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Cville v. Drones

Moved from the 19th to the 4th!

Charlottesville Va City Council has chosen to place on its agenda for the February 19th 4th meeting a resolution opposing, restricting, or banning drones. (This date has been confirmed; it is the 19th.)

Here's a draft resolution.

Here's why Drones Are a Local Issue.

Sign up if you plan to be there.

The Virginia General Assembly has already been considering legislation on drones. It's important for Virginia localities to make their voices heard.

The federal government has authorized the flight of 30,000 drones in U.S. skies. Will proper restrictions be in place in time?

In the absence of laws, local police departments around the country are establishing their own practices. If those localities that care about civil liberties stay silent, those that don't will create de facto law for all of us.

Americans are spied on without warrant or probable cause using every existing technology. Without serious restrictions and penalties in place, drones will be no exception.

Police departments that want to use drones to target protesters with pepper spray and rubber bullets will make the argument that this approach protects the police. But a better way to protect the police would be to instruct them to assist the public in exercising first amendment rights, rather than treating the public as an enemy in a low-intensity war.

If you live in Charlottesville please let the city council hear your support and advice:
council@charlottesville.org.

If you live in or near Charlottesville, please be at the meeting on February 19th 4th, 7 pm in City Hall, get there very early if you want to speak.

Learn more about drones:
http://warisacrime.org/category/categories/drones.

FLYER: PDF.

MLK Would Be Ashamed

Talk Nation Radio: Reese Erlich on Bahrain and Syria

Bahrain and Syria: in one the United States supports a brutal dictatorship against a nonviolent movement for human rights.  In the other the United States supports violent opposition to the government in the name of human rights.  All is not as it appears.  We speak with Reese Erlich.

Reese Erlich's history in journalism goes back 45 years. He first worked as a staff writer and research editor for Ramparts, an investigative reporting magazine published in San Francisco from 1963 to 1975. Today he works as a full-time print and broadcast, freelance reporter. He reports regularly for National Public Radio, CBC, ABC (Australia), Radio Deutsche Welle and Market Place Radio. His articles appear in the Global Post and Christian Science Monitor. His television documentaries have aired on PBS stations nationwide.

Erlich’s book, Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You, co-authored with Norman Solomon, became a best seller in 2003. The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of US Policy and the Middle East Crisis was published in 2007. Dateline Havana: The Real Story of US Policy and the Future of Cuba was published in 2009. Conversations with Terrorists: Middle East Leaders on Politics, Violence and Empire, was published in 2010.

Total run time: 29:00

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

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

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

How Unalienable Is Life?

Meet the new boss who, upon his inauguration, declared that the right to life is unalienable.  Let me be clear, that doesn't mean he can't take yours.

In fact, he runs through a list of men, women, and children on Tuesdays, hung over from inaugurations or not, and picks whom to murder and murders them.

We're not supposed to call it murder, of course, because it's properly assassination.  Except that no public figures are being assassinated; 98% of those killed are not targeted at all; some are targeted for suspicious behavior without knowing their names; one type of suspicious behavior is the act of retrieving the dead and wounded from a previous strike; and those targeted are not targeted for politics but for resisting illegal occupations.  Moreover, an assassination is a type of murder.

We're not supposed to call it murder, nonetheless, because it sounds more Objective to call it killing.  But murder is a type of killing, specifically unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought.  Killing by accident is not murder and not what the president is doing.  Killing legally is not murder and not what the president is doing -- at least not as far as anyone knows or according to any interpretation of law put forward.  Killing indirectly by encouraging poverty or environmental destruction or denial of healthcare may be things the president is doing, but they are not murder and not drone wars. 

Imagine if a non-president went through a list of everyone in your local elementary school, picked out whom to kill, and ordered them killed.  You would call it murder.  You would call it mass-murder.  You would call it conspiracy to commit mass murder.  Why would electing that mass murderer president change anything?  Why would moving the victims abroad change anything? 

KILL ANYTHING THAT MOVES

"Kill Anything That Moves" is the title of an important new book from Nick Turse, covering the mass-murdering enterprise known in Vietnam as the American War, and in the United States as the Vietnam War.  Turse documents that policy decisions handed down from the top led consistently, over a period of years, to the ongoing slaughter of millions of civilians in Vietnam.  Much of the killing was done by hand or with guns or artillery, but the lion's share came in the form of 3.4 million combat sorties flown by U.S. and South Vietnamese aircraft between 1965 and 1972.  Air strikes are President Obama's primary instrument of foreign relations as well; he ordered 20,000 air strikes in his first term. 

The well-known Mylai massacre in Vietnam was not an aberration, but an almost typical incident and by no means the worst of them.  Turse documents a pattern of ongoing atrocities so pervasive that one is compelled to begin viewing the war itself as one large atrocity.  Something similar could be done for the endless war on everywhere that we are currently living through.  Scattered atrocities and scandals in Afghanistan and Iraq are interpreted as freak occurrences having nothing to do with the general thrust of the war.  And yet they are its essence. 

"Kill anything that moves," was an order given to U.S. troops in Vietnam indoctrinated with racist hatred for the Vietnamese.  "360 degree rotational fire" was a command on the streets of Iraq given to U.S. troops similarly conditioned to hate, and similarly worn down with physical exhaustion.  

Dead children in Vietnam resulted in comments like "Tough shit, they grow up to be VC."  One of the U.S. helicopter killers in Iraq heard in the Collateral Murder video says of dead children, "Well it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle." 

In Vietnam anyone dead was the enemy, and sometimes weapons would be planted on them.  In drone wars, any dead males are militants, and in Iraq and Afghanistan weapons have often been planted on victims. 

The U.S. military during the Vietnam War shifted from keeping prisoners toward murdering prisoners, just as the Endless War on Everywhere has shifted from incarceration toward murder with the change in president from Bush to Obama.

In Vietnam, as in Iraq, rules of engagement were broadened until the rules allowed shooting at anything that moved.  In Vietnam, as in Iraq, the U.S. military sought to win people over by terrorizing them.  In  Vietnam, as in Afghanistan, whole villages were eliminated. 

In Vietnam, refugees suffered in horrible camps, while in Afghanistan children are rapidly freezing to death in a refugee camp near Kabul. 

Torture was common in Vietnam, including water-boarding.  But it wasn't at that time yet depicted in a Hollywood movie as a positive occurrence.

Napalm, white phosphorus, cluster bombs, and other widely despised and banned weapons were used in Vietnam as in the current war. 

Vast environmental destruction was part of both wars. 

Gang rape was a part of both wars. 

The mutilation of corpses was common in both wars.

Bulldozers flattened people's villages in Vietnam, not unlike what U.S.-made bulldozers do now to Palestine. 

Mass murders of civilians in Vietnam, as in Afghanistan, tended to be driven by a desire for revenge.

New weaponry allowed U.S. troops in Vietnam to shoot long distances, resulting in a habit of shooting first and investigating later, a habit now developed for drone strikes.

Self-appointed teams on the ground and in helicopters went "hunting" for natives to kill in Vietnam as in Afghanistan. 

And of course, Vietnamese leaders were targeted for assassination.

Then, as now, the atrocities and "war crimes" were committed with impunity as part of the crime that was the war itself.  Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say: because there was impunity then, it remains today.

Turse discovered that the military investigated numerous accusations, documented incidents, and then buried the reports.  So did others in the government.  So did the media, includingNewsweek which buried a major investigation.  Those who engaged in that coverup don't have on their hands the blood that had already been spilled, but do have on their hands the blood that has been spilled since in similar wars that might have been prevented.

Vietnamese victims who saw their loved ones tortured, murdered, and mutilated are -- in some cases -- still furious with rage decades later.  It's not hard to calculate how long such rage will last in the nations now being "liberated."

The crowd that turns out and shuts down Washington, D.C., for Obama inaugurations imagines that it is advancing peace and justice.  But it does so by cheering for one of two teams regardless of that team's performance.  Were that size crowd to turn out just once for a substantive demand, for peace or justice or any of the good causes favored by the people involved, a real victory would be obtainable.

If the crowd learned this week that Obama is murdering people, and returned next week to demand an end to the murders, the resulting movement would indeed end them.  Not only am I sure of that, but I hold it to be self-evident.

The African-American Army

Escaped slaves fought on the British side, which promised to free them, during the American war for independence for white men.  But nobody liked to talk about that much after the French won the war, although -- come to think of it -- nobody much likes to talk about the French winning the war, or for that matter about the big losers being, not the British but the Native Americans. 

White folks weren't eager to arm slaves, although an NRA-type genius just said on U.S. televisions this week that if slaves had only been armed they wouldn't have been slaves.  The militias famously protected by the Second Amendment included, perhaps primarily, white militias aimed at crushing slave rebellions.  Escaped slaves fought for the Union in the Civil War, which may not have been an insignificant factor in Lincoln's decision to announce their freedom. 

The massacring of Native Americans conditioned black troops as well as white for the brutalities they would inflict in the name of freedom and democracy on the Philippines and Cuba.  Imperial wars abroad brought with them huge surges of violence at home.  During the days in which the United States liberated Filipinos and Cubans from their lives, thousands of lynchings and hundreds of riots brought freedom and liberty to African Americans at home.  While Haitians were occupied, blacks were attacked in Harlem and Alabama. 

African Americans were included in the U.S. military during World War II, in segregated units, and often in non-combat units.  The pretense was that they couldn't fight, never had, never would.  And yet, just as they had before, many did -- with less training, less equipment, and in riskier positions.  And many came to grasp what it all meant.  A jim crow nation that locked up Japanese Americans and rioted against blacks and Mexicans, slaughtered innocent civilians for imperial gain in the name of opposing imperialism.  "Just carve on my tombstone," said an African American soldier in 1942, "here lies a black man who died fighting a yellow man for the protection of the white man."

The draft was segregated.  The military was segregated.  Blacks were largely confined to the support labor that is now hired out to contractors.  When FDR was finally pushed to support blacks' participation in the army, he insisted that they make up no more than 10 percent and be kept in segregated units.  And yet, when African American soldiers in World War II weren't facing the Germans or the Japanese, they were still at great risk of violent assault by white U.S. soldiers, not to mention the abuses they would face back home after their "service."  In Guam, U.S. commanders allowed white troops to prepare for assaults on Japanese troops by abusing African American sailors, including by tossing live grenades at them.

African Americans launched a Double Victory Campaign, whose symbol was two V for victory signs, desiring as they did a victory over fascism abroad and at home.  Some saw through the military madness, understood the connection between violence abroad and at home, and refused to enlist -- or got themselves declared mentally unfit, as Malcolm X did.  Black soldiers resisted, struck, and mutinied.  In April 1945, sixty black officers defied a ban on their use of an officers' club and were arrested.  Another group defied the ban, and they were arrested.  And then another.

Before he integrated baseball, Jackie Robinson refused to move to the back of a bus on Fort Hood. 

A budding movement could be recognized that was also forming within U.S. prisons where black and white conscientious objectors were confronting domestic injustice in new ways.

As black and white troops prepared to return from France, black soldiers had their guns confiscated, while white soldiers guarding German prisoners kept theirs and turned them on the African American troops as well.  Lest you imagine this the hypocrisy of a few bad apples who failed to grasp the great moral purpose of the war, let's not forget that as the victors put the Nazis on trial for crimes including human experimentation, the United States was giving syphilis to Guatemalans to see what would happen, just as it had long been and would long continue studying (and not treating) African Americans with syphilis in Alabama.  In fact, German and Italian troops being held prisoners of war helped white U.S. troops enforce segregation.  And Nazi war criminals found an eager employer in the Pentagon.  Black veterans of World War II were shot and lynched in such numbers in 1946 that a Chicago Defender columnist wrote that "the Negro press still reads like war."

Returning black troops faced "jim crow shock," when they imagined they'd just killed and risked dying for freedom but got home to find none.  Some were more equal than others under the G.I. Bill and within U.S. society.  Compared to the mythical "spitting on the troops" after the Vietnam War or the lack of interest or awareness during the -- yes -- still ongoing endless war on everywhere that started in 2001, this was a heavy blow.  It led to suicides and violence of all variety. 

It did not lead to complete rejection of the military and military "service."  For African Americans disproportionately, the military was the best available means of obtaining a paycheck or any sort of skilled employment, as well as a way to prove one's manhood and the right to citizenship.  Discrimination within the military, rather than the existence of the military and its draining impact on other possible pursuits and investments, was enemy number one.  Everything currently said about gays or women in the military was said about blacks in the military, and -- as in the newer controversies -- even those claiming to oppose militarism prioritized equal access to participate fully in it.

In 1948, A. Phillip Randolph warned,

"I would like to make clear to the Senate Armed Services Committee and through you, to Congress and the American people that passage now of a Jim Crow draft may only result in a mass civil disobedience movement along the lines of the magnificent struggles of the people of India against British imperialism." 

Senator Wayne Morse -- remembered, when he is remembered, as an opponent of the war on Vietnam -- charged Randolph with treason.

Truman announced an integrated military, with an executive order, much as Obama closed Guantanamo.  Blacks joined up in 1948 and 1949, mainly for the money, expecting an integrated military but finding a completely segregated one.  Even brothels providing sex slaves to soldiers in Japan were segregated for black and white. 

During the war on Korea, however, the military moved in the direction of integration, and of full combat roles for blacks.  The draft disproportionately brought blacks into the military, while at the same time they lost the publicly understood disadvantage of being kept away from combat and acquired the disadvantage understood by soldiers of being sent into combat -- sent into more dangerous combat than others, in fact, and accused of cowardice as a reward. 

While black soldiers like James Forman were coming to recognize their participation in foreign occupations for what it was, blacks were enlisting, reenlisting, and being drafted in record numbers -- largely for economic reasons, needing the employment and lacking qualifying grounds for deferment, such as college.  From the Korean War forward, blacks were no longer kept out of the U.S. military through quota limits, but made up a greater percentage of the military than of the population at large.

At the same time, in contrast to World War II, the war on Korea met with opposition from many prominent African Americans, and a movement against militarism began to grow, as did the movement at home for civil rights.  African American newspapers in the north began sending their war correspondents to places like Mississippi.  J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant murdered Emmett Till in 1955 for supposedly whistling at a white woman.  Milam said he'd done to Till exactly what he'd done to Germans during World War II -- the war that never stops giving.  Conscientious objectors Bayard Rustin, Ella Baker, William Worthy, James Farmer, James Lawson, and Bob Moses organized in the U.S. South against violence of all varieties, joined by John Lewis, Julian Bond, Diane Nash, and Gwen Patton.

Vietnam was the same story: ever more African Americans in the military, and yet ever stronger activism against it, including resistance by GIs.  The day three SNCC volunteers -- Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney disappeared were found -- was also the day of the pretended Gulf of Tonkin incident.  Robert McNamara in 1966 announced Project 100,000, aimed at lifting 100,000 men out of poverty by moving them into the military and sending them to war.  Between 1966 and 1971, the project brought 400,000 men into the military, 40 percent of them African American.  Increasingly, through the 1960s, African Americans' opinions turned against war.  The Last Poets' 1970 "The Black Soldier" said:

"Here's to you black soldier
"fightin' in Vietnam
"helping your oppressor
"oppress another man."

I found this and a detailed discussion of much of the above in a new book by Kimberley L. Phillips called "War: What Is It Good For? Black Freedom Struggles and the U.S. Military From World War II to Iraq."  The author's father fought in Vietnam.  Her parents were unable to buy a home in San Luis Obispo because, "local residents' equal disdain for the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement meant no one would sell a black soldier a home."

Phillips, who is the dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Brooklyn College, writes that "since the Vietnam War, the armed forces have served as a de facto jobs program for black Americans and a symbol of a gain in their long struggle for full citizenship.  In a postindustrial economy of the late twentieth century, the military has provided steady work and important benefits, including health care, child care, and education.  For increasing numbers of black immigrants, military service has provided a step toward legal citizenship."  That hideous step is being imposed on all sorts of immigrants today.

African Americans disproportionately opposed wars, enlisted in the military, and gave their loyalty to the Democratic Party.  So, what happened when a Republican President led major wars that even white people opposed?  Between 2000 and 2005, black enlistments in the military dropped 40%, and black presence in the military 25%.  These trends continued through 2008, at which point they began to turn back around.

Maybe that's the economy's fault.  Maybe it's misperceptions that the war is over.  Or maybe it's a question of what the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize President looks like.  But the U.S. military is targeting Africa in a big new way, and targeting Asia and the Middle East in a big familiar way.  Why should anyone participate in oppressing anyone anywhere for the Pentagon?

A poet in Qatar was recently given a life-sentence in prison for reciting a poem.  This is a translation:

Oh, Prime Minister, Mohammad al-Ghannoushi, if we consider your power, it doesn’t come from the Constitution.
We are not nostalgic for Ben Ali, nor for his times, which represent merely a dot on the line of history
Dictatorship is a repressive and tyrannical system and Tunisia has announced its people's revolt.
If we criticize, it is to decry what is base and disgraceful
If we praise, we do it in first person
The revolt began with the blood of the people rising up and has painted liberation on the face of every living creature.
We know they'll do what they wish and that all victories bear tragic events,
But pity the country that lets itself be governed by ignorance and believes in the strength of the American army,
And pity that country that starves its people while the government rejoices of its economic success
And pity that country whose people go to sleep a citizen and wake up poor and stateless
Pity that system that inherits repression
Until when shall we be slaves of all that selfishness?
When shall the people realize their worthiness?
That worthiness that is hidden from them and that they soon forget?
Why don't governments ever choose a way to end a tyrannical power system that is aware of its disease
and at the same time poisons its people who know that tomorrow a successor shall occupy that very seat of power?
He doesn't take into account that the country bears its name and that of his family,
the self-same country that preserves its glory in the glories of the people,
the people that answers with one voice to a single destiny: in the face of the oppressor we are all Tunisian!
Arab governments and those who lead them, all are thieves, to the same degree.
That question that causes sleepless nights for those who ask it will not find an answer from those who embody officialdom.

Nixon Went to China, Who Will Go to Iran?

Iranians are now beginning to die for lack of medicines kept out by U.S.-imposed sanctions.  I recently questioned (and videoed) former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright about her notorious defense of sanctions that killed over a half million young Iraqi children.  She said she'd been wrong to say what she'd said.  She did not comment on the appropriateness of what she'd done.  I asked her if what we were doing to Iran was also wrong, and she replied, "No, absolutely not."

So, somehow it is good and proper for us to be killing Iranian children -- although perhaps not to be talking about it.

I suspect that some of the reasons why we imagine there is a greater good being served by such actions are the same reasons no U.S. president will go to Iran in the manner in which Nixon went to China.  Of course, the common political wisdom in the United States holds that the president who went to China had to be a Republican.  By the same logic, the president who goes to Iran must be a militarist power-mad servant of the corporate oligarchy from the Republican party and not a militarist power-mad servant of the corporate oligarchy from the Democratic party.  That wouldn't do at all.  And yet, U.S. conduct toward Iran has varied little from Bush to Clinton to Bush Jr. to Obama/Clinton, H.  A hopeless spiral of delusional counter-productive approaches toward the Islamic Republic of Iran needs to be broken by a 180 degree turn, and it won't make much substantive difference who does it, as long as it doesn't come too late.

Whether the authors intended exactly that or not, the above is the lesson I take away from an excellent new book by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett called "Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran."

It has been U.S. policy for decades not to engage with Iran, and -- misleading rhetoric notwithstanding -- it still is.  "More than any of his predecessors, in fact, Obama has given engagement a bad name, by claiming to have reached out to Tehran and failed when the truth is he never really tried." 

The Leveretts trace official U.S. policy on Iran to a trio of myths: the myths of irrationality, illegitimacy, and isolation. 

 

IRRATIONALITY:

The evidence of irrationality on the part of the Iranian people or the Iranian government is very slim.  I can find much more irrationality in the U.S. public and government.  Iranians, in fact, are better at distinguishing between our people and our government than we seem to be at making that distinction on their side.  Iran has funded Hizballah and HAMAS, and we call those groups terrorists.  But we call any militants opposing Pentagon interests terrorists.  Iranian leaders have made comments verging on anti-Semitic (and routinely distorted into outrageous anti-Semitism), but nothing approaching the things Anwar Sadat or Mahmoud Abbas said or wrote before they were deemed rational actors with whom the U.S. and Israel could (and did) work. 

Iran's policies have been defensive, not aggressive.  Iran has not threatened to attack or attacked others.  Iran has refused to retaliate against chemical weapons attacks or terrorism or our shooting down a commercial jet or our funding efforts within Iran to manipulate its elections or our training of militants seeking to overthrow Iran's government.  Iran has refused to develop chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.  Unlike Britain, Russia, or the United States, when provoked Iran has refused to invade Afghanistan, choosing wise reflection over hot-tempered anger.  Look at the polling across the Middle East: people fear the United States and Israel, not Iran. 

Iran's approach to the United States over the years has been rational and forbearant.  In 1995 the Islamic Republic of Iran offered its first foreign oil development contract to the United States, which turned it down.  Iran aided President Clinton by shipping arms to Bosnia, which Clinton turned around and condemned Iran for when the story became public.  In 2001, the President of Iran requested permission to pray for 911 victims at the site of the World Trade Center and offered to assist in counterterrorism plans, but was turned down.  Iran assisted the United States with its invasion of Afghanistan and was labeled "evil" in return.  The current president of Iran wrote long friendly letters to President Bush and President Obama, both of whom ignored them except to allow their staffs to publicly mock them.  The Iranian government repeatedly proposed substantive dialogue, offering to put everything on the table, including its nuclear energy program, and was turned down.  The Obama administration gave Turkey and Brazil terms it was sure Iran wouldn't agree to; Iran agreed to them; and the White House rejected them, choosing instead to grow outraged at Brazil and Turkey.

Iran tried to believe in the change in Obama's (no doubt domestically intended) rhetoric, but never encountered any substance, only fraud and hostility.  That Iran attempts civil relations with a nation surrounding and threatening it, imposing deadly sanctions on it, funding terrorism within its borders, and publicly mocking its sincere approaches is indication of either rationality or something almost Christ-like (I'm inclined to go with rationality).

 

ILLEGITIMACY:

War is immoral, illegal, and counter-productive.  That doesn't change if the people bombed are living or suffering under an illegitimate government.  Here in the United States an unaccountable Supreme Court rewrites our basic laws, unverifiable privately owned and operated machines count our votes, candidates are chosen by wealth, media coverage is dolled out by a corporate cartel, presidents disregard the legislature, and high crimes and misdemeanors are not prosecuted.  And yet, nonetheless -- amazing to tell -- we'd rather not be bombed.  I don't give a damn whether this scholar or that scholar believes the Iranian government is legitimate or not; I don't want any human beings killed in my name with my money.

That being said, common claims of illegitimacy for Iran's government are myths.  Western experts have predicted its imminent collapse (as well as its imminent development of nukes) for decades.  Iranian elections are far more credible than U.S. ones.  A government need not be secular to be legitimate.  I might favor secular governments, but I'm not an Iranian.  I'm a citizen of a government that has been seeking to control Iran's government for over a half century since overthrowing it in 1953; I don't get to have a voice.  Iranians are gaining in rights, in education, in health, in life expectancy (the opposite in many ways of the course we are on in the United States).  Iranian women used to be permitted to dress as they liked but not to pursue the education and career they liked.  Now that has largely been reversed.  Iranian women are guaranteed paid maternity leave that outstrips our standards.  Iran's approach to drugs is more rational than our own, its approach to homosexuality more mixed than we suspect, its investment in science cutting edge. 

All of that being said, the Iranian government abuses its people in ways that need to be addressed by its people and should have been directly addressed by the Leveretts' book.

I also want to quibble with the Leveretts' account of the 1979 revolution in light of the views of some who were there at the time.  I'm not convinced that Khomeini led and directed the revolution from the start.  I'm willing to believe that secular pro-democracy activists did not represent the views of all Iranians.  There's no question that significant support swung to Khomeini and the mullahs who claimed power.  But Khomeini's supposed leadership was news in the West before it was ever heard of in Tehran.  The Shah was not opposed for his secularism, but for his surveillance, imprisonment, torture, murder, greed, expropriation of wealth, and subservience to foreigners.  The Leveretts admit that Khomeini originally proposed a government with less power for himself and then revised his plans, but they claim that he only did so in response to secularists' insistence that he hold no power at all.  Not the strongest defense of tyranny I've ever encountered. 

The authors then cite a public referendum of December 2-3, 1979, in which, they say, "the new constitution was approved by 98 percent of participating voters."  Sounds impressive, right?  Guess what choices the voters were offered: an Islamic republic or the Shah!  Of course they chose the Islamic republic! But to turn around and claim that 98% voted against a secular republic is misleading.  During the 2003-2013 U.S. war on Iraq, a U.S. Democratic-Party group called MoveOn.org polled its membership.  Did they support House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plan for more war or President George W. Bush's?  Of course, they overwhelmingly chose Pelosi's.  MoveOn then turned around and claimed that their people opposed Congresswoman Barbara Lee's proposal to end the war.  Such votes should be given no more dignity than they deserve.

How the government of the 1980s came to be does not tell us everything we should know about today's government, but nothing you could tell me about today's government would have any relevance to the morality of bombing the people of Iran.

 

ISOLATION:

The United States has sought to isolate Iran and failed dramatically, with Iran now chairing the Nonaligned Movement.  It has sought to use economic and other pressures to overthrow the government, and instead strengthened it.  In 2011, Obama opened a "virtual embassy" to propagandize the Iranian people for "regime change."  In 2012 it removed the terrorist designation for an opposition terrorist group called the MEK.  Imagine if Iran did such things to us, rather than just being Muslim or whatever it is that it's actually done to us.  The Leveretts present a long and unrelenting history of incompetence and irrationality . . . from the U.S. side.  They have been reduced, reasonably enough, to something that sounds ridiculous: longing for Richard Nixon.

I don't expect you to understand
After you've caused so much pain
But then again, you're not to blame
You're just a human, a victim of the insane
We're afraid of everyone
Afraid of the sun
Isolation
The sun will never disappear
But the world may not have many years
Isolation

--John Lennon

Why We Need a Mossadegh Legacy Institute

A Mossadegh Legacy Institute has been created.  If you're not sure what that means, read a few of the endorsements:

 

In full agreement with Cindy Sheehan, especially where she emphasizes the American nature of this responsibility, of this moral wound [see below], I am very glad to learn about what you are doing, and pleased to endorse the mission of the Mossadegh Legacy Institute.

I really wish I could do more, but demands are so intense, it’s just impossible I am afraid.

Prof. Noam Chomsky
http://chomsky.info/index.htm
Honorary Chair of the Board of Endorsers, Mossadegh Legacy Institute (MLI)


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The mission of this historic initiative should be (and indeed is) primarily an AMERICAN moral responsibility.

Why? Because the temporarily successful violent overthrow of the non-violent "George Washington of Iran" was the mother of almost all profoundly destructive subsequent errors of state judgement in the recent history of this country, at least since the deeply misguided CIA coup of August 19, 1953. Had the U.S. government not overthrown Iran's young democratic government 60 years ago, history would have unfolded quite differently, and many of today's conflicts would have been avoided.

So I firmly believe, that "We the People" should view the Mossadegh Legacy Institute (MLI) as a truly patriotic opportunity to help rehabilitate the collective conscience of our own nation. In other words, this is a neglected AMERICAN moral wound in need of authentic examination and healing, not just an Iranian, Middle Eastern, or "global South" festering wound.

Cindy Sheehan
www.cindysheehanssoapbox.com
Member of the Board of Endorsers, Mossadegh Legacy Institute (MLI)

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*******

As a U.S. citizen with a keen interest in history, I believe that Americans should be aware of Mohammad Mossadegh (1882-1967), the former Prime Minister of Iran, who attempted to nationalize the Iranian oil industry--which had previously been 80% "owned" by the company we know now as the BP, and 20% owned by Iran.

In 1953 the government of Great Britain obtained the use of the American CIA to overthrow Mossadegh's democratic government. As a result, the Shah of Iran was returned to power, and ruled with a dictatorial iron fist, until he (in turn) was overthrown in 1979, by the Islamic Revolution of Iran, led by Ayatollah Khomeini.

Mohammad Mossadegh was a brilliant, well educated leader who could have changed the course of history if his government  had remained in power for a few more years. His life and legacy is a subject all people (especially Americans--who need to learn from history) should know about.

This is why I have joined this historic initiative.

Bruce Bridegroom

Film-maker, Historian, and Attorney at the Tucson, Arizona Law Offices of Bridegroom and Hayes -- http://www.orovalleyaz.gov/Assets/_assets/econ_dev/pdf/Film+Festival+Press+Release.pdf
Co-Initiator of the MLI

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The legacy of Mohammad Mossadegh, in particular his commitment to democracy, non-violence, and international law, serves a beacon and a moral example, not only for Iranian pro-democracy activists, but indeed for the entire world -- a unique legacy that should be studied carefully, remembered, and practiced. Thus, I am happy to endorse the work of the Mossadegh Legacy Institute.

Nader Hashemi
Director of Center for Middle East Studies; Assistant Professor of Middle East and
Islamic Politics, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver
http://www.du.edu/korbel/docs/fac_hashemi_cv2012.pdf
Member of the Board of Endorsers, Mossadegh Legacy Institute (MLI)

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Dear Moji Agha:

I congratulate you [for starting] this initiative. In a small way the Mossadegh Legacy Institute (MLI) is a beginning of an American acknowledgement of the profound harm done to the people of Iran by initiating a chain of political events that started with the CIA engineered coup that restored the autocratic Shah to power and led to a revolutionary process hijacked by repressive theocrats, in the name of Islam.

I admire very much the legacy of Dr. Mossadegh, his passion for democracy, justice, and his dedication to the Iranian people and nation that led him to challenge the exploitative arrangement that allowed foreign oil companies to deprive the country of its resource wealth.

For these reasons I will be proud to be listed among the endorsers of MLI's mission statement--With my best wishes.

Prof. Richard A. Falk
The UN's Special Rapporteur on human rights in occupied Palestine
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_A._Falk
Member of the Board of Endorsers, Mossadegh Legacy Institute (MLI)


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As Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh's actions were motivated by a selfless dedication to improving the living conditions of the people his democratically elected government had the responsibility to serve. Accordingly, he courageously resisted the entreaties of special interest groups and foreign governments, whose immoral influence at the top echelons of government have always created havoc throughout the world, as is evident today when considering Israel's influence on American foreign policy.
So I think Dr. Mossadegh should be honored with a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his legacy, which demonstrates that freedom and democracy are possible anywhere in the world. Honoring the "Elder of Ahmad Abad" in this manner would also bestow dignity to the Nobel Prize Committee itself.

Richard Forer
Author: Breakthrough: Transforming Fear Into Compassion - A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict
http://www.redress.cc/zionism/rforer20120716
Member of the Board of Endorsers, Mossadegh Legacy Institute (MLI)

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ENDORSEMENT OF THE MOSSADEGH LEGACY INSTITUTE (MLI)

Here is an organization with the right mission in the right moment, a mission encapsulated in its perfect choice of name.  

Mohammad Mossadegh is remembered, when he is remembered, as a man who worked to better the lives of Iranians, who resisted foreign control of his nation and its natural resources, and who understood war to be the ultimate evil.  Mossadegh's tools were oratory, organizing, and integrity.  Not only did he choose not to use violence, but he was willing to give up power peacefully rather than allow a civil war to be waged in his name.  
 

David and Wes Image

Westerners should find Mossadegh's legacy valuable for two reasons.  First, his was an Iranian government more democratic and secular in nature than some others before and since.  Second, what was done to his government is a critical historical lesson for those not well-informed on this shameful tragedy.  When the CIA overthrew Mossadegh to install a U.S.-friendly dictatorship, it poisoned U.S.-Iranian relations from that day to this, and it developed a model for poisoning U.S. relations with many other nations, including Guatemala the very next year.

That Iranian people maintain any affection for the American people is a testament to the Iranians' wisdom and rationality.  The U.S. public struggles to match Iranians in that regard.  Understanding our shared and painful history is a necessary part of a process of reconciliation.  Naming streets and landmarks in the United States for Mossadegh is a brilliant and creative idea, as is marking the 60th anniversary of the coup this summer at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, which Mossadegh had symbolically visited not long before the United States threw him out of power.  I hope that work on developing student and cultural exchanges between Iran and the United States might also become part of this project.

I admire and appreciate Mossadegh who would obviously be a better Nobel Peace Prize recipient than the EU or Obama. While I'm pursuing, along with Fredrik Heffermehl and others, a strategy of trying to strictly enforce Alfred Nobel's will, in order to avoid the bestowing of Nobel Peace Prizes on either promoters of war or good humanitarians whose work is not for disarmament and demilitarization, I do believe that Mossadegh is long overdue for recognition. Statues, parks, streets, airports, halls, endowments, and peace rallies ought to be used to honor his legacy and to educate the world.

History is not apart from us.  The United States has never dropped its effort to control Iran and to do so coercively.  I am hopeful that Iran, as a leading nation among the non-aligned nations of our world, can actually lead the United States toward the better elements of its own legacy.  There have been Americans over the decades who have been friends to Iran and have been honored for it.  And there have been times when the United States has made movements in the direction of peace.

Having recently completed a study of the 1928 Kellogg Briand Pact, which bans war, and to which Iran and the United States and 80 some other nations are party, I would like to begin working to encourage Iran to ask the United States to state its intention of complying with the treaty.  Iran could also encourage 100 some additional nations to join the treaty, which can be accomplished simply by notifying the U.S. State Department.  All nations are accepted, by the terms of the treaty itself.  

We should seek out such bright spots in our collective past and renew them.  There was a time in 1951 when Mossadegh visited the United States and the United Nations, as well as the Liberty Bell.  He was the Time magazine person of the year in 1952.  Many respected him, although begrudgingly.  Others truly liked and admired him.  We cannot undo the crime of 1953, the overthrow engineered from the same U.S. embassy that Iranians would occupy to prevent its repetition in 1979.  But we can focus on what the American and Iranian people have in common, which runs far deeper than the disagreements of governments.

And as Americans come to understand the Iranian people, we will be better able to face down a propaganda push for a war on Iran, not only because of our familiarity with the lies that launched the war on Iraq in 2003, not only because of our understanding of the lies that have framed official U.S. discussions of Iran since 1953, but also because the phrase "Iranian collateral damage" will mean to us people whom we know, love, and respect.

David Swanson
Author: WAR IS A LIE
http://davidswanson.org/about
Member of the Board of Endorsers, Mossadegh Legacy Institute (MLI)

Talk Nation Radio: Stephen Zunes on Kerry, Hagel, Brennan, and Obama Part II

Stephen Zunes is a Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he chairs the program in Middle Eastern Studies. Recognized as one the country’s leading scholars of U.S. Middle East policy and of strategic nonviolent action, Professor Zunes discusses the nominations of John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, and John Brennan, and the direction charted for the second term of Obama's presidency.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
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A New Jefferson Bible

Thomas Jefferson created his own Bible, and the Humanist Press has just republished it together with selections from what Jefferson left out, and selections labeled the best and worst from the Old Testament, the Koran, the Bhagavadgita, the Buddhist Sutras, and the Book of Mormon.

Jefferson created his Bible using two copies of the King James Bible and a razor blade.  He cut what he liked out of the New Testament, and left the rest.  What he chose to include was supposed to tell the story of a teacher of morality, stripped of all supernatural pretensions.  In Jefferson's Bible, virgins don't give birth, dead people don't walk, and water doesn't turn into wine.  But Jesus teaches the love of one's neighbor, of one's enemy, of strangers and children and the old.

It's an admirable effort.  Someone raised in Christianity but convinced that death is death and humans are responsible for their fate might want to read the good bits of their religious heritage and not be bothered by the rest.  Congress printed 9,000 copies in 1904 and handed them out to new House and Senate members for a half century.

But I find Jefferson's Bible a fairly weak and incoherent concoction.  Someone who insists on being treated like a god without actually being a god comes off as an inexplicable egomaniac.  Someone who engineers his own death and really dies appears to be nothing more than a suicide.  Jesus, stripped of the context of his deity, ends up looking like Socrates without all the cleverness. 

Imagine if we told the story of Thomas Jefferson without the Declaration of Independence, without the role of founding father.  He'd be transformed into an over-educated self-indulgent slave owner, rapist, and advocate of genocide who began a tradition of U.S. warmaking in the Middle East and bestowed upon us the two-party system.

Jefferson's Bible, ironically, serves a purpose other than what he intended.  It ends up revealing that the good moral lessons in Jesus' teaching don't amount to all that much.  Yes, of course, we should be kind to each other and learn to forgive and befriend our enemies.  There is nothing more important, and nobody says that basic lesson better.  Jefferson included the parable of the Good Samaritan.

But should we take polygamy and patriarchy and slavery and cutting off hands and other ancient practices for granted as Jesus does?  Should we take currently unquestioned practices like war, meat-eating, and fossil-fuel consumption for granted as many do today?  What should we question or change? What should we keep as it is? How should we be good and kind?  In what way should we love our neighbors and enemies?  Should we also love future generations?

Jefferson is thought to have believed that his Bible would educate Native Americans.  His policies, in reality, helped to destroy them.  Rather than editing an ancient text and translating it into four languages from another continent, might Jefferson have better spent his time giving native Americans the respect that Jesus -- on one occasion but not others -- recommended giving to Samaritans?  Jefferson might have discovered that no people exists without an understanding of kindness, love, and humility.  The Indians needed Christian kindness, not Christian arrogance.  But the Indians weren't called Samaritans, and Jefferson didn't recognize them.

The Humanist Press edition of Jefferson's Bible does help broaden our understanding, as it includes similarly nice and horrific excerpts from a variety of the world's ancient religions (plus Mormonism, the text of which largely mimics ancient cultural norms).

Jefferson was not aiming for the "historical Jesus" but for a naturalist one.  The Humanist Press, in its selections of the worst of each religion, is not aiming for simply the most immoral bits but also the most supernatural.  The immoral is there in abundance however:

Matthew 10:34-37 "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace but a sword. . . ."

Luke 14:26 "If a man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."

John 6:43-55 "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life. . . ."

The Old Testament includes the same good lessons and the same out of date barbarism, or very similar, as the New Testament.  The lessons are deeper and more expansive, the barbarity more horrific -- including numerous instances of advocating genocide, slavery, sex-slavery, war, the mutilation of corpses, torture, the mass-slaughter of children, and the celebration of revenge.

The Koran and the other texts, too, contain basic fundamental moral precepts, but few specific recommendations of much use to us right now.  I don't mind being advised not to bury female infants alive, but I had no plans to do so.  I want to know how to balance duty to family with duty to humanity.  I want to know how to integrate charity and respect.  I want to learn how to oppose militarism, corruption, oligarchy, greed, consumption, environmental abuse, and all forms of bigotry.  I want to know how to be kind to real people in real ways.

Religion doesn't seem to help much.  Neither does atheism, of course, except by clearing the deck.  The lessons of Judeo-Christian-Muslim religions are packaged in arguments from authority and promises of imaginary rewards and punishments.  When that packaging is stripped away, something is lacking.  We now need to be told the actual benefits to ourselves of being kind to others: the sense of satisfaction and joy, the love of oneself that is facilitated, the widening of one's knowledge and understanding that comes from accepting the viewpoints and experiences of those unlike oneself.

We do not, of course, need a new Bible.  We need novels, memoirs, autobiographies, essays, histories, and poetry.  And we need to feel as free as Jefferson did to slice out the parts we find most valuable, piece them together, and expand our understanding from there.

Waking Up in Tehran

According to one theory, U.S.-Iranian relations began around November 1979 when a crowd of irrational religious nutcases violently seized the U.S. embassy in Iran, took the employees hostage, tortured them, and held them until scared into freeing them by the arrival of a new sheriff in Washington, a man named Ronald Reagan.  From that day to this, according to this popular theory, Iran has been run by a bunch of subhuman lunatics with whom rational people couldn't really talk if they wanted to.  These monsters only understand force.  And they have been moments away from developing and using nuclear weapons against us for decades now.  Moments away, I tell you!

According to another theory -- a quaint little notion that I like to refer to as "verifiable history" -- the CIA, operating out of that U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1953, maliciously and illegally overthrew a relatively democratic and liberal parliamentary government, and with it the 1951 Time magazine man of the year Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, because Mossadegh insisted that Iran's oil wealth enrich Iranians rather than foreign corporations.  The CIA installed a dictatorship run by the Shah of Iran who quickly became a major source of profits for U.S. weapons makers, and his nation a testing ground for surveillance techniques and human rights abuses.  The U.S. government encouraged the Shah's development of a nuclear energy program.  But the Shah impoverished and alienated the people of Iran, including hundreds of thousands educated abroad.  A secular pro-democracy revolution nonviolently overthrew the Shah in January 1979, but it was a revolution without a leader or a plan for governing.  It was co-opted by rightwing religious forces led by a man who pretended briefly to favor democratic reform.  The U.S. government, operating out of the same embassy despised by many in Iran since 1953, explored possible means of keeping the Shah in power, but some in the CIA worked to facilitate what they saw as the second best option: a theocracy that would substitute religious fanaticism and oppression for populist and nationalist demands.  When the U.S. embassy was taken over by an unarmed crowd the next November, immediately following the public announcement of the Shah's arrival in the United States, and with fears of another U.S.-led coup widespread in Tehran, a sit-in planned for two or three days was co-opted, as the whole revolution had been, by mullahs with connections to the CIA and an extremely anti-democratic agenda.  They later made a deal with U.S. Republicans, as Robert Parry and others have well documented, to keep the hostage crisis going until Carter lost the 1980 presidential election to Ronald Reagan.  Reagan's government secretly renewed weapons sales to the new Iranian dictatorship despite its public anti-American stance and with no more concern for its religious fervor than for that of future al Qaeda leaders who would spend the 1980s fighting the Soviets with U.S. weapons in Afghanistan.  At the same time, the Reagan administration made similarly profitable deals with Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq, which had launched a war on Iran and continued it with U.S. support through the length of the Reagan presidency.  The mad military investment in the United States that took off with Reagan and again with George W. Bush, and which continues to this day, has made the nation of Iran -- which asserts its serious independence from U.S. rule -- a target of threatened war and actual sanctions and terrorism.

Ben Affleck was asked by Rolling Stone magazine, "What do you think the Iranians' reaction is gonna be?" to Affleck's movie Argo, which depicts a side-story about six embassy employees who, in 1979, avoided being taken hostage.  Affleck, mixing bits of truth and mythology, just as in the movie itself, replied:

"Who the FUCK knows – who knows if their reaction is going to be anything? This is still the same Stalinist, oppressive regime that was in place when the hostages were taken. There was no rhyme or reason to this action. What's interesting is that people later figured out that Khomeini just used the hostages to consolidate power internally and marginalize the moderates and everyone in America was going, 'What the fuck's wrong with these people?' You know, 'What do they want from us?' It was because it wasn't about us. It was about Khomeini holding on to power and being able to say to his political opponents, of which he had many, 'You're either with us or you're with the Americans' – which is, of course, a tactic that works really well. That revolution was a students' revolution. There were students and communists and secularists and merchants and Islamists, it's just that Khomeini fucking slowly took it for himself."

The takeover of the embassy is an action virtually no one would advocate in retrospect, but asserting that it lacked rhyme or reason requires willful ignorance of Iranian-U.S. relations.  Claiming that nobody knew what the hostage-takers wanted requires erasing from history their very clear demands for the Shah to be returned to stand trial, for Iranian money in U.S. banks to be returned to Iran, and for the United States to commit to never again interfering in Iranian politics.  In fact, not only were those demands clearly made, but they are almost indisputably reasonable demands.  A dictator guilty of murder, torture, and countless other abuses should have stood trial, and should have been extradited to do so, as required by treaty.  Money belonging to the Iranian government under a dictatorship should have been returned to a new Iranian government, not pocketed by a U.S. bank.  And for one nation to agree not to interfere in another's politics is merely to agree to compliance with the most fundamental requirement of legal international relations.

Argo devotes its first 2 minutes or so to the 1953 background of the 1979 drama.  Blink and you'll miss it, as I'm betting most viewers do.  For a richer understanding of what was happening in Iran in the late 1970s and early 1980s I have a better recommendation than watching Argo.  For a truly magnificent modern epic I strongly encourage getting ahold of the forthcoming masterpiece by M. Lachlan White, titled Waking Up in Tehran: Love and Intrigue in Revolutionary Iran, due to be published this spring.  Weighing in at well over 300,000 words, or about 100,000 more than Moby Dick, Waking Up in Tehran is the memoir of Margot White, an American human rights activist who became an ally of pro-democracy Iranian student groups in 1977, traveled to Iran, supported the revolution, met with the hostage-takers in the embassy, became a public figure, worked with the Kurdish resistance when the new regime attacked the Kurds for being infidels, married an Iranian, and was at home with her husband in Tehran when armed representatives of the government finally banged on the door.  I'm not going to give away what happened next.  This book will transport you into the world of a gripping novel, but you'll emerge with a political, cultural, and even linguistic education.  This is an action-adventure that would, in fact, make an excellent movie -- or even a film trilogy.  It's also an historical document.

There are sections in which White relates conversations with her friends and colleagues in Iran, including their speculations as to who was behind what government intrigue.  A few of these speculations strike me as in need of more serious support.  They also strike me as helpful in understanding the viewpoints of Iranians at the time.  Had I edited this book I might have framed them a little differently, but I wouldn't have left them out.  I wouldn't have left anything out.  This is a several-hundred-page love letter from a woman to her husband and from an activist to humanity.  It is intensely romantic and as honest as cold steel.  It starts in 1977.

On November 15, 1977, at the White House, our human rights president, Jimmy Carter, was holding an outdoor press conference with his good friend the Shah.  The police used pepper spray tear gas on the protesters, including Margot White, in front of the White House.  But then the wind shifted.  Carter and the Shah ended up in tears as their wives fled indoors.  Later that day, White and an Iranian friend were attacked with a knife, chased by spies, and occupied with hiding the wallets of anti-Shah protesters in a D.C. hospital from pro-Shah forces eager to identify them.  In December, White was off to Iran to meet with the opposition, including those who had backed Mossadegh a quarter century before.  She learned the size and strength of the movement and came to understand its power to overthrow the Shah better than did the U.S. government or the U.S. media.  White was followed by the Shah's secret police, SAVAK, during her stay.

Talk Nation Radio: Shahid Buttar on Spying, Detention, Torture, and Zero Dark Thirty

Shahid Buttar is the executive director the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and the People’s Campaign for the Constitution which works to defend civil liberties, constitutional rights, and rule of law principles threatened within the United States by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. He is a constitutional lawyer, grassroots organizer, independent columnist, musician, and poet. He discusses President Obama's signing of two new pieces of legislation permitting warrantless spying and indefinite detention.  He also discusses rendition, torture, and the new film "Zero Dark Thirty."

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
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Audio: Abdul Malik Mujahid Interviews David Swanson About Events of 2012

http://radioislam.com

Friday, December 21, 2012
Listen

Topic: Review of 2012: Highlights for Peace & Justice
Guest: David Swanson, Anti-War Activist & Author
Host: Abdul Malik Mujahid

Talk Nation Radio: Sam Pizzigati: What Serious Progressive Taxes Would Look Like

Sam Pizzigati provides perspective on what serious progressive taxation (and labor organizing and populist activism) would look like via the lessons of his new book "The Rich Don't Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph Over Plutocracy That Created the American Middle Class, 1900-1970."  Pizzigati is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and editor of http://toomuchonline.org

Total run time: 29:00

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

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Resisting Racism and Militarism in 2013

January 21st will be an odd day in the United States.  We'll honor Martin Luther King Jr. and bestow another 4-year regime on the man who, in his Nobel peace prize acceptance speech said that Martin Luther King Jr. had been wrong -- that those who follow his example "stand idle in the face of threats."

I plan to begin the day by refusing to stand idle in the face of the threat that is President Barack Obama's military.  An event honoring Dr. King and protesting drone wars will include a rally at Malcolm X Park and a parade named for a bit of Kingian rhetoric. 

That evening I plan to attend the launch of a new book called We Have Not Been Moved: Resisting Racism and Militarism in 21st Century America.

The Martin King I choose to celebrate is not the mythical man, beloved and accepted by all during his life, interested exclusively in ending racial segregation, and not attracted to activism -- since only through electoral work, as we've all been told, can one be a serious activist. 

The Martin King I choose to celebrate is the man who resorted to the most powerful activist tools available, the tools of creative nonviolent resistance and noncooperation, in order to resist what he called the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism. 

Taking that seriously means ending right now the past five-year-long ban on protesting the president.  At Obama's first inauguration we held Good Riddance to Bush rallies because pressuring Obama to mend his militaristic ways was not deemed "strategic." 

It turns out that refusing to push people toward peace does something worse than offending them.  It ignores them and abandons them to their fate. 

But pushing is not exactly the verb we should be looking for as we strive to build an inclusive peace movement.  Nor is peace exactly the adjective.  What we need is a movement against racism, materialism, and militarism.

To build that, those working to reduce spending on the Pentagon's pet corporations need to also work against the prison industrial complex.  And those working against police violence need to work for higher taxes on billionaires.  And those working to protect Social Security and Medicare need to oppose the murdering of human beings with missiles and drones.

We need to do these things not just because they will unite a larger number of people.  We would need to do them all even if nobody were already working in any of these areas.  We need to do them because we are taking on a culture, not just a policy.  We are taking on the mental habits that allow racism, materialism, and militarism.  We cannot do so with a movement that is segregated by policy area any more than we can with a movement that is segregated by race.

The torture techniques are shared between our foreign and domestic prisons.  Local police are being militarized.  The latest insanity would have us arm our teachers so that when our children are shot up by failed applicants to the U.S. Marine Corps there will be, as at Fort Hood, more guns nearby.  Violence at home and abroad exists through our acceptance of violence.  Plutocratic greed drives both war and racism.  Racism facilitates and is facilitated by war.

We Have Not Been Moved is a book with many lessons to teach.  King spoke against the war on Vietnam despite being strongly advised to stick to the area of civil rights.  Julian Bond did the same, losing his seat in the Georgia state legislature.  African Americans marched against that war by the thousands in Harlem and elsewhere, including with posters carrying the words attributed to Mohammad Ali: "No Vietcong ever called me nigger!"  So did Asian Americans and Chicanos.  SNCC risked considerable support and funding by supporting the rights of Palestinians as well as Vietnamese, urging draft resistance, and stating its disbelief that the U.S. government's goals included free elections either at home or abroad.

Immigrants rights groups (to a great extent more accurately: refugee rights groups) are sometimes reluctant to challenge the war machine, despite deeper understanding than the rest of us of how U.S. war making creates the need for immigration in the first place.  But, then, how many peace activists are working for immigrants' rights?  Civil rights groups strive to resist rendition and torture and indefinite detention, warrentless spying and murder by drone.  Unless they are brought more fully into a larger coalition that challenges military spending (at well over $1 trillion per year both before and after the "fiscal cliff") the struggle against the symptoms will continue indefinitely.  Environmental groups are often reluctant to oppose the military industrial complex, its wars for oil, or its oil for wars.  But this past year the threat that South Korean base construction and the U.S. Navy pose to Jeju Island brought these movements together -- a process our survival depends on our continuing.

Our movement must be inclusive and international.  The movement to close the School of the Americas has not closed it, but has persuaded several nations to stop sending any would-be torturers or assassins to train there.  The movement to shut down U.S. military bases abroad has not shut them down en masse through Congress, but has shut them down in particular places through the work of the people protesting in their countries.  Where do we find media coverage that sympathizes with domestic struggles for justice within the United States?  In foreign media, of course, in the media of Iran and Russia and Qatar.  Those governments have their own motives, but support for justice corresponds with the sentiments of their people and all people.

Our movement should not oppose attacking Iran purely as outsiders, but working with Iranians.  We should not oppose attacking Iran because all of our own problems have been solved, or because the dollars that will be spent attacking Iran could fund U.S. schools and green energy, or because attacking Iran could lead to attacks on the United States.  We should oppose attacking Iran because we oppose militarism and materialism and racism everywhere. 

We sometimes worry about having too many issues on our plate.  How, we wonder, can new people be attracted to our rally against another war if we unreasonably also oppose murderous sanctions?  How can we welcome new activists who doubt the wisdom of the next war if we unrealistically oppose all militarism?  How can we not turn people off if our speeches demand rights for women and immigrants and workers?  Do people who've never heard of Mumia need to hear about his imprisonment?  Don't we want homophobes to feel they can join our campaign without loving those people?

I think this is the wrong worry.  I think we need more issues, not fewer.  I think that's the genius of Occupy.  The issues are all connected.  They are issues of greed, racism, and war.  We can work with Libertarians on things we agree on.  We need be hostile to no one.  But we need to prioritize building a holistic movement for fundamental change.  Taxing the rich to pay for more wars is not the answer.  Opposing all cuts to public spending, even though more than half of it goes to the war machine is not the answer.  Insisting that banks stop discriminating, while drone pilots do is not the answer.

This is going to take work, huge amounts of work, great reservoirs of patience and humility, tremendous efforts at inclusion, understanding, and willingness to see changed what it is people become included in.  But we can afford to turn off racists.  We can afford to not appear welcoming to bigots.  We are many.  They are few.

The war machine has set its sights on Africa.  Its new name is AFRICOM, and it means business, the business of exploitation and cruelty.  We can better understand 9-11 and everything that has followed from it if we understand the long history of terrorism on U.S. soil.  We need the wisdom of Native Americans, Japanese Americans, Muslim Americans, and everybody else here and abroad who has been paying attention.  We need to move from making war to making reparations, at home and abroad.  We will have less reparations to make the sooner we stop making war.

We Have Not Been Moved includes a never before published speech by Bayard Rustin in which Rustin quotes Ossie Davis saying to the President: "If you want us to be nonviolent in Selma, why can't you be nonviolent in Saigon?"

"All the weapons of military power," says Rustin, "chemical and biological warfare, cannot prevail against the desire of the people.  We know the Wagner Act, which gave labor the right to organize and bargain collectively was empty until workers went into the streets.  The unions got off the ground because of sit-down strikes and social dislocation.  When women wanted to vote, Congress ignored them until they went into the streets and into the White House, and created disorder of a nonviolent nature.  I assure you that those women did things that, if the Negro movement had done them, they would have been sent back to Africa!  The civil rights movement begged and begged for change, but finally learned this lesson -- going into the streets.  The time is so late, the danger so great, that I call upon all the forces which believe in peace to take a lesson from the labor movement, the women's movement, and the civil rights movement and stop staying indoors.  Go into these streets until we get peace!"

Peace on Earth Should Include Afghanistan

Let there be peace on earth, and let it include Afghanistan.

We cannot be for peace without being against war.

We cannot be satisfied with inner peace while wars are being waged with our money and in our names.

The largest of those wars remains Afghanistan.  It is larger now than when Barack Obama first became president.

There is no strategic, legal, or -- above all -- moral justification for continuing this war for another year, or for another day.

Please take a moment to click here and tell our government that we want peace on earth.

Catch up on a forgotten war:

$500 For Desecration: 'US Marine fined, demoted for urinating on Afghan bodies'

US Military Needs to Leave Afghanistan and Stop Widening Drone Strikes

Why not warmth in Afghan duvets?

Afghanistan War Without End -- Or Wisdom, Understanding, and Peace

The Compassion of Women of Afghanistan for the Women of Gaza

Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire Goes to Afghanistan to Join Afghan Peace Volunteers' Demand for Cease Fire and Negotiation

Eid "Sensations"

Children under Attack in Pakistan and Afghanistan

What to Do after 11 Years of War? How About Occupying Your City Council?!

US / NATO OUT OF AFGHANISTAN NOW!

Video: Recruiting Soldiers to Refuse to Go

Resolution passed by U.S. Senate:

"It is the sense of Congress that the President should, as previously announced by the President, continue to draw down United States troop levels at a steady pace through the end of 2014; and end all regular combat operations by United States troops by not later than December 31, 2014, and take all possible steps to end such operations at the earliest date consistent with a safe and orderly draw down of United States troops in Afghanistan."

Letter sent to President Obama by 94 Congress Members (PDF):

Dear President Obama:
Your military advisors will soon be providing you with a set of military options in Afghanistan. We are writing to urge you to pursue a strategy in Afghanistan that best serves the interests of the American people and our brave troops on the ground. That strategy is simple: an accelerated withdrawal to bring to an end the decade-long war as soon as can safely and responsibly be accomplished.
After 10 years and almost $600 billion spent, over 2,000 American lives lost, and 18,000 wounded - it is time to accelerate the transition to full Afghan control. While NATO and Afghan National Security Forces have made considerable strides, no military strategy exists and morale has been undermined by the proliferation of “Green on Blue” attacks. Sixty coalition soldiers have been killed this year alone by their Afghan allies. To quote a former Commandant of the Marine Corps, “When our friends turn out to be our enemy, it is time to pull the plug.”
This is one issue that overwhelmingly unifies Americans: the desire to bring the war in Afghanistan to an accelerated close. Polls show over two-thirds of Americans, on a bipartisan basis, believe it is past time to end our combat role and bring the troops home.
We write to request that you respond to the consensus amongst military experts, diplomats, and the American people. It is time to announce an accelerated transition of security responsibility to the Afghan government and to bring our troops home as soon as can be safely and responsibly accomplished.
Al Qaeda’s presence has been greatly diminished and Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to the United States. There can be no military solution in Afghanistan. It is past time for the United States to allow the Afghanistan government to assume responsibility for its own security.
While many of us would prefer an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan starting today, there is broad recognition that the primary objectives have been completed. We also would like to remind you that any long term security agreement committing U.S. troops to the defense of Afghanistan must have congressional approval to be binding. In addition, we would like to request a meeting to discuss these issues directly with you and your staff.
We look forward to working with you.

Where the U.S. public is:

 

  Stay until
stabilized
Remove
troops ASAP
Unsure    
   % % %      
 10/4-7/12

35

60 5      
4/4-15/12

32

60 8      
 3/7-11/12

35

57 7      
 1/11-16/12

38

56 6      
6/15-19/11

39

56 4  
  Doing the
right thing
Should not
be involved
Unsure    
   % % %      
 ALL

31

60 9    

 

"Do you favor or oppose the war in Afghanistan?"

 
    Favor Oppose Unsure Refused  
    % % % %  
 

5/3-7/12

27 66 6 1

"Do you approve or disapprove of the U.S. withdrawing military troops in Afghanistan?"

 
    Approve Disapprove Unsure    
    % % %    
 

4/22-24/12

78 16 6

 

  Worth
fighting
Not worth
fighting
Unsure    
   % % %      
 4/5-8/12

30

66 4    

 

Reasons for the U.S. military to stay in Afghanistan for two more years, and for 10 more years beyond that:

______________________.

 

U.S. Troops and Drones Headed to 35 African Nations: Let There Be War on Earth

Source:

Policy experts and scholars familiar with Africa have a single cautionary word for the planned military expansion that would see deployment of US soldiers and drones in as many as 35 nations dotted across the continent in the coming year: Don't.

Source:

The sharper focus on Africa by the U.S. comes against a backdrop of widespread insurgent violence across North Africa, and as the African Union and other nations discuss military intervention in northern Mali.

Doing Time for Peace

Hundreds of Americans, young and old, are regularly going to prison, sometimes for months or years or decades, for nonviolently resisting U.S. militarism

They block ports, ships, submarines, trains full of weapons, trucks full of weapons, and gates to military bases.  They take hammers to weapons of mass destruction, cause millions of dollars worth of damage, hang up banners, and wait to be arrested.  They cause weapons systems to be canceled, facilities to be closed, and Pentagon policies to be changed.  They educate and inspire greater resistance.

The people who do this take great risks.  U.S. courts are extremely unpredictable, and the same action can easily result in no jail time or years behind bars.  Many of these people have families, and the separation is usually painful.  But many say they could not do this without their families or without their close-knit communities of like-thinking resisters.  A support network of several people is generally needed for each resister.

More often than not, a great sacrifice is made with no apparent success in terms of governmental behavior, either immediately or even after a lengthy passage of time.

Police are becoming more violent.  Sentences are growing longer, and prisons are becoming more awful.

Increasingly, the corporate media ignores such actions, dramatically reducing the educational and inspirational benefits.  When Steve Downs was arrested for wearing a "give peace a chance" t-shirt in a shopping mall, a reporter called up a local peace group and tried to get them to admit they'd prompted Downs' action.  When they said they'd never heard of him, the reporter replied, "Oh, then it's a legitimate story!"  "In other words," says Downs, "if a group protests in support of their constitutional rights, it's not a legitimate story.  If one hapless individual blunders into an arrest, then it is!"

And yet, people who devote themselves to nonviolently resisting war can know that they are part of a movement that does result in improved policies.  And they can know that if more people joined them their chances of success would increase without limit.  That is to say, if enough people joined in, complete success would be guaranteed.  That is to say, peace on earth.

Rosalie Riegle has just published a wonderful collection called "Doing Time for Peace: Resistance, Family, and Community," in which she transcribes her interviews of 68 peace resisters, friends, and family members -- selected from 173 whom Riegle interviewed between 2004 and 2007.  The book is not in the least polemical, more sociological.  The speakers struggle with their memories and goals, and with questions about whether what they do is worth it.

The question of whether a sacrifice has been worth the effort often remains an open question for a very long time.  This book collects heroic, inspiring, and eye-opening actions and presents them with undeniable honesty and humility.  Imagine if millions of people were to read this book.  Suddenly countless actions done quietly or with little notice would be having a whole new kind of impact, and actions engaged in decades back would be revived -- perhaps in a more illuminating manner than before, as a result of the insights gained by the participants.

One resister quoted in "Doing Time for Peace," Kathleen Rumpf, recalled an action she was part of in 1983:

"[W]e went [into the hangar] and saw the B-52 and began hammering.  My little hammer would ping and then almost fly in my face without even leaving a mark.  I painted on the plane: 'This is our cry, this is our prayer of peace in the world.'  And the symbols we brought with us -- the pictures of the children, the indictment that we put on the plane, the blood we poured . . . . I hung paper peace cranes on the different engines.  (The FBI kept calling the cranes 'paper airplanes' like they called blood 'red substance.')

"We had decided we'd do twenty minutes of hammering and putting our stuff around, no more.  In reality, we were there for about two and a half hours.  We didn't want to do more destruction, and we kept wondering what to do next.  We phoned the press from their top security lines.  We sang and prayed out on the tarmac.  We went back in to go to the bathroom.  We went up into a B-52 and looked around.  Now, we were charged with sabotage.  Had we been about that, we certainly would have had time to do it.  Anyway, finally we were able to wave somebody down to arrest us.  They were going to take us to the Burger King and drop us off, like they usually do for protests at Griffiss.  I said, 'Well, gee!  You might want to check Hangar 101 before you release us.'

"So they go to the hangar and then they get on the walkie-talkies, and then we had about sixteen or eighteen guys with forty-inch necks, marching double time with M-16 rifles.  They made us kneel in the sand, holding rifles on us.

"Then sitting on that bus . . . for eight, nine hours . . . with my hands behind my back and hearing this constant 'Shut up! Shut up!' We'd say, 'Well, we didn't join the military, you did.'"

The heroes -- and I use the term intentionally -- in this book include atheists and members of various religions, but they are disproportionately Catholic and part of the Catholic Worker movement.  This raises all sorts of questions for an atheist like myself who believes both that the world would be better off without religion and that the world would be better off if more people behaved as do these religiously motivated Catholics.

The primary problem with activists is their insistence on knowing that success is likely before they act.  This results in a tremendous amount of inaction.  So, when these religious activists say they do not care about success, or they are acting in order to suffer, or they are seeking personal transformation, I'm not eager to reject their position.  I believe we are facing a crisis of militarism and environmental destruction that threatens human survival.  I believe we have a moral duty to act, regardless of the chances of success.  These peace resisters speak of opposing militarism in appropriately moral terms, I think.  But I believe our duty is to act in the manner most likely to succeed, as far as we can identify it.  Sometimes I think that is this sort of nonviolent resistance, but not always.

The resisters do not agree on everything.  Some go limp when arrested.  Some plead guilty.  Some request the harshest sentence.  Some view their defense in court and their attempt to achieve acquittal to be a central part of the action. 

And some have moved toward a type of action unlikely to result in prison time, namely travel to nations threatened by or under attack by the U.S. government or its allies.  Sending peace teams into zones threatened with war or facing ongoing war and occupation can involve great risk and sacrifice.  It can employ the hands-on, face-to-face interactions that peace resisters value.  Friendships and alliances can be built across borders that help to educate the people of both nations and influence their governments.  And all without the months behind bars.

Peace resisters are my kind of Catholics.  Compare them to the Pope, a former Nazi-youth whose Christmas message this week was, first, hatred for gay people, and, second, interaction between the world's religions -- not disarmament, not a cease-fire.  Outgrowing the need for religion, and in the process losing a cause of deadly division, wasn't mentioned, of course.  But the resisters in Riegle's collection often include their disbelief in death as part of what motivates them, what takes away their fear.  And why would I want to take that away from them? 

Albert Camus, generally identified as an atheist, is a frequent source of inspiration for religious resisters.  Camus was very much a mournful ex-theist ever in the process of very-regretfully losing his religion and proclaiming the world absurd without it.  These resisters manage to erase that absurdity.  They eliminate their worries over risks of horrible fates, through their willingness to put everything on the line.  Perhaps to some extent they believe they're fully insured.  They clearly feel a sense of freedom when they set all worry behind them and declare their willingness to accept any suffering whatsoever in order to promote peace and resist war making. 

More of us, all of us, should be moving in that direction.

How Democratic-Party "Activism" Is Done

Daily Kos sent an email on December 6 promoting a strategy  to eliminate the "Bush" tax cuts on the wealthy:

What Reponse to Chuck Hagel Says About Us

I've been grumbling to peace activists that they should stop presenting Chuck Hagel as a force for peace and an "Iraq war critic" or an "Iraq war skeptic."  It makes it sound as if he opposed a war that he voted for, voted repeatedly to fund, and never took any radical action to end.  "Iraq war opponents" in the U.S. Senate routinely voted to fund what they opposed.  Funding war is not what comes to mind when one first hears "war opponent."

The Wait-Just-A-Goddam-Second Amendment

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

George Mason's original draft reads:

"That the People have a Right to keep and to bear Arms; that a well regulated Militia, composed of the Body of the People, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe Defence of a free State; that Standing Armies in Time of Peace are dangerous to Liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided as far as the Circumstances and Protection of the Community will admit; and that in all Cases, the military should be under strict Subordination to, and governed by the Civil Power."

Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights had put it this way 12 years earlier:

"That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power."

The Right-To-Bring-Assault-Weapons-to-School Second Amendment turns out to have its origins in an attempt to avoid maintaining standing armies.  In place of standing armies, the states of the new United States were to create well-regulated militias.  The first half of the Second Amendment explains why people should have a right to bear arms:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State ... "

Bearing arms in a well-regulated militia did not mean bearing guns that can reliably shoot well, since such didn't exist.  It certainly didn't mean bearing guns that can kill entire crowds of people without reloading.  It didn't mean bearing arms outside of the well regulated militia.  Much less did it mean bearing arms in school and church and Wal-Mart. 

By "free state" many supporters of this bill of rights meant, of course, slave state.  And by "people" they meant, of course, white male people -- specifically people who would be taking part in well regulated militias.

The Third Amendment reads:

"No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."

The Second and Third amendments originated as restrictions on what we would later create and come to call a Military Industrial Complex, a permanent war machine, a federal tool of abusive power.

The militias of the Second Amendment are meant to protect against federal coercion, popular rebellions, slave revolts, and -- no doubt -- lunatics who try to mass-murder children. 

The descendants of those militias that we call the National Guard are meant, in contrast, to recruit ill-informed young people who imagine they'll be rescuing hurricane victims into endless occupations of oil-rich lands far from our shores.

To comply with the Second Amendment we must end federal control over the National Guard, regulate such state militias and police forces well, regulate their weapons well, and deny such weapons to all others and for any other use.

The Second Amendment has been made to mean something very different from what was originally intended or what any sane person writing a Constitution would intend today.  This means that we must either reinterpret it, re-write it, or both.

Talk Nation Radio: Roy Hange on Struggle for Peace in Syria and Iran

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

Total run time: 29:00

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

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Spelunker in Chief

Will Obama cave? How deeply will Obama cave?  Why did Obama cave again?  Were you hoping Obama would change his caving ways?  President Barack Obama, one begins to understand, must be our spelunker in chief.

What the Soldiers Did on Christmas 98 Years Ago

Frank Richards recalled:

"On Christmas morning we stuck up a board with 'A Merry Christmas' on it. The enemy had stuck up a similar one. Platoons would sometimes go out for twenty-four hours' rest -- it was a day at least out of the trench and relieved the monotony a bit -- and my platoon had gone out in this way the night before, but a few of us stayed behind to see what would happen. Two of our men then threw their equipment off and jumped on the parapet with their hands above their heads. Two of the Germans done the same and commenced to walk up the river bank, our two men going to meet them. They met and shook hands and then we all got out of the trench.

"Buffalo Bill [the Company Commander] rushed into the trench and endeavoured to prevent it, but he was too late: the whole of the Company were now out, and so were the Germans. He had to accept the situation, so soon he and the other company officers climbed out too. We and the Germans met in the middle of no-man's-land. Their officers was also now out. Our officers exchanged greetings with them. One of the German officers said that he wished he had a camera to take a snapshot, but they were not allowed to carry cameras. Neither were our officers.

How to Criticize the Israeli Government

The other day I tweeted an article that reported on a rather horrible story.  It seems that the Israeli government gives African women drugs that keep them from reproducing. 

I think if this story had been about Canada, Korea, France, or Brazil people would have read it.  The conversation would not have immediately shifted to my alleged hatred of all Canadians. 

Since it was about Israel, some people chose to announce that I hated Jews.  Such a response is not only baseless and nonsensical, but it shifts attention to me and away from the story, which in the end isn't seen. 

Now, I don't know any more about that story than what I've read at that website (the website of a Jewish organization, as it happens).  The report may be accurate or not.  Israeli newspapers seem to report it as fully established, neither doubted nor challenged.  The story at least seems to merit investigation.  The point is that nobody told me it was inaccurate (news that would have delighted me).  Instead, they told me that I was anti-Semitic. 

This happens with the United States too, of course.  If I criticize the U.S. government a few thousand times, and if the president is a Republican, I'll hear from some disturbed individual who wants to recommend that I leave the country since I hate it so much.  Why one would try so hard to reform the government of a country he hated is never really explained. 

With Israel, such nonsense is triggered much more swiftly.  I haven't made a career of trying to reform Israel's government.  All I had to do was tweet a link to an article.  Those who have gone to greater lengths to criticize the crimes of the government of Israel have, in some cases, seen themselves censored, vilified, and their careers derailed.  Many persevere despite this climate.

There is, however, a way to speak openly and honestly about Israel.  Not everyone can do it.  The trick is to be a veteran of the Israeli military.  This approach helps people whose "service" was years ago.  And it helps those whose memories of what they did "for their country" are very fresh.  Not only does such status shield one from a great deal of criticism, but it provides a substantive advantage in being able to report first-hand on what the Israeli military has been doing.  Just as Veterans For Peace are able to speak with some legitimate authority in the United States against the use of war (see Winter Soldier now if you haven't), members of the Israeli military, and those who recently were Israeli soldiers, command attention.

A new book called "Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers' Testimonies from the Occupied Territories 2000-2010," collects the accounts of numerous Israeli soldiers, although withholding their names.  Videos of some of the soldiers telling their stories can be seen online.  The online database sorts the stories into categories: › AbuseAssassinationsBriberyCheckpointsConfirmation of killingCurfews/closuresDeathsDestruction of propertyHuman shieldsHumiliationLootingLoss of livelihoodRoutineRules of engagementSettlementsSettler violence.

"Supporting the troops" is usually understood to exclude listening to the troops.  But these troops should be listened to.  Their experiences are very similar to those of the U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq.  But their war has lasted much, much longer, and with no end in sight.  Their testimonies make clear that their tactics do not serve the supposed purpose of reducing violence, and are in fact not intended to do any such thing.  The bizarre ordeals imposed on the soldiers outdo Kafka and pale in comparison to the nightmares imposed on Palestinians.  The driving forces are quite clearly racism, sadism, imperialism, and excessive obedience.

A very few of the many samples I was tempted to provide:

"They  called us to some location, they found [rockets] in the minaret of a mosque.  What do you do?  You look for someone to go up to the mosque and take down the [rockets] because it's dangerous for us.  So they knocked on doors in the area.  There's always someone with us who speaks Arabic. . . .  So they knocked on the doors and found someone.  He was retarded.  They said, 'Go up to the mosque.  There are pipes in the minaret.  Bring them down.'  They didn't even tell him it was explosives."

"There was an operation in the company next to mine where they told me that a woman was blown up by [an explosive used to break through doors], her limbs were smeared on the wall, but it wasn't on purpose.  They knocked and knocked on the door and there was no answer, so they decided to open it [with live ammunition] . . . .  and just at that moment the woman decided to open the door.  And then her kids came over and saw her. . . . someone said it was funny, and everyone cracked up, that the kids saw their mother smeared on the wall."

"[T]he brigade commander . . . briefs us, 'Any kid you see with a stone, you can shoot at him.' Like, shoot to kill. A stone!"

"[I]t's unbelievable how in the end the report on the radio was, 'In an operation in Tul Karem the IDF captured,' like, you know, 'twenty suspects, ten weapons, and fertilizer suspected for use in manufacturing [explosives], a ton and a half of fertilizer.'  So it's a success, because you hear it on the radio, and you say, 'Hey, look, like we went there, this is what we got, we did what we were supposed to do.'  And what we did was just the opposite.  Because what did we do?  We committed crimes.  We destroyed homes.  No house that we went into was the same when we left."

"There was this house we captured in Hebron . . . we took this house.  You know the procedure: the family moves down a floor.  Now, what did we do?  We were . . . on the third floor, the guys set up a pipe, a pipe to pee, so they could pee outside.  They put the pipe, we put the pipe exactly so that all the piss would flow into the courtyard of the house below us.  There were a few chicken coops just there, it all poured out there.  That was the joke every day, waiting for the father or one of the kids to go to the coop, and then everyone stands and pisses." 

"Apparently, that captain had gone to Takua, which is a pretty hostile village -- they were throwing stones at the jeep.  So, he just stopped a Palestinian guy who was passing, forty-something years old, and tied him to the hood of the jeep, a guy just lying on the hood, and they drove into the village."

"The Palestinians didn't know there were soldiers behind them, and the soldiers would just spray their legs. . . . His one goal was to lure Palestinian children, just to cut off their legs."

"We had a commander in the unit who would just say in these words, . . . 'I want bodies.  That's what I want.'"

"You're not ranked by arrests -- you're ranked by the number of people you kill."

"[The company commander] taught us about rubber bullets, and they showed us how it comes in what's called a 'tampon,' which is a kind of plastic bag that contains the bullets.  So they said, 'You need to separate them, meaning you tear open the package and put them in one by one so you cause damage.'  And they actually explained it to us, in this really pornographic way, 'Aim for the eyes so you take out an eye, or at the stomach so it goes into the stomach.'"

"Try to imagine it: I see my officers with their backs to me, laughing, falling about, and below I see the Border Police beating people up, guys being choked, one guy bleeding.  And I think, 'This is just like the books I read.' . . . Whenever people get shot, I have this image in my head, I must've seen it in a movie, of Nazis shooting Jews in pits, and officers standing at the side, laughing."

A Way to Stop the Violence

The troubled souls (generally known in the media as "monsters" and "lunatics") who keep shooting up schools and shopping centers, believe they are solving deeper problems.  We all know, of course, that in reality they are making things dramatically worse.

This is not an easy problem for us to solve.  We could make it harder to obtain guns, and especially guns designed specifically for mass killings.  We could take on the problem with our entertainment: we have movies, television shows, video games, books, and toys promoting killing as the way to fix what ails us.  We could take on the problem of our news media: we have newspapers and broadcast chatterers promoting killing as a necessary tool of public policy.  We could reverse the past 40 years of rising inequality, poverty, and plutocracy -- a trend that correlates with violence in whatever country it's found. 

What we can't do is stop arming, training, funding, and supporting the mass murderers in our towns and cities, because of course we haven't been supporting them.  They aren't acting in our name as our representatives.  When our children run in horror from classrooms strewn with their classmates' bloody corpses, they are running from killers never authorized by us or elected by us.

This situation changes when we look abroad. 

Picture a family in a house in Pakistan.  There's a little dot very high up in the sky above.  It's making a buzzing noise.  The dot is an unmanned airplane, a drone.  It's being flown from a desk in Nevada.  The family knows what it is.  The children know what it is.  They know their lives may be ended at any moment.  And they are traumatized.  They are in a constant state of terror.  And then, one bright clear morning, they are torn limb from limb, bleeding, screaming, groaning out their last breaths as their home collapses into smoking rubble.

Picture a family in a house in Afghanistan.  They're asleep in their beds.  A door is kicked in. Incomprehensible words are shouted.  Bullets fly.  Loved ones are grabbed and dragged away, kicking and screaming with horror -- never to be seen again.

The troubled souls (generally known in the media as "tax-payers") who keep this far greater volume of violence going, believe they are solving deeper problems.  But when we look closely, we see that in reality we are making things dramatically worse. 

That is the good news.  There is violence that we can much more easily stop, because it is our violence.  The U.S. Army last week said that targeting children in Afghanistan was perfectly acceptable.  The U.S. President maintains a list of men, women, and children to be killed, and he kills them -- but the vast majority of the people killed through that program are people not on the list, people in the wrong place at the wrong time (just like the people in our shopping malls and schools). 

In fact, the vast majority of the people killed in our foreign wars are simply bystanders.  And they are killed in their homes, their stores, their schools, their weddings.  The violence that we can easily end looks very much like the violence we find so difficult to address at home.  It doesn't take place between a pair of armies on a battlefield.  It happens where its victims live.

Were we to stop pouring $1.2 trillion each year into war preparations, we would also be stopping the public funding of the manufacturers of the weapons that rip open our loved ones and neighbors in our schools and parking lots.  We would be altering dramatically the context in which we generate public policy, public entertainment, and public myths about how problems can be solved.  We would be saving lives every bit as precious as any other lives, while learning how to go on to saving more. 

One place to start, I believe, would be in withdrawing U.S. troops from over 1,000 bases in other people's countries -- an imperial presence that costs us $170 billion each year while building hostility and tensions, not peace.  There's a reason why, at this time of year, we don't sing about "Peace in My Backyard."  If we want peace on Earth, we must stop and consider how to get it.


--

David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works as Campaign Coordinator for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

The Original Abolitionists

If you're like me, there are some things you would like to abolish.  My list includes war, weapons, fossil fuel use, plutocracy, corporate personhood, health insurance corporations, poverty wages, poverty, homelessness, factory farming, prisons, the drug war, the death penalty, nuclear energy, the U.S. Senate, the electoral college, gerrymandering, electronic voting machines, murder, rape, child abuse, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and the Washington Post.  I could go on.  I bet you can think of at least one institution you believe we'd be better off without.

All of us, then, can almost certainly learn a thing or two from the men and women in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in England who abolished first the slave trade and then slavery within the British empire.  I highly recommend watching a film about them called "Amazing Grace."  If you like it, you'll love a book called "Bury the Chains."

You'll discover that this was in many ways the original activist movement.  It created activist committees, with chapters, newsletters, posters, speaking tours, book tours, petitioning, boycotts of products, theatrical props, and investigative journalism -- pioneering all of these now familiar tactics.  It achieved great success without voting, as only a tiny fraction of the population could vote.  That, in itself, should be a lesson to those who believe elections are the only tool available. 

The abolition movement had stamina.  Looking back, its gains appear stunningly swift.  At the end of the 1700s the world was dominated by slavery.  Slavery was the norm.  Before the end of the 1800s it had been outlawed almost everywhere.  Yet, those who worked night and day against the current of their times to create the abolition movement faced endless defeats.  Many of the hardest working activists didn't live to see the final success.  And yet they kept working.  That too may be a lesson for us.

A war between England and France halted progress, and could have stopped it cold.  But the war ended, and the movement was revived -- in large part with a new cast of characters, a younger generation of radicals.  Freezing all forward momentum for wars has been the rule over the ages.  It's a hard lesson for us to face, as we've now accepted that we live in an era of permanent war.  The difficult truth may be that we must escape that era if we are to make headway on numerous fronts.

When the abolition movement sprang into being in England, it was a moral movement demanding rights -- but, unlike most movements we've seen -- demanding rights for other people.  The Britons were not demanding their own freedom.  In fact, they were willing to make sacrifices, to risk a reduction in their own prosperity, and to boycott the use of slave-grown sugar.  This is a useful fact in an age when we are often told that people can only care about themselves.  Never mind the dead Afghans and Pakistanis, we're advised, just make sure that Americans know the financial cost of the wars.  Perhaps that advice can be questioned after all.

However, Adam Hochschild, the author of "Bury the Chains," believes that Britons were able to appreciate the evil of the slave trade because of their own experience with the practice of naval impressment.  That is to say, because they themselves lived in fear of being kidnapped and enslaved by the British Navy and forced to sail naval vessels around the world, and in fear of their loved ones meeting that fate, they were able to imagine the misery of Africans living in fear of being kidnapped and sold into slavery in the West Indies. 

Where might this insight lead us?  Americans do face random senseless gun violence.  Can we appreciate the evil of a drone buzzing over a village and then blowing up a family because we know that our shopping mall or school could soon be the scene of mass murder?  Americans have also been taught to fear foreign terrorism.  Can we appreciate the need to stop funding foreign terrorism in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, foreign terrorism carried out by the U.S. military? 

We do have another tool available to us.  We can make use of video, audio, and instantaneous reporting on the victims of war or other evils.  Perhaps, understanding that morality can move people, we will figure out a better way to communicate what needs to be abolished.  The original abolitionists did not have this ability.

The original abolitionists made great use of newspapers and books which -- unlike those in France and other nations that failed to develop a similar mass movement -- were completely uncensored.  (We come back to the need to abolish our corporate media cartel.)  The original abolitionists benefitted from the egalitarian organizing of the Quakers, at whose meeting any man or woman could speak -- although they were remarkably slow to make use of the voices of freed slaves who could have spoken of slavery first-hand, and who eventually did so to great effect.

The movement to abolish the slave trade was aimed at Parliament.  It did not demand freedom or rights for blacks.  It threatened the livelihood of ship captains but not of the wealthy whose investments were in the plantations across the sea.  The movement persuaded MPs of just enough to pass the legislation desired -- and even less, as abolitionists slipped through Parliament a bill designed to damage the slave trade but not advertised that way or understood by its opponents until the vote had been taken.

The movement was launched in 1787 and by 1807 had outlawed the slave trade.  By August 1, 1838, all slaves in the British empire were free. 

The slaves themselves heard of these efforts, of course, and their own struggles for freedom may have done more than anything else to win the day.  The rebellions in Saint-Domingue (Haiti), Jamaica, and elsewhere had a significant impact on British thinking about slavery.  In fact, the first generation of abolitionists, now aging, failed to keep pace with public sentiment.  Their proposals for a slow and gradual end to slavery had to make way for the demand of immediate emancipation advanced by younger men and the now very active groups of women.  And ultimately a reform bill had to be passed to somewhat democratize the government before the popular demand for slavery's abolition could be answered.

 

Compensated Emancipation

Activists were somewhat disappointed when Parliament chose to compensate slave owners for the liberation of their slaves.  The slaves themselves were, of course, not compensated.  They had little but hard times ahead.

But the compensation of slave owners offered a model that might have served the United States better than bloody civil war.  During the American revolutionary war, the British had recruited slaves to fight on their side by promising them freedom.  After the war, slave owners, including George Washington, demanded their slaves back.  A British commander, General Sir Guy Carleton, refused.  Thousands of freed slaves were transported from New York to Nova Scotia to avoid their re-enslavement.  But Carleton did promise to compensate the slaves' owners, and Washington settled for that.

The original British abolitionists, including Thomas Clarkson, greatly influenced Americans like William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglas Douglass.  But few picked up on the idea of compensated emancipation, which had not originated with the abolitionists.

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

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

 

Virginia

When a former slave found his voice in London, told his story in a best-selling book, filled debating halls, and became a leader in the movement to free all others, he was a man who had been a slave in my home state of Virginia.  His name was Olaudah Equiano.  He was one of, if not the first, black to speak publicly in Britain.  He did as much to end the slave trade as anyone, and it might have gone on considerably longer without him.

I've never seen a monument or memorial in Virginia to Equiano.  In contrast, just down the street from my house in Charlottesville is a tree called Tarleton's Oak.  Next to it is a gas station by the same name.  The tree is not old, having been planted to replace an enormous aging oak that I recall seeing.  Under that one, supposedly, during the revolution, British troops camped.  They were led by a young officer named Banastre Tarleton.  He later got himself into Parliament, and there was no more obnoxious defender of the slave trade than he.  Africans themselves, he maintained, did not object in the least to being enslaved.  Tarleton lied at tremendous length without a hint of shame.  His memory we mark, not Equiano's.

Talk Nation Radio: Erica Chenoweth on the Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict

Erica Chenoweth is co-author with Maria J. Stephan of "Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict."  Their research finds that nonviolent action works against tyrannical rule with a higher success rate than violence and with longer-lasting results.  Their book has received the 2013 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order, as well as the 2012 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award, which the American Political Science Association gives annually to the best book on government, politics, or international affairs published in the U.S. during the previous calendar year.  Listeners to Talk Nation Radio can pick up the newly-released paperback at a 30% discount from http://www.cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-15682-0/why-civil-resistance-works by using the discount code WHYCHE. Learn more at http://ericachenoweth.com

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
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