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Talk Nation Radio: Nathan Schneider on the Occupy Apocalypse

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-nathan

Nathan Schneider is an editor of the websites Waging Nonviolence and Killing the Buddah.  He reported on / participated in Occupy Wall Street from before Day 1.  He has now published Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download or get embed code from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

Join Online Chat on War Abolition with David Swanson, Hosted by Medea Benjamin

David Swanson will answer questions about his new book War No More: The Case for Abolition in an online chat hosted by Medea Benjamin.  To take part, just be at Firedoglake.com at 5:00pm ET / 2:00pm PT, Saturday, October 5th, for the FDL Book Salon discussion, which will run for 2 hours. To participate and comment, stop by a few minutes early to register and get a password. To just read along, no registration is required.

Save the Nobel Peace Prize from Itself

On October 11, we'll learn whether the Norwegian Nobel Committee is interested in reviving the Nobel Peace Prize or putting another nail in its coffin.

Alfred Nobel's vision for the Nobel Peace Prize created in his will was a good one and, one might have thought, a legally binding one as well. 

The peace prize is not supposed to be awarded to proponents of war, such as Barack Obama or the European Union. 

It is not supposed to be awarded to good humanitarians whose work has little or nothing to do with peace, such as most other recent recipients.  As with the Carnegie Endowment for Peace which works for almost anything but, in violation of its creator's will, and as with many a "peace and justice" group focused on all sorts of good causes that aren't the elimination of militarism, the Nobel has become a "peace" prize, rather than a peace prize.

The peace prize was not supposed to be given even to war reformers or war civilizers.  The peace prize is for: "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."  The prize is not a lifetime award, but goes, along with the other Nobel prizes, "to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind."

Nobel laureates are not even asked whether they support the abolition of standing armies.  Few have taken the approach of Barack Obama, who praised wars and militarism in his acceptance speech, but many others would almost certainly have to respond in the negative; they do not support and have not worked for the abolition of standing armies.  Nor do they plan to put the prize money to work for that goal.

Norwegian author and lawyer Fredrik Heffermehl has for years now been leading an effort to enforce Alfred Nobel's will.  "Letters Nobel wrote confirm," says Heffermehl, "that he established his prize to fulfill a promise to Bertha von Suttner," a promise to create a prize to fund work toward war abolition. In March 2012 the Swedish Foundations Authority ordered the Nobel Foundation to examine the will and ensure compliance.  When the next award was given to the European Union in blatant violation of the will, former recipients -- including Adolfo Esquivel, Mairead Maguire, and Desmond Tutu -- protested.  The Nobel Foundation has defied the order to comply with the will and applied for a permanent exception from such oversight.

This year there are 259 nominees, 50 of which are organizations.  (Even Heffermehl does not object to the practice of giving the prize meant for a "person" to an organization.)  The list of nominees is kept secret, but some are known.  In Heffermehl's view, none of the favorites for this year's prize legally qualifies. That includes Malala Yousafzai, whose work for education certainly deserves a prize, just not this one.  And it includes Denis Mukwege, whose work to aid victims of sexual violence should be honored, just not with the prize intended for those working to abolish armies.  Civil rights in Russia, freedom of the press in Burma, and many other great causes could end up being awarded with a prize for opposition to war next week. 

The name Steve Pinker has been mentioned along with the proposal that he be given the peace prize as reward for having written a grossly misleading and deceptive book falsely arguing that war is going away on its own.  That would at least be a new twist on the abuse and degradation of this prize, although with Bill Clinton on the nominees list the options for truly disgusting outcomes are not exactly limited.

Heffermehl has found some names on the list that do actually qualify.  They include American professor Richard Falk, Norwegian ambassador Gunnar Garbo, American David Krieger of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, the former director general of UNESCO Federico Mayor of Spain, Swedish peace scientist and organizer Jan Oberg, and American professor of peace education Betty Reardon. "These clearly are," says Heffermehl, "the kind of 'champions of peace' described in Nobel's will, working for global disarmament based on global law." I would include Gene Sharp, from among the list of nominees, as someone who probably qualifies, although there are certainly arguments against it. Among qualified organizations nominated for 2013, in Heffermehl's view, are the International Peace Bureau, the Transnational Foundation, UNESCO, and the Womens' International League for Peace and Freedom.

Other indivuals and organizations on the list, Heffermehl thinks, are "dedicated peacemakers or have courageously exposed the dangers of militarism, but they may not pursue the vision of general and complete disarmament that Nobel saw as essential for world peace."  These include Norwegian Steinar Bryn, Americans Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning and Edward Snowden (the latter not nominated by the 2013 deadline), Israeli Mordechai Vanunu, and Abolition 2000. 

Many of us have urged that Manning be given the prize, arguing with Norman Solomon that "the Nobel Peace Prize needs Bradley Manning more than Bradley Manning needs the Nobel Peace Prize."  There are, however, many options for the Norwegian Nobel Committee to begin to redeem itself, and many options for its continued desecration of a noble ideal.

New Book: WAR NO MORE: The Case for Abolition

By David Swanson, with foreword by Kathy Kelly. Get it here.

This Way

By Kathy Kelly

This article is the foreword to David Swanson's new book, War No More: The Case for Abolition.

I lived in Iraq during the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing. On April 1st, about two weeks into the aerial bombardment, a medical doctor who was one of my fellow peace team members urged me to go with her to the Al Kindi Hospital in Baghdad, where she knew she could be of some help. With no medical training, I tried to be unobtrusive, as families raced into the hospital carrying wounded loved ones. At one point, a woman sitting next to me began to weep uncontrollably. “How I tell him?” she asked, in broken English. “What I say?” She was Jamela Abbas, the aunt of a young man, named Ali. Early in the morning on March 31st, U.S. war planes had fired on her family home, while she alone of all her family was outside. Jamela wept as she searched for words to tell Ali that surgeons had amputated both of his badly damaged arms, close to his shoulders. What’s more, she would have to tell him that she was now his sole surviving relative.

I soon heard how that conversation had gone. It was reported to me that when Ali, aged 12, learned that he had lost both of his arms, he responded by asking “Will I always be this way?”

Returning to the Al Fanar hotel, I hid in my room. Furious tears flowed. I remember pounding my pillow and asking “Will we always be this way?” 

David Swanson reminds me to look to humanity’s incredible achievements in resisting war, in choosing the alternatives which we have yet to show our full power to realize.

A hundred years ago, Eugene Debs campaigned tirelessly in the U.S. to build a better society, where justice and equality would prevail and ordinary people would no longer be sent to fight wars on behalf of tyrannical elites. From 1900 to 1920 Debs ran for president in each of five elections. He waged his 1920 campaign from inside the Atlanta prison to which he’d been sentenced for sedition for having spoken vigorously against U.S. entry into World War I. Insisting that wars throughout history have always been fought for purposes of conquest and plunder, Debs had distinguished between the master class that declares wars and the subjugated who fight the battles. “The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose,” said Debs in the speech for which he was imprisoned, “while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose—especially their lives.”

Debs hoped to create a mindset throughout the American electorate that withstood propaganda and rejected war. It was no easy process. As a labor historian writes, “With no radio and television spots, and with little sympathetic coverage of progressive, third party causes, there was no alternative but to travel incessantly, one city or whistle-stop at a time, in searing heat or numbing cold, before crowds large or small, in whatever hall, park or train station where a crowd could be assembled.”

He didn’t prevent U.S. entry into World War I, but Swanson tells us in his 2011 book, When the World Outlawed War, there came a point in U.S. history, in 1928, when wealthy elites decided that it was in their enlightened self-interest to negotiate the Kellogg-Briand Pact, intended to avert future wars, and to prevent future U.S. governments from seeking war. Swanson encourages us to study and build on moments in history when war was rejected, and to refuse to tell ourselves that warfare is inevitable.

Surely we must join Swanson in acknowledging the enormous challenges we face in campaigning to avoid war, or to abolish it. He writes: “In addition to being immersed in a false world view of war’s inevitability, people in the United States are up against corrupt elections, complicit media, shoddy education, slick propaganda, insidious entertainment, and a gargantuan permanent war machine falsely presented as a necessary economic program that cannot be dismantled.” Swanson refuses to be deterred by large challenges. An ethical life is an extraordinary challenge, and encompasses lesser challenges, such as democratizing our societies. Part of the challenge is to honestly acknowledge its difficulty: to clear-sightedly witness the forces that make war more likely in our time and place, but Swanson refuses to categorize these forces as insurmountable obstacles.

A few years ago, I heard once more about Jamela Abbas’ nephew, Ali. Now he was 16 years old, living in London where a BBC reporter had interviewed him. Ali had become an accomplished artist, using his toes to hold a paint brush. He had also learned to feed himself using his feet. “Ali,” asked the interviewer, “what would you like to be when you grow up?” In perfect English, Ali had answered, “I’m not sure. But I would like to work for peace.” David Swanson reminds us that we will not always be this way. We will transcend in ways that we cannot yet properly imagine, through the determination to rise above our incapacities and achieve our purposes on earth. Obviously Ali’s story is not a feel-good story. Humanity has lost so much to war and what so often seems its incapacity for peace is like the most grievous of disfigurements. We don’t know the ways we will discover in which to work to rise above these disfigurements. We learn from the past, we keep our eyes on our goal, we fully grieve our losses, and we expect to be surprised by the fruits of diligent labor and a passion to keep humanity alive, and to help it create again.

If David is right, if humanity survives, war itself will go the route of death-duels and infanticide, child labor and institutionalized slavery. Perhaps someday, beyond being made illegal, it will even be eliminated. Our other struggles for justice, against the slow grinding war of rich against poor, against the human sacrifice of capital punishment, against the tyranny that the fear of war so emboldens, feed into this one. Our organized movements working for these and countless other causes often are themselves models of peace, of coordination, a dissolution of isolation and of conflict in creative fellowship, the end of war made, in patches, already visible.

In Chicago, where I live, an annual summer extravaganza has been held on the lakefront for as long as I can remember. Called “The Air and Water Show,” it grew in the past decade into a huge display of military force and a significant recruiting event. Prior to the big show, the Air Force would practice military maneuvers and we’d hear sonic booms throughout a week of preparation. The event would attract millions of people, and amid a picnic atmosphere the U.S. military potential to destroy and maim other people was presented as a set of heroic, triumphant adventures.

In the summer of 2013, word reached me in Afghanistan that the air and water show had occurred but that the U.S. military was a “no show.”

My friend Sean had staked out a park entrance for the previous few yearly events in a solo protest, cheerily encouraging attendees to “enjoy the show” all the more for its incredible cost to them in tax dollars, in lives and global stability and political freedom lost to imperial militarization. Eager to acknowledge the human impulse to marvel at the impressive spectacle and technical achievement on display, he would insist of the planes, and in as friendly a tone as possible, “They look a lot cooler when they’re not bombing you!” This year he was expecting smaller crowds, having heard (although apparently too busy assembling his several thousand fliers to closely research this year’s particular event) that several military acts had cancelled. “Two hundred flyers later, I found out that this was because THE MILITARY HAD BACKED OUT!” he wrote me on the day itself: “They weren’t there _at all_ save for some desultory Air Force tents that I did find when I biked through looking for recruitment stations. I suddenly understood why I hadn’t heard any sonic booms leading up to the weekend.” (I had always complained to Sean of the yearly agony of listening to those planes rehearse for the show) “Too pleased to be mortified by my own idiocy, I put away my fliers and biked happily through the event. It was a lovely morning, and the skies of Chicago had been healed!”

Our incapacities are never the whole story; our victories come in small cumulative ways that surprise us. A movement of millions arises to protest a war, whose onset is delayed, its impact lessened, by how many months or years, by how many lives never lost, by how many limbs never torn from the bodies of children? How completely are the cruel imaginations of the war-makers distracted by having to defend their current lethal plans, how many new outrages, thanks to our resistance, will they never so much as conceive? By how many factors as the years proceed will our demonstrations against war continue, with setbacks, to grow? How acutely will the humanity of our neighbors be aroused, to what level will their awareness be raised, how much more tightly knit in community will they learn to be in our shared efforts to challenge and resist war? Of course we can’t know.

What we know is that we won’t always be this way. War may exterminate us utterly, and if unchecked, unchallenged, it shows every potential for doing so. But David Swanson’s War No More imagines a time where the Ali Abbases of the world exhibit their tremendous courage in a world that has abolished warfare, where no-one has to relive their tragedies at the hands of rampaging nations, where we celebrate the demise of war. Beyond this it envisions a time when humanity has found the true purpose, meaning, and community of its calling to end warfare together, to live the challenge that is replacing war with peace, discovering lives of resistance, and of truly human activity. Rather than glorify armed soldiers as heroes, let us appreciate a child rendered armless by a U.S. bomb who must know that few incapacities are an excuse for inaction, that what is or isn’t possible changes, and who, despite all we’ve done to him, still resolutely intends to work for peace.

War No More: The Case for Abolition is available on Powells, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and available for $2 as PDF, ePub, kindle, audio, or iTunes, or at discount when buying 10 or more, all at http://davidswanson.org/warnomore

We Need a Dandelion Insurrection

I recently recommended a great book about the now deceased Occupy Movement, long may it live.  Just as important, I think, as contemplating the successes and missteps of such past actions is envisioning the next ones.  Rivera Sun has done that in The Dandelion Insurrection.  Imagining the game in such a book can inform our studying of the warm-ups we've seen or been part of.

The Dandelion Insurrection is an updated, more accurate, less fantastical Brave New World or 1984.  But it's not a dystopian novel.  It's a novel about overcoming abuses that now exist or easily might in the next few years.  The author says that much of what she imagined has already happened in the time she's been writing the book.

The events of the book, however, -- the insurrection -- have not happened.  I recommend experiencing them.  It may give you chills or tears.  There is not much suspension of disbelief required, quite the opposite.  An ounce of belief that people can turn around a destructive course of events ought to open the door to this creative, strategic, and informed imagining of how we, ourselves, in the very near future might do so. 

I don't like spoiling fiction, but I recommend reading this book in groups and then discussing it.  I'd like to be part of such a discussion.  There are ways in which I think a people's nonviolent insurrection are more likely than some of the details here.  But I am not inclined to believe we'll be able to control all of the details.  The essential ingredients, I think, are here accurately assembled.  Two of them are in the book's subtitle: Love and Revolution.

College Protests Against Absence of War Led by Professors

Come gather round people wherever you roam.  And admit that the bullshit around you has grown.

Students used to get out of tests and assignments by explaining to sympathetic professors that they had been busy protesting the war on Vietnam.  The times they are a changin.

Today college professors lead teach-ins to protest the absence of an all-out U.S. war on Syria.  Back then, the public and the government trailed behind the activists.  Now the public has grown enlightened, and in a significant but limited way won over the government, blocking the missile strikes, but it's not just the U.S. President who looks mad enough to spit over the casus belli interruptus.  Professors are pissed.

The University of Virginia's law school has another law school next door belonging to the U.S. Army.  The University has built a research "park" next door to the Army's "Ground Intelligence Center."  State funds are drying up, and the Pentagon's tap has been left all the way open.  This Central Virginian military industrial academic complex is where Washington finally had to turn to find anyone willing to pretend the famous aluminum tubes in Iraq might be for scary, scary nukes. In defense of that record, this week is Iraq War Beautification Week at the University of Virginia's Miller Center, always a gung-ho proponent of militarism.

Much of this is expected and typical of U.S. academia these days.  But the promotions of attacks on Syria have become slicker and more insidious.  Here's an announcement of an event held on Thursday:

Teach-In on Syria & Fundraiser for Refugees
Thursday, Sept 26, 6:00pm - 7:00pm
University of Virginia: Nau 101
Moderator: Joshua M. White, History
Panelists: Ahmed H. al-Rahim, Religious Studies, "Islamist Ideologies in Syria"
Hanadi al-Samman, MESALC, "The Syrian Revolution and the Plight of Refugees Today"
Jonah Schulhofer-Wohl, Politics, "Civil War in Syria"
Elizabeth Thompson, History, "Religion and War since 1913"
David Waldner, Politics, "Syria, Before: Dictatorship and the Growth of Public Opposition to the Regime"
And a film presentation on the refugee experience
Co-sponsored by the Arab Student Organization

This announcement doesn't advertise a pro-war event aimed at promoting the deaths of large numbers of people.  Peace groups sent around this announcement.  I sent it around.  I attended.  And here's what happened:

Thompson spoke well about World War I and sat silently as her colleagues promoted a new war as barbaric as what she described from a hundred years earlier.

Waldner described the early, non-violent Arab Spring in Syria, breaking into tears, and then sat silently as his colleagues pushed for greater violence, using his stories of early nonviolence to justify it.  (Somehow the opposite never happens: we never have to justify nonviolent activism on the grounds that its participants once killed a lot of people.)

The other panelists demanded more weapons for Syrian rebels, more U.S. military involvement, more war, and the violent overthrow of the government.

Students sat there silently.  Professors in the audience who say they oppose war sat there silently and told each other afterwards that their complaints about what just happened should remain confidential.  It wouldn't be polite to speak up. 

I spoke up at the event.  I questioned the panelists' fantasies about the glory of violence, their willingness to see many more people die in order to overthrow a government that would not thereby be replaced with something better. 

Schulhofer-Wohl said that U.S. weapons would overwhelm the government of Syria and its Russian backers.  I pointed out that the Russians have more weapons too, but this professor clearly thinks this is another Cold War and that this time Russia will give in easily and cheaply, there will be no blowback, and the pawns in the game will all benefit.

Or, rather, the evil of one side of the war justifies the other side, and the consequences be damned.

Students sat there silently.

We can laugh at academia marginalizing itself.  We can celebrate the greater wisdom of the masses.  But these professors, speaking in a building where a former CIA "historian" now works, are having their way.  The CIA is arming the war in Syria and escalating it, against the will of the U.S. public.  Students are being subtly indoctrinated with acceptance of war and with contempt for democracy at one stroke.

UVA founder Thomas Jefferson would be outraged, unless someone told the old slavery profiteer how much money wars make for a certain little group of special people.  Then he'd understand perfectly.  When UVA's Dean of Arts and Sciences was promoting war on Libya, she held up Jefferson's own war on Libya as a model.

This is our heritage, boys and girls.  And its days are numbered.  People are not going to stand for it much longer.  Academia is going to have to accept it that soon they'll be drenched to the bone.

Some of those silent sitting students have brains in their heads.  Their professors forget that sometimes.

 

##

 

Dear David Swanson,

Thanks for coming to the Syria Teach-In and for challenging the pro-war views of two panelists.  Although they voiced their support for a military strike, I did not read the event as a pro-war rally.  Most of the hour was spent describing the suffering of the people.  It was an event for the refugees, and for paying attention to their plight, and for collecting humanitarian aid for them.   I agree with you that the silence of the crowd was puzzling.  I'd expected them to have more questions about the needs and status of the people themselves.
 
I am disappointed that you have chosen to distort the event to your list and to readers of War Is A Crime.   I got the idea for the teach-in as a response to the blatant hypocrisy of our own President Obama who responded to deaths of children in the Ghouta with a pledge to kill more people.   He appealed to Americans who are not even aware of the suffering, of the humanity of Syrians.  The Teach-In succeeded, I think, in redressing that.  If we care about Syrians, we must respond to their suffering, not divert it into a proxy for battle with other Powers.  And yet you have done just that.   I am very sorry that you decided to sabotage the effort of people who share your views.   I personally remain unconvinced by the logic of a military strike, but at this event-- intended to focus attention on the Syrian people--  I didn't want to divert the conversation into one about Americans.  I cannot speak for the other panelists, but I feel you unfairly cast me as a collaborator in the war effort you fantasize.
 
I welcome your peacemaker series and I believe we should mount another event on Grounds to debate American militarism and proposals for intervention in the Middle East.  It is too bad that you have turned the opportunity for  an ongoing public conversation into acrimony.  You are not practicing the peaceful methods that you preach.
 
If you wish to redress your unfairness, you may post this note to your blog.
 
Elizabeth F. Thompson
Associate Professor of History
University of Virginia
 
##
 
Be happy to post this and would love to see a better event
Am also delighted to hear that you hold beliefs that your silence did not reveal to anyone
I hope you will speak up and I would love to help in any way
I don't think you can accept a war that will produce more refugees while claiming to be focused on the refugees
I think you need a consistent position
Peace

David

##

here's your post
http://davidswanson.org/node/4165
http://warisacrime.org/content/college-protests-against-absence-war-led-professors
 

i am sincerely sorry that good intentions aren't visible in a bad event

your comments were quite good, but your ensuing silence just persuaded the students watching you that a smart person would find no reason to speak out against warmongering

Occupy Everything. Did We Ever Give It Back?

When the Pentagon ends an occupation, crawling home from Vietnam or Iraq or Afghanistan with its Tomahawk missile dragging between its legs, it declares victory every time.  And, depending on how you define victory, it certainly leaves lasting effects.  The cancer and birth defects and poisoned water supplies bear witness: there was an occupation here.

When the Occupy Movement lost its presence on television and therefore in real spaces that are never quite as real as television, it too left a lasting impact.  But it was a positive lasting impact, difficult as yet to measure fully, but observable in many areas. 

I've just read Nathan Schneider's new book, Thank You, Anarchy: Notes From the Occupy Apocalypse, with a foreword by Rebecca Solnit.  I consider this book one of the lasting benefits of Occupy.  We need a movement as badly as ever, but we now have great experimental lessons to draw on, and collective experience to benefit from.

Veterans of the Occupy encampments have added their strengths to the antiwar and environmental movements, and the growing movements against predatory home loans, foreclosures, student loan sharks, etc. 

But primarily, Occupy has changed minds, some dramatically and some slightly -- the sum total impossible to discern.  But there is no doubt that opposition against the war on Iraq, denounced as futile by many who took part in it, laid much of the groundwork for successful opposition to missile strikes on Syria.  Occupy can be expected to bear similar fruit.

I recommend reading Schneider's story and considering yet further some of the strategic questions debated without end by General Assemblies -- those debates recounted in Schneider's book. 

We're going to need to know how and why we are committed to nonviolence.  We're going to need to consider how and whether we can build something national or international without the corporate media.  We're going to need to develop further our ability to combine our disparate movements against the giant triplets of racism, militarism, and extreme materialism.  We're going to have to be capable of engaging in big-picture political action while becoming service centers to the homeless or avoiding doing so.  We're going to have to further refine our ability to have fun without becoming foolish.  We're going to have to appreciate unpredictable chaos and learn to generate and steer it without ever knowing what it is.  We're going to have to decide whether we grow by hating the police or by meeting their antagonism with our own jiu-jitsu.  We're going to have to become more international, more non-national, and more local, all at once.  We're going to have to create a movement that grows and grows and grows prior to winning and regardless of winning, while directing its energy toward the most likely winning path.

As I was writing this at Millers bar in Charlottesville, Va., the waiter saw my book, started talking to me about Occupy, and told me that Global Friend Bombs are the way to build connections and "organize the masses."  I had never heard of global friend bombs, but I had had many previous experiences of the word "Occupy" opening up conversations about changing the world in place of "do you want fries with that?" 

Newspapers are the first draft of an imperial eulogy.  The first draft of history is our books.  Read them.  Debate them. Mic-check them.  Expect the unexpected.  Occupy Wall Street.  Occupy Main Street.  Occupy Everything and Never Give It Back.

The beginning is near!

Talk Nation Radio: Taking Kent State to the United Nations

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-taking-kent

Laurel Krause is the cofounder and director of the Kent State Truth Tribunal. Her sister Allison Krause was killed at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, along with three other peacefully demonstrating students. Laurel and her colleagues are taking new evidence of state-ordered and orchestrated killing to the High Commissioner of the UN Human Rights Committee on October 17 & 18 in Geneva, Switzerland.  See http://TruthTribunal.org

"What's the matter with peace? Flowers are better than bullets." -- Allison Krause on May 3, 1970.

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.

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

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

Top 45 Lies in Obama's Speech at the U.N.

1. President Obama's opening lines at the U.N. on Tuesday looked down on people who would think to settle disputes with war. Obama was disingenuously avoiding the fact that earlier this month he sought to drop missiles into a country to "send a message" but was blocked by the U.S. Congress, the U.N., the nations of the world, and popular opposition -- after which Obama arrived at diplomacy as a last resort.

2. "It took the awful carnage of two world wars to shift our thinking." Actually, it took one. The second resulted in a half-step backwards in "our thinking." The Kellogg-Briand Pact banned all war. The U.N. Charter re-legalized wars purporting to be either defensive or U.N.-authorized.

3. "[P]eople are being lifted out of poverty," Obama said, crediting actions by himself and others in response to the economic crash of five years ago. But downward global trends in poverty are steady and long pre-date Obama's entry into politics. And such a trend does not exist in the U.S.

4. "Together, we have also worked to end a decade of war," Obama said. In reality, Obama pushed Iraq hard to allow that occupation to continue, and was rejected just as Congress rejected his missiles-for-Syria proposal. Obama expanded the war on Afghanistan. Obama expanded, after essentially creating, drone wars. Obama has increased global U.S. troop presence, global U.S. weapons sales, and the size of the world's largest military. He's put "special" forces into many countries, waged a war on Libya, and pushed for an attack on Syria. How does all of this "end a decade of war"? And how did his predecessor get a decade in office anyway?

5. "Next year, an international coalition will end its war in Afghanistan, having achieved its mission of dismantling the core of al Qaeda that attacked us on 9/11." In reality, Bruce Riedel, who coordinated a review of Afghanistan policy for President Obama said, "The pressure we've put on [jihadist forces] in the past year has also drawn them together, meaning that the network of alliances is growing stronger not weaker." (New York Times, May 9, 2010.)

6. "We have limited the use of drones." Bush drone strikes in Pakistan: 51. Obama drone strikes in Pakistan: 323.

7. "... so they target only those who pose a continuing, imminent threat to the United States where capture is not feasible." On June 7, 2013, Yemeni tribal leader Saleh Bin Fareed told Democracy Now that Anwar al Awlaki could have been turned over and put on trial, but "they never asked us." In numerous other cases it is evident that drone strike victims could have been arrested if that avenue had ever been attempted. A memorable example was the November 2011 drone killing in Pakistan of 16-year-old Tariq Aziz, days after he'd attended an anti-drone meeting in the capital, where he might easily have been arrested -- had he been charged with some crime. This weeks drone victims, like all the others, had never been indicted or their arrest sought.

8. "... and there is a near certainty of no civilian casualties." There are hundreds of confirmed civilian dead from U.S. drones, something the Obama administration seems inclined to keep as quiet as possible.

9. "And the potential spread of weapons of mass destruction casts a shadow over the pursuit of peace." In reality, President Obama is not pursuing peace or the control of such weapons or their reduction and elimination in all countries, only particular countries. And the United States remains the top possessor of weapons of mass destruction and the top supplier of weapons to the world.

10. "[In Syria, P]eaceful protests against an authoritarian regime were met with repression and slaughter. ... America and others have worked to bolster the moderate opposition." In fact, the United States has armed a violent opposition intent on waging war and heavily influenced if not dominated by foreign fighters and fanatics.

11. "[T]he regime used chemical weapons in an attack that killed more than 1,000 people, including hundreds of children." Maybe, but where's the evidence? Even Colin Powell brought (faked) evidence.

12. "How should we respond to conflicts in the Middle East?" This suggests that the United States isn't causing conflicts in the Middle East or aggravating them prior to altering its position and "responding." In fact, arming and supporting brutal governments in Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Israel, etc., is behavior that could do a great deal of good simply by ceasing.

13. "How do we address the choice of standing callously by while children are subjected to nerve gas, or embroiling ourselves in someone else's civil war?" That isn't a complete list of choices, as Obama discovered when Russia called Kerry's bluff and diplomacy became a choice, just as disarmament and de-escalation and pressure for a ceasefire are choices. Telling Saudi Arabia "Stop arming the war in Syria or no more cluster bombs for you," is a choice.

14. "What is the role of force in resolving disputes that threaten the stability of the region and undermine all basic standards of civilized conduct?" Force doesn't have a role in civilized conduct, the most basic standard of which is relations without the use of force.

15. "[T]he international community must enforce the ban on chemical weapons." Except against Israel or the United States.

16. "... and Iranians poisoned in the many tens of thousands." This was good of Obama to recognize Iran's suffering, but it would have been better of him to recall where Iraq acquired some of its weapons of mass destruction.

17. "It is an insult to human reason -- and to the legitimacy of this institution -- to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack." Really? In the absence of evidence, skepticism isn't reasonable for this Colin-Powelled institution, the same U.N. that was told Libya would be a rescue and watched it become a war aimed at illegally overthrowing a government? Trust us?

18. "Now, there must be a strong Security Council Resolution to verify that the Assad regime is keeping its commitments, and there must be consequences if they fail to do so." Meaning war? What about the U.N.'s commitment to oppose war? What about the United States' violation of its commitments to destroy the chemical weapons sitting in Kentucky and Colorado? "Consequences" for the U.S. too?

19. "I do not believe that military action -- by those within Syria, or by external powers -- can achieve a lasting peace." Yet, the U.S. government is shipping weapons into that action.

20. "Nor do I believe that America or any nation should determine who will lead Syria ... Nevertheless, a leader who slaughtered his citizens and gassed children to death cannot regain the legitimacy to lead a badly fractured country." The Syrians should decide their own fate as long as they decide it the way I tell them to.

21. "[N]or does America have any interest in Syria beyond the well-being of its people, the stability of its neighbors, the elimination of chemical weapons, and ensuring it does not become a safe-haven for terrorists." That's funny. Elsewhere, you've said that weakening Syria would weaken Iran.

22. "[W]e will be providing an additional $340 million [for aid]." And vastly more for weapons.

23. "We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world. Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil..." That first remarkably honest sentence is only honest if you don't think about what "free flow" means. The second sentence points to a real, if slow, trend but obscures the fact that only 40% of the oil the U.S. uses comes from the U.S., which doesn't count much of the oil the U.S. military uses while "ensuring the free flow." Nor is switching to small domestic supplies a long-term solution as switching to sustainable energy would be.

24. "But when it's necessary to defend the United States against terrorist attacks, we will take direct action." In Libya? Syria? Where does this make any sense, as U.S. actions generate rather than eliminate terrorism? Michael Boyle, part of Obama's counter-terrorism group during his 2008 election campaign, says the use of drones is having "adverse strategic effects that have not been properly weighed against the tactical gains associated with killing terrorists ... . The vast increase in the number of deaths of low-ranking operatives has deepened political resistance to the US programme in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries." (The Guardian, January 7, 2013.) Why is Canada not obliged to bomb the world to "defend against terrorist attacks"?

25. "Just as we consider the use of chemical weapons in Syria to be a threat to our own national security ..." We who? How? Congress just rejected this ludicrous claim. Ninety percent of this country laughed at it.

26. "[W]e reject the development of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region, and undermine the global non-proliferation regime." By Israel which has done this, or by Iran which all evidence suggests has not?

27. "We deeply believe it is in our interest to see a Middle East and North Africa that is peaceful and prosperous," we just choose to work against that deep belief and to sell or give vast quantities of weapons to brutal dictatorships and monarchies.

28. "Iraq shows us that democracy cannot be imposed by force." This could have been true had the U.S. attempted to impose democracy.

29. "Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons." Iran's what?

30. "Arab-Israeli conflict." That's a misleading way of naming the conflict between the government of Israel and the people it ethnically cleanses, occupies, and abuses -- including with chemical weapons.

31. "[A]n Iranian government that has ... threatened our ally Israel with destruction." It hasn't. And piling up the lies about Iran will make Iran less eager to talk. Just watch.

32. "We are not seeking regime change." That's not what Kerry told Congress, in between telling Congress just the opposite. Also, see above in this same speech: "a leader who slaughtered his citizens and gassed children to death cannot regain the legitimacy...."

33. "We insist that the Iranian government meet its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and UN Security Council resolutions." Among Iran, the U.S., and Israel, it's Iran that seems to be complying.

34. "We are encouraged that President Rouhani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course." More moderate than what? Threatening to destroy Israel and creating nukes?

35. "[T]heir own sovereign state." There's nowhere left for Palestine to create such a separate state.

36. "Israel's security as a Jewish and democratic state." Both, huh?

37. "When peaceful transitions began in Tunisia and Egypt ... we chose to support those who called for change" ... the minute everyone else was dead, exiled, or imprisoned.

38. "[T]rue democracy as requiring a respect for minority rights, the rule of law, freedom of speech and assembly, and a strong civil society. That remains our interest today." Just not in our own country and certainly not in places that buy some of the biggest piles of our weapons.

39. "But we will not stop asserting principles that are consistent with our ideals, whether that means opposing the use of violence as a means of suppressing dissent," and if you don't believe me, ask the Occupy movement -- Happy Second Birthday, you guys!  I SHUT YOU DOWN, bwa ha ha ha ha.

40. "This includes efforts to resolve sectarian tensions that continue to surface in places like Iraq, Syria and Bahrain." One liberated, one targeted, and one provided with support and weaponry and former U.S. police chiefs to lead the skull cracking.

41. "[A] vacuum of leadership that no other nation is ready to fill." All criminal outrages should have a vacuum of leadership. "Who would bomb countries if we don't do it?" is the wrong question.

42. "Some may disagree, but I believe that America is exceptional -- in part because we have shown a willingness, through the sacrifice of blood and treasure, to stand up not only for our own narrow self-interest, but for the interests of all." When was that? The United States certainly comes in at far less than exceptional in terms of per-capita humanitarian aid.  Its humanitarian bombing that Obama has in mind, but it's never benefitted humanity.

43. "And in Libya, when the Security Council provided a mandate to protect civilians, America joined a coalition that took action. Because of what we did there, countless lives were saved, and a tyrant could not kill his way back to power." The White House claimed that Gaddafi had threated to massacre the people of Benghazi with "no mercy," but the New York Times reported that Gaddafi's threat was directed at rebel fighters, not civilians, and that Gaddafi promised amnesty for those "who throw their weapons away." Gaddafi also offered to allow rebel fighters to escape to Egypt if they preferred not to fight to the death. Yet President Obama warned of imminent genocide. What Gaddafi really threatened fits with his past behavior. There were other opportunities for massacres had he wished to commit massacres, in Zawiya, Misurata, or Ajdabiya. He did not do so. After extensive fighting in Misurata, a report by Human Rights Watch made clear that Gaddafi had targeted fighters, not civilians. Of 400,000 people in Misurata, 257 died in two months of fighting. Out of 949 wounded, less than 3 percent were women. More likely than genocide was defeat for the rebels, the same rebels who warned Western media of the looming genocide, the same rebels who the New York Times said "feel no loyalty to the truth in shaping their propaganda" and who were "making vastly inflated claims of [Gaddafi's] barbaric behavior." The result of NATO joining the war was probably more killing, not less. It certainly extended a war that looked likely to end soon with a victory for Gaddafi.

44. "Libya would now be engulfed in civil war and bloodshed." No, the war was ending, and Libya IS engulfed in bloodshed. In March 2011, the African Union had a plan for peace in Libya but was prevented by NATO, through the creation of a "no fly" zone and the initiation of bombing, to travel to Libya to discuss it. In April, the African Union was able to discuss its plan with Libyan President Muammar al-Gaddafi, and he expressed his agreement. NATO, which had obtained a U.N. authorization to protect Libyans alleged to be in danger but no authorization to continue bombing the country or to overthrow the government, continued bombing the country and overthrowing the government.

45. [S]overeignty cannot be a shield for tyrants to commit wanton murder."  Says a man who reads through a list of potential murder victims on Tuesdays and ticks off the ones he wants murdered.

Listen to Marcy Winograd, Guest-Hosting for Lila Garrett on KPFK's CONNECT THE DOTS!

Which Aired Today, Monday, September 23rd, 7:00 AM at KPFK Archives:
http://archive.kpfk.org/mp3/kpfk_130923_070004ctd.MP3
It might take a few minutes to download. - KPFK 90.7 FM Radio - www.kpfk.org

Don't miss Marcy's incredibly right-on opening about the use of chemical
weapons by the United States over the decades.

Then hear Marcy interviewing David Swanson, author of "WAR IS A LIE" and
other books, talking about U.S. wars.
www.davidswanson.org/warisalie

Marcy then talks with Dr. Michael Powelson, who is running for Congress
against Brad Sherman in the Valley as a member of the Green Party.
www.powelsonforcongress.wordpress.com



And finally Marcy talks with Jose Lara: www.votejoselara.com & Dr. Suzie
Abajian: www.suzieabajian.com  - who are both running for local School
Boards.

Marcy is so good she should have her own program on KPFK.


In Peace,

Frank Dorrel
Publisher
Addicted To War

A Tale of Two Congress Members

In 2010 in Virginia's Fifth Congressional District, many people who prioritize peace over war probably voted for Democrat Tom Perriello over Republican Robert Hurt.  I know many who did just that.

Here's what Congressman Hurt said on Tuesday about Syria:

"I have repeatedly stated ... that before the United States should commit any of its precious American lives or military resources to an attack on the Syrian regime, the President must articulate a compelling American national security interest that requires military action. I have attended classified briefings, and I have concluded that, at this time, the President has not demonstrated that a compelling national security interest is at stake. Because of this, I will not be able to support the Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution should it come to a vote under current circumstances."

Meanwhile, former Congressman Perriello has advocated, with his colleagues at the Center for American Progress for the United States to "increase its assistance to the Syrian opposition with the goal of supporting an alternative opposition government that is better organized than at present."  According to Perriello the U.S. has a "national security interest" in "preparing the groundwork for a political and economic transition to a new regime in Syria in the foreseeable future." 

Perriello told The Atlantic: "Within that context, you have to look at a set of tactics. A lot of people seem to be dismissing the idea that there's any role for a surgical, strategic strike short of regime change. While I have advocated for a more aggressive posture that would potentially include regime transition, there is absolutely an argument for inflicting some cost to the regime for the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population. ... And that I think you can do largely from the air without a lot of involvement on the ground. ... He knows if we intervene, his days are over, so part of what he’s doing, like a petulant child, is seeing how far he can push before we come in. Traditionally, the use of chemical and biological weapons, with very few exceptions, has been something you cannot do without invoking dramatic action. ... One of the reasons I came to the conclusion a year and a half ago that we needed to intervene is that both sides appear just strong enough not to lose."  In the same interview Perriello refused to support the Constitutional requirement to take the question of war to Congress for its authorization.

Would Perriello resist a war if the president were a Republican?  Would Hurt then support war?  We can't know.  But both have expressed their ideologies on war clearly and quite consistently thus far.  Perriello voted for every war dollar that came before him while he was in Congress, including a 2009 "emergency" supplemental that included a bailout for bankers and barely passed.  Perriello has written and spoken publicly hundreds of times of his support for war.  Hurt has spoken and written a number of times now of his opposition.

I was part of groups of residents that met with Perriello to discuss his funding of war in Afghanistan.  It was like talking to a brick wall.  I was part of a group of residents who met with Hurt to discuss authorization for missile strikes or wider war in Syria.  It was like talking to a human being.

Whoever the Democrats put up against Hurt in the next election might possibly be his superior on any number of issues.  But check his or her position on war with a magnifying glass.  Militarism swallows roughly half of federal discretionary spending every year, dwarfing any other expense.  You can't be in favor of a trillion dollar military and in favor of schools or housing or anything else.  The military is the main thing our government does.  It matters whether we get it right, or whether we thoughtlessly get it backwards.

Ending One War, Ending All Wars

Remarks on September 21, 2013, at the Nashville Festival for Peace, Prosperity, and Planet.

Thank you to Elizabeth Barger and the Nashville Peace and Justice Center and to all of you, and happy International Day of Peace!

From a certain angle it doesn't look like a happy day of peace.  The U.S. government is engaged in a major war in Afghanistan, dramatically escalated by the current U.S. president, who has been bizarrely given credit for ending it for so long now that a lot of people imagine it is ended.  The same president goes through a list of men, women, and children on Tuesdays, picks which ones to have murdered, and has them murdered, often with missiles shot out of unmanned drones, drones that circle people's villages endlessly threatening immediate annihilation moment after moment for weeks on end, missiles that often miss their targets and often kill random people too close to their targets.  The CIA with war powers.  Secret military operations in dozens of nations.  Expansion of U.S. troop presence in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.  Some 90 percent of the world's nations with U.S. troops in them.  Prisoners force-fed in Guantanamo.  Black sites.  Iraq ruined without reparations.  Libya thrown into anarchy without apology.  Activists treated as enemies.  Journalists treated as spies.  Whistleblowers locked up in cages.  Our Constitutional rights treated as dispensable.  The United Nations used, abused, and circumvented.  U.S. weapons provided to dictatorships and democracies around the globe.  Tennessee's U.S. Senator Bob Corker going on television repeatedly for weeks to tell us that the United States is covertly aiding one side of a war in Syria.  Does he not know what "covertly" means, or does he not know how television works?

But I believe that, despite all of that and much more, there is huge reason to celebrate a happy international day of peace.  At most events where I speak there is a time for questions, and almost always there is someone whose question is really more of a speech to the effect that war opposition is delusional and hopeless; if the government wants a war, it gets a war -- so this person always tell us.  Well, no more.  From this day forward, that person's comments should be no match for the laughter that greets them, because we just prevented a war. 

Congress members heard from many thousands of us, and what they heard was over 100-to-1 against attacking Syria.  When it became clear that not even the Senate would authorize such an attack, talk shifted immediately from the inevitability of war to the desirability of avoiding war.

Secretary of State John Kerry said that President Bashar al-Assad could avoid a war by handing over all the chemical weapons his government possessed.  Russia quickly called that bluff and Syria agreed to it.  Syria had tried in the past to negotiate a Middle East free of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, but the United States had been opposed, not wanting to stop arming Egypt and Israel.

Secretary Kerry, apparently panicked by the possible delay or prevention of missile strikes, put out a statement that he had only been making a "rhetorical argument," not a real proposal.  But when the White House saw the writing on the wall in Congress, Kerry claimed to have meant his comment seriously after all.  He was for his own idea after he'd been against it.

Of all the many ways in which John Kerry has tied himself in knots before, this is the first time he's had to do so because the people of this country and the world rejected a war.  Remember when Kerry asked how you could ask someone to be the last man to die in the war on Vietnam?  We have it in our power to reject the next war and the next war and the next war and make John Kerry the last man to have tried to sell us a dead idea.

War is a dead idea, an idea whose time has gone.  The abolition of war is an idea whose time has come.  But the government isn't ready to announce that for us.  That's why we need to celebrate this victory.  And not just us at this festival.  This was everybody.  This was the people of Syria who spoke against an attack on their nation.  This was the people of Iraq and Afghanistan who said don't do to others what you've already done to us.  This was the people of the world and of Russia and of China who said you won't paint this crime as legal with our help.  This was the people of Britain who moved their House of Commons to reject a prime minister's request for war for the first time since the surrender to the French and Americans at Yorktown.  This was low and high ranking members of the U.S. military saying "We didn't sign up to fight for al Qaeda."  This was government experts risking their careers and their freedom to say "If President Obama's excuse for a war happened, he's guessed it right, because the evidence doesn't establish it."  This was the majority of the U.S. public telling pollsters, yes, we care about suffering children; send them food and medicine, don't make it worse by sending in missiles."  This was the victory not of a moment but of a decade of cultural enlightenment.  When you've got the Pope and Rush Limbaugh on your side you've built something very broad.  Remember when they called resistance to war "The Vietnam Syndrome" as if it were a disease?  What we've got now is the War on Terror Inoculation.  This is health, not sickness.  War is the health of the state, said a World War I resister.  But war resistance is the health of the people.  The people are the world's other super power.

So, yes, I say celebrate!  Start seeing successes.  Drone attacks are down dramatically.  Environmental groups are beginning to oppose military base constructions.  States are beginning to work on conversion of war industries to peaceful industries.  Larry Summers has been denied a chance to do more economic damage. 

Imagine the euphoria -- or don't imagine it, just remember it -- when this country elects a new president whose main redeeming feature is that he isn't the previous president.  For personality fanatics that's big stuff.  And there are big parties.  For policy fanatics -- for those of us interested in seeing policies change rather than personalities -- that kind of moment is right now.  The first step in overcoming an addiction, whether to war or alcohol, is recognizing that you have a problem.  The second step is believing that you can shake it if you try.  We've just taken the first two steps!  The war addicts said Syria needed an intervention.  We gave the war junkies an intervention instead.  We pointed them toward the path of recovery and showed them a preview of what it will look like.

Now, if you don't want to celebrate because there's too much work to do, because Syria is in greater danger without its weapons (look what happened to Iraq and Libya), and because the pressure for war is still on, I can respect that.  I'll be with you starting tomorrow.  But it's hard to imagine we'll find the most effective strategy, much less motivate all the doom and gloomers to work their hardest, if we refuse to recognize when we've actually made progress, no matter how limited. 

If you don't want to celebrate because you don't think public pressure made any impact and don't think it ever can, I've looked at enough of the recent history and distant history to say, with all due respect: I don't believe you.  And if you believed yourself you wouldn't be here today.

Now, there is endless work to be done when we get back to it in the morning.  Congressman Cooper was pretty noncommittal, I understand, as quite a few Congress members were.  He kept an open mind.  Maybe, just maybe, he must have thought, it makes sense to deescalate a war by escalating it, maybe these magic missiles with Raytheon pixie dust on them will kill only the people who really need killing while empowering fanatic heart-and-liver eaters who execute their prisoners to establish a secular democracy, and perhaps we really can uphold the norm against chemical weapons that our own nation violates with some regularity by blatantly violating the norm against attacking other countries with missiles, and maybe we'll enforce the Chemical Weapons Convention against a nation that never signed it by shredding the UN Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact as long as we call ourselves "The International Community" and if we can't get France to help maybe Puerto Rico would count as a Coalition of the Willing, and perhaps, perhaps just maybe Assad really is out to get us and just might be a threat to Nashville, Tennessee, and if not isn't the only thing that really matters President Obama's manhood and the respect he can only maintain if he behaves like a sociopath?  Some part of this must be roughly how undecided members of Congress looked at this thing.  Senator Harry Reid said Syria was the return of the Nazis, and he himself looked just like Elmer Fudd warning of a dangerous wabbit, but maybe he was right, think our elected representatives.  There is work to be done.

Republicans in Congress turned against war more than they might have with a Republican president.  And some Democrats, including a co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, cheered for war.  The Black Caucus told its members to shut their mouths and not speak about Syria.  But they didn't all listen.  The leadership of the two parties pushed for war, and most members of both parties said No Way.  That's something to build on.  Anything that has happened is automatically acceptable and respectable, and in that category now is war rejection, regardless of who is president in the future.

Senator Corker thinks the United States has lost credibility.  I think it's gained it.  The United States claims to use war as a last resort.  When an occasion finally arrives in which it doesn't use war as a first resort, that boosts the credibility of its claim.  The U.S. justifies its wars with the word "democracy."  When it listens to its people for once, it demonstrates democracy by example rather than by dropping cluster bombs or napalm or using those depleted uranium weapons giving the workers who make them cancer over in eastern Tennessee.  The world was skeptical of the U.S. case for war because of past U.S. lies, not because of past U.S. failures to bomb people.

The threat to attack Syria is still on the table.  If you listen to these people enough you really come to hate tables, by the way.  The White House claims Syria has signed the Chemical Weapons Convention under threat of attack, even though any signing of any treaty under threat of attack is illegal and invalid.  Meanwhile, if we wanted to find a stockpile of chemical weapons, there's 524 tons of poison gas at the Blue Grass Army Depot, just up the road toward Lexington, Kentucky, from here.  The United States wants 10 more years to destroy that, although maybe it can go a little faster since John Kerry seems to think a week is more than enough time for Syria to destroy its stockpile.  The Army spokesman in Kentucky says the delays there are a sign of democracy and public input.  Our leading spreaders of democracy to the rest of the world, on the other hand, believe the most important consideration is that nothing ever be credited to diplomacy if it can be credited to violence.  The U.S. has a stash five times the size of Kentucky's out in Colorado, where climate-induced floods and fires pose a danger of combining with the madness of militarism if we don't switch soon from preparing for wars to preparing for a sustainable existence -- If we don't start paying attention to Fukushima and global warming and keep laughing, as we have been, at the idea that Assad is going to kill us.

But, our government also has peculiar views about different types of weapons that I don't claim to understand.  Chemical weapons are good, apparently, when the U.S. uses them on Iraqis, or Iraq uses them on Iranians, or Israel uses them on Palestinians, but they're bad if Iraq uses them on Iraqis or the Syrian government uses them on anyone -- although they aren't so bad if it is Syrian rebels using them.  In cases of bad chemical weapons use, missiles could fix the problem.  But with missiles you have to ask Congress.  So, instead, you can fix the problem of people getting killed with chemicals by making sure that more of them get killed with guns.  With guns, for some reason, you don't have to ask Congress.  Senators can even chat on TV about what they're doing "covertly," and we're supposed to say "Oh, well that's OK then, as long as it's covertly."

Only . . . when people bleed and scream in agony and turn cold do they do it covertly?  Because I think the entire operation needs to be done covertly, not just parts of it.

Maybe the problem is that we just don't think guns are weapons of mass destruction.  Guns must be weapons of minimal destruction, I guess. Guns only kill 30,000 people in the United States each year, ten times the number of people killed on September 11, 2001.  Imagine the size of the war we'd have started if someone had killed 30,000 people with airplanes.  Would we have had to kill 10 million Iraqis instead of 1 million?  But with guns, deaths are OK, and 60% of them don't really count because they're suicides. 

Only . . . why are people desperate enough to kill themselves in the wealthiest nation on earth when we have a bigger military and more billionaires than any other society in the history of the world?  Shouldn't that satisfy us?  Anyone too dense to appreciate that great good fortune, well, at least we've made sure there's always a gun or two within easy reach.

I'm being sarcastic, but I'm not joking.  We have a serious problem with acceptance of violence.  This past Sunday night on "60 Minutes" John Miller of CBS News said, "I've spoken with intelligence analysts who have said an uncomfortable thing that has a ring of truth, which is: the longer this war in Syria goes on, in some sense the better off we are."

Now, why would that be uncomfortable, do you suppose?  Could it be because encouraging huge numbers of violent deaths of human beings seems sociopathic?

The discomfort that Miller at least claims to feel is the gauge of our moral progress, I suppose, since June 23, 1941, when Harry Truman said, "If we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible."

On Monday, Time magazine's Aryn Baker published an articleunder the headline "Syria's Rebels Turn on One Another, and That's Not a Bad Thing."  Baker's point wasn't that more would die this way, but that this would allow the U.S. to escalate the war (which of course would mean more dying).

Remember that President Obama's reasonfor wanting to attack Syria is to "confront actions that are violating our common humanity."  How is it that support for mass killing rarely seems to violate our common humanity if it's that other 96 percent of humanity getting killed, and especially if it's this 4 percent doing it?  Why is the excuse to kill more people always that people are being killed, while we never starve people to prevent them from starving or rape people to protect them from rape?

The uncomfortable "60 Minutes" interviewer addressed his remarks to a former CIA officer who replied by disagreeing.  He claimed to want the war to end.  But how would he end it?  By arming and aiding one side, just enough and not too much -- which would supposedly result in peace negotiations, albeit with a risk of major escalation.  While nobody ever extends peace in order to generate war, people are constantly investing in war in the name of peace.

As this man may be very well aware, arming one side in this war will encourage that side's viciousness and encourage the other side to arm itself further as well.  But suppose it were actually true that you could deescalate a war by escalating a war.  Why are the large number of people who would be killed in the process unworthy of consideration?

We've seen lawyers tell Congressional committees that killing people with drones is either murder or perfectly fine, depending on whether Obama's secret memos say the killings are part of a war.  But why is killing people acceptable in a war?  We've just watched public pressure deny Obama missile strikes on Syria.  Those strikes were optional.  Had they happened that would have been a choice, not an inevitability.  What of the immorality involved?

The best news is that we're beginning to feel uncomfortable.  We're even feeling uncomfortable enough to doubt the tales we're told about justifications for wars.  The fact is that, were the White House telling the truth about the need for an attack on Syria, it would be a first in history.  Every other case for war has always been dishonest.

The United States sought out war with Mexico, not the reverse.  There was never any evidence that Spain sank the Maine.  The Philippines didn't benefit from U.S. occupation.  The Lusitania was known to be carrying troops and arms.  The Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened.  Iraq didn't take any babies out of incubators.  The Taliban was willing to turn bin Laden over to be tried in a neutral court.  Libya wasn't about to kill everyone in Benghazi.  And so on. 

Even wars that people like to imagine as justified, such as World War II, were nonetheless packaged in lies; FDR's tales about the Greer and the Kearney and supposed secret Nazi maps and plans were a step on the steady trajectory from Woodrow Wilson to Karl Rove.

The idea that Syria used chemical weapons is more plausible than the idea that Iraq had vast stockpiles of chemical, biological, and (in some versions) nuclear weapons and was working with al Qaeda.  But the evidence offered in the case of Syria was no stronger than that for Iraq.  It was harder to disprove merely because there was nothing to it: no documentation, no sources, and until the UN report came out, no science.  Congress members who have seen the classified version of the White House case say it's no better than the declassified.  Experts within the government and reporters in Syria who have seen more than that say they don't believe the White House's claims. 

The assertions masquerading as a case come packaged in dishonest claims about the make-up of the rebels, and how quickly Syria gave access to inspectors.  And the claims are written in a manner to suggest far greater knowledge and certainty than they actually assert on careful examination.  The latest claims follow a series of failed claims over a period of months and stand to benefit a Syrian opposition that has been found repeatedly to be manufacturing false propaganda aimed at bringing the United States into the war.  It seems, at this point, unlikely that the Assad government used chemical weapons (as opposed to the rebels or someone in the Syrian military defying Assad by using them), but it seems certain that if Assad did it, Obama and Kerry don't know that -- they've only guessed it at best.  It also seems certain that escalating the war makes everyone worse off regardless of who used chemical weapons.  Attacking Iraq would have been immoral, illegal, and catastrophic (and probably more so) if all the weapons stories had been true.

Then there are the depictions of Assad as a threat to the United States, at which moments President Obama has almost begun to sound like his predecessor.  But, as he came on stage second, nobody believed him.  Assad is guilty of horrible crimes, but he's not yet-another new Hitler.  There's a cute story about Assad from 11 years ago this week that some of us may have forgotten.  A Canadian man named Maher Arar had been born in Syria.  U.S. officials nabbed him for the crime of switching planes in New York City.  They interrogated him for weeks, denying him access to a lawyer or to the Canadian government.  They asked Arar to go to Syria, and he refused.  So they stuck him on a CIA plane, flew him to Jordan, beat him for 8 hours, and then delivered him to the Syrian government of Bashar al Assad.  President Assad's government beat and whipped Arar for 18 hours a day for weeks, asking him similar questions to those the Americans had asked.  For 10 months he was kept in a 3 by 6 by 7 foot underground cell, then released with no charges.  Four years later, the Canadian government, which had done nothing, apologized to and compensated Arar.  Former CIA case officer Bob Baer said, "If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear—never to see them again—you send them to Egypt."

The Syrian government is, like any government the United States wants to attack, a brutal government that the United States worked with until recently, situated in a region full of brutal governments the United States still supports.  In this case, the brutal governments still armed and supported by the U.S. government include Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Yemen.  If the US. government wanted to reduce violence, it could end its 2001-begun war on Afghanistan, it could end its drone strikes, and it could stop supplying Saudi Arabia with cluster bombs and Egypt with tear gas and Bahrain with ex-police chiefs.  Wars are not driven by generosity, despite what you'll often -- and increasingly -- hear.

Syria needs humanitarian aid, not weapons that threaten the good aid work being done by Americans among others.  The Iraqi Student Project was bringing Iraqis to study in U.S. colleges.  Its office was in Syria, where many Iraqi refugees had fled from the U.S. liberation.  Now that office is closed, and Syria has its own refugee crisis to rival Iraq's.  Our government should be urging both sides to stop providing arms, to agree to a ceasefire, and to open negotiations without preconditions.  Syria has needed help for years, but our government tends to wait until missiles look like a proper solution to get serious about solving a problem. 

Syria's crisis was brought on in part by climate induced drought and water shortage.  The solution of sending in missiles (blocked for now) or of sending in guns (underway as we speak) misses that source of the problem and in fact exacerbates it.  The U.S. military is our greatest consumer of petroleum, which it consumes in the course of fighting wars and occupying countries to control petroleum.  The roughly $1 trillion spent by the United States and roughly $1 trillion spent by the rest of the world on militarism every year could coat the planet with sustainable green energy sources beyond the wildest imaginings of those sources' proponents.

As long as we continue to view war as an acceptable institution, serious reductions in the military will be impeded by the desire to win wars when they happen.  Instead of reduced war making, we need war abolition.  180 million people died in wars in the 20th century.  Enough is enough.  War has not brought security.  War endangers us rather than protecting us.  War has failed as a tool for ending war.  War is draining our economies, eroding our civil liberties, devastating our natural environment, and stealing resources away from critical human and environmental needs. Nonviolent tools have proven themselves more effective and less costly than war.  War's unpredictability and existing weaponry including nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction threaten our very existence, while the reallocation of resources away from war promises a world whose advantages are beyond easy imagination.  We could even stop paying farmers not to farm and start paying weapons makers not to make weapons while they convert their factories to begin making something useful. Cutting $40 billion from food stamps will kill more people than spending it for a few months of occupying Afghanistan will kill.

Anti-war sentiment, at least in some key parts of the world, is at a high point now, relative to other moments in recent decades.  We need to direct that sentiment into a movement for abolition.  Resisting each new war is not enough.  We must be for peace and by peace we must mean, first and foremost, the elimination of the institution of war.  We're all fond of saying that peace is more than just the absence of war.  True enough.  And freedom is more than just the absence of chains.  But first you had to abolish slavery.  Then new possibilities opened up.  So, today I'm not going to say, "No Justice, No Peace."  Today I say, "With No Peace, There Is No Justice."  Stop the wars.  End the slaughter.  Dismantle the weapons.  Abolish the military.  Build a sustainable peaceful prosperous world.  Make this point in time a turning point.  Thank you for being here.  Happy International Day of Peace!

Frank Kellogg's Peace Treaty

We've collectively forgotten what was probably the single biggest news story of 1928.  It is little known and even less appreciated that the United States is party to a treaty that bans all war. This treaty, known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact, or the Peace Pact, or the Renunciation of War, is listed on the U.S. State Department's website as in force. The Pact reads:

"The High Contracting Parties solemly [sic] declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.

"The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means."

Pacific means only. No martial means. No war. No targeted murder. No surgical strikes.

The story of how this treaty, to which over 80 nations are party, came to be is inspiring. The peace movement of the 1920s that convinced U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg from St. Paul, Minn., to work for it was a model of dedication, patience, strategy, integrity, and struggle.

Playing a leading role was the movement for "outlawry," for the outlawing of war. War had been legal until that point. Following World War I, atrocities could be objected to but not the launching of war, and not the seizing of territory.  The Kellogg-Briand Pact changed that.

With the creation of the peace pact, wars were avoided and ended. But nations continued to arm themselves and to support the rise of militaristic governments.  Following World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt used the Kellogg-Briand Pact to prosecute the losers of the war for the brand new crime of war. From that day to this, despite an endless plague of war on and among the poor nations of the world, the wealthy armed nations have yet to launch a third world war among themselves.

When not simply ignored or unknown, the Kellogg-Briand Pact is dismissed because World War II happened. But what other legal ban have we ever tossed out following the very first violation and what appears to have been a quite effective prosecution?

An argument can also be made that the U.N. Charter undoes the peace pact simply by coming later in time. But this is by no means an easy argument, and it requires understanding the U.N. Charter as the re-legalization of war rather than the ban on war that most people imagine it to be. While Frank Kellogg's treaty bans all war, the U.N. Charter allows wars that are either defensive or U.N.-authorized.

In fact, the Kellogg-Briand Pact has continued to be used in international law, including in a case at the World Court in 1998 that arguably prevented a U.S. war against Libya.

Eliminating war, the outlawrists believed, would not be easy. A first step would be to ban it, to stigmatize it, to render it unrespectable. A second step would be to establish accepted laws for international relations. A third would be to create courts with the authority to settle international disputes. The outlawrists took the first big step, but we haven't followed through.

We should. 

Supporters of torture and unlimited election spending and all sorts of dubious innovations point to court proceedings marginalia, overridden vetoes, speeches, and tangentially related ancient precedents, but not laws.

Supporters of peace have a law that can be pointed to, and a stronger one than the U.N. Charter.  As long as some wars are deemed legal, supporters of any war will argue for its legality. 

But how do you enforce a ban on war, without using war to do it?  There are other means.  If Canada were to invade the U.S., Americans could refuse to cooperate with the occupation, Canadians could refuse to take part in it, activists from around the world could come to the U.S. as human shields.  The world's governments could condemn, ostracize, sanction, and prosecute the Canadian war-makers.  In other words, war could be resisted using tools other than war. (Sorry for the example, Canada! I am aware which nation has a history of invading the other.)

There's a song from 1950 that describes the scene on August 27, 1928:

Last night I had the strangest dream, I ever dreamed before.

I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war.

That was Frank Kellogg's dream.  It's time we started dreaming it again.

Talk Nation Radio: Iraqi Students in the U.S.

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-iraqi

The Iraqi Student Project has brought Iraqi students, refugees from the U.S. war on Iraq, to the United States to study, make friends, and build understanding. Students have come from refugee families living in Syria, which now has its own violence, to which the U.S. is contributing. The Project's office in Damascus has been closed, but Iraqi students are currently studying at U.S. universities, and you can get involved and help them. We speak with Farah Muhsin Al-Mousawi, an Iraqi citizen and former student representative with the Iraqi Student Project. We also speak with the project's Executive Director Robert Rosser, a college professor who has taught EFL and ESL in Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Thailand, and communications and humanities in South Korea, Japan, Spain, Kuwait, and Italy. See http://IraqiStudentProject.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.

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

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

Give the Sierra Club Credit for Taking on the U.S. Marine Corps

In this moment in which the public will and a bit of nerve in Congress have made refusing to let a president launch a bunch of missiles into a foreign country a reality and therefore mainstream and respectable (rather than vaguely treasonous as it might have been widely understood a decade ago or depicted by the corporate media a couple of weeks ago), there are signs of possible wider outbreaks of sanity.

Syria's crisis was brought on in part by climate induced drought and water shortage.  The solution of sending in missiles (blocked for now) or of sending in guns (underway as we speak) misses that source of the problem and in fact exacerbates it.  The U.S. military is our greatest consumer of petroleum, which it consumes in the course of fighting wars and occupying countries to control petroleum.  Add in the depleted uranium, napalm, cluster bombs, white phosphorous, and other weapons use and testing, and one would think that environmentalists, sooner or later, would at least notice the existence of the U.S. military as a problem to be dealt with.  Consider that the roughly $1 trillion spent by the United States and roughly $1 trillion spent by the rest of the world on militarism every year could coat the planet with sustainable green energy sources beyond the wildest imaginings of those sources' proponents, and you'd think war addiction would be the first thing environmentalists would want to cure.

Typically, you'd be disappointed.  Every once in a while, there are signs of possible progress.  Some environmental groups have spoken up against the naval base construction on Jeju Island.  And the Sierra Club is now speaking up boldly and straightforwardly against the U.S. Marine Corps' plan to identify and destroy a new Vieques (the Puerto Rican island destroyed by U.S. bomb testing over decades).  The Marines have found a rich and beautiful island, falsely called it desolate and uninhabitable (despite the fact that many species live there, including homo sapiens), and proposed to render it just that. The Sierra Club is among those calling the Marines on the lie and the outrageous proposal:

 

Pagan Island, one of a string of volcanic islands that make up the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas (CNMI), is an ancient home to the Chamorro people and the habitat of unique animals and plants, many of them endemic, rare and endangered. Those natural and cultural resources are being put at risk by a plan by the U.S. Marines to use the island as a live-fire training ground. In scoping documents related to the environmental impact statement required for that plan to go forward, the Marines have characterized Pagan Island as being "desolate and uninhabitable." Photographs included below show how untrue this is.

Pagan-Island

Under a contract with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sierra Club member Mike Hadfield of the University of Hawaii and his research team spent two weeks on Pagan Island, traversing it and cataloging biological resources found there. ...

Pagan-Island

Pagan Island has been inhabited by Chamorro people for more than 2,000 years, as attested by remains of ancient villages. It continues to be the home of a small population of Chamorros, and many more want to return to their ancestral homelands. Recent articles from Marianas newspapers, which can be found on the Save Pagan Island website, tell of the connection many people feel with Pagan and other northern islands and their desire to return to them. ...
 
A transfer of our major resources from war making to environment saving is the clearest path to survival and prosperity, so every time a bridge is built between peace and environmental activism is a moment worth celebrating.

Humanitarian Murder

This past Sunday night on "60 Minutes" John Miller of CBS News said, "I've spoken with intelligence analysts who have said an uncomfortable thing that has a ring of truth, which is: the longer this war in Syria goes on, in some sense the better off we are."

Now, why would that be uncomfortable, do you suppose?  Could it be because encouraging huge numbers of violent deaths of human beings seems sociopathic?

The discomfort that Miller at least claims to feel is the gauge of our moral progress, I suppose, since June 23, 1941, when Harry Truman said, "If we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible." 

On Monday, Time magazine's Aryn Baker published an article under the headline "Syria's Rebels Turn on One Another, and That's Not a Bad Thing."  Baker's point wasn't that more would die this way, but that this would allow the U.S. to escalate the war (which of course would mean more dying).

Remember that President Obama's reason for wanting to attack Syria is to "confront actions that are violating our common humanity."  How is it that support for mass killing rarely seems to violate our common humanity if it's that other 96 percent of humanity getting killed, and especially if it's this 4 percent doing it?  Why is the excuse to kill more people always that people are being killed, while we never starve people to prevent them from starving or rape people to protect them from rape? 

The uncomfortable "60 Minutes" interviewer addressed his remarks to a former CIA officer who replied by disagreeing.  He claimed to want the war to end.  But how would he end it?  By arming and aiding one side, just enough and not too much -- which would supposedly result in peace negotiations, albeit with a risk of major escalation.  While nobody ever works to extend peace in order to generate war, people are constantly investing in war in the name of peace. 

As this man may be very well aware, arming one side in this war will encourage that side's viciousness and encourage the other side to arm itself further as well.  But suppose it were actually true that you could deescalate a war by escalating a war.  Why are the large number of people who would be killed in the process unworthy of consideration?

We've seen lawyers tell Congressional committees that killing people with drones is either murder or perfectly fine, depending on whether Obama's secret memos say the killings are part of a war.  But why is killing people acceptable in a war?  We've just watched public pressure deny Obama missile strikes on Syria.  Those strikes were optional.  Had they happened that would have been a choice, not an inevitability.  What of the immorality involved? 

The best news is that we're beginning to feel uncomfortable.

See You at the WE CAN STOP WARS Party in Nashville This Weekend


Click on image to enlarge
The Festival for Peace, Prosperity, and the Planet will be held 11am to 6pm Saturday, September 21, 2013 at the "Special Events Pavilion" in Centennial Park. That's in the northwest corner of the park, near the airplane and the locomotive (see green arrow on the map linked here). Admission to this event is FREE. We'll have speakers, music, exhibitors, and vendors. Come rain or shine -- we have a roof!

Speakers will include David Swanson (peace writer), Hector Black (advocate for peace and forgiveness), Paki Wieland (Gaza flotilla, Raging Grannies), Linnet Overton (Community Food Advocates), and Diane Wilson (Code Pink). Musical performances will include MD & Cobalt Blue, Danny Salazar, the Shelby Bottom String Band, and others. We're still looking for exhibitors and vendors; contact Eric Schechter (LeftyMathProf@gmail.com) regarding those, or regarding other aspects of the festival.

(There will also be a
fundraiser dinner on the preceding evening, at the Nashville Peace and Justice Center, to help pay for the festival.)

 


Schedule:



     MUSIC     SPEAKERS     
noon - 1:00 Jam Bands
1:00 - 1:30 Diane Wilson
1:30 - 1:45 J. Karen Thomas & Colette Divine
1:45 - 2:00 Hector Black
2:00 - 2:45 Danny Salazar
2:45 - 3:00 Lynnet Overton
3:00 - 4:00 MD & Cobalt Blue
4:00 - 4:30 Paki Wieland
4:30 - 5:20 Shelby Bottom String Band
5:20 - 6:00 David Swanson



Information for vendors / exhibitors:
  In most cases, vendors and exhibitors will need to supply their own tables, chairs, and (optional but strongly recommended) tents. All we're providing is a space, 10 feet by 10 feet. Spaces are reserved if you've notified us in advance that you're coming; anyone else takes a chance on space not being available. Fee, payable to Nashville Peace and Justice Center, is $20 for food vendors, $15 for other vendors, and free for nonprofits. Our audience will be arriving around 11am, so we hope you can unload your vehicle and remove it from the area by 10am.
 

 
© 2005-2011 Nashville Peace and Justice Center

Admit It: Things Are Going Well

When something goes right
Oh, it's likely to lose me
It's apt to confuse me
It's such an unusual sight
—Paul Simon

Larry Summers has proven unacceptable to oversee the continued destruction of the U.S. economy.  The U.S. public has successfully rejected proposed missile strikes on Syria.  My Congressman was among the majority who listened.  Today was beautiful.  The Orioles won.  The Cowboys lost.  The University of Virginia avoided losing by not playing.  My family is expecting a new baby.  I've finished a new book, which Kathy Kelly has written a beautiful foreword for.  I have a sense that if the universe were right now campaigning on "hope and change" I might seriously consider voting for it.

I'm also pretty sure that if everything in my personal life were going slightly to hell and Larry Summers were crowned king of Wall Street, and the Dallas Cowboys were to win (darn them!), my sense of this moment in the movement against U.S. militarism would remain essentially the same.  A major victory has been won, and we need to claim it and celebrate it.

Imagine the euphoria -- or don't imagine it, just remember it -- when this country elects a new president whose main redeeming feature is that he isn't the previous president.  For personality fanatics that's big stuff.  And there are big parties.  For policy fanatics -- for those of us interested in seeing policies change rather than personalities -- that kind of moment is right now.  We need some parties, and if spontaneity is beyond us, perhaps we can use the International Day of Peace on September 21st for a combination celebration / discussion during which we explain to ourselves that it really is OK to celebrate.

Yes, many people in this country and around the world are suffering horrible tragedies in their personal lives and as a result of public events.  Yes, the horrors in Syria, as in many other places, continue.  Yes, the CIA is arming terrorists in Syria.  Yes, the president whose missile strikes we prevented is taking credit for that restraint, just as he would have taken credit for the carnage had we not stopped him -- and he's threatening to bring the missile strikes back.  Yes, if we let down our guard for a moment, the president and Congress and the CIA will do their worst.  Yes, the danger for Iraq and Libya really loomed large after they had given up nuclear and chemical weapons, not before.  Yes, lots of people opposed bombing Syria because they didn't think Syrians deserved such favors.  (No, I'm not making that up.)  Yes, the corporate media is pretending that the threat of war brought peace, ignoring the successful insistence on peace by the people of the world.

But that's why we have to celebrate what really happened.  We have to announce it.  The point is not to take credit.  No one person or group did this.  People espousing a variety of ideologies did it.  And they did it over many years.  Millions contributed.  The point is that war was popularly rejected.

Why does this matter?  It's not a case for optimism, or for pessimism.  I continue to have very little use for either bit of self-indulgence.  The forces that press for more wars have not gone away.  Neither have they been empowered.  The point is that those who nonsensically proclaim that stopping wars is impossible cannot get away with saying that anymore. 

You know the types.  They show up at meetings, wait for the question-and-answer period, and then give a speech on how everything is utterly hopeless.  Those speeches should be laughed away within the first five seconds now.  And the many, many people who had begun ever so slightly to take that defeatist nonsense seriously can now be relieved of that weight.  The danger now is not of being a sucker who proclaimed good news just before a genocide.  The danger is of joining in the foolish campaign of the war propagandists by pushing the lie of powerlessness on people just after they prevented a war.

Do we still have to prevent a war again this week?  Of course, we do.  Do we have to take on the larger task of organizing peace and preventing crises?  We do.  Do we need to build a movement for the abolition of war that reaches beyond opposition to each immediate war proposal?  You'd better believe it.  But this is what we wanted in 2001 and 2003.  Well, some of us did -- that's the point.  We're larger now, even if it's not made visible.  As long as we went on failing to prevent wars, people could say we'd never prevent them.  There's no science or logic behind such an assertion, but it still has power in it.  Or it did, until now.  Now we can claim with equal validity that we'll stop every single war proposed from here on out.  Of course we might or we might not, but we know that it's up to us, that it depends on what we do, that little steps that appear useless at the time can help, and that changes to our culture can outweigh changes to the Pentagon budget, the global climate, crises in capitalism, or any other supposedly unstoppable force.

After World War I, people in the United States understood the need to eliminate war.  Again, after Vietnam, many understood it almost that much.  They developed the Vietnam Syndrome, a level of healthy resistance to more wars lamented as a disease by Washington.  Now we're moving back in that direction.  War resistance is the health of the people.  We're not developing a syndrome.  We're developing an immunity.  We've been vaccinated against war.  We're not as allergic to the propaganda as we once were.  We're war resistant, and our task is to compel those in power not to lament our syndrome this time, but to share in our contagious good health.

In Raleigh NC on 9/28 March for Our Planet

Join my awesome neice and nephew in Raleigh for this incredible event! --DS
 

March for Our Planet

 

September 28, 2013, 3:30 pm in Raleigh, NC

Handing out Flyers

Sharing flyers about the March for Our Planet

Sign up to MARCH!

On September 28, 2013, young people around the world will lead marches, rallies, and demonstrations to call attention to climate change and to ask our leaders to make protecting our planet a top priority.  Events will be planned and led by youth but all are welcome and encouraged to attend.

In North Carolina, youth will lead a march and rally in downtown Raleigh with inspiring calls to action from youth leaders and climate advocates.  Marchers will meet at Halifax Mall at 3:30 pm for a welcome and activities.  The march will begin at 4:00 pm, circling the Capitol and the General Assembly building before returning to Halifax Mall for a program to include speakers, music, and more.  More details about march location and logistics to come. 

Click here for ways to get involved!

Raging Grannies From Moral Monday Cropped and Resized

The Triangle Raging Grannies will perform at the post-march rally

The March for Our Planet is endorsed by

350.org Boone
350.org Triangle
350.org Winston Salem
Climate Convergence NC
iMatter Youth/Kids vs. Global Warming
League of Conservation Voters
NC Interfaith Power and Light
NC Students for Climate Action
Our Children’s Trust
Southern Energy Management

The Other Super Power Is Winning

It's not Russia.  It's not al Qaeda.  It's not Bashar al-Assad.  The other super power is the people of the world -- and the people of, but not by or for, the United States.

The world's people are protesting.  U.S. citizens abroad are protesting at U.S. embassies.  The British Parliament said no to war for the first time since Yorktown. 

The U.S. polls began with single-digit support for attacking Syria, climbed a little with the corporate media onslaught, and then started sinking again as the propaganda push shifted into self-defeating top gear.

Taking the stage after Colin Powell, the Obama-Kerry war marketing team was compelled by public pressure, foreign pressure, government-insider pressure, past public statements, and the inability of even the corporate media to keep a straight face, to take this war proposal to Congress -- and to do so while Congress members and senators were at home in their districts and states, where people were able to get in their faces.

Congress has been feeling the heat.  Sure, there is greater willingness by some Republican members to oppose a war if the president is a Democrat.  But there are also Democrats openly supporting the war because the president wants them to.  The decisive factor has been public pressure.  Senators and representatives have been turned around by their constituents, and that minority still supporting an attack on Syria openly says they're defying the people who elected them.  If there is no vote in Congress, it will be because the vote would fail.

Now is the time for Congress and the president to hear our voices more loudly than ever.

Secretary Kerry stressed on Monday that he hadn't been serious about a diplomatic solution.  It was just "rhetoric." He was just pointing out the "impossibility" of Assad handing weapons over.  He didn't want anyone to take it seriously.  Not when we have to get a war started. Not when the clock is ticking and he has already Colin-Powelled himself in front of his old committee with his wife behind him and protesters with bloody hands filling the room and everybody snickering when he claimed al Qaeda would install a secular democracy. Not after all THAT!

How can you ask a man to be the last one to lie for a dead idea?

But warmongering senators and presidents and presidential wannabes jumped at the chance of a way out of watching Congress vote down a war, and watching Congress vote down a war because we made them do it.  Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee has a proposal for a diplomatic resolution.  Republican Congressman Chris Smith has proposed a United Nations war crimes tribunal.  (One might hope it will even look at the crimes of both sides in the Syrian war.)  The always obvious, but hidden, fact that there are alternatives to bombing people is bursting out all over.

Sure, some people dislike this war because it would cost money, or because the Iraqis are ungrateful for the destruction of their country, or because Obama was born in Africa, but mostly people oppose this war for very good reasons -- and the financial cost is not really a bad reason.  From right to left, people don't think the United States should be the world's vigilante.  From left to right, people don't believe the justifications presented without evidence.  From right to left, people understand that killing people with the right weapons to protest their being killed with the wrong weapons is little bit crazy.  From left to right, people don't believe tales of short and easy wars that will pay for themselves.  And, across the political spectrum, people have begun to be able to smell lies, even when those lies are wrapped in flags and uniforms.

We should give our government credit for listening -- if it listens.  By no means are we out of the woods yet.  If you want to be able to say you were part of the movement that prevented a U.S. war, now is the time to email and telephone and join in activities.  We should not, however, fantasize that our government secretly held our position against the war it was trying to roll out, before we compelled it to hold our position. 

Let them thump their chests a bit about how their threats won something out of Assad, if that allows their war fever to pass.  But don't for a minute lose the significance of what the U.S. public has done to the otherwise broken U.S. government.  Out of whatever combination of factors, it just may turn out that we've stopped a war.  Which means that we can stop another war.  Which means that we can begin to work our way out of the war machine that has eaten our economy, our civil liberties, our natural environment, and our soul.

Assad may be lying.  Or Obama may lie that Assad is lying.  Or this whole thing may otherwise fall apart and the push for this war be back with a full-court press on Congress.  But we can stop it if we choose to do so.  We can push as hard for peaceful solutions in Syria as we've pushed to prevent the bombs from falling.  In fact, we can push 10 times harder.

And the warmakers will be back with another war.  Have no fear of that.  Seriously, have no fear of it: We are a super-power.  They are a vestige of a barbaric practice that has become an anachronism even while remaining our largest public investment.  They are dinosaurs.  They'll come back with a "defensive war".  That was their biggest failure this time; they didn't make Syria a threat.  Senator Harry Reid on Monday painted Syria as Nazi Germany, but he sounded like Elmer Fudd warning of a killer rabbit.

Laughter is our most potent tool.  We must mock their fear-mongering.  We must laugh at their claims of power and benevolent intent.  We must ask to see the list of nations that are grateful for past bombs.  We must inquire whether senators who play video poker while debating war plans, or secretaries of state who promise wars that will be both tiny and significant with no impact and a decisive result, are perhaps in need of better medication.

But let's not count our doves before they hatch.  Get in on this successful movement now.  It's going to be one to tell your grandchildren about.

Kerry Couldn't Sell a Used Car

After Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that President Bashar al-Assad avoid a war by handing over any chemical weapons his government possesses, Russia quickly seconded the motion, and Assad agreed to it.  Just as quickly, aparently panicked by the possible delay or prevention of missile strikes, Kerry's staff put out this statement:

"Secretary Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the impossibility and unlikelihood of Assad turning over chemical weapons he has denied he used.  His point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago. That's why the world faces this moment."

Could Assad be lying?  Could he hope to stash away a hidden weapons stockpile? Yes, and then at least a U.S. attack would have been delayed and more time gained to work on preventing it.  But that's not likely.  Inspectors are very good.  That's why Prsident George W. Bush wanted them pulled out of Iraq, where they had done a stellar job and the weaponry been eliminated.  That could conceivably also be why President Barack Obama wanted them kept away from the site of the August 21st attack and wanted to send missiles into Syria before the inspectors reached any results.

So, to all appearances, Assad has immediately done what Kerry just declared impossible.  How reliable, then, are other assertions of which Kerry professes to be certain?

Is it really an important international norm that one nation should bomb another in support of fanatical terrorists and on the stated basis that people had been killed with the wrong variety of weapon?

Is it really true that this war will be both unbelievably small and a significant blow to the Syrian government?

Kerry is trying to sell the same used car to people who want an ambulance and other people who want a tank.

Nobody's buying.

It's not entirely Kerry's fault that he had to come on stage after Colin Powell's performance, but it is his fault that he's flubbed all of his lines.

If Obama withdraws his demand for Congressional authorization of war, it will not be because he and John Kerry played 12-dimensional chess and secretly hope to bring peace to the earth.  It will be because they played duck-duck-goose with such incompetence that they managed to knock each other unconscious in the process.

If a war is prevented here -- and it's way too early to say that -- it will be the result of public opinion in the United States and the world, the courage of Parliament in Britain, and the glimmerings of actual representation beginning to sparkle through the muck and slime on Capitol Hill.

If celebrating Obama and Kerry's super brave and strong heroism in stumbling into a Russian barrier to their madness gives them the "credibility" to put their guns back in their pants, then by all means celebrate that fiction.

But if we get this crisis behind us, we should understand that Parliament acted against war for the first time in centuries, and the public stopped Congress for the first time ever.  If President Obama doesn't ask for an authorization, it will be because it is not going to pass.  Even if he didn't expect to use it right away, he would want it passed if possible. 

Congress' apparent willingness to say no is the result of many factors, including the perversity of partisanship.  But the primary factor is public pressure.  That public pressure needs to intensify now that victory is in sight, not diminish.

And if it succeeds, Syria will still be in desperate need of a cease-fire, disarmament, a peace settlement, and actual aid (as opposed to humanitarian bombs).  Let's not allow those needs to be forgotten if they depart from our television screens.  Those same television screens have tried to move us into support for war and failed dramatically.  We're in charge now.  We run this country. They fill fluff that no one listens to into the spaces between advertisements for crap no one buys.  Fill the government in on the new arrangement.

Join Me at the Festival for Peace, Prosperity, and the Planet in Nashville on Sept. 21

http://www.sitemason.com/files/kH3jKE/NPJCFestPoster13wb.jpgThe Festival for Peace, Prosperity, and the Planet will be held 11am to 6pm Saturday, September 21, 2013 at the "Special Events Pavilion" in Centennial Park. That's in the northwest corner of the park, near the airplane and the locomotive (see green arrow on the map linked here). Admission to this event is FREE. We'll have speakers, music, exhibitors, and vendors. Come rain or shine -- we have a roof!

Speakers will include David Swanson (peace writer), Hector Black (advocate for peace and forgiveness), Paki Wieland (Gaza flotilla, Raging Grannies), Linnet Overton (Community Food Advocates), and Diane Wilson (Code Pink). Musical performances will include Cobalt Blue and the Shelby Bottom String Band. We're still looking for exhibitors and vendors; contact Eric Schechter (LeftyMathProf@gmail.com) regarding those, or regarding other aspects of the festival.

(There will also be a
fundraiser dinner on the preceding evening, at the Nashville Peace and Justice Center, to help pay for the festival.)

This War Too Is A Lie

Some smart people thought, and perhaps some still think, that the 2003-2011 war on Iraq was unique in that it was promoted with the use of blatant lies.  When I'd researched dozens of other wars and failed to find one that wasn't based on a foundation of similar lies, I wrote a book about the most common war lie varieties. I called it War Is A Lie.

That book has sold more than any of my others, and I like to think it's contributed some teeny bit to the remarkable and very welcome skepticism that is greeting the U.S. government's current claims about Syria.  The fact is that, were the White House telling the truth about the need for an attack on Syria, it would be a first in history.  Every other case for war has always been dishonest.

The United States sought out war with Mexico, not the reverse.  There was never any evidence that Spain sank the Maine.  The Philippines didn't benefit from U.S. occupation.  The Lusitania was known to be carrying troops and arms.  The Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened.  Iraq didn't take any babies out of incubators.  The Taliban was willing to turn bin Laden over to be tried in a neutral court.  Libya wasn't about to kill everyone in Benghazi.  Et cetera.  Even wars that people like to imagine as justified, such as World War II, were nonetheless packaged in lies; FDR's tales about the Greer and the Kearney and supposed secret Nazi maps and plans were a step on the steady trajectory from Woodrow Wilson to Karl Rove.

The idea that Syria used chemical weapons is more plausible than the idea that Iraq had vast stockpiles of chemical, biological, and (in some versions) nuclear weapons and was working with al Qaeda.  But the evidence offered in the case of Syria is no stronger than that for Iraq.  It's harder to disprove merely because there's nothing to it: no documentation, no sources, no science.  Congress members who have seen the classified version say it's no better than the declassified.  Experts within the government and reporters in Syria who have seen more than that say they don't believe the White House's claims.  The assertions masquerading as a case come packaged in dishonest claims about how quickly Syria gave access to inspectors, and are written in a manner to suggest far greater knowledge and certainty than they actually assert on careful examination.  The latest claims follow a series of failed claims over a period of months and stand to benefit a Syrian opposition that has been found repeatedly to be manufacturing false propaganda aimed at bringing the United States into the war.  It seems, at this point, unlikely that the Assad government used chemical weapons two weeks ago, and already certain that even if it did, President Obama and Secretary Kerry don't know it -- they've only guessed it at best. 

The debate over chemical weapons, itself, is framed by the lie that a law against chemical weapons can be enforced by one nation attacking another.  In fact, Syria is not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention.  If it were, it would be subject to prosecution in court.  In any event, it is subject to the judgment and action of the world and its courts, not of one vigilante representing 4% of the world.  The bizarre idea that bombing a country can be a form of law enforcement dishonestly hides the fact that the action itself violates the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg Briand Pact.

Wars, a central lie maintains, are fought against evil.  But Assad is not the devil incarnate.  He's a horrendously awful ruler, pushed in bad directions by those around him as much as they by him.  He's someone who has proposed disarmament in the past and been rejected by the United States.  He's someone who has done evil things in cooperation with the United States, including lawless imprisonment and torture.  He's not going to eat American children in their sleep.  He's never threatened the United States, and has shown remarkable restraint in the face of threats by the United States and the CIA's efforts to undermine and attack his government.  Residents of the United States in search of dangers to get excited about shouldn't arrive at Bashar al Assad until far, far down the list past poor diet, poor healthcare, lack of exercise, automobiles, obesity, industrial pollution, unsafe workplaces, gun accidents, chain saws, lightning strikes, and countless other causes of death. 

Wars, a common lie holds, are fought in defense.  But Syria is no threat to the United States, and when President Obama suggests that theoretically it could be, the laughter you hear from most listeners is the correct response.  The White House hasn't sought to build much of a case for "defensive war" against Syria, even on the Benghazi model, and that deficiency is a major weakness.  Most people have no tolerance for non-defensive wars.  Exceptions are sadists and believers in humanitarian bombings, or -- to name a category that encompasses both of those groups -- imperialists.

The Syrian government is, like any government the United States wants to attack, a brutal government that the United States worked with until recently, situated in a region full of brutal governments the United States still supports.  In this case, the brutal governments still armed and supported by the U.S. government include Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Yemen.  If the US. government wanted to reduce violence, it could end its 2001-begun war on Afghanistan, it could end its drone strikes, and it could stop supplying Saudi Arabia with cluster bombs and Egypt with tear gas and Bahrain with ex-police chiefs.  Wars are not driven by generosity, despite what you'll often -- and increasingly -- hear.

We've also been hearing that President Obama has no choice.  He's painted himself into a corner.  War simply must happen now, for better or worse.  This is nonsense, of course.  If Kennedy could back off from a nuclear pissing match with Khrushchev, then surely Obama can accede to the opinion of the United States and the world on the matter of Syria.  Had Kennedy prioritized stupid machismo, we wouldn't admire him more. We wouldn't do anything at all.  We'd all be dead or never born.  Wars, despite a common lie, are not inevitable.

Violence doesn't reduce violence, despite the prevalence of this lie.  Wars are not ended by enlarging them.  Adding violence to the Syrian civil war will kill directly, escalate the killing by both sides, risk further escalation into a regional conflict, exacerbate a refugee crisis, damage existing aid operations, and make a cease-fire and negotiations more difficult.  Killing some Syrians and blowing up some Syrian buildings will leave Assad with exactly whatever "impunity" he had before -- particularly if no nations pursue his indictment in any court for any crimes.  But those Syrians killed and everyone else impacted indirectly will be worse off, not better.

As war drags on and expands, the arguments for continuing it will be retaliation against the attacks of other nations, even if our nation provoked them, and the almost religious duty to "support the troops."  But the dirty little secret hidden by that shiny lie is that the troops don't benefit from adding years to each quagmire.  The troops, in fact, suffer -- often severely.  Wars are not prolonged for the good of soldiers, no matter what your television says.  They're prolonged for politicians and profiteers.

The beneficiaries of a U.S. attack on Syria will be war profiteers, their political servants, media outlets that gain higher ratings, and a gang increasingly dominated by al Qaeda-affiliated groups that is seeking power in Syria through the use of vicious violence that is illegal in its entirety.  War makers do not have noble motives.

A U.S. war on Syria, short or long, will not be fought by armies on a battlefield.  It will be fought by missiles and planes and drones in and above the neighborhoods where men, women, and children live.  The human, societal, and environmental damage will be something that too many parts of the world are familiar with but the United States itself is not.

This war, like others of its sort, will not be won.  Syria was not going to be the first case in which a war was based on honesty.  It's also not going to be the first place where a humanitarian war benefits humanity.  It's not going to be the first place where the U.S. military builds a stable democratic nation.  It's not going to be the first nation whose people are grateful for such an intervention.  And it's not going to involve anything that could be properly called a victory.

The deepest lie at the route root of this drive for war is perhaps the lie that a nation can prepare for war, dumping its energies and resources into every possible plan for every conceivable war, and yet manage to avoid those wars unless they are forced upon it as a "last resort."  This next dishonest, immoral, illegal, unpopular, murderous, atrocity-laden, uncontrollable, environment-destroying, rights-eroding, money-wasting war will come relentlessly, ineluctably, it will come . . .  unless we compel our government to consider other possible courses of action, including that of actively working for peace through a posture of respect for others that would require a bit of truthfulness.

The Bill Congress Should Pass Instead of War

By David Swanson

Here's a preliminary draft of what the United States Congress could pass this week if it were sincerely interested in human rights, international norms, the rule of law, and peace in Syria.  You are welcome to suggest it to your Congress members, who are more than welcome to tinker with it.  You might also share it with any friends or uncles or neighbors who demand to know: "If you're against missile strikes then what are you in favor of?" Send me any suggested changes.

 

Non-Lethal Aid to Syria

Joint Resolution

 

No Military Solution

Sec. 1

a) The Congress does not authorize military action or support of military action in Syria, and such action by the Central Intelligence Agency and any other agencies of the United States must cease immediately.

b) The United States respects the position of the United Nations Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact, under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, as parts of the Supreme Law of the Land.  The United States will not violate these treaties by military action or threat of military action against Syria.

Chemical Weapons

Sec. 2

a) The United States will encourage Syria, as well as Egypt, Israel, Angola, North Korea, and South Sudan to ratify and abide by the Chemical Weapons Convention.

b) The United States will eliminate in the swiftest manner that safety allows the entirety of its own chemical weapons stockpiles, and urge other nations, including Russia, to do the same.

c) The United States will forthwith cease to maintain or make use of as weapons: white phosphorous, depleted uranium, or any form of napalm, and will assist Iraq in its recovery from their use.

d) The Congress urges the president to sign the United States on as a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

e) The United States will forward to the UN Security Council and to the prosecutor of the ICC all evidence of violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

f) The United States will urge the United Nations to send human rights monitors to Syria.

Humanitarian Aid

Sec. 3

a) The United States will transfer 1% of the current year's Department of Defense budget to non-military aid programs for Syrian refugees and those suffering as a result of war in Syria and around the world.

De-Escalation

Sec. 4

a) The United States will diplomatically urge Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan, and all other nations to cease providing arms and ammunition, or funding for arms and ammunition, to fighters in Syria on both sides of the war.

b) The United States will diplomatically urge Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan, and others involved to urge the Syrian opposition and the Syrian government to establish a cease-fire. The United States will use all available pressure, including ceasing to itself provide arms to nations involved.

c) The United States will work with the international community to bring both sides in the Syrian civil war to a neutral negotiating table, with no pre-conditions.

Talk Nation Radio: Rep. Alan Grayson on Syria: House Will Vote No, Obama Will Heed

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-rep-alan

Congressman Alan Grayson is leading efforts within Congress to prevent an attack on Syria. He explains why, points to huge popular agreement, says the votes are lining up, and that President Obama will not attack Syria if the House votes against it.  Congressman Grayson has a petition set up at http://DontAttackSyria.com

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.

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

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

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