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Talk Nation Radio: Glen Ford on Black and Progressive Activism in the Obama Era

Glen Ford of blackagendareport.com discusses what the Obama presidency has meant for black society, black activism, and progressive activism in the United States.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Engineer: Christiane Brown.
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!

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

Neither Grand, Nor a Bargain

Liberal groups have been organizing protests of the looming "grand bargain" (a bargain between two political parties aimed at saving us from the fictional "fiscal cliff" by giving more of our money to the super-rich and the war machine).  But they've been doing so only in Republican Congressional districts and with messages placing all the blame on "the Republicans," thus telegraphing the message that all shall be tolerated if labeled "Democratic." 

We're supposed to be against a bargain, but only against one of the two partners to the bargain.  Any bets on how well that'll work?

Meanwhile Obama's senior advisor David Plouffe hypes the danger of the "fiscal cliff," calls for lower corporate taxes and cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, but says not one word about military spending. He also claims to want to end tax cuts for the wealthy but is much more passionate about the danger of ending those cuts across the board, suggesting -- as did Obama's statements and silences at his first post-election press conference -- that the White House will not in the end refuse to extend the "Bush" tax cuts for everyone, including the multi-billionaires -- just as it's done before.  At the same press conference, Obama volunteered that we need "deficit reduction that includes entitlement changes."

Liberal groups have written to the president politely suggesting what they'd like, but with nothing in the way of consequences if they don't get it.  And what they'd like is slightly higher taxes on the super-rich, and no cuts to Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid.  Or else . . . or else . . . they'll be sadly loyal until death do them part. 

Neither Plouffe nor Obama nor any liberal activist group mentions that half of discretionary spending goes into war preparations.  None proposes to raise corporate taxes, restore the estate tax, remove the cap on Social Security taxes, tax financial transactions and capital gains, tax carbon emissions, massively and urgently invest in green energy jobs, or cut the $1.3 trillion war preparations budget in half.

We are not broke.  We are being robbed.

I get emails every day now on the "This isn't what we voted for" theme.  "TPP is not what we voted for."  "Drone kills are not what we voted for."  As if you can ignore the candidate's platform and vote for your own fantasy under his name, and then "pressure" him to become what you fantasized even while swearing your allegiance to his party come hell or high water or hurricanes.  Well, guess what, the Grand Bargain is what Democrats and Republicans voted for.  But that doesn't mean we have to stand for it.  Having voted against it wouldn't have stopped it.  Only getting out of our houses and nonviolently resisting it now will stop it.

The peace movement is ready to take to the streets and the suites, but worried that it doesn't have the size to do the job.  Of course it does have the size to start something big if it merely finds the determination.  But imagine what could happen if Tahrir Square inspired us all again and more seriously, and with four years rather than two years to work with before the next debilitation by the latest "Most Important Election of Your Lifetime."  Imagine if liberal organizations and labor unions openly recognized where all the public money is (in the war machine) and demanded it for useful purposes. 

The peace movement is in favor of everything they're in favor of: the right to organize, civil liberties, an end to for-profit prisons and drug wars and racism, affordable housing, a living wage, education, healthcare, and a sustainable environment.  The enemy of these things is the military industrial complex, and if it remains beyond challenge, a just society will remain unachievable.  When Dr. King opposed "racism, extreme materialism, and militarism," he didn't mean for us to ignore the third one.  He didn't mean for us to imagine that the three were separable and that we could oppose one or two of them effectively without opposing the combination.

Let's stop obediently opposing the worst bits of a Grand Catastrophe and begin denouncing and resisting the whole charade, replacing it with a grand vision of our own devising.  RootsAction.org, created just last year, is already approaching 200,000 active members, and has been flooding Congress and the President with this message:

"Here's a grand bargain we want: expand Medicare and Social Security, invest in green energy, raise taxes on the rich and corporations, and cut military spending back to the level of 12 years ago."

The message is editable, meaning that you can and should add your own comments.  I encourage everyone to do so, to ask friends to do so, and to be preparing for serious nonviolent action.

Howard Zinn's Echoes

We're approaching three years since Howard Zinn left us, and to my ear his voice sounds louder all the time.  I expect that effect to continue for decades and centuries to come, because Zinn spoke to enduring needs.  He taught lessons that must be relearned over and over, as the temptations weighing against them are so strong.  And he taught those lessons better than anybody else.

We like to use the word "we," and to include in it everything the Constitution pretends to include in it, notably the government.  But the government tends to act against our interests.  Multi-billionaires, by definition, act against our interest.  Zinn warned us endlessly of the danger of allowing those in power to use "we" to include us in actions we would otherwise oppose.  It's a habit we carry over from sports to wars to economic policies, but the danger of a spectator claiming "we scored!" doesn't rise to the same level as millions of spectators claiming "we liberated Afghanistan." 

We like to think of elections as a central, important part of civic life, and as a means of significantly impacting the future.  Zinn not only warns against that misperception with incisive historical examples, and with awareness of the value of the struggle for black voting rights in the Southern United States, but he was a part of that struggle and warned against misplaced expectations at the time.

We like to think of history as shaped by important stand-out individuals.  We like to think of war as a necessary tool of last resort, as demonstrated by our list of "good wars" which generally includes the U.S. war of independence, the U.S. civil war, and the second world war (debunked by Zinn as 'The Three Holy Wars').  We imagine that political parties are central to our efforts to shape the world, but that civil disobedience is not.  We imagine that we often have no power to shape the world, that the forces pushing in other directions are too powerful to be reversed.  If you listen to enough Howard Zinn, each of these beliefs ends up looking ludicrous -- even if, in some cases, tragic.

If you haven't had enough Howard Zinn lately (and who has?), there's a new book of his collected speeches just published, called Howard Zinn Speaks.  Of course it's just a tiny sampling of his speeches, as he gave innumerable speeches over the years.  With one exception, these have been transcribed from speeches given without pre-written remarks.  Zinn doesn't have his footnotes in hand.  He paraphrases people rather than quoting them.  But he also says what he believes to be most needed, what he has thought about most deeply, what pours out of him in ever-changing variation on his one and only theme: We can shape the future if, and only if, we make use of the past.

The speeches collected here are themselves part of the past.  There's one from the 1960s, two from the 70s, two from the 80s, four from the 90s, and over half the book from the Bush-Obama years.  But the examples Zinn draws on, the stories he tells to make his points, go back for centuries into a past that most Americans only dimly recognize. 

Zinn traces the roots of racism and wars through Columbus, slavery, colonialism, and current U.S. wars.  "The abolition of war," he says, "is of course an enormous undertaking.  But keep in mind that we in the antiwar movement have a powerful ally.  Our ally is a truth which even governments addicted to war, profiting from war, must one of these days recognize: that wars are not practical ways of achieving their ends.  More and more, in recent history, the most powerful nations find themselves unable to conquer much weaker nations."

Four years ago, Zinn warned: "It is dangerous to look just to Obama.  This has been part of our culture, looking to saviors.  Saviors will not do it.  We cannot depend on the people on top to save us.  I hope that people who supported Obama will not simply sit back and wait for him to save us but will understand that they have to do more than this.  All of these are limited victories."

In April, 1963, Zinn spoke in similar terms -- if anything even more forthrightly -- of President Kennedy.  "This is beyond the South," he said.  "Our problem is not basically that Eastland is vicious, but that Kennedy is timid."  Obama Zinn criticized Kennedy for his actions and inactions in 1961 and again in 1963 when the Senate had the opportunity, as it always does, at the beginning of each new session, to change its own rules and do away with the filibuster.  Kennedy, Zinn had concluded, wanted to allow the racists to filibuster against civil rights.  Echoes of Zinn should be amplified between now and January loudly enough for current senators, and the current president, to hear. 

In May of 1971, Zinn said, "It's been a long time since we impeached a president.  And it's time, time to impeach a president, and the vice president, and everybody else sitting in high office who carries on this war."  In 2003, Zinn said, "There are people around the country calling for Bush's impeachment.  Some people think this is a daring thing to say.  No, it's in the Constitution.  It provides for impeachment. . . . Congress was willing to impeach Nixon for breaking into a building, but they're not willing to impeach Bush for breaking into a country." 

"It is true," Zinn says of our endless and perhaps permanent elections hang-up, "that Americans have been voting every few years for Congressmen and presidents.  But it is also true that the most important social changes in the history of the United States -- independence from England, Black emancipation, the organization of labor, gains in sexual equality, the outlawing of racial segregation, the withdrawal of the United States from Vietnam -- have come about not through the ballot box but through the direct action of social struggle, through the organization of popular movements using a variety of extralegal and illegal tactics.  The standard teaching of political science does not describe this reality."

Later (years later) Zinn says, without self-pity: "So if we don't have a press that informs us, we don't have an opposition party to help us, we are left on our own, which actually is a good thing to know.  It's a good thing to know we're on our own.  It's a good thing to know that you can't depend on people who are not dependable.  But if you're on your own, it means you must learn some history, because without history you are lost.  Without history, anybody in authority can get up before a microphone and say, 'We've got to go into this country for that reason and for this reason, for liberty, for democracy, the threat.'  Anybody can get up before a microphone and tell you anything.  And if you have no history, you have no way of checking up on that."

But if you do have history, Zinn says, then you gain the additional advantage of recognizing that "these concentrations of power, at certain points they fall apart.  Suddenly, surprisingly.  And you find that ultimately they're very fragile.  And you find that governments that have said 'we will never do this' end up doing it.  'We will never cut and run.'  They said this in Vietnam.  We cut and ran in Vietnam.  In the South, George Wallace, the racist governor of Alabama: 'Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.'  Enormous applause.  Two years later, Blacks in Alabama had in the meantime begun to vote and Wallace was going around trying to get Black people to vote for him.  The South said never, and things changed."

The more things change . . . the more we need to hear Howard Zinn.

Lawyer for accused WikiLeaks source to make rare presentation Dec. 3

Bradley Manning Support Network
 
What: David Coombs, defense attorney for PFC Bradley Manning, to speak on the case
 
When: 7 PM ET (Doors 6 PM ET), December 3, 2012
 
Where: All Souls Church Unitarian, 1500 Harvard Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20009 (Near the Columbia Heights Metro Station)

December 1st Is Military Abolition Day

I've been fond of December 1st ever since I was born on it.  I later found out that it had been on a December 1st that Rosa Parks had sat down and refused to stand up or move to the back of that racist bus in Montgomery.  Later still I found out about a December 1st that had happened still earlier.

It was on December 1, 1948, that President José Figueres Ferrer of Costa Rica abolished the military of Costa Rica.  He didn't "cut" its projected dream budget by a teeny fraction that sounded bigger if multiplied by 10 and announced as a reduction "over 10 years."  He didn't cut it in the ordinary sense of actually cutting it.  He abolished it.  Costa Rica put its military in a museum and a museum in its military headquarters.  It turned its military bases into schools.  It turned its military budget into a fund for useful projects.  In 1986, President Oscar Arias Sánchez declared December 1st the Día de la Abolición del Ejército (Military Abolition Day).

Without a military, Costa Rica has not been a perfect paradise on earth, but it has avoided invading or being invaded by other countries.  It has avoided military coups and civil wars and CIA interventions (although a coup in Honduras in 2009 involved flying the president to Costa Rica). 

Costa Rica is not rich, but its people have a higher life expectancy than we do in the United States.  Costa Rica provides a social safety net and of course provides everyone healthcare, spending less per capita than we do but providing superior healthcare than is provided by the wealthy United States.  Costa Rica is ranked by the Happy Planet Index as the #1 best place to live for happiness.  The United States comes in at #150 out of 178.  U.S. elections have 50% turnout and somewhere around 98% disgust.  Costa Rican elections have 90% turnout and enthusiastic participation.  And Costa Rica's way of life is far more sustainable than ours, one of the most sustainable in the world.

It's not a coincidence that our super wealthy country spends as much as all other nations combined on war preparations and ranks pitifully low in measures of health, education, environmentalism, happiness, and well-being.  We imagine that without a big military other nations would attack ours.  But why would they?  Simply because ours frequently attacks others?  That's a projection, not an observation. 

We imagine that without the largest military ever seen, we couldn't attack other nations for their own good and the good of the world.  But the tradeoff we've chosen is not one of sacrificing for the world's safety.  If the United States didn't spend $1 trillion every year on war preparation and war, it could spend that money on its own people and the world's.  We could have turned Afghanistan into Costa Rica over the past decade.  We could have built schools and hospitals and green infrastructure.  Does anyone seriously imagine that the people of Afghanistan or Pakistan or Yemen would hate the U.S. government more if it bought them a better life rather than raining its hated missiles from the sky?

Libertarians in the United States may not want to help the world, or even our own country, but they at least want to stop investing in killing.  Liberals, on the other hand, want to keep the war preparations money flowing while taxing millionaires to help pay for it.  Every "progressive" group in the United States right now is demanding that we protect what's left of our safety net, tax millionaires and billionaires, and (through careful silence) leave military spending right where it is or where it's headed.  Costa Rica has made progress beyond the imagining of our progressives, and it hasn't done so through progressive taxation.  Costa Rica has chosen not to make large-scale murder its primary public purpose, or any purpose at all. 

In the United States, peace groups sometimes mark the International Day of Peace.  But virtually everyone ignores Military Abolition Day.  It's time we changed that.

--

Talk Nation Radio: William Blum on America's Deadliest Export: Democracy

William Blum discusses militarism, politics, and his new book "America's Deadliest Export: Democracy: The Truth About U.S. Foreign Policy and Everything Else."

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Engineer: Christiane Brown.
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!

Embed on your own site with this code:

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

How to Not Fix the Filibuster

Leaving the 41-senator filibuster in place but requiring that they run their mouths (and some of us have to listen) is not exactly the kind of Change most of us Hope for.  Nor is it supported by the Constitution, any other law, any treaty, any rule necessary to the functioning of our government, anything or anyone we just voted for, or any public opinion poll.  The proper thing to do with the filibuster is to eliminate it, which 51 senators can do at the start of the session if they see fit. I know you've been told they can't, but keep reading.

Audio: Allen Ruff and David Swanson on War and Militarism, Peace and Activism

From Allen Ruff's show "A Public Affair" on WORT fm in Madison, Wisc., at http://www.wortfm.org/archives

LISTEN (mp3).

Is Impeachment Gone for Good?

Henry Kissinger's winning of the Nobel Peace Prize didn't, in the end, eliminate satire from the earth (or peace prizes for war-makers, for that matter). Conceivably, the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the lack of impeachment of George W. Bush haven't eliminated presidential impeachment from the Constitution.

I'll grant you, it looks pretty grim. Congress is dominated by the two real branches of the U.S. government: the Democratic and the Republican. Democrats obey Democratic presidents and fear Republican ones. Republicans obey Republican presidents and attack Democratic ones for imaginary nonsense rather than their real abuses. These patterns seem firmly established and locked into escalating feedback loops, as does the unending career of Nancy "impeachment is off the table" Pelosi.

The public, for its part, seems increasingly convinced that presidents should be kings, kings should serve the military, citizens should volunteer for electoral campaigns instead of activist campaigns, and a police state is necessary to protect the freedoms sacrificed to the police state. One-third of the residents of the Home of the Brave now approve of cavity searches prior to airplane travel.

But consider: the U.S. public, unlike Congress, opposed the Clinton impeachment and favored Bush's impeachment -- the latter a rather remarkable finding by pollsters given the general lack of impeachment discussion on corporate television during the Bush years. Many Republicans hate Democratic presidents enough to support their impeachment even for legitimate reasons. And some Democrats could conceivably be brought around to supporting an impeachment that was both Constitutionally solid and allowed them to act like Republicans.

These presidents have faced impeachment or serious attempts at impeachment as lame ducks: Andrew Johnson, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and -- if we count popular movements blocked decisively by Congress -- George W. Bush. While Barack Obama was just reelected with 51% of the vote, Nixon got 61% and was quickly thrown out on his ear.

And consider this: During the effort to impeach Bush, there was virtually no debate over the validity of the charges against him. Rather, our misrepresentatives in Congress told us that impeaching Bush would give us Cheney or impeaching Cheney would leave us Bush, or impeaching Bush and Cheney would hurt the Democratic Party because the unpopular impeachment of Clinton had supposedly hurt Republicans (never mind the disaster of the Albert "I never met Bill Clinton" Gore presidential campaign). Or, alternatively, we were told there was no point in impeaching Bush when he only had a few years left, or Hillary Clinton was running for president and preferred that impeachment not be mentioned, or the Senate wasn't pre-committed to convicting Bush so there was no requirement for House members to uphold their oaths of office. None of the debate actually disputed that Bush was clearly guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors -- that is, severe abuses of power.

Now here's the interesting part: Obama has expanded upon those abuses.

In fact, if Bush had been known to keep a secret list of men, women, and children, American and foreign, to be killed, and had routinely killed them, support for his impeachment would not have been the bare majority it was but almost certainly a good deal higher and a greater priority.

We were told, when we tried to impeach Bush and Cheney, that we simply hated those men. No, we replied, we want to prevent the precedent that will make the next men or women worse -- guaranteed. That our gloomy prediction has proved right ought to constitute grounds for being taken seriously now when we say that further failure to impeach will result in still worse abuses to come. The simple and obvious, but almost universally uncomprehended, point is not that Joe Biden or Mitt Romney or anyone else is a better human being than Barack Obama. The point is that a President Biden entering office following the impeachment and removal of his predecessor for particular crimes and abuses would be less likely to engage in those crimes and abuses, as would other presidents to come.

President Obama has developed an assassination program, in violation of the Fifth Amendment, targeting men, women, and children, but overwhelmingly killing non-targeted victims who happened to be in the wrong place. He has launched a war on Libya, facilitated a war on Syria, sent so-called special forces and drones and missiles into numerous sovereign nations, threatened war on Iran, and given war-making powers to the CIA in violation of Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the War Powers Resolution, and the United Nations Charter. President Obama has seized the power to imprison without charge or trial in violation of Article I, Section 9 and the Forth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Amendments. He has claimed the power to torture and directed the Attorney General not to prosecute the crime of torture, in violation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. He has engaged in widespread warrantless spying in violation of the Fourth Amendment. He has escalated a war in Afghanistan and built permanent military bases there. He has selectively revealed classified information, even while falsely and vindictively prosecuting whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, and while holding accused whistleblower Bradley Manning in cruel and inhuman conditions for over two years prior to any trial. President Obama has abused claims of state secrets to block judicial review of government abuses. He has created secret laws through the Office of Legal Counsel. He has announced his intent to violate laws with signing statements.

A full collection of what would in previous decades have been considered obvious impeachable offenses would run for pages. Standards have changed. As Daniel Ellsberg has pointed out, Nixon's abuses have now been legalized. But can a president or a secret office or a corrupted Congress legalize what is unconstitutional? Clearly the answer is yes, if we let them.

Talk Nation Radio: Brian Terrell Is Headed to Prison for Protesting Drones

Brian Terrell is headed to prison at the end of this month for having nonviolently protested drone wars.  Brian is a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.  He discusses the immorality of drone wars and the protest and trial that have led to his incarceration.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Engineer: Christiane Brown.
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!

Embed on your own site with this code:

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

Where Does War Come From?

Remarks to the Marin Peace & Justice Coalition, Social Justice Center of Marin, and Community Media Center of Marin, Armistice Day 2012.

Most members of our species that have lived on this earth have never known war.  Most societies that have developed war have later abandoned it.  While there's always war somewhere, there are always many somewheres without war.  War deprivation, the prolonged absence of war, has never given a single person post traumatic stress disorder.  Most nations that participate in wars do so under duress as members of coalitions of the willing but not the eager.  Most nations that engage in wars refuse to use particularly awful weapons and tactics.  Most incidents that are used to spark wars are identical to other incidents not used to spark wars.  War making does not increase with population density, resource scarcity, testosterone, or the election of Republicans.  War making is, like all forms of violence, on the decline globally, even as the Greatest Purveyor of Violence in the World develops a permanent war economy and gives war powers to temporary despots or 4-year kings.

Today we celebrate Armistice Day, a moment of tremendous opposition to war -- opposition that built understanding and structures to prevent war, structures that failed once and only once as regards wars like World War I, wars among the wealthy well-armed and white nations of the world.  That the rich nations continue to wage racist and exploitative wars against the poor nations doesn't erase the fact that Europe stopped attacking itself until Yugoslavia became an opportunity for NATO.  Soldiers in the U.S. civil war and drone pilots would not recognize each other as engaged in the same enterprise.  There is no central core to war that homo sapiens are obliged to continue by their genes.  We can choose not to eat, drink, sleep, have sex, or breathe.  The notion that we can't choose to refrain from something as complex and laborious as war is just incoherent.

That Europeans only attack poor people is not, of course, grounds to give the European Union a Nobel Peace Prize.  Yes, indeed, it is a little-acknowledged feat of miraculous life-saving power that Europe has not gone to war with itself -- other than that whole Yugoslavia thing -- since World War II.  It's as clear a demonstration as anything that people can choose to stop fighting.  It's a testament to the pre-war peace efforts that criminalized war, the post-war prosecutions of the brand new crime of making war, the reconstruction of the Marshall Plan, and ... and something else a little less noble, and much less Nobel-worthy.

Alfred Nobel's will, written in 1895, left funding for a prize to be awarded to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." Fredrik Heffermehl has been leading a valuable effort to compel the Nobel committee to abide by the will. Now they've outdone themselves in their movement in the other direction.

Europe is not a person.  It has not during the past year -- which is the requirement -- or even during the past several decades done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations.  Ask Libya.  Ask Syria.  Check with Afghanistan.  See what Iraq thinks.  Far from doing the best work to abolish or reduce standing armies, Europe has joined with the United States in developing an armed global force aggressively imposing its will on the world.   The Nobel prize money will not fund Europe's supposed disarmement work remotely as much as Europe could fund itself by simply buying fewer armaments.

There were good nominees and potential nominees available, even great ones, including a young man named Bradley Manning.  In fact, I happen to believe a truly qualified nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize next year would be Medea Benjamin.

Now, instead of moving in that direction, the Nobelites have almost guaranteed themselves a second-ever pro-war peace-prize acceptance speech.  If you don't recall who gave the first one, I'll give you a clue. If he were a Republican we'd all have posters and bumper stickers denouncing him for it.

Was Nobel asking so much really when he asked that a prize go to whoever did the best work toward abolishing war?

Was Carnegie asking so much when he required that his endowment work to eliminate war?

Is it asking too much today for our so-called progressive movement to address the spending of over half of federal discretionary dollars on preparations for the criminal act of war?

Ninety-four years ago today, on the original Armistice Day in 1918, much of the world ended a four-year war that served no useful purpose whatsoever while costing the lives of some 10 million soldiers, 6 million civilians, 21 million soldiers wounded, an outbreak of Spanish influenza that took another 100 million lives, environmental destruction that is ongoing today, the development of new weapons—including chemical weapons—still used today, huge leaps forward in the art of propaganda still plagiarized today, huge setbacks in the struggle for economic justice, and a culture more militarized, more focused on stupid ideas like banning alcohol, and more ready to restrict civil liberties in the name of nationalism, and all for the bargain price, as one author calculated it at the time, of enough money to have given a $2,500 home with $1,000 worth of furniture and five acres of land to every family in Russia, most of the European nations, Canada, the United States, and Australia, plus enough to give every city of over 20,000 a $2 million library, a $3 million hospital, a $20 million college, and still enough left over to buy every piece of property in Germany and Belgium.  And it was all legal.  Incredibly stupid, but totally legal.  Particular atrocities violated laws, but war was not criminal.  It never had been, but it soon would be.

A powerful movement would ban war in 1928 in a treaty still on the books and to which 81 countries are now party.  In 1935, the New York Herald-Tribune's Institute of Public Opinion found that 75% of voters wanted a public referendum before any war could be launched, and 71% opposed joining in any war with other countries to "enforce the peace."  That's not just a quantitative difference from today.  Our great grandparents were able to think of war very differently.  They'd ended blood feuds and duelling and other barbaric habits.  War was to be next.  It was mass murder.  The problem wasn't butchering or urinating on corpses.  You couldn't clean that up and make war OK.  The problem was the creation of the corpses.  War was to be abolished, and not just bad wars and aggressive wars.  All wars.  They didn't keep defensive duelling around. There was no humanitarian duelling.  War needed to be set behind us. 

In this militarized nation that has essentially never ended World War II, never left Germany or Japan, never undone the taxes and the spending, never stopped seeking out uses and customers for weaponry, we've lost track of the campaign to abolish war and of the steps already taken on that path.  As war evolves to minimize further the deaths of the aggressing army, while continuing to kill foreigners (and even occasional U.S. citizens made to seem frighteningly foreign) war is ironically coming to resemble more closely in the minds of many what it has always been: murder.  An assassination program is a form of war no more or less moral or dangerous or controllable or legal than any other form of war.  But it may bring home to people that war is not a sport, that war is the killing of men, women, and children in their homes at such expense that we could instead have bought new homes for them and all their neighbors.

We should remember at a time like this that when the slightly less funded of two corporate funded candidates wins, we don't win.  President Obama publicly and illegally instructed the Attorney General not to prosecute the CIA for torture.  We accepted that.  Obama told environmental groups not to speak of climate change and most of them obeyed.  Obama told unions not to say "single payer" and they didn't.  The peace movement spent the first Obama year muttering about how it was too early, the second worrying about the midterm elections, the third trying to focus the Occupy Movement on our collective antagonists, and the fourth being scared of Mitt Romney.  Now we're being told we must not demand military spending cuts or the prosecution of war crimes or the immediate withdrawal of forces abroad.  Progressive groups want to pretend to take a stand on Social Security and Medicare before caving.  And their opening pretense doesn't even touch military spending. 

It's our job to add that to the conversation.  It's our job to focus our friends and neighbors on the fact that our money and our names are being used to kill, and that there is nothing necessary about it.  War is waged by a particular type of nation.  War is waged by a nation that accepts the waging of war.  That acceptance needs to end now.

U.S. Wars: Are They Lawful?

Remarks at the biennial general meeting of the War and Law League in San Francisco on Armistice Day 2012.

I'll try briefly to make five points.

First, there are clear laws on the books that make U.S. wars unlawful, along with U.S. threats of war and U.S. propaganda for war.  The laws are either forgotten, ignored, evaded, or cleverly reinterpreted to reverse their meaning.  But they could be enforced someday. 

Second, U.S. wars are evolving in ways that make them violate additional laws without bringing them into compliance with any of the laws already violated.

Third, participants in U.S. wars face occasional prosecution at home or abroad for their specific actions, although those actions do not stray from the basic purpose of the wars.

Fourth, other nations are prosecuted for or would be prosecuted if they attempted the same behavior engaged in by the United States. 

And Fifth, U.S. wars are launched and conducted by officials elected in an illegitimate system dominated by open bribery.

On the original Armistice Day in 1918, much of the world ended a four-year war that served no useful purpose whatsoever while costing the lives of some 10 million soldiers, 6 million civilians, 21 million soldiers wounded, an outbreak of Spanish influenza that took another 100 million lives, environmental destruction that is ongoing today, the development of new weapons -- including chemical weapons -- still used today, huge leaps forward in the art of propaganda still plagiarized today, huge setbacks in the struggle for economic justice, and a culture more militarized, more focused on stupid ideas like banning alcohol, and more ready to restrict civil liberties in the name of nationalism, and all for the bargain price, as one author calculated it, of enough money to have given a $2,500 home with $1,000 worth of furniture and five acres of land to every family in Russia, most of the European nations, Canada, the United States, and Australia, plus enough to give every city of over 20,000 a $2 million library, a $3 million hospital, a $20 million college, and still enough left over to buy every piece of property in Germany and Belgium.  And it was all legal.  Incredibly stupid, but totally legal.  Particular atrocities violated laws, but war was not criminal.

The Outlawry Movement of the 1920s -- the movement to outlaw war -- sought to replace war with arbitration, by first banning war and then developing a code of international law and a court with the authority to settle disputes.  The first step was taken in 1928 with the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which banned all war.  Today 81 nations are party to that treaty, including ours, and many of them comply with it.  I'd like to see additional nations, poorer nations that were left out of the treaty, join it (which they can do simply by stating that intention) and then urge the greatest purveyor of violence in the world to comply.

It's easier to comply with the U.N. Charter because of the two big loopholes it opened up, allowing wars that are either defensive or simply U.N. approved.  As you know, the United States fights wars against unarmed impoverished nations halfway around the planet and calls them defensive.  The U.S. fights wars never approved of by the U.N. and claims that they were.  When the United States chose never to end World War II, never to demilitarize, de-tax, or de-mobilize, when the U.N. Charter, NATO, the Geneva Conventions, and the CIA made war normal and supposedly civilized it, we lost the ability to think of abolition, or even to award Nobel prizes to those who worked for it.  However, the U.N. Charter made threatening war illegal, and while the Kellogg-Briand Pact is forgotten, the U.N. Charter must be intentionally ignored, as the United States is constantly threatening wars.

There has been an International Criminal Court for 10 years now, but it only prosecutes particular atrocities, and only those committed by Africans.  The idea seems to be that African war makers should get civilized and learn to melt the skin off children and radiate neighborhoods and burn down houses the way the enlightened war makers do.  The ICC is years away from possibly prosecuting the crime of making war, and then only for nations that have chosen to subject themselves to its authority, only in cases approved of by the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and only in cases of aggressive war (as if there were some other kind).

Since 1976, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has made war propaganda illegal.  The argument that our First-Amendment right to freedom of the press and of speech overrides this is severely weakened, I think, by the fact that our major media outlets routinely shut out the viewpoints of the vast majority of us, to the point where people holding majority opinions on most political questions can be expected to believe they are part of a small minority.  If we had freedom of the press we would have the ability to effectively counter war propaganda.  As it is, we largely lack that freedom, and war propaganda is so pervasive we barely recognize it.

The U.S. Constitution not only makes treaties, along with itself, the supreme law of the land.  It also requires that Congress pass a declaration of war. We haven't had one since 1941.  Congress is to decide on lesser military actions that might not count as war.  Congress is to raise armies as needed, but not to fund them for longer than two years.  Most wars in history have lasted less than two years -- a fact worth considering as we credit Obama with supposedly ending a war in Afghanistan over the next two (or is it 12?) years.  The War Powers Act legislated exceptions to the Constitution, allowing presidents to launch wars or other military actions for short periods of time prior to gaining Congressional authorization.  The authorizations to use force that preceded the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq went even further, handing presidents the power to declare wars -- which is why even the one for Iraq has never been repealed despite the announcement of that war's end.  Obama's lawyer Harold Koh famously told Congress that attacking Libya was neither war nor hostilities (the language the War Powers Act used to include all military actions). 

So-called "special" forces, the CIA, and our brave drones are engaged in military action in dozens of nations, none defensively or U.N. authorized, none in a manner that escapes the Kellogg-Briand Pact, none with a Constitutional declaration, many without any sort of authorization from Congress, most without the knowledge of Congress.  Civil cases brought against U.S. military actions are shut down by claims of secret powers, or authorized by secret laws that we are not permitted to read, including secret sections of the PATRIOT Act, which we must comply with without seeing.  Obama famously announced that he would review all of Bush's secret laws in the form of memos from the Office of Legal Counsel, but never announced the results of that review, what all the laws were, which were kept, which tossed, what new ones added, or what would prevent the next president from reworking all of that.  While Constitutionally, Congress is required to make every law, the Congressional Research Service has been reduced to speculating on what sort of twisted logic the White House could use to make something like its assassination program look legal, were the White House inclined to bother. 

While many have continued, even after the 1928 ban on war as mass murder, to think of war as an exception to the ban on murder, U.S. wars are now evolving to more closely resemble most people's conception of what murder looks like.  Balanced against that is, of course, the power of racism and xenophobia.  War techniques that supposedly reduce the murders of U.S. troops are acceptable to those who don't mind murdering the other 95% of humanity.  But drones and night raids and other assassinations don't escape the ban on war, they simply add to their criminality by violating prohibitions on assassination.  Nor do they fall under the protection of the barbaric U.S. laws of capital punishment.  Drones provide no charges, trials, or due process.  Our government has intentionally avoided arresting a 16-year-old boy in Pakistan, only to target and murder him with a drone when he tried to film the damage done by earlier drone strikes.  This is not law enforcement, but lawless force. 

On May 4th, the Congressional Research Service released a memo that attempted to guess at how drone killings of U.S. citizens or other mere humans geographically far removed from other warfare, not engaged in warfare on behalf of any nation, and residing in independent sovereign nations could be legal.  According to the New York Times there is a secret memo from the Office of Legal Counsel that concludes, rather as John Yoo and Jay Bybee concluded that torture is not torture, that murder is not murder.  But even Congress is not allowed to see the memo, so the Congressional Research Service was reduced to guessing what could be in it.  Yet, the CRS was unable to guess anything clearly coherent.  And the incoherence of the various public comments from the White House obscures the fact that the victims are not all suspected of plotting attacks on the United States.  Most of the victims are simply innocent people in the wrong place.  Others are targeted without so much as knowing their names, based on behavior that supposedly suggests, not that they are attacking the United States, but that they are aligned with those defending a foreign nation against U.S. attack.  And that's not counting the children and adults traumatized by the threatening buzz overhead.  The U.N. special Rapporteur has called drone strikes extrajudicial killing.  The U.S. response was that it was none of his business.

You know whose business it is?  It's the big business of some major campaign funders / job creators.  Of course, military spending creates fewer jobs than any other kind of spending, but they are jobs easily eliminated.  At one Congressional hearing not long ago, the Director of National Intelligence was asked what foreign nation might attack the United States, and he was unable to name one.  War that is limited to nations, rather than individuals, is not good for business.  Generating hostility abroad is.  So is arming foreign groups and dictatorships.  The U.S. sells 85% of international weapons sales, much of that also illegal, and all of it immoral.  With no cover of law, Obama is arming Syrian terrorists, training Iranian terrorists, engaging in cyber attacks, and imposing what he calls so proudly crippling sanctions, all arguably illegal acts of war.

The UK Attorney General has decided that attacking Iran would be illegal.  Top Israeli officials, according to one view of events that occurred two years ago, have refused orders to prepare an attack on Iran, in part because of the illegality.  Yet, the United States continues to threaten Iran, to lie about Iran, to propagandize for war, to prepare for war, to arm Israel at our expense, and to protect Israel from any consequences for its crimes.  At best, the United States has reached the conclusion that attacking Iran would be wrong if a Republican did it.  After years of refusing, U.S. residents now tell pollsters they favor an attack on Iran, and -- not coincidentally -- that they now believe the lies about Iran that the U.S. government had been peddling for years unsuccessfully. 

And the law be damned.  The United States now allows spying without a warrant, imprisonment without a trial, rendition, torture, and murder.  And that's for U.S. citizens, the people we supposedly slaughter the world to protect.  Bahrain, that good human-rights-loving friend of the U.S. Navy, recently stripped protesters of citizenship.  Apparently Bahrain didn't get the memo on how to strip citizens of all their rights. 

Bradley Manning, tortured and held for years without a trial, and at risk as are other whistleblowers now of the hideous thing we call the death penalty, is trying to take a plea bargain, pleading to the crime of blowing the whistle on murder.  The government is not eager to take the deal because Obama and gang have bigger fish to fry, hoping to prosecute Wikileaks for journalism.  Manning's struggle, and that of every whistleblower and of every person who refuses illegal orders, is our struggle. 

So are the legal struggles in courts of law still interested in the law.  In Turkey, Israelis are being prosecuted in absentia for the murder of those trying to bring aid to Gaza.  In Italy, two dozen CIA agents have been convicted in absentia for kidnapping a man to torture him.  In the U.S. we've seen occasional court martials of low-ranking soldiers accused of torture, rape, murder, or -- oddly enough -- mistreatment of corpses they've murdered in an acceptable manner.

The last time Barack Obama was elected president, his transition team asked for proposals to be voted on through their website.  The top vote getter was this:

“Will you appoint a Special Prosecutor – ideally Patrick Fitzgerald – to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?”

Obama refused to answer the question.  The dean of the University of California at Berkeley Law School Christopher Edley, Jr., said that he'd been party to very high level discussions and Obama's transition team had decided that the CIA, NSA, and military would revolt, and that Republicans would retaliate by blocking every piece of legislation.  Wow, wouldn't that have been different?  Now the question isn't even asked, and John Conyer's threat to impeach a president who attacked Iran is universally understood not to apply to Democrats.

We should remember at a time like this that when the slightly less funded of two corporate funded candidates wins, we don't.  Obama publicly and illegally instructed the Attorney General not to prosecute the CIA for torture.  We accepted that.  Obama told environmental groups not to talk about climate change.  Most of them obeyed.  Obama told unions not to say "single payer" and they didn't.  Now we're being told we must not demand military spending cuts or the prosecution of war crimes or the immediate withdrawal of forces abroad.

I propose that we pledge instead to protest and vote against and consider the impeachment of (I've listed plenty of grounds for that already) anyone in Congress or the White House who gives an inch on protecting Social Security and Medicare, who votes for current levels of military spending or anything above 75% of current levels, or who fails to oppose wars or to act against climate change.  No more honey moons.  No more veal pens in which the public servants tell the public organizations how to serve them.  And no more promises to vote for you no matter what you do to us or to our brothers and sisters around the world. We need to use noviolent action not only to end war but also to provide an alternative path for our young people who might otherwise sign up to kill and die.  Nonviolence requires more bravery, more commitment, more morality, and is far more satisfying than joining the war machine.  The Declaration of Independence says we have the right to institute new government.  It's getting to be about that time.

About the Untold History of the United States

Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznik have produced a phenomenally great book of U.S. history, and an accompanying television series premiering on Showtime on Monday.  Having just read half the book and having watched an advance copy of the first episode, my conclusion is that the book is dramatically better than the TV show, but that both are at the top of what's available in their respective genres.

The Untold History of the United States is not people's history in the sense of telling the stories of popular movements.  This is very much top-down history dominated by key figures in power.  But it is honest history that tears through myths and presents a reality not expected by most Americans -- and backs it up with well-documented facts. 

This is a history that focuses on foreign policy, and -- at least in the book -- begins with World War I.  No book can include everything one might have liked to see included, but this one is a terrific sampling of things I've wished were told more often and things I never knew before.  Some will call it a depressing tale lacking "all the good things the United States has done too."  I call it a refreshingly honest tale aimed at improving our conduct going forward.  I also come away with a deep sense of gratitude that -- for the moment anyway -- our society is still around at all.  After considering the steps that certain presidents and scientists have taken to destroy life as we know it, one has to be amazed we're still here.  Truman and Eisenhower figure prominently, and I believe that I have found in these authors a couple of men who might just agree with me that Harry Truman is the worst president we've ever seen.  They certainly make that case quite powerfully.

The book is excellent on World War I and on the New Deal, as well as on forbidden topics like the Wall Street Putsch of 1934 or the Nye Committee hearings on war profiteering.  The section on the dropping of the nuclear bombs on Japan is the best I've seen.  The history of the Cold War and who started it is invaluable.  The authors take on McCarthyism, the Eisenhower presidency, the Mossadeq overthrow, the Guzman overthrow, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and numerous other topics with great skill and insight -- and careful research. 

The Kennedy assassination, which Stone has famously dramatized on film before, gets a mere two paragraphs.  The discussion of the formation of Israel leaves much to be desired, but at least it's there.  The Korean War account is incomplete to say the least, as is the discussion of moves to impeach Truman -- for which there were motives the authors don't touch on.  But this is quibbling.  I would love for everyone to read this book, and I'll read the second half on Monday.

The book's take on World War II is far superior to that of the television show's first episode.  The episodes don't line up with the chapters, and so -- for whatever reason -- the TV viewers begin in World War II, not World War I.  The book has more useful material than the film and is lacking some material the film ought to have left out too.  The authors are very much in favor of U.S. entry into the war and wish it had come earlier.  They claim that Pearl Harbor was a surprise and reject claims that it was "abetted" by the U.S. government.  But who claims that?  Many have well documented that it was expected and in a certain sense desired by the Roosevelt White House.  But Stone and Kuznick's account makes crystal clear Roosevelt's desire for some such war-beginning incident, and their general account of the war is miles above any taught in any U.S. school I've ever seen.  (Kuznik teaches at American University, so students might consider enrolling there.)

The TV episode on WWII lacks background and context that the book provides in various chapters.  The bulk of it is standard history of supposed forces at work and intentions acted on.  The "untold" bits include Truman's racist murderousness, and a particular focus on the starring role the Soviet Union played in "winning" the war.  If Episode I serves to ease viewers into the fact-based reality being presented in "The Untold History," I'm all for it.  I suspect, however, that some of the other episodes that I haven't yet had time to watch will be far more engaging and exciting, as well as controversial -- or because controversial.  The episode on the dropping of the nuclear bombs might be the one to start your viewing with.  Or, if you really want to take my strongest advice: read the book!

Armistice Day in the M.I.C.

Remarks at the Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center on November 10, 2012.

Thank you to Sergio for inviting me and helping set up this little trip I'm on. 

Before I forget, tomorrow is Armistice Day, so we'll be celebrating by dying in front of Senator Feinstein's house at 10 a.m. at Vallejo & Lyon Streets before walking across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Please come.  And at 1:30 Medea Benjamin and Cindy Sheehan and I will be speaking on the question of whether U.S. wars are legal at the main public library in San Francisco.  We can talk about that question today, if you want, but I won't make it the main focus of my opening remarks.

Ninety-four years ago tomorrow on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, fighting ceased in the "war to end all wars." Thirty million soldiers had been killed or wounded and another seven million had been taken captive during World War I.  Never before had people witnessed such industrialized slaughter, with tens of thousands falling in a day to machine guns and poison gas.  After the war, more and more truth began to overtake the lies, but whether people still believed or now resented the pro-war propaganda, virtually every person in the United States wanted to see no more of war ever again.  Posters of Jesus shooting at Germans were left behind as the churches along with everyone else now said that war was wrong.  Al Jolson wrote in 1920 to President Harding:

"The weary world is waiting for

Peace forevermore

So take away the gun

From every mother's son

And put an end to war."

Congress passed an Armistice Day resolution calling for "exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding … inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples." Later, Congress added that November 11th was to be "a day dedicated to the cause of world peace."

While the ending of warfare was celebrated every November 11th, veterans were treated no better than they are today.  When 17,000 veterans plus their families and friends marched on Washington in 1932 to demand their bonuses, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, Dwight Eisenhower, and other heroes of the next big war to come attacked the veterans, including by engaging in that greatest of evils with which Saddam Hussein would be endlessly charged: "using chemical weapons on their own people."  The weapons they used, just like Hussein's, originated in the U.S. of A.

It was only after another war, an even worse war, a war that has in many ways never ended to this day, that Congress, following still another now forgotten war -- this one on Korea -- changed the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day on June 1, 1954.  And it was six-and-a-half years later that Eisenhower warned us that the military industrial complex would completely corrupt our society.  Veterans Day is no longer, for most people, a day to cheer the elimination of war or even to aspire to its abolition.  Veterans Day is not even a day on which to mourn or to question why suicide is the top killer of U.S. troops or why so many veterans have no houses at all in a nation in which one high-tech robber baron monopolist is hoarding $66 billion, and 400 of his closest friends have more money than half the country.  It's not even a day to honestly, if sadistically, celebrate the fact that virtually all the victims of U.S. wars are non-Americans, that our so-called wars have become one-sided slaughters.  Instead, it is a day on which to believe that war is beautiful and good.  Towns and cities and corporations and sports leagues call it "military appreciation day" or "troop appreciation week" or "genocide glorification month."  OK, I made up that last one.  Just checking if you're paying attention.

This year, Veterans For Peace is celebrating Armistice Day in over 50 cities, including by ringing bells at 11 a.m. tomorrow.  Up in Auburn, Washington, however, Veterans For Peace Chapter 92 was been banned from marching in the Veterans Day Parade today.  Auburn said that other applicants more closely met the parade's goals and purpose.  Among the applicants accepted were a motorcycle club, a Corvette club, the Optimists and Kiwanis International, the Sons of Italy, and a Daffodil Festival float.  Veterans For Peace was too off-topic.  But VFP and the ACLU sued and won, so Vets For Peace 92 is marching.

Veterans For Peace president Leah Bolger had remarked: "Look at the choice that Auburn is setting up for people who have seen war for themselves.  Either play along with the deadly lie that war is good and glorious, or be banished from the community and excluded from public events. Imagine the position that puts people in who know that, as Ben Franklin said, there has never been a good war or a bad peace. We should honor their courage in saying so, not deny them First Amendment rights that our highest courts now tell us even corporations can claim!"

On the original Armistice Day in 1918, much of the world ended a four-year war that served no useful purpose whatsoever while costing the lives of some 10 million soldiers, 6 million civilians, 21 million soldiers wounded, an outbreak of Spanish influenza that took another 100 million lives, environmental destruction that is ongoing today, the development of new weapons—including chemical weapons—still used today, huge leaps forward in the art of propaganda still plagiarized today, huge setbacks in the struggle for economic justice, and a culture more militarized, more focused on stupid ideas like banning alcohol, and more ready to restrict civil liberties in the name of nationalism, and all for the bargain price, as one author calculated it at the time, of enough money to have given a $2,500 home with $1,000 worth of furniture and five acres of land to every family in Russia, most of the European nations, Canada, the United States, and Australia, plus enough to give every city of over 20,000 a $2 million library, a $3 million hospital, a $20 million college, and still enough left over to buy every piece of property in Germany and Belgium.  And it was all legal.  Incredibly stupid, but totally legal.  Particular atrocities violated laws, but war was not criminal.  It never had been, but it soon would be.

One of the soldiers who died in World War I was a young British man named Wilfred Owen.  Ninety-four years ago last Sunday he was shot and killed.  The news of his death reached his parents home in England as the Armistice bells were ringing 94 years ago tomorrow.  When the war had begun, many fools were fond of quoting an old Latin saying: dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, meaning, "it is sweet and right to die for your country."  During the war, Owen wrote a poem about how sweet and right it was to suffer from poison gas for no apparent purpose.  I'm sure you've heard it, but I think it could be well directed to most U.S. corporate media outlets in business today, so if you don't mind, it went like this:

 

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,

Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs

And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots

But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;

Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots

Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;

But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,

And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est

Pro patria mori.

 

And it's not as if nobody knew.  It's not as if wars have to be fought in order to learn each time that war is hell.  It's not as if each new type of weaponry suddenly makes war evil.  It's not as if war wasn't already the worst thing every created.  It's not as if people didn't say so, didn't resist, didn't propose alternatives, didn't go to prison for their convictions.

In 1915, Jane Addams met with President Wilson and urged him to offer mediation to Europe.  Wilson praised the peace terms drafted by a conference of women for peace held in the Hague.  He received 10,000 telegrams from women asking him to act.  Historians believe that had he acted in 1915 or early in 1916 he might very well have helped bring the Great War to an end under circumstances that would have furthered a far more durable peace than the one made eventually at Versailles.  Wilson did act on the advice of Addams, and of his Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, but not until it was too late.  The Germans did not trust a mediator who had been aiding the British war effort.  Wilson was left to campaign for reelection on a platform of peace and then quickly propagandize and plunge the United States into Europe's war.  And the number of progressives Wilson brought, at least briefly, to the side of loving war makes Obama look like an amateur.

It was not a new story.  From 1856 to 1860 Elihu Burritt had promoted a plan to prevent civil war through compensated emancipation, or the purchase and liberation of slaves by the government, an example that the English had set in the West Indies.  Burritt traveled constantly, speaking all over the country.  He organized a mass convention that was held in Cleveland.  He lined up prominent supporters.  He edited newsletters.  And he was right.  England had freed its slaves in the Caribbean without a war.  Russia had freed its serfs without a war.  Slave owners in the U.S. South would almost certainly have preferred a pile of money to five years of hell, the deaths of loved ones, the burning and destruction of their property, and the uncompensated emancipation that followed, not to mention the century and a half of bitter resentment that followed that.  And not only the slave owners would have preferred the way of peace; it's not as if they did the killing and dying.  What does being right get you? Forgotten.  Who's ever heard of Elihu Burritt?

But the victories are as forgotten as the failures, and that's probably what hurts us the most.  The Outlawry Movement of the 1920s—the movement to outlaw war—sought to replace war with arbitration, by first banning war and then developing a code of international law and a court with the authority to settle disputes.  The first step was taken in 1928 with the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which banned all war.  Today 81 nations are party to that treaty, including ours, and many of them comply with it.  I'd like to see additional nations, poorer nations that were left out of the treaty, join it (which they can do simply by stating that intention) and then urge the greatest purveyor of violence in the world to comply.

I wrote a book about the movement that created that treaty, not just because we need to continue its work, but also because we can learn from its methods.  Here was a movement that united people across the political spectrum, those for and against alcohol, those for and against the League of Nations, with a proposal to criminalize war.  It was an uncomfortably large coalition.  There were negotiations and peace pacts between rival factions of the peace movement.  There was a moral case made that expected the best of people.  War wasn't opposed merely on economic grounds or because it might kill people from our own country.  It was opposed as mass murder, as no less barbaric than duelling as a means of settling individuals' disputes.  Here was a movement with a long-term vision based on educating and organizing.  There was an endless hurricane of lobbying, but no endorsing of politicians, no aligning of a movement behind a party.  On the contrary, all four -- yes, four -- major parties were compelled to line up behind the movement.  Instead of Clint Eastwood talking to a chair, the Republican National Convention of 1924 saw President Coolidge promising to outlaw war if reelected.

And on August 27, 1928, in Paris, France, that scene happened that made it into a 1950s folk song as a mighty room filled with men, and the papers they were signing said they'd never fight again.  And it was men, women were outside protesting.  And it was a pact among wealthy nations that nonetheless would continue making war on and colonizing the poor.  But it was a pact for peace that ended wars and ended the acceptance of territorial gains made through wars, except in Palestine.  It was a treaty that still required a body of law and an international court that we still do not have.  But it was a treaty that in 85 years those wealthy nations would, in relation to each other, violate only once.  Following World War II, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was used to prosecute victor's justice.  And the big armed nations never went to war with each other again, yet.  And so, the pact is generally considered to have failed.  Imagine if we banned bribery, and the next year threw Sheldon Adelson in prison, and nobody ever bribed again.  Would we declare the law a failure, throw it out, and declare bribery henceforth legal as a matter of natural inevitability?  Why should war be different?  We can and must be rid of war, and therefore incidentally we can and must be rid of bribery, or -- excuse me -- campaign contributions.

Activists in St. Paul, where Secretary of State Kellogg was from, and Chicago, where Salmon Levinson who led the movement for Outlawry was from, are working on getting their cities to make August 27th a holiday for peace.  In the meantime, we need to reclaim Armistice Day and Mother's Day and Martin Luther King day, as well as the International Day of Peace, because we're up against Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Yellow Ribbon Day, Patriots Day, Independence Day, Flag Day, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Military Spouses Appreciation Day, the Iraq Afghanistan Wars Holiday, and dozens of others for every day of the year -- and this time I didn't make any of those up.

World War II changed everything, has never ended, and needs to be ended by us before we are ended by it.  The horror and costs of World War II make World War I look like child's play.  And yet the response of the nation has not been to radically expand the campaign to abolish war.  Instead we've allowed war to become so much our new "normalcy" that we can't distinguish between war time and peace time anymore, and abuses justified by war time are justified for all time now.

On August 14, 1941, the military brought before the Senate plans to build a permanent building that would be the largest office building in the world and would be called the Pentagon.  Senator Arthur Vandenberg asked for an explanation: "Unless the war is to be permanent, why must we have permanent accommodations for war facilities of such size?" Then he began to catch on: "Or is the war to be permanent?" he asked.

We weren't supposed to have standing armies, much less armies standing in everyone else's countries, much less armies fighting wars over the control of fuels that destroy the planet and armies that themselves consume the greatest quantity of those fuels, even though the armies lose all the wars.  Before the Nobel Peace Prize was handed out to war makers, it was intended for those who had done the best work of removing standing armies from the world.  World War II changed everything.

We never went back to pre-WWII taxes or pre-WWII military or pre-WWII restraint in foreign empire or pre-WWII respect for civil liberties or pre-WWII notions of who deserved a Nobel Peace Prize.  We saw advances in civil rights for minorities, including the right to vote, but we saw the virtual elimination of any way to elect anti-war candidates.

We never saw another declaration of war from Congress, but we never stopped using those of 1941, never left Germany, never left Japan, never dismantled the Pentagon.  Instead, as William Blum documents in his remarkable new book, "America's Deadliest Export: Democracy," since the supposed end of WWII, the United States has tried to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of them democratically elected; interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries; attempted to assassinate over 50 foreign leaders; dropped bombs on people in over 30 countries; and attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 nations.

Oh, but we meant well, and we mean well.  Absolutely not so.  There's no "we" involved here.  The U.S. government meant and means global domination, nothing else.  And yet, even foreigners buy the U.S. snake oil.  Gaddafi thought he could please Washington and be spared.  So did the Taliban, and Saddam Hussein.  When Hugo Chavez heard about the coup planned against him in 2002, he sent a representative to Washington to plead his case.  The coup went ahead just the same.  Subcomandante Marcos believed Washington would support the Zapatistas once it understood who they were.  Ho Chi Minh had seen behind the curtain when Woodrow Wilson was president; World War II didn't change quite everything.  Maurice Bishop of Grenada, Cheddi Jagan of British Guyana, and the foreign minister of Guatemala appealed to Washington for peace before the Pentagon overthrew their governments.  "We" don't mean well when we threaten war on Iran any more than we meant well when "we" overthrew Iran's government in 1953.  The U.S. government has the very same agenda it had in 1953 because it is still engaged in the very same war, the war without end.

At the very moment of supreme moral pretense in 1946, as the United States was leading the prosecution of Nazi war crimes including the crime of war, and killing the Nazis found guilty, at the very moment when Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson was declaring that those who sat in judgment at Nuremberg would be subject to the same standard of law, the United States was giving Guatemalans syphilis to see what would happen to them, and importing Nazi scientists by the dozen to work for the Pentagon.  The war to save 6 million Jews that in reality condemned them and 60 million others to death, the war of innocence that followed the arming of the Chinese and the British, and before that the arming of the Nazis and Japanese, the war against empire that in reality spread the largest empire the earth has known, the war against inhumanity that in reality developed and used the greatest weapons ever directed against humans: that war wasn't a triumph; it IS a triumph.  It has never ended.  We've never stopped making our children pledge allegiance like little fascists.  We've never stopped dumping our money into the complex that Dwight Eisenhower warned us would exert total influence over our society.  We've never stopped to consider whether attacks on a finite planet must end someday.  Truman showed Stalin a couple of bombs, and the flags haven't stopped waving yet.

The Marshall Plan was a plan for domination—smarter and more skillful domination than some other attempts—but still domination.  U.S. capitalist control was the highest purpose.  Sabotage of leftist political gains was the primary approach.  It's never changed.  Dictators that play along have "our" full support.  Don't go looking for "humanitarian" attacks by NATO in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia or Jordan or UAE or Qatar or Kuwait or Yemen, any more than Obama was willing to turn against Ben Ali or Mubarak or Gadaffi or Assad until doing so appeared strategic for the pursuit of global domination.  The United States does not intervene.  It never intervenes.  It is incapable of intervening.  This is because it is already intervened everywhere.  What it calls intervening is actually switching sides.

The branches are blurring.  The military, CIA, State Department, and Drug Enforcement Agency are becoming a team that operates in secret at the behest of the President.  The Pentagon now has its own "intelligence" agency, while the State Department has its own office of proxy war making.  U.S. Special Forces are active in 70 nations on any given day, on behalf of the President, without the authorization of Congress, and in the name of the uninformed people of the United States.  The "special" forces, operating under the acronyms SOCOM and JSOC, are no longer special for being smaller.  They're special for having the power to operate in greater secrecy and without the apparent limitation of any laws whatsoever.

Remember that raid that killed Osama bin Laden?  Yay! Hurray! Whooo Hooo! Murder is sooooooo cool.  But did you know that soldiers working for you do at least a dozen such raids somewhere in the world on any given night?  Are you confident that everyone killed in a dozen raids a night deserves execution without charge or trial?  Are you certain that this practice sets a good example?  Would you support other nations adopting its use?  "Our" "special" forces are now larger than most nations' militaries, and we don't have the slightest idea what those forces are doing.  "Our access [to foreign countries]," says Eric Olson, former chief of Special Operations Command, "depends on our ability to not talk about it."

The U.S. military has set up dozens of bases all over the world from which to fly killer robots known as drones.  And there are dozens of bases all over the United States involved in the drone wars.  At Fort Benning in Georgia, where the annual protest of the School of the Americas torture school is coming up soon, they're testing drones that can shoot to kill without human input.  What could go wrong? 

Not only has the blowback begun, but it's how we learn where some of the drone bases are.  In 2009, a suicide attack killed CIA officers and mercenaries at Forward Operating Base Chapman in the Khost province of Afghanistan, and only then did we learn that the base was used for targeting drone murders in Pakistan.

This is of course apart from the usual blowback of greatly heightened hostility which is being produced by the U.S. military in nations all over the world.  The 2010 attack on Libya, for example, resulted in well-armed Tuareg mercenaries, who had backed Gadaffi, heading back to Mali, destabilizing that country, and producing a military coup by a U.S.-trained officer, as well as parts of the country being seized by the latest al Qaeda affiliate.  And that's in Mali.  Never mind what a paradise Libya has become post liberation!

Many of the bases the U.S. military uses abroad are in nations less heavily occupied than Afghanistan.  They are permitted to operate where they do by the nasty governments of those nations, thanks to U.S. support for dictatorship.  This explains why the Arab Spring produced so much footage of U.S.-made armored personnel carriers, tanks, helicopters, and tear gas.  The Obama administration is eagerly increasing supplies of U.S.-made weaponry to the very regimes beating, jailing, and killing pro-democracy activists.  Repeat after me: "But it's a jobs program."

In fact, it's a major jobs program.  The Pentagon/State Department markets U.S. weapons abroad, and the U.S. tripled its sales of weapons abroad last year, now accounting for 85% of international weapons sales.

But the weapons sales are the least of it.  The United States now maintains its own troops in most nations on the earth and engages in joint training exercises with the local militaries.  The biggest areas for base construction today are probably Afghanistan and Africa.  Despite the supposed "winding down" of the war on Afghanistan over the next 2 or 12 years, base construction is moving ahead full steam, including new "secret" bases for "special" forces, new "secret" drone bases, and new prisons.  The thinking—and I use the term generously—in Afghanistan and around the globe is that the United States should let the locals do more of the killing and dying.  Of course, this hasn't worked in Afghanistan or Iraq, any more than it worked in Vietnam.  In Afghanistan, a proxy war in the 1980s produced notable blowback that can only be appreciated by fanatics for continued war, not by residents of New York or Washington.

The hurricanes and the rising ocean are our own creation.  If we want to turn this trend around we will have to shut down the Department of so-called Defense and create a new department aimed at defending us from dangers that actually exist.

We are up against a military industrial complex that barely existed before World War II and now dominates our government.  Over half of federal discretionary spending is dumped into it every year.  It funds campaigns and it creates jobs that can easily be eliminated.  It creates fewer jobs than any other use of the same dollars, but any other use would be socialism because it wouldn't kill anyone.  The jobs are as permanent as the spending.  We don't even pretend the wars will end all war anymore.  Our Nobel laureates proclaim the permanence of war in their peace prize acceptance speeches.

We can take on the military industrial complex, but it will mean forming a very large coalition of interested but fearful parties.  There's a group co-founded by a friend of mine in this area called Environmentalists Against War.  But most big environmental groups won't take on our biggest environmental destroyer.  In fact, they won't even mention climate change if the president asks them not to, as he did in 2009.  The war preparation spending is what drives the torture and imprisonment and assassinations, but the ACLU won't recognize its existence.  Wars drive immigrants out of their countries and then exploit them when they get here, but immigrants rights groups won't touch war.  If we were to cut war preparations by 80%, leaving the United States with still the biggest military in the world, we could have a green energy program that might just save us, not to mention the best quality housing, transportation, education, healthcare, and retirements to be had.  We could invent a dozen important human rights merely by reducing what we spend on the worst crime yet conceived.  But where are the anti-poverty groups, the education groups, the housing groups when it comes to opposing the Pentagon.  They're cowering.  Not all together, but all separately.  Together we could turn this thing around.

We've now voted down the racists and yet our government's primary function remains killing dark people.  Do we object to racism only in domestic policy?

We are supposedly standing beside something called a fiscal cliff.  You know what this makes me think of?  I picture a person standing near the top of a cliff, and tied to the person's legs are two chains.  Each chain runs over the edge of the cliff and supports a massive weight.  The person is struggling to remain standing as these two enormous weights pull downward.  One of the weights is war preparations spending.  The other is tax cuts for the super rich that we are apparently required to name for Bush no matter how long Obama is around.  Now the person is falling and being dragged backwards, face-down toward the edge.  But then I picture an endless number of other people in exactly the same situation, and very close to each other.  And we are able to take the chains off each other's ankles.  This is what we now need: massive cuts to war spending, and massive increases in taxation of plutocrats -- plus massive spending on green energy and all things good and decent.  Demanding that cuts to Social Security be a little smaller than they might be is not going to save us.

We should remember at a time like this that when the slightly less funded of two corporate funded candidates wins, we don't win.  President Obama publicly and illegally instructed the Attorney General not to prosecute the CIA for torture.  We accepted that.  Obama told unions not to say "single payer" and they didn't.  The peace movement spent the first Obama year muttering about how it was too early, the second worrying about the midterm elections, the third trying to focus the Occupy Movement on our collective antagonists, and the fourth being scared of Mitt Romney.  Now we're being told we must not demand military spending cuts or the prosecution of war crimes or the immediate withdrawal of forces abroad.  Progressive groups want to pretend to take a stand on Social Security and Medicare before caving.  Their opening pretense doesn't even touch military spending.  It's our job to add that to the conversation.

So, I don't want any more emails telling me to help Obama succeed at progressive efforts he is working hard against.  I want Billionaires for Bush brought back as Oligarchs for Obama.  I want the Bush Crimes Commission revived as the Obama Crimes Commission.  I want John Conyers's threat to push for the impeachment of Bush if he attacks Iran applied to Obama.  And I want the peace movement back!

I propose that we pledge right now to protest and vote against anyone in Congress or the White House who gives an inch on protecting Social Security and Medicare, who votes for current levels of military spending or anything above 75% of current levels, or who fails to oppose wars or to act against climate change.  No more honey moons.  No more veal pens in which the public servants tell the public organizations how to serve them.  And no more promises to vote for someone no matter what they do to us or to our brothers and sisters around the world. We need to use nonviolent action not only to end war but also to provide an alternative path for our young people who might otherwise sign up to kill and die.  Nonviolence requires more bravery, more commitment, more morality, and is far more satisfying than joining the Marines, no matter how benevolent the TV advertisements look.

The Declaration of Independence says we have the right to institute new government.  It's getting to be about that time.

Six Peace Events in the Bay Area, November 9-11, 2012

November 9, 4:15 p.m., Stanford
Omar Shaki, Medea Benjamin, Robert Crews, Shahzad Bashir

"Lives Under Drones"
Building 200, room 205, Stanford
Visit antiwar.stanford.edu for more info.
Co-sponsored by Muslim Students Awareness Network, Stanford NAACP, Stanford STAND, CDDRL Program on Human Rights, Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, Stanford Asian American Activism Committee, Pakistanis at Stanford, and the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center.

November 10, 2:00 p.m., Walnut Creek
David Swanson
Mt. Diablo Peace Center, 55 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek, CA 94596 - (925) 933-7850 - http://mtdpc.org
Free and open to the public.

Drone Warfare Protest and Golden Gate Bridge March

Sunday, November 11, 10 a.m. Die-in at Senator Dianne Feinstein's mansion in Pacific Heights (Vallejo & Lyon Street) then caravan to monthly march across the Golden Gate Bridge. Noon: March begins!


Armistice Day
Sunday, November 11, 11 a.m.
Corner of Fourth & Santa Clara Street
San Jose, CA
Veterans for Peace chapters across the nation are meeting on street corners in major cities to celebrate the original ARMISTICE DAY by ringing bells 11 times at 11:00 on November 11 as as was done at the end of World War I, when the world came together in realization that war is so horrible we must end it now. Veterans for Peace Chapter 101 invites those with a personal or organizational commitment to peace to join us in the ringing of bells on the morning of November 11 to focus on the desire to end the horror of war rather than celebrate it. This event is co-sponsored by the San Jose Peace and Justice Center, Woman's International League for Peace and Freedom, Code Pink, Move to Amend.

Sunday, November 11, 1:30-4:30 p.m. San Francisco
Medea Benjamin, Cindy Sheehan, and David Swanson
On the traditional Armistice Day, the War and Law League (WALL),
http://warandlaw.org, presents a forum on the theme, "U.S. Wars -- Are They Lawful?" Admission is free. The forum, highlighting WALL's biennial general meeting, is endorsed by the S.F. American Friends Service Committee and East Bay Peace Action. Main Public Library, Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin Street at Grove Street, San Francisco, CA, near Civic Center BART/Muni station.

November 11, 7:00 p.m. Marin County
Medea Benjamin and David Swanson
"Stopping War: The Next One?  Forever? -- An Armistice Day Instead of Veterans Day Event"
Sponsor: Marin Peace & Justice Coalition.  Co-sponsors: Social Justice Center of Marin and Community Media Center of Marin.
Olney Hall, College of Marin, 835 College Ave, Kentfield, CA
Admission $10 (No one turned away for lack of funds).

****

About the speakers at these events:

David Swanson will sign books including "When the World Outlawed War." Swanson blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works as Campaign Coordinator for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio.

Medea Benjamin is Co-Founder of Code Pink and Global Exchange and author of "Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control."

Cindy Sheehan is a gold star mother, peace activist, host of Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox, and author of "Revolution: A Love Story."

Omar Shakir is a 3rd year Stanford Law student and co-author of the Stanford Law School report "Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians from Drone Practices in Pakistan."

Robert Crews is a Stanford History Professor and co-editor of Under the Drones: Modern Lives in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Borderlands.

Shahzad Bashir is a Stanford Religious Studies Professor and co-editor of Under the Drones: Modern Lives in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Borderlands.

Talk Nation Radio: Gar Smith on Nuclear Roulette

Gar Smith discusses his new book, Nuclear Roulette: The Truth About the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth, which has a foreword by Jerry Mander and Ernest Callenbach.   Gar Smith is editor emeritus of Earth Island Journal, a Project Censored award-winning investigative journalist, and cofounder of Environmentalists Against War.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Engineer: Christiane Brown.
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!

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

Who's Been Right and Who's Been Wrong

From 1856 to 1860 Elihu Burritt promoted a plan to prevent civil war through compensated emancipation, or the purchase and liberation of slaves by the government, an example that the English had set in the West Indies.  Burritt traveled constantly, all over the country, speaking.  He organized a mass convention that was held in Cleveland.  He lined up prominent supporters.  He edited newsletters. 

And he was right.  England had freed its slaves in the Caribbean without a war.  Russia had freed its serfs without a war.  Slave owners in the U.S. South would almost certainly have preferred a pile of money to five years of hell, the deaths of loved ones, the burning and destruction of their property, and the uncompensated emancipation that followed, not to mention the century and a half of bitter resentment that followed that.  And not only the slave owners would have preferred the way of peace; it's not as if they did the killing and dying.

What does being right get you? Forgotten.  Who's ever heard of Elihu Burritt?

In 1862 four peace activists, including Eliza P. Gurney, met with Abraham Lincoln in the White House.  Lincoln, with tears running down his face, told them that he wished there had been no war, and that he would end it immediately if he could, but that he was merely a helpless instrument in the hands of his "Heavenly Father" who no doubt had some high purpose for all the suffering.  Lincoln carried a comforting letter from Gurney in his pocket when he was shot three years later. 

What comfort did Lincoln's superstition bring to three-quarters of a million dead and wounded?  What comfort did it bring to Burritt, who had known how to avoid the war and been forced to watch it proceed along with all the fools who supposed it "unavoidable"?  What comfort did it bring to centuries of students cruelly propagandized in elementary schools from that day to this with the idea that slavery can only be ended with war?

In 1885, U.S. peace activists prevented the Atlanta, a ship loaded with arms and munitions, from departing Philadelphia for Cuba.  They appealed to the governments in Washington and Madrid to submit their disputes to arbitration.  In 1896, the Universal Peace Union urged the Spanish government to give the Cubans their autonomy and withdraw all troops, while opposing any U.S. military intervention.  In 1898, the Pen and Sword, edited by D. R. Coude in Chicago, urged the President and Congress not to be "played for suckers" by yellow journalists out to sell more newspapers at the cost of launching a war.  Coude documented the lies and deceptions that had been moving the nation toward war. 

Peace activists flooded Washington with telegrams and letters insisting that the matter of the Maine be submitted to arbitration.  But many who favored peace in the abstract abandoned it, as is the custom, in the concrete.  "Though I hate war per se," wrote Elizabeth Cady Stanton, "I am glad that it has come in this instance.  I would like to see Spain swept from the face of the earth."  If that statement makes you think of what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said of Israel, it's worth remembering that he actually never said that, but that good U.S. liberals have said it of many nations over and over again for centuries now.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Theodore Roosevelt, and President McKinley were wrong, wrong to go to war, wrong to lust for genocide, and wrong to imagine they could wipe Spain off the earth.  D. R. Coude was right.  And who has ever heard of D. R. Coude?  Google hasn't.

In 1915, Jane Addams met with President Wilson and urged him to offer mediation to Europe.  Wilson praised the peace terms drafted by the Hague conference held by women for peace.  He received 10,000 telegrams from women asking him to act.  Historians believe that had he acted in 1915 or early in 1916 he might very well have helped bring the Great War to an end under circumstances that would have furthered a far more durable peace than the one made eventually at Versailles.  Wilson did act on the advice of Addams, and of his Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, but not until it was too late.  The Germans did not trust a mediator who had been aiding the British war effort.

What good is being right?  As early as 1935, U.S. peace activists were marching against U.S. provocations of Japan.  Can you imagine anyone more forgotten than they are?  It's almost treasonous to know about them.

But consider this.  During the U.S. civil war, pressure from peace activists forced a dispute between the U.S. and Britain to arbitration and away from conflict.  They did the same in 1869, leading to momentum in Washington and Europe for treaties of arbitration.  Among those celebrating progress in 1869 was Elihu Burritt.  Peace activists similarly prevented war with Mexico 20 years later and again advanced the cause of peaceful dispute resolution.  Peace groups in Europe helped prevent a war between France and Germany in the early years of the 20th century.  And in 1926 -1927 U.S. peace activists again helped forestall war with Mexico.  At the same time, they built support for the Kellogg-Briand Pact that in 1928 banned war and proved immediately useful in halting war in Manchuria, Bolivia, and Paraguay.

The education of the U.S. public by peace activists before and after World War I, led to the situation in the 1930s when 62% of college students rejected the idea that a bigger Navy would make them safer and 16% said they would refuse to fight even if the United States were invaded.  In 1935, the New York Herald-Tribune's Institute of Public Opinion found that 75% of voters wanted a public referendum before any war could be launched, and 71% opposed joining in any war with other countries to "enforce the peace." 

Nuclear bombs have not been dropped in our wars since World War II.  The United States has not attacked Iran yet.  Israeli troops have refused direct orders to prepare to attack Iran.  The victories are never advertised.  But neither are the failures.  Silence is the strongest supporter of war.  In both victories and failures, it's worth knowing the facts and considering: Who has been right every time?  And who, in contrast, make up the full roster of experts on network and cable TV?*

*For further reading, pick up "Peace Or War: The American Struggle 1636-1936" by Merle Curti from which almost every incident in this article has been lifted.

Audio: Daniel Ellsberg and David Swanson Debate Voting for Obama

Here's audio of a debate between myself and Dan Ellsberg on whether and how to vote from Lila Garrett's KPFK show "Connect the Dots."

MP3

Swing State Pickup Lines

Hi. You're beautiful. And I don't give a damn who you're voting for.

Seriously?

Which part?

You don't give a damn who I'm voting for?

I swear on the Fourth Amendment.

We don't have that amendment anymore.

You know that?

Yes.  What's the catch?  Which hack are you hocking?

None of them.  I'm serious.

For real?  What planet are you from? Scratch that. Will you marry me and what planet are you from?

I'm not entirely sure.

Which part?

I'm not sure what planet I'm from, and of course I'll marry you.  Now I do want to ask you one thing.

I knew it!  I want a prenuptial agreement.

No. No. I want to tell you something about me and ask you if you can understand it.  I want to know if you can understand why I'm not voting for Obama.

But I don't care why.  

You don't?

OK, let me guess.  He's less evil than Romney but less evil is still evil, and you don't want to be evil, and you just haven't managed to grasp that the more evil candidate is even more evil?

Good guess, but … completely wrong.  You have to remember here that I'm not a blithering idiot.  I know it's hard, but try.  In fact, I'm willing to suggest that lesser evilism is a truism, requiring exactly zero cerebral exertion to comprehend.  The more evil candidate will do more evil.  Got it.  But I'm still not voting for the less evil one.

OK, I have another guess.

I'm listening.

You want the more evil candidate to win because you imagine it will create the sort of mass resistance that will turn the country completely around, whereas the less evil guy will just keep boiling us slowly like frogs.

Now that's slander.

How can it be slander when it's a guess?

Of the frogs, I mean.  If you heat a pot the frog jumps out, and if you drop him in an already boiling pot he cooks.  It's all backwards because frogs are just not as stupid as humans.  We like to imagine . . .

So you DO want to make Romney president!

No.  I do not want to make Romney president.  Not to create mass resistance.  Not to make it easier for President Hillary to put the final nail in our national coffin four years hence.  Not because I'm mad at Obama and he hurt my wittle feelings.  Not for any reason.

OK, I've got it.

You've got it?

Yeah, you're not going to vote at all because that way you're sending a message to the whole corrupt system that it sucks and you don't.

Um, we've got almost 100 million people trying that, and it hasn't sent anybody so much as a postcard yet.

All right.  Let me think.

By all means.  I'm not the thought police.

I'm thinking.

I can see that.

OK.  This is it.  You believe that Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson or some other hopeless candidate is our last true hope.  You think they can win, or could theoretically win, or might begin to build a party that could theoretically someday win, or something like that.

That's five guesses.

We don't waste time in swing states.

Well, they're all wrong.  They're so far off Diebold couldn't count them.  They're not in the same ballpark.  Those guesses are about as close to right as …

OK, so this isn't fair, because the answer is some crazy thing having to do with that other planet you're from or something.  It's not fair unless it's something I know about.

You know about it.

Yeah, well, I call.

Are we playing poker?

Yeah, and I call.  What have you got?

What are we playing for?

Beer.

Beer?  Are you, or are you not, better off than you were four beers ago?

I am.

All right.  Here's the deal.  

It's too late to deal.  I call.

All right.  All right.  You know how we're always supposed to vote for the lesser evil candidate, but then four years later they're both more evil?  

I guess.

You know how last time the lesser evil candidate was for taxing the rich and ending wars and fixing NAFTA and restoring the rule of law and protecting civil liberties and tackling climate change and passing the Employee Free Choice Act, and this time the lesser evil candidate is for cutting Social Security and Medicare and spying without warrants and letting the CIA and Special Forces kill people every day and expanding NAFTA to the whole damn world and establishing an assassination program for men women and children and imprisoning people forever without charge or trial and drilling more oil?

Well, yeah, when you put it that way.

No, I'm not putting it that way.  Remember, I'm agreeing that the more evil guy is more evil.  We've been there, done that, right?

Right, so … ?

OK, so if we vote for the lesser evil guy every time but then the two choices are both more evil, there must be something else we should be doing.  And I have an idea what it is.  And we can't do it if we're doing lesser evil voting.  So, I don't want Obama to win.  I don't want Romney to win.  I don't imagine that Stein or Anderson can win.  I don't think the outcome of the election can send a message.  I'm not interested in the outcome at all, because I'm more interested in whether the people of this country are doing this other thing I have in mind, and it just so happens that the only way they can do it is if they are the kind of people who vote for Stein or Anderson.

So, you want Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson?

No.  I voted for Stein.  Anderson is great too.  I don't give a rat's derriere whether they get 1% or 20%, except as a side effect.  I'm not interested in them, although I like them both.  I'm interested in the millions of people who are going to vote or not vote and in what kind of people they are.

Who cares what kind of people they are if Romney ruins their country.

He can't.  He can't do it if they're the kind of people I have in mind.  And either Obama or Romney will do it, perhaps at slightly different speeds, if people allow them to.

I don't understand.

OK, well, let me try to explain.  It's hard to put into a sound byte.  Change comes from broad-based popular movements that impact the entire culture.  This is how we got civil and political rights, how we got workplace rights and environmental protections -- such as they are.  Everything worth achieving has been achieved by educating, organizing, inspiring, and pressuring the government, and not by picking the right portion of the government to reelect, cheer for, and withhold all criticism from.  Now, you can say you want to vote for the lesser evil person while simultaneously protesting him, but it doesn't work that way.  Most people's minds and most popular organizations devote themselves to lesser evilism on a permanent basis, not just the week of an election.  Obama in 2009 told the big environmentalist groups not to talk about climate change, and most of them haven't mentioned it since, even in the midst of a hurricane.  One group mentioned it and declared that the tar sands pipeline would be Obama's test, but the price for failing the test is having that group and its members vote for Obama's reelection a little less cheerfully.  Obama told the unions and advocacy groups not to say "single-payer healthcare" and they obeyed, forbidding mention of it at their rallies, asking instead for a mysterious "public option" that was then of course denied them.  You'd think it would be hard for people to sell out this way, especially in non-election years, but they help themselves along by the art of selective information consumption.  Most -- not all, but most -- Obama voters have managed not to know about drone wars or kill lists or the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  And, of course, it's extra hard to engage in serious activism while unaware what's going on.  By activism I mean educating, organizing, rallying, marching, lobbying, reporting, editorializing, inspiring, blockading, boycotting, interrupting, mocking, replacing, and nonviolently resisting evil policies in the thousands and thousands of ways available to nonviolent activists.  Someone said to me yesterday: "But Martin Luther King Jr. didn't start a third party."  Of course he didn't.  Neither am I.  I wouldn't have wanted him to.  I wouldn't want you to.  But he also didn't sell out to an existing party.  He didn't endorse and campaign for candidates.  He didn't tell anyone that voting was the only tool available, because -- of course -- voting comes far down the list of tools that have proven effective through history.  And when the voting system is as corrupted as ours is now, the only way to render it even more useless is to promise half the candidates that you will strive to annoy them throughout their terms but never ever vote against them (unless it's in a non-swing-state and in small enough numbers not to matter), and if they'll let you come to meetings at the White House you'll see what you can do about not annoying them either.  Latinos threatened not to vote for Obama and won some immigration reforms.  Labor unions threatened to bend over, and Obama kicked their ass.  Is this beginning to make sense?

So, you think activism is more important than elections and you really mean it?  So when elections get in the way of activism you want people to change their electoral behavior in whatever way will make them better activists, regardless of what happens in the election?

Exactly!  Is that marriage thing still on the table?

Uh huh.  You know what I was thinking?

No.

Remember when the peace movement was big several years ago?  I mean, not super big, but big enough to be noticed?

Yeah.

And then the Democrats came into Congress and into the White House, and it dried up, right?

Yeah.

Well, what if it hadn't?  What if it had kept growing?  What if everything that went into electing Obama the first time had gone into the peace movement?  What if the Nobel Committee in its infinite wisdom had given a peace prize to the peace movement?  What if the peace movement had a billion dollars and a gazillion volunteer hours to work with?  Wouldn't that have been worth more than having Obama instead of McCain?  Wouldn't that have made both McCain and Obama better or replaced them with better people and led to a choice anyway of the lesser evil candidate who would have been even less evil?  Or if it didn't, but the movement continued to grow, wouldn't it stand a chance of turning things dramatically around in the coming years, unlike Dr. 47% or Captain Drone Warrior if left to their own devices?

You actually understand this!  Now I have to ask what planet you are from.

No, let me ask you something.

OK.

Did you call this "Swing State Pickup Lines" because "Why Can't You Morons Get This Stuff Through Your Thick Skulls" sounded less attractive?  

Maybe.

Abortion and War

I'd like to quote for you some of the very best bits of William Blum's new book, "America's Deadliest Export: Democracy," but I'd end up quoting most of the book and the entire chapter on capitalism.  So you're just going to have to get your own copy.

But let me quote one little section for you here.  Blum reviews state laws requiring that women considering abortions be told that they are about to end a human life.  Regardless of your view of such laws, Blum thinks it is worth noting that no such information is provided to women or men when they sign up to join the U.S. military.  So, he proposes requiring that each would-be recruit be read this statement:

"The United States is at war [this statement is always factually correct].  You will likely be sent to a battlefield where you will be expected to do your best to terminate the lives of whole, separate, unique, living human beings you know nothing about and who have never done you or your country any harm.  You may in the process lose an arm or a leg.  Or your life.  If you come home alive and with all your body parts intact, there's a good chance you will be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.  Do not expect the government to provide you particularly good care for that, or any care at all.  In any case, you may wind up physically abusing your spouse and children and/or others, killing various individuals, abusing drugs and/or alcohol, and having an increased risk of suicide ideation or suicide.  No matter how bad a condition you may be in, the government may send you back to the battlefield for another tour of duty.  They call this 'stop-loss.'  And don't ever ask any of your officers what we're fighting for.  Even the generals don't know.  In fact, the generals especially don't know.  They would never have reached their high position if they had been able to go beyond the propaganda we're all fed, the same propaganda that has influenced you to come to this office."

A while back I made a video along these same lines:


Pick Any of These Books

Choose any book below and have it signed by the author to you or to a person you plan to give it to.  It will be signed and mailed to you right away.

Talk Nation Radio: Mike Elk on Employers Telling Workers How to Vote

Mike Elk of In These Times discusses this new / old twist on "democracy".

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Engineer: Christiane Brown.
Music by Duke Ellington.

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Respectable Murderers: An Open Letter to Dan Ellsberg

Dear Dan,

You and I are getting ready to tape a debate on the question of whether to vote for Obama (in "swing states"). It will air on Lila Garrett's "Connect the Dots" show on KPFK next Monday. I'm looking forward to it, if for no other reason, because I think our public discourse lacks much serious debate between people who respect each other's intentions. I have nothing but respect for you and believe you mean nothing but the best in advocating votes for Obama. You honestly believe I was catastrophically wrong to vote for Jill Stein in Virginia, as I've done, and I honestly believe you are horrendously misguided to be expending your valuable energy trying to get others to vote for Obama. And yet we'll be friends through this and regardless of whether one or both of us ever change our minds.

An hour debate will also be a refreshing change from the usual sound byte simplification of the media, and yet not necessarily sufficient. So, let me tell you a couple of stories.

Veterans Plan Armistice Day Events in Over 50 U.S. Cities

Veterans for Peace chapters across the nation are meeting in major cities to celebrate the original Armistice Day as was done at the end of World War I, when the world came together in realization that war is so horrible we must end it now.  

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