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Congressman Robert Hurt (R., Va.) Not Convinced by Case to Attack Syria

Here in rural Virginia, we switch between Democrats and Republicans, but they all vote for war ... until now.  Our recently unseated Congress member, Tom Periello, is rallying humanitarian warriors to bomb nations because we care.  His replacement, Robert Hurt, met with a group of constituents on Thursday and indicated that he had "grave, grave concerns" about voting for any attack on Syria.

Hurt said he was inclined to believe that Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack on the 21st and that it was indeed "horrific."  "That being said, I have grave concerns about going into Syria," Hurt said at the meeting in his Charlottesville, Va., office, which was attended by constituents from across the political spectrum, many of whom had held a forum the night before (video). Also attending Thursday's meeting were camera crews from NBC Channel 29 and Newsplex Channel 19/16/27.

Hurt said it was "the responsibility of the President and proponents of a war to make a clear and compelling case that it would be in the national security interest of the United States. And I have not seen that."

"We've learned what it means to be in a protracted struggle in the Middle East," he said.  He said he had not seen, and would need to see, a clear objective, a way to achieve it, and a plan for getting out again. 

Hurt said that during the past two weeks he had heard from many constituents, and that they were "absolutely overwhelmingly" against an attack on Syria. 

"How does our going in do anything other than make it worse?" he asked.  He also said that he was against half-measures that aren't all-in.

Hurt said that he would have to answer to his constituents and members of the military, and military family members, and be able to look them in the eye and say that the loss of their loved one was "worth it." 

Asked if he would move to raise taxes to pay for this war and other recent wars if he voted for this one, Hurt said, "That's an excellent point," and suggested that the greatest threat to national security may be the national debt."

Hurt did not commit to voting No, but rather said he would go to Washington, look at the classified materials, and hear out the war proponents. 

But, of course, he is not going to hear that Syria is a threat to the United States or that there is an exit plan or that the war will cost no money.

The Congressman also said that the Constitution required that the House vote on any war.  It is to be hoped that if that vote is denied, a majority of members including Hurt will force a vote over the preference of the Speaker and the Democratic Leader.

Video: Forum on Preventing an Attack on Syria

Videos filmed by Les Solomon.

The Charlottesville Forum on Preventing a U.S. Attack on Syria was held in Charlottesville VA at the Friends Meeting House on September 4, 2013. Speakers included: David Swanson, John Whitehead, Helena Cobban, Roy Hange, and Dave Norris, with lots of public discussion.  Congressman Robert Hurt's Director of Outreach was present, and in Video #8 a member of the audience asks him to respond to what he's heard. Congressman Hurt himself agreed the next morning to meet with the organizers of this event at his Charlottesville office at 11:30 a.m.

Sponsored by WarIsACrime.org, Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, Amnesty International Charlottesville, Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine.

David Swanson is the author of books including War Is A Lie and When the World Outlawed War.  He is the host of Talk Nation Radio. Swanson blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org and works as Campaign Coordinator for the online activist organization RootsAction.org.  Swanson also works on the communications committee of Veterans For Peace, of which he is an associate (non-veteran) member. Swanson is Secretary of Peace in the Green Shadow Cabinet.

John Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is president of the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties and human rights organization.  He authors a widely syndicated column and hosts a national public service radio campaign.  His most recent book is A Government of Wolves.  See Rutherford.org.

Helena Cobban is the founding owner of Just World Books, a Charlottesville-based book publisher. Previously, she had a long career as  a writer and researcher on world affairs, focusing on the Middle East. She speaks Arabic and has reported and written extensively about Syria for nearly 40 years. Her 2000 book on the Syrian-Israeli peace talks of 1992-96 was published by the U.S. Institute of Peace. From 2008 through 2011 she was a member of the U.S.-Syria Working Group of Search for Common Ground. She is a member of Charlottesville Friends Meeting (Quakers) and sits on the board of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Roy Hange is a Mennonite pastor who has spent 30 years studying Western Asia (the Middle East).  He has lived for 3 years in Egypt, 6 in Syria, and 1 in Iran.  Hange has taught peace building at Eastern Mennonite University and the University of Virginia. See CharlottesvilleMennonite.org.

Dave Norris has served as a Charlottesville City Council Member or Mayor since 2006. He's executive director of the Charlottesville Institute.  Norris has served as Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge, Executive Director of PACEM, Associate Director of Madison House, and Interim Director of the Public Housing Association of Residents.  He is founder of the Charlottesville Vegetarian Festival.  He has been a leading advocate for anti-war resolutions on Charlottesville City Council and in the U.S. Conference of Mayors, spoke at the Military Industrial Complex at 50 conference and will be MCing the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice's 30th anniversary celebration on September 21st. See CvilleDave.Blogspot.com.

A Modest Proposal for Syria

It is a melancholy object to those who view videos of Damascus, when they see the streets, the roads, and doorways, crowded with the bodies of those reportedly killed with the wrong weapons by the wrong people.

I think it is agreed by all parties that this 1,000 or more bodies is an outrage not to be tolerated in a nation that has killed off 100,000 or more in recent years with perfectly respectable weapons and seen its neighbors in Egypt murder thousands just a few weeks ago, to the clear satisfaction of the International Community.

Conceivably, Syria will set itself aright and return to more acceptable styles of population elimination. But my intention is very far from being confined to providing only for the next 10,000 or 100,000 corpses.  There are some 20 million people in Syria, some of whom may die rightly, and some wrongly, if left to chance.  To make matters worse, they are fleeing the nation by the millions at an increasing pace.

This need not be.  We in the United States have a responsibility.  Syrians are not less worthy of proper deaths than ourselves.  We need spare no financial expense due to prejudices of religion or ethnicity.  It is time for us to step up as the International Community, while the rest of the world's nations fail.  We can make sure Syrians meet a proper end.

Let me be clear, when we used White Phosphorus to burn holes straight through men, women, and countless children in Fallujah, the International Community approved.  When we deployed new types of napalm despite the apparent lack of jungle foliage in Iraq, the International Community was satisfied.  There is no more proper death than through depleted uranium, injestion of which brings a most glorious chemical demise.  All of these avenues are available, and we should let a thousand flowers bloom in the Syrian streets.

But the ultimate solution is one which we have become the supreme masters of: cluster bombing.  The United States stands nearly alone in the world as a proponent of the legal use of both land mines and flying land mines, also known as cluster bombs.  These weapons are efficient and beautiful, creating a great variety of injuries as well as death.  Most importantly, they will generate terror.  Refugees will flee in all directions in such numbers that starvation and disease will wipe out huge swaths of the population.

As hunger takes over, opportunities will be found to restore a proper, if temporary, balance to the Syrian diet.  I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in Virginia, that a young healthy Syrian child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled. Sources within Syria report that hearts and livers are a delicacy.

The benefits of my scheme are so numerous that one is apt to forget the central and most significant objective, which will be accomplished with complete and total success if our actions are swift and comprehensive.  That is: we will stop the wrong people killing anyone with weapons deemed unacceptable by the International Community.

Enough with halfway measures, I say!  Enough with telling the Democrats we won't join another endless war beyond our control on the side of Al Qaeda! Enough with assuring Republicans we'll stand shoulder to shoulder with terrorists until Iran is destroyed or Russia launches nukes! We have the technology. We have the stockpiles. Wipe every Syrian out with acceptable weaponry today! It's our humanitarian responsibility!

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Jonathan Swift wrote "A Modest Proposal" that the poor eat their children as a form of SATIRE. Unless you know what satire is, please do not contact me about this article. Thanks!

 

Who the Missiles Will Hurt

Believe it or not -- after John McCain played video games on his phone during a hearing on bombing Syria, and Eleanor Holmes Norton said she'd only vote to bomb Syria out of loyalty to Obama -- there are decent people in the United States government who mean well and take their responsibilities seriously.  One of them, who works on actual humanitarian aid (as opposed to humanitarian bombs) spoke to me.

He said that, beyond those who will inevitably be killed by U.S. missiles in Syria, and those who will die in the escalated violence that is very likely to follow, a great many additional people may suffer for reasons we aren't paying attention to.

"So far, most of the concerns raised in connection with the use of military force in Syria have focused on the risk that the U.S. might become further embroiled in this conflict, and that initially limited strikes could soon spiral out of control, lead to retaliatory attacks by the Asad regime, spread the conflict throughout the region, and inadvertently strengthen terrorist groups linked to al Qaeda.  However, there is an additional, more immediate hazard, which has been largely absent from the debate.

"We need to recall that our original rationale for concern about Syria was humanitarian in nature, based on the suffering of millions of Syrian civilians who became refugees or internally displaced within their own country.  The goal of providing medical assistance, shelter, and food to these innocent people is widely shared by the majority of the American people and their elected representatives in Congress.  To that end, the U.S. Government has provided over one billion dollars in humanitarian assistance for this crisis, and has been quite successful in providing aid to millions of civilians, both within Syria and to Syrian refugees in surrounding countries.  In contrast to our largely unsuccessful efforts to engineer a political transition, and to strengthen a disorganized and fragmented opposition which may or may not represent our interests, our humanitarian assistance has been our most effective and successful effort.

"Before we contemplate military strikes against the Syrian regime, we would do well to carefully consider what impact such strikes would have on our ongoing humanitarian programs, both those funded by the U.S. and by other countries and international organizations.  These programs currently reach hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people throughout Syria, in areas controlled both by the regime and the opposition.  We know from past military interventions, such as in Yugoslavia and Iraq, that airstrikes launched for humanitarian reasons often result in the unintended deaths of many civilians.  The destruction of roads, bridges, and other infrastructure, which such airstrikes may entail, would significantly hamper the delivery of humanitarian aid in Syria.  

"The provision of this assistance in regime controlled areas requires the agreement, and in many cases the cooperation, of the Asad government.  Were the Asad regime, in response to U.S. military operations, to suspend this cooperation, and prohibit the UN and Nongovernmental Organizations from operating in territory under its control, hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians would be denied access to food, shelter, and medical care.  In such a scenario, we would be sacrificing programs of proven effectiveness in helping the people of Syria, in favor of ill considered actions that may or may not prevent the future use of chemical weapons, or otherwise contribute to U.S. objectives in any meaningful way."

In other words, the U.S. government is not just considering investing in missile strikes rather than diplomacy or actual aid, but in the process it could very well cut off what aid programs exist and have funding.  Humanitarian war grows more grotesque the more closely one examines it.

 
 

Congressional Progressive/Pentagon Caucus

Back in 2007, the Congressional Progressive Caucus helped organize 90 Congress members to commit to voting against war funding.  Most of them turned around and voted for war funding.  That was a high point for the CPC.  Since then, its commitments -- such as to vote against corporate healthcare -- have hardly been taken seriously, and so it's hardly been news when most members have gone back on their commitments.

The CPC has shifted in recent years away from pretending to take a stand on things, and instead toward issuing statements full of non-committal rhetoric.  That, too, is now a stage in the devolution of the CPC to which we can look back with nostalgia.

The CPC, on the question of a new war on Syria, is choosing to do nothing at all.  In fact, one of its two co-chairs is actively promoting war.  Compare this whip list with this list of CPC members.  You'll notice that virtually no members of the House of Representatives have taken any position on whether or not to attack Syria.  That includes most of those who claimed they wanted the president to allow a vote, as the Constitution requires.  The same is true for the CPC: virtually nobody has a position.

Those firmly committed to attacking Syria, in the House, include four Republicans, five non-CPC Democrats, and CPC Co-Chair Keith Ellison.  Those firmly committed against this madness include 10 Republicans, three non-CPC Democrats, and four CPC Democrats. 

Ellison was first elected as an opponent of war and an advocate for impeaching George W. Bush for the crime of war, but reversed his positions immediately upon election.  He just recently responded to pressure from Veterans For Peace in Minnesota and introduced into the Congressional Record acknowledgment that the Kellogg-Briand Pact bans all war.  He then turned around and threw his support in behind the next war.

The other co-chair of the CPC, Raul Grijalva, is listed as "leaning nay," along with nine other Democrats (two of them in the CPC) and 15 Republicans.  We've learned, however, what solid commitment means to these weasels, so you can imagine what "leaning" signifies.

The CPC has no requirements for membership.  A member need not hold any progressive positions.  There are no required actions.  A member need not oppose even the worst atrocities our government inflicts on us or the world.  The CPC doesn't fund its members' elections in this corrupt buyer-takes-all system.  A CPC member is exactly as dependent as any other Congress member on the bosses of a party, for funding, for committee positions, and for pork in a district.  The CPC offers no serious megaphone for progressive views, leaving members as susceptible to the manufactured militarism of the corporate media as anyone else.

Perhaps, at long last, it's time for Congress members Grayson, Nolan, McDermott, and Rangel to establish a Congressional Peace Caucus, which would differ from the Congressional Progressive/Pentagon Caucus.  Congressman Grayson has pointed out that the Chemical Weapons Convention requires criminal prosecution for its violation -- not the bombing of a country, which is itself, of course, a crime.  That ought to be a simple enough position for any elected official in favor of the rule of law to grasp.  If drones get to have their own caucus, why doesn't the rule of law get one?  This is, after all, the legislative branch of government.

Nearly a century ago, if a woman wanted to join the Women's Peace Union, she had to sign a pledge, including this:

"We affirm it is our intention never to aid in or sanction war, offensive or defensive, international or civil, in any way, whether by making or handling munitions, subscribing to war loans, using our labor for the purpose of setting others free for war service, helping by money or work any organization which supports or condones war."

A Congressional Peace Caucus, were there such a thing, might use a pledge like this:

"We affirm it is our intention never to aid in or sanction war, offensive or defensive, international or civil, in any way, but to actively oppose all war, and to seek to deny all funding for war or war preparations, and to treat the waging of war in violation of treaties to which the United States is party as an impeachable offense."

If someone joined that caucus, even if it were just one person, I would begin to see the value in elections and caucuses that others manage to discern through the mists of pretense and sycophancy that currently enshroud Capitol Hill.

Talk Nation Radio: Patrick Cockburn: Missiles Won't Make Peace in Syria

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

Patrick Cockburn is an Irish journalist who has been a Middle East correspondent since 1979 for the Financial Times and, presently, The Independent. He won the Martha Gellhorn Prize in 2005, the James Cameron Prize in 2006, and the Orwell Prize for Journalism in 2009. His articles are at http://www.independent.co.uk/biography/patrick-cockburn

You can say no to attacking Syria here: http://bit.ly/LWd85d

Total run time: 29:00

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

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

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

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

Caveman Credibility and its Costs

Sending a bunch of $3 million missiles into Syria to blow stuff up will kill a great many men, women, and children directly.  It will also kill a great many people indirectly, as violence escalates in response -- an established pattern recognized even by the war-promoting Washington Post.

Charlottesville Forum on Preventing a U.S. Attack on Syria

A free, public, town-hall forum on Preventing a U.S. Attack on Syria: why and how.

Wednesday, September 4, 6:30 p.m.

Sign up to attend on FaceBook now
http://on.fb.me/15njYej

Friends Meeting House
1104 Forest Street
Charlottesville VA
(map http://mapq.st/15GOooV )

Speakers:
Helena Cobban
John Whitehead
Dave Norris
Roy Hange
David Swanson
and You

Helena Cobban is the founding owner of Just World Books, a Charlottesville-based book publisher. Previously, she had a long career as  a writer and researcher on world affairs, focusing on the Middle East. She speaks Arabic and has reported and written extensively about Syria for nearly 40 years. Her 2000 book on the Syrian-Israeli peace talks of 1992-96 was published by the U.S. Institute of Peace. From 2008 through 2011 she was a member of the U.S.-Syria Working Group of Search for Common Ground. She is a member of Charlottesville Friends Meeting (Quakers) and sits on the board of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

John Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is president of the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties and human rights organization.  He authors a widely syndicated column and hosts a national public service radio campaign.  His most recent book is A Government of Wolves.  See Rutherford.org.

Dave Norris has served as a Charlottesville City Council Member or Mayor since 2006. He's executive director of the Charlottesville Institute.  Norris has served as Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge, Executive Director of PACEM, Associate Director of Madison House, and Interim Director of the Public Housing Association of Residents.  He is founder of the Charlottesville Vegetarian Festival.  He has been a leading advocate for anti-war resolutions on Charlottesville City Council and in the U.S. Conference of Mayors, spoke at the Military Industrial Complex at 50 conference and will be MCing the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice's 30th anniversary celebration on September 21st. See CvilleDave.Blogspot.com.

Roy Hange is a Mennonite pastor who has spent 30 years studying Western Asia (the Middle East).  He has lived for 3 years in Egypt, 6 in Syria, and 1 in Iran.  Hange has taught peace building at Eastern Mennonite University and the University of Virginia. See CharlottesvilleMennonite.org.

David Swanson is the author of books including War Is A Lie and When the World Outlawed War.  He is the host of Talk Nation Radio. Swanson blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org and works as Campaign Coordinator for the online activist organization RootsAction.org.  Swanson also works on the communications committee of Veterans For Peace, of which he is an associate (non-veteran) member. Swanson is Secretary of Peace in the Green Shadow Cabinet.

Sponsored by WarIsACrime.org, Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, Amnesty International Charlottesville, Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine.

Listen to Coy Barefoot Show on Syria.

NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Cruise Missile Law Enforcement

The White House is treating the Syrian government like a potential drone strike victim.

President Barack Obama's preferred method for dealing with targeted individuals is not to throw them into lawless prisons.  But it's also not to indict and prosecute them.

On June 7th, Yemeni tribal leader Saleh Bin Fareed told Democracy Now that Anwar al Awlaki could have been turned over and put on trial, but "they never asked us." In numerous other cases it is evident that drone strike victims could have been arrested if that avenue had ever been attempted.

A memorable example was the November 2011 drone killing in Pakistan of 16-year-old Tariq Aziz, days after he'd attended an anti-drone meeting in the capital, where he might easily have been arrested -- had he been charged with some crime.

Missile-strike law enforcement is now being applied to governments as well.  The Libyan government was given a death sentence.  The Syrian government is being sentenced to the loss of some citizens, buildings, and supplies.

The purpose is not to end the war, or even to speed the coming of the end of the war.  The purpose is not to overthrow the government (an action which in Libya was not yet clearly recognizable as this new form of law enforcement).  Nor, of course, is the purpose rehabilitation or restitution or reconciliation or most of the nobler motivations we sometimes assign to punishment.  The purpose of sending missiles into Syria will be "punitive," meaning retributive.  It will "send a message," possibly intended to include deterrence.

When the Bush-Cheney gang was accused of cruel and unusual punishment because it tortured, they replied: this isn't punishment, it's interrogation.  But surely dropping missiles on people is not interrogation.  It's advertised as punishment.  And that's putting its best foot forward.  It's punishment so that it doesn't have to be a crime itself.

For, of course, dropping missiles on people is normally itself a serious crime, just as kicking in your door at night with guns blazing is normally against the law.  But if a policeman -- global or normal -- does it, well, then it's law enforcement, not law breaking.

This is why the U.S. government can itself use chemical weapons, while punishing others for doing so.  It's the cop.  It uses white phosphorus and napalm to enforce laws, or at least to do something in the line of duty.  The BBC this week reported on yet another horrific incident in Syria, this one involving "napalm-like burns."  The only way for the U.S., the land of napalm, to punish such acts with righteous indignation is through the immunity granted to the global police force.

I wrote a book three years ago called War Is A Lie in hopes of helping to build enough awareness so that some day we would have a majority against a war before it began, rather than a year and a half later.  That day has arrived.  The UK is a bit ahead of the USA, but we've all moved toward much greater and healthier scepticism toward war lies.

We don't believe that the evil of Assad justifies bombing Syrians.  We laugh when Obama says Syria might theoretically attack us some day.  We don't see the supposed generosity in dropping bombs on an already war-torn nation.  We don't accept that a war is inevitable.  We watch Parliament say no and wonder where Congress is.

Congress members have been "urging" the president to consult with them, centuries after this country was formed by supposedly leaving royal powers behind in England.  When will Congress members call for a return to Washington for an emergency session?  When will they vote to block funding for any attack on Syria?  They should be aware that by not taking these actions they have made themselves complicit in our eyes, and in the eyes of the world.

Phil Ochs saw the Global War on Terra Part II coming when he sang:

Come, get out of the way, boys
Quick, get out of the way
You'd better watch what you say, boys
Better watch what you say
We've rammed in your harbor and tied to your port
And our pistols are hungry and our tempers are short
So bring your daughters around to the port
'Cause we're the cops of the world, boys
We're the cops of the world

Opposition to Iraq War May Save Syria

Evidence of "weapons of mass destruction" is "no slam dunk," U.S. officials are saying this time around, reversing the claim made about Iraq by then-CIA director George Tenet.

Opposition to a U.S.-led attack on Syria is growing rapidly in Europe and the United States, drawing its strength from public awareness that the case made for attacking Iraq had holes in it.

Talk Nation Radio: Jean Bricmont: Keep Humanitarian Imperialism Out of Syria

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

Jean Bricmont is the author of Humanitarian Imperialism, and of a recent article on CounterPunch called "The Wishful Thinking Left."  Bricmont is a member of the Division of Sciences of the Royal Academy for Sciences, Letters and Arts of Belgium.

You can say no to attacking Syria here: http://bit.ly/LWd85d

Total run time: 29:00

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

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

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

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

Lying About Syria, and the Lying Liars Who Lie About the Lying

UPDATE: Flyers you can use to oppose this war: Color PDF, Black and White PDF.

"U.S. prepares for possible retaliatory strike against Syria," announces a Los Angeles Times headline, even though Syria has not attacked the United States or any of its occupied territories or imperial forces and has no intention to do so.

The Gainesville 8 and a Nixonized World

A 40-year reunion is being planned for the end of this month in Gainesville, Fla., of the Gainesville 8.  Sadly, Richard Nixon won't be able to join them, although his presidential library has just released more audio recordings of his descent into madness -- or what we like to call today: standard government practice.

The Gainesville 8 were eight men, seven of them members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), who planned to nonviolently demonstrate at the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami.  They were wrongfully prosecuted for planning violence, and they were all acquitted by a jury on August 31, 1973, in a highly publicized trial.

Under the shadow of the chaos that surrounded the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, VVAW took extra steps to avoid violence at the '72 RNC, meeting with the Miami police and with right-wing groups in an effort to prevent conflicts.  And yet, prior to the convention, President Nixon's FBI began preemptively arresting VVAW leaders, accusing them of plotting murder and mayhem, and attempting to prevent them from taking part in what they were really plotting: a nonviolent march to the convention, where they would request to meet with the president.

Many VVAW members managed to pull off the march, during the course of which they came upon an activist carrying weapons; they turned him in to the police.  Three vets, including Ron Kovic, made it into the convention to pose some uncomfortable questions to some long-distance, stay-at-home war supporters.

Just prior to the arrests of the VVAW members in Florida, burglars working for Nixon had been arrested breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate.  When the Watergate burglars were captured, one of them, James McCord, explained that they were investigating a link between the Democrats and the VVAW which they believed was planning trouble at the upcoming Republican National Convention.  McCord submitted an affidavit to the Gainesville 8 defense team restating this.  The Gainesville 8 defense argued that their prosecution was aimed at strengthening Nixon's thugs' phony case for the Watergate break-in.

One of several infiltrators and would-be provocateurs who made up the fabricated case against the Gainesville 8 was Vincent Hanard.  He said that Nixonian henchmen Howard Hunt, Bernard Barker, and Frank Sturgis had asked him to infiltrate VVAW and cause trouble.  Another hired trouble-maker, Alfred Baldwin, was employed both monitoring a bug at the Watergate and infiltrating VVAW with a goal of embarrassing Democrats if VVAW demonstrated at the RNC.

Another professional provocateur named Pablo Fernandez was summoned to a grand jury investigating Nixonian henchman Donald Segretti.  Fernandez said he'd tried to sell the VVAW guns and been turned down (something the Miami police confirmed), and that he'd spied on the veterans using electronic devices.  In fact, he'd tried to record a conversation with VVAW leader Scott Camil, but Fernandez' hidden microphone had failed.

Other of the government's many infiltrators in the VVAW included William Koehler, Karl Becker, Emerson Poe, and William Lemmer.  Poe had become best friends with Camil (or so Camil thought).  Poe sat in meetings with the defendants right up until he was called as a prosecution witness, thus blowing his cover -- about which the government had previously lied under oath.  Lemmer was the star witness, however, alleging wild tales of violent plans.  He was himself violent and unstable.  Lemmer had already set up a 17 year old to vandalize a building in Arkansas and arranged to have the FBI waiting for him.  Lemmer had helped bust six people for marijuana.  His specialty was talking people into considering the use of violence.  He just wasn't very convincing as a witness.

Scott Camil was the southeast regional coordinator of VVAW.  His lawyer's office was broken into during these proceedings, and his file taken.  Also, FBI agents with electronic gear were found hiding in a closet of the room that the defendants and lawyers were meeting in during the trial.

"It's not really 11 years till 1984," Camil said in his closing statement (PDF) in court.  "It's a lot closer than that." 

This sounds odd to us, living in 2013.  Technology, if not morality, has made great leaps forward.  There's no more need for bungling idiots with brief cases full of spy gear hiding in closets.  The government can spy on us without making its presence known.  But provocateurs are still employed to manufacture crimes, and much of what was considered illicit under Nixon is treated as acceptable established practice under Obama.

A careful study of the FBI's own data on terrorism in the United States, reported in Trevor Aaronson's book The Terror Factory, finds one organization leading all others in creating terrorist plots in the United States today: the FBI.  Peace groups today, including chapters of Veterans For Peace, have been redefined as "security threats" and "potential terrorists."  The police have been militarized.  Free speech cages are established at great distance from political conventions.  Preemptive detentions before demonstrations don't always bother with charges or prosecutions at all.  And the corporate-state media has internalized these practices as normal.  In 1973, CBS sued for the right to cover the Gainesville 8 trial.  Today I think it would be easier to find a media outlet willing to pay money to avoid having to cover something.  Chelsea Manning's trial was covered by bloggers.

Camil represented himself in court, and included no apologies, as observers of Chelsea Manning's trial might have expected.  Camil's opening statement should be read in full (PDF).  He put the government and the war and President Nixon on trial.  Here's an excerpt:

"The evidence will show that the seven of us who went to Vietnam spent a total of 111 months over there, received 57 medals and citations, and were all honorably discharged.  The evidence will also show that we threw our medals away out of shame, because we knew that what they stood for was wrong.  For myself, the throwing away of the medals I once cherished was the cutting of the umbilical cord between myself and the government lies, such as, 'We are helping the people of Vietnam,' 'Our purpose is honorable,' the covering up, such as, 'We are not bombing Cambodia,' 'We are not murdering unarmed civilians,' 'We are not bombing hospitals,' the immorality, such as 'free fire zones,' where all life was fair game, to show the American people back home  that we were winning the war by giving them a tool of measurement to judge, and that tool of measurement was the use of dead human beings -- it was called 'body count.'"

On August 31st the jury quickly acquitted all of the defendants. VVAW said at the time:

"The government needed, first of all, to defuse the anti-war issue in the 1972 presidential campaign. What better way to do this was there than by portraying a leading anti-war group as a bunch of vicious killers? With the public outcry caused by the Watergate scandal, a secondary purpose for the trial can be found: an attempt to partially divert attention away from the Watergate affair by fabricating a phony 'threat to national security.' James McCord specifically named VVAW/WSO as the chief villain in this 'threat to national security' and as a justification for their actions."

The Gainesville 8 were John Briggs, Scott Camil, Alton Foss, John Kniffin, Peter Mahoney, Stanley Michelson, William Patterson, and Don Perdue. All but Briggs were Vietnam veterans.  Kniffin and Patterson are now deceased.

Four of the eight are gathering for a reunion in Gainesville this month: Peter Mahoney, Don Perdue, Alton Foss, and Scott Camil.  Joining them are three of the lawyers who worked on the defense: Larry Turner, Nancy Stearns (Center for Constitutional Rights), and Brady Coleman (Texas National Lawyers Guild).  Also coming are jurors from the trial: Donna Ing, and the husband of Jury Foreperson Lois Hensel who is now deceased.  Plus members of the defense committee: Nancy Miller Saunders, Nancy Burnap, and Carol Gordon. And John Chambers who spent 40 days in jail for refusing to answer questions from the grand jury. And Richard Hudgens who was subpoenaed to the grand jury.  The Oral History Department at the University of Florida will be doing interviews.

I went ahead and did my own interview of Scott Camil.  "We came home from Vietnam," he said, "and saw that the government was not telling the truth about the war.  We exercised the Constitutional rights that we fought to protect and tried to educate the public to the truth.  The government came after us with a vengeance, trampling on our rights in an effort to silence and intimidate us. We stood up to the government and prevailed."

And what has happened since?

"Things have gotten much worse since then -- the illegal activities that brought down President Nixon are now legal.  Then the press accepted its role as the 4th estate.  Today the press has become a propaganda arm of the National Security State.  Today the National Security State wipes its boots on the Constitution.  And the public, rather than standing up for the Constitution, cowers and hides its head in the sand.

"Today's whistleblowers trying to educate the public to what is being done in our name with our tax money are under attack as we once were.  I hope that they are able to prevail as we once did."

Talk Nation Radio: Tim Shorrock on Peace and Its Opponents in Korea

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-tim-shorrock

Tim Shorrock, who writes for The Nation and blogs at TimShorrock.com, is recently returned from Korea where he participated in marking the 60th anniversary of the armistice and in the movement for demilitarization and peace.  He disagrees with President Obama's assessment of the Korean War, and also with the approach that many activists in the United States have taken toward Korea.  Shorrock is a Washington-based investigative journalist who grew up in Japan and South Korea. He is the author of SPIES FOR HIRE: The Secret World of Outsourced Intelligence.  His work has appeared in The Nation, Salon, Daily Beast, Mother Jones, The Progressive, Foreign Policy in Focus and Asia Times.

Total run time: 29:00

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Music by Duke Ellington.

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Apology to Canada From Your Southern Neighbor

Secession first he would put down
Wholly and forever,
And afterwards from Britain's crown
He Canada would sever.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy.
Mind the music and the step
and with the girls be handy!

I don't speak for the United States or harbor any affection for nationalism.  I'd break this country into several manageable pieces if I could.  But I think someone owes you an apology, Canada -- and, much as our political leaders are accused of making apologies (as if that were a bad thing) I don't expect any of them to get it remotely right any time soon.  So, here goes.

As a Virginian, let me begin by apologizing for the fact that, six-years after the British landing at Jamestown, with the settlers struggling to survive and hardly managing to get their own local genocide underway, these new Virginians hired mercenaries to attack Acadia and drive the French out of what they considered their continent (even if they failed).  I'm sorry, also, that this idea never went away, that the Virginia-based U.S. military still thinks as the Jamestown settlers thought, centuries of cultural progress having passed it by. 

I'm sorry that the colonies that would become the United States decided to take over Canada in 1690 (and failed, again).  I'm sorry that they got the British to help them in 1711 (and failed, yet again).  I'm sorry that General Braddock and Colonel Washington tried again in 1755 (and still failed).  I'm sorry for the ethnic cleansing perpetrated and the driving out of the Acadians and the Native Americans. 

I'm sorry for the British and U.S. attacks of 1758 that took away your fort, renamed it Pittsburgh, and eventually built a giant stadium across the river dedicated to the glorification of ketchup.  It wasn't your land any more than it was U.S. land, but I'm sorry for the aggression against you by the future-U.S. and by Britain.  I'm sorry that in 1760 you were conquered by Britain.  I'm more sorry for everything that came next.

I'm sorry that George Washington sent troops led by Benedict Arnold to attack Canada yet again in 1775, and that -- unlike his future desertion -- this action by Arnold was considered righteous and admirable.  I'm sorry that these imbeciles talked of liberation and expected to be welcomed with gratitude.  I'm sorry their descendants have suffered from the same delusions with regard to every new country invaded for centuries.  I'm sorry that the 13 colonies sought to impose the status of "14th colony" on you by force.  I'm sorry that an early draft of the U.S. Constitution provided for the inclusion of Canada, despite Canada's lack of interest in being included. 

I'm sorry that Benjamin Franklin asked the British to hand you over during negotiations for the Treaty of Paris in 1783.  I'm sorry that Britain, in fact, handed a large chunk of you over: Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana.  If it makes you feel any better, 60 years later Mexico would catch it even worse.  I'm sorry to the Native American residents of the land handed over from Canada to the United States, as if land were ownable, and as if that land were uninhabited.

I'm sorry for the Louisiana Purchase.  I'm sorry for the War of 1812, and for the idiots who've been celebrating its bicentennial.  I'm sorry that Thomas Jefferson, whose house I see out my window, declared that you would be conquered purely by marching in and being welcomed.  I'm sorry that when Tecumseh tricked a U.S. general into believing he had many more troops than he had, the U.S. "intelligence" "community" was effectively born.  I'm sorry that, at the end of the war, the British agreed to betray you again, handing over territory.  I'm sorry that the drive to annex more never vanished.  I'm sorry that the U.S. got Oregon and Washington by the same means -- negotiating with Britain, not you.

I'm sorry that, by the 1840s, with the take-over of half of Mexico underway, the strategy for the take-over of Canada began to focus more on the imposition of "free" trade agreements.  I'm sorry for the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854.  I'm sorry for the U.S. bribery of your politicians that put it through. 

I'm sorry for the U.S. support for an Irish attack on you in 1866.  I'm sorry for the 1867 U.S. purchase of Alaska from Russia, which was aimed at reducing you and weakening you.  I'm sorry that the U.S. Congress condemned your formation as a nation.  I'm sorry that the drive to annex you continued.  I'm sorry for the trade agreement of 1935, and the ever-growing push for "freer" trade agreements ever since, right up through the FTA, NAFTA, and the TPP.  I'm sorry that despite its greater wealth, the United States keeps dragging your social standards downward.

I'm sorry for all the assaults on your nation by the U.S. military, U.S. industry, U.S. labor unions, and the CIA.  I'm sorry that your military has been made a subsidiary of the U.S. military.  I'm sorry for so much U.S. interference in your elections.  I'm grateful for the refuge you've offered deserting U.S. soldiers.  I'm sorry that when your prime minister ever so slightly questioned U.S. genocide in Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson picked him up by the neck, screaming "You pissed on my rug," and that your prime minister then wrote to Johnson thanking him for speaking so frankly.  I'm sorry you've progressed from there to greater subservience.

I applaud you for pushing through the land mine ban despite U.S. interference.

I know you always had your own major problems.  I know the United States has given you good as well as bad.  But you resisted destructive domination mightily for many years.  Other nations curious about the U.S. and its spreading array of military bases should ask its nearest neighbors for references.  Your successful resistance, for so long, is an example to the world, and to your current self.  You overcame internal divisions to unite and survive.  Perhaps the rest of the world can follow suit.

Spy on Me, I'm Innocent!

You've heard people say they want to be spied on, as long as it means that other people will be spied on too.  I know you've heard people say this, and which people it was, and how your face looked when you heard it, and what your next telephone call was.  Or, rather, I could know all of that if I were one of the thousands and thousands of low-level snoops it will take for our government to accomplish its surveillance goals.

The logic is completely flawed, however.  As FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley remarks, if you're looking for a needle in a haystack, adding more hay doesn't help.  It makes you less likely to find the needle.  A government that sucks up ever vaster quantities of useless information on innocent people actually hurts its own ability to investigate crimes.  And the imagined intimidating effect of things like surveillance cameras in public spaces doesn't actually reduce crime; it merely makes us think of each other as potential criminals.

On top of that, the over-investigation leads to all sorts of harm to innocent people that was completely avoidable: wrongful prosecutions and imprisonments, deaths and injuries during unnecessary confrontations, and disastrous cultural and legal changes.  Once everyone has become a suspect, the burden of proof shifts to the defendant.  Once activists are targeted for surveillance and suspicion, many become reluctant to engage in activism -- which, believe it or not, leads to corruption and tyranny.

It's also possible to be wrong about one's innocence.  There are over 5,000 federal crimes on the books, plus 300,000 regulatory crimes, plus regulations, plus state crimes.  Almost everyone is certainly guilty of something or easily made to appear guilty of something. 

All of these points become clearer, I think, when one learns, not just what could happen in the near future, but what is happening right now in the nature of abuses often considered futuristic or dystopian.  A great place -- maybe the best place -- to start is John Whitehead's new book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State.

This book captures the stories of slowly growing abuse and suppression, and collects them in sufficient mass to shock readers out of their complacency.  Have police pulled you over and done cavity searches yet?  They have to others.  Have they forcibly drawn your blood to check for alcohol?  Have they stopped you on a sidewalk and patted you down?  Some  things you simply don't know whether they've done: have they scanned your pockets, bags, and clothing as you passed?  Have they filmed you with a drone and stored the information, allowing a retroactive search of where you were when, should the need arise?  Have they tracked you via your cell phone or your license plate?  Do they know your web browsing history and the content of your emails?  Have they entered your home and searched it while you were out?  These actions are all "legal," even if unconstitutional. 

Some abuses you can't help being aware of when they happen to you or someone you know.  Tens of thousands have been arrested and committed to mental institutions.  Local police have been militarized.  Uniquely in the world, the U.S. military "donates" its weapons to local police forces.  With the weaponry comes a militarization of uniforms, language, training, tactics, and thought.  Over 50,000 no-knock SWAT-team-style police raids are carried out annually in the United States.  Noticing this doesn't make us paranoid.  It exposes the paranoia of the police, who see an enemy in every member of the public. 

"There was a time," Whitehead notes, "when communities would have been up in arms over a botched SWAT team raid resulting in the loss of innocent lives.  Unfortunately, today, we are increasingly being conditioned by both the media and the government to accept the use of SWAT teams by law enforcement agencies for routine drug policing and the high incidence of error-related casualties that accompanies these raids."  Whitehead details some of the specific tragedies. 

Combine police that have been militarized with a public that has been armed, and you get stories like this one: "[A]n 88-year-old African-American woman was shot and killed in 2006 when policemen barged unannounced into her home, reportedly in search of cocaine.  Police officers broke down Kathryn Johnstone's door while serving a 'no-knock' warrant to search her home on a run-down Atlanta street known for drugs and crime, prompting the woman to fire at what she believed to be the 'intruders' in self-defense.  The officers returned fire, killing the octogenarian.  No cocaine was found."

If only someone had had a gun!

According to Amnesty International, 90% of those killed by police tasers were unarmed when tasered.  But when people are armed, they aren't just tasered; instead they have dozens of bullets pumped into them. 

Drones, in Whitehead's view, open up a whole new level of militarization.  As tear gas, tasers, sound cannons, assault vehicles, and other military weapons were passed on to police, so too are drones being domesticated.  The reckless killing and blanket spying that will follow pale in relation to some of the suicidal stupidities the military has planned, such as nuclear-powered drones and drones carrying nuclear weapons. 

It's not too late to push back, assuming we come to understand the desirability and necessity of doing so.

A New Holiday Is Being Created for Peace

When I wrote When the World Outlawed War, I was struck by the significance of a forgotten day, a day matching the description in the 1950 folk song that begins "Last night I had the strangest dream . . . "  On this day, August 27, 1928, the major nations of the world sent representatives to a room in Paris, France, in which they signed a treaty banning war and committing to the peaceful settlement of all disputes. 

The treaty they signed, which is still on the books, has been used over the decades to prevent wars, end wars, and prosecute war makers.  The Peace Pact is listed as in force on the U.S. State Department website (open the document, scroll to page 454). But, unlike a corporate trade agreement, the Kellogg-Briand Pact is, shall we say, less than strictly adhered to -- or even remembered.

Few people strolling down Kellogg Boulevard in St. Paul, Minnesota, have any idea that it's named for Frank Kellogg or who he was. 

They're about to find out.

At 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 21, a resolution will be introduced and voted on by the St. Paul City Council.  This resolution is being brought forward by Council member David Thune for the purpose of proclaiming August 27, 2013, to be "Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact Day" in celebration of the 85th anniversary of the signing.

Council member Dave Thune's ward includes Kellogg's former house.  Thune will be introducing the proclamation at the request of St. Paul residents, including members of the Minneapolis-St. Paul chapter of Veterans For Peace. The Kellogg-Briand Pact  "renounces war as an instrument of National Policy" which is the exact wording found in the (more recently created) Statement of Purpose of Veterans For Peace. 

Here is the resolution that is being introduced:

Whereas Frank Billings Kellogg has rightly been honored around the world, including with a Nobel Peace Prize presented to him in 1930,

Whereas Frank Kellogg is honored in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., where his ashes lie, and where the Kellogg window in the Kellogg Bay bears these words: "In grateful memory of Frank Billings Kellogg, LL.D., 1856-1937, Senator of the United States from Minnesota, Ambassador to the Court of St. James, Secretary of State, a Judge of the Permanent Court of International Justice, Joint Author of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, in Fidelity to American Ideals he served his nation with conspicuous ability and sought equity and peace among the nations of the world, his body rests in this cathedral,"

Whereas Frank Kellogg's family moved to Minnesota in 1865 and Kellogg moved to St. Paul in 1886, and Kellogg's home from 1899 to 1937 was the house at 633 Fairmont Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota, which is now a National Historic Landmark,

Whereas Frank Kellogg's name is remembered in St. Paul as the name of Kellogg Boulevard, but memory of what Kellogg did to merit such honors is fading,

Whereas Frank Kellogg as U.S. Secretary of State heeded the passionate and almost universal desire of the people of this and other nations for peace, and in particular the proposal of the Outlawry Movement to legally ban war,

Whereas Frank Kellogg surprised his State Department staff and many others in 1927 by working carefully and diligently to bring many of the world's nations together to ban war,

Whereas war had not previously been a crime, and the Kellogg-Briand Pact made it one, resulting in a nearly complete end to the legal recognition of territorial gains made through war, and resulting in the prosecution following World War II of the new crime of making war,

Whereas the wealthy well-armed nations of the world have not gone to war with each other since those prosecutions -- the elimination of war upon and among the world's poorer nations remaining an important goal toward which greater recognition of the Kellogg-Briand Pact might contribute,

Whereas the Kellogg-Briand Pact is recognized as in force by the U.S. State Department with 84 nations currently parties to it, and the pact open to any other nations that choose to join,

Whereas the Pact, excluding formalities and procedural matters, reads in full, "The High Contracting Parties solemly [sic] declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.  The High Contracting Parties agree that settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means,"

Whereas compliance with the law is more likely to occur if we remember what the law is,

Whereas then French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand remarked at the signing of the Kellogg-Briand Pact on August 27, 1928: "For the first time, on a scale as absolute as it is vast, a treaty has been truly devoted to the very establishment of peace, and has laid down laws that are new and free from all political considerations.  Such a treaty means a beginning and not an end. . . . [S]elfish and willful war which has been regarded from of old as springing from divine right, and has remained in international ethics as an attribute of sovereignty, has been at last deprived by law of what constituted its most serious danger, its legitimacy.  For the future, branded with illegality, it is by mutual accord truly and regularly outlawed so that a culprit must indur the unconditional condemnation and probably the hostility of all his co-signatories,"

Therefore, in hopes of encouraging awareness of the work of Frank Kellogg and of the peace movement of the 1920s that moved him to action, the City of St. Paul, Minnesota, proclaims August 27th to be Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact Day.

On August 27th a celebration is planned at the Kellogg house.  Meanwhile, in Illinois, an award ceremony is planned for the winners of the first annual essay contest dedicated to the question "How Can We Obey the Law Against War?"  But why shouldn't there be celebrations everywhere?  Why not recognition for Salmon Oliver Levinson of Chicago, whose movement persuaded Kellogg to act?  Why not remembrance of Kellogg in Washington, D.C., where he's buried?  Why not celebration of the activists of the 1920s who made up the Outlawry Movement, and who were from every part of the United States and many other nations?  Why not a day of celebrating peace and advancing the cause of the abolition of war, including by collectively urging new nations to sign onto the Peace Pact?

Here's a petition that can be signed, and the signatures from any town or state printed out to be used in local lobbying.  St. Paul is leading the way, but it need not do so alone.  The petition reads:

"We support local, state, national, and international legislation that would make August 27th a holiday in honor of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, also known as the Peace Pact, that was signed on this date in 1928. The International Pact which renounced war as an instrument of national policy and committed nations to settling disputes exclusively by peaceful means was passed into U.S. law in 1929 with only one Senator in opposition. The co-authors were Republican Secretary of State Frank Kellogg from Minnesota and French foreign minister Aristide Briand. Kellogg won the Nobel Peace Prize, and the Pact is still U.S. and International Law."

Screaming in Bradley Manning's Trial

I sat in the courtroom all day on Wednesday as Bradley Manning's trial wound its way to a tragic and demoralizing conclusion.  I wanted to hear Eugene Debs, and instead I was trapped there, watching Socrates reach for the hemlock and gulp it down.  Just a few minutes in and I wanted to scream or shout.

I don't blame Bradley Manning for apologizing for his actions and effectively begging for the court's mercy.  He's on trial in a system rigged against him.  The commander in chief declared him guilty long ago.  He's been convicted.  The judge has been offered a promotion.  The prosecution has been given a playing field slanted steeply in its favor.  Why should Manning not follow the only advice anyone's ever given him and seek to minimize his sentence?  Maybe he actually believes that what he did was wrong.  But -- wow -- does it make for some perverse palaver in the courtroom.

This was the sentencing phase of the trial, but there was no discussion of what good or harm might come of a greater or lesser sentence, in terms of deterrence or restitution or prevention or any other goal.  That's one thing I wanted to scream at various points in the proceedings.

This was the trial of the most significant whistleblower in U.S. history, but there was no mention of anything he'd blown the whistle on, any of the crimes exposed or prevented, wars ended, nonviolent democratic movements catalyzed.  Nothing on why he's a four-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee.  Nothing.  Every time that the wars went unmentioned, I wanted to scream.  War was like air in this courtroom, everybody on all sides militarized -- and it went unnoticed and unmentioned.

What was discussed on Wednesday was as disturbing as what wasn't.  Psycho-therapists, and relatives, and Bradley Manning himself -- defense witnesses all -- testified that he had been wrong to do what he'd done, that he'd not been in his right mind, and that he is a likable person to whom the judge should be kind. 

Should likable people get lesser sentences? 

The prosecution focused, with much less success I think, on depicting Manning as an unlikable person.  Should unlikable people get heavier sentences? 

What, I wanted to scream, about the likability of blowing the whistle on major crimes?  Shouldn't that be rewarded, rather than being less severely punished?

There were some 30 of us observing the trial on Wednesday in the courtroom, many with "TRUTH" on our t-shirts, plus six members of the news media.  Another 40 some people were watching a video feed in a trailer outside, and another 40 media folks were watching a video in a separate room.  The defense and prosecution lawyers sat a few feet apart from each other, and I suppose the politeness of the operation was preferable to the violence that had led to it.  But the gravity of threatening Manning with 90 years in prison seemed belied by the occasional joking with witnesses. 

Before he'd become a criminal suspect, Manning had written in an online chat:

"If you had free reign over classified networks for long periods of time… say, 8-9 months… and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC… what would you do? . . . or Guantanamo, Bagram, Bucca, Taji, VBC for that matter . . . things that would have an impact on 6.7 billion people . . . say… a database of half a million events during the iraq war… from 2004 to 2009… with reports, date time groups, lat-lon locations, casualty figures… ? or 260,000 state department cables from embassies and consulates all over the world, explaining how the first world exploits the third, in detail, from an internal perspective?"

Manning made clear what his concern and motivation were:

"i think the thing that got me the most… that made me rethink the world more than anything . . . was watching 15 detainees taken by the Iraqi Federal Police… for printing 'anti-Iraqi literature'… the iraqi federal police wouldn't cooperate with US forces, so i was instructed to investigate the matter, find out who the 'bad guys' were, and how significant this was for the FPs… it turned out, they had printed a scholarly critique against PM Maliki… i had an interpreter read it for me… and when i found out that it was a benign political critique titled 'Where did the money go?' and following the corruption trail within the PM's cabinet… i immediately took that information and *ran* to the officer to explain what was going on… he didn't want to hear any of it… he told me to shut up and explain how we could assist the FPs in finding *MORE* detainees…"

Manning wanted the public informed:

"its important that it gets out… i feel, for some bizarre reason . . . it might actually change something . . .  i just… dont wish to be a part of it… at least not now… im not ready…"

In other words, Manning didn't want his name to be known, but he wanted the information to be known.  This was, again, what Manning said during a pre-trial hearing:

" [W]e became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and not being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, and ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.  I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday."

Manning wanted to end wars that the majority of Americans think were wrong ever to have begun, and he helped to end them -- at least in the case of Iraq.  He'd had clearly thought out intentions, and they led to the sort of success he'd hoped for, at least to some degree.  A full-blown public debate on abolishing the institution of war is yet to come. 

The first witness on Wednesday was a therapist who had consulted with Manning while he was in the Army and in Iraq.  This man noted that Manning had problems with his occupation, but gave no indication of what that occupation was.  Manning was under stress, but the moral crisis discussed in the chat logs was never mentioned.  Instead, Manning's lawyer directed the witness to discuss "gender issues."  The witness said that Manning had informed him that he was gay, that being openly gay in the military was a violation of the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice), and that such violations were an exception to doctor-patient confidentiality.  Neither defense nor prosecution followed up on that.  Nor did they ask whether Manning had mentioned any concerns over other violations of the UCMJ of which he had become aware in the course of his duties.  Perhaps not turning Manning in for being gay was simply the decent thing to do.  But, then, wasn't Manning's effectively turning others in for their more serious abuses also the decent thing to do? 

While I might have liked to see Manning choose a jury rather than a judge, hire a different lawyer, and argue for protection as a whistleblower, the defense's case -- on its own terms -- was well done.  The prosecution did not manage to respond effectively or even competently.  A prosecutor, referring to comments in a chat log, asked the therapist what it would mean if a soldier called other soldiers ignorant rednecks.  The witness replied that he couldn't say that he'd never said such a thing himself.  The whole room laughed.  I clapped.  I forgot for a moment about wanting to scream. 

The next witness was a therapist hired to work for the defense.  He said that Manning suffered fits of rage in the military.  Shouldn't he have?  If you'd been dropped into the war on Iraq and seen what it was, how would you have most healthily reacted?  This therapist believed Manning suffered from gender dysphoria, or gender identity disorder.  The whole room seemed to suffer from basic human decency dysphoria.  Manning also suffered, the therapist believed, from fetal alcohol syndrome and Asperger's.  Manning also, we were told, suffered from narcissism and obsessive-compulsive disorder.  These were related, apparently, to his post-adolescent idealism, a state this therapist considered wide-spread and normal, yet not quite acceptable, as it explained Manning's so-called misdeeds.  Manning, we heard, had been stressed out over his boyfriend, and as a result of his alcoholic parents.  The notion that war could cause stress didn't enter the courtroom. 

Was Manning too stressed to appreciate the wrongness of his actions, his own lawyer asked.

The witness took that question and actually turned the discussion toward Manning's whistleblowing in his answer, suggesting that Manning had found injustices and believed he had an oath to uphold by exposing them.  This therapist, however, believed that if Manning had had a friend to talk to, he might not have blown the whistle on anything. 

How did stress impact his thought process, asked Manning's lawyer.  It impaired it, the therapist explained.  Manning suffered from Post-Adolescent Idealism (if only that were contagious! I wanted to scream).  Manning underestimated how much trouble he'd be in.  The worst he believed could happen to him would be separation from the Army, this expert informed us.

Back in the real world in which Manning had written the messages in the published chat logs that exposed him, Manning had had this to say:

"i wouldn’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much, if it wasn’t for the possibility of having pictures of me… plastered all over the world press… as boy . . .  i think im in more potential heat than you ever were [speaking to the snitch who turned him in]  . . .  Hilary Clinton, and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and finds an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format to the public."

What other impressions did the therapist have of Bradley Manning?  Well, Manning had a very consistent system of beliefs. 

I wonder if the witness knew what Bradley was going to say on the stand in just a few hours. 

The prosecution's cross-examination of the first therapist had been so incompetent that even the judge grew fed-up.  This second one was no better.  The prosecutor managed to get the witness to talk about Manning's supposed narcissism, grandiosity, arrogance, and haughtiness, but the witness described Post-Adolescent Idealism as so widespread as to be considered normal.  (Wouldn't that be nice!) 

Did Manning know that what he was doing was illegal, the prosecutor asked.  Yes, the therapist said.  There was no objection from the defense, of course.

Was personal recognition a motive?  No.

Would Manning commit the misconduct again?  (This was the only moment that bordered on President Obama's much-beloved looking forward.)  I don't know, was the answer.

If in the future he saw something that violated his sense of morality would he take action again?  Well, he's been pretty consistent with his principles.

Before Manning reversed his principles on the stand, there was one other witness to testify: Manning's older sister.  Her testimony was stunning.  I nearly cried.  A number of people did openly cry.  She described a family in which both parents were alcoholics.  Her and Bradley's mother was drunk every day, and a mean drunk at that.  Their father was nearly as bad.  Manning's sister, 11 years older than he, raised him more than anyone else.  Their mother drank through her pregnancy with Bradley.  He was tiny and underfed.  And things got worse as the parents split up, the mother became suicidal, the sister fled.  If this testimony were aired on television, people would discuss it -- in tears -- for many months.  There would be endless discussions of each tangential topic, including alcohol, fetal alcohol syndrome, child abuse, rural isolation, divorce, older sisters, and -- of course -- whether traitors can be excused because they had bad childhoods.

And yet, I wanted to scream out: Why aren't we analyzing the people who had better or worse childhoods than Manning and all failed to do what he did?  What about their mental health?  What about their Blind Obedience Disorder?

Manning's sister said that he had calmed down and matured during the past three years.  No mention of his naked isolation cell.  No mention of the existential threat hanging over him.  No mention of how clear-minded and principled he appears to have been back when he was supposedly immature.

Then, Manning made his sworn statement.  He said he was sorry his actions had hurt people, despite no evidence having shown that they did.  He said he was sorry his actions hurt the United States, whereas clearly his actions benefitted the United States, allowing us much greater access into what our secretive government is doing in our name.  Manning questioned how he could have possibly believed he knew better than his superiors.

It's an interesting question.  Manning went into the Army in hopes of receiving money for college.  He was entering a hostile world.  Loyalty to buddies did not overpower loyalty to humanity, in Manning's case, because the Army wasn't his buddies.  So, Manning looked at the horrors of war and said to himself: I can shine a light, and that light can fix this.  We can, Bradley Manning believed, have a peaceful government of, by, and for the people.

The next and last witness was Bradley's aunt, who told a very sympathetic tale paralleling Bradley's sister's.  She concluded by asking the judge to consider Manning's difficult start in life, and the fact that Bradley thought he was doing the right thing when he was not thinking clearly at all.

I never screamed.

I took off my "TRUTH" shirt.

Talk Nation Radio: The EPA Lies for Frackers and Tar Sands Producers

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-the-epa-lies

Steve Horn discusses lies, fracking lies, tar-sands lies, and the EPA.  Horn is a Madison, WI-based Research Fellow for DeSmogBlog. Steve previously was a reporter and researcher at the Center for Media and Democracy. His writing has appeared on The Guardian, The Nation, AlterNet, PR Watch, Truth-Out, FireDogLake, Common Dreams, CounterPunch, Wisconsin Watch, EcoWatch, PolicyMic, WhoWhatWhy.com, Z Magazine, Climate Connections, Business Insider, The Real News Network, Uganda's Daily Monitor, Modern Ghana, the London Evening Post, and elsewhere.

Total run time: 29:00

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

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

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

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

Obama's Campaign to Glorify the War on Vietnam

Wars exist because lies are told about past wars.

When President Obama escalated the war on Afghanistan, he revived virtually every known lie about the war on Iraq, from the initial WMD BS to the "surge."  While Americans remain unfathomably ignorant about the destruction of Iraq, a majority says the war shouldn't have been fought.  A majority says the same about the war on Afghanistan.  This is, pretty wonderfully, impeding efforts toward a U.S. war on Syria or Iran.

The new wars were supposed to cure the Vietnam Syndrome -- that public reluctance to support mass murder for no good reason.  The Pentagon is now turning to the source of the disease.  The war in most need of beautification for Americans, the military has decided, is the war the Vietnamese call the American War. 

Her Name Is Jody Williams

Jody Williams' new book is called My Name Is Jody Williams: A Vermont Girl's Winding Path to the Nobel Peace Prize, and it's a remarkable story by a remarkable person.  It's also a very well-told autobiography, including in the early childhood chapters in which there are few hints of the activism to come. 

One could read this book and come away thinking "Anyone really could win the Nobel Peace Prize," if people in fact told their children they could do that instead of telling them they could be president, and if one was thinking of Nobel peace laureates as saintly beings.  In a certain sense, of course, anyone can win the Nobel Peace Prize, as it's often given to good people who have nothing to do with peace, and at other times it's given to warmongers.  To win the Nobel Peace Prize and deserve it, as Williams did -- that's another story.  That requires, not saintliness, but activism.

Activism is usually 99% perspiration and the dedication that drives it, just like genius.  But in the case of the Nobel Peace Prize, and of the sort of rapid success it honors when applied in accordance with Alfred Nobel's will, the perspiration is 49%.  The other 50% is timing.  The activists who recruited Williams to lead the campaign to ban landmines had the timing perfect.  Williams tapped into something powerful.  She orchestrated some initial successes, communicated the viability and importance of the project, worked night and day, and watched many other people, in many countries, throw themselves into the campaign in a manner that people only do when they believe something will dramatically and rapidly improve the world.

How does one pick the right issue at the right time?  Following the example of the land mine campaign, one must pick a topic on which the rest of the world can do some good without the participation of the U.S. government, and in fact succeed despite fierce opposition from the U.S. government, and then drag the U.S. government along, kicking and screaming, once the rest of the world has moved forward.

What strikes me most about the first half or so of Williams' book is how hard we always make it for anyone who wants to work for a better world to find appropriate employment.  We dump billions into recruiting young people into the military or into business careers.  Imagine if young people had to find those paths on their own.  Imagine if television ads and video games and movies and spectacles at big sporting events were all used to recruit young people into nonviolent activism for peace or justice.  Williams and many others could have found their way more quickly.

Williams argued with her father over the U.S. war on Vietnam.  He began to come around with the exposure of the Gulf of Tonkin incident as fictional, and with the looming threat of a son being drafted -- and no doubt also as a result of Williams' persuasiveness.

What got Williams into full-time paid activism, years later, was a flyer handed to her at a Washington, D.C., metro stop.  The headline read: "El Salvador: Another Vietnam?"  Eventually, Williams found herself engaged in activist work that "didn't feel like work."  I take this to mean that for something to "feel like work" it needed to be a waste of time.  Activism, of course, is not.  Think about what sort of society we have constructed in which the norm is uselessness.

Finding activism does not, of course, mean finding an easy life.  It means sacrifice and risk, but fulfilling sacrifice and risk.  Williams risked death and injury in Central America and suffered, among other things, rape.  Years later she publicly told that story before an audience of 2,000 as part of The Vagina Monologues.  "I felt it was time to use the example to tell women they didn't have to let horrible experiences ruin their lives. I didn't let it ruin mine."  She didn't let all sorts of other horrible experiences stop her either.

Once Williams had begun organizing the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), success began coming much more rapidly than she expected.  Resistance grew right along with it.  Landmines don't kill people, governments said, people kill people.  The United States was the worst, proposing to use "smart landmines" that would switch off when wars ended, thus killing the right people but not the wrong ones, killing soldiers but not farmers and children.  Williams recounts the way she cursed at and denounced a U.S. diplomat who was trying to persuade her of the merits of "smart landmines."  Williams didn't find peace "in her heart" or in her personal interactions in order to advance peace in the world.  She advanced peace in the world through passion, and through smart strategy.  The people of the world were not prepared to get passionate about working for a ban on dumb landmines.  A campaign to ban dumb landmines would have resulted in nothing at all.

Williams gave not an inch in response to then-President Bill Clinton's speeches against landmines, which accompanied his policy in fierce defense of landmines.  "Soaring rhetoric does nothing to save lives," she remarked -- a piece of advice of potentially endless value to supporters of President Obama's speeches against his own policies.

Campaigns against landmines developed, with Williams' help, in many countries.  In Italy, activists forced the issue into the media and moved the minister of defense to support a ban.  They also convinced the trade unions whose members produced landmines for a living to support a ban.  Williams participated in a long march to a factory town, where four women workers held up a banner that said "We will not feed our children by making landmines that kill other people's children."  Imagine creating a culture in the United States in which people took that step in significant numbers! Maybe it's starting.

The ICBL combined diplomacy with activist pressure.  At a meeting with government officials in Geneva, campaigners arranged to have the sound of a landmine explosion projected every 20 minutes, and a counter display the rising count of victims around the world (one every 20 minutes).  Photos of victims were displayed.  Ads and stickers were everywhere.  In France and Austria, campaigners delivered piles of empty shoes to prominent locations.  In some African nations, the ICBL helped develop an activist civil society where there hadn't been one.

Williams had to deal with all the usual divisions that arise in a movement.  Some objected to the cost of meetings when money was needed for the "real work" of removing landmines.  "They somehow managed to avoid understanding that, without the pressure generated by meetings, there would have been little interest in putting up money for mine clearance at all."

In 1996, Canada took the lead in proposing to sign a treaty banning landmines in 1997.  Nation after nation committed.  But the United States went to incredible lengths to try to sabotage the process.  At a meeting in Oslo, activists arranged for diplomats to enter the building through a simulated mine field, and to confront landmine victims when they'd made it in.  Pressure was building in the right direction, but "the degree and crudeness of U.S. bullying was hard to fathom."

Williams built momentum for a very clear demand: "no loopholes, no exceptions, and no reservations."  But the United States strong-armed nations and just about turned Canada against its own initiative.  The ICBL began calling Canada the 51st state.  Props mocked Canada even as pro-ban Canadian diplomats passed by. "What the fuck is your government doing?" Williams demanded of a Canadian official.  "You started all this!  If Canada caves, we will publicly fry your foreign minister." 

Then came the Nobel Peace Prize, and Williams famously calling President Clinton a weenie for refusing to support the ban.  It was a peace prize that actually helped a movement, and a peace prize whose recipient responded appropriately, rededicating herself to peace. 

Then came the treaty to ban landmines.  Then came virtually complete compliance with it, including by the United States which has still not signed on. 

In her Nobel speech, Williams said this was the first time the leaders of governments had heeded a public demand.  That is, of course, not true.  Exceptions include August 27, 1928, when the nations of the world banned war.  But such an occurrence is very rare, and the question is how to make it happen again.  Blinding laser weapons were banned in 1996, and cluster bombs in 2008.

There is a movement now forming to try to ban autonomous drones.  There's a parallel there to landmines, if one thinks of both as killing without human discretion.  Yet, the family visited by hellfire missiles simply will not care whether a human pressed the button.  And the revulsion those living under the drones feel in particular toward unmanned airplanes hardly has room to expand should those drones become autonomous.  Drone murders already look like murders, even to many Americans, in a way in which much killing in war does not.  Why, I wonder, shouldn't the movement be to ban weaponized drones?

Or should the movement perhaps be to enforce the ban on war?  Perhaps somehow partial movements against elements of war should begin advancing an understanding of total abolition along the way.  A movement to ban military bases in foreign nations, for example, could be pursued with a fundamentally anti-war philosophy.  In any case, we can certainly learn about the best way forward by picking up Williams' book and engaging in a little of that practice that President Obama so despises: looking backwards.

Past Wars on Indians Aren't Even Past

Hammer in hand, one sees nails everywhere. Successful unpunished genocide at home in hand, the Pentagon sees Indian Country on six continents.  But don't imagine the U.S. military is finished with the original Indian Country yet, including Native American reservations and territories, and including the places where the rest of us now live.

Compare and contrast:

Exhibit 1 from the New York Times:

"Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent."

Exhibit 2 from a U.S. Army dispatch in 1864:

"All Apache . . . large enough to bear arms who may be encountered in Arizona will be slain whenever met unless they give themselves up as prisoners."

Donald Rumsfeld gave a speech at Fort Carson with cavalry troops on horseback dressed in Indian-killing outfits behind him, as he praised troops in Iraq for living up to the legend of Kit Carson -- a man who marched hundreds of human beings to a camp later used as a model for the Nazis'. 

Osama bin Laden was renamed by the U.S. military, Geronimo.

Winona LaDuke's The Militarization of Indian Country tells a history that isn't over, and describes a scene that cannot escape from its past.  Like Coleman Smith's and Clare Hanrahan's survey of the militarization of the Southeast, LaDuke's survey of militarized Indian Country piles up numerous outrages to convey a picture of purposeful devastation on a stunning scale. 

Many Native Americans live in places called Fort This or Fort That, keeping ever present the concentration camps these places were.  They remain among the poorest and most environmentally devastated sacrifice zones in the United States.

"The modern U.S. military," LaDuke writes, "has taken our lands for bombing exercises and military bases, and for the experimentation and storage of the deadliest chemical agents and toxins known to mankind. Today the military continues to bomb  Native Hawaiian lands, from Makua to the Big Island, destroying life."

Later, LaDuke summarizes: "From the more than a thousand nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific and the Nevada desert that started in the 1940s, obliterating atolls and spreading radioactive contamination throughout the ocean and across large areas in the American West, to the Vietnam War-era use of napalm and Agent Orange to defoliate and poison vast swaths of Vietnam, to the widespread use of depleted uranium and chemical weaponry since that time, the role of the U.S. military in contaminating the planet cannot be overstated."

In Alaska, 700 active and abandoned military sites include 1,900 toxic hot spots.  People forget the seriousness of a failed plan to create a harbor in Alaska by dropping a series of nuclear bombs.  Some of the actions that have in fact been taken have been only moderately less destructive than that proposal.

Uranium mines, depleted uranium testing, and nuclear waste storage have done as much or more damage to Indian Country as nuclear bomb testing.  U.S. nuclear weapons are largely located in Native American territories, as well.  If the Great Sioux Nation were in control of its 1851 treaty areas, LaDuke writes, "it would be the third greatest nuclear weapons power on the face of the earth." 

Many Native Americans recognize in current U.S. foreign wars echoes of wars against the Indian nations.  And yet, American Indians have the highest military enlistment rate of any ethnic group and the largest number of living veterans (about 22 percent of Native Americans aged 18 or over).  "How," LaDuke asks, "did we move from being the target of the U.S. military to being the U.S. military itself?"  Native Americans also suffer from PTSD at higher rates than other groups -- supposedly due to higher rates of combat, but just conceivably also because of greater cognitive dissonance.

I admit to finding a little of the latter even in LaDuke's wonderful book.  She claims that sometimes there are "righteous reasons to fight."  She opposes militarism but wants veterans to be honored.  I'm writing this from a national convention of Veterans For Peace where I know numerous veterans would reject the idea that veterans should be honored.  What veterans should do is organize more Native Americans and other Americans together into a movement for the abolition of militarism as well as the righting of past wrongs so that they will not any longer be repeated.

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