand over.  We should reserve our hearts for actions robots cannot do.

Audio: David Swanson and Coy Barefoot

Go Here.

Charlottesville Right Now (Subscribe)
Charlottesville Right Now: 2-8-13 David Swanson
David Swanson joins the program to talk about drones.

Talk Nation Radio: Robert Pollin: There Is No Fiscal Crisis

There is no fiscal crisis. There is an unemployment crisis. And there is a solution: tax the banks. The support for this argument is explained by Robert Pollin, the co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst.  His latest book and papers discussed during the program are here: http://backtofullemployment.org

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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The Colin Powell Memorial BS Award

John Brennan's performance at his Rejection Hearing in the Senate Lack of Intelligence Committee on Thursday will likely be a contender for this year's Colin Powell Memorial Bullshit Award.

Colin Powell set the standard on Feb. 5, 2003, at the United Nations.

Powell relied on the testimony of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law to persuade us of the supposed need to attack Iraq.  Powell recited his claims about weapons of mass destruction but carefully left out the part where that same gentleman had testified that all of Iraq's WMDs had been destroyed.

Think of that.  Someone tells you about a bunch of old weapons and at the same time tells you they've been destroyed, and you choose to repeat the part about the weapons and censor the part about their destruction. How would you explain that?

Well, it's a sin of omission, so ultimately Powell could claim he forgot. "Oh yeah, I meant to say that, but it slipped my mind."

But how would he explain this:

During his presentation at the United Nations, Powell provided this translation of an intercepted conversation between Iraqi army officers:

"They're inspecting the ammunition you have, yes.

"Yes.

"For the possibility there are forbidden ammo.

"For the possibility there is by chance forbidden ammo?

"Yes.

"And we sent you a message yesterday to clean out all of the areas, the scrap areas, the abandoned areas. Make sure there is nothing there."

The incriminating phrases "clean all of the areas" and "make sure there is nothing there" do not appear in the official State Department translation of the exchange:

"Lt. Colonel: They are inspecting the ammunition you have.

"Colonel: Yes.

"Lt. Col: For the possibility there are forbidden ammo.

"Colonel: Yes?

"Lt. Colonel: For the possibility there is by chance, forbidden ammo.

"Colonel: Yes.

"Lt. Colonel: And we sent you a message to inspect the scrap areas and the abandoned areas.

"Colonel: Yes."

Powell was writing fictional dialogue. He put those extra lines in there and pretended somebody had said them. Here's what Bob Woodward said about this in his book, Plan of Attack.

"[Powell] had decided to add his personal interpretation of the intercepts to rehearsed script, taking them substantially further and casting them in the most negative light. Concerning the intercept about inspecting for the possibility of 'forbidden ammo,' Powell took the interpretation further: 'Clean out all of the areas. . . . Make sure there is nothing there.' None of this was in the intercept."

For most of his presentation, Powell wasn't inventing dialogue, but he was presenting as facts numerous claims that his own staff had warned him were weak and indefensible.

Powell told the UN and the world: "We know that Saddam’s son, Qusay, ordered the removal of all prohibited weapons from Saddam's numerous palace complexes." The Jan. 31, 2003, evaluation of Powell's draft remarks prepared for him by the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research ("INR") flagged this claim as "WEAK."

Regarding alleged Iraqi concealment of key files, Powell said: "key files from military and scientific establishments have been placed in cars that are being driven around the countryside by Iraqi intelligence agents to avoid detection."

The Jan. 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this claim as "WEAK" and added "Plausibility open to question." A Feb. 3, 2003, INR evaluation of a subsequent draft of Powell's remarks noted:

"Page 4, last bullet, re key files being driven around in cars to avoid inspectors. This claim is highly questionable and promises to be targeted by critics and possibly UN inspection officials as well."

That didn't stop Colin from stating it as fact and apparently hoping that, even if UN inspectors thought he was a brazen liar, U.S. media outlets wouldn't tell anyone.

On the issue of biological weapons and dispersal equipment, Powell said: "we know from sources that a missile brigade outside Baghdad was disbursing rocket launchers and warheads containing biological warfare agents to various locations, distributing them to various locations in western Iraq."

The Jan. 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this claim as "WEAK":

"WEAK. Missiles with biological warheads reportedly dispersed. This would be somewhat true in terms of short-range missiles with conventional warheads, but is questionable in terms of longer-range missiles or biological warheads."

This claim was again flagged in the Feb. 3, 2003, evaluation of a subsequent draft of Powell's presentation: "Page 5. first para, claim re missile brigade dispersing rocket launchers and BW warheads. This claim too is highly questionable and might be subjected to criticism by UN inspection officials."

That didn't stop Colin. In fact, he brought out visual aids to help with his lying

Powell showed a slide of a satellite photograph of an Iraqi munitions bunker, and lied:

"The two arrows indicate the presence of sure signs that the bunkers are storing chemical munitions . . . [t]he truck you [...] see is a signature item. It's a decontamination vehicle in case something goes wrong."

The Jan. 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this claim as "WEAK" and added: "We support much of this discussion, but we note that decontamination vehicles – cited several times in the text – are water trucks that can have legitimate uses... Iraq has given UNMOVIC what may be a plausible account for this activity – that this was an exercise involving the movement of conventional explosives; presence of a fire safety truck (water truck, which could also be used as a decontamination vehicle) is common in such an event."

Powell's own staff had told him the thing was a water truck, but he told the UN it was "a signature item…a decontamination vehicle." The UN was going to need a decontamination vehicle itself by the time Powell finished spewing his lies and disgracing his country.

He just kept piling it on: "UAVs outfitted with spray tanks constitute an ideal method for launching a terrorist attack using biological weapons," he said.

The Jan. 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this statement as "WEAK" and added: "the claim that experts agree UAVs fitted with spray tanks are ‘an ideal method for launching a terrorist attack using biological weapons’ is WEAK."

In other words, experts did NOT agree with that claim.

Powell kept going, announcing "in mid-December weapons experts at one facility were replaced by Iraqi intelligence agents who were to deceive inspectors about the work that was being done there."

The Jan. 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this claim as "WEAK" and "not credible" and "open to criticism, particularly by the UN inspectorates."

His staff was warning him that what he planned to say would not be believed by his audience, which would include the people with actual knowledge of the matter.

To Powell that was no matter.

Powell, no doubt figuring he was in deep already, so what did he have to lose, went on to tell the UN: "On orders from Saddam Hussein, Iraqi officials issued a false death certificate for one scientist, and he was sent into hiding."

The Jan. 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this claim as "WEAK" and called it "Not implausible, but UN inspectors might question it. (Note: Draft states it as fact.)"

And Powell stated it as fact. Notice that his staff was not able to say there was any evidence for the claim, but rather that it was "not implausible." That was the best they could come up with. In other words: "They might buy this one, Sir, but don't count on it."

Powell, however, wasn't satisfied lying about one scientist. He had to have a dozen. He told the United Nations: "A dozen [WMD] experts have been placed under house arrest, not in their own houses, but as a group at one of Saddam Hussein's guest houses."

The Jan. 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this claim as "WEAK" and "Highly questionable." This one didn't even merit a "Not implausible."

Powell also said: "In the middle of January, experts at one facility that was related to weapons of mass destruction, those experts had been ordered to stay home from work to avoid the inspectors. Workers from other Iraqi military facilities not engaged in elicit weapons projects were to replace the workers who’d been sent home."

Powell's staff called this "WEAK," with "Plausibility open to question."

All of this stuff sounded plausible enough to viewers of Fox, CNN, and MSNBC. And that, we can see now, was what interested Colin. But it must have sounded highly implausible to the UN inspectors. Here was a guy who had not been with them on any of their inspections coming in to tell them what had happened.

We know from Scott Ritter, who led many UNSCOM inspections in Iraq, that U.S. inspectors had used the access that the inspection process afforded them to spy for, and to set up means of data collection for, the CIA. So there was some plausibility to the idea that an American could come back to the UN and inform the UN what had really happened on its inspections.

Yet, repeatedly, Powell's staff warned him that the specific claims he wanted to make were not going to even sound plausible. They will be recorded by history more simply as blatant lies.

The examples of Powell's lying listed above are taken from an extensive report released by Congressman John Conyers: "The Constitution in Crisis; The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War."

David Swanson is the author of War Is A Lie at http://warisalie.org

Do We Care About People Even if They Live in Bahrain?

Monday evening I went early to my local City Council meeting in Charlottesville, Va., where the council passed a resolution I supported against drones.

Going early in order to line up to speak means conversing with a Fox News viewer or two who always go super early in order to speak first.  One nice and beautifully unapathetic, but deeply misinformed woman, has on more than one such occasion let me know what a threat to our safety the evil Iranians are and how tyranical the Iranian government. 

At the January meeting, as she seemed to be outraged about 1979 as if it were yesterday, I asked if she remembered 1953.  She was old enough to remember that year, as I am not, and she proudly said so.  But she had no idea what had happened then, so I tried to tell her.

First City in U.S. Passes Resolution Against Drones

Shortly after 11 p.m. on Monday, February 4th, the City Council of Charlottesville, Va., passed what is believed to be the first anti-drone resolution in the country.  According to my notes, and verifiable soon on the City Council's website, the resolution reads:

WHEREAS, the rapid implementation of drone technology throughout the United States poses a serious threat to the privacy and constitutional rights of the American people, including the residents of Charlottesville; and

WHEREAS, the federal government and the Commonwealth of Virginia have thus far failed to provide reasonable legal restrictions on the use of drones within the United States; and

WHEREAS, police departments throughout the country have begun implementing drone technology absent any guidance or guidelines from law makers;

NOW, THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED, that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, endorses the proposal for a two year moratorium on drones in the state of Virginia; and calls on the United States Congress and the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia to adopt legislation prohibiting information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into a Federal or State court, and precluding the domestic use of drones equipped with anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being; and pledges to abstain from similar uses with city-owned, leased, or borrowed drones.

The same City Council passed a resolution on January 17, 2012, calling for an end to drone wars, as well as ground wars, excessive military spending, and any possible attack on Iran.

(Photo by Ted Strong of Daily Progress)

The wording of Monday's resolution comes largely from a draft suggested by the Rutherford institute. An initial line was deleted and two amendments were made to the final paragraph, one endorsing a two-year moratorium on drones (something that had passed in committee in both houses of the Virginia legislature as of Saturday in the House and Monday in the Senate), the other committing the City not to use drones for surveillance or assault.

The wording was not as comprehensive as the draft that had appeared in the City Council's official agenda for Monday's meeting, a draft I had authored.  See it here in the city agenda or on my website

At the previous meeting of the City Council on January 7, 2013, I and a few other residents had spoken in support of a resolution, and three of the five city council members agreed to put it on the agenda for the February 4th meeting.  Some of the public comments were excellent, and the video of the meeting is on the city's website

On Monday, citizens speaking in favor of the anti-drone resolution dominated the public speaking period at the beginning of the meeting, shortly after 7 p.m.  Many were quite eloquent, and the video will be available soon on the city's site.  The council members did not discuss and vote on the matter until shortly after 11 p.m.  The discussion was quite brief, coming on the heels of hours devoted to other matters. 

The same three city council members who had put the item on the agenda voted in favor of the resolution, passing it by a vote of 3-2.  They were Dave Norris, Dede Smith, and Satyendra Sing Huja.  Norris and Smith negotiated the slight improvements to the Rutherford Institute's draft with Huja, who initially favored passing that draft as it was written.  Norris and Smith favored banning the City from purchasing drones, but Council Member Kristin Szakos argued that there might be a positive use for a drone someday, such as for the fire department.  Kathy Galvin joined Szakos in voting No.

Norris has been a leader on the City Council for years and sadly will not be running for reelection at the end of his current term.

Following the January meeting, I submitted my draft to the city, asked people to phone and email the council members, published a column in the local daily newspaper, and organized an event in front of City Hall on Sunday, the day before the vote.  Anti-drone activist John Heuer from North Carolina delivered a giant model drone produced by New York anti-drone activist Nick Mottern.  Our little stunt produced coverage on the two television channels and in the newspaper.  I asked people to commit to attending the meeting on a FaceBook page.  The room ended up packed, and when I asked those who supported the resolution to stand, most of the room did so.

No organized pro-drone lobby ever developed.  We met and confronted the argument that localities shouldn't lobby states or Washington.  And, of course, some people are opposed to drones in the United States but eager to see them used however the President may see fit abroad.  Charlottesville's City Council ended up not including the section in my draft that instructed the federal government to end its practice of extrajudicial killing.  But there was no discussion on that point, and several other sections, including one creating a local ordinance, were left out as well.  The problem there, according to Smith, was that "we don't own the air."

Yet, we should. And Oregon is attempting to do so with its draft state legislation.

In the past, Charlottesville has passed resolutions that have inspired other localities and impacted federal and state policies.  Let us hope this one is no exception.

Rape as Collateral Damage

Where I live in Virginia a member of the county board of supervisors was recently charged with the crime of "forcible sodomy," which carried a sentence of five years to life in prison.  He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of sexual battery and was sentenced to 30 days in jail plus probation, etc.  He professed his innocence of the original charge. 

But what is sexual battery if not forcible sex?  The fine line drawn between 30 days and life may have less to do with the action being alleged than with the persuasiveness of the allegation, the prosecutor's confidence of winning a conviction, the schedule and budget of the court, the desire of the accuser or victim to participate in a trial, etc.

If the man was guilty, his penalty seems too light, the lack of a trial seems wrong, and some creative restorative justice seems in order.  Little has been done to aid the victim or heal the community.

It is entirely possible that he was entirely innocent.  People plead to 30-day sentences in our legal system to avoid a risk of life in prison (including the possibility of becoming a serial rape victim while in prison) all the time.  Had the threat been five years rather than "five-years-to-life," an innocent man might have been more likely to risk a trial to declare his innocence. 

If this man was innocent, his penalty is of course too great.  Any penalty would be too great.  And the lack of any charges against his false accuser would be a miscarriage of justice.

I have no way of knowing which direction our justice system misfired in this case.  I know only that it compromised, choosing to lessen the harm done, but aware of necessarily doing harm.  And I can think of many ways the system might be improved.

At the same time, I'm aware that there are systems in the world immeasurably worse.  There is no system that imprisons people at the rate the United States does, including largely for nonviolent and victimless crimes.  But there are epidemics of rape, of gang rape, of rape and torture, of rape and murder.  There are epidemics of rape in societies in which no man can be punished in any way, but in which a woman known to have been raped is herself punished, along with her family, along with her children -- children who grow up seeing only one path to an existence of reduced shame and humiliation: the path of becoming a soldier in the war that produced the epidemic of rape.  And there are echoes of all of this in our own society.

Such horrific situations are described in Ann Jones' book, War Is Not Over When It's Over: Women Speak Out from the Ruins of War.  They lead her to an interesting conclusion:

"One stronghold of the battered women's movement -- in Maryland, if I remember rightly -- distributed T-shirts bearing the words WORLD PEACE BEGINS AT HOME.  I believed it.  Raise up children in peaceful homes free of violence, I thought, and they will make peace.  But now, having spent the last many years in and around wars, I think the motto is painfully idealistic.  The relationship it describes is reciprocal, but not fair.  World peace may begin at home, but violence just as surely begins in war; and war does not end."

Jones documents the use of rape in war and its continuation after the announced end of wars, including its adoption by civilian men who did not participate in the war.  The rapes that Jones describes are often viciously brutal and sometimes deadly.  The physical injuries are severe and lasting, including the inability to sit or to walk, internal bleeding, miscarriages, and sexually transmitted diseases.  And then there is the mental damage, the societal damage, and the economic damage. 

Jones takes her readers to Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burmese refugees in Thailand, and Iraqi refugees in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.  Liberia was founded by former U.S. slaves who, Jones writes, brought to Africa "a few of America's worst features: elitism, discrimination, forced labor, religiosity, and a penchant for violence."*  Liberia's modern history has been no happier.  The World Health Organization in 2005 estimated that 90 percent of Liberian women had suffered physical or sexual violence and 75 percent had been raped.

Following war in the DRC, teachers, pastors, and fathers took up the practice of rape.  The same pattern was found in Liberia and Sierra Leone, where horrors unknown or rare before war (civilian rape, child rape, gang rape) became normal.  In the DRC, Jones observed a vicious cycle.  Husbands abandon raped wives, sometimes departing the village out of shame; so raped wives without visible injuries try to conceal the rape from their husbands.  Women are afraid to go outside for wood or water or to work in their fields (much as female U.S. soldiers in Iraq were so afraid of male U.S. soldiers that they would not venture outside to the bathrooms at night).  With no crops to sell, women have no money, and their children cannot go to school without money to pay for it.  Girls are also afraid to go to school where they may be raped.  With nothing left, women and girls turn to prostitution while men turn to the military.  A local famine develops, and women are afraid to make the trip to a hospital when ill; so people begin to die from diarrhea, pneumonia, or malaria.  A study found 5.4 million "excess deaths" in the DRC between 1998 and 2007, 2.1 million of them after the war "ended."

Good news in war reporting is not always accurate.  In 2007 (and right up to this moment with no let-up in sight) USians heard of a successful "surge" in Iraq.  Iraqis saw increased civilian death and displacement, increased sectarian segregation, and a surging population of refugees.  That war created what the United Nations High Commission for Refugees calls "the most significant displacement in the Middle East" since the Nakba.  Iraq now confronts a situation in which millions of its citizens have fled and a million of its women are widows:

"There is more than one way to lose a husband.  Illness, accident, assassination, murder, warfare.  Rape is another.  Many women lose their husbands to rape.  How many thousands of Iraqi women and girls have been raped is impossible to know; but rape is commonplace.  Of 4,516 cases of sexual violence in Iraq reported to UNHCR in Jordan, women were the victims in 4,233 cases; and for each reported case, there are countless others."

Iraqi men lost their houses, their land, their status, and their self respect.  As refugee families in neighboring nations, Iraqis rely on women to make a living.  One way in which men try to reassert their authority is domestic violence.

SOMETHING POSITIVE

Jones didn't just visit war-torn areas.  She brought there something that the U.S. and other western governments would never think to send.  When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail; and when all you spend money on is soldiers and missiles, you imagine those tools capable of things they are not suited to.  Jones brought with her a different tool: photography lessons. 

Jones gave women who had never seen a camera or a photograph, cameras and memory chips and lessons in using them.  The women did not recoil in superstitious horror.  They became artists, activists, and empowered members of communities that until that moment had treated women as objects to be owned. 

"Prudence in Zokoguhe photographed a man beating his wife with a broom.  Martine in Zokoguhe photographed a woman landing in the dirt face-first and the man who had thrown her to the ground.  Jeanette in Koupela-Tenkodoko photographed a man beating his wife with a stick." 

Change began swiftly. 

"One woman reported that her husband, who had never before shared the proceeds from the family field, now proposed to give a little something to his photographer wife.  Another reported that her husband, who had never before provided money for a sick child's medicine, rode his bike all the way to the health center to make sure that his photographer wife and child, who had gone ahead on foot, were being served by the pharmacy.  Another told of her neighbor, an habitual wife beater, never deterred by others who tried to intervene.  When she threatened to fetch her camera, he stopped hitting his wife and ran away."

Women showed their photographs in a public meeting.  Never having spoken in public before, women took over the meeting.  The village chief took their side and followed their lead.  They began participating in writing laws to stop the violence in their village. 

Jones collected her cameras to take them to another country, and by that time the women no longer needed them.  But wouldn't it be nice if they could keep them?  With a $1.3 trillion military budget in the United States alone, you'd think we could afford a few cameras that actually accomplish things that missiles and soldiers are falsely advertised as accomplishing.  In fact, I don't just want to give women cameras.  I want to give them websites.

Jones is an advocate for making women part of peace negotiations, part of government.  Give women power and rights, and things will improve, Jones believes.  And she's right, of course, up to a point.  But the notion of "no justice, no peace" has to be reversed.  Without peace we cannot build justice.  We must end the wars.  HOME VIOLENCE BEGINS IN WAR. 

We must keep our priorities straight as critics soften their complaints with the pro-torture and pro-murder movie Zero Dark Thirty in part because it was made by a woman, and as a pro-war woman named Hillary Clinton positions herself to run for a presidential office that has been given single-handed power of life and death over great masses of human beings.

*****

* Jones is wrong, I believe, that the first African-American settlers arrived in Africa in 1822, since a group sailed from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone in 1792 including slaves who had escaped to fight for the British, including a man formerly owned by George Washington.

Join David Swanson on Harvey Wasserman's Show on Monday

DRONES & PEACE IN THE AGE OF OBAMA with the great David Swanson at 3-4pm (eastern) Monday on HarveyW's Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show.  David is one our most persistent, effective and unstoppable activists on issues of war, the environment and our Constitution.  Our action-packed hour will feature some serous strategizing about ending the empire and getting to Solartopia as we celebrate an age when activists like David really do make a difference.  Join us at 888-874-4888.   http://prn.fm/shows/environmental-shows/green-power/#axzz2Jm0zCWMs

Wars That Aren't Meant to Be Won

In War Is A Lie I looked at pretended and real reasons for wars and found some of the real reasons to be quite irrational.  It should not shock us then to discover that the primary goal in fighting a war is not always to win it.  Some wars are fought without a desire to win, others without winning being the top priority, either for the top war makers or for the ordinary soldiers.

In Useful Enemies: When Waging Wars Is More Important Than Winning Them, David Keen looks at wars around the world and discovers many in which winning is not an object.  Many of the examples are civil wars, many of them in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, some of them dragging on for decades.  Wars become sources of power, wealth, and prestige.  Exploiting civilians can take precedence for both sides over combatting each other.  So can exploiting international "aid" that flows as long as wars are raging, not to mention the international permission to commit crimes that is bestowed upon those fighting the communists or, more recently, the terrorists.  Of course a "war on terror" is itself blatantly chosen as an unwinnable goal around which to design a permanent emergency.  President Obama has just waived, again, sanctions on nations using child soldiers.  Those child soldiers are on our side.

"The weak (or nonexistent) criticism by aid agencies of human rights abuses in Afghanistan and Iraq in the context of a 'war on terror' -- for example, the massacres of prisoners of war in Afghanistan in November 2001 and the torture at Abu Ghraib -- was used by the government in Sri Lanka (as well as by governments in Russia, Colombia, Algeria and Pakistan) as evidence of 'double standards' on the part of aid agencies that tried to criticise them."

Keen treats Western wars with the same analytical eye as any other wars, and with similar results.  The wars to combat "terror" in Afghanistan and Iraq have actually increased terrorism.  If the overriding goal were to reduce terrorism, we wouldn't continue making war on Muslim nations.  Killing Afghan farmers for supporting the Taliban turns more of them to the Taliban.  And so, more of them are killed.  Paying for safe passage for U.S. materiel funds the Taliban.  Humanitarian aid is tied to the military occupation and resisted as such, fueling corruption and resentment rather than good will.  It also fuels an interest in prolonging a war without end on the part of locals profiting from it. 

Is winning the objective?  Sometimes appearing to be winning in the short term overrides and actually impedes the work of winning in the long term.  One reason this goes unnoticed, I think, is that there is no coherent concept of what winning would look like.  We're less aware, therefore, of not having reached it.  Rather than winning or losing, we think of wars as merely "ending."  And if they end following a "surge" by our side, we imagine they've ended well, even while averting our eyes from the results. 

Do U.S. war makers want their wars to end?  Perhaps if they can end without slowing the flow of war spending, and if they can end violently -- that is, in a manner seeming to justify war.  Leading up to the recent NATO war on Libya, a U.S. weapons executive was asked by NPR what would happen if the occupation of Afghanistan ended.  His reply was that he hoped we could invade Libya.  During President Clinton's second term, this ad was posted on a wall in the Pentagon:

"ENEMY WANTED: Mature North American Superpower seeks hostile partner for arms-racing, Third World conflicts, and general antagonism.  Must be sufficiently menacing to convince Congress of military financial requirements.  Nuclear capability is preferred; however, non-nuclear candidates possessing significant bio chemical warfare resources will be considered. . . ."

Jokes?  No doubt.  But not funny ones and not meaningless ones.

Drastic increases in U.S. military spending in the early 1950s, early 1980s, and early 2000s all followed economic recessions.  Money could have been spent on schools or solar panels or trains, and the economy would have benefited significantly more, but that would have been Socialism.

One reason for the U.S. bombing of Laos: the halting of the bombing of North Vietnam left a lot of planes and bombs without targets.  One reason that Keen offers for Iraq's invasion of Kuwait: Iraq had an oversized military in desperate need of a war.  And when the U.S. occupation recklessly disbanded that military, fuelling the resistance, the goal may not have been to fuel the resistance, but clearly an irrational drive to de-Baathify took precedence over achieving peace.

Beyond profits, wars create support for rightwing politics, and excuses to eliminate civil rights.  This is true at home, but also abroad.  Sanctions on Iran are moving the Iranian government away from where liberal reformers claim to want it.  Providing limited aid to a hopeless opposition in Syria that does not aim for democracy won't produce democracy, but it will produce war.  And not just immediately, but lastingly.  U.S. backing of jihadists in Afghanistan in the 1980s fueled war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, the Philippines, and the attacks of 911, just as the recent war in Libya is fueling war in Mali.

What lessons can be drawn?  Aid should go first and foremost to places free of war.  Rather than prioritizing the militarization and bombing of areas suffering human rights abuses (militarizing Bahrain when it backs the Pentagon, bombing Libya when it doesn't), our top priority should be disarmament and demilitarization, that is to say: conversion of economies and societies to peaceful sustainable production.  One part of this work should be the enforcement of laws against war.  This week we can look to Guatemala and Italy for signs of hope, and to Washington for evidence that plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

New CRS Reports on Drones

The Congressional Research Service has released two new reports on drones.  The first is called

Integration of Drones into Domestic Airspace: Selected Legal Issues

Some highlights:

Under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, P.L. 112-95, Congress has tasked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with integrating unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), sometimes referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones, into the national airspace system by September 2015. Although the text of this act places safety as a predominant concern, it fails to establish how the FAA should resolve significant, and up to this point, largely unanswered legal questions....

... Perhaps the most contentious issue concerning the introduction of drones into U.S. airspace is the threat that this technology will be used to spy on American citizens. With the ability to house high-powered cameras, infrared sensors, facial recognition technology, and license plate readers, some argue that drones present a substantial privacy risk.66 Undoubtedly, the government’s use of drones for domestic surveillance operations implicates the Fourth Amendment and other applicable laws.67 In like manner, privacy advocates have warned that private actors might use drones in a way that could infringe upon fundamental privacy rights.6 ...

...If Congress chooses to act, it could create privacy protections to protect individuals from intrusive drone surveillance conducted by private actors. Such proposals would be considered in the context of the First Amendment rights to gather and receive news. Several bills were introduced in the 112th Congress that would regulate the private use of drones. Additionally, there are other measures Congress could adopt. ...

... Additionally, Congress could create a cause of action for surveillance conducted by drones similar to the intrusion upon seclusion tort provided under Restatement § 652B.151 ...

... Congress could also create a privacy statute tailored to drone use similar to the anti-voyeurism statutes, or “Peeping Tom” laws, enacted in many states.154 These laws prohibit persons from surreptitiously filming others in various circumstances and places.155 ...

...There may be instances where a landowner is entitled to protect his property from intrusion by a drone.  ...

... The legal issues discussed in this report will likely remain unresolved until the civilian use of drones becomes more widespread. ...



OR, OF COURSE, until people and localities and states speak up.

The other report is


Summary: There's gold in them thar drones.


Drones Are a Local Issue

No city is an island, Entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.

I write from Charlottesville, Va., but am hopeful that this message applies to your city, town, or county as well.

In the absence of state or federal laws, localities around the United States are proceeding to put unmanned aerial vehicles in our skies as they see fit.  The federal government has authorized the flight of 30,000 drones, and the use of drones up to 400 feet by police departments, at least 300 of which already have surveillance drones in operation.

States and localities can ban or regulate such actions.  Or they can proceed to endanger our health and our civil rights.

In Montgomery County, Texas, the Sheriff showed off a drone to the media but crashed it into his armored vehicle (thereby, I guess, proving that he needed an armored vehicle). 

When the Dept. of Homeland Security challenged the University of Texas-Austin to hack into a drone and take control of it, the response was "No problem," and it was quickly done.

Drones are not safe.  Surveillance by drones cannot comply with the Fourth Amendment.  And the arming of drones with tear gas and rubber bullets, already underway in many U.S. localities, is an outrageous threat to our First Amendment right to assemble and petition our governments for a redress of grievances.

If Charlottesville were to remain silent while (how shall I put this delicately?) crack-pot cities continue setting de facto law, we would all be worse off. 

Charlottesville City Council routinely informs the state general assembly of its wishes.  That state assembly has already been considering legislation on drones.  Charlottesville has a responsibility to speak up, as well as to act locally on its own behalf. 

Moreover, Charlottesville's influence spreads.  Its past resolutions on Iraq, military spending, uranium, and other matters have inspired other localities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors to raise their voices as well.  Some of these resolutions have been directed to the federal government, to which the residents of Charlottesville pay taxes and whose laws the residents of Charlottesville are subject to.

This is how our republic is supposed to work.  City council members in Virginia take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Cities and towns routinely send petitions to Congress for all kinds of requests. This is allowed under Clause 3, Rule XII, Section 819, of the Rules of the House of Representatives. This clause is routinely used to accept petitions from cities, and memorials from states, all across America. The same is established in the Jefferson Manual, the rule book for the House originally written by Thomas Jefferson for the Senate.

In 1967 a court in California ruled (Farley v. Healey , 67 Cal.2d 325) that "one of the purposes of local government is to represent its citizens before the Congress, the Legislature, and administrative agencies in matters over which the local government has no power. Even in matters of foreign policy it is not uncommon for local legislative bodies to make their positions known."

Abolitionists passed local resolutions against U.S. policies on slavery. The anti-apartheid movement did the same, as did the nuclear freeze movement, the movement against the PATRIOT Act, the movement in favor of the Kyoto Protocol, etc.

We are not an island.  If we become environmentally sustainable, others will ruin our climate.  If we ban assault weapons, they'll arrive at our borders.  And if the skies of the United States are filled with drones, it will become ever more difficult for Charlottesville to keep them out. 

Just over a year ago, the Charlottesville City Council passed a resolution calling for an end to "foreign ground and drone wars."  U.S. drone wars are now under investigation by the United Nations as possible crimes.  We now know that individuals are targeted without so much as identifying their names.  We now know that hundreds of children have been killed.  We now know that at least three Americans have been targeted and killed.  The view of our city should be restated in the context of local and state actions on drones.  This is an action desired by local people, affecting local people, and costing the local budget exactly nothing.

Each man's death diminishes me, For I am involved in mankind.  Therefore, send not to know  For whom the bell tolls,  It tolls for thee.
--

David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works as Campaign Coordinator for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.  Subscribe or unsubscribe from David's email lists here.

Look Not Unto the Morrow

Robert Fantina, the author of a tragically nonfictional survey of the lives of soldiers in all past U.S. wars, has now published a devastatingly fictional account of the war that the Vietnamese call the American War.

I say devastatingly fictional, because Fantina condenses and concentrates into one small book and the lives of a very few characters the lead-up to, the experience of, and the aftermath of a U.S. soldier's participation in that war.  The extreme horror and tragedy recounted (leavened by much human goodness) would require the watering down of thousands of additional pages of extraneous information were it nonfiction, and yet it is all based in typical experiences endured, overcome, or surrendered to by many thousands of Americans.

The plot is not predictable, the lessons not pedantic, but the story of Look Not Unto the Morrow is a story that grabs you more firmly by the throat because of the knowledge of how many people have lived it.

Here we meet a young man who only figures out what war is once he's in it, and a young woman who loves him and who only begins to give a damn about the world and the people in it when her lover goes to war.  I find myself, as I read this, desperately hoping that someone young will read it too and get themselves together faster, before it's too late. 

Then I realize that when I grew up believing war was a sick barbaric atavism, I was growing up after the peace movement of the 1960s had happened.  Perhaps people had learned.  Perhaps that learning had reached me.  I also had the option of going to college.  I also was not drafted.  The accounts of veterans at the Winter Soldier event during the war on Iraq, just like those during the war on Vietnam, are tales of disillusionment.  These are young men, and now women too, who believed the hype, believed some good purpose could be served by mass murder, headed off to participate, and then began to have grave doubts.

The accounts of some veterans are, in fact, very mixed and complicated.  Some believe a soldier should tell the truth about a horrible genocidal crime and also continue to take part in it if so ordered.  Some believe our current wars should be denounced and actively resisted, but that a good war might start next month or next year. 

A young man recently published a column in the Washington Post headlined "I killed people in Afghanistan. Was I right or wrong?"  I interviewed him and will air the interview on my radio show.  He told me that he had opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003, supported the ongoing occupation once begun, and supported the war on Afghanistan.  I asked what he would do if another invasion were launched that he was opposed to.  He replied that he would go and fight in it.  He would go and kill people in it. 

Beneath all the differences between our era and the 1960s/1970s that come through in Fantina's novel, there is much that is the same.  Combining Fantina's novel with Nick Turse's new nonfictional account of the extended atrocity and marathon "war crime" that was the assault on Vietnam (all war is a crime, not certain bits of it) should give one a serious understanding of what was, is, and must not continue to be the fundamental error of our ways. 

I've read more autobiographical accounts of our current wars than fiction, so please send me your recommendations for the latter, as well as for accounts from Vietnamese and Iraqi and Afghan (etc.) points of view.  Autobiographies have their own advantages.  I used to wish Ralph Waldo Emerson's prediction might come true and novels might be displaced by memoirs. 

I say I used to wish that, because a good writer can invent truths, can show us what's happening inside the heads of multiple characters, can personalize public affairs with the power of mythology.  To see what I'm talking about, read Look Not Unto the Morrow.

Talk Nation Radio: Marcy Wheeler: Brennan Is Obama's Cheney

Marcy Wheeler blogs as Emptywheel at Emptywheel.net. She says John Brennan, the nominee for CIA director, has been Obama's Dick Cheney, operating outside the law, lying about bin Laden, and lying about drones; the White House has killed an American for his speech; the CIA has stopped lying to Congress only by starting to tell Congress nothing at all; Senator Diane Feinstein is complicit in the drone kill program; Congress has asked President Obama 10 times for a legal basis for the drone kill program and been blown off every time; the prosecutorial abuse in the case of Aaron Swartz is not uncommon, but evidence suggests retribution for Swartz's making accessible the Department of Justice's own public information, requesting of information on the treatment of Bradley Manning, and possible (entirely legal) assistance to WikiLeaks.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
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A Blowback Hurricane

Most violence we face we've provoked.  Those confronting us with violence are exactly as wrong as if we hadn't provoked them.  But we are not as innocent as we like to imagine.

This seems like a simple concept awaiting only factual substantiation, but in fact it is dramatically at odds with most people's ridiculously ill-conceived notion of how blame works.  According to this common notion, blame is like a lump of clay.  Whoever holds it is to blame.  If they hand it to someone else, then that person is exclusively to blame.  If they break it in half, then two people can each be half to blame.  But blame is a finite quantity and the clay is very difficult to break.  So once the clay is attached to one person, everybody else is pretty well blameless. 

I faulted President Obama for instructing the Justice Department not to prosecute anyone in the CIA for torture, and someone told me that Attorney General Holder was in fact to blame, and therefore Obama was not.  I faulted easy access to guns for mass shootings, and someone told me that antidepressant medications were to blame, and therefore gun laws were not.  If you're like me, these sorts of calculations will strike you as bizarrely stupid.  The question of whether Obama is to blame is a question of what he has done or not done; Holder doesn't enter into it at all.  The question of whether Holder is to blame comes down to whether Holder acted against the interest of the greater good; it has nothing to do with Obama.  One or both or neither of them could be to blame.  Or they could both be to blame and 18 other people be to blame as well.  We have problems with gun laws, psychiatric drugs, films, tv shows, video games, examples set by our government's own violence, and many other elements of our culture; none of them erase any of the others. 

Blame is unlimited.  Rather than a finite lump of clay, blame should be pictured as water droplets condensing out of the air on a cold glass.  There is no limit to them.  They appear wherever another glass is cold.  Their quantity bears no relation to the quantity of the harm done.  A million people can carry the blame for a trivial harm, or one person can be alone to blame and to blame only slightly for a most horrible tragedy.

Another type of example may help explain where the common conception of blame comes from.  A man convicted of murder is proven innocent, but loved ones of the victim want him punished anyway (and in proportion to the harm done).  Another is proven insane or incompetent or underage, but he is punished just the same.  Blame is perceived as a burning hot ball of clay that must be tossed from person to person desperately until it can be attached to someone deserving of it.  Once that is done, there is no rush to find anyone (or anything) else who might also be to blame.  Blame is a concept that is tied up in people's muddled minds with the concept of revenge.  It's hard to seek revenge against numerous people or institutions all bearing different types and degrees of blame.  It's much easier to simplify.  And once the demand for revenge is satisfied in the aggrieved, it ceases to search for new outlets.

When hijackers flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, they were given blame.  Anyone who helped them was given blame (after all, it's hard to seek revenge against the dead).  But anyone who provoked or accidentally permitted those crimes was deemed absolutely blameless.  There wasn't any more clay to go around.  To blame the U.S. government for having spent years arming and training religious fanatics in Afghanistan and provoking them in Palestine and Saudi Arabia would mean unblaming the hijackers.  To blame the U.S. government for not preventing the hijackings would mean unblaming the hijackers. 

This kind of infantile thinking has prevented us from grasping anything like the true extent of blowback our nation has encountered. 

There are individual encounters in which zero-sum blame thinking appears to work.  Someone who kills in self-defense is given less blame than someone who kills an innocent victim.  But translating this to the public or even international arena seems to me to fail.  Violent social movements are wrong and to blame even when they are resisting injustice.  Crimes of resistance by Native Americans and slaves can be seen as crimes even as we understand them as blowback.  The World War II era crimes of Japan create a great deal of blame for Japan, and that is unchanged by understanding the history of how the United States brought war making and imperialism to the Japanese.  Often in U.S. history we have been confronted by a Frankenstein monster of our own creation, and one intentionally provoked at that.  This is different from the myth of our innocence and of the other's irrational random aggression.  A more informed understanding doesn't excuse the aggression.  It erases our (the U.S. government's) innocence. 

Saddam Hussein was our creature.  So was Gadaffi.  And Assad.  "Intervene" is Pentagon-speak for "switch sides."  Our dictators remain guilty of their crimes when we learn that we funded them.  Every graduate of the School of the Americas who heads off into the world to murder and torture is to blame for doing so, and so is the School of the Americas, and so are the taxpayers who fund it and the governments that send students to attend it. 

We imagine that crazy irrational Iranians attacked us out of the blue in 1979, whereas the CIA's coup of 1953 made the embassy takeover predictable -- a completely different thing from justifiable. 

Britain and its apprentice / master-to-be the United States long feared an alliance between Germany and Russia.  This led to facilitation of the creation of the Soviet Union.  And it led to support for the development of Nazism in Germany.  The goal was Russian-German conflict, not peace.  When war is imagined to be inevitable, the great question is where to create it, not whether.  The post-World War I talks at Versailles laid the groundwork for World War II, helped along by the West's financial and trade policies for decades to come. 

Also at Versailles, President Wilson refused to meet with a young man named Ho Chi Minh -- an initial bit contribution perhaps to a great deal of future blowback.  The Cold War was of course provoked by lies, threats, and weapons development. 

Even if you assume that the United States should dominate the globe militarily, some of the military bases being built right now are very hard to explain, except as thoughtless overreach or intentional provocation of China.  One can guess how China is perceiving this.  And yet, while the U.S. military spends many times the amount of money spent by China's each year, Chinese increases provoked by U.S. troop deployments, are being used in the U.S. media to justify U.S. military spending.  Most Americans have no more idea that their own government is provoking China than most Israelis have a remotely accurate conception of what their government does to Palestinians.  Watch these young Israelis exposed for the first time to their nation's occupation of Palestine.  Their world is altered. 

Imagine if people in the United States were to learn what their funding and weaponry are used for.  U.S. weapons account for 85% of international weapons sales.  While the NRA bought a political party, Lockheed Martin bought two.  We don't talk about it, but many U.S. wars have been fought against U.S. weapons.  U.S. wars like the recent one in Libya result in more violence in places like Mali.  U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen and Afghanistan are generating intense anger, and blowback that has already included the targeting and killing of drone pilots, as well as attempted acts of terrorism in the United States.

When will we ever learn?  The hacker group Anonymous replaces government websites with video games to "avenge" Aaron Swartz, and we laugh.  But vengeance is at the root of our inability to think sensibly about blame, which is in turn at the root of our inability to process what is being done to the people of the world in our name with our funding.  Because war is not inevitable, everywhere we stir it up is somewhere that might have lived without it.  We spend $170 billion per year on keeping U.S. troops in other people's countries.  Most people living near U.S. military bases do not want them there.  Many are outraged by their presence.  The blowback will keep coming.  We should begin to understand that it is normal, that it is the theme of our entire history, that its predictability does not of course justify it, that we are to blame, and that there's plenty of blame for anyone else who's earned it.

A Map and a Mule

A Map and a Mule: A Peace Story of Queen Isabel of PortugalHere's a great short story for children or anyone else who thinks achieving peace is a goal worth striving for.

And this story is a true one, drawn from history -- as could be many more if we chose to look in the right places.

But don't take it from me. I read it to a 6 year old who liked it too, so you can take if from him.

Amazon.

A New Model Drone Resolution

In the absence of state or federal laws, localities around the United States are proceeding to put unmanned aerial vehicles in our skies as they see fit.  The federal government has authorized the flight of 30,000 drones, and the use of drones up to 400 feet by police departments, at least 300 of which already have surveillance drones in operation.

Concerns include the following: drones can crash into airplanes, buildings, and each other; drones can fall out of the sky; drones can produce noise pollution; drones can produce visual pollution if put to the same use that everything from brick walls to urinals has been put to, viz. advertising; drones can be used to spy on us whether by private or public entities; police surveillance with drones will violate our Fourth Amendment rights as all existing technologies are currently used to do; police forces that view the public as their enemy will deploy drones armed with rubber bullets, tear gas, or other weapons; and ultimately a program run by the U.S. military and the CIA that has targeted and murdered three U.S. citizens that we know of, along with thousands of other men, women, and children, may eventually find it acceptable to include U.S. soil in its otherwise unlimited field of operations.

Contrary concerns over banning or restricting drones include these: drones could conceivably be put to positive or non-offensive use by departments fighting forest fires, first responders in rural areas, farmers, artistic photographers, real estate agents, tourism offices, and hobbyists; states and localities are limited in their control of air space by federal law.

Few if any localities have thus far made their desires known or created ordinances to regulate the use of drones, but state legislatures, including the General Assembly here in Virginia, are taking up bills.  With the City of Charlottesville, where I live, planning to address the issue on February 19th, I've taken a look at (and plagiarized liberally from) numerous draft resolutions, including those from several cities that are now considering taking action: Berkeley, Buffalo, Madison, Ft. Wayne, et alia, as well as a draft resolution from anti-drone activist Nick Mottern, and one from the Rutherford Institute.  The result is the following draft resolution that I offer for consideration, comment, and modification:

A RESOLUTION

WHEREAS, United States airspace is the busiest in the world, with up to 87,000 flights per day;

WHEREAS, unmanned aircraft (drones) have an accident rate seven times higher than general aviation and 353 times higher than commercial aviation;

WHEREAS, the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 directs the FAA to create regulations that will enable drones to fly throughout U.S. airspace by September, 2015;

WHEREAS, small drones, 25 pounds or under, are now permitted to fly in general airspace below 400 feet for the use of police and first responders, with FAA permission;

WHEREAS, drones do not have the same capability to avoid other aircraft as aircraft piloted by humans;

WHEREAS, drones have at times gotten out of human control, in at least one instance having to be shot down, and drones are susceptible to electronic interference and having control seized electronically by unauthorized operators;

WHEREAS, drones can be used to film individuals or groups around the clock, in public spaces and through the windows of private homes, and to continuously monitor cell-phone and text messaging;

WHEREAS, drones are being developed that will use computerized facial images to target individuals and, once launched, to operate, autonomously, without further human involvement, to locate and kill those individuals;

WHEREAS, Vanguard Defense Industries has confirmed that its Shadowhawk drone, which is already being sold to law enforcement agencies throughout the country, will be outfitted with weapons, including a grenade launcher or a shotgun, tear gas, and rubber buckshot, and such aerial police weapons send a clear and chilling message to those attempting to exercise their First Amendment rights by taking to the streets and protesting government policies -- the message: stay home;

WHEREAS, the rapid implementation of drone technology throughout the United States poses a serious threat to the privacy and constitutional rights of the American people, including the residents of Charlottesville;

WHEREAS, the federal government and the Commonwealth of Virginia have thus far failed to provide reasonable legal restrictions on the use of drones within the United States;

WHEREAS, police departments throughout the country have begun implementing drone technology absent any guidance or guidelines from law makers;

WHEREAS, the federal use of drones provides a poor precedent for their domestic use, drone wars having turned public opinion in Yemen and Pakistan dramatically against the U.S. government, drone strikes having killed far more non-targeted people than those targeted, targeted victims having included men, women, and children known by name and unknown, no targeted individual having been charged with any crime, no legislative or judicial or public oversight having been permitted, "double-tap" strikes having been used to target rescuers of victims of previous strikes, children and adults having been traumatized by the presence of drones, over a million people having fled their homes in heavily droned areas, drones having killed Americans in accidental "friendly fire," drone operators having been targeted and killed on a base in Afghanistan, drone pilots having suffered post-traumatic stress disorder at a higher rate than other pilots as a result of watching families for long periods of time before killing them, and drones having proved a tremendously costly expense for taxpayers;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, calls on the United States Congress and the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, to adopt legislation prohibiting the use of drones for surveillance, and prohibiting information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into a Federal or State court, and precluding the domestic use of drones equipped with anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, calls on the U.S. government to immediately end its practice of extrajudicial killing, whether by drone or any other means.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, declares Charlottesville a No Drone Zone, and instructs the City Attorney to perform the necessary legal tasks to transform this declaration into an Ordinance wherein drones are hereby banned from airspace over the City of Charlottesville, including drones in transit, to the extent compatible with federal law. 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that violation of the ordinance shall be considered a misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000, and each offense that is more than one offense of flying a drone within said airspace will be considered to be an additional misdemeanor, with jail time and fines based on the number of violations. 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that exemptions will be made for hobbyists to fly remote controlled model aircraft and other unmanned aerial vehicles in specified areas, away from dwellings and the urban cityscape of people and buildings as long as those devices are not equipped to monitor any person or private residence or equipped with any weapon.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that drones will not be purchased, leased, borrowed, tested, contracted or otherwise used by any agency of the City of Charlottesville.

Cville v. Drones

Moved from the 19th to the 4th!

Charlottesville Va City Council has chosen to place on its agenda for the February 19th 4th meeting a resolution opposing, restricting, or banning drones. (This date has been confirmed; it is the 19th.)

Here's a draft resolution.

Here's why Drones Are a Local Issue.

Sign up if you plan to be there.

The Virginia General Assembly has already been considering legislation on drones. It's important for Virginia localities to make their voices heard.

The federal government has authorized the flight of 30,000 drones in U.S. skies. Will proper restrictions be in place in time?

In the absence of laws, local police departments around the country are establishing their own practices. If those localities that care about civil liberties stay silent, those that don't will create de facto law for all of us.

Americans are spied on without warrant or probable cause using every existing technology. Without serious restrictions and penalties in place, drones will be no exception.

Police departments that want to use drones to target protesters with pepper spray and rubber bullets will make the argument that this approach protects the police. But a better way to protect the police would be to instruct them to assist the public in exercising first amendment rights, rather than treating the public as an enemy in a low-intensity war.

If you live in Charlottesville please let the city council hear your support and advice:
council@charlottesville.org.

If you live in or near Charlottesville, please be at the meeting on February 19th 4th, 7 pm in City Hall, get there very early if you want to speak.

Learn more about drones:
http://warisacrime.org/category/categories/drones.

FLYER: PDF.

MLK Would Be Ashamed

Talk Nation Radio: Reese Erlich on Bahrain and Syria

Bahrain and Syria: in one the United States supports a brutal dictatorship against a nonviolent movement for human rights.  In the other the United States supports violent opposition to the government in the name of human rights.  All is not as it appears.  We speak with Reese Erlich.

Reese Erlich's history in journalism goes back 45 years. He first worked as a staff writer and research editor for Ramparts, an investigative reporting magazine published in San Francisco from 1963 to 1975. Today he works as a full-time print and broadcast, freelance reporter. He reports regularly for National Public Radio, CBC, ABC (Australia), Radio Deutsche Welle and Market Place Radio. His articles appear in the Global Post and Christian Science Monitor. His television documentaries have aired on PBS stations nationwide.

Erlich’s book, Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You, co-authored with Norman Solomon, became a best seller in 2003. The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of US Policy and the Middle East Crisis was published in 2007. Dateline Havana: The Real Story of US Policy and the Future of Cuba was published in 2009. Conversations with Terrorists: Middle East Leaders on Politics, Violence and Empire, was published in 2010.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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How Unalienable Is Life?

Meet the new boss who, upon his inauguration, declared that the right to life is unalienable.  Let me be clear, that doesn't mean he can't take yours.

In fact, he runs through a list of men, women, and children on Tuesdays, hung over from inaugurations or not, and picks whom to murder and murders them.

We're not supposed to call it murder, of course, because it's properly assassination.  Except that no public figures are being assassinated; 98% of those killed are not targeted at all; some are targeted for suspicious behavior without knowing their names; one type of suspicious behavior is the act of retrieving the dead and wounded from a previous strike; and those targeted are not targeted for politics but for resisting illegal occupations.  Moreover, an assassination is a type of murder.

We're not supposed to call it murder, nonetheless, because it sounds more Objective to call it killing.  But murder is a type of killing, specifically unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought.  Killing by accident is not murder and not what the president is doing.  Killing legally is not murder and not what the president is doing -- at least not as far as anyone knows or according to any interpretation of law put forward.  Killing indirectly by encouraging poverty or environmental destruction or denial of healthcare may be things the president is doing, but they are not murder and not drone wars. 

Imagine if a non-president went through a list of everyone in your local elementary school, picked out whom to kill, and ordered them killed.  You would call it murder.  You would call it mass-murder.  You would call it conspiracy to commit mass murder.  Why would electing that mass murderer president change anything?  Why would moving the victims abroad change anything? 

KILL ANYTHING THAT MOVES

"Kill Anything That Moves" is the title of an important new book from Nick Turse, covering the mass-murdering enterprise known in Vietnam as the American War, and in the United States as the Vietnam War.  Turse documents that policy decisions handed down from the top led consistently, over a period of years, to the ongoing slaughter of millions of civilians in Vietnam.  Much of the killing was done by hand or with guns or artillery, but the lion's share came in the form of 3.4 million combat sorties flown by U.S. and South Vietnamese aircraft between 1965 and 1972.  Air strikes are President Obama's primary instrument of foreign relations as well; he ordered 20,000 air strikes in his first term. 

The well-known Mylai massacre in Vietnam was not an aberration, but an almost typical incident and by no means the worst of them.  Turse documents a pattern of ongoing atrocities so pervasive that one is compelled to begin viewing the war itself as one large atrocity.  Something similar could be done for the endless war on everywhere that we are currently living through.  Scattered atrocities and scandals in Afghanistan and Iraq are interpreted as freak occurrences having nothing to do with the general thrust of the war.  And yet they are its essence. 

"Kill anything that moves," was an order given to U.S. troops in Vietnam indoctrinated with racist hatred for the Vietnamese.  "360 degree rotational fire" was a command on the streets of Iraq given to U.S. troops similarly conditioned to hate, and similarly worn down with physical exhaustion.  

Dead children in Vietnam resulted in comments like "Tough shit, they grow up to be VC."  One of the U.S. helicopter killers in Iraq heard in the Collateral Murder video says of dead children, "Well it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle." 

In Vietnam anyone dead was the enemy, and sometimes weapons would be planted on them.  In drone wars, any dead males are militants, and in Iraq and Afghanistan weapons have often been planted on victims. 

The U.S. military during the Vietnam War shifted from keeping prisoners toward murdering prisoners, just as the Endless War on Everywhere has shifted from incarceration toward murder with the change in president from Bush to Obama.

In Vietnam, as in Iraq, rules of engagement were broadened until the rules allowed shooting at anything that moved.  In Vietnam, as in Iraq, the U.S. military sought to win people over by terrorizing them.  In  Vietnam, as in Afghanistan, whole villages were eliminated. 

In Vietnam, refugees suffered in horrible camps, while in Afghanistan children are rapidly freezing to death in a refugee camp near Kabul. 

Torture was common in Vietnam, including water-boarding.  But it wasn't at that time yet depicted in a Hollywood movie as a positive occurrence.

Napalm, white phosphorus, cluster bombs, and other widely despised and banned weapons were used in Vietnam as in the current war. 

Vast environmental destruction was part of both wars. 

Gang rape was a part of both wars. 

The mutilation of corpses was common in both wars.

Bulldozers flattened people's villages in Vietnam, not unlike what U.S.-made bulldozers do now to Palestine. 

Mass murders of civilians in Vietnam, as in Afghanistan, tended to be driven by a desire for revenge.

New weaponry allowed U.S. troops in Vietnam to shoot long distances, resulting in a habit of shooting first and investigating later, a habit now developed for drone strikes.

Self-appointed teams on the ground and in helicopters went "hunting" for natives to kill in Vietnam as in Afghanistan. 

And of course, Vietnamese leaders were targeted for assassination.

Then, as now, the atrocities and "war crimes" were committed with impunity as part of the crime that was the war itself.  Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say: because there was impunity then, it remains today.

Turse discovered that the military investigated numerous accusations, documented incidents, and then buried the reports.  So did others in the government.  So did the media, includingNewsweek which buried a major investigation.  Those who engaged in that coverup don't have on their hands the blood that had already been spilled, but do have on their hands the blood that has been spilled since in similar wars that might have been prevented.

Vietnamese victims who saw their loved ones tortured, murdered, and mutilated are -- in some cases -- still furious with rage decades later.  It's not hard to calculate how long such rage will last in the nations now being "liberated."

The crowd that turns out and shuts down Washington, D.C., for Obama inaugurations imagines that it is advancing peace and justice.  But it does so by cheering for one of two teams regardless of that team's performance.  Were that size crowd to turn out just once for a substantive demand, for peace or justice or any of the good causes favored by the people involved, a real victory would be obtainable.

If the crowd learned this week that Obama is murdering people, and returned next week to demand an end to the murders, the resulting movement would indeed end them.  Not only am I sure of that, but I hold it to be self-evident.

The African-American Army

Escaped slaves fought on the British side, which promised to free them, during the American war for independence for white men.  But nobody liked to talk about that much after the French won the war, although -- come to think of it -- nobody much likes to talk about the French winning the war, or for that matter about the big losers being, not the British but the Native Americans. 

White folks weren't eager to arm slaves, although an NRA-type genius just said on U.S. televisions this week that if slaves had only been armed they wouldn't have been slaves.  The militias famously protected by the Second Amendment included, perhaps primarily, white militias aimed at crushing slave rebellions.  Escaped slaves fought for the Union in the Civil War, which may not have been an insignificant factor in Lincoln's decision to announce their freedom. 

The massacring of Native Americans conditioned black troops as well as white for the brutalities they would inflict in the name of freedom and democracy on the Philippines and Cuba.  Imperial wars abroad brought with them huge surges of violence at home.  During the days in which the United States liberated Filipinos and Cubans from their lives, thousands of lynchings and hundreds of riots brought freedom and liberty to African Americans at home.  While Haitians were occupied, blacks were attacked in Harlem and Alabama. 

African Americans were included in the U.S. military during World War II, in segregated units, and often in non-combat units.  The pretense was that they couldn't fight, never had, never would.  And yet, just as they had before, many did -- with less training, less equipment, and in riskier positions.  And many came to grasp what it all meant.  A jim crow nation that locked up Japanese Americans and rioted against blacks and Mexicans, slaughtered innocent civilians for imperial gain in the name of opposing imperialism.  "Just carve on my tombstone," said an African American soldier in 1942, "here lies a black man who died fighting a yellow man for the protection of the white man."

The draft was segregated.  The military was segregated.  Blacks were largely confined to the support labor that is now hired out to contractors.  When FDR was finally pushed to support blacks' participation in the army, he insisted that they make up no more than 10 percent and be kept in segregated units.  And yet, when African American soldiers in World War II weren't facing the Germans or the Japanese, they were still at great risk of violent assault by white U.S. soldiers, not to mention the abuses they would face back home after their "service."  In Guam, U.S. commanders allowed white troops to prepare for assaults on Japanese troops by abusing African American sailors, including by tossing live grenades at them.

African Americans launched a Double Victory Campaign, whose symbol was two V for victory signs, desiring as they did a victory over fascism abroad and at home.  Some saw through the military madness, understood the connection between violence abroad and at home, and refused to enlist -- or got themselves declared mentally unfit, as Malcolm X did.  Black soldiers resisted, struck, and mutinied.  In April 1945, sixty black officers defied a ban on their use of an officers' club and were arrested.  Another group defied the ban, and they were arrested.  And then another.

Before he integrated baseball, Jackie Robinson refused to move to the back of a bus on Fort Hood. 

A budding movement could be recognized that was also forming within U.S. prisons where black and white conscientious objectors were confronting domestic injustice in new ways.

As black and white troops prepared to return from France, black soldiers had their guns confiscated, while white soldiers guarding German prisoners kept theirs and turned them on the African American troops as well.  Lest you imagine this the hypocrisy of a few bad apples who failed to grasp the great moral purpose of the war, let's not forget that as the victors put the Nazis on trial for crimes including human experimentation, the United States was giving syphilis to Guatemalans to see what would happen, just as it had long been and would long continue studying (and not treating) African Americans with syphilis in Alabama.  In fact, German and Italian troops being held prisoners of war helped white U.S. troops enforce segregation.  And Nazi war criminals found an eager employer in the Pentagon.  Black veterans of World War II were shot and lynched in such numbers in 1946 that a Chicago Defender columnist wrote that "the Negro press still reads like war."

Returning black troops faced "jim crow shock," when they imagined they'd just killed and risked dying for freedom but got home to find none.  Some were more equal than others under the G.I. Bill and within U.S. society.  Compared to the mythical "spitting on the troops" after the Vietnam War or the lack of interest or awareness during the -- yes -- still ongoing endless war on everywhere that started in 2001, this was a heavy blow.  It led to suicides and violence of all variety. 

It did not lead to complete rejection of the military and military "service."  For African Americans disproportionately, the military was the best available means of obtaining a paycheck or any sort of skilled employment, as well as a way to prove one's manhood and the right to citizenship.  Discrimination within the military, rather than the existence of the military and its draining impact on other possible pursuits and investments, was enemy number one.  Everything currently said about gays or women in the military was said about blacks in the military, and -- as in the newer controversies -- even those claiming to oppose militarism prioritized equal access to participate fully in it.

In 1948, A. Phillip Randolph warned,

"I would like to make clear to the Senate Armed Services Committee and through you, to Congress and the American people that passage now of a Jim Crow draft may only result in a mass civil disobedience movement along the lines of the magnificent struggles of the people of India against British imperialism." 

Senator Wayne Morse -- remembered, when he is remembered, as an opponent of the war on Vietnam -- charged Randolph with treason.

Truman announced an integrated military, with an executive order, much as Obama closed Guantanamo.  Blacks joined up in 1948 and 1949, mainly for the money, expecting an integrated military but finding a completely segregated one.  Even brothels providing sex slaves to soldiers in Japan were segregated for black and white. 

During the war on Korea, however, the military moved in the direction of integration, and of full combat roles for blacks.  The draft disproportionately brought blacks into the military, while at the same time they lost the publicly understood disadvantage of being kept away from combat and acquired the disadvantage understood by soldiers of being sent into combat -- sent into more dangerous combat than others, in fact, and accused of cowardice as a reward. 

While black soldiers like James Forman were coming to recognize their participation in foreign occupations for what it was, blacks were enlisting, reenlisting, and being drafted in record numbers -- largely for economic reasons, needing the employment and lacking qualifying grounds for deferment, such as college.  From the Korean War forward, blacks were no longer kept out of the U.S. military through quota limits, but made up a greater percentage of the military than of the population at large.

At the same time, in contrast to World War II, the war on Korea met with opposition from many prominent African Americans, and a movement against militarism began to grow, as did the movement at home for civil rights.  African American newspapers in the north began sending their war correspondents to places like Mississippi.  J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant murdered Emmett Till in 1955 for supposedly whistling at a white woman.  Milam said he'd done to Till exactly what he'd done to Germans during World War II -- the war that never stops giving.  Conscientious objectors Bayard Rustin, Ella Baker, William Worthy, James Farmer, James Lawson, and Bob Moses organized in the U.S. South against violence of all varieties, joined by John Lewis, Julian Bond, Diane Nash, and Gwen Patton.

Vietnam was the same story: ever more African Americans in the military, and yet ever stronger activism against it, including resistance by GIs.  The day three SNCC volunteers -- Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney disappeared were found -- was also the day of the pretended Gulf of Tonkin incident.  Robert McNamara in 1966 announced Project 100,000, aimed at lifting 100,000 men out of poverty by moving them into the military and sending them to war.  Between 1966 and 1971, the project brought 400,000 men into the military, 40 percent of them African American.  Increasingly, through the 1960s, African Americans' opinions turned against war.  The Last Poets' 1970 "The Black Soldier" said:

"Here's to you black soldier
"fightin' in Vietnam
"helping your oppressor
"oppress another man."

I found this and a detailed discussion of much of the above in a new book by Kimberley L. Phillips called "War: What Is It Good For? Black Freedom Struggles and the U.S. Military From World War II to Iraq."  The author's father fought in Vietnam.  Her parents were unable to buy a home in San Luis Obispo because, "local residents' equal disdain for the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement meant no one would sell a black soldier a home."

Phillips, who is the dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Brooklyn College, writes that "since the Vietnam War, the armed forces have served as a de facto jobs program for black Americans and a symbol of a gain in their long struggle for full citizenship.  In a postindustrial economy of the late twentieth century, the military has provided steady work and important benefits, including health care, child care, and education.  For increasing numbers of black immigrants, military service has provided a step toward legal citizenship."  That hideous step is being imposed on all sorts of immigrants today.

African Americans disproportionately opposed wars, enlisted in the military, and gave their loyalty to the Democratic Party.  So, what happened when a Republican President led major wars that even white people opposed?  Between 2000 and 2005, black enlistments in the military dropped 40%, and black presence in the military 25%.  These trends continued through 2008, at which point they began to turn back around.

Maybe that's the economy's fault.  Maybe it's misperceptions that the war is over.  Or maybe it's a question of what the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize President looks like.  But the U.S. military is targeting Africa in a big new way, and targeting Asia and the Middle East in a big familiar way.  Why should anyone participate in oppressing anyone anywhere for the Pentagon?

A poet in Qatar was recently given a life-sentence in prison for reciting a poem.  This is a translation:

Oh, Prime Minister, Mohammad al-Ghannoushi, if we consider your power, it doesn’t come from the Constitution.
We are not nostalgic for Ben Ali, nor for his times, which represent merely a dot on the line of history
Dictatorship is a repressive and tyrannical system and Tunisia has announced its people's revolt.
If we criticize, it is to decry what is base and disgraceful
If we praise, we do it in first person
The revolt began with the blood of the people rising up and has painted liberation on the face of every living creature.
We know they'll do what they wish and that all victories bear tragic events,
But pity the country that lets itself be governed by ignorance and believes in the strength of the American army,
And pity that country that starves its people while the government rejoices of its economic success
And pity that country whose people go to sleep a citizen and wake up poor and stateless
Pity that system that inherits repression
Until when shall we be slaves of all that selfishness?
When shall the people realize their worthiness?
That worthiness that is hidden from them and that they soon forget?
Why don't governments ever choose a way to end a tyrannical power system that is aware of its disease
and at the same time poisons its people who know that tomorrow a successor shall occupy that very seat of power?
He doesn't take into account that the country bears its name and that of his family,
the self-same country that preserves its glory in the glories of the people,
the people that answers with one voice to a single destiny: in the face of the oppressor we are all Tunisian!
Arab governments and those who lead them, all are thieves, to the same degree.
That question that causes sleepless nights for those who ask it will not find an answer from those who embody officialdom.

Nixon Went to China, Who Will Go to Iran?

Iranians are now beginning to die for lack of medicines kept out by U.S.-imposed sanctions.  I recently questioned (and videoed) former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright about her notorious defense of sanctions that killed over a half million young Iraqi children.  She said she'd been wrong to say what she'd said.  She did not comment on the appropriateness of what she'd done.  I asked her if what we were doing to Iran was also wrong, and she replied, "No, absolutely not."

So, somehow it is good and proper for us to be killing Iranian children -- although perhaps not to be talking about it.

I suspect that some of the reasons why we imagine there is a greater good being served by such actions are the same reasons no U.S. president will go to Iran in the manner in which Nixon went to China.  Of course, the common political wisdom in the United States holds that the president who went to China had to be a Republican.  By the same logic, the president who goes to Iran must be a militarist power-mad servant of the corporate oligarchy from the Republican party and not a militarist power-mad servant of the corporate oligarchy from the Democratic party.  That wouldn't do at all.  And yet, U.S. conduct toward Iran has varied little from Bush to Clinton to Bush Jr. to Obama/Clinton, H.  A hopeless spiral of delusional counter-productive approaches toward the Islamic Republic of Iran needs to be broken by a 180 degree turn, and it won't make much substantive difference who does it, as long as it doesn't come too late.

Whether the authors intended exactly that or not, the above is the lesson I take away from an excellent new book by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett called "Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran."

It has been U.S. policy for decades not to engage with Iran, and -- misleading rhetoric notwithstanding -- it still is.  "More than any of his predecessors, in fact, Obama has given engagement a bad name, by claiming to have reached out to Tehran and failed when the truth is he never really tried." 

The Leveretts trace official U.S. policy on Iran to a trio of myths: the myths of irrationality, illegitimacy, and isolation. 

 

IRRATIONALITY:

The evidence of irrationality on the part of the Iranian people or the Iranian government is very slim.  I can find much more irrationality in the U.S. public and government.  Iranians, in fact, are better at distinguishing between our people and our government than we seem to be at making that distinction on their side.  Iran has funded Hizballah and HAMAS, and we call those groups terrorists.  But we call any militants opposing Pentagon interests terrorists.  Iranian leaders have made comments verging on anti-Semitic (and routinely distorted into outrageous anti-Semitism), but nothing approaching the things Anwar Sadat or Mahmoud Abbas said or wrote before they were deemed rational actors with whom the U.S. and Israel could (and did) work. 

Iran's policies have been defensive, not aggressive.  Iran has not threatened to attack or attacked others.  Iran has refused to retaliate against chemical weapons attacks or terrorism or our shooting down a commercial jet or our funding efforts within Iran to manipulate its elections or our training of militants seeking to overthrow Iran's government.  Iran has refused to develop chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.  Unlike Britain, Russia, or the United States, when provoked Iran has refused to invade Afghanistan, choosing wise reflection over hot-tempered anger.  Look at the polling across the Middle East: people fear the United States and Israel, not Iran. 

Iran's approach to the United States over the years has been rational and forbearant.  In 1995 the Islamic Republic of Iran offered its first foreign oil development contract to the United States, which turned it down.  Iran aided President Clinton by shipping arms to Bosnia, which Clinton turned around and condemned Iran for when the story became public.  In 2001, the President of Iran requested permission to pray for 911 victims at the site of the World Trade Center and offered to assist in counterterrorism plans, but was turned down.  Iran assisted the United States with its invasion of Afghanistan and was labeled "evil" in return.  The current president of Iran wrote long friendly letters to President Bush and President Obama, both of whom ignored them except to allow their staffs to publicly mock them.  The Iranian government repeatedly proposed substantive dialogue, offering to put everything on the table, including its nuclear energy program, and was turned down.  The Obama administration gave Turkey and Brazil terms it was sure Iran wouldn't agree to; Iran agreed to them; and the White House rejected them, choosing instead to grow outraged at Brazil and Turkey.

Iran tried to believe in the change in Obama's (no doubt domestically intended) rhetoric, but never encountered any substance, only fraud and hostility.  That Iran attempts civil relations with a nation surrounding and threatening it, imposing deadly sanctions on it, funding terrorism within its borders, and publicly mocking its sincere approaches is indication of either rationality or something almost Christ-like (I'm inclined to go with rationality).

 

ILLEGITIMACY:

War is immoral, illegal, and counter-productive.  That doesn't change if the people bombed are living or suffering under an illegitimate government.  Here in the United States an unaccountable Supreme Court rewrites our basic laws, unverifiable privately owned and operated machines count our votes, candidates are chosen by wealth, media coverage is dolled out by a corporate cartel, presidents disregard the legislature, and high crimes and misdemeanors are not prosecuted.  And yet, nonetheless -- amazing to tell -- we'd rather not be bombed.  I don't give a damn whether this scholar or that scholar believes the Iranian government is legitimate or not; I don't want any human beings killed in my name with my money.

That being said, common claims of illegitimacy for Iran's government are myths.  Western experts have predicted its imminent collapse (as well as its imminent development of nukes) for decades.  Iranian elections are far more credible than U.S. ones.  A government need not be secular to be legitimate.  I might favor secular governments, but I'm not an Iranian.  I'm a citizen of a government that has been seeking to control Iran's government for over a half century since overthrowing it in 1953; I don't get to have a voice.  Iranians are gaining in rights, in education, in health, in life expectancy (the opposite in many ways of the course we are on in the United States).  Iranian women used to be permitted to dress as they liked but not to pursue the education and career they liked.  Now that has largely been reversed.  Iranian women are guaranteed paid maternity leave that outstrips our standards.  Iran's approach to drugs is more rational than our own, its approach to homosexuality more mixed than we suspect, its investment in science cutting edge. 

All of that being said, the Iranian government abuses its people in ways that need to be addressed by its people and should have been directly addressed by the Leveretts' book.

I also want to quibble with the Leveretts' account of the 1979 revolution in light of the views of some who were there at the time.  I'm not convinced that Khomeini led and directed the revolution from the start.  I'm willing to believe that secular pro-democracy activists did not represent the views of all Iranians.  There's no question that significant support swung to Khomeini and the mullahs who claimed power.  But Khomeini's supposed leadership was news in the West before it was ever heard of in Tehran.  The Shah was not opposed for his secularism, but for his surveillance, imprisonment, torture, murder, greed, expropriation of wealth, and subservience to foreigners.  The Leveretts admit that Khomeini originally proposed a government with less power for himself and then revised his plans, but they claim that he only did so in response to secularists' insistence that he hold no power at all.  Not the strongest defense of tyranny I've ever encountered. 

The authors then cite a public referendum of December 2-3, 1979, in which, they say, "the new constitution was approved by 98 percent of participating voters."  Sounds impressive, right?  Guess what choices the voters were offered: an Islamic republic or the Shah!  Of course they chose the Islamic republic! But to turn around and claim that 98% voted against a secular republic is misleading.  During the 2003-2013 U.S. war on Iraq, a U.S. Democratic-Party group called MoveOn.org polled its membership.  Did they support House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plan for more war or President George W. Bush's?  Of course, they overwhelmingly chose Pelosi's.  MoveOn then turned around and claimed that their people opposed Congresswoman Barbara Lee's proposal to end the war.  Such votes should be given no more dignity than they deserve.

How the government of the 1980s came to be does not tell us everything we should know about today's government, but nothing you could tell me about today's government would have any relevance to the morality of bombing the people of Iran.

 

ISOLATION:

The United States has sought to isolate Iran and failed dramatically, with Iran now chairing the Nonaligned Movement.  It has sought to use economic and other pressures to overthrow the government, and instead strengthened it.  In 2011, Obama opened a "virtual embassy" to propagandize the Iranian people for "regime change."  In 2012 it removed the terrorist designation for an opposition terrorist group called the MEK.  Imagine if Iran did such things to us, rather than just being Muslim or whatever it is that it's actually done to us.  The Leveretts present a long and unrelenting history of incompetence and irrationality . . . from the U.S. side.  They have been reduced, reasonably enough, to something that sounds ridiculous: longing for Richard Nixon.

I don't expect you to understand
After you've caused so much pain
But then again, you're not to blame
You're just a human, a victim of the insane
We're afraid of everyone
Afraid of the sun
Isolation
The sun will never disappear
But the world may not have many years
Isolation

--John Lennon

Why We Need a Mossadegh Legacy Institute

A Mossadegh Legacy Institute has been created.  If you're not sure what that means, read a few of the endorsements:

 

In full agreement with Cindy Sheehan, especially where she emphasizes the American nature of this responsibility, of this moral wound [see below], I am very glad to learn about what you are doing, and pleased to endorse the mission of the Mossadegh Legacy Institute.

I really wish I could do more, but demands are so intense, it’s just impossible I am afraid.

Prof. Noam Chomsky
http://chomsky.info/index.htm
Honorary Chair of the Board of Endorsers, Mossadegh Legacy Institute (MLI)


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The mission of this historic initiative should be (and indeed is) primarily an AMERICAN moral responsibility.

Why? Because the temporarily successful violent overthrow of the non-violent "George Washington of Iran" was the mother of almost all profoundly destructive subsequent errors of state judgement in the recent history of this country, at least since the deeply misguided CIA coup of August 19, 1953. Had the U.S. government not overthrown Iran's young democratic government 60 years ago, history would have unfolded quite differently, and many of today's conflicts would have been avoided.

So I firmly believe, that "We the People" should view the Mossadegh Legacy Institute (MLI) as a truly patriotic opportunity to help rehabilitate the collective conscience of our own nation. In other words, this is a neglected AMERICAN moral wound in need of authentic examination and healing, not just an Iranian, Middle Eastern, or "global South" festering wound.

Cindy Sheehan
www.cindysheehanssoapbox.com
Member of the Board of Endorsers, Mossadegh Legacy Institute (MLI)

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*******

As a U.S. citizen with a keen interest in history, I believe that Americans should be aware of Mohammad Mossadegh (1882-1967), the former Prime Minister of Iran, who attempted to nationalize the Iranian oil industry--which had previously been 80% "owned" by the company we know now as the BP, and 20% owned by Iran.

In 1953 the government of Great Britain obtained the use of the American CIA to overthrow Mossadegh's democratic government. As a result, the Shah of Iran was returned to power, and ruled with a dictatorial iron fist, until he (in turn) was overthrown in 1979, by the Islamic Revolution of Iran, led by Ayatollah Khomeini.

Mohammad Mossadegh was a brilliant, well educated leader who could have changed the course of history if his government  had remained in power for a few more years. His life and legacy is a subject all people (especially Americans--who need to learn from history) should know about.

This is why I have joined this historic initiative.

Bruce Bridegroom

Film-maker, Historian, and Attorney at the Tucson, Arizona Law Offices of Bridegroom and Hayes -- http://www.orovalleyaz.gov/Assets/_assets/econ_dev/pdf/Film+Festival+Press+Release.pdf
Co-Initiator of the MLI

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*******

The legacy of Mohammad Mossadegh, in particular his commitment to democracy, non-violence, and international law, serves a beacon and a moral example, not only for Iranian pro-democracy activists, but indeed for the entire world -- a unique legacy that should be studied carefully, remembered, and practiced. Thus, I am happy to endorse the work of the Mossadegh Legacy Institute.

Nader Hashemi
Director of Center for Middle East Studies; Assistant Professor of Middle East and
Islamic Politics, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver
http://www.du.edu/korbel/docs/fac_hashemi_cv2012.pdf
Member of the Board of Endorsers, Mossadegh Legacy Institute (MLI)

*******
*******

Dear Moji Agha:

I congratulate you [for starting] this initiative. In a small way the Mossadegh Legacy Institute (MLI) is a beginning of an American acknowledgement of the profound harm done to the people of Iran by initiating a chain of political events that started with the CIA engineered coup that restored the autocratic Shah to power and led to a revolutionary process hijacked by repressive theocrats, in the name of Islam.

I admire very much the legacy of Dr. Mossadegh, his passion for democracy, justice, and his dedication to the Iranian people and nation that led him to challenge the exploitative arrangement that allowed foreign oil companies to deprive the country of its resource wealth.

For these reasons I will be proud to be listed among the endorsers of MLI's mission statement--With my best wishes.

Prof. Richard A. Falk
The UN's Special Rapporteur on human rights in occupied Palestine
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_A._Falk
Member of the Board of Endorsers, Mossadegh Legacy Institute (MLI)


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*******

As Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh's actions were motivated by a selfless dedication to improving the living conditions of the people his democratically elected government had the responsibility to serve. Accordingly, he courageously resisted the entreaties of special interest groups and foreign governments, whose immoral influence at the top echelons of government have always created havoc throughout the world, as is evident today when considering Israel's influence on American foreign policy.
So I think Dr. Mossadegh should be honored with a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his legacy, which demonstrates that freedom and democracy are possible anywhere in the world. Honoring the "Elder of Ahmad Abad" in this manner would also bestow dignity to the Nobel Prize Committee itself.

Richard Forer
Author: Breakthrough: Transforming Fear Into Compassion - A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict
http://www.redress.cc/zionism/rforer20120716
Member of the Board of Endorsers, Mossadegh Legacy Institute (MLI)

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*******

ENDORSEMENT OF THE MOSSADEGH LEGACY INSTITUTE (MLI)

Here is an organization with the right mission in the right moment, a mission encapsulated in its perfect choice of name.  

Mohammad Mossadegh is remembered, when he is remembered, as a man who worked to better the lives of Iranians, who resisted foreign control of his nation and its natural resources, and who understood war to be the ultimate evil.  Mossadegh's tools were oratory, organizing, and integrity.  Not only did he choose not to use violence, but he was willing to give up power peacefully rather than allow a civil war to be waged in his name.  
 

David and Wes Image

Westerners should find Mossadegh's legacy valuable for two reasons.  First, his was an Iranian government more democratic and secular in nature than some others before and since.  Second, what was done to his government is a critical historical lesson for those not well-informed on this shameful tragedy.  When the CIA overthrew Mossadegh to install a U.S.-friendly dictatorship, it poisoned U.S.-Iranian relations from that day to this, and it developed a model for poisoning U.S. relations with many other nations, including Guatemala the very next year.

That Iranian people maintain any affection for the American people is a testament to the Iranians' wisdom and rationality.  The U.S. public struggles to match Iranians in that regard.  Understanding our shared and painful history is a necessary part of a process of reconciliation.  Naming streets and landmarks in the United States for Mossadegh is a brilliant and creative idea, as is marking the 60th anniversary of the coup this summer at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, which Mossadegh had symbolically visited not long before the United States threw him out of power.  I hope that work on developing student and cultural exchanges between Iran and the United States might also become part of this project.

I admire and appreciate Mossadegh who would obviously be a better Nobel Peace Prize recipient than the EU or Obama. While I'm pursuing, along with Fredrik Heffermehl and others, a strategy of trying to strictly enforce Alfred Nobel's will, in order to avoid the bestowing of Nobel Peace Prizes on either promoters of war or good humanitarians whose work is not for disarmament and demilitarization, I do believe that Mossadegh is long overdue for recognition. Statues, parks, streets, airports, halls, endowments, and peace rallies ought to be used to honor his legacy and to educate the world.

History is not apart from us.  The United States has never dropped its effort to control Iran and to do so coercively.  I am hopeful that Iran, as a leading nation among the non-aligned nations of our world, can actually lead the United States toward the better elements of its own legacy.  There have been Americans over the decades who have been friends to Iran and have been honored for it.  And there have been times when the United States has made movements in the direction of peace.

Having recently completed a study of the 1928 Kellogg Briand Pact, which bans war, and to which Iran and the United States and 80 some other nations are party, I would like to begin working to encourage Iran to ask the United States to state its intention of complying with the treaty.  Iran could also encourage 100 some additional nations to join the treaty, which can be accomplished simply by notifying the U.S. State Department.  All nations are accepted, by the terms of the treaty itself.  

We should seek out such bright spots in our collective past and renew them.  There was a time in 1951 when Mossadegh visited the United States and the United Nations, as well as the Liberty Bell.  He was the Time magazine person of the year in 1952.  Many respected him, although begrudgingly.  Others truly liked and admired him.  We cannot undo the crime of 1953, the overthrow engineered from the same U.S. embassy that Iranians would occupy to prevent its repetition in 1979.  But we can focus on what the American and Iranian people have in common, which runs far deeper than the disagreements of governments.

And as Americans come to understand the Iranian people, we will be better able to face down a propaganda push for a war on Iran, not only because of our familiarity with the lies that launched the war on Iraq in 2003, not only because of our understanding of the lies that have framed official U.S. discussions of Iran since 1953, but also because the phrase "Iranian collateral damage" will mean to us people whom we know, love, and respect.

David Swanson
Author: WAR IS A LIE
http://davidswanson.org/about
Member of the Board of Endorsers, Mossadegh Legacy Institute (MLI)

Talk Nation Radio: Stephen Zunes on Kerry, Hagel, Brennan, and Obama Part II

Stephen Zunes is a Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he chairs the program in Middle Eastern Studies. Recognized as one the country’s leading scholars of U.S. Middle East policy and of strategic nonviolent action, Professor Zunes discusses the nominations of John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, and John Brennan, and the direction charted for the second term of Obama's presidency.

Total run time: 29:00

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

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