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When the wealthy nations of the world meet as the G8 or in any other gathering, it's interesting to imagine what they would do if they followed the golden rule, valued grandchildren, disliked unnecessary suffering, or wished to outgrow ancient forms of barbarism, or any combination of those.
The United States alone is perfectly capable, if it chooses, of enacting a global marshall plan, or -- better -- a global rescue plan. Every year the United States spends, through various governmental departments, roughly $1.2 trillion on war and war preparations. Every year the United States foregoes well over $1 trillion in taxes that billionaires and centimillionaires and corporations should be paying.
If we understand that out-of-control military spending is making us less safe, rather than more -- just as Eisenhower warned and so many current experts agree -- it is clear that reducing military spending is a critical end in itself. If we add to that the understanding that military spending hurts, rather than helping, economic well-being, the imperative to reduce it is that much clearer.
If we understand that wealth in the United States is concentrated at medieval levels and that this concentration is destroying representative government, social cohesion, morality in our culture, and the pursuit of happiness for millions of people, it is clear that taxing extreme wealth and income are critical ends in themselves.
Still missing from our calculation is the unimaginably huge consideration of what we are not now doing but easily could do. It would cost us $30 billion per year to end hunger around the world. We just spent nearly $90 billion for another year of the "winding down" war on Afghanistan. Which would you rather have: three years of children not dying of hunger all over the earth, or year #13 of killing people in the mountains of central Asia? Which do you think would make the United States better liked around the world?
It would cost us $11 billion per year to provide the world with clean water. We're spending $20 billion per year on just one of the well-known useless weapons systems that the military doesn't really want but which serves to make someone rich who controls Congress members and the White House with legalized campaign bribery and the threat of job elimination in key districts. Of course, such weapons begin to look justified once their manufacturers begin selling them to other countries too. Raise your hand if you think giving the world clean water would make us better liked abroad and safer at home.
For similar affordable amounts, the United States, with or without its wealthy allies, could provide the earth with education, programs of environmental sustainability, encouragement to empower women with rights and responsibilities, the elimination of major diseases, etc. For those who recognize the environmental crisis as another critical demand as urgent in its own right as the war-making crisis, the plutocracy crisis, or the unmet human needs crisis, a global rescue plan that invests in green energy and sustainable practices appears even more powerfully to be the moral demand of our time.
War-ending, earth-saving projects could be made profitable, just as prisons and coal mines and predatory lending are made profitable now by public policy. War-profiteering could be banned or rendered impractical. We have the resources, knowledge, and ability. We don't have the political will. The chicken-and-egg problem traps us. We can't take steps to advance democracy in the absence of democracy. A female face on an elite ruling class won't solve this. We can't compel our nation's government to treat other nations with respect when it has no respect even for us. A program of foreign aid imposed by imperial-minded arrogance won't work. Spreading subservience under the banner of "democracy" won't save us. Imposing peace through armed "peace-keepers" prepared to kill won't work. Disarming only so-much, while continuing to suppose that a "good war" might be needed, won't get us far. We need a better view of the world and a way to impose it on officials who can be made to actually represent us.
Such a project is possible, and understanding how easy it would be for powerful officials to enact a global rescue plan is part of how we can motivate ourselves to demand it. The money is available several times over. The globe we have to rescue will include our own country as well. We don't have to suffer more than we are suffering now in order to greatly benefit others. We can invest in health and education and green infrastructure in our own towns as well as others' for less than we now dump into bombs and billionaires.
Such a project would do well to consider programs of public service that involve us directly in the work to be done, and in the decisions to be made. Priority could be given to worker-owned and worker-run businesses. Such projects could avoid an unnecessary nationalistic focus. Public service, whether mandatory or voluntary, could include options to work for foreign and internationally run programs as well as those based in the United States. The service, after all, is to the world, not just one corner of it. Such service could include peace work, human shield work, and citizen diplomacy. Student exchange and public-servant exchange programs could add travel, adventure, and cross-cultural understanding. Nationalism, a phenomenon younger than and just as eliminable as war, would not be missed.
You may say I'm a dreamer. We number in the hundreds of millions.
There are probably more innocent men and women in prison in the United States now than there were people in prison here total -- innocent and guilty -- 30 years ago, or than there are total people in prison (proportionately or as an absolute number) in most nations on earth.
I don't mean that people are locked up for actions that shouldn't be considered crimes, although they are. I don't mean that people are policed and indicted and prosecuted by a racist system that makes some people far more likely to end up in prison than other people guilty of the same actions, although that is true, just as it's also true that the justice system works better for the wealthy than for the poor. I am referring rather to men (it's mostly men) who have been wrongly convicted of crimes they simply did not commit. I'm not even counting Guantanamo or Bagram or immigrants' prisons. I'm talking about the prisons just up the road, full of people from just down the road.
I don't know whether wrongful convictions have increased as a percentage of convictions. What has indisputably increased is the number of convictions and the lengths of sentences. The prison population has skyrocketed. It's multiplied several fold. And it's done so during a political climate that has rewarded legislators, judges, prosecutors, and police for locking people up -- and not for preventing the conviction of innocents. This growth does not correlate in any way with an underlying growth in crime.
At the same time, evidence has emerged of a pattern of wrongful convictions. This emerging evidence is largely the result of prosecutions during the 1980s, primarily for rape but also for murder, before DNA testing had come into its own, but when evidence (including semen and blood) was sometimes preserved. Other factors have contributed: messy murderers, rapists who didn't use condoms, advances in DNA science that helps to convict the guilty as well as to free the innocent, avenues for appeal that were in some ways wider before the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, and the heroic work of a relative handful of people.
An examination of the plea bargains and trials that put people behind bars ought to make clear to anyone that many of those convicted are innocent. But DNA exonerations have opened a lot of eyes to that fact. The trouble is that most convicts do not have anything that can be tested for DNA to prove their guilt or innocence. Here are 1,138 documented exonerations out of that tiny fraction of the overall prison population for which there was evidence to test. One study found that 6% of these prisoners are innocent. If you could extrapolate that to the whole population you'd be talking about 136,000 innocent people in U.S. prisons today. In the 1990s, a federal inquiry found that DNA testing, then new, was clearing 25% of primary suspects. You do the math.
Of course you can't simply do the math, because wrongful convictions could be higher or lower for the available sample than for all prisoners. What we can be sure of is that we are talking about a large number of people whose lives (and the lives of their loved ones) have been ruined -- not to mention the lives of additional victims of actual criminals left free.
One way to be fairly sure that the rate of wrongful conviction carries over, at least very roughly, to a variety of criminal prosecutions is to examine how those convictions came about. Brandon Garrett's Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong examines the prosecutions of the first 250 people exonerated by DNA testing. Garrett finds broad systemic problems that could be remedied but largely have not been.
Of the 250, 76% were misidentified by an eyewitness -- most of the witnesses having been led to that act by police and/or prosecutor, some of them badgered and threatened, others merely manipulated. Invalid forensic science expertise contributed to 61% of the convictions, much of it willfully manipulated, some fraction perhaps attributable to well-intentioned but negligent incompetence. Informants, mostly jailhouse informants, and most of them manipulated and bribed by police or prosecutor, helped out in 21% of the trials. In 16% of the cases, the accused supposedly confessed to the crime, but these "confessions" tended to be the result of police intimidation, manipulation, brutality, and simple lying. Garrett fears that similar problems infect the U.S. justice system as a whole.
Garrett focuses on problems in policy and perspective. People who believe all eyewitnesses are correct and truthful can mean well and nonetheless get an important point wrong. People who aren't aware that false confessions exist won't look for them. But people unaware of such things are not typically part of the criminal justice system, where awareness of these problems is built in but steamrolled over. Judges ask whether witnesses were improperly led to misidentify a witness, but care little for the answers they receive. While Garrett begins and ends his book by claiming that pretty much everyone means well, the intervening pages grown under the weight of endless malevolence. In reading the book, I found myself over and over again scribbling "Did this guy mean well?" in the margin.
Do police feeding a false confession to their victim mean well? When they falsely report on that procedure to a court do they mean well? When they use tape recorders but shut them off each time they feed the prisoner new facts, do they mean well? When they hide evidence? When they destroy evidence? When they stack lineups and pressure witnesses to make identifications? When they hypnotize witnesses? When the prosecutor employs junk science and knowingly makes false claims about it? When simple procedures to avoid bias are known but avoided? When expert witnesses lie for a living? When crime labs alter reports to coverup exculpatory evidence? When police or prosecutors bribe other convicts or codefendants to testify and tell them what to say, but lie about that procedure? When the defense is denied competent counsel or the ability to call witnesses? When the judge effectively acts as part of the prosecution? When jurors pressure and threaten a fellow juror to vote "guilty"?
"It is almost unheard of for prosecutors to be disciplined or sanctioned for misconduct," writes Garrett, who is no doubt also familiar with this saying: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Garrett believes that serious reforms are needed, and points to North Carolina where a commission has been set up to aid in freeing and not convicting the innocent. If you imagine that that's what appeals courts are for, read how they handled these 250 cases. In 23 cases, the victim was tried more than once for the same crime. One in a blue moon the system works and frees an innocent -- just often enough to keep hope floating out there like a lottery ticket in the distance. Even when DNA clears a prisoner, a prosecutor may propose to try him again, and then do nothing for years while he rots in prison waiting. North Carolina has passed legislation reforming procedures for eyewitnesses, requiring the recording of interrogations, enhancing the preservation of evidence and access to DNA testing, etc.
But one of the major reforms needed is clearly a reform of attitude. And that probably will come more quickly if we recognize what current attitudes are. Jurors and judges should be aware of how often many prosecutors and police officers pursue conviction at the expense of the truth. They should not prejudge in that direction any more than in the other, but they should be aware of what they are up against. If, as a society, we valued the freedom of innocents as much as the punishment of the guilty, we would treat judges and prosecutors and defense attorneys and police differently. We would reward protection of the innocent as much as convictions. A "successful" prosecution would be redefined as one that, first, did no harm. The police officer who found an alibi for a suspect would be praised and promoted just like the officer who found evidence of his guilt. A defendant might even someday find it possible to gain representation from an attorney who at least pretended to believe in at least the possibility of his innocence, and who behaved accordingly.
In the meantime, we are generating and compounding tragedies by the thousands. When James O'Donnell was wrongly convicted, he exploded with anger and cursed the judge and jury. Then he composed himself and said, "I am really sorry for my outburst. I tried to be as civil as possible. I would never do a crime like this. And my life is over now as I know it, my wife and kids' life. I don't understand how the jury did this to me. It's really not right, what they did. I was home in bed. I was sleeping. I would never hit a woman. I have a wife. I never hit my kids, ever. I never forced a woman to do anything in my whole life. That's the God's honest truth . . . It's just -- I'm very sorry for my outburst. Don't take my life away, please."
If you own a computer and know where to look you've probably heard that there isn't actually any evidence for that claim.
Below are 10 reasons why this latest excuse for war is no good EVEN IF TRUE.
1. War is not made legal by such an excuse. It can't be found in the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the United Nations Charter, or the U.S. Constitution. It can, however, be found in U.S. war propaganda of the 2002 vintage. (Who says our government doesn't promote recycling?)
2. The United States itself possesses and uses internationally condemned weapons, including white phosphorus, napalm, cluster bombs, and depleted uranium. Whether you praise these actions, avoid thinking about them, or join me in condemning them, they are not a legal or moral justification for any foreign nation to bomb us, or to bomb some other nation where the U.S. military is operating. Killing people to prevent their being killed with the wrong kind of weapons is a policy that must come out of some sort of sickness. Call it Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
3. An expanded war in Syria could become regional or global with uncontrollable consequences. Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Russia, China, the United States, the Gulf states, the NATO states . . . does this sound like the sort of conflict we want? Does it sound like a conflict anyone will survive? Why in the world risk such a thing?
4. Just creating a "no fly zone" would involve bombing urban areas and unavoidably killing large numbers of people. This happened in Libya and we looked away. But it would happen on a much larger scale in Syria, given the locations of the sites to be bombed. Creating a "no fly zone" is not a matter of making an announcement, but of dropping bombs.
5. Both sides in Syria have used horrible weapons and committed horrible atrocities. Surely even those who imagine people should be killed to prevent their being killed with different weapons can see the insanity of arming both sides to protect each other side. Why is it not, then, just as insane to arm one side in a conflict that involves similar abuses by both?
6. With the United States on the side of the opposition in Syria, the United States will be blamed for the opposition's crimes. Most people in Western Asia hate al Qaeda and other terrorists. They are also coming to hate the United States and its drones, missiles, bases, night raids, lies, and hypocrisy. Imagine the levels of hatred that will be reached when al Qaeda and the United States team up to overthrow the government of Syria and create an Iraq-like hell in its place.
7. An unpopular rebellion put into power by outside force does not usually result in a stable government. In fact there is not yet on record a case of U.S. humanitarian war benefitting humanity or of nation-building actually building a nation. Why would Syria, which looks even less auspicious than most potential targets, be the exception to the rule?
8. This opposition is not interested in creating a democracy, or -- for that matter -- in taking instructions from the U.S. government. On the contrary, blowback from these allies is likely. Just as we should have learned the lesson of lies about weapons by now, our government should have learned the lesson of arming the enemy of the enemy long before this moment.
9. The precedent of another lawless act by the United States, whether arming proxies or engaging directly, sets a dangerous example to the world and to those in Washington for whom Iran is next on the list.
10. A strong majority of Americans, despite all the media's efforts thus far, opposes arming the rebels or engaging directly. Instead, a plurality supports providing humanitarian aid.
We might better spread democracy by example than by bomb.
There are nonviolent pro-democracy movements in Bahrain and Turkey and elsewhere, and our government doesn't lift a finger in support.
But if you remember all those years of protesting wars and wishing millions of foolish partisan Republicans would join us in protesting blatant mass-murder even though the president was a Republican, I have good news for you. The Republicans are leading the way in pretending to oppose war this time. So, if you Democrats, who I'm sure were 100% sincere in opposing wars some years back are still ready to act, maybe -- just maybe -- we can build right now the sort of broad movement we've wanted.
If you're not too busy.
This summer three national gatherings of activists will converge on Madison, Wisconsin, allowing for cross-fertilization and creative planning of future actions for peace and justice in the United States. YOU are invited.
Talk Nation Radio speaks with Roshan Bliss of the Student Power Convergence, Ben Manski of Democracy Convention, and Doug Rawlings of Veterans For Peace.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
If you're like me you've read several books that list inspiring examples of worker owned businesses and co-ops, suggesting that expanding on such models might begin to right the wrongs of an incredibly unequal society that is growing even more unequal by the day.
The best such collection I've found is in a new book by Gar Alperovitz called What Then Must We Do? This book also offers a powerful argument that radical change is needed, albeit an argument with some possible flaws. First the inspiring examples:
Workers own and run factories in Cleveland, Atlanta, Washington DC, Amarillo, and many other cities. Labor unions that once opposed worker ownership, including the Steelworkers and several others, now create worker-owned companies. Forty percent of Americans are members of cooperatives, including credit unions. People moved hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, from large banks to credit unions and small banks in 2011 and 2012. (That should continue!) Then there are community development corporations and land trusts, alive and thriving. There are even corporations redesigned, and labeled B Corps, chartered under new laws in 12 states to allow them to legally pursue the social good as well as profits.
Employee stock ownership plans make U.S. workers owners of their businesses in great numbers -- three million more than are members of unions in the private sector. Federal tax incentives (don't tell Congress!) encourage business owners to sell to their employees. Worker-owned firms are becoming more common. They are also more profitable than other similar companies.
It occurs to me that we need a Union-Label type operation to label and catalog the products of worker-owned companies so that we can put our support there.
Local governments are investing in local businesses and land development. A quarter of U.S. electricity comes from publicly owned co-ops. These power companies are more efficient and tend to be greener. The model is being followed by public broadband service. Proposals that meet the textbook definition of socialism are alive and growing in red and blue states alike, and at the local and state levels.
This matters because the national government in the United States is so thoroughly corrupted. I'm not sure Alperovitz ever directly answers the question of how a national plutocracy will be prevented from halting local and state progress on the ownership question, as it has halted local and state progress on other matters. If the trend toward democratizing ownership is happening under the radar, how can it possibly be kept there while succeeding on the necessary scale? If this approach to economic justice is somehow more inherently "American" than other more foreign ideas, how exactly does that protect it? Weren't family farms and free elections and the Fourth Amendment deemed very American at one point too? Alperovitz recommends a state-by-state approach to single-payer healthcare, but the refusal of California legislators to enact it has come at the bidding of those in Washington. None of which is to suggest that Alperovitz is wrong to promote this strategy -- just that it may be very difficult, and some other strategies may help too.
Alperovitz frames his discussion within an understanding of serious systemic failure. Persistent long-term trends toward income and wealth inequality, monopolized corporate power, mass incarceration, and environmental devastation churn ahead in the face of elections, activism, lobbying, and reform legislation, not to mention flip-flopping between Republican and Democratic so-called "leadership." Alperovitz paints these as even longer term trends than we often suppose by dismissing the gains of the middle of the 20th century as an aberration produced by the Great Depression and World War II, and as gains that could not have come without a large labor movement -- something he now deems virtually impossible.
Most activist groups, Alperovitz points out, react to cuts in public services by demanding no cuts. This is purely defensive. Alperovitz acknowledges that some also advocate for progressive taxation, but deems this "obviously inadequate" although the obviousness of its inadequacy is not apparent to me, except in the sense that (just like the worker-ownership model) it hasn't succeeded yet on a major scale. Yes, the plutocrats buy the elections. The system is rigged against tax reform. But the goal of advancing the taxation (and elimination) of billionaires as power is gradually obtained seems critical.
Alperovitz seems at times to buy into the notion that there just isn't enough money around, even if the billionaires were to be taxed at 90 percent. But this is wrong, of course. The nation is rolling in money, and the money is piled up in the hands of several hundred people.
It's somewhere else as well, somewhere Alperovitz doesn't propose to look for it. President Obama's proposed budget for 2014 devotes 57% of discretionary spending to an illegal, immoral, counterproductive, and economically destructive operation known as war and preparation for war. While Alperovitz suggests that World War III could save the U.S. economy (were a new world war possible, which he says it isn't), economists say military spending as it exists does less for the economy than other public spending and even less than tax cuts for working people; that is to say, it is worse than nothing.
Alperovitz seems unaware that roughly half of military spending is outside the Pentagon, in Homeland Security, in the CIA, in the State Department, in the Energy Department, etc. So he uses the Pentagon budget alone to argue that military spending is low as a percentage of GDP. This does not of course make it low in terms of actual dollars or as a percentage of global military spending or as a percentage of public spending in the United States. Alperovitz believes there's little money for spending on human needs, but seems not to notice where 57% of discretionary spending is going.
While Alperovitz raises the topic of healthcare because it takes up, he says, 20 percent of GDP, the war machine that swallows 8 or 9 percent of GDP from U.S. government purchases alone (U.S. companies also dominating international weapons sales) gets no consideration. Leo Tolstoy, from whom the book's title is borrowed, would have noticed the existence of the military industrial complex. He would have considered the possibility of economic conversion. Connecticut created a commission this month to pursue conversion from war to peace manufacturing. I suspect Alperovitz would like that model if he took a look at it.
So, here's where I come down. We should be pursuing everything Alperovitz recommends, and then some. We should create worker ownership, tax the rich, cut the military, invest in our society, and act strategically at the local, state, and national levels. We should take very seriously long-term structural failures and stop imagining that another election will fix anything by itself. And we should, as Alperovitz wisely recommends, be preparing the ground for the best possible activism when a moment of greater possibilities arrives, or when we have succeeded in creating it.
by David Swanson | July 2013
How Jerry Falwell's Liberty U.—the world's largest Christian university—became an evangelist for drone warfare.
LIBERTY UNIVERSITY in Lynchburg, Va., was founded by televangelist Jerry Falwell. Its publications carry the slogan “Training Champions for Christ since 1971.” Some of those champions are now being trained to pilot armed drones, and others to pilot more traditional aircraft, in U.S. wars. For Christ. Liberty bills itself as “one of America’s top military-friendly schools.” It trains chaplains for the various branches of the military. And it trains pilots in its School of Aeronautics (SOA)—pilots who go up in planes and drone pilots who sit behind desks wearing pilot suits. The SOA, with more than 600 students, is not seen on campus, as it has recently moved to a building adjacent to Lynchburg Regional Airport. Liberty’s campus looks new and attractive, large enough for some 12,000 students, swarming with blue campus buses, and heavy on sports facilities for the Liberty Flames. A campus bookstore prominently displays Resilient Warriors, a book by Associate Vice President for Military Outreach Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Robert F. Dees. There’s new construction everywhere you look: a $50 million library, a baseball stadium, new dorms, a tiny year-round artificial ski slope on the top of a hill. In fact, Liberty is sitting on more than $1 billion in net assets. The major source of Liberty’s money is online education. There are some 60,000 Liberty students you don’t see on campus, because they study via the internet. They also make Liberty the largest university in Virginia, the fourth largest online university anywhere, and the largest Christian university in the world. More than 23,000 online students are in the military—twice as many as students who live on campus. Liberty offers extra financial support to veterans and those on active duty, allowing them to be credited for knowledge learned in the military and to study online from a war zone. Liberty has been turning out “Christ-centered aviators” for a decade. In fall 2011, Liberty added a concentration in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS, aka drones), making it one of the first handful of schools to do this. Now at least 14 universities and colleges in the U.S. have permits from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones, and many institutions, including community colleges, offer drone training. If one chooses to concentrate studies on piloting drones, the load will include a half dozen courses on “intelligence.” Liberty students can also pick up a minor in strategic intelligence and take courses in terrorism and counterterrorism. (Liberty’s school of government brags that Newt Gingrich helped develop its course on “American exceptionalism.”)
LIBERTY UNIVERSITY in Lynchburg, Va., was founded by televangelist Jerry Falwell. Its publications carry the slogan “Training Champions for Christ since 1971.” Some of those champions are now being trained to pilot armed drones, and others to pilot more traditional aircraft, in U.S. wars. For Christ.
Liberty bills itself as “one of America’s top military-friendly schools.” It trains chaplains for the various branches of the military. And it trains pilots in its School of Aeronautics (SOA)—pilots who go up in planes and drone pilots who sit behind desks wearing pilot suits. The SOA, with more than 600 students, is not seen on campus, as it has recently moved to a building adjacent to Lynchburg Regional Airport.
Liberty’s campus looks new and attractive, large enough for some 12,000 students, swarming with blue campus buses, and heavy on sports facilities for the Liberty Flames. A campus bookstore prominently displays Resilient Warriors, a book by Associate Vice President for Military Outreach Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Robert F. Dees. There’s new construction everywhere you look: a $50 million library, a baseball stadium, new dorms, a tiny year-round artificial ski slope on the top of a hill. In fact, Liberty is sitting on more than $1 billion in net assets.
The major source of Liberty’s money is online education. There are some 60,000 Liberty students you don’t see on campus, because they study via the internet. They also make Liberty the largest university in Virginia, the fourth largest online university anywhere, and the largest Christian university in the world.
More than 23,000 online students are in the military—twice as many as students who live on campus. Liberty offers extra financial support to veterans and those on active duty, allowing them to be credited for knowledge learned in the military and to study online from a war zone.
Liberty has been turning out “Christ-centered aviators” for a decade. In fall 2011, Liberty added a concentration in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS, aka drones), making it one of the first handful of schools to do this. Now at least 14 universities and colleges in the U.S. have permits from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones, and many institutions, including community colleges, offer drone training.
If one chooses to concentrate studies on piloting drones, the load will include a half dozen courses on “intelligence.” Liberty students can also pick up a minor in strategic intelligence and take courses in terrorism and counterterrorism. (Liberty’s school of government brags that Newt Gingrich helped develop its course on “American exceptionalism.”)
In 1984 -- the year not the book, but it was fitting -- and five years before she died, Barbara Tuchman published a book called The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam. In one part of the book she looked at the destructive work of a series of a half-dozen popes, work destructive of the papacy, work that brought into being the protestant secession from the Catholic church. This was offered as an example of folly, of rulers acting against the interest of their own institution. It was also an example of what we so casually label "the imperial presidency." That is, in these popes we watched the mad and cumulative concentration of power and normalization of abuses that Tuchman almost certainly was aware she was living through again -- along with the debasement of an institution previously imagined to embody certain principles and integrity.
Does history repeat itself?
Is the Pope Catholic?
Sixtus IV, Pope from 1471 to 1484 / Richard Nixon, President 1969-1974
"Sixtus introduced the period of unabashed, unconcealed, relentless pursuit of personal gain and power politics. . . . Antagonism slowly gathered around Sixtus. . . . [H]e exhibited the worst qualities of the Renaissance prince in his feuds and machinations, conducting wars on Venice and Ferrara. . . . The most scandalous of his dealings was involvement in and possible instigation of the Pazzi plot to murder the Medici brothers. . . . The internal health of the Church did not interest Sixtus."
Innocent VII, Pope from 1484 to 1492 / Jimmy Carter, President 1977-1981
"Amiable, indecisive, subject to stronger-minded associates, Sixtus' successor was a contrast to him in every way except in equally damaging the pontificate, in this case by omission and weakness of character."
Alexander VI, Pope from 1492 to 1503 / Ronald Reagan, President 1981-1989
"[T]hough cultivated and even charming, he was thoroughly cynical and utterly amoral. . . . To celebrate the final expulsion of the Moors from Spain, in 1492, the year of his election, he staged not a Te Deum of thanksgiving but a bullfight in the Piazza of St. Peter's with five bulls killed. . . . So many had been Alexander's offenses that his contemporaries' judgments tend to be extreme, but Burchard, his Master of Ceremonies, was neither antagonist nor apologist. The impression from his toneless diary of Alexander's Papacy is of continuous violence, murders in churches, bodies in the Tiber, fighting of factions, burnings and lootings, arrests, tortures and executions, combined with scandal, frivolities and continuous ceremony. . . . Certain revisionists have taken a fancy to the Borgia Pope and worked hard to rehabilitate him by intricate arguments . . . . The revision fails to account for one thing: the hatred, disgust and fear that Alexander had engendered."
Pius III, Pope from 1503 to 1503 / Bush Sr, President 1989-1993
He also happened.
Julius II, Pope from 1503 to 1513 / Bill Clinton, President 1993-2001
"Years of belligerence, conquests, losses, and violent disputes engaged him. . . . Art and war absorbed papal interest and resources to the neglect of internal reform. . . . In reference books he can be found designated as 'true founder of the Papal State'. . . . That the cost had been to bathe his country in blood and violence and that all the temporal gains could not prevent the authority of the Church from cracking at the core within ten years are not reckoned in these estimates."
Leo X, Pope from 1513 to 1521 / George W. Bush, President 2001-2009
"'God has given us the Papacy -- Let us enjoy it.' . . . the new Pope was a hedonist . . . with as little concern for cost as if the source of funds were some self-filling magic cornucopia. The popes' wars also earned Erasmus' scorn . . . . 'As if the Church had any enemies more pestilential than impious pontiffs. . . . The monarchy of the Pope at Rome, as it is now, is a pestilence to Christendom.' . . . Machiavelli found proof of decadence in the fact that 'the nearer people are to the Church of Rome, which is the head of our religion, the less religious they are.' . . . The abuse that precipitated the ultimate break was the commercialization of indulgences. . . . [T]he Pope was unaware of the issues and incapable of understanding the protest that had been developing for the century and a half. . . . Leo hardly noticed the fracas in Germany except as a heresy to be suppressed like any other. . . . Leo left the Papacy and the Church in the 'lowest possible repute.' . . . . A lampoon suggested that if the Pope had lived longer, he would have sold Rome too, and then Christ, and then himself."
Clement VII, Pope from 1523 to 1534 / Barack Obama, President since 2009
"The new Clement's reign proved to be a pyramid of catastrophes. Protestantism continued its advance. . . . Supreme office, like sudden disaster, often reveals the man, and revealed Clement as less adequate than expected. Knowledgeable and effective as a subordinate, Guicciardini writes, he fell victim when in charge to timidity, perplexity, and habitual irresolution. . . . By 1527, hardly a part of Italy had escaped violence to life and land, plunder, destruction, misery, and famines. Clement's misjudgments having prepared the way, Rome itself was now to be engulfed by war."
"The folly of the popes was not pursuit of counter-productive policy so much as rejection of any steady or coherent policy either political or religious that would have improved their situation or arrested the rising discontent. Disregard of the movements and sentiments developing around them was the primary folly. . . . When private interest is placed before public interests, and private ambition, greed, and the bewitchment of exercising power determine policy, the public interest necessarily loses, never more conspicuously than under the continuing madness from Sixtus to Clement. The succession from Pope to Pope multiplied the harm. Each of the six handed on his conception of the Papacy unchanged. . . . St. Peter's See was the ultimate pork barrel. Their three outstanding attitudes -- obliviousness to the growing disaffection of constituents, primacy of self-aggrandizement, illusion of invulnerable status -- are persistent aspects of folly. While in the case of the Renaissance popes, these were bred in and exaggerated by the surrounding culture, all are independent of time and recurrent in governorship."
Mr. President, if I were a professional con artist paid to give you the pros and cons on engaging in a war in Syria, here's what they would be:
As you know, former president Clinton, probably understood by many to also be speaking on behalf of his wife, has called you a wuss. Virtually nobody remembers or cares that you said "I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place." The majority of Americans, exercising that mindset, want you to get us into a new war in the first place if the alternative is having a wuss in the White House. I don't have a poll on that, but trust me.
This is not contradicted by public opposition to U.S. engagement in the war in Syria (as seen in the polls). If U.S. casualties are minimized and if the financial cost can come out of the base DOD budget -- at least at first -- then the political cost is negligible while the political gain is enormous. Unless you drag this out. The military budget is being increased right now, and in violation of the sequester, and nobody gives a rat's ass. They think it means jobs and non-wussiness. Unless you drag it out.
With regard to claims of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government, the best approach is to claim certainty, and to insist on the necessity of secrecy for the evidence. You've had a great deal of success with this approach on drone kills, NSA programs, etc. Let the conversation focus on a demand for the evidence. This allows you to talk about the scary dangers requiring secrecy, and to question whether your opponents have the appropriate level of patriotic barbarism.
Meanwhile, everyone has completely forgotten that both sides in Syria are using hideous weaponry and committing horrible atrocities, while we're only aiding one side rather than both. Nobody, in this framework, will be capable of thinking about the internationally condemned weapons we deploy, or wondering whether killing Syrians to prevent Syrians from being killed by the wrong kind of weapons even makes sense in our humanitarian (wink wink) scenario. Much less will the legality or morality of using war to prevent war be questioned or even be questionable. Keep the focus on the extensive evidence of chemical weapons use by Assad, one of the few individuals in the world -- we should say constantly -- evil enough to do such a thing. Stop mentioning Syria at all. Always refer to Assad.
Key also is swiftness. Get this battle started! Get progress and movement toward victory underway immediately. If possible get a very small number of Americans killed, and killed by Assad. Remember that the resistance to the 2003 invasion of Iraq shriveled away once the invasion happened, and that the same sort of resistance is not even here now for you. Your image is firmly established as a non-killer. Your telling the New York Times about your kill list terror-Tuesday meetings did nothing to change that. Your bin-Laden announcement did nothing to change that. The danger for you is not Texan sadist. The danger for you is Wuss.
The secondary danger is drawing the thing out. You've been able to escalate and prolong the war on Afghanistan for five years only because you've labeled it your predecessor's war. The House just voted that you only get another year-and-a-half there unless they vote again. I know, I know, it's cute how they think we give a shit what they vote for. But Syria is not Bush's war. If you drag it out you'll be in trouble. And here's why you might: The people of Syria are largely against the rebels and will be even more strongly against the United States or NATO. There won't even be a momentary flowers-and-chocolate welcome. Both sides are heavily armed already, and the more popular side is winning. You're proposing to fight on the less popular side in support of overthrowing a more popular government in exchange for a government that could end up opposed to Iran, but which will also be opposed to the United States, not to mention its opposition to restraint in mutilating and murdering blasphemers. There will be a temptation to try to fix and control what is guaranteed to be broken and uncontrollable. And that's if the whole thing doesn't expand internationally into a broader war involving several nations and costing you practically as much as Wussihood.
So, what you need is swiftness and overwhelming strength, devastation sufficient to shock and awe the Syrians as it were. And then get the hell out of there and leave those people to their catastrophe. That would be my advice. You don't need, and the weapons makers and contractors who will show you their gratitude don't need, a lengthy war in order to profit. You need an example of a successful war that can be held up as potentially needed again. Because, of course -- while you must absolutely not say this yet -- this is what will get you into Iran. And Iran is where the real men go, Mr. President.
You need to clamp down on Senator McCain and all other voices connecting Syria to Iran. The two need to be separate and happen sequentially. You need to control the media by continuing to beat the existing sticks of intimidation, while offering some carrots as well. Do they want to break the story of the chemical weapons evidence? Do they? Do they? Then they need to watch what they say. This can be a win-win for everyone involved, Mr. President. The footage of the bombing of Syrian air defense batteries in urban centers will be stunning. It should come before the Fourth of July.
Footage from the ground in those cities, however, should be banned under the threat of indictment for aiding the enemy. This is important. Syria is not Libya. A lot more people are going to die, and we do not want those images except in one key case. We want the death of Assad on every television. And we want it from a bomb, not a night raid. We want to justify the killing of tens of thousands through the killing of someone so demonized that his killing justifies all killing. At that point, you can forget anyone caring about the fate of Syria. Just look at Iraq. It's worse off right now than Syria is, and I can count on one hand the number of Americans who give a damn.
Courage, Mr. President! Don't be a wuss!
Erin Niemela's recent proposal that we amend the Constitution to ban war is provocative and persuasive. Count me in. But I have a related idea that I think should be tried first.
While banning war is just what the world ordered, it has about it something of the whole Bush-Cheney ordeal during which we spent years trying to persuade Congress to ban torture. By no means do I want to be counted among those opposed to banning torture. But it is relevant, I want to suggest, that torture had already been banned. Torture had been banned by treaty and been made a felony, under two different statutes, before George W. Bush was made president. In fact, the pre-existing ban on torture was stronger and more comprehensive than any of the loophole-ridden efforts to re-criminalize it. Had the debate over "banning torture" been entirely replaced with a stronger demand to prosecute torture, we might be better off today.
We are in that same situation with regard to war. War was banned 84 years ago, making talk of banning war problematic.
We were in that same situation, in fact, even before the U.N. Charter was drafted 68 years ago. By any reasonable interpretation of the U.N. Charter, most -- if not all -- U.S. wars are forbidden. The United Nations did not authorize the invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq, the overthrow of the Libyan government, or the drone wars in Pakistan or Yemen or Somalia. And by only the wildest stretch of the imagination are these wars defensive from the U.S. side. But the two loopholes created by the U.N. Charter (for defensive and U.N.-authorized wars) are severe weaknesses. There will always be those who claim that a current war is in compliance with the U.N. Charter or that a future war might be. So, when I say that war is illegal, I don't have the U.N. Charter in mind.
Nor am I thinking that every war inevitably violates the so-called laws of war, involving countless atrocities that don't stand up under a defense of "necessity" or "distinction" or "proportionality," although this is certainly true. Banning improper war, while useful as far as it goes, actually supports the barbaric notion that one can conduct a proper war. The situation in which a war would be a "just war" is as mythical as the much-imagined situation in which torture would be justified.
Nor do I mean that U.S. Constitutional war powers are violated or fraud is perpetrated in making the case for war, although these and other violations of law are frequent companions of U.S. wars.
I also do not want to dispute the advantages of banning war in the highest law, the Constitution. There is a common misconception that holds up lesser, statutory law as more serious than the Constitution or the treaties that it makes "supreme law of the land." This is a dangerous inversion. Edward Snowden is right to expose violations of the Fourth Amendment. Senator Dianne Feinstein is wrong to insist that those violations have been legalized by statutes. Amending the Constitution to ban war would (if the Constitution were complied with) prevent any lesser law from legalizing war. But a treaty would do that too. And we already have one.
THE 84-YEAR-OLD BAN ON WAR
It is little known and even less appreciated that the United States is party to a treaty that bans all war. This treaty, known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact, or the Peace Pact of Paris, or the Renunciation of War, is listed on the U.S. State Department's website (go here, open the document, scroll to page 454). The Pact reads:
"The High Contracting Parties solemly [sic] declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.
"The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means."
Pacific means only. No martial means. No war. No targeted murder. No surgical strikes.
The story of how this treaty, to which over 80 nations are party, came to be is inspiring. The peace movement of the 1920s is a model of dedication, patience, strategy, integrity, and struggle. Playing a leading role was the movement for "outlawry," for the outlawing of war, which had been legal until that point (just as people falsely imagine it to be today). Slavery had been outlawed. Blood feuds had been outlawed. Duelling had been outlawed. And outlawrists pointedly noted that not just "aggressive duelling" had been banned. Those who went before us didn't keep defensive duelling or humanitarian duelling around but set the whole barbaric practice behind them.
Eliminating war, the outlawrists believed, would not be easy. A first step would be to ban it, to stigmatize it, to render it unrespectable. A second step would be to establish accepted laws for international relations. A third would be to create courts with the power to settle international disputes. They took the first big step in 1928, with the treaty taking effect in 1929. We haven't followed through. In fact we've collectively buried what was probably the single biggest news story of 1928.
With the creation of the peace pact, wars were avoided and ended. But armament and hostility continued. The mentality that accepts war as an instrument of national policy would not vanish swiftly. World War II came. And, following World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt used the Kellogg-Briand Pact to prosecute the losers of the war, not just for "war crimes," but also for the brand new crime of war. Despite an endless plague of war on and among the poor nations of the world, the wealthy armed nations have yet to launch a third world war.
When not simply ignored or unknown, the Kellogg-Briand Pact is dismissed because World War II happened. But what other legal ban on undesired behavior have we ever tossed out following the very first violation and what appears to have been a quite effective prosecution? An argument can also be made that the U.N. Charter undoes the earlier pact simply by coming later in time. But this is by no means an easy argument, and it requires understanding the U.N. Charter as the re-legalization of war rather than the ban on war that most people imagine it to be.
In the two years since I published an account of the activism that created the Pact, I have found a great deal of interest in reviving awareness of it. People may not be as sick of war now as they were following World War I, or at least not as open to the possibility of abolition, but many are pretty far down that road. Groups and individuals have launched petitions. City councils are creating a peace holiday on August 27th, the day the treaty was signed in 1928 in a scene well described in the song Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream. A fan of the story has created an essay contest that's received thousands of entries. Drone protesters have educated judges about the Peace Pact when they've been hauled into court for making use of the First Amendment. A Congress member has put into the Congressional Record his recognition that the Kellogg-Briand Pact made war illegal. And I've been in touch with other nations not party to the treaty and not party to any wars, encouraging them to sign on to the Pact and then urge certain other parties to begin complying with it.
When someone wants to legalize torture or campaign bribery they point to court proceedings marginalia, overridden vetoes, speeches, and tangentially related ancient precedents. When we want to de-legalize war, why not point to the Kellogg-Briand Pact? It is a treaty to which the United States is party. It is the Supreme Law of the Land. It not only does what we want. It does more than most people dare to dream. I've found that some people are inspired by the Pact's existence and by the fact that our great-grandparents were able to create a public movement that brought it into existence.
This seems to me a good place to start.
David Swanson is the author of When the World Outlawed War.
The first city in the United States to pass a resolution against drones now has a drone display just across the pedestrian Downtown Mall from City Hall, thanks to Martha Rosler whose "Theater of Drones" is part of the Charlottesville Festival of the Photograph.
Click to enlarge:
Martha Rosler works in photography, video, performance, sculpture, and installation. Her work often addresses matters of the public sphere and landscapes of everyday life—actual and virtual—especially as they affect women. Rosler’s photographic series on places of passage and systems of transportation—airports, roads, subways, streets—have been widely exhibited. Rosler has for many years produced works on war and the “national security climate,” connecting everyday experiences at home with the conduct of war abroad. In 2004 and 2008, in opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, she reinstituted her now well-known series of photomontages House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, originally made as a response to the war in Vietnam in the late 1960s.
“Beginning a conversation through art provides symbolic closure but does not relieve us of the necessity to keep on informing, organizing, audience building, and agitating.” – Martha Rosler
Rosler has had numerous solo exhibitions at museums and galleries internationally. In spring 2012, her solo photo exhibition Cuba January 1981 opened at Mitchell-Innes and Nash in New York City. In November 2012, she presented her performance-installation Meta-Monumental Garage Sale at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the most recent of a series of Garage Sales she has held in and around art galleries since 1973.
- Location: The Paramount Theater
- Date: Saturday, June 15, 2013 | 4pm
- Title: Theater of Drones
- Date: June 10 - July 7
- Location: 605 East Main Street at the Freedom of Speech Wall
- Date: Saturday, June 15th | 6:30pm
- Location:The Paramount Theater
On July 1, 2007, I posted the following report on a then-new NSA whistleblower, a story later repeatedly "broken" by ABC News, Democracy Now!, James Bamford, and others. Thomas Drake, Edward Snowden, and NSA whistleblowers whose names we've learned are part of a rich and, I hope, growing tradition:
By David Swanson
A former member of U.S. military intelligence has decided to reveal what she knows about warrantless spying on Americans and about the fixing of intelligence in the leadup to the invasion of Iraq.
Adrienne Kinne describes an incident just prior to the invasion of Iraq in which a fax came into her office at Fort Gordon in Georgia that purported to provide information on the location of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The fax came from the Iraqi National Congress, a group opposed to Saddam Hussein and favoring an invasion. The fax contained types of information that required that it be translated and transmitted to President Bush within 15 minutes. But Kinne had been eavesdropping on two nongovernmental aid workers driving in Iraq who were panicked and trying to find safety before the bombs dropped. She focused on trying to protect them, and was reprimanded for the delay in translating the fax. She then challenged her officer in charge, Warrant Officer John Berry, on the credibility of the fax, and he told her that it was not her place or his to challenge such things. None of the other 20 or so people in the unit questioned anything, Kinne said.
Richard Rowley, director of the new film Dirty Wars, describes its making and the crimes it reveals. Over the course of fifteen years, Rowley, co-founder of Big Noise Films, has made multiple award-winning documentary features including Fourth World War and This Is What Democracy Looks Like. His shorts and news reports are also regularly featured on and commissioned by leading outlets including Al Jazeera, BBC, CBC, CNN International, Democracy Now!, and PBS. Rowley is a co-founder of the Independent Media Center. Rowley has been a Pulitzer Fellow, Rockefeller Fellow, a Jerome Foundation Fellow, and a Sundance Documentary Film Program Fellow. For more on Dirty Wars see http://DirtyWars.org
To sign a petition to free the Yemeni journalist imprisoned at President Obama's instruction, as discussed in this program, go here.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
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Already over 30,000 people have signed a thank-you note to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden at SupportEdwardSnowden.org -- a website set up by RootsAction.org.
The note reads: "We thank Edward Snowden for his principled and courageous actions as a whistleblower, informing the public about vast surveillance by the National Security Agency that undermines our civil liberties."
A few of the thousands of comments added read as follows:
"Your courage and integrity give hope to a hardened cynic. I will do what I can to raise awareness and campaign for change, and for your personal safety and liberty. Thank you."
"If only we had more people with your courage and convictions. You have helped restore my faith in humanity."
"What you've done will inspire kindred spirits around the world to take moral action despite the risks."
"Your character and courage are inspirational. I only hope that if put in the same position I would do the right thing, as you have. Thank you for your lesson in being a human."
"'In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.' --George Orwell. Thank you."
"Thank you for your courageous actions in the defence of democracy, liberty and justice. You have demonstrated the highest form of loyalty and for that you have my respect and admiration. Good luck."
"They are trying to make a criminal out of the person who exposed the crime!"
"Just think how this world would be if everyone did the right thing! Thank you Edward."
"Your courage is so rare -- thank you for this brave action to defend the 4th amendment. Wishing you well."
"Thanks for calling attention to the Police State that we have become."
"Thank you, Edward. We can no longer say, as did people in Nazi Germany, that they didn't know what was going on."
"Thank you for stepping up for freedom. I am proud to join with the people of the world in applauding your conscience."
"Thank you for your honesty, incredible sacrifice, and clarity. We will not allow the government or the media call this anything less than a courageous move and wake up call to resuscitate Democracy."
"I can't thank you enough for this act of courage and personal sacrifice. You give me hope that the forces of oppression can eventually be overcome."
"Your bravery and your actions are more than commendable. I stand with you. Keep your spirit up in the challenges ahead. Thank you for standing up for Democracy and your fellow citizens. Well done. You are a true hero."
"Bravery for principle is very contagious, thank you!"
"Thank You Edward. 'The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.' - -Albert Einstein"
"You and Bradley Manning are my heroes. I am proud of you."
"Thank you for stepping forward and putting your life at risk to save our precious liberties. Thank you for believing in the bill of rights. Thank you for doing what is right even when our government prohibits it. Thank you for your efforts to stop the decline into the novel '1984'."
"Finally someone with guts."
"Bravo, Edward! You are an inspiration to all freedom-loving people!"
"Thank you for your courageous actions. I hope this will be contagious and result in many more stepping out to join you in exposing the terrible state of freedom here."
"Thank you for letting me know just how far towards fascism my supposedly democratic country has slid, all in the name of 'keeping me safe'. I salute your courage."
"Thank you Edward. We're with you all the way."
The note will be delivered to Snowden with all signatures and comments that anyone adds at SupportEdwardSnowden.org
Many loyal Republicans opposed impeaching George W. Bush. So did most liberal and progressive activist groups, labor unions, peace organizations, churches, media outlets, journalists, pundits, organizers, and bloggers, not to mention most Democratic members of Congress, most Democrats dreaming of someday being in Congress, and -- toward the end of the Bush presidency -- most supporters of candidate Barack Obama or candidate Hillary Clinton.
Remarkably in the face of this opposition, a large percentage and often a majority of Americans told pollsters that Bush should be impeached. It's not clear, however, that everyone understood why impeachment was needed. Some might have supported a successful impeachment of Bush and then turned around and tolerated identical crimes and abuses by a Democrat, assuming a Democrat managed to engage in them. But this is the point: whoever followed Bush's impeachment would have been far less likely to repeat and expand on his tyrannical policies. And the reason many of us wanted Bush impeached -- as we said at the time -- was to prevent that repetition and expansion, which we said was virtually inevitable if impeachment was not pursued.
Can You Hear Me Now?
"You just hate Republicans" was the most common argument against impeachment, but there were others. "It's more important to elect someone different." "Why do you want President Cheney?" "Why do you want President Pelosi?" "Why distract from good work?" "Why put the country through trauma?" "Why not focus on ending war?" "Why not do investigations?" "Why divide the Democrats?" "Why start a process that can't succeed?" "Why destroy the Democratic Party the way impeaching Clinton destroyed the Republican Party?" We answered these questions as patiently as possible at great length and enormous repetition for years and years.
People pursued alternatives to impeachment, from spreading the word about how bad the crimes and abuses were, to pushing legislation to redundantly re-criminalize Bush's criminal behavior, to promoting supposedly lesser-evil candidates, to promoting truly good candidates, to constructing ways to drop out of society and wash one's hands of it. The trouble was that when you let a president spy without warrant, imprison without charge, torture, kill, lie, make war, operate in secret, rewrite laws, and persecute whistleblowers, you can predict -- as we predicted for years -- that the next president will adopt and build on the same policies. Nothing short of punishing the offender will deter the successor.
In fact, the new president, working with Congress and all of his other facilitators, has turned abuses into policies. The scandal and secretiveness have been replaced with executive orders and legislation. Crimes are now policy choices. Checking off lists of murder victims is official open policy. Secret laws are normal. Secretly rewritten laws are established practice. Spying in violation of the Fourth Amendment is openly defended and "legalized," with sporadic bursts of public outrage and establishment excusing, following new detailed revelations. Whistleblowing is being transformed into treason.
This moment offers certain opportunities. It is well-placed in between the election seasons that so debilitate the nation. Also, bravery and integrity seem to be spreading like a contagion. Intimidation is backfiring. Resistance is growing, and so is whistleblowing. Bradley Manning and Thomas Drake and Matthew Hoh and Coleen Rowley and John Kiriakou and Jesselyn Radack and many others are inspiring new whistleblowers like Edward Snowden (support him here!), and like the member of the Joint Special Operations Command who spoke out for the first time at our forum on the opening of the film Dirty Wars in D.C. on Saturday.
However, what failure to impeach Bush has done to legitimize his crimes is nothing compared to what it has done to delegitimize impeachment. If a tyrannical president who liberals hated and who talked funny and who didn't even pretend to be killing for some higher benevolent purpose can't be impeached, then who can? Surely not an intelligent, articulate African American who pretends to agree with us and gives speeches denouncing his own policies?
But this is the same problem as before. Making speeches against Bush's abuses was not enough. Clapping for speeches against Obama's abuses -- even speeches by Obama -- is not enough. There is a reason why people abuse power. Power corrupts them. And absolute power corrupts them absolutely. Telling a handful of Congress members who are forbidden to speak about it, and most of whom don't really give a damn, what sort of outrages you are up to is not a system of checks and balances or the rule of law.
Refusal to impeach pulls the foundation out from under representative government. Congress won't impeach for violation of subpoenas, so it avoids issuing subpoenas, and it therefore can't compel production of witnesses or documents, so it doesn't take a position on an important matter, so the unofficial U.S. state media takes no position either, and people follow the media.
Would impeaching Obama invite rightwing delusional charges? Would it send confusing signals rather than clear ones, given Bush's free pass? Not if Obama and Bush were impeached together. They've both committed many of the same high crimes. Impeachment can take place after leaving office. The time has come to restore seriousness to the serious tool the Constitution provides for checking presidential power. The time has come to impeach Bush and Obama.
Lots of positive honks and waves. One angry guy in an SUV. Not bad.
Saturday June 8 is packed in Washington, D.C. Here's where I'll be and I hope to see you! --David Swanson
PROTEST CIA DRONE KILLS
I'll be speaking to a group of protesters of drone murder in front of CIA headquarters. We'll be there from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. You can park next door at Langley Fork Park at 6414 Georgetown Pike McLean, VA 22101. Join us!
REMEMBER THE USS LIBERTY
USS Liberty survivors and their families and friends will gather at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery at noon to remember the 34 who were killed on June 8, 1967. Memorial services will commence at 1:15 p.m. Sign up here to join us!
VIEW SCREENING OF DIRTY WARS
Following the 2:30 screening of Jeremy Scahill's film "Dirty Wars" at E Street Cinema
Yemeni-American activist Rooj Alwazir and I will lead a discussion of the film and in particular of an imprisoned journalist whose story is told. The theater is at 555 11th St NW, Washington, DC. You'll want to buy tickets now:
Check out other screenings with other speakers
JOIN JEREMY SCAHILL TO DISCUSS DIRTY WARS
Jeremy Scahill, author of Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield and star of the film by the same name.
Rooj Alwazir, Yemeni-American activist and co-founder of SupportYemen media collective.
And a former operative with the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (name to be revealed at the event).
Join us at 5-7 p.m. at Busboys and Poets restaurant at 5th and K Streets NW, Washington, DC
SPONSORS: Amnesty International, Code Pink, Peace Action, Iraq Veterans Against the War, RootsAction, Veterans for Peace.
Busboys is a restaurant, and you can order dinner during the event.
Books will be sold and signed.
Sign up on Facebook for Busboys event:
and for opening weekend in general:
Learn more: http://dirtywars.org/screenings/details/1785/5791
Of course, old people should know these things too, and some small percentage does know them, but energy seems better invested in trying to teach them to young people who have less to unlearn in the process.
1. Obedience is extremely dangerous.
This seems like it must be either wrong or misleadingly incomplete. And that would be true if we were talking about children. If a two-year-old is about to run in front of a car, please do yell "stop!" and hope for as much obedience as possible.
But I'm talking to young people, not children.
When you grow up, your obedience should always be conditional. If a master chef appears to be instructing you to prepare a revoltingly bad dinner but wants you to obey his or her instructions on faith, you might very well choose to do so, considering the risk to be tolerable. If, however, the chef tells you to chop off your little finger, and you do it, that will be a sure sign that you've got an obedience problem.
This is not a trivial or comical danger. The majority of volunteers in experiments are willing to inflict severe pain or death on other human beings when a scientist tells them to do so for the good of science. Watch this video of such an experiment.
Had the actor in this experiment who pretended to be a scientist told the participants to cut off their little fingers, I bet they wouldn't have done it. But they were willing to do far worse to someone else. The good old Golden Rule is a counter to this deficiency, but so is resistance to blind obedience. Most suffering in the world is not created by independent individuals, but by large numbers of people obeying when they should be resisting.
We should think about how not to put ourselves in positions in which we are expected to blindly obey. It is possible to find jobs that don't include that unhealthy expectation. And we should prepare ourselves to refuse immoral instructions whenever we receive them. As we'll see below, we all do receive them all the time.
2. People in power manipulate us into acceptance
Several years ago a lot of people were protesting the U.S. war in Iraq. The president and most of Congress and most of the big media outlets were busy giving out the impression that such protests were ignored or even counter-productive. But former president George W. Bush's memoirs recall the Republican Senate Majority Leader secretly telling him the pressure was becoming too great and they'd need to end the war. Bush signed an agreement with the government of Iraq to leave in three years.
In 1961 the USSR was withdrawing from a moratorium on nuclear testing. A protest at the White House urged President Kennedy not to follow suit. Posters read "Kennedy, Don't Mimic the Russians!" One protester recalled their action for decades as having been pointless and futile, until he found an oral history interview with Adrian Fisher, deputy director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. Fisher said that Kennedy had delayed resuming testing because of the protest.
A delay in a policy we oppose is not as good as a permanent ban, but if those protesters had known they were being listened to they would have come back day after day and brought their friends and possibly achieved that permanent ban. That they imagined they weren't being listened to appears ridiculous if you read enough history. People are always listened to, but those in power go to great lengths to give the impression of not paying any serious attention.
Lawrence Wittner interviewed Robert "Bud" McFarlane, President Ronald Reagan's former national security advisor, asking him whether the White House had paid much attention to protests demanding a "freeze" in nuclear weapons building. "Other administration officials had claimed that they had barely noticed the nuclear freeze movement," Wittner said. "But when I asked McFarlane about it, he lit up and began outlining a massive administration campaign to counter and discredit the freeze -- one that he had directed . . . . A month later, I interviewed Edwin Meese, a top White House staffer and U.S. attorney general during the Reagan administration. When I asked him about the administration's response to the freeze campaign, he followed the usual line by saying that there was little official notice taken of it. In response, I recounted what McFarlane had revealed. A sheepish grin now spread across this former government official's face, and I knew that I had caught him. 'If Bud says that,' he remarked tactfully, 'it must be true.'"
It's funny: even when protesting government lies or government secrecy, people tend to fall for the lie that the government is ignoring you. Yet, in 2011, when a relatively tiny movement began to take to the streets under the banner of "Occupy," the government rolled out a massive effort of infiltration, eavesdropping, harassment, brutality, and propaganda -- while, of course, claiming to have noticed nothing and done nothing about something so unworthy of notice.
Those in power don't restrict themselves to directing you toward inaction. They also work on moving you toward doing lots of things that seem effective but aren't. The way to keep the nation safe, they say, is to go shopping! Or lobby for this watered-down pathetic piece of legislation! Or devote all your activist energy to election campaigning, and then go home and collapse in exhaustion as soon as the election is over -- exactly when you should be gearing up to demand actions out of whoever won the election. These activities that have little impact are depicted as serious and effective, while activities that historically have had tremendous real impact (organizing, educating, demonstrating, protesting, lobbying, heckling, shaming, nonviolently resisting, producing art and entertainment, creating alternative structures) are depicted as disreputable and ineffective and lacking in seriousness.
Of course, being active is much more fun than not. Of course, the influence you have is always possible even if undetected (you might inspire a child who goes on to do great things years later, or slightly win over an opponent who takes a few more years to see the light). Of course, we have a moral duty to do everything we can regardless of the ease of success. But I'm convinced we'd see a lot more activism if people knew how much they are listened to. So tell them! And let's remember to keep telling ourselves.
3. Doing nothing is obeying a deadly order
Imagine writing a story about a village that faces possible destruction, and for the most part the people don't do anything to prevent it.
That's not how stories are written.
That's the world we live in and fail to recognize.
We are being instructed to sit at a desk and zap the earth to death, and we're compliantly zapping away. Only the zapping doesn't look like zapping, it looks like living. We work and eat and sleep and play and garden and buy junk at the store and watch movies and go to baseball games and read books and make love, and we don't imagine we can possibly be destroying a planet. What are we, the Death Star?
But a sin of omission is morally and effectively equivalent to a sin of commission. We need to be saving the earth and we're not doing so. We're allowing global warming and other major environmental destruction to roll ahead. We're allowing militarization and warmaking to advance. We're watching the concentration of wealth. We see the division of society into castes. We know we're building prisons and drones and highways and pipelines while closing schools and condemning our grandparents to poverty. We are aware that we're funding multi-billionaires with our hard work while fueling mass suffering, bitterness, rage, frustration, and violence.
We see these worsening cycles and we sit still.
Don't sit still.
Sitting still is mass-murder.
Don't obey anyone who tells you to sit still.
Don't search for a leader.
Don't sell your conscience to a group or a slogan or a political party.
Don't listen to me unless something I say makes sense.
If we think at all about our government's military depopulating territory that it desires, we usually think of the long-ago replacement of native Americans with new settlements during the continental expansion of the United States westward.
Here in Virginia some of us are vaguely aware that back during the Great Depression poor people were evicted from their homes and their land where national parks were desired. But we distract and comfort ourselves with the notion that such matters are deep in the past.
Occasionally we notice that environmental disasters are displacing people, often poor people or marginalized people, from their homes. But these incidents seem like collateral damage rather than intentional ethnic cleansing.
If we're aware of the 1,000 or so U.S. military bases standing today in some 175 foreign countries, we must realize that the land they occupy could serve some other purpose in the lives of those countries' peoples. But surely those countries' peoples are still there, still living -- if perhaps slightly inconvenienced -- in their countries.
Yet the fact is that the U.S. military has displaced and continues to displace for the construction of its bases the entire populations of villages and islands, in blatant violation of international law, basic human decency, and principles we like to tell each other we stand for. The United States also continues to deny displaced populations the right to return to their homelands.
At issue here are not the bombings or burnings of entire villages, which of course the United States engages in during its wars and its non-wars. Nor are we dealing here with the millions of refugees created by wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan or by drone wars like the one in Pakistan. Rather, the following are cases of the intentional displacement of particular populations moved out of the way of base construction and left alive to struggle as refugees in exile.
In the Philippines, the United States built bases on land belonging to the indigenous Aetas people, who "ended up combing military trash to survive."
During World War II the U.S. Navy seized the small Hawaiian island of Koho'alawe for a weapons testing range and ordered its inhabitants to leave. The island has been devastated.
In 1942, the Navy displaced Aleutian Islanders.
President Harry Truman made up his mind that the 170 native inhabitants of Bikini Atoll had no right to their island. He had them evicted in February and March of 1946, and dumped as refugees on other islands without means of support or a social structure in place. In the coming years, the United States would remove 147 people from Enewetak Atoll and all the people on Lib Island. U.S. atomic and hydrogen bomb testing rendered various depopulated and still-populated islands uninhabitable, leading to further displacements. Up through the 1960s, the U.S. military displaced hundreds of people from Kwajalein Atoll. A super-densely populated ghetto was created on Ebeye.
On Vieques, off Puerto Rico, the Navy displaced thousands of inhabitants between 1941 and 1947, announced plans to evict the remaining 8,000 in 1961, but was forced to back off and -- in 2003 -- to stop bombing the island.
On nearby Culebra, the Navy displaced thousands between 1948 and 1950 and attempted to remove those remaining up through the 1970s.
The Navy is right now looking at the island of Pagan as a possible replacement for Vieques, the population already having been removed by a volcanic eruption. Of course, any possibility of return would be greatly diminished.
Beginning during World War II and continuing through the 1950s, the U.S. military displaced a quarter million Okinawans, or half the population, from their land, forcing people into refugee camps and shipping thousands of them off to Bolivia -- where land and money were promised but not delivered.
In 1953, the United States made a deal with Denmark to remove 150 Inughuit people from Thule, Greenland, giving them four days to get out or face bulldozers. They are being denied the right to return.
The story of Diego Garcia is superbly told in David Vine's book, Island of Shame. Between 1968 and 1973, the United States and Great Britain exiled all 1,500 to 2,000 inhabitants from this island in the Indian Ocean. On orders from, and with funding from, the United States, the British forced the people onto overcrowded ships and dumped them on docks in Mauritius and the Seychelles -- foreign and distant and unwelcoming lands for this indigenous population that had been part of Diego Garcia for centuries. U.S. documents described this as "sweeping" and "sanitizing" the island.
Those responsible for the displacement of the people of Diego Garcia knew that what they were doing was widely considered barbaric and illegal. They devised ways of creating "logical cover" for the process. They persuaded the ever-compliant Washington Post to bury the story. The Queen of England and her Privy Council bypassed Parliament. The Pentagon lied to Congress and hid its payments to the British from Congress. The planners even lied to themselves. Having originally envisioned a communications station, they concluded that advances in technology had rendered that unhelpful. So, Navy schemers decided that a fueling station for ships might offer a "suitable justification" for building a base that was actually a purposeless end in itself. But the Pentagon ended up telling a reluctant Congress that the base would be a communications station, because that was something Congress would approve.
Those plotting the eviction of the island's people created the fiction that the inhabitants were migrant workers not actually native to Diego Garcia. Sir Paul Gore-Booth, Permanent Under Secretary in the Foreign Office of the U.K., dismissed the island's people as "some few Tarzans or Men Fridays whose origins are obscure." This stood in contrast to the respect and protection given to some other islands not chosen for bases because of the rare plants, birds, and animals resident there.
On January 24, 1971, remaining inhabitants of Diego Garcia were told they'd need to leave or be shot. They were allowed to take a small box of possessions, but had to leave their homes, their gardens, their animals, their land, and their society. Their dogs were rounded up and killed in a gas chamber as they watched, waiting to themselves be loaded on ships for departure. Arriving in Mauritius, they were housed in a prison. Their fate has not much improved in the decades since. David Vine describes them as very forgiving, wishing nothing but to be permitted to return.
Diego Garcia is purely a military base and in some ways more of a lawless zone than Guantanamo. The United States has kept and may be keeping prisoners there, on the island or on ships in the harbor. The Red Cross and journalists do not visit. The United States has de facto control of Diego Garcia, while the U.K. has technical ownership. The Pentagon is not interested in allowing the island's people to return.
The South Korean government, at the behest of the U.S. Navy, is in the process of devastating a village, its coast, and 130 acres of farmland on Jeju Island with a massive military base. This story is best told in Regis Tremblay's new film The Ghosts of Jeju. This is not a tragedy from the past to be remedied but a tragedy of this moment to be halted in its tracks. You can help. Tremblay's film examines the history of decades of abuse of the people of Jeju, and the resistance movement that is currently inspiring other anti-base efforts around the globe. The film begins somber and ends joyful. I highly recommend creating an event around a screening of it.
We should not neglect to note here that the United States funds and arms and protects the Israeli government's ongoing displacement of Palestinians and denial of the right to return.
"The past is never dead. It's not even past," wrote William Faulkner.
Jason Leopold writes for Al Jazeera. See his articles here. Leopold, just back from Guantanamo, says that since President Obama's speech, no one has been freed, no one has quit hunger striking, and the number of people being force-fed has increased. Abusive policies are being adopted, in part in apparent response to the hunger strike. The top commander at the prison is suspected of perjury, in addition to cruel and inhuman treatment. The U.S. military's own lawyers say he is unfit for command. The prison has kept hidden listening devices in rooms where prisoners meet with attorneys, and has accessed defense lawyers' files and emails. There remains one way out for prisoners of this camp: death.
Photo of force-feeding chair by Jason Leopold.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
Dirty Wars, the new film featuring Jeremy Scahill, is playing every day at 12 noon, 2:30pm, 5:00pm, 7:30pm, and 9:55pm at Landmark's E Street Cinema, 555 11th St NW, Washington, DC
You can buy tickets now:
Following the 12:00, 2:30, and 5:00 showings on June 7th, Amnesty International's Jiva Manske will lead a discussion of the film and of activism that can address some of what the film covers.
Following the 7:30 showing on June 7th, Code Pink will lead a discussion of issues surrounding the film. Following the 2:30 screening on June 8th, RootsAction's David Swanson and Yemeni-American activist Rooj Alwazir will lead a discussion of the film and in particular of an imprisoned journalist whose story is told. Following the 5:00 and 7:30 screenings on June 8th, Jeremy Scahill will take questions. Following the 2:30 and 5:00 showings on June 9th, Afghan War whistleblower Matthew Hoh will lead a discussion of the film and whistleblowing. For a more in-depth discussion, the following free and public event has been planned: WHEN: 5-7 p.m., Saturday, June 8, 2013 Sign up on Facebook for Busboys event:
WHAT: Discussion of Jeremy Scahill's new film and book Dirty Wars
WHERE: Busboys and Poets restaurant at 5th and K Streets NW, Washington, DC
SPONSORS: Amnesty International, Code Pink, Peace Action, Iraq Veterans Against the War, RootsAction, Veterans for Peace.
Busboys is a restaurant, and you can order dinner during the event.
Books will be sold and signed.
Following the 7:30 showing on June 7th, Code Pink will lead a discussion of issues surrounding the film.
Following the 2:30 screening on June 8th, RootsAction's David Swanson and Yemeni-American activist Rooj Alwazir will lead a discussion of the film and in particular of an imprisoned journalist whose story is told.
Following the 5:00 and 7:30 screenings on June 8th, Jeremy Scahill will take questions.
Following the 2:30 and 5:00 showings on June 9th, Afghan War whistleblower Matthew Hoh will lead a discussion of the film and whistleblowing.
For a more in-depth discussion, the following free and public event has been planned:
WHEN: 5-7 p.m., Saturday, June 8, 2013 Sign up on Facebook for Busboys event:
Sign up on Facebook for Busboys event:
By Sherwood Ross
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. --- Overall, President Obama has been “a force for destruction” who has “advanced inequality, wealth concentration, deportations, imprisonments, and the de-funding of basic services in order to fund banks, billionaires, and bombers,” distinguished peace activist David Swanson says.
In an exclusive interview with this reporter, Swanson, a former staff aide to Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s presidential campaigns, said Obama has done nothing to better the lot of the nation’s poor, including Americans in the ghettos, apart from reducing “the disparity in crack-powder cocaine sentencing.”
Noting that Obama has attempted to identify himself with the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Swanson was asked if he saw any resemblance. His reply was “Two eyes and two ears and two feet and in Obama’s case two mouths. He got a Nobel Peace Prize before he did anything for peace,” Swanson said. “So did King, and King followed through and retroactively earned it. Perhaps that led to the ludicrous bestowing of the prize on Obama, who proceeded to give a pro-war acceptance speech in which he insultingly and arrogantly denounced King’s approach to world change.”
Asked if either Obama or his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton might carry out their threat to make a nuclear attack on Iran, Swanson said, “I think they are willing to and would find joy in it. Watch the video of Clinton laughing over the killing of (Libya’s ruler Muammar) Gaddafi. Watch the video of her talking about ‘obliterating’ Iran. She takes obvious pleasure in such talk, as does Obama. I don’t think it’s at the top of their to-do list, but as long as they allow Israel and Congress to roll ahead, as long as they support the propaganda against Iran, as long as they pursue sanctions as an ‘alternative’ to war that usually brings war closer, the danger will grow.”
Swanson was asked if the U.S. could defeat powerful enemies Germany and Japan in three and one half year in World War II how it has been in Afghanistan for well over a decade with no victory in sight, and whether this was not a deliberate plan to continue a high level of military funding.
“Motivations clearly include irrational machoistic power, financial profit, election campaigning, domination of territories and resources, and the inertia of the war machine,” Swanson said. “I don’t think there’s just one reason, but I think all the reasons are bad ones.”
He went on to say, “I agree that many want to keep the wars going, including those so deluded as to imagine that wars produce jobs. Connecticut’s new commission to plan economic conversion is the most encouraging step I’ve seen in a long time. Forty-nine states need to sit up and take notice.”
Asked why there is so little popular opposition to President Obama’s warlike policies compared to the public outcry during the Viet Nam war, Swanson replied: “Less of it (the opposition) is shown in corporate media, resulting in its actual diminishment. The propaganda---including the lie that people are impotent to effect change -- has become much slicker. People are directed into entertainment, ignorance, and ineffective types of activism, above all electoral campaigning.”
“Our schools are worse, our news media is worse, our political system is more corrupted. Propagandists and recruiters are more skilled. The draft is a poverty draft, presented as a favor to its direct victims rather than an assault on them. And knowledge of the crimes to be protested barely exists. A majority of Americans believes Iraq benefitted from a war that destroyed Iraq. People won’t protest that which they don’t know about.”
Asked how deeply totalitarianism is ingrained in American life, Swanson said that “Americans are among the most obedient and subservient people around. We imagine just the reverse and certainly our tendency toward obedience competes with out tendency toward independence and rebellion. But the majority of politically engaged Americans radically alter their demands depending on which of two very similar political parties is in the White House, accept imperial powers for presidents without thought, ingest corporate propaganda without resistance, and believe that even popular activism is dependent on the divine appearance of an all-powerful leader.”
Swenson went on to say, “A majority of Americans oppose drone murders of Americans but support drone murders of non-Americans. A majority of Americans want different rules for their country and other, lesser countries, including accepting the launching of wars on other nations, whether for genocidal or humanitarian reasons.”
Asked what it will take to get the pacifist message through to the multitudes, Swanson replied, “It may take some combination of independent media and infiltration of corporate media. The latter will only effectively follow the former. So our priorities are backwards right now. We need a much greater emphasis on building independent journalism. And we need a movement to educate people to rely on it. If potential activists won’t take anything seriously that they don’t see on corporate media, it does us little good to get it to them by other means.”
Swanson hosts “Talk Nation Radio” and is the author of numerous anti-war books that have drawn wide attention and praise. These include “The Military Industrial Complex at 50” and “War Is A lie.”
There's no end to the pro-war movies we're subjected to: countless celebrations of bombs, guns, and torture. They come in the form of cartoons, science-fiction, historical fiction, dramas, and reenactments pre-censored by the CIA. Movies show us the excitement without the suffering. War in our theaters resembles almost anything else more than it resembles war.
Journalists appear in our movies too, usually as comic figures, talking-head air-heads, numskulls, and sycophants. In this case, the depiction is much more accurate, at least of much of what passes for journalism.
But, starting in June, a remarkable anti-war / pro-journalism film will be showing -- even more remarkably -- in big mainstream movie theaters. Dirty Wars (I've read the book and seen the movie and highly recommend both) may be one of the best educational outreach opportunities the peace movement has had in a long time. The film, starring Jeremy Scahill, is about secretive aspects of U.S. wars: imprisonment, torture, night raids, drone kills.
Dirty Wars won the Cinematography Award for U.S. Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival 2013 and, recently, the Grand Jury Prize at the Boston Independent Film Festival. Variety calls it "jaw-dropping ... [with] the power to pry open government lockboxes." The Sundance jury said it is "one of the most stunning looking documentaries [we've] ever seen." I agree.
Typically, information that does not support our government's war agenda appears only on the printed page, or perhaps in a power-point presented to the usual heroic crowd of aging white activists gathered outside the range of corporate radar. But stroll through an airport and you'll see hardcopies of Dirty Wars displayed at the front of the bookstores. Check out the movie listings in June and July, and you're likely to see Dirty Wars listed right alongside the latest super-hero, murderfest, sequel of a sequel of some predictable Hollywood hackery.
I wrote a review of the book some time back, after which I picked up a job helping to promote the film. But I'm promoting the film because it's a great film, which is different from calling it a great film because I'm paid to promote it. And my interest remains less in selling the film tickets than in recruiting those who see the film into an active movement to change the reality on which the film reports.
This is not Zero Dark Thirty. You can't walk into Dirty Wars supporting drone strikes, night raids, and cluster bombs and walk out with your beliefs reinforced. Most viewers of Dirty Wars will leave the theater believing that U.S. wars make the United States less safe. In that moment, when people who are usually otherwise engaged have come to realize that the Department of So-Called Defense endangers us (on top of impoverishing us) is when we should sign those people up to take part in activities the following week and month and year.
The film opens by contrasting embedded war journalism -- the regurgitation of spoon-fed propaganda -- with what the viewer is about to see. And what we see is investigative journalism. The film begins by providing us with an understanding of night raids, including from the point of view of family members who have survived them. We see the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tell Scahill that night raids that kills civilians should not be investigated. And then we see Scahill investigate them, his search leading him to secretive branches of the U.S. military involved in a variety of dirty tactics in various countries.
The film does have a failing. It doesn't tell people anything they can do about the horrors they're exposed to. But, of course, activism is possible and far more effective than any journalism -- good or bad -- will tell you.
One of the stories told in the film and the book of Dirty Wars is the story of the destruction of al Majala. On December 17, 2009, U.S. Tomahawk missiles and incendiary cluster bombs rained down on the tiny Yemeni village of al Majala, killing 21 children, 14 women, and 6 men, and burning all the homes and their contents. The government of Yemen falsely claimed responsibility. Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye disproved that claim.
Shaye reported on the carnage, including photographing missile parts labeled "Made in the United States." He reported on subsequent U.S. strikes in Yemen, working with the Washington Post, ABC News, Al Jazeera, and other outlets.
Shaye is in prison in Yemen for the crime of journalism, at the insistence of President Obama. A coalition has launched a petition today urging Obama and Yemen to set Shaye free. Fans of Dirty Wars who want to begin to do something to end the crimes committed in their names can be sent to RootsAction.org.
While the United States was searching for its citizen Anwar Awlaki to kill him, Shaye repeatedly tracked him down and interviewed him. These were tough and serious interviews, with Shaye asking Awlaki how he could possibly support acts of violence. Awlaki's image was not helped. But the U.S. government began warning media outlets not to work with Shaye, falsely accusing him of supporting al Qaeda. The Yemeni government kidnapped Shaye, threatened and released him, then snatched him again and gave him a one-sided "trial," universally denounced as a sham by human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
On February 2, 2011, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, under public pressure, had drawn up, printed out, and was prepared to sign a pardon of Shaye. But Saleh received a phone call from President Barack Obama, who opposed release of the journalist. Saleh ripped up the pardon.
The White House is feeling a little pressure over recent revelations of government spying on and seeking the prosecution of U.S. journalists. It took the targeting of a U.S. journalist for prosecution to start people like Chuck Todd and Dana Milbank chattering about Obama treating journalism as a crime. But have you heard U.S. media outlets raising concerns over the imprisonment of a Yemeni journalist at the instruction of the U.S. president?
There is much else that we are not regularly told to be found in Dirty Wars. Organizations that would like to help promote this film and organize around it in U.S. cities should contact me. With any luck, together we'll change the conversation to one aware of and unaccepting of acts of murder anywhere on earth.
Authorizing the City of Evanston to Establish a Moratorium on the Use of Unregulated Drone Technology
WHEREAS, the implementation of drone (unmanned aerial system) technology in the United States implicates the privacy and constitutional rights of United States residents, including the residents of Evanston, Illinois; and
WHEREAS, the federal government and the State of Illinois have yet to enact reasonable regulation on the use of drones within the United States; and
WHEREAS, police departments in the United States have begun to deploy drone technology absent any regulation on the appropriate use of such technology, although the Evanston Police Department has not.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF EVANSTON, COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, THAT:
SECTION 1: That the foregoing recitals are hereby found as fact and incorporated herein by reference.
SECTION 2: The City of Evanston establishes a moratorium on the use of drones in the City of Evanston in the absence of reasonable state and federal regulation of the use of drone technology which will expire without further action by the City Council two years from the date of this resolution; with the following exemptions:
1) for Hobby and Model Aircraft, defined as an unmanned aircraft that is— a) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere;
b) flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and
c) flown for hobby or recreational purposes; and
2) the Research and Development of "Experimental Aircraft" for non-Department of Defense contracts.
SECTION 3: The City of Evanston establishes a moratorium on the use of drones in the City of Evanston in the absence of reasonable state and federal regulation of the use of drone technology; and
SECTION 4: The City of Evanston supports efforts in the Illinois General Assembly, the Illinois Senate, and the United States Congress to enact legislation (1) prohibiting information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into a federal or state court, and (2) precluding the domestic use of drones equipped with anti-personnel devices (meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed- energy), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being.
SECTION 5: The City of Evanston jointly resolves, with the Associated Student Government (“ASG”) of Northwestern University, as evidenced by the attached resolution of the ASG (Exhibit 1), to provide that the moratorium on drone use extends to all areas of Northwestern University.
SECTION 6: Copies of this Resolution will be sent to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Illinois State Senators Daniel Biss and Heather Steans, and Illinois State Representatives Robyn Gabel, Kelly Cassidy and Laura Fine.
SECTION 7: This resolution 27-R-13 shall be in full force and effect from and after the date of its passage and approval in the manner provided by law.
David Vine is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at American University, author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia, and of the new article "Where Has All the Money Gone?" He discusses an overseas U.S. military base presence that maintains a million troops in other countries on a permanent basis at a cost of $170 billion per year, and which has funnelled $385 billion to private contractors (most of it to a handful of cronies) since 2001. Learn more at http://davidvine.net
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
By Ann Wright
I am honored to be attending the Nobel Women’s Initiative, “Moving Beyond Militarism and War,” May 28-30, 2013 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Six women Nobel Peace Laureates and 80 women from around the world are gathering to discuss the weighty and seeming insolvable problem of getting past the militarism of our world and the financial need of politicians and corporations to wage war. Nobel Peace Laureates Mairead Maguire, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Leyamh Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman will attend the conference, as well as women activists from war conflict regions.