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There has never been any evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. Iran has always denied having such a thing.
The U.S. Department of Defense has admitted that currently Iran has no such program. All of the U.S. so-called intelligence agencies believe Iran has no nuclear weapons program. The New York Times (January 2012) and the Washington Post (December 2011) were compelled to issue corrections after referring to Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons program.
Yet here comes Donald Nuechterlein in the Oct. 13 Daily Progress referring repeatedly to this mythical nuclear weapons program and claiming, for instance, that “Iran can be induced to suspend nuclear weapons development.”
Gee, what a diplomatic accomplishment that would be! You cannot suspend nuclear weapons development unless you are engaged in nuclear weapons development.
The comments come from Malala and the U.N. respectively.
President Obama invited Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for girls' education, to meet with his family. And she promptly explained that what he is doing works against her agenda and fuels terrorism.
Malala is a victim of violence in Pakistan, having been attacked by religious fanatics opposed to her work. But Obama may not have expected her to speak up against other forms of violence in her country.
Malala recounted: "I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education, it will make a big impact."
President Obama may also have not expected most people to notice or care. The corporate media have virtually ignored this part of a widely-reported meeting.
It's up to us to surprise everyone with the depth of our interest and concern. Almost 100,000 have thus far signed a petition to ban weaponized drones, soon to be delivered to the U.N., the I.C.C., the State Department, the White House, Congress, and embassies.
The United Nations has released a report on "armed drones and the right to life" (PDF). The report begins by noting that, as of now, weaponized drones are legal:
"Although drones are not illegal weapons, they can make it easier for States to deploy deadly and targeted force on the territories of other States. As such, they risk undermining the protection of life in the immediate and longer terms. If the right to life is to be secured, it is imperative that the limitations posed by international law on the use of force are not weakened by broad justifications of drone strikes."
Drones, the U.N. Special Rapporteur reports, risk making war the normal state of affairs:
"Peace should be the norm, yet such scenarios risk making its derogation the rule by privileging force over long-term peaceful alternatives. . . . Given that drones greatly reduce or eliminate the number of casualties on the side using them, the domestic constraints — political and otherwise — may be less restrictive than with the deployment of other types of armed force. This effect is enhanced by the relative ease with which the details about drone targeting can be withheld from the public eye and the potentially restraining influence of public concern. Such dynamics call for a heightened level of vigilance by the international community concerning the use of drones."
The U.N. Charter and this report seek to make war an exceptional state of affairs. This is a very difficult, and a morally depraved thing to attempt with an institution that deserves total abolition. War does not work as a tool with which to eliminate war. But, even within that framework, the U.N. finds that drones create extra-legal war:
"An outer layer of protection for the right to life is the prohibition on the resort to force by one State against another, again subject to a narrowly construed set of exceptions. The protection of State sovereignty and of territorial integrity, which onoccasion presents a barrier to the protection of human rights, here can constitute an important component of the protection of people against deadly force, especially with the advent of armed drones."
The strongest excuse for war is the claim of defense against an actual attack. The next best thing is to pretend an attack is imminent. The Obama Administration has famously redefined "imminent" to mean eventual or theoretical -- that is, they've stripped the word of all meaning. (See the "white paper" PDF.) The U.N. doesn't buy it:
"The view that mere past involvement in planning attacks is sufficient to render an individual targetable even where there is no evidence of a specific and immediate attack distorts the requirements established in international human rights law."
U.S. lawyers at Congressional hearings have tended to maintain that drone killing is legal if and only if it's part of a war. The U.N. report also distinguishes between two supposedly different standards of law depending on whether a drone murder is separate from or part of a war. Disappointingly, the U.N. believes that some drone strikes can be legal and others not:
"Insofar as the term 'signature strikes' refers to targeting without sufficient information to make the necessary determination, it is clearly unlawful. . . . Where one drone attack is followed up by another in order to target those who are wounded and hors de combat or medical personnel, it constitutes a war crime in armed conflict and a violation of the right to life, whether or not in armed conflict. Strikes on others confirmed to be civilians who are directly participating in hostilities or having a continuous combat function at the time of the follow-up strike could be lawful if the other international humanitarian law rules are respected."
The complex mumbo-jumbo of multiple legal standards for multiple scenarios, complete with calculations of necessity and distinction and proportionality and collateral damage, mars this report and any attempt to create enforceable action out of it. But the report does, tentatively, find one little category of drone murders illegal that encompasses many, if not all, U.S. drone murders -- namely, those where the victim might have been captured rather than killed:
"Recent debates have asked whether international humanitarian law requires that a party to an armed conflict under certain circumstances consider the capture of an otherwise lawful target (i.e. a combatant in the traditional sense or a civilian directly participating in hostilities) rather than targeting with force. In its Interpretive Guidance, ICRC states that it would defy basic notions of humanity to kill an adversary or to refrain from giving him or her an opportunity to surrender where there manifestly is no necessity for the use of lethal force."
Pathetically, the report finds that if a government is going to pretend that murdering someone abroad is "self-defense" the action must be reported to the U.N. -- thereby making it sooooo much better.
A second UN report (PDF) goes further, citing findings that U.S. drones have killed hundreds of civilians, but failing to call for prosecutions of these crimes. That is to say, the first report, above, which does not list specific U.S. drone murders of civilians, discusses the need for prosecutions. But this second report just asks for "a detailed public explanation."
The fact that an insane killing spree is counter-productive, as pointed out to Obama by Malala, in case he hadn't heard all his own experts, is not enough to end the madness. Ultimately we must recognize the illegality of all killing and all war. In the meantime, prior to the U.N.'s debate on this on the 25th, we can add our names to the growing movement to ban weaponized drones at http://BanWeaponizedDrones.org
A rally will be held on Sunday, October 20th, from 4-5PM at the main entrance to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on Lockport Road by No Drones Niagara (nodronesniagara.org). The rally will support “Jobs for Life and Not for Death,” standing up against the military use of drones (also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs) that looms over the Base’s future. At 3pm, many participants will meet at the UB South Park and Ride, Main St, to carpool to the Base.
The rally will also feature courageous nonviolent civil resisters – both local (Bonny Mahoney, Valerie Niederhoffer, and Vicki Ross) and from Syracuse (Ed Kinane and Ann Tiffany) and Rochester (Judy Bello). They have worked to stop the illegal extrajudicial assassination by drone that is being perpetrated at Hancock Air Reserve National Guard Base outside of Syracuse, one of the three biggest drone centers in the US. The government’s effort to shut down the civil resistance at Hancock has become so extreme that Orders of Protection have been egregiously mis-used against nonviolent peace activists by the Hancock Base Commander, and approved by Town of DeWitt judges. This pre-empts the activists’ civil right to free speech and debases an important legal tool for victims of domestic violence and stalking. It sets a dangerous precedent.
Sunday's rally will emphasize concern for the many ways people are hurt by weaponized drones: victims killed or maimed, and their grief-stricken families and friends; populations terrorized by the threatening presence of the drones; and drone operators who suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at a higher rate than those serving in combat. Life-sustaining jobs are what’s needed. Charley Bowman, Former Interim Director of the WNY Peace Center, will discuss other options for the base, especially converting the base into a solar energy farm (see wnypeace.org).
No Drones Niagara was formed in the greater Buffalo-Niagara area in 2012 after concerned citizens learned that the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station was being considered for hosting drone missions as a means of retaining jobs at the base and preventing its closure. It is the opinion of the members of No Drones Niagara that jobs which facilitate the killing of civilians and international lawbreaking (as testified by former Attorney General international law expert Ramsey Clark) are not jobs worth having. No Drones Niagara, an affiliate of the Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars (upstatedroneaction.org), is a collaboration of local groups including the Western New York Peace Center, the International Action Center(iacenter.org), the Interfaith Peace Network, Burning Books, and others. No Drones Niagara can be contacted by email at email@example.com, or via Facebook at facebook.com/NoDronesNiagara.
Earthwise - American David Swanson, journalist, author, blogger, peace activist discusses threats to Pagan Island
- Episode title: American David Swanson, journalist, author, blogger, peace activist discusses threats to Pagan Island, Northern Marianas from the US military
- Description:Vieques Island, part of Puerto Rico, has been ravished and poisoned by incessant US military bombing and other practices, including using Depleted Uranium. Will the same happen to Pagan Island?
- Duration:0 hour(s) 26 minute(s)
- Release date: October 16 2013
- Download: mp3 version
Pagan Island is known for its beauty and rich biological diversity. As David has said, "let's take this opportunity to build a bridge between peace activism and environmental activism." By the way, the Northern Marianas have observer status in the Pacific Islands Forum, in which New Zealand plays a leading role.
Rose Braz is the Climate Campaign Director for the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute. The Clean Air Cities campaign has thus far organized 72 cities, large and small, across the United States, to pass resolutions demanding that the EPA make full use of the Clean Air Act to cut the greenhouse gas pollution that is drastically changing the earth's climate. See http://CleanAirCities.org
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
When video of the October 14th edition of Thom Hartmann's TV show appears online (here) it will include him asking me to justify not attacking Hitler. Thom has asked me this repeatedly during multiple appearances on his show, each time a little differently, and each time provocatively. He's right to ask it, and he's been right in some of the answers he's helped provide in the asking.
Without Hitler, the U.S. military would collapse.
For 68 years, wars on poor countries have been justified by the pretended discovery of Hitler's reincarnation. Each time it has turned out to be a false alarm. Every post-WWII war looks disastrous or at least dubious in retrospect to most people. And yet, the justification of the next war is always ready to hand, because the real, original Hitler remains alive in our memories, and he just might come back -- who's to say?
Actually, I think anyone vaguely aware of basic facts about the current world ought to be able to say that Hitler is gone for good.
How do I justify not going to war with Hitler, beyond explaining that Assad isn't Hitler, Gadaffi isn't Hitler, Hussein isn't Hitler, and so on?
Increasingly, I believe we must start with the fact that we live in a different world. Colonization is gone. Empires of the old model are gone. No powerful nation is plotting that sort of global conquest. In fact, no powerful nation is seriously considering war with other powerful nations.
During these past 68 years of misidentifying new Hitler after new Hitler, there has in fact been no World War III. We haven't just made it 25 years. We'll hit the 75-year mark during the next U.S. presidency. Nuclear weapons, awareness of the costs, understanding of the lack of benefits, established norms against the seizure of territory, the utter unacceptability of colonialism, and the vast increase in understanding of the power of nonviolent action all work against the waging of wars among the wealthy, armed nations. Instead, we have proxy wars, wars of exploitation, and poor-on-poor warfare. And even those wars fail miserably on their own terms. Occupations collapse. Puppets grow legs and wander off.
When World War II happened, war had never been prosecuted as a crime. The prosecutions that followed the war were the first. The seizure of territory was only beginning to be delegitimized. Colonialism was still understood as the route to riches, power, and prestige. War was imagined as a contest between armies on a battlefield, rather than what World War II transformed it into: the slaughter of civilians in their homes.
When World War II happened, there were no nukes, no satellites, no drones. There was no (or little) television, no internet, no WikiLeaks. There was no understanding of the tools of nonviolence. History contained no nonviolent overthrows of dictatorships, few examples of creative nonviolent resistance to tyranny, no teams of human shields, no Arab Spring, no Civil Rights movement, no overcoming of Apartheid, no bloodless revolutions in Eastern Europe, no peace studies programs, no expertise in conflict resolution, and no viable alternatives to war -- much less the thousands of tools since devised, tested, and refined.
When we look back at Thomas Jefferson's slavery, we like to excuse it because he lived in an age in which lots of other people engaged in slavery. He didn't know better, we like to say. He didn't have an easy way out that would be equally profitable with so many side benefits. I think we're a bit generous in this act of forgiving, but I think there's also a grain of truth there. Times do change, and actions are taken in contexts.
When we look back at Franklin Roosevelt's war-making, perhaps we should remember that it took place in an era when nothing else was imagined by many people. Punishing the entire nation of Germany following World War I was not recognized as the time bomb it was, not by most people. Funding fascism as preferable to the horror of communism was not recognized as the Frankenstein experiment it was, not by most people. Hyping the danger of a Nazi takeover of the world and jumping into a war, and then escalating that war into the very worst thing the world has ever seen, was not viewed as a barbaric choice, was not viewed as a choice at all -- not by many people.
We live in a different era. When our President claims he simply must send missiles into Syria, we tell him to think harder. We can forgive FDR for war-making as we forgive those who engaged in slavery or dueling or blood feuds or witch hunts. They were products of their times. But we need not go on acting as if it is forever 1945 -- no matter how much that pretense profits certain people.
If we were to recognize that Hitler isn't coming back, and that we could resist him without war if he did, we might suddenly begin demanding the things that other nations have and the U.S. could easily afford: healthcare, education, a secure and adequate income, parental leave, vacation leave, retirement, public transit, sustainable energy, etc. Lockheed and Raytheon and Northrop Grumman would start making solar panels or start departing this world for the pages of history. In other words, we might shut down the other half of the government from the half that's shut down right now.
The following is an excerpt from my book, War No More: The Case for Abolition:
"There Never Was a Good War or a Bad Peace" or How to Be Against Both Hitler and War
Benjamin Franklin, who said that bit inside the quotation marks, lived before Hitler and so may not be qualified—in the minds of many—to speak on the matter. But World War II happened in a very different world from today's, didn't need to happen, and could have been dealt with differently when it did happen. It also happened differently from how we are usually taught. For one thing, the U.S. government was eager to enter the war, and to a great extent did enter the war, in both the Atlantic and the Pacific, prior to Pearl Harbor.
Pre-WWII Germany might have looked very different without the harsh settlement that followed World War I which punished an entire people rather than the war makers, and without the significant monetary support provided for decades past and ongoing through World War II by U.S. corporations like GM, Ford, IBM, and ITT (see Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler by Anthony Sutton).
(Let me insert a parenthetical remark here that I hope many will find quite silly, but that I know others will need to hear. We are talking about World War II, and I've just criticized someone other than Hitler—namely U.S. corporations—so let me hasten to point out that Hitler still gets to be responsible for every hideous crime he committed. Blame is more like sunshine than like fossil fuels; we can give some to Henry Ford for his support of Hitler without taking the slightest bit away from Adolph Hitler himself and without comparing or equating the two.)
Nonviolent resistance to the Nazis in Denmark, Holland, and Norway, as well as the successful protests in Berlin by the non-Jewish wives of imprisoned Jewish husbands suggested a potential that was never fully realized—not even close. The notion that Germany could have maintained a lasting occupation of the rest of Europe and the Soviet Union, and proceeded to attack in the Americas, is extremely unlikely, even given the 1940s' relatively limited knowledge of nonviolent activism. Militarily, Germany was primarily defeated by the Soviet Union, its other enemies playing relatively minor parts.
The important point is not that massive, organized nonviolence should have been used against the Nazis in the 1940s. It wasn't, and many people would have had to see the world very differently in order for that to have happened. Rather the point is that tools of nonviolence are much more widely understood today and can be, and typically will be, used against rising tyrants. We should not imagine returning to an age in which that wasn't so, even if doing so helps to justify outrageous levels of military spending! We should, rather, strengthen our efforts to nonviolently resist the growth of tyrannical powers before they reach a crisis point, and to simultaneously resist efforts to lay the ground work for future wars against them.
Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, which was not then part of the United States, President Franklin Roosevelt had tried lying to the American people about U.S. ships including the Greer and the Kearny, which had been helping British planes track German submarines, but which Roosevelt pretended had been wrongly attacked. Roosevelt also tried to create support for entering the war by lying that he had in his possession a secret Nazi map planning the conquest of South America, as well as a secret Nazi plan for replacing all religions with Nazism. However, the people of the United States rejected the idea of going into another war until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, by which point Roosevelt had already instituted the draft, activated the National Guard, created and begun using a huge Navy in two oceans, traded old destroyers to England in exchange for the lease of its bases in the Caribbean and Bermuda, and secretly ordered the creation of a list of every Japanese and Japanese-American person in the United States.
When President Roosevelt visited Pearl Harbor seven years before the Japanese attack, the Japanese military (which, just like Hitler or anyone else in the world, gets full blame for all of its inexcusable crimes) expressed apprehension. In March 1935, Roosevelt bestowed Wake Island on the U.S. Navy and gave Pan Am Airways a permit to build runways on Wake Island, Midway Island, and Guam. Japanese military commanders announced that they were disturbed and viewed these runways as a threat. So did peace activists in the United States.
In November 1940, Roosevelt loaned China $100m for war with Japan, and after consulting with the British, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau made plans to send the Chinese bombers with U.S. crews to use in bombing Tokyo and other Japanese cities.
For years prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy worked on plans for war with Japan, the March 8, 1939, version of which described "an offensive war of long duration" that would destroy the military and disrupt the economic life of Japan. In January 1941, the Japan Advertiser expressed its outrage over Pearl Harbor in an editorial, and the U.S. ambassador to Japan wrote in his diary: "There is a lot of talk around town to the effect that the Japanese, in case of a break with the United States, are planning to go all out in a surprise mass attack on Pearl Harbor. Of course I informed my government."
On May 24, 1941, the New York Times reported on U.S. training of the Chinese air force, and the provision of "numerous fighting and bombing planes" to China by the United States. "Bombing of Japanese Cities is Expected" read the subheadline.
On July 24, 1941, President Roosevelt remarked, "If we cut the oil off, [the Japanese] probably would have gone down to the Dutch East Indies a year ago, and you would have had a war. It was very essential from our own selfish point of view of defense to prevent a war from starting in the South Pacific. So our foreign policy was trying to stop a war from breaking out there." Reporters noticed that Roosevelt said "was" rather than "is." The next day, Roosevelt issued an executive order freezing Japanese assets. The United States and Britain cut off oil and scrap metal to Japan. Radhabinod Pal, an Indian jurist who served on the war crimes tribunal in Tokyo after the war, called the embargoes a "clear and potent threat to Japan's very existence," and concluded the United States had provoked Japan.
The U.S. government is imposing what it proudly calls "crippling sanctions" on Iran as I write.
On November 15, 1941, Army Chief of Staff George Marshall briefed the media on something we do not remember as "the Marshall Plan." In fact we don't remember it at all. "We are preparing an offensive war against Japan," Marshall said, asking the journalists to keep it a secret.
Ten days later Secretary of War Henry Stimson wrote in his diary that he'd met in the Oval Office with Marshall, President Roosevelt, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, Admiral Harold Stark, and Secretary of State Cordell Hull. Roosevelt had told them the Japanese were likely to attack soon, possibly next Monday. It has been well documented that the United States had broken the Japanese' codes and that Roosevelt had access to them.
What did not bring the United States into the war or keep it going was a desire to save Jews from persecution. For years Roosevelt blocked legislation that would have allowed Jewish refugees from Germany into the United States. The notion of a war to save the Jews is found on none of the war propaganda posters and essentially arose after the war was over, just as the idea of the "good war" took hold decades later as a comparison to the Vietnam War.
"Disturbed in 1942," wrote Lawrence S. Wittner, "by rumors of Nazi extermination plans, Jessie Wallace Hughan, an educator, a politician, and a founder of the War Resisters League, worried that such a policy, which appeared 'natural, from their pathological point of view,' might be carried out if World War II continued. 'It seems that the only way to save thousands and perhaps millions of European Jews from destruction,' she wrote, 'would be for our government to broadcast the promise' of an 'armistice on condition that the European minorities are not molested any further. ... It would be very terrible if six months from now we should find that this threat has literally come to pass without our making even a gesture to prevent it.' When her predictions were fulfilled only too well by 1943, she wrote to the State Department and the New York Times, decrying the fact that 'two million [Jews] have already died' and that 'two million more will be killed by the end of the war.' Once again she pleaded for the cessation of hostilities, arguing that German military defeats would in turn exact reprisals upon the Jewish scapegoat. 'Victory will not save them,' she insisted, 'for dead men cannot be liberated.'"
In the end some prisoners were rescued, but many more had been killed. Not only did the war not prevent the genocide, but the war itself was worse. The war established that civilians were fair game for mass slaughter and slaughtered them by the tens of millions. Attempts to shock and awe through mass slaughter failed. Fire-bombing cities served no higher purpose. Dropping one, and then a second, nuclear bomb was in no way justified as a way to end a war that was already ending. German and Japanese imperialism were halted, but the U.S. global empire of bases and wars was born—bad news for the Middle East, Latin America, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and elsewhere. The Nazi ideology was not defeated by violence. Many Nazi scientists were brought over to work for the Pentagon, the results of their influence apparent.
But much of what we think of as particularly Nazi evils (eugenics, human experimentation, etc.) could be found in the United States as well, before, during, and after the war. A recent book called Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America collects much of what is known. Eugenics was taught in hundreds of medical schools in the United States by the 1920s and by one estimate in three-quarters of U.S. colleges by the mid 1930s. Non-consensual experimentation on institutionalized children and adults was common in the United States before, during, and especially after the U.S. and its allies prosecuted Nazis for the practice in 1947, sentencing many to prison and seven to be hanged. The tribunal created the Nuremberg Code, standards for medical practice that were immediately ignored back home. American doctors considered it "a good code for barbarians." Thus, we had the Tuskegee syphilis study, and the experimentation at the Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital in Brooklyn, the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island, Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia, and so many others, including U.S. experiments on Guatemalans during the Nuremberg proceedings. Also during the Nuremberg trial, children at the Pennhurst school in southeastern Pennsylvania were given hepatitis-laced feces to eat. Human experimentation increased in the decades that followed. As each story has leaked out we've seen it as an aberration. Against Their Will suggests otherwise. As I write, there are protests of recent forced sterilizations of women in California prisons.
The point is not to compare the relative levels of evilness of individuals or people. The Nazis' concentration camps are very hard to match in that regard. The point is that no side in a war is good, and evil behavior is no justification for war. American Curtis LeMay, who oversaw the fire bombing of Japanese cities, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, said that if the other side had won he'd have been prosecuted as a war criminal. That scenario wouldn't have rendered the disgusting war crimes of the Japanese or the Germans acceptable or praiseworthy. But it would have led to the world giving them less thought, or at least less exclusive thought. Instead, the crimes of the allies would be the focus, or at least one focus, of outrage.
You need not think that U.S. entry into World War II was a bad idea in order to oppose all future wars. You can recognize the misguided policies of decades that led to World War II. And you can recognize the imperialism of both sides as a product of their time. There are those who, by this means, excuse Thomas Jefferson's slavery. If we can do that, perhaps we can also excuse Franklin Roosevelt's war. But that doesn't mean we should be making plans to repeat either one of those things.
The above is excerpted from War No More: The Case for Abolition.
This article is excerpted from the new book War No More: The Case for Abolition.
In the late eighteenth century the majority of people alive on earth were held in slavery or serfdom (three-quarters of the earth's population, in fact, according to the Encyclopedia of Human Rights from Oxford University Press). The idea of abolishing something so pervasive and long-lasting as slavery was widely considered ridiculous. Slavery had always been with us and always would be. One couldn't wish it away with naive sentiments or ignore the mandates of our human nature, unpleasant though they might be. Religion and science and history and economics all purported to prove slavery's permanence, acceptability, and even desirability. Slavery's existence in the Christian Bible justified it in the eyes of many. In Ephesians 6:5 St. Paul instructed slaves to obey their earthly masters as they obeyed Christ.
Slavery's prevalence also allowed the argument that if one country didn't do it another country would: "Some gentlemen may, indeed, object to the slave trade as inhuman and evil," said a member of the British Parliament on May 23, 1777, "but let us consider that, if our colonies are to be cultivated, which can only be done by African negroes, it is surely better to supply ourselves with those labourers in British ships, than buy them from French, Dutch or Danish traders." On April 18, 1791, Banastre Tarleton declared in Parliament—and, no doubt, some even believed him—that "the Africans themselves have no objection to the trade."
By the end of the nineteenth century, slavery was outlawed nearly everywhere and rapidly on the decline. In part, this was because a handful of activists in England in the 1780s began a movement advocating for abolition, a story well told in Adam Hochschild's Bury the Chains. This was a movement that made ending the slave trade and slavery a moral cause, a cause to be sacrificed for on behalf of distant, unknown people very different from oneself. It was a movement of public pressure. It did not use violence and it did not use voting. Most people had no right to vote. Instead it used so-called naive sentiments and the active ignoring of the supposed mandates of our supposed human nature. It changed the culture, which is, of course, what regularly inflates and tries to preserve itself by calling itself "human nature."
Other factors contributed to the demise of slavery, including the resistance of the people enslaved. But such resistance was not new in the world. Widespread condemnation of slavery—including by former slaves—and a commitment not to allow its return: that was new and decisive.
Those ideas spread by forms of communication we now consider primitive. There is some evidence that in this age of instant global communication we can spread worthy ideas much more quickly.
So, is slavery gone? Yes and no. While owning another human being is banned and in disrepute around the world, forms of bondage still exist in certain places. There is not a hereditary caste of people enslaved for life, transported and bred and whipped openly by their owners, what might be called "traditional slavery." Sadly, however, debt slavery and sex slavery hide in various countries. There are pockets of slavery of various sorts in the United States. There is prison labor, with the laborers disproportionately being descendants of former slaves. There are more African-Americans behind bars or under supervision by the criminal justice system in the United States today than there were African-Americans enslaved in the United States in 1850.
But these modern evils don't convince anybody that slavery, in any form, is a permanent fixture in our world, and they shouldn't. Most African-Americans are not imprisoned. Most workers in the world are not enslaved in any type of slavery. In 1780, if you had proposed making slavery the exception to the rule, a scandal to be carried out in secret, hidden away and disguised where it still existed in any form, you would have been considered as naive and ignorant as someone proposing the complete elimination of slavery. If you were to propose bringing back slavery in a major way today, most people would denounce the idea as backward and barbaric.
All forms of slavery may not have been completely eliminated, and may never be. But they could be. Or, on the other hand, traditional slavery could be returned to popular acceptance and restored to prominence in a generation or two. Look at the rapid revival in acceptance of the use of torture in the early twenty-first century for an example of how a practice that some societies had begun to leave behind has been significantly restored. In this moment, however, it is clear to most people that slavery is a choice and that its abolition is an option—that, in fact, its abolition always was an option, even if a difficult one.
In the United States some may have a tendency to doubt the abolition of slavery as a model for the abolition of war because war was used to end slavery. But did it have to be used? Would it have to be used today? Slavery was ended without war, through compensated emancipation, in the British colonies, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and most of South America and the Caribbean. That model worked also in Washington, D.C. Slave owning states in the United States rejected it, most of them choosing secession instead. That's the way history went, and many people would have had to think very differently for it to have gone otherwise. But the cost of freeing the slaves by buying them would have been far less than the North spent on the war, not counting what the South spent, not counting the deaths and injuries, mutilations, trauma, destruction, and decades of bitterness to come, while slavery long remained nearly real in all but name. (See Costs of Major U.S. Wars, by the Congressional Research Service, June 29, 2010.)
On June 20, 2013, the Atlantic published an article called "No, Lincoln Could Not Have 'Bought the Slaves'." Why not? Well, the slave owners didn't want to sell. That's perfectly true. They didn't, not at all. But the Atlantic focuses on another argument, namely that it would have just been too expensive, costing as much as $3 billion (in 1860s money). Yet, if you read closely—it's easy to miss it—the author admits that the war cost over twice that much. The cost of freeing people was simply unaffordable. Yet the cost—over twice as much—of killing people, goes by almost unnoticed. As with well-fed people's appetites for desserts, there seems to be a completely separate compartment for war spending, a compartment kept far away from criticism or even questioning.
The point is not so much that our ancestors could have made a different choice (they were nowhere near doing so), but that their choice looks foolish from our point of view. If tomorrow we were to wake up and discover everyone appropriately outraged over the horror of mass incarceration, would it help to find some large fields in which to kill each other off in large numbers? What would that have to do with abolishing prisons? And what did the Civil War have to do with abolishing slavery? If—radically contrary to actual history—U.S. slave owners had opted to end slavery without war, it's hard to imagine that as a bad decision.
Let me try to really, really emphasize this point: what I am describing DID NOT happen and was not about to happen, was nowhere remotely close to happening; but its happening would have been a good thing. Had slave owners and politicians radically altered their thinking and chosen to end slavery without a war, they would have ended it with less suffering, and probably ended it more completely. In any case, to imagine slavery ending without war, we need only look at the actual history of various other countries. And to imagine big changes being made in our society today (whether it's closing prisons, creating solar arrays, rewriting the Constitution, facilitating sustainable agriculture, publicly financing elections, developing democratic media outlets, or anything else—you may not like any of these ideas, but I'm sure you can think of a major change that you would like) we don't tend to include as Step 1 "Find large fields in which to make our children kill each other in huge numbers." Instead, we skip right by that to Step 2 "Do the thing that needs doing." And so we should.
This article is excerpted from the new book War No More: The Case for Abolition.
There are two kinds of countries or societies or places to live. In the first kind, decent, fair, kind, and respectful treatment of every person takes precedent over anyone's preferences for how a culture changes or how much effort is expended trying to slow the change of a culture, or which cultures mix with each other, or which groups intermarry. In this first type of society — admittedly a nonexistent ideal — people identify with humanity and welcome any member of humanity into their group of associates, their neighborhood, and their family. Desire to keep some corner of the globe inhabited by people with a particular skin color or language isn't just slightly outweighed by diligent observance of individuals' rights. Instead, such sectarian or tribal desire doesn't exist. And its absence leaves room for concern over war, environmental destruction, hunger, poor healthcare, illiteracy, and all sorts of problems not involving the exclusion of some people from a group.
In the second kind of society, importance is placed on creating or maintaining a population that is exclusively or predominantly of a particular appearance or background, religion or ethnicity. Such a society strays, mildly or moderately or extremely, from democracy, as its demographic project conflicts with people's rights to immigrate, marry, practice or abandon religion, and speak and behave as they choose. Valuing some types of people over others leads toward anti-democratic positions and leaves a society open to easy manipulation through fear and prejudice, distracting energy away from real problems that might appear harder to solve. In extreme cases, this type of society becomes fascist. Hatred and violence become admirable. Lynchings and apartheid and Jim Crow and mass incarceration and sadistic punishment follow.
The nation of Israel claims to be both a democracy and a Jewish state. It can't be. Similarly, the United States cannot be a Christian nation or a white nation and a democracy. A poll in Israel in 2012 asked, "Israel is defined as both a Jewish and democratic state. Which is more important to you?" 34% said Jewish, while 22% said democratic, but 42% said that both were equally important. People in that 42% misunderstand the necessity to choose, as they no doubt do choose every day. The same poll asked, "Speakers should be prohibited from harshly criticizing the State of Israel in public ... ," and 20% agreed, while another 29% strongly agreed. Hmmm, is that the democracy or the Jewish state talking?
Max Blumenthal's new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, is 400 pages of fascistic horrors, a dystopian vision of where the United States or most any other country could go and where Israel has gone. Of course, Israel uses World War II to justify its outrages, just as the United States uses World War II to justify its military presence in 177 other nations. The United States arms Israel and protects it from legal consequences for crimes. U.S. companies and individuals and universities and churches fund and take part in Israel's brutality. U.S. Congress members listen to Israeli war propaganda as attentively as do Knesset members. So, there are perhaps extra reasons for those of us in the U.S. to pay particular attention to Israel's fascistic tendencies.
And what do these consist of? Well, permanent war, permanent crisis, fear-mongering, racism, legal and popularly imposed segregation and harassment. False beliefs about past and current crimes of the Israeli military are so openly willful that Israel has a contest show on television for amateur propagandists. Crimes by soldiers or civilians go unpunished or lightly punished when the victims are non-Jews. These crimes include lynchings, assaults, torture, harassment, humiliation, eviction, home destruction, job discrimination, and constant traumatization. Soldiers always nearby. Drones always buzzing overhead. Artificial sewage called Skunk sprayed through open windows of homes. The star of David painted on homes and businesses destroyed to intimidate non-Jews. Crowds gathered on a hill to watch and cheer for the bombing of Gaza like Washingtonians picnicking in Manassas to watch a civil war slaughter. Israeli soldiers openly describing themselves as fascists. Trials with pre-determined outcomes. Incarceration of masses of people in concentration camps.
Blumenthal's portrait of Israel is a partial one to be sure, but a terrifying one nonetheless. He contrasts the relentless hatred and abuse he documents with brief moments of imagining something else. At a restaurant in Haifa, writes Blumenthal, "seated at a long table in Fatoush's outdoor garden, listening to a mélange of English, Arabic, and Hebrew amid a crowd of Palestinians, Jews, and internationals, it is sometimes possible to imagine the kind of place Israel could be if it ever managed to shed its settler-colonial armor."
That place is not a Jewish democracy or a white democracy or a European democracy. That place is a democracy, and a democracy is a place where you're happy for your son or daughter to get married because they're in love, not because of the ethnicity of their beloved.
Stephen Canty, once a Marine deployed to Afghanistan, now a filmmaker, is creating a film -- called Once a Marine. -- about the struggles of war veterans coming home. You can see a preview and fund the film's production on Kickstarter at
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You laugh, but that could be a side-effect. Consider:
The Capitol Police just murdered an unarmed mother fleeing her car on foot, declared her child "unharmed," and received the longest standing-ovation in Congress since Osama bin Laden's Muslim sea burial. Try holding your breath until Congress takes the standing ovation back, and you'll wish your were in the "Holy Land" having your house sprayed with "Skunk" artificial sewage by the Israeli military or in Old Town Alexandria tasting the air of the authentic raw sewage across the river until it's "treated" and spread on farms in the exurbs for the benefit of we the people.
Why? Because freedom.
Who would give all of this up in exchange for a reduced military costing less than $1 trillion per year? Well, maybe the dude who just cremated himself alive on the National Mall, it's hard to know. Or possibly me the next time a tourist asks me why they named it the National Mall knowing fully damn well that they'd confuse everyone who arrived expecting department stores and food courts.
This weekend, government programs aimed at slowing the starvation or other premature death of the least well off among us were closed, out of business, gone fishing. But the fucking football game between the Navy and the Air Force was an essential government service proudly played for the honor of "everyone fighting for this country" as one brainwashed midshipman put it. Did you know the top paid people in the U.S. military are all football coaches, and essential public servants?
President after president of countries 8% of us could find on a map are going to the United Nations to compare U.S. "exceptionalism" to Nazi Ubermenschen. Can you imagine the anti-American idiocy involved? But the last living prosecutor at Nuremberg, an American, has been saying the same thing. What'shis problem? And how could he dare if this weren't all hallucinatory?
President Obama was praised for his speech at the United Nations because he didn't threaten a first nuclear strike. That's the standard. Now he's getting credit for locking people up on ships outside of any system of law, because he can't have murdered them if he locked them up on ships. That's progress! If you squeeze down the passages of this psychedelic rabbit hole and peer out a window, you see a radically different world outside.
Switzerland is working on a maximum wage and a guaranteed basic income. But how many wars are they going to be able to join in after that colossal waste of funding? Their entire population is already suffering war deprivation. The Swiss can't expect the U.S. to pick up the tab for their wars while they make chocolate and don't even have the decency to spray sewage on anyone.
I once heard a likely lunatic propose that instead of paying farmers not to farm (and dumping sludge on their land) the U.S. government could pay weapons makers not to make weapons, stop giving and selling weapons to everybody else's governments, and ban U.S. troops and mercenaries from any distance greater than 500 miles from the United States. I say lunatic, because in this particular hallucination that we're all living through money multiplies itself if it's spent on killing people. A half a billion dollars for Solyndra is an outrageous waste that kills nobody and is lost forever. But a half billion dollars for two days -- give or take a speech by Congressman Cruz -- of blowing stuff up in Afghanistan is cost-free since the half billion dollars reproduces itself at the Federal Reserve which not only grows laboratory hamburgers but sells them to foreigners for national security resources misplaced beneath the wrong nations.
The winding down drawdown ending of the gradual scaling back of the wrapping up completed war on Afghanistan has eaten the wrong sort of size pill somehow. There are now almost twice as many U.S. troops in Afghanistan as when Barack Obama became president.
We're still spending over $10 million every hour (even during a government shutdown) for a war in Afghanistan that has now completed its 12th year and begins its 13th today. This spending drains rather than fueling the U.S. economy. Inflicting more war on Afghanistan has involved the killing of thousands of civilians. Experts in the U.S., British, and Afghan governments agree that this is making us less safe, not protecting us.
Why? Because Obama.
Captain Peace Prize is attempting what he failed at in Iraq: an agreement with a puppet to continue an "ended" war indefinitely. President Obama is trying to negotiate a deal with corrupt lame-duck President Hamid Karzai to keep some U.S. troops in Afghanistan, with immunity from prosecution for crimes and the right to continue attacking Afghans including with raids on their homes at night. This could mean nine major U.S. military bases remaining in Afghanistan at a huge cost in dollars, lives, safety, and environmental destruction for decades to come.
Oh, and the good, smart, humanitarian, not-Iraq war on Afghanistan is as illegal as whatever we consumed to induce this bizarre hallucination.
There's a place to scream I'm Not Going to Take It Anymore right here.
Al Jolson wrote a note to President Harding some years back now:
"The weary world is waiting for
So take away the gun
From every mother's son
And put an end to war."
And still, 86 new Adolf Hitler misidentifications later, they do not listen. Except that they listened on missiles into Syria. The two parties wanted the missiles. Raytheon's stock was through the roof. And we said no, no, and hell no, and go Dick Cheney yourselves. And the bipartisan agreement was stopped by our 90% opposition and 0.5% actively expressed outrage. And within a couple of weeks the zombie of pretended partisanship was back in the form of a shutdown dispute that, through a perfectly harmonious bipartisan agreement, didn't shut down the military or the NSA or the Navy v. Air Force football game.
Everything useful is shut down. Everything deadly is up and running. And a gang of truckers is on its way to DC to shut down the government. Make sense of any of this if you dare, and I'm willing to bet you've worn a Redskins shirt to the Holocaust museum.
This article is the Introduction to the new book War No More: The Case for Abolition, published in October 2013.
As I write this, in September 2013, something extraordinary has just happened. Public pressure has led the British Parliament to refuse a prime minister's demand for war for the first time since the surrender at Yorktown, and the U.S. Congress has followed suit by making clear to the U.S. president that his proposed authorization for war on Syria would not pass through either the Senate or the House.
Now, this may all fall apart in a week or a month or a year or a decade. The forces pressing for a war on Syria have not gone away. The civil war and the humanitarian crisis in Syria are not over. The partisan makeup of the Parliament and the Congress played a role in their actions (although the leaders of both major parties in Congress favored attacking Syria). Foreign nations' intervention played a role. But the decisive force driving governments around the world and U.S. government (and military) insiders to resist this war was public opinion. We heard the stories of children suffering and dying in Syria, but we rejected the idea that killing more Syrians with U.S. weapons would make Syria better off.
Those of us who believe that we should always have the right to reject our government's arguments for war should feel empowered. Now that it's been done, we cannot be told it's impossible to do it again ... and again, and again.
In the space of a day, discussions in Washington, D.C., shifted from the supposed necessity of war to the clear desirability of avoiding war. If that can happen once, even if only momentarily, why can it not happen every time? Why cannot our government's eagerness for war be permanently done away with? U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who led the unsuccessful marketing campaign for an attack on Syria, had famously asked, many years earlier, during what the Vietnamese call the American War, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" We have it within our power to make war a thing of the past and to leave Secretary Kerry the last man to have tried to sell us a dead idea.
(An argument will be made that the threat of war aided diplomatic efforts to disarm the Syrian government. It should not be forgotten that when Kerry suggested that Syria could avoid a war by handing over its chemical weapons, everyone knew he didn't mean it. In fact, when Russia called his bluff and Syria immediately agreed, Kerry's staff put out this statement: "Secretary Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the impossibility and unlikelihood of Assad turning over chemical weapons he has denied he used. His point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago. That's why the world faces this moment." In other words: stop getting in the way of our war! By the next day, however, with Congress rejecting war, Kerry was claiming to have meant his remark quite seriously and to believe the process had a good chance of succeeding.)
In this book I make the case outlined in the four section titles: War can be ended; War should be ended; War is not going to end on its own; We have to end war.
Others have made the case that war can be ended, but they have tended to look for the source of war in poor nations, overlooking the nation that builds, sells, buys, stockpiles, and uses the most weapons, engages in the most conflicts, stations the most troops in the most countries, and carries out the most deadly and destructive wars. By these and other measures, the United States government is the world's leading war-maker, and—in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.—the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. Ending U.S. war-making wouldn't eliminate all war from the world, but ending war-making only by poor countries wouldn't come close.
This should not come as a shock or an offense to most people in the United States, some 80 percent of whom consistently tell pollsters that our government is broken. It's been over half a century since President Dwight Eisenhower warned that a military industrial complex would corrupt the United States. Military spending is roughly half of the U.S. government's discretionary spending every year, dwarfing any other expense. The United States is closely tied with the European Union as the wealthiest place on earth. Surely that money must be going somewhere. Surely a broken government is bound to be at least a little broken in the primary thing it does—in this case, the making of war.
By "war" I mean roughly: the use of a nation's military abroad. The use of a military at home to establish a police state or attack a sub-population is related to war and sometimes hard to distinguish from war, but usually distinct (the exceptions being called civil wars). The use of military-like tactics by a non-nation group or individual may sometimes be morally or visually indistinguishable from war, but it differs from war in terms of responsibility and appropriate response. The use of a nation's military abroad for purely non-war purposes, such as humanitarian relief, is not what I mean by war, and also not easy to find actual examples of. By the term "military," I mean to include uniformed and non-uniformed, official troops and contractors, acknowledged and clandestine—anyone (or any robot) engaged in military activity for a government.
I intend this book for people everywhere, but especially in the United States and the West. Most people in the United States do not believe that war can be ended. And I suspect that most are aware of the significant role the United States plays in war-making, because most also believe that war should not be ended. Few actually view war as desirable—once a widespread belief, but one heard less and less since about the time of World War I. Rather, people tend to believe that war is necessary to protect them or to prevent something worse than war.
So, in Part II, I make the case that war endangers, rather than protecting us, and that there isn't something worse than war that war can be used to prevent. I argue that war is not justified by evil forces it opposes or by false claims to humanitarian purposes. War is not benefitting us at home or the people in the nations where our wars are fought, out of sight and sometimes out of mind. War kills huge numbers of innocent people, ruins nations, devastates the natural environment, drains the economy, breeds hostility, and strips away civil liberties at home no matter how many times we say "freedom."
This case is not so much philosophical as factual. The most significant cause of war, I believe and argue in the book, is bad information about past wars. A majority in the United States believes Iraq benefitted from the 2003-2011 war that destroyed Iraq. If I believed that, I'd favor launching another one right away. A majority in Iraq believes the war left them even worse off than they were before it. (See, for example, the Zogby poll of December 20, 2011.) Extensive evidence, discussed below, as well as basic common sense, suggests that Iraqis, like anyone else, actually know best what their own situation is. Therefore, I want to prevent a repeat.
I wish I could have written a theoretical case against war, without mentioning any wars. But, everyone would have agreed with it and then made exceptions, like the school board member where I live who said he wanted to support a celebration of peace as long as everyone was clear he wasn't opposing any wars. As it is, I had to include actual wars, and facts about them. Where I've suspected someone will object to a piece of information, I've included a source for it right in the text. I discuss in this book the wars launched when George W. Bush was president and the wars launched or escalated since Barack Obama became president, as well as some of the most cherished "good wars" in U.S. culture, such as World War II and the U.S. Civil War. I also recommend reading this book in combination with a previous book of mine called War Is A Lie.
I don't recommend taking my word for anything. I encourage independent research. And a few other points may help with keeping an open-mind while reading this book: There's no partisan agenda here. The Democrats and Republicans are partners in war, and I have no loyalty to either of them. There's no national agenda here. I'm not interested in defending or attacking the U.S. government, or any other government. I'm interested in the facts about war and peace and what we should do about them. There's no political agenda here on the spectrum from libertarian to socialist. I certainly place myself on the socialist side of that spectrum, but on the question of war it's not particularly relevant. I think Switzerland has had a pretty good foreign policy. I admire Costa Rica's elimination of its military. Sure, I think useful and essential things should be done with the money that's now dumped into war and war preparations, but I'd favor ending war if the money were never collected or even if it were collected and burned.
Disturbing as it is to run into countless people who believe war can't and/or shouldn't be ended (including quite a few who say it can't be ended but should be ended, presumably meaning that they wish it could be ended but are sure it can't be), I've begun running into people who tell me—even more disturbingly—that war is in the process of ending, so there's nothing to worry about and nothing to be done. The arguments that have set people on this path distort and minimize death counts in recent wars, define large portions of wars as civil wars (and thus not wars), measure casualties in isolated wars against the entire population of the globe, and conflate downward trends in other types of violence with trends in war-making. Part III, therefore, makes the case that war is not, in fact, going away.
Part IV addresses how we should go about causing war to go away. Largely, I believe that we need to take steps to improve our production, distribution, and consumption of information, including by adjusting our worldviews to make ourselves more open to learning and understanding unpleasant facts about the world—and acting on them. More difficult tasks than the abolition of war have been accomplished before. The first step has usually been recognizing that we have a problem.
This article is the Introduction to the new book War No More: The Case for Abolition.
Nathan Schneider is an editor of the websites Waging Nonviolence and Killing the Buddah. He reported on / participated in Occupy Wall Street from before Day 1. He has now published Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
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David Swanson will answer questions about his new book War No More: The Case for Abolition in an online chat hosted by Medea Benjamin. To take part, just be at Firedoglake.com at 5:00pm ET / 2:00pm PT, Saturday, October 5th, for the FDL Book Salon discussion, which will run for 2 hours. To participate and comment, stop by a few minutes early to register and get a password. To just read along, no registration is required.
On October 11, we'll learn whether the Norwegian Nobel Committee is interested in reviving the Nobel Peace Prize or putting another nail in its coffin.
Alfred Nobel's vision for the Nobel Peace Prize created in his will was a good one and, one might have thought, a legally binding one as well.
The peace prize is not supposed to be awarded to proponents of war, such as Barack Obama or the European Union.
It is not supposed to be awarded to good humanitarians whose work has little or nothing to do with peace, such as most other recent recipients. As with the Carnegie Endowment for Peace which works for almost anything but, in violation of its creator's will, and as with many a "peace and justice" group focused on all sorts of good causes that aren't the elimination of militarism, the Nobel has become a "peace" prize, rather than a peace prize.
The peace prize was not supposed to be given even to war reformers or war civilizers. The peace prize is for: "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." The prize is not a lifetime award, but goes, along with the other Nobel prizes, "to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind."
Nobel laureates are not even asked whether they support the abolition of standing armies. Few have taken the approach of Barack Obama, who praised wars and militarism in his acceptance speech, but many others would almost certainly have to respond in the negative; they do not support and have not worked for the abolition of standing armies. Nor do they plan to put the prize money to work for that goal.
Norwegian author and lawyer Fredrik Heffermehl has for years now been leading an effort to enforce Alfred Nobel's will. "Letters Nobel wrote confirm," says Heffermehl, "that he established his prize to fulfill a promise to Bertha von Suttner," a promise to create a prize to fund work toward war abolition. In March 2012 the Swedish Foundations Authority ordered the Nobel Foundation to examine the will and ensure compliance. When the next award was given to the European Union in blatant violation of the will, former recipients -- including Adolfo Esquivel, Mairead Maguire, and Desmond Tutu -- protested. The Nobel Foundation has defied the order to comply with the will and applied for a permanent exception from such oversight.
This year there are 259 nominees, 50 of which are organizations. (Even Heffermehl does not object to the practice of giving the prize meant for a "person" to an organization.) The list of nominees is kept secret, but some are known. In Heffermehl's view, none of the favorites for this year's prize legally qualifies. That includes Malala Yousafzai, whose work for education certainly deserves a prize, just not this one. And it includes Denis Mukwege, whose work to aid victims of sexual violence should be honored, just not with the prize intended for those working to abolish armies. Civil rights in Russia, freedom of the press in Burma, and many other great causes could end up being awarded with a prize for opposition to war next week.
The name Steve Pinker has been mentioned along with the proposal that he be given the peace prize as reward for having written a grossly misleading and deceptive book falsely arguing that war is going away on its own. That would at least be a new twist on the abuse and degradation of this prize, although with Bill Clinton on the nominees list the options for truly disgusting outcomes are not exactly limited.
Heffermehl has found some names on the list that do actually qualify. They include American professor Richard Falk, Norwegian ambassador Gunnar Garbo, American David Krieger of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, the former director general of UNESCO Federico Mayor of Spain, Swedish peace scientist and organizer Jan Oberg, and American professor of peace education Betty Reardon. "These clearly are," says Heffermehl, "the kind of 'champions of peace' described in Nobel's will, working for global disarmament based on global law." I would include Gene Sharp, from among the list of nominees, as someone who probably qualifies, although there are certainly arguments against it. Among qualified organizations nominated for 2013, in Heffermehl's view, are the International Peace Bureau, the Transnational Foundation, UNESCO, and the Womens' International League for Peace and Freedom.
Other indivuals and organizations on the list, Heffermehl thinks, are "dedicated peacemakers or have courageously exposed the dangers of militarism, but they may not pursue the vision of general and complete disarmament that Nobel saw as essential for world peace." These include Norwegian Steinar Bryn, Americans Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning and Edward Snowden (the latter not nominated by the 2013 deadline), Israeli Mordechai Vanunu, and Abolition 2000.
Many of us have urged that Manning be given the prize, arguing with Norman Solomon that "the Nobel Peace Prize needs Bradley Manning more than Bradley Manning needs the Nobel Peace Prize." There are, however, many options for the Norwegian Nobel Committee to begin to redeem itself, and many options for its continued desecration of a noble ideal.
By David Swanson, with foreword by Kathy Kelly. Get it here.
By Kathy Kelly
This article is the foreword to David Swanson's new book, War No More: The Case for Abolition.
I lived in Iraq during the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing. On April 1st, about two weeks into the aerial bombardment, a medical doctor who was one of my fellow peace team members urged me to go with her to the Al Kindi Hospital in Baghdad, where she knew she could be of some help. With no medical training, I tried to be unobtrusive, as families raced into the hospital carrying wounded loved ones. At one point, a woman sitting next to me began to weep uncontrollably. “How I tell him?” she asked, in broken English. “What I say?” She was Jamela Abbas, the aunt of a young man, named Ali. Early in the morning on March 31st, U.S. war planes had fired on her family home, while she alone of all her family was outside. Jamela wept as she searched for words to tell Ali that surgeons had amputated both of his badly damaged arms, close to his shoulders. What’s more, she would have to tell him that she was now his sole surviving relative.
Returning to the Al Fanar hotel, I hid in my room. Furious tears flowed. I remember pounding my pillow and asking “Will we always be this way?”
David Swanson reminds me to look to humanity’s incredible achievements in resisting war, in choosing the alternatives which we have yet to show our full power to realize.
A hundred years ago, Eugene Debs campaigned tirelessly in the U.S. to build a better society, where justice and equality would prevail and ordinary people would no longer be sent to fight wars on behalf of tyrannical elites. From 1900 to 1920 Debs ran for president in each of five elections. He waged his 1920 campaign from inside the Atlanta prison to which he’d been sentenced for sedition for having spoken vigorously against U.S. entry into World War I. Insisting that wars throughout history have always been fought for purposes of conquest and plunder, Debs had distinguished between the master class that declares wars and the subjugated who fight the battles. “The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose,” said Debs in the speech for which he was imprisoned, “while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose—especially their lives.”
Debs hoped to create a mindset throughout the American electorate that withstood propaganda and rejected war. It was no easy process. As a labor historian writes, “With no radio and television spots, and with little sympathetic coverage of progressive, third party causes, there was no alternative but to travel incessantly, one city or whistle-stop at a time, in searing heat or numbing cold, before crowds large or small, in whatever hall, park or train station where a crowd could be assembled.”
He didn’t prevent U.S. entry into World War I, but Swanson tells us in his 2011 book, When the World Outlawed War, there came a point in U.S. history, in 1928, when wealthy elites decided that it was in their enlightened self-interest to negotiate the Kellogg-Briand Pact, intended to avert future wars, and to prevent future U.S. governments from seeking war. Swanson encourages us to study and build on moments in history when war was rejected, and to refuse to tell ourselves that warfare is inevitable.
Surely we must join Swanson in acknowledging the enormous challenges we face in campaigning to avoid war, or to abolish it. He writes: “In addition to being immersed in a false world view of war’s inevitability, people in the United States are up against corrupt elections, complicit media, shoddy education, slick propaganda, insidious entertainment, and a gargantuan permanent war machine falsely presented as a necessary economic program that cannot be dismantled.” Swanson refuses to be deterred by large challenges. An ethical life is an extraordinary challenge, and encompasses lesser challenges, such as democratizing our societies. Part of the challenge is to honestly acknowledge its difficulty: to clear-sightedly witness the forces that make war more likely in our time and place, but Swanson refuses to categorize these forces as insurmountable obstacles.
A few years ago, I heard once more about Jamela Abbas’ nephew, Ali. Now he was 16 years old, living in London where a BBC reporter had interviewed him. Ali had become an accomplished artist, using his toes to hold a paint brush. He had also learned to feed himself using his feet. “Ali,” asked the interviewer, “what would you like to be when you grow up?” In perfect English, Ali had answered, “I’m not sure. But I would like to work for peace.” David Swanson reminds us that we will not always be this way. We will transcend in ways that we cannot yet properly imagine, through the determination to rise above our incapacities and achieve our purposes on earth. Obviously Ali’s story is not a feel-good story. Humanity has lost so much to war and what so often seems its incapacity for peace is like the most grievous of disfigurements. We don’t know the ways we will discover in which to work to rise above these disfigurements. We learn from the past, we keep our eyes on our goal, we fully grieve our losses, and we expect to be surprised by the fruits of diligent labor and a passion to keep humanity alive, and to help it create again.
If David is right, if humanity survives, war itself will go the route of death-duels and infanticide, child labor and institutionalized slavery. Perhaps someday, beyond being made illegal, it will even be eliminated. Our other struggles for justice, against the slow grinding war of rich against poor, against the human sacrifice of capital punishment, against the tyranny that the fear of war so emboldens, feed into this one. Our organized movements working for these and countless other causes often are themselves models of peace, of coordination, a dissolution of isolation and of conflict in creative fellowship, the end of war made, in patches, already visible.
In Chicago, where I live, an annual summer extravaganza has been held on the lakefront for as long as I can remember. Called “The Air and Water Show,” it grew in the past decade into a huge display of military force and a significant recruiting event. Prior to the big show, the Air Force would practice military maneuvers and we’d hear sonic booms throughout a week of preparation. The event would attract millions of people, and amid a picnic atmosphere the U.S. military potential to destroy and maim other people was presented as a set of heroic, triumphant adventures.
In the summer of 2013, word reached me in Afghanistan that the air and water show had occurred but that the U.S. military was a “no show.”
My friend Sean had staked out a park entrance for the previous few yearly events in a solo protest, cheerily encouraging attendees to “enjoy the show” all the more for its incredible cost to them in tax dollars, in lives and global stability and political freedom lost to imperial militarization. Eager to acknowledge the human impulse to marvel at the impressive spectacle and technical achievement on display, he would insist of the planes, and in as friendly a tone as possible, “They look a lot cooler when they’re not bombing you!” This year he was expecting smaller crowds, having heard (although apparently too busy assembling his several thousand fliers to closely research this year’s particular event) that several military acts had cancelled. “Two hundred flyers later, I found out that this was because THE MILITARY HAD BACKED OUT!” he wrote me on the day itself: “They weren’t there _at all_ save for some desultory Air Force tents that I did find when I biked through looking for recruitment stations. I suddenly understood why I hadn’t heard any sonic booms leading up to the weekend.” (I had always complained to Sean of the yearly agony of listening to those planes rehearse for the show) “Too pleased to be mortified by my own idiocy, I put away my fliers and biked happily through the event. It was a lovely morning, and the skies of Chicago had been healed!”
Our incapacities are never the whole story; our victories come in small cumulative ways that surprise us. A movement of millions arises to protest a war, whose onset is delayed, its impact lessened, by how many months or years, by how many lives never lost, by how many limbs never torn from the bodies of children? How completely are the cruel imaginations of the war-makers distracted by having to defend their current lethal plans, how many new outrages, thanks to our resistance, will they never so much as conceive? By how many factors as the years proceed will our demonstrations against war continue, with setbacks, to grow? How acutely will the humanity of our neighbors be aroused, to what level will their awareness be raised, how much more tightly knit in community will they learn to be in our shared efforts to challenge and resist war? Of course we can’t know.
What we know is that we won’t always be this way. War may exterminate us utterly, and if unchecked, unchallenged, it shows every potential for doing so. But David Swanson’s War No More imagines a time where the Ali Abbases of the world exhibit their tremendous courage in a world that has abolished warfare, where no-one has to relive their tragedies at the hands of rampaging nations, where we celebrate the demise of war. Beyond this it envisions a time when humanity has found the true purpose, meaning, and community of its calling to end warfare together, to live the challenge that is replacing war with peace, discovering lives of resistance, and of truly human activity. Rather than glorify armed soldiers as heroes, let us appreciate a child rendered armless by a U.S. bomb who must know that few incapacities are an excuse for inaction, that what is or isn’t possible changes, and who, despite all we’ve done to him, still resolutely intends to work for peace.
War No More: The Case for Abolition is available on Powells, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and available for $2 as PDF, ePub, kindle, audio, or iTunes, or at discount when buying 10 or more, all at http://davidswanson.org/warnomore
I recently recommended a great book about the now deceased Occupy Movement, long may it live. Just as important, I think, as contemplating the successes and missteps of such past actions is envisioning the next ones. Rivera Sun has done that in The Dandelion Insurrection. Imagining the game in such a book can inform our studying of the warm-ups we've seen or been part of.
The Dandelion Insurrection is an updated, more accurate, less fantastical Brave New World or 1984. But it's not a dystopian novel. It's a novel about overcoming abuses that now exist or easily might in the next few years. The author says that much of what she imagined has already happened in the time she's been writing the book.
The events of the book, however, -- the insurrection -- have not happened. I recommend experiencing them. It may give you chills or tears. There is not much suspension of disbelief required, quite the opposite. An ounce of belief that people can turn around a destructive course of events ought to open the door to this creative, strategic, and informed imagining of how we, ourselves, in the very near future might do so.
I don't like spoiling fiction, but I recommend reading this book in groups and then discussing it. I'd like to be part of such a discussion. There are ways in which I think a people's nonviolent insurrection are more likely than some of the details here. But I am not inclined to believe we'll be able to control all of the details. The essential ingredients, I think, are here accurately assembled. Two of them are in the book's subtitle: Love and Revolution.
Come gather round people wherever you roam. And admit that the bullshit around you has grown.
Students used to get out of tests and assignments by explaining to sympathetic professors that they had been busy protesting the war on Vietnam. The times they are a changin.
Today college professors lead teach-ins to protest the absence of an all-out U.S. war on Syria. Back then, the public and the government trailed behind the activists. Now the public has grown enlightened, and in a significant but limited way won over the government, blocking the missile strikes, but it's not just the U.S. President who looks mad enough to spit over the casus belli interruptus. Professors are pissed.
The University of Virginia's law school has another law school next door belonging to the U.S. Army. The University has built a research "park" next door to the Army's "Ground Intelligence Center." State funds are drying up, and the Pentagon's tap has been left all the way open. This Central Virginian military industrial academic complex is where Washington finally had to turn to find anyone willing to pretend the famous aluminum tubes in Iraq might be for scary, scary nukes. In defense of that record, this week is Iraq War Beautification Week at the University of Virginia's Miller Center, always a gung-ho proponent of militarism.
Much of this is expected and typical of U.S. academia these days. But the promotions of attacks on Syria have become slicker and more insidious. Here's an announcement of an event held on Thursday:
Teach-In on Syria & Fundraiser for Refugees
Thursday, Sept 26, 6:00pm - 7:00pm
University of Virginia: Nau 101
Moderator: Joshua M. White, History
Panelists: Ahmed H. al-Rahim, Religious Studies, "Islamist Ideologies in Syria"
Hanadi al-Samman, MESALC, "The Syrian Revolution and the Plight of Refugees Today"
Jonah Schulhofer-Wohl, Politics, "Civil War in Syria"
Elizabeth Thompson, History, "Religion and War since 1913"
David Waldner, Politics, "Syria, Before: Dictatorship and the Growth of Public Opposition to the Regime"
And a ﬁlm presentation on the refugee experience
Co-sponsored by the Arab Student Organization
This announcement doesn't advertise a pro-war event aimed at promoting the deaths of large numbers of people. Peace groups sent around this announcement. I sent it around. I attended. And here's what happened:
Thompson spoke well about World War I and sat silently as her colleagues promoted a new war as barbaric as what she described from a hundred years earlier.
Waldner described the early, non-violent Arab Spring in Syria, breaking into tears, and then sat silently as his colleagues pushed for greater violence, using his stories of early nonviolence to justify it. (Somehow the opposite never happens: we never have to justify nonviolent activism on the grounds that its participants once killed a lot of people.)
The other panelists demanded more weapons for Syrian rebels, more U.S. military involvement, more war, and the violent overthrow of the government.
Students sat there silently. Professors in the audience who say they oppose war sat there silently and told each other afterwards that their complaints about what just happened should remain confidential. It wouldn't be polite to speak up.
I spoke up at the event. I questioned the panelists' fantasies about the glory of violence, their willingness to see many more people die in order to overthrow a government that would not thereby be replaced with something better.
Schulhofer-Wohl said that U.S. weapons would overwhelm the government of Syria and its Russian backers. I pointed out that the Russians have more weapons too, but this professor clearly thinks this is another Cold War and that this time Russia will give in easily and cheaply, there will be no blowback, and the pawns in the game will all benefit.
Or, rather, the evil of one side of the war justifies the other side, and the consequences be damned.
Students sat there silently.
We can laugh at academia marginalizing itself. We can celebrate the greater wisdom of the masses. But these professors, speaking in a building where a former CIA "historian" now works, are having their way. The CIA is arming the war in Syria and escalating it, against the will of the U.S. public. Students are being subtly indoctrinated with acceptance of war and with contempt for democracy at one stroke.
UVA founder Thomas Jefferson would be outraged, unless someone told the old slavery profiteer how much money wars make for a certain little group of special people. Then he'd understand perfectly. When UVA's Dean of Arts and Sciences was promoting war on Libya, she held up Jefferson's own war on Libya as a model.
This is our heritage, boys and girls. And its days are numbered. People are not going to stand for it much longer. Academia is going to have to accept it that soon they'll be drenched to the bone.
Some of those silent sitting students have brains in their heads. Their professors forget that sometimes.
Dear David Swanson,
i am sincerely sorry that good intentions aren't visible in a bad event
your comments were quite good, but your ensuing silence just persuaded the students watching you that a smart person would find no reason to speak out against warmongering
When the Pentagon ends an occupation, crawling home from Vietnam or Iraq or Afghanistan with its Tomahawk missile dragging between its legs, it declares victory every time. And, depending on how you define victory, it certainly leaves lasting effects. The cancer and birth defects and poisoned water supplies bear witness: there was an occupation here.
When the Occupy Movement lost its presence on television and therefore in real spaces that are never quite as real as television, it too left a lasting impact. But it was a positive lasting impact, difficult as yet to measure fully, but observable in many areas.
I've just read Nathan Schneider's new book, Thank You, Anarchy: Notes From the Occupy Apocalypse, with a foreword by Rebecca Solnit. I consider this book one of the lasting benefits of Occupy. We need a movement as badly as ever, but we now have great experimental lessons to draw on, and collective experience to benefit from.
Veterans of the Occupy encampments have added their strengths to the antiwar and environmental movements, and the growing movements against predatory home loans, foreclosures, student loan sharks, etc.
But primarily, Occupy has changed minds, some dramatically and some slightly -- the sum total impossible to discern. But there is no doubt that opposition against the war on Iraq, denounced as futile by many who took part in it, laid much of the groundwork for successful opposition to missile strikes on Syria. Occupy can be expected to bear similar fruit.
I recommend reading Schneider's story and considering yet further some of the strategic questions debated without end by General Assemblies -- those debates recounted in Schneider's book.
We're going to need to know how and why we are committed to nonviolence. We're going to need to consider how and whether we can build something national or international without the corporate media. We're going to need to develop further our ability to combine our disparate movements against the giant triplets of racism, militarism, and extreme materialism. We're going to have to be capable of engaging in big-picture political action while becoming service centers to the homeless or avoiding doing so. We're going to have to further refine our ability to have fun without becoming foolish. We're going to have to appreciate unpredictable chaos and learn to generate and steer it without ever knowing what it is. We're going to have to decide whether we grow by hating the police or by meeting their antagonism with our own jiu-jitsu. We're going to have to become more international, more non-national, and more local, all at once. We're going to have to create a movement that grows and grows and grows prior to winning and regardless of winning, while directing its energy toward the most likely winning path.
As I was writing this at Millers bar in Charlottesville, Va., the waiter saw my book, started talking to me about Occupy, and told me that Global Friend Bombs are the way to build connections and "organize the masses." I had never heard of global friend bombs, but I had had many previous experiences of the word "Occupy" opening up conversations about changing the world in place of "do you want fries with that?"
Newspapers are the first draft of an imperial eulogy. The first draft of history is our books. Read them. Debate them. Mic-check them. Expect the unexpected. Occupy Wall Street. Occupy Main Street. Occupy Everything and Never Give It Back.
The beginning is near!
Laurel Krause is the cofounder and director of the Kent State Truth Tribunal. Her sister Allison Krause was killed at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, along with three other peacefully demonstrating students. Laurel and her colleagues are taking new evidence of state-ordered and orchestrated killing to the High Commissioner of the UN Human Rights Committee on October 17 & 18 in Geneva, Switzerland. See http://TruthTribunal.org
"What's the matter with peace? Flowers are better than bullets." -- Allison Krause on May 3, 1970.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
1. President Obama's opening lines at the U.N. on Tuesday looked down on people who would think to settle disputes with war. Obama was disingenuously avoiding the fact that earlier this month he sought to drop missiles into a country to "send a message" but was blocked by the U.S. Congress, the U.N., the nations of the world, and popular opposition -- after which Obama arrived at diplomacy as a last resort.
2. "It took the awful carnage of two world wars to shift our thinking." Actually, it took one. The second resulted in a half-step backwards in "our thinking." The Kellogg-Briand Pact banned all war. The U.N. Charter re-legalized wars purporting to be either defensive or U.N.-authorized.
3. "[P]eople are being lifted out of poverty," Obama said, crediting actions by himself and others in response to the economic crash of five years ago. But downward global trends in poverty are steady and long pre-date Obama's entry into politics. And such a trend does not exist in the U.S.
4. "Together, we have also worked to end a decade of war," Obama said. In reality, Obama pushed Iraq hard to allow that occupation to continue, and was rejected just as Congress rejected his missiles-for-Syria proposal. Obama expanded the war on Afghanistan. Obama expanded, after essentially creating, drone wars. Obama has increased global U.S. troop presence, global U.S. weapons sales, and the size of the world's largest military. He's put "special" forces into many countries, waged a war on Libya, and pushed for an attack on Syria. How does all of this "end a decade of war"? And how did his predecessor get a decade in office anyway?
5. "Next year, an international coalition will end its war in Afghanistan, having achieved its mission of dismantling the core of al Qaeda that attacked us on 9/11." In reality, Bruce Riedel, who coordinated a review of Afghanistan policy for President Obama said, "The pressure we've put on [jihadist forces] in the past year has also drawn them together, meaning that the network of alliances is growing stronger not weaker." (New York Times, May 9, 2010.)
6. "We have limited the use of drones." Bush drone strikes in Pakistan: 51. Obama drone strikes in Pakistan: 323.
7. "... so they target only those who pose a continuing, imminent threat to the United States where capture is not feasible." On June 7, 2013, Yemeni tribal leader Saleh Bin Fareed told Democracy Now that Anwar al Awlaki could have been turned over and put on trial, but "they never asked us." In numerous other cases it is evident that drone strike victims could have been arrested if that avenue had ever been attempted. A memorable example was the November 2011 drone killing in Pakistan of 16-year-old Tariq Aziz, days after he'd attended an anti-drone meeting in the capital, where he might easily have been arrested -- had he been charged with some crime. This weeks drone victims, like all the others, had never been indicted or their arrest sought.
8. "... and there is a near certainty of no civilian casualties." There are hundreds of confirmed civilian dead from U.S. drones, something the Obama administration seems inclined to keep as quiet as possible.
9. "And the potential spread of weapons of mass destruction casts a shadow over the pursuit of peace." In reality, President Obama is not pursuing peace or the control of such weapons or their reduction and elimination in all countries, only particular countries. And the United States remains the top possessor of weapons of mass destruction and the top supplier of weapons to the world.
10. "[In Syria, P]eaceful protests against an authoritarian regime were met with repression and slaughter. ... America and others have worked to bolster the moderate opposition." In fact, the United States has armed a violent opposition intent on waging war and heavily influenced if not dominated by foreign fighters and fanatics.
11. "[T]he regime used chemical weapons in an attack that killed more than 1,000 people, including hundreds of children." Maybe, but where's the evidence? Even Colin Powell brought (faked) evidence.
12. "How should we respond to conflicts in the Middle East?" This suggests that the United States isn't causing conflicts in the Middle East or aggravating them prior to altering its position and "responding." In fact, arming and supporting brutal governments in Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Israel, etc., is behavior that could do a great deal of good simply by ceasing.
13. "How do we address the choice of standing callously by while children are subjected to nerve gas, or embroiling ourselves in someone else's civil war?" That isn't a complete list of choices, as Obama discovered when Russia called Kerry's bluff and diplomacy became a choice, just as disarmament and de-escalation and pressure for a ceasefire are choices. Telling Saudi Arabia "Stop arming the war in Syria or no more cluster bombs for you," is a choice.
14. "What is the role of force in resolving disputes that threaten the stability of the region and undermine all basic standards of civilized conduct?" Force doesn't have a role in civilized conduct, the most basic standard of which is relations without the use of force.
15. "[T]he international community must enforce the ban on chemical weapons." Except against Israel or the United States.
16. "... and Iranians poisoned in the many tens of thousands." This was good of Obama to recognize Iran's suffering, but it would have been better of him to recall where Iraq acquired some of its weapons of mass destruction.
17. "It is an insult to human reason -- and to the legitimacy of this institution -- to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack." Really? In the absence of evidence, skepticism isn't reasonable for this Colin-Powelled institution, the same U.N. that was told Libya would be a rescue and watched it become a war aimed at illegally overthrowing a government? Trust us?
18. "Now, there must be a strong Security Council Resolution to verify that the Assad regime is keeping its commitments, and there must be consequences if they fail to do so." Meaning war? What about the U.N.'s commitment to oppose war? What about the United States' violation of its commitments to destroy the chemical weapons sitting in Kentucky and Colorado? "Consequences" for the U.S. too?
19. "I do not believe that military action -- by those within Syria, or by external powers -- can achieve a lasting peace." Yet, the U.S. government is shipping weapons into that action.
20. "Nor do I believe that America or any nation should determine who will lead Syria ... Nevertheless, a leader who slaughtered his citizens and gassed children to death cannot regain the legitimacy to lead a badly fractured country." The Syrians should decide their own fate as long as they decide it the way I tell them to.
21. "[N]or does America have any interest in Syria beyond the well-being of its people, the stability of its neighbors, the elimination of chemical weapons, and ensuring it does not become a safe-haven for terrorists." That's funny. Elsewhere, you've said that weakening Syria would weaken Iran.
22. "[W]e will be providing an additional $340 million [for aid]." And vastly more for weapons.
23. "We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world. Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil..." That first remarkably honest sentence is only honest if you don't think about what "free flow" means. The second sentence points to a real, if slow, trend but obscures the fact that only 40% of the oil the U.S. uses comes from the U.S., which doesn't count much of the oil the U.S. military uses while "ensuring the free flow." Nor is switching to small domestic supplies a long-term solution as switching to sustainable energy would be.
24. "But when it's necessary to defend the United States against terrorist attacks, we will take direct action." In Libya? Syria? Where does this make any sense, as U.S. actions generate rather than eliminate terrorism? Michael Boyle, part of Obama's counter-terrorism group during his 2008 election campaign, says the use of drones is having "adverse strategic effects that have not been properly weighed against the tactical gains associated with killing terrorists ... . The vast increase in the number of deaths of low-ranking operatives has deepened political resistance to the US programme in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries." (The Guardian, January 7, 2013.) Why is Canada not obliged to bomb the world to "defend against terrorist attacks"?
25. "Just as we consider the use of chemical weapons in Syria to be a threat to our own national security ..." We who? How? Congress just rejected this ludicrous claim. Ninety percent of this country laughed at it.
26. "[W]e reject the development of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region, and undermine the global non-proliferation regime." By Israel which has done this, or by Iran which all evidence suggests has not?
27. "We deeply believe it is in our interest to see a Middle East and North Africa that is peaceful and prosperous," we just choose to work against that deep belief and to sell or give vast quantities of weapons to brutal dictatorships and monarchies.
28. "Iraq shows us that democracy cannot be imposed by force." This could have been true had the U.S. attempted to impose democracy.
29. "Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons." Iran's what?
30. "Arab-Israeli conflict." That's a misleading way of naming the conflict between the government of Israel and the people it ethnically cleanses, occupies, and abuses -- including with chemical weapons.
31. "[A]n Iranian government that has ... threatened our ally Israel with destruction." It hasn't. And piling up the lies about Iran will make Iran less eager to talk. Just watch.
32. "We are not seeking regime change." That's not what Kerry told Congress, in between telling Congress just the opposite. Also, see above in this same speech: "a leader who slaughtered his citizens and gassed children to death cannot regain the legitimacy...."
33. "We insist that the Iranian government meet its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and UN Security Council resolutions." Among Iran, the U.S., and Israel, it's Iran that seems to be complying.
34. "We are encouraged that President Rouhani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course." More moderate than what? Threatening to destroy Israel and creating nukes?
35. "[T]heir own sovereign state." There's nowhere left for Palestine to create such a separate state.
36. "Israel's security as a Jewish and democratic state." Both, huh?
37. "When peaceful transitions began in Tunisia and Egypt ... we chose to support those who called for change" ... the minute everyone else was dead, exiled, or imprisoned.
38. "[T]rue democracy as requiring a respect for minority rights, the rule of law, freedom of speech and assembly, and a strong civil society. That remains our interest today." Just not in our own country and certainly not in places that buy some of the biggest piles of our weapons.
39. "But we will not stop asserting principles that are consistent with our ideals, whether that means opposing the use of violence as a means of suppressing dissent," and if you don't believe me, ask the Occupy movement -- Happy Second Birthday, you guys! I SHUT YOU DOWN, bwa ha ha ha ha.
40. "This includes efforts to resolve sectarian tensions that continue to surface in places like Iraq, Syria and Bahrain." One liberated, one targeted, and one provided with support and weaponry and former U.S. police chiefs to lead the skull cracking.
41. "[A] vacuum of leadership that no other nation is ready to fill." All criminal outrages should have a vacuum of leadership. "Who would bomb countries if we don't do it?" is the wrong question.
42. "Some may disagree, but I believe that America is exceptional -- in part because we have shown a willingness, through the sacrifice of blood and treasure, to stand up not only for our own narrow self-interest, but for the interests of all." When was that? The United States certainly comes in at far less than exceptional in terms of per-capita humanitarian aid. Its humanitarian bombing that Obama has in mind, but it's never benefitted humanity.
43. "And in Libya, when the Security Council provided a mandate to protect civilians, America joined a coalition that took action. Because of what we did there, countless lives were saved, and a tyrant could not kill his way back to power." The White House claimed that Gaddafi had threated to massacre the people of Benghazi with "no mercy," but the New York Times reported that Gaddafi's threat was directed at rebel fighters, not civilians, and that Gaddafi promised amnesty for those "who throw their weapons away." Gaddafi also offered to allow rebel fighters to escape to Egypt if they preferred not to fight to the death. Yet President Obama warned of imminent genocide. What Gaddafi really threatened fits with his past behavior. There were other opportunities for massacres had he wished to commit massacres, in Zawiya, Misurata, or Ajdabiya. He did not do so. After extensive fighting in Misurata, a report by Human Rights Watch made clear that Gaddafi had targeted fighters, not civilians. Of 400,000 people in Misurata, 257 died in two months of fighting. Out of 949 wounded, less than 3 percent were women. More likely than genocide was defeat for the rebels, the same rebels who warned Western media of the looming genocide, the same rebels who the New York Times said "feel no loyalty to the truth in shaping their propaganda" and who were "making vastly inflated claims of [Gaddafi's] barbaric behavior." The result of NATO joining the war was probably more killing, not less. It certainly extended a war that looked likely to end soon with a victory for Gaddafi.
44. "Libya would now be engulfed in civil war and bloodshed." No, the war was ending, and Libya IS engulfed in bloodshed. In March 2011, the African Union had a plan for peace in Libya but was prevented by NATO, through the creation of a "no fly" zone and the initiation of bombing, to travel to Libya to discuss it. In April, the African Union was able to discuss its plan with Libyan President Muammar al-Gaddafi, and he expressed his agreement. NATO, which had obtained a U.N. authorization to protect Libyans alleged to be in danger but no authorization to continue bombing the country or to overthrow the government, continued bombing the country and overthrowing the government.
45. [S]overeignty cannot be a shield for tyrants to commit wanton murder." Says a man who reads through a list of potential murder victims on Tuesdays and ticks off the ones he wants murdered.
Which Aired Today, Monday, September 23rd, 7:00 AM at KPFK Archives:
It might take a few minutes to download. - KPFK 90.7 FM Radio - www.kpfk.org
Don't miss Marcy's incredibly right-on opening about the use of chemical
weapons by the United States over the decades.
Then hear Marcy interviewing David Swanson, author of "WAR IS A LIE" and
other books, talking about U.S. wars.
Marcy then talks with Dr. Michael Powelson, who is running for Congress
against Brad Sherman in the Valley as a member of the Green Party.
And finally Marcy talks with Jose Lara: www.votejoselara.com & Dr. Suzie
Abajian: www.suzieabajian.com - who are both running for local School
Marcy is so good she should have her own program on KPFK.
Addicted To War
In 2010 in Virginia's Fifth Congressional District, many people who prioritize peace over war probably voted for Democrat Tom Perriello over Republican Robert Hurt. I know many who did just that.
Here's what Congressman Hurt said on Tuesday about Syria:
"I have repeatedly stated ... that before the United States should commit any of its precious American lives or military resources to an attack on the Syrian regime, the President must articulate a compelling American national security interest that requires military action. I have attended classified briefings, and I have concluded that, at this time, the President has not demonstrated that a compelling national security interest is at stake. Because of this, I will not be able to support the Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution should it come to a vote under current circumstances."
Meanwhile, former Congressman Perriello has advocated, with his colleagues at the Center for American Progress for the United States to "increase its assistance to the Syrian opposition with the goal of supporting an alternative opposition government that is better organized than at present." According to Perriello the U.S. has a "national security interest" in "preparing the groundwork for a political and economic transition to a new regime in Syria in the foreseeable future."
Perriello told The Atlantic: "Within that context, you have to look at a set of tactics. A lot of people seem to be dismissing the idea that there's any role for a surgical, strategic strike short of regime change. While I have advocated for a more aggressive posture that would potentially include regime transition, there is absolutely an argument for inflicting some cost to the regime for the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population. ... And that I think you can do largely from the air without a lot of involvement on the ground. ... He knows if we intervene, his days are over, so part of what he’s doing, like a petulant child, is seeing how far he can push before we come in. Traditionally, the use of chemical and biological weapons, with very few exceptions, has been something you cannot do without invoking dramatic action. ... One of the reasons I came to the conclusion a year and a half ago that we needed to intervene is that both sides appear just strong enough not to lose." In the same interview Perriello refused to support the Constitutional requirement to take the question of war to Congress for its authorization.
Would Perriello resist a war if the president were a Republican? Would Hurt then support war? We can't know. But both have expressed their ideologies on war clearly and quite consistently thus far. Perriello voted for every war dollar that came before him while he was in Congress, including a 2009 "emergency" supplemental that included a bailout for bankers and barely passed. Perriello has written and spoken publicly hundreds of times of his support for war. Hurt has spoken and written a number of times now of his opposition.
I was part of groups of residents that met with Perriello to discuss his funding of war in Afghanistan. It was like talking to a brick wall. I was part of a group of residents who met with Hurt to discuss authorization for missile strikes or wider war in Syria. It was like talking to a human being.
Whoever the Democrats put up against Hurt in the next election might possibly be his superior on any number of issues. But check his or her position on war with a magnifying glass. Militarism swallows roughly half of federal discretionary spending every year, dwarfing any other expense. You can't be in favor of a trillion dollar military and in favor of schools or housing or anything else. The military is the main thing our government does. It matters whether we get it right, or whether we thoughtlessly get it backwards.
Remarks on September 21, 2013, at the Nashville Festival for Peace, Prosperity, and Planet.
Thank you to Elizabeth Barger and the Nashville Peace and Justice Center and to all of you, and happy International Day of Peace!
From a certain angle it doesn't look like a happy day of peace. The U.S. government is engaged in a major war in Afghanistan, dramatically escalated by the current U.S. president, who has been bizarrely given credit for ending it for so long now that a lot of people imagine it is ended. The same president goes through a list of men, women, and children on Tuesdays, picks which ones to have murdered, and has them murdered, often with missiles shot out of unmanned drones, drones that circle people's villages endlessly threatening immediate annihilation moment after moment for weeks on end, missiles that often miss their targets and often kill random people too close to their targets. The CIA with war powers. Secret military operations in dozens of nations. Expansion of U.S. troop presence in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Some 90 percent of the world's nations with U.S. troops in them. Prisoners force-fed in Guantanamo. Black sites. Iraq ruined without reparations. Libya thrown into anarchy without apology. Activists treated as enemies. Journalists treated as spies. Whistleblowers locked up in cages. Our Constitutional rights treated as dispensable. The United Nations used, abused, and circumvented. U.S. weapons provided to dictatorships and democracies around the globe. Tennessee's U.S. Senator Bob Corker going on television repeatedly for weeks to tell us that the United States is covertly aiding one side of a war in Syria. Does he not know what "covertly" means, or does he not know how television works?
But I believe that, despite all of that and much more, there is huge reason to celebrate a happy international day of peace. At most events where I speak there is a time for questions, and almost always there is someone whose question is really more of a speech to the effect that war opposition is delusional and hopeless; if the government wants a war, it gets a war -- so this person always tell us. Well, no more. From this day forward, that person's comments should be no match for the laughter that greets them, because we just prevented a war.
Congress members heard from many thousands of us, and what they heard was over 100-to-1 against attacking Syria. When it became clear that not even the Senate would authorize such an attack, talk shifted immediately from the inevitability of war to the desirability of avoiding war.
Secretary of State John Kerry said that President Bashar al-Assad could avoid a war by handing over all the chemical weapons his government possessed. Russia quickly called that bluff and Syria agreed to it. Syria had tried in the past to negotiate a Middle East free of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, but the United States had been opposed, not wanting to stop arming Egypt and Israel.
Secretary Kerry, apparently panicked by the possible delay or prevention of missile strikes, put out a statement that he had only been making a "rhetorical argument," not a real proposal. But when the White House saw the writing on the wall in Congress, Kerry claimed to have meant his comment seriously after all. He was for his own idea after he'd been against it.
Of all the many ways in which John Kerry has tied himself in knots before, this is the first time he's had to do so because the people of this country and the world rejected a war. Remember when Kerry asked how you could ask someone to be the last man to die in the war on Vietnam? We have it in our power to reject the next war and the next war and the next war and make John Kerry the last man to have tried to sell us a dead idea.
War is a dead idea, an idea whose time has gone. The abolition of war is an idea whose time has come. But the government isn't ready to announce that for us. That's why we need to celebrate this victory. And not just us at this festival. This was everybody. This was the people of Syria who spoke against an attack on their nation. This was the people of Iraq and Afghanistan who said don't do to others what you've already done to us. This was the people of the world and of Russia and of China who said you won't paint this crime as legal with our help. This was the people of Britain who moved their House of Commons to reject a prime minister's request for war for the first time since the surrender to the French and Americans at Yorktown. This was low and high ranking members of the U.S. military saying "We didn't sign up to fight for al Qaeda." This was government experts risking their careers and their freedom to say "If President Obama's excuse for a war happened, he's guessed it right, because the evidence doesn't establish it." This was the majority of the U.S. public telling pollsters, yes, we care about suffering children; send them food and medicine, don't make it worse by sending in missiles." This was the victory not of a moment but of a decade of cultural enlightenment. When you've got the Pope and Rush Limbaugh on your side you've built something very broad. Remember when they called resistance to war "The Vietnam Syndrome" as if it were a disease? What we've got now is the War on Terror Inoculation. This is health, not sickness. War is the health of the state, said a World War I resister. But war resistance is the health of the people. The people are the world's other super power.
So, yes, I say celebrate! Start seeing successes. Drone attacks are down dramatically. Environmental groups are beginning to oppose military base constructions. States are beginning to work on conversion of war industries to peaceful industries. Larry Summers has been denied a chance to do more economic damage.
Imagine the euphoria -- or don't imagine it, just remember it -- when this country elects a new president whose main redeeming feature is that he isn't the previous president. For personality fanatics that's big stuff. And there are big parties. For policy fanatics -- for those of us interested in seeing policies change rather than personalities -- that kind of moment is right now. The first step in overcoming an addiction, whether to war or alcohol, is recognizing that you have a problem. The second step is believing that you can shake it if you try. We've just taken the first two steps! The war addicts said Syria needed an intervention. We gave the war junkies an intervention instead. We pointed them toward the path of recovery and showed them a preview of what it will look like.
Now, if you don't want to celebrate because there's too much work to do, because Syria is in greater danger without its weapons (look what happened to Iraq and Libya), and because the pressure for war is still on, I can respect that. I'll be with you starting tomorrow. But it's hard to imagine we'll find the most effective strategy, much less motivate all the doom and gloomers to work their hardest, if we refuse to recognize when we've actually made progress, no matter how limited.
If you don't want to celebrate because you don't think public pressure made any impact and don't think it ever can, I've looked at enough of the recent history and distant history to say, with all due respect: I don't believe you. And if you believed yourself you wouldn't be here today.
Now, there is endless work to be done when we get back to it in the morning. Congressman Cooper was pretty noncommittal, I understand, as quite a few Congress members were. He kept an open mind. Maybe, just maybe, he must have thought, it makes sense to deescalate a war by escalating it, maybe these magic missiles with Raytheon pixie dust on them will kill only the people who really need killing while empowering fanatic heart-and-liver eaters who execute their prisoners to establish a secular democracy, and perhaps we really can uphold the norm against chemical weapons that our own nation violates with some regularity by blatantly violating the norm against attacking other countries with missiles, and maybe we'll enforce the Chemical Weapons Convention against a nation that never signed it by shredding the UN Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact as long as we call ourselves "The International Community" and if we can't get France to help maybe Puerto Rico would count as a Coalition of the Willing, and perhaps, perhaps just maybe Assad really is out to get us and just might be a threat to Nashville, Tennessee, and if not isn't the only thing that really matters President Obama's manhood and the respect he can only maintain if he behaves like a sociopath? Some part of this must be roughly how undecided members of Congress looked at this thing. Senator Harry Reid said Syria was the return of the Nazis, and he himself looked just like Elmer Fudd warning of a dangerous wabbit, but maybe he was right, think our elected representatives. There is work to be done.
Republicans in Congress turned against war more than they might have with a Republican president. And some Democrats, including a co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, cheered for war. The Black Caucus told its members to shut their mouths and not speak about Syria. But they didn't all listen. The leadership of the two parties pushed for war, and most members of both parties said No Way. That's something to build on. Anything that has happened is automatically acceptable and respectable, and in that category now is war rejection, regardless of who is president in the future.
Senator Corker thinks the United States has lost credibility. I think it's gained it. The United States claims to use war as a last resort. When an occasion finally arrives in which it doesn't use war as a first resort, that boosts the credibility of its claim. The U.S. justifies its wars with the word "democracy." When it listens to its people for once, it demonstrates democracy by example rather than by dropping cluster bombs or napalm or using those depleted uranium weapons giving the workers who make them cancer over in eastern Tennessee. The world was skeptical of the U.S. case for war because of past U.S. lies, not because of past U.S. failures to bomb people.
The threat to attack Syria is still on the table. If you listen to these people enough you really come to hate tables, by the way. The White House claims Syria has signed the Chemical Weapons Convention under threat of attack, even though any signing of any treaty under threat of attack is illegal and invalid. Meanwhile, if we wanted to find a stockpile of chemical weapons, there's 524 tons of poison gas at the Blue Grass Army Depot, just up the road toward Lexington, Kentucky, from here. The United States wants 10 more years to destroy that, although maybe it can go a little faster since John Kerry seems to think a week is more than enough time for Syria to destroy its stockpile. The Army spokesman in Kentucky says the delays there are a sign of democracy and public input. Our leading spreaders of democracy to the rest of the world, on the other hand, believe the most important consideration is that nothing ever be credited to diplomacy if it can be credited to violence. The U.S. has a stash five times the size of Kentucky's out in Colorado, where climate-induced floods and fires pose a danger of combining with the madness of militarism if we don't switch soon from preparing for wars to preparing for a sustainable existence -- If we don't start paying attention to Fukushima and global warming and keep laughing, as we have been, at the idea that Assad is going to kill us.
But, our government also has peculiar views about different types of weapons that I don't claim to understand. Chemical weapons are good, apparently, when the U.S. uses them on Iraqis, or Iraq uses them on Iranians, or Israel uses them on Palestinians, but they're bad if Iraq uses them on Iraqis or the Syrian government uses them on anyone -- although they aren't so bad if it is Syrian rebels using them. In cases of bad chemical weapons use, missiles could fix the problem. But with missiles you have to ask Congress. So, instead, you can fix the problem of people getting killed with chemicals by making sure that more of them get killed with guns. With guns, for some reason, you don't have to ask Congress. Senators can even chat on TV about what they're doing "covertly," and we're supposed to say "Oh, well that's OK then, as long as it's covertly."
Only . . . when people bleed and scream in agony and turn cold do they do it covertly? Because I think the entire operation needs to be done covertly, not just parts of it.
Maybe the problem is that we just don't think guns are weapons of mass destruction. Guns must be weapons of minimal destruction, I guess. Guns only kill 30,000 people in the United States each year, ten times the number of people killed on September 11, 2001. Imagine the size of the war we'd have started if someone had killed 30,000 people with airplanes. Would we have had to kill 10 million Iraqis instead of 1 million? But with guns, deaths are OK, and 60% of them don't really count because they're suicides.
Only . . . why are people desperate enough to kill themselves in the wealthiest nation on earth when we have a bigger military and more billionaires than any other society in the history of the world? Shouldn't that satisfy us? Anyone too dense to appreciate that great good fortune, well, at least we've made sure there's always a gun or two within easy reach.
I'm being sarcastic, but I'm not joking. We have a serious problem with acceptance of violence. This past Sunday night on "60 Minutes" John Miller of CBS News said, "I've spoken with intelligence analysts who have said an uncomfortable thing that has a ring of truth, which is: the longer this war in Syria goes on, in some sense the better off we are."
Now, why would that be uncomfortable, do you suppose? Could it be because encouraging huge numbers of violent deaths of human beings seems sociopathic?
The discomfort that Miller at least claims to feel is the gauge of our moral progress, I suppose, since June 23, 1941, when Harry Truman said, "If we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible."
On Monday, Time magazine's Aryn Baker published an articleunder the headline "Syria's Rebels Turn on One Another, and That's Not a Bad Thing." Baker's point wasn't that more would die this way, but that this would allow the U.S. to escalate the war (which of course would mean more dying).
Remember that President Obama's reasonfor wanting to attack Syria is to "confront actions that are violating our common humanity." How is it that support for mass killing rarely seems to violate our common humanity if it's that other 96 percent of humanity getting killed, and especially if it's this 4 percent doing it? Why is the excuse to kill more people always that people are being killed, while we never starve people to prevent them from starving or rape people to protect them from rape?
The uncomfortable "60 Minutes" interviewer addressed his remarks to a former CIA officer who replied by disagreeing. He claimed to want the war to end. But how would he end it? By arming and aiding one side, just enough and not too much -- which would supposedly result in peace negotiations, albeit with a risk of major escalation. While nobody ever extends peace in order to generate war, people are constantly investing in war in the name of peace.
As this man may be very well aware, arming one side in this war will encourage that side's viciousness and encourage the other side to arm itself further as well. But suppose it were actually true that you could deescalate a war by escalating a war. Why are the large number of people who would be killed in the process unworthy of consideration?
We've seen lawyers tell Congressional committees that killing people with drones is either murder or perfectly fine, depending on whether Obama's secret memos say the killings are part of a war. But why is killing people acceptable in a war? We've just watched public pressure deny Obama missile strikes on Syria. Those strikes were optional. Had they happened that would have been a choice, not an inevitability. What of the immorality involved?
The best news is that we're beginning to feel uncomfortable. We're even feeling uncomfortable enough to doubt the tales we're told about justifications for wars. The fact is that, were the White House telling the truth about the need for an attack on Syria, it would be a first in history. Every other case for war has always been dishonest.
The United States sought out war with Mexico, not the reverse. There was never any evidence that Spain sank the Maine. The Philippines didn't benefit from U.S. occupation. The Lusitania was known to be carrying troops and arms. The Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened. Iraq didn't take any babies out of incubators. The Taliban was willing to turn bin Laden over to be tried in a neutral court. Libya wasn't about to kill everyone in Benghazi. And so on.
Even wars that people like to imagine as justified, such as World War II, were nonetheless packaged in lies; FDR's tales about the Greer and the Kearney and supposed secret Nazi maps and plans were a step on the steady trajectory from Woodrow Wilson to Karl Rove.
The idea that Syria used chemical weapons is more plausible than the idea that Iraq had vast stockpiles of chemical, biological, and (in some versions) nuclear weapons and was working with al Qaeda. But the evidence offered in the case of Syria was no stronger than that for Iraq. It was harder to disprove merely because there was nothing to it: no documentation, no sources, and until the UN report came out, no science. Congress members who have seen the classified version of the White House case say it's no better than the declassified. Experts within the government and reporters in Syria who have seen more than that say they don't believe the White House's claims.
The assertions masquerading as a case come packaged in dishonest claims about the make-up of the rebels, and how quickly Syria gave access to inspectors. And the claims are written in a manner to suggest far greater knowledge and certainty than they actually assert on careful examination. The latest claims follow a series of failed claims over a period of months and stand to benefit a Syrian opposition that has been found repeatedly to be manufacturing false propaganda aimed at bringing the United States into the war. It seems, at this point, unlikely that the Assad government used chemical weapons (as opposed to the rebels or someone in the Syrian military defying Assad by using them), but it seems certain that if Assad did it, Obama and Kerry don't know that -- they've only guessed it at best. It also seems certain that escalating the war makes everyone worse off regardless of who used chemical weapons. Attacking Iraq would have been immoral, illegal, and catastrophic (and probably more so) if all the weapons stories had been true.
Then there are the depictions of Assad as a threat to the United States, at which moments President Obama has almost begun to sound like his predecessor. But, as he came on stage second, nobody believed him. Assad is guilty of horrible crimes, but he's not yet-another new Hitler. There's a cute story about Assad from 11 years ago this week that some of us may have forgotten. A Canadian man named Maher Arar had been born in Syria. U.S. officials nabbed him for the crime of switching planes in New York City. They interrogated him for weeks, denying him access to a lawyer or to the Canadian government. They asked Arar to go to Syria, and he refused. So they stuck him on a CIA plane, flew him to Jordan, beat him for 8 hours, and then delivered him to the Syrian government of Bashar al Assad. President Assad's government beat and whipped Arar for 18 hours a day for weeks, asking him similar questions to those the Americans had asked. For 10 months he was kept in a 3 by 6 by 7 foot underground cell, then released with no charges. Four years later, the Canadian government, which had done nothing, apologized to and compensated Arar. Former CIA case officer Bob Baer said, "If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear—never to see them again—you send them to Egypt."
The Syrian government is, like any government the United States wants to attack, a brutal government that the United States worked with until recently, situated in a region full of brutal governments the United States still supports. In this case, the brutal governments still armed and supported by the U.S. government include Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Yemen. If the US. government wanted to reduce violence, it could end its 2001-begun war on Afghanistan, it could end its drone strikes, and it could stop supplying Saudi Arabia with cluster bombs and Egypt with tear gas and Bahrain with ex-police chiefs. Wars are not driven by generosity, despite what you'll often -- and increasingly -- hear.
Syria needs humanitarian aid, not weapons that threaten the good aid work being done by Americans among others. The Iraqi Student Project was bringing Iraqis to study in U.S. colleges. Its office was in Syria, where many Iraqi refugees had fled from the U.S. liberation. Now that office is closed, and Syria has its own refugee crisis to rival Iraq's. Our government should be urging both sides to stop providing arms, to agree to a ceasefire, and to open negotiations without preconditions. Syria has needed help for years, but our government tends to wait until missiles look like a proper solution to get serious about solving a problem.
Syria's crisis was brought on in part by climate induced drought and water shortage. The solution of sending in missiles (blocked for now) or of sending in guns (underway as we speak) misses that source of the problem and in fact exacerbates it. The U.S. military is our greatest consumer of petroleum, which it consumes in the course of fighting wars and occupying countries to control petroleum. The roughly $1 trillion spent by the United States and roughly $1 trillion spent by the rest of the world on militarism every year could coat the planet with sustainable green energy sources beyond the wildest imaginings of those sources' proponents.
As long as we continue to view war as an acceptable institution, serious reductions in the military will be impeded by the desire to win wars when they happen. Instead of reduced war making, we need war abolition. 180 million people died in wars in the 20th century. Enough is enough. War has not brought security. War endangers us rather than protecting us. War has failed as a tool for ending war. War is draining our economies, eroding our civil liberties, devastating our natural environment, and stealing resources away from critical human and environmental needs. Nonviolent tools have proven themselves more effective and less costly than war. War's unpredictability and existing weaponry including nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction threaten our very existence, while the reallocation of resources away from war promises a world whose advantages are beyond easy imagination. We could even stop paying farmers not to farm and start paying weapons makers not to make weapons while they convert their factories to begin making something useful. Cutting $40 billion from food stamps will kill more people than spending it for a few months of occupying Afghanistan will kill.
Anti-war sentiment, at least in some key parts of the world, is at a high point now, relative to other moments in recent decades. We need to direct that sentiment into a movement for abolition. Resisting each new war is not enough. We must be for peace and by peace we must mean, first and foremost, the elimination of the institution of war. We're all fond of saying that peace is more than just the absence of war. True enough. And freedom is more than just the absence of chains. But first you had to abolish slavery. Then new possibilities opened up. So, today I'm not going to say, "No Justice, No Peace." Today I say, "With No Peace, There Is No Justice." Stop the wars. End the slaughter. Dismantle the weapons. Abolish the military. Build a sustainable peaceful prosperous world. Make this point in time a turning point. Thank you for being here. Happy International Day of Peace!