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Host Dave Lindorff interviews David Swanson, labor and peace activist, author of the book “War No More: The Case for Abolition” and the website warisacrime.org, about the rapidly expanding crises that the US has been promoting in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, the Persian Gulf, and the many countries where the US is using attack drones. Swanson argues that the US has been working hard to make Russia into an enemy again, that after portraying Syrian leader Bushar al Assad as a “Hitler” and arming and training his islamic rebel enemies, now a year later, Washington sees Assad as the “good guy” and is gearing up to bomb and kill the rebels, both in Syria and in Iraq, where they have expanded their rebellion. At least two of the crises, in Ukraine and the Persian Gulf, where a Coast Guard vessel has fired at an Iranian vessel, there is a real risk of war, either against Russia or Iran, Swanson warns.
WASHINGTON, August 28 (RIA Novosti), Lyudmila Chernova – The deployment of NATO forces to new bases in Eastern Europe opens new possibilities for endless war and hostilities, New York director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) Alice Slater told RIA Novosti.
The disturbing saber rattling from NATO chief Anders Rasmussen announcing that NATO will deploy troops for the first time in Eastern Europe since the Cold War ended, build a “readiness action plan,” boost Ukraine’s military capacity so that “in the future you will see a more visible NATO presence in the east,” while withdrawing Russia’s invitation to an upcoming NATO meeting in Wales, “opens new possibilities for endless war and hostilities,” Slater said.
The NATO secretary-general told European journalists that the alliance was to deploy its forces in Eastern Europe in response to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and to counter the threat posed by Russia to the former Soviet Baltic republics.
"It is ironic, that at this moment in history when so many people and nations around the world are acknowledging the 100th anniversary of our planet’s hapless stumble into World War I, great powers and their allies are once again provoking new dangers where governments appear to be sleepwalking towards a restoration of old Cold War battles,” Slater said.
"A barrage of conflicting information is broadcast in the various national and nationalistic media with alternative versions of reality that provoke and stoke new enmities and rivalries across national borders," the expert added.
The nongovernmental organization director noted that with the United States and Russia in possession of more than 15,000 of the world’s 16,400 nuclear weapons, humanity can ill-afford to stand by and permit such conflicting views of history and that opposing assessments of the facts on the ground can lead to a 21st century military confrontation between the great powers and their allies.
"While sadly acknowledging the trauma suffered by the countries of Eastern Europe from years of Soviet occupation, and understanding their desire for the protection of the NATO military alliance, we must remember that the Russian people lost 20 million people during World War II to the Nazi onslaught and are understandably wary of NATO expansion to their borders in a hostile environment," she explained.
"This, despite a promise to Gorbachev when the wall came down peacefully and the Soviet Union ended its post WWII occupation of Eastern Europe, that NATO would not be expanded eastward, beyond the incorporation of East Germany into that rusty Cold War alliance," Slater added.
"Russia has lost the protection of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which the US abandoned in 2001, and warily observes missile bases metastasizing ever closer to its borders in new NATO member states, while the US rejects repeated Russian efforts for negotiations on a treaty to ban weapons in space, or Russia’s prior application for membership in NATO," Slater concluded.
Germany’s Der Spiegel reported Sunday that Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia felt threatened by Russia's intervention in Ukraine and feared of what they described as Russian aggression.
NATO members are scheduled to meet in Wales to discuss the alliance's response to Russia, which it accuses of interfering in Ukrainian affairs.
Ahead of the NATO summit at the end of next week, the four countries have urged the military bloc to mention Moscow as a potential aggressor in its summit communique.
Russia’s Permanent Mission to NATO told RIA Novosti on Monday that Moscow has no plans to participate in any activities during the NATO summit in Wales.
John Horgan asked me for a paragraph on what to do about ISIS. I sent him this:
1. Apologize for brutalizing the leader of ISIS in Abu Ghraib and to every other prisoner victimized under U.S. occupation
2. Apologize for destroying the nation of Iraq and to every family there
3. Begin making restitution by delivering aid (not "military aid" but actual aid, food, medicine) to the entire nation of Iraq
4. Apologize for role in war in Syria
5. Begin making restitution by delivering actual aid to Syria
6. Announce a commitment not to provide weapons to Iraq or Syria or Israel or Jordan or Egypt or Bahrain or any other nation anywhere on earth and to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from foreign territories and seas, including Afghanistan. (The U.S. Coast Guard in the Persian Gulf has clearly forgotten where the coast of the U.S. is!)
7. Announce a commitment to invest heavily in solar, wind, and other green energy and to provide the same to democratic representative governments.
8. Begin providing Iran with free wind and solar technologies -- at much lower cost of course than what it is costing the U.S. and Israel to threaten Iran over a nonexistent nuclear weapons program.
9. End economic sanctions.
10. Send diplomats to Baghdad and Damascus to negotiate aid and to encourage serious reforms.
11. Send journalists, aid workers, peaceworkers, human shields, and negotiators into crisis zones, understanding that this means risking lives, but fewer lives than further militarization risks.
12. Empower people with agricultural assistance, education, cameras, and internet access.
13. Launch a communications campaign in the United States to replace military recruitment campaigns, focused on building sympathy and desire to serve as critical aid workers, persuading doctors and engineers to volunteer their time to travel to and visit these areas of crisis.
14. Work through the United Nations on all of this.
15. Sign the United States on to the International Criminal Court and voluntarily propose the prosecution of top U.S. officials of this and the preceding regimes for their crimes.
Listen to Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network, with Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey – Week of 8/25/14
Obama and ISIS in Dance of Death
The growing U.S. bombing campaign against the self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria serves no one but war profiteers, said veteran anti-war activist David Swanson. “I know that ISIS had to be aware that slitting throats on camera would result in more bombing, just as President Obama had to be aware that blowing men, women and children up with 500-pound bombs would result in slitting throats,” said Swanson, publisher of the influential web site WarIsACrime.Org. “The beneficiaries of escalation, which is entirely predictable, are the weapons makers.”
Black Strategies Must Include Self-Defense
“First and foremost, it is right for our people to rebel,” said Kali Akuno, an organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and co-author of the groundbreaking report “Operation Ghetto Storm,” which documented extrajudicial killings of Black Americans under color of law. “I think it boiled over in Ferguson as a result of a transformation in our people’s consciousness, especially our young folks,” said Akuno. “They’ve had enough of the brutality, of being systematically excluded.” Black community self-defense must be part of any organizing strategy. “This has been part and parcel of what we know we have to do in the face of white supremacy and in the face of the brutality that the capitalist system has reserved for us, in particular.”
Black Passivity is Mentally Unhealthy
Political protest is therapeutic for Black Americans, said Dr. Vernellia Randall, professor emeritus of law at the University of Dayton and author Dying While Black. “I want us to be less passive, I want us to engage in civil disobedience” – and not the kind of protest-like activities sanctioned by the authorities. “If they’re telling us, Here’s how you can protest, then that, to me, is not civil disobedience,” said Randall. “If you are coloring within the lines that the establishment establishes, then you are putting no pressure on the establishment.”
Cuba Should Join in Fight for Slavery Reparations
The young United States was a horrible example of democracy, but it did lead the way in the business of human trafficking. “After the establishment of the United States, it quickly became the leader in the African slave trade to Cuba,” said Dr. Gerald Horne, professor of history and African American Studies at the University of Houston and author of Race to Revolution: The United States and Cuba During Slavery and Jim Crow. “They also became the leader of the African slave trade to Brazil, helping to account for the fact that Brazil has more people of African descent than any other nation outside Nigeria,” said Horne, who hopes to enlist Cuba in “our journey to claim reparations for the enslavement of Africans in the Americas.”
Click here to download the show.
Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network is hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey. A new edition of the program airs every Monday at 11:00am ET on PRN. Length: One hour.
Barry! Barr -er Mr. President, I got Congress out in the parking lot looking at the new SUVs. I'm pushing the missile strikes on the Syrian government hard, but just a few little ones, and then ka-blam we get em with the whole package deal, 800 vehicles plus fuel and maintenance, a little shock, a little awe, a little razzmatazz, and we reel em right in.
Ataboy, John, go get em.
Oh, damn it all. Barry, it's not my fault. They were on recess and listening to people at town hall meetings. And AIPAC is totally AWOL. And the lousy stinking pacifist Brits voted it down when I never even asked them. Apparently the entire House of Representatives is going to ride bicycles from now on.
That's all right, John. That's all right. They can't hold out long. You'll get em next time.
It makes no sense, Mr. President. We rolled right over them on Afghanistan and Libya and all the drone strikes and all the bases, and here they go saying No to bombing Syria. And I told them Assad was Hitler. And you told them it was this or support poisoning children. But nothing. What are we missing? What if we throw in free GPS and hands-free telephoning. Plus, that way we can keep a close eye on them while they pay us for the favor. Huh? Huh?
You see, there's the old spirit. Now, listen, what we don't want is for them to go rogue and get desperate and pick up an old wreck from down in the back lot. You steer them away from that broken down Iranian convertible, OK?
Yes, Sir! John Kerry reporting for duty, Sir!
Oh, cut the shit, John, I've told you 18 times I'm not taping everything like Nixon.
Nixon didn't have the technology to . . .
LET ME BE CLEAR, the problem with the missile strikes on Syria last time wasn't the human cost or the financial cost or any of that crap. People didn't want to join a war on the side of al Qaeda rebels and terrorists. We'd told them those were the Enemy for over a decade. So here's what we're going to do. We're going to find a war where we can jump in on the side of the government, against the Islamic Extremists. Congress loves governments. The media loves governments. Everybody hates extremists. And guess where we're going to find this war?
Good guess. Try again.
Getting warmer. Try again.
Well, I don't . . .
Try again, that's a direct order.
Now I'll tell you: Syria.
Think about it, John. It's genius, if I do say so myself. Look, people forget that Syria was our ally a few years back, but Congress remembers. We just flip back. We have to, or we're fighting both sides of a war in Iraq and Syria. The key on Syria is to do something. Well what counts as doing something? Blowing shit up, that's what. And nobody wants us blowing up the government. Well, we'll blow up the rebels. Either way, we're destroying U.S. weaponry on the ground, which is much smarter than giving it to local police as a means of creating demand for more. You think they won't go for it because we're flip-flopping, right? You're always so damn terrified of flip-flopping.
You don't know. You didn't go through what . . .
Oh hell, they stole the votes in Ohio, John, and you bent over and said "Thank you sir, may I have another?" We're not flip-flopping. We're blowing up evil, evil people, lots of them. That's the story. We've been funding and arming all sides in all of these wars for some time now, payments to the Taliban, weapons to ISIS. You know, the troops on the ground in Libya three years ago could have exchanged parts -- they had the same U.S. guns.
Mr. President, there are hundreds of Americans who listened to us last year and have gone off and joined the rebels in Syria.
They can provide information, switch sides, or pay the price, John. Now, are you ready to go out there and make the pitch? I see the leadership on the curb there.
Mr. President, in all good faith, we've sold humanitarians on the need to bomb Assad, not bomb in defense of Assad.
Mr. Secretary, I'm giving you an order.
Mr. President, with all due respect, you keep saying there's no military solution, there's a million other approaches that don't create this sort of SNAFU, that just . . .
Mr. Secretary, Hillary would not hesitate.
I'm on it.
A BBC audio podcast from the show "Four Thought" (go here and click on the date "13 8 14") includes a talk by Italian journalist Mara Oliva. She grew up in the same Italy infatuated with the U.S. that I lived in as an exchange student -- an Italy that has largely fallen out of love with the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.
Oliva makes a case that the U.S. public is not nearly as pro-war as its government.
As early as 1954 the U.S. public opposed a U.S. war in Vietnam, and favored diplomacy with China, according to polls commissioned by President Eisenhower. Nixon finally went to China decades after the public had begun favoring that move.
In January 2003, two-thirds of the U.S. public wanted U.N. inspections to be allowed to continue in Iraq. In February 2003, a majority still wanted to see more evidence and wanted U.N. inspections to continue.
In September 2013, 80% in the U.S. were against attacking Syria. (Let's hope that holds now that Obomber wants to attack the other side in that war.)
So, it remains possible to be fond of the United States if one looks away from what we allow our government to do and focuses instead on what we tell pollsters we'd like.
But our expressing good opinions and then sitting on our hands is perhaps not the height of good world citizenship.
From Just War to Just Peace: The Time Is Now
“Those who use the sword are sooner or later destroyed by it.” - Matthew 27:52
“If we cannot know from the New Testament that Christ totally rejects violence, then we can know nothing of His person or message. It is the clearest of teachings.” - Rev. John L. McKenzie, Biblical Scholar
“War is the suicide of humanity because it kills the heart and kills love." - Pope Francis, June 2, 2013
The Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak, spoke at the University of Virginia on Tuesday evening, in an event organized by the Center for Politics, which no doubt has video of the proceedings. Kislyak was once ambassador to Belgium and to NATO.
Kislyak spoke to a packed auditorium and took, I think, well over an hour of questions. He spoke frankly, and the questions he was asked by students, professors, and other participants were polite and for the most part far more intelligent than he would have been asked on, for example, Meet the Press.
He told the audience that Russia had known there were no WMDs in Iraq, and had known that attacking Iraq would bring "great difficulties" to that country. "And look what is happening today," he said. He made the same comment about Libya. He spoke of the U.S. and Russia working together to successfully remove chemical weapons from the Syrian government. But he warned against attacking Syria now.
There will be no new Cold War, Kislyak said, but there is now a greater divide in some ways than during the Cold War. Back then, he said, the U.S. Congress sent delegations over to meet with legislators, and the Supreme Court likewise. Now there is no contact. It's easy in the U.S. to be anti-Russian, he said, and hard to defend Russia. He complained about U.S. economic sanctions against Russia intended to "suffocate" Russian agriculture.
Asked about "annexing" Crimea, Kislyak rejected that characterization, pointed to the armed overthrow of the Ukrainian government, and insisted that Kiev must stop bombing its own people and instead talk about federalism within Ukraine.
There were remarkably few questions put to the ambassador that seemed informed by U.S. television "news." One was from a politics professor who insisted that Kislyak assign blame to Russia over Ukraine. Kislyak didn't.
I always sit in the back, thinking I might leave, but Kislyak was only taking questions from the front. So I moved up and was finally called on for the last question of the evening. For an hour and a half, Kislyak had addressed war and peace and Russian-U.S. relations, but he'd never blamed the U.S. for anything in Ukraine any more than Russia. No one had uttered the word "NATO."
So I pointed out the upcoming NATO protests. I recalled the history of Russia being told that NATO would not expand eastward. I asked Kislyak whether NATO ought to be disbanded.
The ambassador said that he had been the first Russian to "present his credentials" to NATO, and that he had "overestimated" NATO's ability to work with Russia. He'd been disappointed by NATO actions in Serbia, he said, and Libya, by the expansion eastward, by NATO pressure on Ukraine and Poland, and by the pretense that Russia might be about to attack Poland.
"We were promised," Kislyak said, that NATO would not expand eastward at all upon the reunification of Germany. "And now look." NATO has declared that Ukraine and Georgia will join NATO, Kislyak pointed out, and NATO says this even while a majority of the people in Ukraine say they're opposed.
The ambassador used the word "disappointed" a few times.
"We'll have to take measures to assure our defense," he said, "but we would have preferred to build on a situation with decreased presence and decreased readiness."
Wouldn't we all.
Join the campaign to shut down NATO.
Sign a petition for an independent investigation into the airplane crash in Ukraine.
Send a note to the Russian Embassy to let them know you're against a new Cold War too.
Matthew Hoh is a Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy and is the former Director of the Afghanistan Study Group, a network of foreign and public policy experts and professionals advocating for a change in US strategy in Afghanistan. A former State Department official, Matthew resigned in protest from his post in Afghanistan over US strategic policy and goals in Afghanistan in September 2009. Prior to his assignment in Afghanistan, Matthew was in Iraq; first in 2004-5 in Salah ad Din Province with a State Department reconstruction and governance team and then in 2006-7 in Anbar Province as a Marine Corps company commander. When not deployed, Matthew worked on Afghanistan and Iraq policy and operations issues at the Pentagon and State Department from 2002-8. Matthew’s writings have appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Defense News, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. The Council on Foreign Relations has cited Matthew’s resignation letter from his post in Afghanistan as an Essential Document. In 2010, Matthew was named the Ridenhour Prize Recipient for Truth Telling. Matthew is a member of the Board of Directors for Council for a Livable World and is an Advisory Board Member for Expose Facts (ExposeFacts.org). He writes on issues of war, peace and post-traumatic stress disorder recovery at MatthewHoh.com.
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At the 200th anniversary of the jackasses of 1812 getting the U.S. capital burned by the British in 1814, I found myself watching a new film by Rory Kennedy called Last Days in Vietnam. This film covers the moment of loss, of defeat, of the U.S. military at long last receiving its final ass kicking by the Vietnamese, for whom these were not the last days of Vietnam but the last days of the American War and of Western military occupation.
As in the Middle East these days, where the United States has been busy losing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and wrecking Libya and Pakistan and Yemen and Palestine on the side, Vietnam was a disaster by the time the movie begins. As the U.S. news media blames ISIS for the state of Iraq, Last Days in Vietnam blames the North Vietnamese. This is the story of the loss in Vietnam, but it is told primarily by the losers.
A Pentagon-funded online celebration of the U.S. war on Vietnam describes the incidents shown in this film thus:
"The American evacuation ends. Saigon falls to the North Vietnamese troops, and organized South Vietnamese resistance to the communist forces ends. President Duong Van Minh announces the unconditional surrender of the Republic of Vietnam."
I recommend Veterans For Peace for a counter to the Pentagon's current $65 million campaign to glorify the U.S. war on Vietnam. And I recommend watching Last Days in Vietnam for an understanding of how wars end. In particular, this film should be watched by anyone who has managed to continue after all these decades to falsely associate war with victory or winning or success or accomplishment.
The final months of U.S. presence in Vietnam were a time of denial, by the U.S. ambassador and others, that the North Vietnamese were coming to kick them out. Every American and every one of their Vietnamese allies and collaborators, and all of the family members of both groups, could have been safely evacuated. Instead, there was a last-minute mad rush with helicopters dumped into the ocean after they unloaded passengers onto ships, and many left behind to be killed.
The film blames Congress for rejecting President Ford's request to fund an evacuation. But the Pentagon could quite easily have simply done it, and President Ford apparently never instructed the ambassador to do so. So, the spooky music plays, and the color of blood flows down the map from North to South as the barbaric communist aggressors who go so far as to use violence, something Americans would never do, approach Saigon. And they only come because President Nixon was driven out by the peaceniks. Never mind that that was several months earlier, they never would have come had Nixon been in the White House.
Of course, the views of the losers tend to obscure as much as to reveal. The war had to end. The people fighting for their homes had to prevail, sooner or later, over the people fighting for the fact that they'd already been fighting and couldn't face the shame of stopping. But Last Days in Vietnam shows the Americans watching the rushed evacuation from home, the Americans who had earlier "served" in Vietnam. And they believed all their efforts had "come to nothing."
Nothing? Nothing? Four million men, women, and children slaughtered. The U.S. society calls that nothing. The Germans are expected to know how many millions their government killed. The Japanese are required to study the past sins of Japan. But the United States is supposed to gaze at its navel, glorify its sinners, and pretend that its defeats are neutral, indifferent, nothingness. Try telling that story about Afghanistan or Iraq or Gaza, I dare you.
In the 1920s and 1930s, anybody who was anybody tried to figure out how to rid the world of war. Collectively, I'd say they got three-quarters of the way to an answer. But from 1945 to 2014, they've been ignored when possible (which is most of the time), laughed at when necessary, and on the very rare occasions that require it: attacked.
What a flock of idiots the leading thinkers of a generation all must have been. World War II happened. Therefore, war is eternal. Everyone knows that.
But slavery abolitionists pushed on despite slavery happening another year, and another year. Women sought the right to vote in the next election cycle following each one they were barred from. Undoubtedly war is trickier to get rid off, because governments claim that all the other governments (and any other war makers) must go first or do it simultaneously. The possibility of someone else launching a war, combined with the false notion that war is the best way to defend against war, creates a seemingly permanent maze from which the world cannot emerge.
But difficult is far too easily distorted into impossible. War will have to be abolished through a careful and gradual practice; it will require cleaning up the corruption of government by war profiteers; it will result in a very different world in just about every way: economically, culturally, morally. But war will not be abolished at all if the meditations of the abolitionists are buried and not read.
Imagine if children, when they'd just gotten a bit too old for Winnie the Pooh and we're becoming old enough to read serious arguments, were told that A.A. Milne also wrote a book in 1933-1934 called Peace With Honour. Who wouldn't want to know what the creator of Winnie the Pooh thought of war and peace? And who wouldn't be thrilled to discover his wit and humor applied in all seriousness to the case for ending the most horrific enterprise to remain perfectly acceptable in polite society?
Now, Milne had served as a war propagandist and soldier in World War I, his 1934 view of Germany as not really wanting war looks (at least at first glance) ludicrous in retrospect, and Milne himself abandoned his opposition to war in order to cheer for World War II. So we can reject his wisdom as hypocrisy, naiveté, and as having been rejected by the author. But we'd be depriving ourselves of insight because the author was imperfect, and we'd be prioritizing the ravings of a drunk over statements made during a period of sobriety. Even the ideal diagnostician of war fever can sound like a different man once he's contracted the disease himself.
In Peace With Honour, Milne shows that he has listened to the rhetoric of the war promoters and found that the "honor" they fight for is essentially prestige (or what is more recently called in the United States, "credibility"). As Milne puts it:
"When a nation talks of its honour, it means its prestige. National prestige is a reputation for the will to war. A nation's honour, then, is measured by a nation's willingness to use force to maintain its reputation as a user of force. If one could imagine the game of tiddleywinks assuming a supreme importance in the eyes of statesmen, and if some innocent savage were to ask why tiddleywinks was so important to Europeans, the answer would be that only by skill at tiddleywinks could a country preserve its reputation as a country skilful at tiddleywinks. Which answer might cause the savage some amusement."
Milne debates popular arguments for war and comes back again and again to ridiculing it as a foolish cultural choice dressed up as necessary or inevitable. Why, he asks, do Christian churches sanction mass murder by bombing of men, women, and children? Would they sanction mass conversion to Islam if it were required to protect their country? No. Would they sanction widespread adultery if population growth were the only path to defense of their country? No. So why do they sanction mass murder?
Milne tries a thought experiment to demonstrate that wars are optional and chosen by individuals who could choose otherwise. Let us suppose, he says, that an outbreak of war would mean the certain and immediate death of Mussolini, Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Ramsay MacDonald, Stanley Baldwin, Sir John Simon, one unnamed cabinet minister chosen by lot on the day war is declared, the ministers responsible for the military, Winston Churchill, two unnamed Generals, two unnamed Admirals, two unnamed directors of armaments firms chosen by lot, Lords Beaverbrook and Rothermere, the editors of The Times and The Morning Post, and corresponding representatives of France. Would there, in this situation, ever be a war? Milne says definitely not. And therefore was is not "natural" or "inevitable" at all.
Milne makes a similar case around wartime conventions and rules:
"As soon as we begin making rules for war, as soon as we say that this is legitimate warfare and that the other is not, we are admitting that war is merely an agreed way of settling an argument."
But, Milne writes -- accurately depicting the 1945 to 2014 history of a U.N. and NATO-run world -- you cannot make a rule against aggressive war and keep defensive war. It won't work. It's self-defeating. War will roll on under such circumstances, Milne predicts -- and we know he was right. "To renounce aggression is not enough," writes Milne. "We must also renounce defence."
What do we replace it with? Milne depicts a world of nonviolent dispute resolution, arbitration, and a changed conception of honor or prestige that finds war shameful rather than honorable. And not just shameful, but mad. He quotes a war supporter remarking, "At the present moment, which may prove to be the eve of another Armageddon, we are not ready." Asks Milne: "Which of these two facts [Armageddon or unpreparedness] is of the more importance to civilization?"
Remarks at North Carolina Peace Action Event in Raleigh, N.C., August 23, 2014.
Thank you for inviting me, and thank you to North Carolina Peace Action, and to John Heuer whom I consider a tireless selfless and inspired peacemaker himself. Can we thank John?
It's an honor for me to have a role in honoring the 2014 Student Peacemaker, iMatter Youth North Carolina. I've followed what iMatter has been doing around the country for years, I've sat in on a court case they brought in Washington, D.C., I've shared a stage with them at a public event, I've organized an online petition with them at RootsAction.org, I've written about them and watched them inspire writers like Jeremy Brecher whom I recommend reading. Here is an organization acting in the interests of all future generations of all species and being led -- and led well -- by human kids. Can we give them some applause?
But, perhaps revealing the short-sightedness and self-centeredness of myself as a member of a species that didn't evolve to manage a whole planet, I'm especially happy to be recognizing iMatter Youth North Carolina because my own niece Hallie Turner and my nephew Travis Turner are part of it. They deserve LOTS of applause.
And the full iMatter planning team, I'm told, is represented tonight as well by Zack Kingery, Nora White, and Ari Nicholson. They should have even more applause.
I take complete credit for Hallie and Travis's work, because although I didn't really teach them anything, I did, before they were born, tell my sister she should go to our high school reunion, at which she met the man who became my brother in law. Without that, no Hallie and no Travis.
However, it was my parents -- who I suppose by the same logic (although in this case I of course reject it) get complete credit for anything I do -- it was they who took Hallie to her first rally, at the White House protesting a tar sands pipeline. I'm told that Hallie didn't know what it was all about at first or why the good people were being arrested, instead of the people committing the offenses against our loved ones and our earth being arrested. But by the end of the rally Hallie was right in the thick of it, wouldn't leave until the last person had gone off to jail for justice, and she pronounced the occasion the most important day of her life thus far, or words to that effect.
Perhaps, as it turns out, that was an important day, not just for Hallie but also for iMatter Youth North Carolina, and, who knows, just maybe -- like the day Gandhi was thrown off a train, or the day Bayard Rustin talked Martin Luther King Jr. into giving up his guns, or the day a teacher assigned Thomas Clarkson to write an essay on whether slavery was acceptable -- it will eventually turn out to have been an important day for more of us.
I'm a bit ashamed of two things though, despite all my pride.
One is that we adults leave kids to discover moral action and serious political engagement by accident rather than teaching it to them systematically and universally, as if we don't really think they want meaningful lives, as if we imagine comfortable lives is the complete human ideal. We are asking kids to lead the way on the environment, because we -- I'm speaking collectively of everyone over 30, the people Bob Dylan said not to trust until he was over 30 -- we are not doing it, and the kids are taking us to court, and our government is allowing its fellow leading destroyers of the environment to become voluntary co-defendants (can you imagine volunteering to be sued along with someone else who's facing a law suit? No, wait, sue me too!), and the voluntary co-defendants, including the National Association of Manufacturers, are providing teams of lawyers that probably cost more than the schools Hallie and Travis attend, and the courts are ruling that it is an individual right of non-human entities called corporations to destroy the inhabitability of the planet for everyone, despite the evident logic that says the corporations will cease to exist as well.
Should our kids do as we say or as we do? Neither! They should run in the opposite direction from anything we've touched. There are exceptions, of course. Some of us try a little. But it is an uphill effort to undo the cultural indoctrination that has us saying phrases like "throw this away" as if there really were an away, or labeling the destruction of a forest "economic growth," or worrying about so-called peak oil and how we'll live when the oil runs out, even though we've already found five times what we can safely burn and still be able to live on this beautiful rock.
But kids are different. The need to protect the earth and use clean energy even if it means a few inconveniences or even some serious personal risk, is no more unusual or strange to a kid than half the other stuff they are presented with for the first time, like algebra, or swim meets, or uncles. They haven't spent as many years being told that renewable energy doesn't work. They haven't developed the fine-tuned sense of patriotism that allows us to keep believing renewable energy cannot work even as we hear about it working in other countries. (That's German physics!)
Our young leaders have fewer years of indoctrination into what Martin Luther King Jr. called extreme materialism, militarism, and racism. Adults block the way in the courts, so kids take to the streets, they organize and agitate and educate. And so they must, but they are up against an educational system and an employment system and an entertainment system that often tells them they are powerless, that serious change is impossible, and that the most important thing you can do is vote.
Now, adults telling each other that the most important thing they can do is vote is bad enough, but saying that to kids who aren't old enough to vote is like telling them to do nothing. We need a few percent of our population doing the opposite of nothing, living and breathing dedicated activism. We need creative nonviolent resistance, re-education, redirection of our resources, boycotts, divestments, the creation of sustainable practices as models for others, and the impeding of an established order that is politely and smilingly steering us over a cliff. Rallies organized by iMatter Youth North Carolina look like moves in the right direction to me. So, let's thank them again.
The second thing I'm a little ashamed of is that it is not at all uncommon for a peace organization to arrive at an environmental activist when choosing someone to honor, whereas I have never once heard of the reverse. Hallie and Travis have an uncle who works largely on peace, but they live in a culture where the activism that receives funding and attention and mainstream acceptance, to the limited extent that any does and of course trailing far behind 5Ks against breast cancer and the sort of activism that lacks real opponents, is activism for the environment. But I think there's a problem with what I've just done and what we usually tend to do, that is, with categorizing people as peace activists or environmental activists or clean elections activists or media reform activists or anti-racism activists. As we came to realize a few years back, we all add up to 99% of the population, but those who are really active are divided, in reality as well as in people's perceptions.
Peace and environmentalism should, I think, be combined into the single word peacenvironmentalism, because neither movement is likely to succeed without the other. iMatter wants to live as if our future matters. You can't do that with militarism, with the resources it takes, with the destruction it causes, with the risk that grows greater with each passing day that nuclear weapons will be intentionally or accidentally detonated. If you could really figure out how to nuke another nation while shooting its missiles out of the sky, which of course nobody has figured out, the impact on the atmosphere and climate would severely impact your own nation as well. But that's a fantasy. In a real world scenario, a nuclear weapon is launched on purpose or by mistake, and many more are quickly launched in every direction. This has in fact nearly happened numerous times, and the fact that we pay almost no attention to it anymore makes it more rather than less likely. I imagine you know what happened 50 miles southeast of here on January 24, 1961? That's right, the U.S. military accidentally dropped two nuclear bombs and got very lucky they didn't explode. Nothing to worry about, says comedy news anchor John Oliver, that's why we have TWO Carolinas.
iMatter advocates for an economic shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy and for sustainable jobs. If only there were a couple of trillion dollars a year being wasted on something useless or destructive! And of course there is, worldwide, that unfathomable sum is being spent on preparations for war, half of it by the United States, three quarters of it by the United States and its allies -- and much of that last bit on U.S. weapons. For a fraction of it, starvation and disease could be seriously dealt with, and so could climate change. War kills primarily through taking spending away from where it's needed. For a small fraction of war preparations spending, college could be free here and provided free in some other parts of the world too. Imagine how many more environmental activists we could have if college graduates didn't owe tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for the human right of an education! How do you pay that back without going to work for the destroyers of the earth?
79% of weapons in the Middle East come from the United States, not counting those belonging to the U.S. military. U.S. weapons were on both sides in Libya three years ago and are on both sides in Syria and Iraq. Weapons making is an unsustainable job if ever I saw one. It drains the economy. The same dollars spent on clean energy or infrastructure or education or even tax cuts for non-billionaires produces more jobs than military spending. Militarism fuels more violence, rather than protecting us. The weapons have to be used up, destroyed, or given to local police who will begin to see local people as enemies, so that new weapons can be made. And this process is, by some measures, the biggest destroyer of the environment we have.
The U.S. military burned through about 340,000 barrels of oil each day, as measured in 2006. If the Pentagon were a country, it would rank 38th out of 196 in oil consumption. If you removed the Pentagon from the total oil consumption by the United States, then the United States would still rank first with nobody else anywhere close. But you would have spared the atmosphere the burning of more oil than most countries consume, and would have spared the planet all the mischief the U.S. military manages to fuel with it. No other institution in the United States consumes remotely as much oil as the military.
Each year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spends $622 million trying to figure out how to produce power without oil, while the military spends hundreds of billions of dollars burning oil in wars fought and on bases maintained to control the oil supplies. The million dollars spent to keep each soldier in a foreign occupation for a year could create 20 green energy jobs at $50,000 each.
Wars in recent years have rendered large areas uninhabitable and generated tens of millions of refugees. War "rivals infectious disease as a global cause of morbidity and mortality," according to Jennifer Leaning of Harvard Medical School. Leaning divides war's environmental impact into four areas: "production and testing of nuclear weapons, aerial and naval bombardment of terrain, dispersal and persistence of land mines and buried ordnance, and use or storage of military despoliants, toxins, and waste." A 1993 U.S. State Department report called land mines "the most toxic and widespread pollution facing mankind." Millions of hectares in Europe, North Africa, and Asia are under interdiction. One-third of the land in Libya conceals land mines and unexploded World War II munitions.
The Soviet and U.S. occupations of Afghanistan have destroyed or damaged thousands of villages and sources of water. The Taliban has illegally traded timber to Pakistan, resulting in significant deforestation. U.S. bombs and refugees in need of firewood have added to the damage. Afghanistan’s forests are almost gone. Most of the migratory birds that used to pass through Afghanistan no longer do so. Its air and water have been poisoned with explosives and rocket propellants.
You may not care about politics, the saying goes, but politics cares about you. That goes for war. John Wayne avoided going off to World War II by making movies to glorify other people going. And do you know what happened to him? He made a movie in Utah near a nuclear testing area. Of the 220 people who worked on the film, 91, rather than the 30 that would have been the norm, developed cancer including John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead, and director Dick Powell.
We need a different direction. In Connecticut, Peace Action and many other groups have been involved in successfully persuading the state government to set up a commission to work on converting from weapons to peaceful industries. Labor unions and management support it. Environmental and peace groups are part of it. It's very much a work in progress. It was likely stimulated by false stories that the military was being slashed. But whether we can make that a reality or not, the environmental need to shift our resources to green energy is going to grow, and there is no reason North Carolina shouldn't be the second state in the country to do this. You have moral Mondays here. Why not have moral every days of the year?
Major changes look larger before they happen than after. Environmentalism has come on very quickly. The U.S. already had nuclear submarines back when whales were still being used as a source of raw materials, lubricants, and fuels, including in nuclear submarines. Now whales are, almost suddenly, seen as marvelous intelligent creatures to be protected, and the nuclear submarines have begun to look a bit archaic, and the deadly sound pollution that the Navy imposes on the world's oceans looks a bit barbaric.
iMatter's lawsuits seek to protect the public trust for future generations. The ability to care about future generations is, in terms of the imagination required, almost identical to the ability to care about foreign people at a distance in space rather than time. If we can think of our community as including those not yet born, who of course we hope far outnumber the rest of us, we can probably think of it as including the 95% of those alive today who don't happen to be in the United States of America, and vice versa.
But even if environmentalism and peace activism were not a single movement, we'd have to join them and several others together in order to have the sort of Occupy 2.0 coalition we need to effect change. A big chance to do that is coming up around September 21st which is the International Day of Peace and the time when a rally and all sorts of events for the climate will be happening in New York City.
At WorldBeyondWar.org you'll find all sorts of resources for holding your own event for peace and the environment. You'll also find a short two-sentence statement in favor of ending all war, a statement that has been signed in the past few months by people in 81 nations and rising. You can sign it on paper here this evening. We need your help, young and old. But we should be especially glad that time and numbers are on the side of the young around the world, to whom I say along with Shelley:
Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many — they are few.
GUEST: David Swanson, author, activist, and blogger. His books includes Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union and War is a Lie and When the World Outlawed War. Follow him on Twitter.
TOPIC: David reacts to the events in Ferguson, Missouri and the related militarization of law enforcement and drug war.
ORIGINAL BROADCAST DATE: Thursday, August 21, 2014.
A long list of prominent individuals has signed, a number of organizations will be promoting next week, and you can be one of the first to sign right now, a petition titled "Call For Independent Inquiry of the Airplane Crash in Ukraine and its Catastrophic Aftermath."
The petition is directed to "All the heads of states of NATO countries, and of Russia and the Ukraine, to Ban-ki Moon and the heads of states of countries on the UN Security Council." And it will be delivered to each of them.
The petition reads:
"Set up an impartial international fact finding inquiry and a public report on the events in Ukraine to reveal the truth of what occurred.
"Why is this important?
"It's important because there is so much misinformation and disinformation in the media that we are careening towards a new cold war with Russia over this."
That's not hyperbole. It's the language of U.S. and Russian politicians and media.
Of course, there are undisputed facts that could change people's understanding. Many Americans are unaware of NATO's expansion or of what actions Russia views as aggressive and threatening. But when a particular incident appears to be set up as a proximate cause for war it is well worth our time to insist on an exposure of the facts. Doing so is not to concede that any outcome of the inquiry would justify a war. Rather it is to prevent the imposition of an unproven explanation that makes war more likely.
What if the Gulf of Tonkin had been investigated 50 years ago this month? What if the independent inquiry that Spain wanted into the USS Maine had been allowed? What if Congress hadn't swallowed the one about the babies taken from incubators or that hilarious bit about the vast stockpiles of WMDs? Or, on the other hand, what if everyone had listened to John Kerry unskeptically on Syria last year?
When a Malaysian airplane went down in Ukraine, Kerry immediately blamed Vladimir Putin, but has yet to produce any evidence to back up the accusation. Meanwhile, we learn that the U.S. government is looking into the possibility that what happened was actually an attempt to assassinate Putin. Those two versions, the one initially announced with no apparent basis and the one reportedly now being investigated in secret, could hardly be more different. That the second one is under consideration makes it appear very likely that any serious proof of the former claim has not been found.
Here's a longer version of the petition:
"At this very moment in history, when so many people and nations around the world are acknowledging the 100th Anniversary of our planet's hapless stumble into World War I, great powers and their allies are ironically once again provoking new dangers where governments appear to be sleepwalking towards a restoration of old Cold War battles. A barrage of conflicting information is broadcast in the various national and nationalistic media with alternative versions of reality that provoke and stoke new enmities and rivalries across national borders.
"With the U.S. and Russia in possession of over 15,000 of the world’s 16,400 nuclear weapons, humanity can ill-afford to stand by and permit these conflicting views of history and opposing assessments of the facts on the ground to lead to a 21st Century military confrontation between the great powers and their allies. While sadly acknowledging the trauma suffered by the countries of Eastern Europe from years of Soviet occupation, and understanding their desire for the protection of the NATO military alliance, we the signers of this global call to action also note that the Russian people lost 20 million people during WWII to the Nazi onslaught and are understandably wary of NATO expansion to their borders in a hostile environment. Russia has lost the protection of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which the US abandoned in 2001, and warily observes missile bases metastasizing ever closer to its borders in new NATO member states, while the US rejects repeated Russian efforts for negotiations on a treaty to ban weapons in space, or Russia’s prior application for membership in NATO.
"For these reasons, we the peoples, as members of Civil Society, Non-Governmental Organizations, and global citizens, committed to peace and nuclear disarmament, demand that an independent international inquiry be commissioned to review events in Ukraine leading up to the Malaysian jet crash and of the procedures being used to review the catastrophic aftermath. The inquiry should factually determine the cause of the accident and hold responsible parties accountable to the families of the victims and the citizens of the world who fervently desire peace and a peaceful settlement of any existing conflicts. It should include a fair and balanced presentation of what led to the deterioration of U.S. –Russian relations and the new hostile and polarized posture that the U.S. and Russia with their allies find themselves in today.
"The UN Security Council, with US and Russian agreement, has already passed Resolution 2166 addressing the Malaysian jet crash, demanding accountability, full access to the site and a halt to military activity which has been painfully disregarded at various times since the incident. One of the provisions of SC Res 2166 notes that the Council “[s]upports efforts to establish a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines.” Further, the 1909 revised Convention on the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes adopted at the 1899 Hague International Peace Conference has been used successfully to resolve issues between states so that war was avoided in the past. Both Russia and Ukraine are parties to the Convention.
"Regardless of the forum where the evidence is gathered and fairly evaluated, we the undersigned urge that the facts be known as to how we got to this unfortunate state of affairs on our planet today and what might be the solutions. We urge Russia and Ukraine as well as their allies and partners to engage in diplomacy and negotiations, not war and hostile alienating actions. The world can little afford the trillions of dollars in military spending and trillions and trillions of brain cells wasted on war when our very Earth is under stress and needs the critical attention of our best minds and thinking and the abundance of resources mindlessly diverted to war to be made available for the challenge confronting us to create a livable future for life on earth."
Here are initial signatories (organizations for identification only): (Add your name.) Hon. Douglas Roche, OC, Canada David Swanson, co-founder, World Beyond War Medea Benjamin, Code Pink Bruce Gagnon, Global Network Against Nuclear Power and Weapons in Space Alice Slater, JD, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, NY Professor Francis A. Boyle, University of Illinois College of Law Natasha Mayers, Union of Maine Visual Artists David Hartsough, co-founder, World Beyond War Larry Dansinger, Resources for Organizing and Social Change Ellen Judd, Project Peacemakers Coleen Rowley, Women Against Military Madness Lisa Savage, Code Pink, State of Maine Brian Noyes Pulling, M. Div. Anni Cooper, Peaceworks Kevin Zeese, Popular Resistance Leah Bolger, CDR, USN (Ret), Veterans for Peace Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance Gloria McMillan, Tucson Balkan Peace Support Group Ellen E. Barfield, Veterans for Peace Cecile Pineda, author. Devil's Tango: How I Learned the Fukushima Step by Step Jill McManus Steve Leeper, Visiting professor, Hiroshima Jogakuin University, Nagasaki University, Kyoto University of Art and Design William H. Slavick, Pax Christi Maine Carol Reilly Urner, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Ann E. Ruthsdottir Raymond McGovern, former CIA analyst, VA Kay Cumbow Steven Starr, Senior Scientist, Physicians for Social Responsibility Tiffany Tool, Peaceworkers Sukla Sen, Committee for Communal Amnity, Mumbai India Felicity Ruby Joan Russow, PhD, Coordinator, Global Compliance Research Project Rob Mulford, Veterans for Peace, North Star Chapter, Alaska Jerry Stein, The Peace Farm, Amarillo , Texas Michael Andregg, professor, St. Paul, Minnesota Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, National Intelligence Council, ret.: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, Washington Robert Shetterly, artist, “Americans Who Tell the Truth,” Maine Katharine Gun, United Kingdom Amber Garland, St. Paul, Minnesota Beverly Bailey, Richfield, Minnesota Stephen McKeown, Richfield, Minnesota Darlene M. Coffman, Rochester, Minnesota Sister Gladys Schmitz, Mankato, Minnesota Bill Rood, Rochester, Minnesota Tony Robinson, Editor Pressenza Tom Klammer, radio host, Kansas City, Missouri Barbara Vaile, Minneapolis, Minnesota Helen Caldicott, Helen Caldicott Foundation Mali Lightfoot, Helen Caldicott Foundation Brigadier Vijai K Nair, VSM [Retd] Ph.D. , Magoo Strategic Infotech Pvt Ltd, India Kevin Martin, Peace Action Jacqueline Cabasso, Western States Legal Foundation, United for Peace and Justice Ingeborg Breines, Co-president International Peace Bureau Judith LeBlanc, Peace Action David Krieger, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation Edward Loomis, NSA Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.) J. Kirk Wiebe, NSA Senior Analyst (ret.), MD William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)
Videos by Marlene Alvarado.
RICHARD NIXON & HENRY KISSINGER SABOTAGED THE 1968 VIETNAM PEACE TALKS and cursed us all with 7 more years of war and hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths.
This “leftist conspiracy theory” which has been dismissed by the right for so many decades has now been definitively confirmed and is 100% part of the “mainstream” American legacy.
DAVID SWANSON, one of America’s great peace writer/activists, and attorney BOB FITRAKIS, publisher of www.freepress.org, professor of political science, thoroughly document this explosive reality now being so blithely ignored by the corporate media.
Bob and David also explore, as only they can, the illegal lies that led us into the wars in Iraq and Libya, as well as George H.W. Bush’s treasonous delay of the release American hostages in Iran, guaranteeing the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan.
Proving once again that yesterday’s “conspiracy theory” is tomorrow’s proven historic reality, David and Bob plumb the depths of an imperial war machine that threatens us all while denying it all with ever-decreasing credibility.
Fred Ptucha is a U.S. Navy veteran who did four tours in Vietnam and who came across evidence that the Gulf of Tonkin incident of 50 years ago this month did not occur, and the United States was lied into a war.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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While I'm working on a campaign to abolish war, it's helpful and appreciated that a columnist for one of the most effective war promoting institutions in the world, the New York Times, on Sunday mused aloud about why in the world wars are still waged.
Paul Krugman rightly pointed to the destructive nature of wars even for their victors. He admirably presented the insights of Norman Angell who figured out that war didn't pay economically over a century ago. But Krugman didn’t get much further than that, his one proposal to explain wars fought by wealthy nations being political gain for the war makers.
Robert Parry has pointed out the falsity of Krugman's pretense that Vladimir Putin is the cause of trouble in Ukraine. One might also question Krugman's claim that George W. Bush actually "won" his reelection in 2004, considering what went on in Ohio's vote counting.
Yes, indeed, a great many fools will rally around any high official who wages war, and it's good for Krugman to point that out. But it's just plain bizarre for an economist to lament the cost (to the U.S.) of the U.S. war on Iraq as reaching possibly $1 trillion, and never notice that the United States spends roughly $1 trillion on preparations for war each and every year through basic routine military spending -- itself economically destructive, as well as morally and physically destructive.
What drives the spending that Eisenhower warned would drive the wars? Profits, legalized bribery, and a culture that searches for the causes of war primarily among the 95 percent of humanity that invests dramatically less in war-making than the United States does.
Krugman dismisses economic gain as relevant only to poor nations' internal wars, but doesn't explain why U.S. wars concentrate in oil-rich areas. "I am saddened," wrote Alan Greenspan, "that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil." As Krugman is no doubt aware, rising oil prices are not lamented by everyone, and the high cost of weaponry is not a downside from the perspective of weapons makers. Wars don't economically benefit societies, but they do enrich individuals. That same principle is central to explaining the U.S. government's conduct on any area other than war; why should war be different?
No particular war, and certainly not the institution as a whole, has a single simple explanation. But it's certainly true that if Iraq's top export were broccoli there'd have been no 2003 war. It's also possible that if war profiteering were illegal and prevented there'd have been no war. It's also possible that if the U.S. culture didn't reward war-making politicians, and/or the New York Times reported on war honestly, and/or Congress had made a habit of impeaching war-makers, and/or campaigns were publicly financed, and/or U.S. culture celebrated nonviolence rather than violence there'd have been no war. It's also possible that if George W. Bush and/or Dick Cheney and a few others were healthier psychologically there'd have been no war.
We should be wary of creating the assumption that there are always rational calculations behind wars. The fact that we can never quite find them is almost certainly not a failure of imagination, but a reluctance to recognize the irrational and evil behavior of our political officials. Global domination, machismo, sadism, and lust for power contribute significantly to the discussions of war planners.
But what makes war common in certain societies and not others? Extensive research suggests that the answer has nothing to do with economic pressures or the natural environment or other impersonal forces. Rather the answer is cultural acceptance. A culture that accepts or celebrates war will have war. One that spurns war as absurd and barbaric will know peace.
If Krugman and his readers are beginning to think of war as a bit archaic, as something requiring an explanation, that can only be good news for the movement to abolish war making.
The next big leap might come sooner if we all try to see the world for a moment from the perspective of someone outside the United States. After all, the idea that the U.S. should not be bombing Iraq only sounds like a denial that there is a major crisis in Iraq requiring swift action, to people who suppose that crises require bombs to solve them -- and most of those people, by some coincidence, seem to live in the United States.
Videos: How Do We Get to Peace? With David Swanson, Jill Stein, Kristin Christman, and Steve Breyman
The 16th annual Kateri Peace Conference in Fonda, N.Y., was organized around these three quotations of Buckminster Fuller:
"In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete."
"I'm not trying to counsel any of you to do anything really special except dare to think. And to dare to go with the truth. And to dare to really love completely."
"Love is omni-inclusive, progressively exquisite, understanding and compassionately attuned to other than self."
Watch the discussions of each quotation below or here, and check out the video of Jill Stein singing and jamming on a boat on the Erie Canal!
“Groups on the ground in St. Louis are calling for nationwide solidarity actions in support of Justice for Mike Brown and the end of police and extrajudicial killings everywhere.”
As they should. And we should all join in.
But “nationwide” and “everywhere” are odd terms to equate when discussing police militarization. Are we against extrajudicial killings (otherwise known as murder) by U.S. government employees and U.S. weapons in Pakistan? Yemen? Iraq? Gaza? And literally everywhere they occur? The militarization of local police in the United States is related to the militarization of U.S. foreign policy, which has now reached the point that bombing and “doing nothing” are generally conceived as the only two choices available. Local police are being militarized as a result of these factors:
- A culture glorifying militarization and justifying it as global policing.
- A federal government that directs roughly $1 trillion every year into the U.S. military, depriving virtually everything else of needed resources.
- A federal government that still manages to find resources to offer free military weapons to local police in the U.S. and elsewhere.
- Weapons profiteers that eat up local subsidies as well as federal contracts while funding election campaigns, threatening job elimination in Congressional districts, and pushing for the unloading of weapons by the U.S. military on local police as one means of creating the demand for more.
- The use of permanent wartime fears to justify the removal of citizens’ rights, gradually allowing local police to begin viewing the people they were supposed to protect as low-level threats, potential terrorists, and enemies of law and order in particular when they exercise their former rights to speech and assembly. Police “excesses” like war “excesses” are not apologized for, as one does not apologize to an enemy.
- The further funding of abusive policing through asset forfeitures and SWAT raids.
- The further conflation of military and police through the militarization of borders, especially the Mexican border, the combined efforts of federal and local forces in fusion centers, the military’s engagement in “exercises” in the U.S., and the growth of the drone industry with the military, among others, flying drones in U.S. skies and piloting drones abroad from U.S. land.
- The growth of the profit-driven prison industry and mass incarceration, which dehumanize people in the minds of participants just as boot camp and the nightly news do to war targets.
- Economically driven disproportionate participation in, and therefore identification with, the military by the very communities most suffering from its destruction of resources, rights, and lives.
But policing is not the only thing militarized by what President Eisenhower called the “total influence — economic, political, even spiritual” of the military industrial complex. Our morality is militarized, our entertainment is militarized, our natural world is militarized, and our education system is militarized. “Unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex” is not easily opposed while maintaining the military industrial complex. When Congress Members lend their support to a new war in Iraq while proposing that the U.S. Post Office and a dozen other decent things not be defunded, they are speaking out of both sides of their mouths. The United States cannot live like other wealthy nations while dumping $1 trillion a year into a killing machine.
The way out of this cycle of madness in which we spend more just on recruiting someone into the military or on locking them up behind bars than we spend on educating them is to confront in a unified and coherent manner what Martin Luther King Jr. called the evils of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to the local police. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to weapons testing sites. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to the people of Honduras causing them to flee to a land that then welcomes them with an attitude of militarism. Not any of these partial steps alone, but the whole package of interlocking evils of attitude and mindset.
There is a no-fly-zone over Ferguson, Missouri, because people in the U.S. government view the people of the United States increasingly as they view the people of other countries: as best controlled from the air. Notes the War Resister League,
“Vigils and protests in Ferguson – a community facing persistent racist profiling and police brutality – have been attacked by tear gas, rubber bullets, police in fully-armored SWAT gear, and tank-like personnel carriers. This underscores not only the dangers of being young, Black, and male in the US, but also the fear of mobilization and rebellion from within racialized communities facing the violence of austerity and criminalization.
“The parallels between the Israeli Defense Forces in Palestine, the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro, the Indian police in Kashmir, the array of oppressive armed forces in Iraq, and the LAPD in Skid Row could not be any clearer. . . .
“This is not happening by accident. What is growing the capacity of local police agencies to exercise this force are police militarization programs explicitly designed to do so. As St. Louis writer Jamala Rogers wrote in an article on the militarization of St. Louis Police this past April, ‘It became clear that SWAT was designed as a response to the social unrest of the 1960s, particularly the anti-war and black liberation movements.’ Federal programs such as DoD 1033 and 1122, and the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), in which St. Louis Police are active participants, provide weapons and training to police departments across the country, directly from the Pentagon. Commenting on the ominous growth of the phenomenon, Rogers continues: ‘and now, Police Chief [of St. Louis Police] Sam Dotson wants to add drones to his arsenal.’
“The events in Ferguson over these last few days demonstrate that the violence of policing and militarism are inextricably bound. To realize justice and freedom as a condition for peace, we must work together to end police militarization and violence.”
The War Resisters League is organizing against Urban Shield, an expo of military weapons for police and training event planned for Oakland, Calif., this September 4-8. The Week of Education and Action will take place in Oakland from August 30-September 5. Read all about it here.
David Swanson is a member of the National Committee of the War Resisters League and wants you to declare peace at http://WorldBeyondWar.org His new book is War No More: The Case for Abolition. He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.
Isn't this a good war, Brad Friedman asks David Swanson.
Listen to this clip:
Starts around 7:30
UPDATE: Also here on Brad's site where he'd like you to comment:
1. It's not a rescue mission. The U.S. personnel could be evacuated without the 500-pound bombs. The persecuted minorities could be supplied, moved, or their enemy dissuaded, or all three, without the 500-pound bombs or the hundreds of "advisors" (trained and armed to kill, and never instructed in how to give advice -- Have you ever tried taking urgent advice from 430 people?). The boy who cried rescue mission should not be allowed to get away with it after the documented deception in Libya where a fictional threat to civilians was used to launch an all-out aggressive attack that has left that nation in ruins. Not to mention the false claims about Syrian chemical weapons and the false claim that missiles were the only option left for Syria -- the latter claims being exposed when the former weren't believed, the missiles didn't launch, and less violent but perfectly obvious alternative courses of action were recognized. If the U.S. government were driven by a desire to rescue the innocent, why would it be arming Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain? The U.S. government destroyed the nation of Iraq between 2003 and 2011, with results including the near elimination of various minority groups. If preventing genocide were a dominant U.S. interest, it could have halted its participation in and aggravation of that war at any time, a war in which 97% of the dead were on one side, just as in Gaza this month -- the distinction between war and genocide being one of perspective, not proportions. Or, of course, the U.S. could have left well alone. Ever since President Carter declared that the U.S. would kill for Iraqi oil, each of his successors has believed that course of action justified, and each has made matters significantly worse.
2. It's going to make things worse, again. This bombing will aggravate the Sunni-Shia divide, increase support for ISIS, and create a lasting legacy of hostility and violence. President Obama says there is no military solution, only reconciliation. But bombs don't reconcile. They harden hearts and breed murderers. Numerous top U.S. officials admit that much of what the U.S. military does generates more enemies than it kills. When you continue down a path that is counterproductive on its own terms, the honesty of those terms has to be doubted. If this war is not for peace, is it perhaps -- like every other war we've seen the U.S. wage in the area -- for resources, profits, domination, and sadism? The leader of ISIS learned his hatred in a U.S. prison in Iraq. U.S. media report that fact as if it is just part of the standard portrait of a new Enemy #1, but the irony is not mere coincidence. Violence is created. It doesn't arise out of irrational and inscrutable foreignness. It is planted by those great gardeners in the sky: planes, drones, and helicopters. A bombing campaign justified as protecting people actually endangers them, and those around them, and many others, including those of us living in the imperial Homeland.
3. Bombs kill. Big bombs kill a lot of people. Massive bombing campaigns slaughter huge numbers of people, including those fighting in the hell the U.S. helped to create, and including those not fighting -- men, women, children, grandparents, infants. Defenders of the bombing know this, but ignore it, and make no effort to calculate whether more people are supposedly being saved than are being killed. This indifference exposes the humanitarian pretensions of the operation. If some humans are of no value to you, humanitarianism is not what's driving your decisions. The U.S. war on Iraq '03-'11 killed a half million to a million-and-a-half Iraqis and 4,000 Americans. A war that puts fewer Americans on the ground and uses more planes and drones is thought of as involving less death only if our concern is narrowly limited to U.S. deaths. From the vantage point of the ground, an air war is the deadliest form of war there is.
4. There are other options. The choice between bombing and doing nothing is as false now as it was in September. If you can drop food on some people, why can't you drop food on everyone? It would cost a tiny fraction of dropping bombs on them. It would confuse the hell out of them, too -- like Robin Williams' version of God high on pot and inventing the platypus. Of course, I now sound crazy because I'm talking about people who've been demonized (and personified in a killer straight out of a U.S. prison). It's not as if these are human beings with whom you can lament the death of Robin Williams. They're not like you and me. Etc. Yadda. Yadda. But in fact ISIS fighters were sharing their appreciation of Williams on Twitter on Tuesday. The United States could talk about other matters with ISIS as well, including a ceasefire, including a unilateral commitment to cease arming the Iraqi government even while trying to organize its ouster, including an offer to provide real humanitarian aid with no nasty strings attached, but with encouragement of civil liberties and democratic decision making. It's amazing how long minority ethnic groups in Iraq survived and thrived prior to the U.S. bringing democracy, and prior to the U.S. existing. The U.S. could do some good but must first do no harm.
5. There are now enough weapons already there to practically justify one of Colin Powell's slides retroactively. The U.S. accounts for 79% of foreign weapons transfers to Western Asia (the Middle East). The war on Libya had identical U.S. weapons on both sides. ISIS almost certainly has weapons supplied by the U.S. in Syria, and certainly has weapons taken from Iraq. So, what is the U.S. doing? It's rushing more weapons to Iraq as fast as possible. Americans like to think of the Middle East as backward and violent, but the tools of the violence trade are manufactured in the United States. Yes, the United States does still manufacture something, it's just not something that serves any useful purpose or about which most of us can manage to feel very proud. Weapons making also wastes money rather than creating it, because unaccountable profits are the single biggest product manufactured.
6. This is going to cost a fortune. Bombing Iraq is depicted as a measure of great restraint and forbearance. Meanwhile building schools and hospitals and green energy infrastructure in Iraq would be viewed as madness if anyone dared propose it. But the latter would cost a lot less money -- a consideration that is usually a top priority in U.S. politics whenever killing large numbers of people is not involved. The world spend $2 trillion and the U.S. $1 trillion (half the total) on war and war preparations every year. Three percent of U.S. military spending could end starvation on earth. The wonders that could be done with a fraction of military money are almost unimaginable and include actual defense against the actual danger of climate change.
7. Bombs are environmental disasters. If someone photographs a big oil fire, some will give a thought to the environmental damage. But a bombing campaign is, rather than an environmental accident, an intentional environmental catastrophe. The poisoned ground and water, and the disease epidemics, will reach the United States primarily through moral regret, depression, and suicide.
8. There go our civil liberties. Discussions of torture, imprisonment, assassination, surveillance, and denial of fair trials are severely damaged by wartime postures. After all, war is for "freedom," and who wouldn't be willing to surrender all of their freedoms for that?
9. War is illegal. It doesn't matter if the illegitimate government that you're trying to dump invited you to bomb its country. How can anyone take that seriously, while the U.S. installed that government and has armed it for years, as it has attacked its people? War is illegal under the Kellogg Briand Pact and the United Nations Charter, and pretending otherwise endangers the world. Domestically, under U.S. law, the president cannot launch a war. While the Senate has been silent, the U.S. House voted two weeks ago to ban any new presidential war on Iraq. Offering Congress a slap in the face, Obama waited for it to go on break, and then attacked Iraq.
Mathias Paul Quackenbush is an organizer of http://BadHoneywell.org
What's so bad about Honeywell? Let us count the ways!
Quackenbush lives in San Francisco, where he works as a dual diagnosis Residential Counselor and spends most of his remaining time engaging in activism for peace, human rights, and campaign finance reform.
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If I had a Hellfire
Missile in the morning,
And another in the evening,
Oh that'd be grand!
I'd take out Iraqis,
I'd take out Ukrainians,
I'd take out folks between,
The Atlantic and Pacific,
Oh that'd be grand!
If I had a drone
I'd buzz it in the morning,
I'd buzz it in the evening,
All over your sand,
I'd take out Yemenis,
I'd take out some Syrians
I'd take out folksy folks between,
Argentina and the Arctic
Oh oh oh that'd be grand
If I had a bomb
I'd drop it in the morning
I'd drop it in the evening
Wouldya lend me a hand
We'd destroy Libya
We'd demolish Palestine
We'd take out all male folks between
age eighteen and a hundred
Oh let me be clear that'd be grand
Well, I've got a Hellfire
and I've got a drone
I've got a 500-pound bomb to drop
Come lend me a hand
It's the Hellfire of justice
It's the drone of freedom
It's a Nobel Peace Prize bomb
from a Constitutional scholar
Oh isn't it grand!
It's the Hellfire of justice
It's the drone of freedom
It's a Nobel Peace Prize bomb
from a Constitutional scholar
Oh isn't it grand!
Remarks at event for WorldBeyondWar.org in Washington, D.C., on August 9, 2014.
Welcome. I'm going to say a few words and then introduce each of our other speakers, who will each speak for 10 minutes or less, and then we'll open it up for discussion with all of us.
World Beyond War is a brand new organization, just beginning to organize volunteers, raise funds, hire staff, and post advertisements online and around the world. I'm the only paid staff thus far, and that's part-time. But thousands of people and organizations of all kinds from 70 nations thus far have signed the pledge at WorldBeyondWar.org. It reads -- in English; we have it posted in many languages, and can use more translations from any of you who are able:
"I understand that wars and militarism make us less safe rather than protect us, that they kill, injure and traumatize adults, children and infants, severely damage the natural environment, erode civil liberties, and drain our economies, siphoning resources from life-affirming activities. I commit to engage in and support nonviolent efforts to end all war and preparations for war and to create a sustainable and just peace."
We're passing around sign-up sheets on which you can sign your name if you agree with that. You can also indicate how you'd like to be involved, if you would. I hope you will. This is a global effort, but just as the movement to abolish slavery needed to begin in London, this new birth for the movement to abolish war can only get so far without strong participation in Washington, D.C., participation that works together with our allies around the world, many of whom are pushing back against militarism that is funded and directed here, as well as weapons produced in this country and marketed abroad from here.
Why now? Here we are at 100 years since World War One was launched, and people have been trying -- and pretending to be trying -- to use war to end war ever since, and -- like using capital punishment to end murder or using beer to end alcoholism -- it's been a doomed pursuit.
Here we are at 69 years since Truman dropped the bombs on Japan, lied about the nature of the target, and justified it as revenge, not as a means of ending a war, which he knew it was not, and not as a means of threatening the Soviet Union, which he knew that it was. And we've been stockpiling these apocalyptic weapons ever since, knowing that complete destruction due to intentional or accidental use is more likely the more time passes. But people in power in this city believe they are better off the more Russia is antagonized.
Here we are at 50 years since the Gulf of Tonkin incident did not actually happen, the Pentagon is investing millions in commemoration and beautification of the slaughter of 4 million Vietnamese, and President Obama has taken the occasion to start bombing Iraq again, apparently believing that for the first time in history the bombs will generate friendship rather than blowback. It's amazing how long each threatened minority group in Iraq survived before the U.S. brought democracy, and before the U.S. existed. And now dropping food is accompanied by 500 pound bombs. There is no military solution, says President Obama, only reconciliation can help. Well, then why not drop food on the entire region? It would cost a small fraction of what the missiles and bombs cost. Would that be rewarding terrorists? No, it would be recognizing humanity by ceasing to be terrorists. Dropping bombs on people enrages them and binds their loyalty to those fighting back. If the institution of war were continuing for rational reasons, that lesson would have sunk in by now and stopped it.
Meanwhile in Gaza, genocide has gone mainstream, with discussion of the complete elimination of the people of Gaza openly advocated by top Israeli officials in Israeli media, and by more than a few U.S. columnists, comedians, and crackpots as well. And people protest the slaughter by contrasting it to war. But 97% of the deaths in Gaza are the people of Gaza, and 97% of the deaths in the 2003-2011 war on Iraq were the people of Iraq. One outside observer's genocide is another patriot's war. Neither is a tool to end the other, and both are often words for the same thing.
Why choose this moment, when one speech cannot even mention all the wars, to begin an effort to fully eliminate the whole institution from our culture? A decade back, there were marches in the streets and outrage over war lies that had proved false. Nowadays lies about impending danger in Libya, the use of particular weapons in Syria, the construction of particular weapons in Iran, the origins of hostility in Ukraine, the expansion of the U.S. military into Africa and Asia, and the results of the doings of the deadly drones pass by so unnoticed that when Obama starts bombing Iraq, the one place everyone was supposed to know shouldn't be bombed, at least some people conclude that war is made acceptable by Obama, rather than Obama being made unacceptable by war.
But, you know what, for millions all over the world, Obama and other war makers' actions are unacceptable when they include war. Even in the United States, opinion has swung against war quite dramatically. Polls in recent months have found under 10 or 20 percent favoring a new U.S. war in any place that can be named: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Ukraine. Two weeks ago the U.S. House voted to forbid any new presidential war in Iraq. There's no spine there to enforce that measure, and it wasn't passed by the Senate, but it comes on the heels of dramatic reductions in drone strikes, the blocking of a bill in February what would have committed the United States to joining any Israeli-Iranian war, and the stopping of a proposal in September to send missiles screaming into Syria. The point is not that we're winning or losing. The point is that we have examples to hold up to those who claim no war can be stopped, and we have opinion dramatically moving our way, even on Israel, whenever specific real wars are named.
The trouble lies in how many people believe an unspecified good war might come along someday, because that myth keeps the military fueled and funded in a manner that makes actual very bad wars likely. The trouble is in "looking forward" because the past has such an extreme antiwar bias. That, and how many people protest less against smaller, less expensive, more aerial, or robotized wars, even as those wars proliferate, concentrate power, and generate new enemies. The problem is the widespread belief that some wars or some parts of some wars can be legal, moral, and useful -- a sort of fine-toothed distinction-drawing that we just don't engage in with other evils like slavery or child abuse or rape.
So there is, in fact, anti-war momentum to be harnessed and encouraged and directed toward the entire institution rather than only each of its separate pieces. But why a new organization? Aren't there organizations existing that already oppose war? Of course there are. They are not enough. The need is not to divide our resources but to enlarge them by bringing in new people and groups, and to better use our energies by choosing the best strategies we can. There is a job out there that isn't being done. Much of it is an educational job. Many people do not believe that war can be ended. It's a ridiculous hurdle but one that has to be taken on. Many believe that war can protect us or protect others. The facts say otherwise, but facts require a lot of support when they're going up against emotions like fear or the desire to believe that public officials are not sociopathic. A campaign to spread the word that war can and must be eliminated worldwide needs to be created and is something that WorldBeyondWar has just begun.
I spoke at the Veterans For Peace Convention recently, and they are completely on board with helping to advance this effort, as are many other peace organizations. The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom supports this. I attended the national committee meeting of the War Resisters League, of which I'm a member, recently, and they share the vision of World Beyond War but have put their resources into particular efforts, all good ones, including opposing teargas, doing counter-recruitment, etc. WorldBeyondWar has begun supporting and will continue working on all sorts of partway steps that move us in the direction of a world beyond war. But we will advance an understanding of war as a cultural preference, not something made inevitable by any of the factors that interact with and facilitate it. And we will seek to reframe antiwar activism as part of the struggle toward the ultimate goal of abolition, rather than as part of a struggle to reform war or civilize war or only lessen war's damage and stop there.
We're going to try to stop using the term "we" when referring to public crimes we've opposed, stop opposing Pentagon waste more than Pentagon efficiency, stop calling an aggressive institution the defense industry, stop denouncing particular war crimes in a way that suggests a war itself is not a crime, stop opposing dumb wars as if some are smart, stop opposing wars because they leave the military ill-prepared as if we don't want the military ill-prepared, stop focusing on financial costs and costs to the aggressor in a way that blocks out the nature of a war as a one-sided slaughter, stop celebrating veterans and begin celebrating resisters, and develop a culture of peace that marks peace holidays and thanks peace activists for their service, while making visible the nonviolent alternatives to war.
World Beyond War is also developing a website that makes the strongest case we know how against every argument for war. The case against war that is laid out at WorldBeyondWar.org includes these topics:
War is immoral.
War endangers us.
War threatens our environment.
War erodes our liberties.
War impoverishes us.
That last one is important, and a bit different from how many schools we could have built for the price of one war -- which is always a useful point too. The larger point is that ordinary military spending, apart from particular wars, is easily ten times the price of a particular war. And a small fraction of that spending could end starvation, provide clean water, and bring medicine and agriculture and green energy to the world. We could take on real dangers, including environmental ones, rather than generating dangers through war.
We can talk about each argument, but now I want to introduce our next speaker.
Maria Santelli was the founder of the New Mexico GI Rights Hotline and is the Executive Director of a terrific organization here in D.C. called the Center on Conscience and War.
Jeff Bachman is a professorial lecturer in human rights and the Co-Director of the Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs program at the School of International Service at American University.
Vincent Intondi is Associate Professor of History at Montgomery College and Director of Research at the Nuclear Studies Institute of the American University here in D.C. He is also author of African Americans Against the Bomb.
Nadia Kamoona is an Iraqi-American student at the University of Virginia, a future international human rights lawyer, and this summer has been an intern for World Beyond War.
Andy Shallal is an Iraqi-American artist, activist, and entrepreneur, and a recent candidate for mayor of Washington, D.C., and the proprietor of Busboys and Poets, which makes him our host this evening.
President Obama may want us to sympathize with patriotic torturers, he may turn on whistleblowers like a flesh-eating zombie, he may have lost all ability to think an authentic thought, but I will say this for him: He knows how to mark the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin fraud like a champion.
It's back in Iraq, Jack! Yackety yack! Obama says the United States has fired missiles and dropped food in Iraq -- enough food to feed 8,000, enough missiles to kill an unknown number (presumably 7,500 or fewer keeps this a "humanitarian" effort). The White House told reporters on a phone call following the President's Thursday night speech that it is expediting weapons to Iraq, producing Hellfire missiles and ammunition around the clock, and shipping those off to a nation where Obama swears there is no military solution and only reconciliation can help. Hellfire missiles are famous for helping people reconcile.
Obama went straight into laying out his excuses for this latest war, before speaking against war and in favor of everything he invests no energy in. First, the illegitimate government of Iraq asked him to do it. Second, ISIS is to blame for the hell that the United States created in Iraq. Third, there are still lots of places in the world that Obama has not yet bombed. Oh, and this is not really a war but just protection of U.S. personnel, combined with a rescue mission for victims of a possible massacre on a scale we all need to try to understand.
Wow! We need to understand the scale of killing in Iraq? This is the United States you're talking to, the people who paid for the slaughter of 0.5 to 1.5 million Iraqis this decade. Either we're experts on the scale of mass killings or we're hopelessly incapable of understanding such matters.
Completing the deja vu all over again Thursday evening, the substitute host of the Rachel Maddow Show seemed eager for a new war on Iraq, all of his colleagues approved of anything Obama said, and I heard "Will troops be sent?" asked by several "journalists," but never heard a single one ask "Will families be killed?"
Pro-war veteran Democratic congressman elected by war opponents Patrick Murphy cheered for Obama supposedly drawing a red line for war. Murphy spoke of Congress without seeming aware that less than two weeks ago the House voted to deny the President any new war on Iraq. There are some 199 members of the House who may be having a hard time remembering that right now.
Pro-war veteran Paul Rieckhoff added that any new veterans created would be heroes, and -- given what a "mess" Iraq is now -- Rieckhoff advocated "looking forward." The past has such an extreme antiwar bias.
Rounding out the reunion of predictable pro-war platitudes and prevarications, Nancy Pelosi immediately quoted the bits of Obama's speech that suggested he was against the war he was starting. Can Friedman Units and benchmarks be far behind?
Obama promises no combat troops will be sent back to Iraq. No doubt. Instead it'll be planes, drones, helicopters, and "non-combat" troops. "America is coming to help" finally just sounded as evil as Reagan meant it to, but it was in Obama's voice. The ironies exploded like Iraqi houses on Thursday. While the United States locks Honduran refugee children in cages, it proposes to bomb Iraq for refugees. While Gaza starves and Detroit lacks water, Obama bombs Iraq to stop people from starving. While the U.S. ships weapons to Israel to commit genocide, and to Syria for allies of ISIS, it is rushing more weapons into Iraq to supposedly prevent genocide on a mountaintop -- also to add to the weapons supplies already looted by ISIS.
Of course, it's also for "U.S. interests," but if that means U.S. people, why not pull them out? If it means something else, why not admit as much in the light of day and let the argument die of shame?
Let me add a word to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokesman David Swanson, who is not me and whom I do not know: Please do keep pushing for actual humanitarian aid. But if you spoke against the missiles that are coming with the food, the reporters left that bit out. You have to fit it into the same sentence with the food and water if you want it quoted. I hope there is an internal U.N. lobby for adoption by the U.N. of the U.N. Charter, and if there is I wish it all the luck in the world.
A George Will column this week, reviewing a book by Ken Hughes called Chasing Shadows, mentions almost in passing that presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon secretly sabotaged peace talks that appeared likely to end the war on Vietnam until he intervened. As a result, the war raged on and Nixon won election promising to end the war.
Will treats the matter as a technicality, citing the law against private diplomacy rather than the principle that one shouldn't undermine a government's attempts to halt an episode of mass-murder.
You'd almost have to already know what Will was referring to if you were going to pick up on the fact that Nixon secretly prevented peace while publicly pretending he had a peace plan. And you'd have to be independently aware that once Nixon got elected, he continued the war for years, the total carnage coming to include the deaths of 4 million Vietnamese plus hundreds of thousands of Cambodians and Laotians, with the deaths from bombs not previously exploded continuing on a major scale to this day, and, of course, the 58,000 Americans killed in the war who are listed on a wall in D.C. as if somehow more worthy than all the others.
Will is not the only one to acknowledge what Nixon did. The Smithsonian reported on Nixon's treason last year, on the occasion of new tapes of Lyndon Johnson being released. But the Smithsonian didn't call it treason; it treated the matter more as hard-nosed election strategizing. Ken Hughes himself published an article on the History News Network two years ago saying almost exactly what Will's column said this week. But the publication used the headline "LBJ Thought Nixon Committed Treason to Win the 1968 Election." Of course LBJ thought all kinds of things, sane and otherwise. The first two words of the headline ought to have been deleted.
The point is that it's now apparently become fashionable to acknowledge, but minimize, what Nixon did.
Will's focus is on Hughes' theory that Nixon's plan to break into or even firebomb the Brookings Institution was driven by his desire to recover evidence of his own treasonous sabotaging of peace, and that Watergate grew from Nixon's desire to coverup that horrendous crime. This differs from various theories as to what Nixon was so desperate to steal from Brookings (that he was after evidence that Kennedy murdered Diem, or evidence that LBJ halted the bombing of Vietnam just before the election to help Humphrey win, etc.) It certainly seems that Nixon had reasons for wanting files from Brookings that his staff did not share his views on the importance of. And covering up his own crimes was always a bigger motivation for Nixon than exposing someone else's. Nixon was after Daniel Ellsberg, not because Ellsberg had exposed Nixon's predecessors' high crimes and misdemeanors, but because Nixon feared what Ellsberg might have on him.
But Nixon's sabotaging of peace in 1968 has been known for many years. And that explanation of the Brookings incident has been written about for years, and written about in a context that doesn't bury the significance of the story. One need only turn to writings by Robert Parry (for example here, and in the book pictured on that page). Writes Parry:
"One of the Washington press corps' most misguided sayings – that 'the cover-up is worse than the crime' – derived from the failure to understand the full scope of Nixon’s crimes of state."
The way Parry tells the story might explain why the Washington Post prefers George Will's version:
"Rostow's 'The "X" Envelope,' which was finally opened in 1994 and is now largely declassified, reveals that Johnson had come to know a great deal about Nixon’s peace-talk sabotage from FBI wiretaps. In addition, tapes of presidential phone conversations, which were released in 2008, show Johnson complaining to key Republicans about the gambit and even confronting Nixon personally.
"In other words, the file that Nixon so desperately wanted to find was not primarily about how Johnson handled the 1968 bombing halt but rather how Nixon's campaign obstructed the peace talks by giving assurances to South Vietnamese leaders that Nixon would get them a better result.
"After becoming President, Nixon did extend and expand the conflict, much as South Vietnamese leaders had hoped. Ultimately, however, after more than 20,000 more Americans and possibly a million more Vietnamese had died, Nixon accepted a peace deal in 1972 similar to what Johnson was negotiating in 1968. After U.S. troops finally departed, the South Vietnamese government soon fell to the North and the Vietcong."
Parry even puts Nixon's action in the context of a pattern of actions that includes Ronald Reagan's election following sabotage of President Carter's hostage negotiations with Iran. Parry has written as well about LBJ's failure to expose Nixon as part of a pattern of Democratic Party spinelessness. There's President Clinton's failure to pursue Iran-Contra, Al Gore's failure to protest a Supreme Court coup, John Kerry's failure to protest apparent election fraud in Ohio, etc.
A less partisan and less contemporary context might include Nixon's phony pro-peace election campaign with those of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and other presidents elected to stay out of wars that they promptly jumped into. And that pattern might include candidate Obama's innumerable campaign-rally promises to end the war in Iraq, which as president he kept going for years, attempted to prolong further, and has begun trying to restart now that an opportunity has presented itself -- meanwhile having tripled troop levels in Afghanistan, attacked Libya, created a new kind of war with drones in multiple nations, and pushed the U.S. military into a greater and more active presence in numerous African and Asian countries.
It's almost universally maintained by those who have expressed any opinion on the matter that if the public had known about Nixon's treason while he was president, all hell would have broken loose. Are we really such idiots that we've now slipped into routinely acknowledging the truth of the matter but raising no hell whatsoever? Do we really care so much about personalities and vengeance that Nixon's crime means nothing if Nixon is dead? Isn't the need to end wars and spying and government secrets, to make diplomacy public and nonviolent, a need that presses itself fiercely upon us regardless of how many decades it will take before we learn every offensive thing our current top officials are up to?
A new film called Wisconsin Rising is screening around the country, the subject, of course, being the activism surrounding the mass occupation of the Wisconsin Capitol in 2011. I recommend attending a planned screening or setting up a new one, and discussing the film collectively upon its conclusion. For all the flaws in Wisconsin's activism in 2011 and since, other states haven't even come close -- most have a great deal to learn.
The film tells a story of one state, where, long ago, many workers' rights originated or found early support, and where, many years later, threats to workers' rights, wages, and benefits, and to what those workers produce including education in public schools, were aggressively initiated by the state's right-wing governor, Scott Walker.
The joy and inspiration created by the public resistance to that threat were intense. The occupation, the singing, the marching, the creative props and protests, the donations for pizza from around the world, the parades, the rallies, the concerts, the firefighters and police officers spared in the legislation but choosing to join with the rest of the public anyway, the growing crowds, the growing awareness of the power of nonviolent action, the legislators bringing their desks out onto the grass to meet with constituents in the cold snow or fleeing the state to deny the governor a quorum, Fox News propaganda showing a violent rally supposedly in Wisconsin but with palm trees in the background, the Wisconsinites hauling plastic palm trees to the capitol, the high school students joining the occupation on behalf of their teachers, Governor Walker unable to step outdoors without protest -- all of this energy and activity is accurately conveyed in Wisconsin Rising. For over three weeks, Wisconsin's capitol was occupied, and the reminders of it are still frequently visible there.
The Wisconsin legislature rammed through its horrendous legislation despite the public opposition. The film does not hide that awful defeat. But the same would have happened had there been no opposition. The question is whether the opposition did any good and whether it could conceivably have succeeded had wiser decisions been made -- and whether power was tapped that could be enlarged still further. I think the answer to all of these questions is yes.
In the film we see people withdrawing their money from a bank that funds candidates like Walker. That can and should continue.
We see a choice made to withdraw energy from protests and demonstrations and nonviolent resistance and camps and marches and a general strike, in order to put all of that energy into recall elections. The lessons of all of those labor songs sung at all of those rallies are not followed. Instead, an effort is made to pretend that the system works and that slightly better personalities in positions of corrupt power will solve everything. Massive popular energy went into a contest where it could not compete with massive money.
What might have happened instead? Energy could have stayed with the occupation, drawing inspiration from and giving inspiration to activism around the United States and the world. I remember Michael Moore pointing out at the Wisconsin occupation that 400 people in the United States had as much money as half the country, and pundits compelled to note that that was true. An education campaign about the division and concentration of wealth would have been time better spent. Creative means of keeping working people's wealth with working people, rather than handing it over to Wall Street, would have been wiser use of euphoric enthusiasm.
An effort might also have been made to build even wider state-level solidarity by recognizing the state of Wisconsin, like the other 49 U.S. states, as a victim of a federal budget gone off the deep end of plutocratic plunder and militarism. The federal government does not support education or any other human need, at home or abroad, in remotely the way that it could if it curtailed spending on war preparations, giveaways to corporations and billionaires, or both. What if Wisconsin were to convert from weapons to peaceful industries, tax major federal tax evaders at the state level instead, and call for a Constitutional Convention to recriminalize bribery? What if the money Wisconsinites dump into elections went into setting up and supporting independent media outlets in Wisconsin instead?
What if three enjoyable, energizing, inspiring weeks of effort wasn't seen as a record long action, but as the opening preview of much longer struggles? What if the pressure were to build back up, and a different direction were chosen this time, the direction of nonviolent resistance rather than naive compliance? Wisconsin, at least, has done its warm ups. Most states are still in the locker room.