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Talk Nation Radio: The Power of Theater to End Militarism

Antiwar playwrite Karen Malpede, whose play Another Life is the focus of a Festival of Conscience now running in Brooklyn, N.Y., explains the development of drama as katharsis for antiwar veterans in ancient Greece and the power that the theater has to oppose militarism today.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.

Producer: David Swanson.

Engineer: Christiane Brown.

Music by Duke Ellington.

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No Justice Without Peace

 

By David Swanson,  Remarks at Left Forum

Last night in New York City, by my unscientific estimate, two-thirds of the people on the streets had alcohol in them.  A young man celebrating his wedding engagement was stabbed to death.  A party a third floor apartment to collapse into the second floor.  And the NYPD was busy beating the only sober people in town, the nonviolent activists at Occupy Wall Street.  When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the Louisiana National Guard was busy killing people in Iraq.  We've done something worse than get our priorities wrong when we've moved resources to harming people rather than helping people.

Elections: What Are They Good For?

By David Swanson, Remarks at Left Forum

I think two opposing trends have been at work in U.S. history. One is that of allowing more people to vote. This is an ongoing struggle, of course, but in some significant sense we've allowed poor people and women and non-white people and young people to vote. The other trend, which has really developed more recently, is that we've made voting less and less meaningful. Of course it was never as meaningful as many people imagine. But we've legalized bribery, we've banished third parties and independents, we've gerrymandered most Congressional districts into meaningless general elections and left one party or the other to exercise great influence over any primary. Rarely does any incumbent lose, and rarely does a candidate without the most money win. Extremely rare is a winning candidate who lacks some major financial backing. Rarer still is a candidate who even promises to pursue majority positions on most major issues, or who convincingly commits to following the will of the public over the will of the party. Most Congress members are pawns in a government with two partisan voices, not the voices of 535 individual representatives and senators. Rare, as well, is any possibility in a close primary or general election of verifying the accuracy of a vote count.

Nine Years Later: More Shocked, Less Awed

By David Swanson, Remarks at the Left Forum

When I lived in New York 20 years ago, the United States was beginning a 20-year war on Iraq. We protested at the United Nations. The Miami Herald depicted Saddam Hussein as a giant fanged spider attacking the United States. Hussein was frequently compared to Adolf Hitler. On October 9, 1990, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl told a U.S. congressional committee that she’d seen Iraqi soldiers take 15 babies out of an incubator in a Kuwaiti hospital and leave them on the cold floor to die. Some congress members, including the late Tom Lantos (D., Calif.), knew but did not tell the U.S. public that the girl was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, that she’d been coached by a major U.S. public relations company paid by the Kuwaiti government, and that there was no other evidence for the story. President George H. W. Bush used the dead babies story 10 times in the next 40 days, and seven senators used it in the Senate debate on whether to approve military action. The Kuwaiti disinformation campaign for the Gulf War would be successfully reprised by Iraqi groups favoring the overthrow of the Iraqi government twelve years later.

3-Hour Military Test Secretly Administered in Thousands of High Schools

Pat Elder of the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy (StudentPrivacy.org) explains how the U.S. military gets away with requiring students in thousands of U.S. high schools to take a 3-hour career inventory test with the results going straight to recruiters without students' or parents' knowledge.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.

Producer: David Swanson.

Engineer: Christiane Brown.

Music by Duke Ellington.

Download or get embed code from Archive.org or AudioPort or Radio4All or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

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Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities

PREAMBLE

Whereas the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not self-enforcing,

Whereas statement of the inherent dignity and of the equal and supposedly inalienable rights of all members of the human family achieves little without a struggle against greed, injustice, tyranny, and war,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights could not have resulted in the barbarous acts that have outraged the conscience of humankind without the cowardice, laziness, apathy, and blind obedience of well-meaning but unengaged spectators,

Whereas proclaiming as the highest aspiration of the common people the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want doesn't actually produce such a world,

Evidence of War Lies Public Pre-War This Time

When President George W. Bush was pretending to want to avoid a war on Iraq while constantly pushing laughably bad propaganda to get that war going, we had a feeling he was lying.  After all, he was a Republican.  But it was after the war was raging away that we came upon things like the Downing Street Minutes and the White House Memo

Now President Barack Obama is pretending to want to avoid a war on Iran and to want Israel not to start one, while constantly pushing laughably bad propaganda to get that war going.  We might suspect a lack of sincerity, given the insistence that Iran put an end to a program that the U.S. government simultaneously says there is no evidence exists, given the increase in free weapons for Israel to $3.1 billion next year, given the ongoing protection of Israel at the U.N. from any accountability for crimes, given the embrace of sanctions highly unlikely to lead to anything other than greater prospects of war, and given Obama's refusal to take openly illegal war "off the table."  We might suspect that peace was not the ultimate goal, except of course that Obama is a Democrat.

However, we now have Wikileaks cables and comments from anonymous officials that served as the basis for a report from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested the United States approve the sale of advanced refueling aircraft as well as GBU-28 bunker-piercing bombs to Israel during a recent meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, a top U.S. official said on Tuesday.  The American official said that U.S. President Barack Obama instructed Panetta to work directly with Defense Minister Ehud Barak on the matter, indicating that the U.S. administration was inclined to look favorably upon the request as soon as possible. During the administration of former U.S. President George Bush, the U.S. refused to sell bunker-penetrating bombs and refueling aircrafts to Israel, as a result of American estimates that Israel would then use them to strike Iran's nuclear facilities.  Following Obama's entrance into the White House, however, the United States approves a string of Israeli requests to purchase advance armament.  Diplomatic cables exposed by the WikiLeaks website exposed discussion concerning advanced weapons shipments. In one cable which surveyed defense discussions between Israel and the United states that took place on November 2009 it was written that 'both sides then discussed the upcoming delivery of GBU-28 bunker busting bombs to Israel, noting that the transfer should be handled quietly to avoid any allegations that the USG is helping Israel prepare for a strike against Iran.'"

Why supply Israel with the weapons to attack Iran more forcefully if you don't want Israel to attack Iran?  The Israeli newspaper Maariv claims to have the answer.  Apparently people in the know are spilling the beans earlier this war cycle:

"The United States offered Israel advanced weaponry in return for it committing not to attack Iran's nuclear facilities this year, Israeli daily Maariv reported on Thursday.  Citing unnamed Western diplomats and intelligence sources, the report said that during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington this week, the US administration offered to supply Israel with advanced bunker-busting bombs and long-range refuelling planes.  In return, Israel would agree to put off a possible attack on Iran till 2013, after the US elections in November."

One point can be little doubted here, namely that this would be the biggest damn story in U.S. "progressive" circles if Obama were a Republican.  But even though he isn't, there could conceivably be SOME interest in the fact that a serious news outlet is reporting that Obama has taken steps to facilitate an attack on Iran and to delay it until after his own hoped-for reelection.

Even Reuters has noted this development:

"A front-page article in the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv on Thursday said Obama had told Netanyahu that Washington would supply Israel with upgraded military equipment in return for assurances that there would be no attack on Iran in 2012."

Now, the usual handful of progressive Congress members has just introduced a bill that would compel the U.S. government to talk to the government of Iran.  Seems sensible enough (even if it frames it as an effort to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon).  We do ask that much of our children when they become involved in disagreements.

But Congressman John Conyers, one of the cosponsors of that bill, had another trick up his sleeve when Bush was in the White House.  Nobody believed him, of course, but for what it was worth, after refusing to impeach Bush for countless offenses, Conyers swore that if Bush attacked Iran, then he Conyers would launch impeachment proceedings.  Now, Conyers is back in the minority party in the House, but even minority members can raise the threat of impeachment efforts.  And at the moment they could join a member of the majority in doing so.  That's because Congressman Walter Jones has introduced H. Con Res 107, which reads:

"Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that, except in response to an actual or imminent attack against the territory of the United States, the use of offensive military force by a President without prior and clear authorization of an Act of Congress violates Congress's exclusive power to declare war under article I, section 8, clause 11 of the Constitution and therefore constitutes an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under article II, section 4 of the Constitution."

Now, this does not clearly cover an attack with U.S. weapons and advice carried out by another nation, but it does cover the question of U.S. entry into a war started by Israel, even if U.S. troops and bases abroad have been attacked in retaliation.  And it covers possible U.S. war making in Syria.  And it covers over 100 nations where U.S. Special Forces are now operating.  And it covers our current and prospective drone attacks in various parts of the world.

Of course, such an impeachment effort is also treasonous, given Obama's membership in the Democratic Party -- unlike the completely non-treasonous acts of openly "legalizing murder," or lying to the nation about efforts to avoid a war.

Hunger-Striking Students Finally See Some Progress for University of Virginia Workers


A living-wage campaign has been pressing the university's overpaid administrators to treat its workers better for the past 14 years.
 

A living-wage campaign at the University of Virginia has been pressing the university's six-figure-salary administrators to treat its workers better for the past 14 years, sometimes winning higher wages, but always watching them be wiped out by the soaring cost of living in Charlottesville. The workers, lacking a union, and witnessing retaliation against some who have spoken out, have been reluctant to take the lead in the fight, but students have stepped up to the task.

From February 18 to March 1, UVA students -- a dozen at first, but growing to a group of 20 -- refused to eat. Some lasted the entire 12 days with no food. Others broke their fast for medical reasons. They all suffered pain and exhaustion. Their joints hurt. Their legs got weak. They had difficulty climbing stairs. They found it harder to carry books, and harder to concentrate. They wore lots of layers despite the spring-like weather, and still felt cold. But they said they found strength and warmth in the growing support for the cause that had led them to launch a hunger strike.

"It's hard not to eat," said Marguerite Beattie, a fourth-year psychology major, "but imagining what the workers are going through makes it easier." "I see workers every day," she said. "They clean my dorm, the toilets, the showers, every day. Once when we were going on break, I asked one woman whether she had any vacation plans. She said she'd only been on vacation one time in her entire life."

UVA has long hidden its most poorly compensated workers on the books of private contractors and refused to say how many of them there are or what they are paid. The living-wage campaign has just won a commitment from the university to audit its contractors and report on the number of employees and their pay. The campaign has also won assistance from both the AFL-CIO and the SEIU, one of the latter's locals having recently committed to organizing UVA contract employees. The student-led campaign is gearing up for greater activism and union organizing this spring, but what achieved these successes and what has led the students (and alumni like me, who were part of the campaign 14 years ago) to say that an all-time high point has been reached in UVA activism is the use of creative nonviolence -- the hunger strike the students resorted to this month after countless other tactics had failed to yield fruit.

Among those who came and spoke at the daily rallies were national figures like Jill Stein, Green Party presidential nominee, and representatives of the two labor organizations suddenly inspired to support workers at UVA. Joseph Williams, one of the hunger strikers, is a varsity football player who was willing to risk his position on the team. That sacrifice attracted other students and national media to the cause.

Working In Jefferson's Sweatshop

Teresa Sullivan became UVA's first female president in 2010. Sullivan is a labor sociologist who has coauthored a text book that states, "Being paid a living wage for one's work is a necessary condition for self-actualization....The provision of wages adequate to meet basic needs is a fundamental requirement before work can be experienced as rewarding and meaningful." But for the past two years Sullivan has done no more to meet the demands of the living-wage campaign than her predecessor.

The reason many workers at UVA don't take vacations (or eat in restaurants or go to movie theaters) is that, even though they work full time, what they are paid won't cover their ordinary bills. Many people employed by the university, whether directly or through contractors, take on second jobs. Some have third jobs. Some work second jobs at UVA for lower hourly pay than at their first job -- a practice that would seem to violate the legal requirement of time-and-a-half for overtime, except that the two jobs are technically for different employers, one being the university and the other one of its contractors. These long hours are so poorly compensated that many depend on family members and government benefits just to pay for housing, food, clothing, and transportation. There are no extras beyond those necessities.

Living-wage advocates note that just about everyone would prefer to be paid decently for the work they do than to work without fair compensation and be caught in a safety net that might better serve the unemployed. In debates over living-wage proposals, it is always the think tanks serving the hotel and restaurant lobby, such as the Employment Policies Institute, that advocate for earned income tax credits and other mechanisms to transfer the burden of worker pay from large employers to the public at large.

Many of the lowest paid workers at UVA are contract employees. They work for one of the companies the university hires to cook food, cut grass, clean bathrooms, answer phones, etc. -- companies such as Aramark, Turners Cleaning Service, and Zaatar Services/Service Master Cleaning. "Bob," a contract employee working in the dining hall told the living wage campaign that he has worked 45 hours a week for the past 10 years, but was only able to afford a babysitter for his two small children because he had taken on the stress of another 25 hours per week at a second job.

Tom, a direct employee of the university (all but one of these employees’ names have been changed to protect their identities) is a landscaper for the university's grounds. Tom said he could not think of anyone in his department who didn't have a second job, and many had a third, while most still clamored for all the overtime they could get on their first job. The stress, he said, was damaging physically and mentally.

"The administration would be better off paying a living wage," Tom said, "so that people were not sick all the time, stressed all the time, fighting with their wife all the time. When you can't pay your bills, it's always on your mind." Tom said he witnesses alcoholism on a regular basis, as well as cases of domestic violence during the years that he has worked for UVA.

Another landscaping worker, Mike Henrietta (his real name), said it's not uncommon for colleagues who hunt to share a deer, or for those who raise chickens to share a chicken, with those UVA employees who are in worse straits than themselves. Tom agreed, saying, "A buck will put 80 pounds of meat in your freezer, and that can make a big difference. A lot of guys will do it, in and out of [hunting] season."

Tom also pointed to a darker side of the desperation among employees at what is often called Mr. Jefferson's University. "I talked to one of the supervisors," he said. "He had a rope for a belt, and I asked him why. He said that he'd left his belt and a pair of pants on a chair for a couple of hours and somebody in our department had stolen them." Gone along with the pair of pants and belt, Tom said, is just about anything that's left lying loose, including weed-eaters and blowers. "When you're desperate, you get sticky fingers."

Martha works as an administrative assistant for a contractor named Morrison Management Specialists at the UVA Hospital. Her 40-hour job was cut back to 36 hours a couple of years ago, leaving her an annual salary of under $27,000. She manages to pay the rent by sharing a four-bedroom apartment with three other people. Many of her colleagues, she said, make significantly less than she does and have children to support. What they complain for want of most, she said, are shoes, pants, books, and clothes for their children for school.

Jane, another contract worker who has been in touch with the living wage campaign is paid $7.50 an hour. That's $300 a week, or $15,600 per year. That's not “starting pay” that one might expect to quickly increase; she's already been working there for years. She has no health benefits and must pay for her own uniform and parking. Even the managers in the company she works for are paid only $9.50/hr.

Working with research by the Economic Policy Institute (not to be confused with the aforementioned Employment Policies Institute), UVA's living wage campaign has calculated that a living wage in Charlottesville, Virginia, is $13 per hour plus health coverage. That wage, according to EPI, should allow two full-time working adults with two children to pay for just their necessities and nothing more. A single-income household, of course, is left with a greater struggle. Some employees of the University of Virginia, hired through contracting companies, are now paid 58 percent of what they need, or rather of what they would need if they were provided health coverage, which they are not.

UVA has an endowment of over $5 billion and has built many new buildings, including sports facilities, in recent years. One of its vice presidents was paid $650,000 in 2011, one of its professors $561,100, another $518,900, and its new president, Teresa Sullivan, $485,000. David Flood, a graduate student in anthropology and one of the hunger strikers, said that the most generous estimate of what it would cost the university to bring all workers up to a living wage would be less than 1 percent of UVA's annual budget. (The figure must be guessed at until the university does that audit.)

Charlottesville has just over 40,000 inhabitants, and its largest employer, the university, employs 20,000 people, some commuting from outside the city limits, many of them at poverty wages. Just over 27 percent of Charlottesvillians live below the federal poverty line. The city government has a living wage policy in place and has asked the university to match it. Some UVA employees rely on public housing, social services, and food stamps. One city council member has complained that "the city is subsidizing UVA's low rates of pay with social safety nets."

Neighborhoods in Charlottesville are largely segregated by wealth and race, and struggling workers tend not to approach students or tourists with their concerns. Workers fear retaliation if they speak out. In December 1999, a UVA hospital cafeteria cashier named Richelle Burress was suspended for wearing a living wage button on her uniform. Tom said he'd seen workers who had spoken out marginalized and denied any promotion. Everyone asks him how the campaign is going, he says, but none of them will dare join it. Martha agreed, saying, "In a right-to-work state an employer doesn't really need a reason to fire you, and we know that." Of course, this can also be true in a non-right-to-work state if a union contract does not prevent it.

In April 2011, the university released a statement saying, "Faculty and staff who, in good faith, engage in constitutionally protected freedom of expression should do so without fear of reprisal." But many are not convinced. Not only has the university administration been turning down requests for comment from media outlets, according to the living wage campaign's press contact Emily Filler, but it recently instructed workers not to speak with the media. David Flood, the hunger-striking student, denounced such tactics as illegal, violating First Amendment rights and rights against workplace retaliation. "Employees have been told not to engage with us," he said.

Taking Action

Flood and his fellow "wagers," as they call themselves, have organized, educated, rallied, staged sit-ins, won the support of over 300 faculty members, recruited the help of numerous organizations on campus and off, and published and annually updated a 75-page report called "Keeping Our Promises," which makes a historical, moral, and legal argument for a living wage. Some 150 localities, and 22 of the 25 top-ranked universities in the country have living wage policies, and a number of studies having concluded that they reduce poverty without reducing employment.

UVA's living wage campaign, the first on a college campus, was launched in 1998, demanding an $8/hr living wage, indexed to keep pace with the cost of living. In 2000, UVA raised its lowest pay for direct employees from $6.10 to $8.19, without ever acknowledging the campaign, and without indexing the new rate to inflation. Unfortunately, the move didn’t help most of the low-wage workers, who are employed through contractors. The $8 campaign won living wages from the city, the public school system, and many private employers in Charlottesville. But at UVA the wages continued to drop in real terms as the cost of living soared.

In 2006, 17 students were arrested for sitting in the president's office, and a professor who tried to join them was arrested and later fired. The university raised wages once more, again without acknowledging the campaign, and again without indexing them to inflation.

President Sullivan has pointed to a 2006 state attorney general's opinion that a living wage at UVA would not be legal, an argument to which the campaign has replied with its own legal opinions and examples from around the country. Sullivan has argued that UVA now pays $13 with benefits included, but the campaign's demand is for $13 plus benefits, and for contract employees to be covered as well. The president has claimed that she cannot promise cost of living increases without knowing what future budgets will be, even though other expenses of far greater dollar amounts have been committed to. She has said state-imposed wage freezes cannot be predicted, but the campaign says such freezes do not prevent raising the minimum rate.

UVA's associate vice-president for public affairs, Carol Wood, declined to comment for this article.

The hunger strike was timed to overlap a three-day meeting of UVA's Board of Visitors. The BOV is the corporate board of the University of Virginia, its members appointed by the governor of Virginia and approved by the state’s General Assembly. The BOV is responsible for long-term planning and approves new policies and budgets at UVA. Flood and other students met twice with Sullivan and other top administrators. Flood described their decision making structure as "opaque," but said he had no doubt that if Sullivan and her administration agreed to a living wage, they could implement it and so inform the Board of Visitors.

Emily Filler was encouraged by the hunger strike, saying that in the course of two weeks a great deal of attention had been gained, many more students had become aware of the campaign, the university had for the first time agreed to audit its contractors and report on its employees' numbers and what they are paid, and two labor organizations -- SEIU and AFL-CIO -- had been brought to campus because of the attention surrounding the hunger strike.

"Right after spring break," Filler said, "we'll start organizing contract employees."

Asked if the campaign was over now that she was going back to eating, Marguerite Beattie said, "Oh, we're not giving up until there's a living wage."

This story was produced by the independent Economic Hardship Reporting Project, co-edited by Barbara Ehrenreich and Linda Jue.

David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at davidswanson.org and warisacrime.org and works for the online activist organization rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio.

Top 10 Genius Reasons to Keep Troops in Afghanistan

1. When you're setting a record for the longest modern war, cutting it short just increases the chances of somebody breaking your record some day.

2. When Newt Gingrich, Cal Thomas, and Lindsey Graham turn against a war, keeping it going will really confuse Republicans.

3. If we pull U.S. troops out after they have shot children from helicopters, kicked in doors at night, waved Nazi flags, urinated on corpses, and burned Korans it will look like we're sorry they did those things.

4. U.S. tax dollars have been funding our troops, and through payments for safe passage on roads have also been the top source of income for the Taliban.  Unilaterally withdrawing that funding from both sides of a war at the same time would be unprecedented and could devastate the booming Afghan economy.

5. The government we've installed in Afghanistan is making progress on its torture program and drug running and now supports wife beating.  But it has not yet mandated invasive ultrasounds.  We cannot leave with a job half-finished, not on International Women's Day.

6. We have an enormous prison full of prisoners in Afghanistan, and closing it down would distract us from our essential concentration on pretending to close Guantanamo.

7. Unless we keep "winning" in Afghanistan it will be very hard to generate enthusiasm for our wars in Syria and Iran.  And with suicide the top killer of our troops, we cannot allow our men and women to be killing themselves in vain.

8. If we ended the war that created the 2001 authorization to use military force, how would we justify our special forces operations in over 100 other countries, the elimination of habeas corpus, or the legalization of murdering U.S. citizens?  Besides, if we stay a few more years we might find an al Qaeda member.

9. A few hundred billion dollars a year is a small price to pay for weapons bases, a gas pipeline, huge profits for generous campaign funders, and a perfect testing ground for weapons that will be absolutely essential in our next pointless war.

10. Terror hasn't conceded defeat yet.

The Peace Movement Needs Kucinich, With or Without Congress

If Congressman Dennis Kucinich becomes simply Dennis Kucinich sans the "Congressman" his value to the peace movement need not diminish. 

I admit it's been nice having someone in Congress who would say and do what he would.  There have been and remain other relatively strong voices for peace, but none as strong as Kucinich's.  His resolutions have forced the debates.  His bills have changed the conversation.  His questioning of witnesses has afflicted the comfortable while seeking to comfort the afflicted.  Perhaps Congressman Norman Solomon will pick up the baton.  Time will tell.

Talk Nation Radio: Students Hunger Strike for a Living Wage

Hunter Link of the University of Virginia's Living Wage Campaign explains why he and other students stopped eating and why workers at UVA can and should be paid a living wage.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.

Producer: David Swanson.

Engineer: Christiane Brown.

Music by Duke Ellington.

Download or get embed code from Archive.org or AudioPort or Radio4All or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

What's the Matter With Norway?

The beautiful thing about the internet is that whenever you write an essay on a topic you imagine is new, some wonderful person contacts you within about an hour who's written a whole book about it.  This is different from writing a book about something new (or old) like the Kellogg-Briand Pact (everybody still thinks it must be a breakfast cereal).

Fredrik Heffermehl's book "The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted," is a wonderful thing to discover.  I understand if you just can't stomach discovering that Norway and the committee that hands out the peace prizes have become as corrupted as a Congressman.  But if awardees like George Marshall, Henry Kissinger, Yasser Arafat, and Barack Obama already had you scratching your head a little bit, you may appreciate learning the details of where the prize bestowers ran off the rails and how they might manage to climb back aboard the peace train.

Alfred Nobel left behind a legally binding will that required giving a prize to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."  Like the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, the Nobel Committee has largely abandoned its original mission.  Carnegie and Nobel are dead and none the wiser, but those of us who like the idea of a well-funded peace movement are painfully aware.

The Nobel prize for peace was not designed as merely an honor, but as a significant source of funding for "work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."  Yet, with each annual prize, as with each year's operation of the Carnegie Endowment, the peace movement is none the better funded.  Warmongers take the funding, or admirable and heroic humanitarians take the funding, but these are not people working toward or even believing in the desirability of the aims for which the prize was created and legally established in Nobel's will.

Heffermehl examines the language of the will in the original Swedish, the thinking and influences that went into it, the reasons why Nobel chose the Norwegian parliament to appoint the committee for the administration of the prize, and the activities and the worldviews of what Nobel termed in the will "champions of peace."  Legally, Heffermehl argues, it is the will that counts, not each and every opinion Nobel might have held at some point in his life.  While peace congresses are still held, work is still done to abolish standing armies, and many working on these projects also work for what Heffermehl translates as confraternity among nations, much of this work is little known in the media and unknown to the prize committee, which has lost touch with its mission.

Heffermehl argues persuasively that no Nobel prize for peace has been awarded with appropriate justification since 2001.  In fact, in his analysis, 50 of the 120 prizes given between 1901 and 2009 were not justified.  Heffermehl bases that judgment primarily on the case made for each laureate by the committee awarding the prize.  Were he to examine the laureates and those passed over, the number of unjustified prizes might increase. 

Heffermehl also looks at the justification for the prizes awarded under each of the 12 committee chairs and six committee secretaries that have ever held those posts.  The two chairs who have served since 2003 receive far and away the worst scores, while the two who served up through 1941 score dramatically better than the others.  Similarly, the two secretaries who held that position up through 1945 receive high marks, while the one, Geir Lundestad, who has been Secretary since 1990 has, in Heffermehl's scoring, performed miserably. 

World War II shifted thinking in Norway and elsewhere toward militarism and the notion of the inevitability of war.  While France and Germany have ceased attacking each other, there hasn't been a war between wealthy powers in 70 years, and the only wars we have now are against poor countries, somehow common wisdom holds that the abolition of war is a silly idea.  But is legally complying with a dead man's will a silly idea too? 

After World War II it wasn't just thinking that changed, but procedure as well.  No longer does the Norwegian parliament choose the most qualified peace leaders to serve on the committee.  Instead, each political party picks committee members in proportion to the party's strength in the parliament, even if the party is pro-war.

Yet it was not until 1990 that the real corruption began to eat away at Nobel's legacy.  Lundestad has created more pompous ceremonies, an annual concert, and a permanent Nobel Peace Center in Oslo filled with cutting edge technology.  While the five-member committee in Norway used to have no need for funding, the prizes simply being awarded directly to the laureates, now funding became critical, and much of that funding became corporate.  Are images of the fancy new DC building belonging to the "United States Institute of Peace (unless there's a war)" flashing through your mind?  Lundestad is a professional fundraiser now who finds time for Bilderberg conferences but not peace congresses. 

Heffermehl made his case in Norwegian pre-Obama, and was oh-so-predictably-and-depressingly hopeful when the committee absurdly bestowed its prize on the new U.S. President in 2009.  It was Obama's pro-war acceptance speech that led Heffermehl to unhesitatingly add him to the list of undeserving laureates.  But there were other reasons.  Heffermehl claims to have a source who knows that promotion of Oslo as a tourist destination weighed in the selection of Obama.  Alfred Nobel had, of course, not mentioned that motivation in his will at all. 

Heffermehl proposes that Nobel's will be followed, that the commercial activities of the Nobel Foundation be dropped, and that the combination of the roles of committee secretary and commercial director be ended.  I think he has a point.

Here's a video of Lundestad disingenuously defending the selection of Barack Obama.

Lundestad is scheduled to speak on Saturday, March 3rd, in Minnesota, where Coleen Rowley will be asking him pertinent questions about faithfulness to Nobel's will.  If you can't make it to Minnesota, you can sign this petition Rowley has set up.

If this thing gets turned around and Nobel peace prizes are awarded for a number of years to real champions of peace, then it should almost go without saying that Fredrik Heffermehl, who has created a formal investigation of the matter in Sweden, will have earned himself the prize as well.

Why I've Refused to Endorse the Protests of Either the RNC or the DNC

Don't get me wrong.  I want the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in Tampa and Charlotte protested, denounced, shamed, nonviolently occupied, and ideally prevented from occurring, at least until they credibly support peace, justice, and democracy -- or pigs fly, whichever comes first.  I've said so and encouraged such organizing for months.  I hope to be a part of it.

But when asked to endorse http://protestdnc.org and http://resistrnc.org I have said no twice, and for the very same reason.  The former lists this as among its principles:

Misguided Peace Prizes Come Home

The Nobel Committee is under pressure for having ceased to award the Nobel Peace Prize for work aimed at peace.

Now comes the University of Virginia which has just announced that it plans to award the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal to Jessica T. Matthews, head of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

It is highly unlikely that UVA would be making that award were the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace working for what Andrew Carnegie required that it work for, namely international peace.

Carnegie provided the funding for the Endowment requiring that it work to eliminate war, and that once war was eliminated the endowment move on to abolishing the second worst thing in the world.

The Endowment has moved on, while wars still occur.  It claims to have redefined it mission to include economic matters.  Its programs do not include the abolition of war at all, but focus on several other areas.  Matthews excuses herself for this by pretending that eliminating war is not attainable:

"The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is the oldest international affairs think tank in the United States. Founded by Andrew Carnegie with a gift of $10 million, its charter was to “hasten the abolition of war, the foulest blot upon our civilization.” While that goal was always unattainable, the Carnegie Endowment has remained faithful to the mission of promoting peaceful engagement.

Several defining qualities shine through in Carnegie’s history: the consistent excellence of the research; the institution’s unusual ability to stay young as it grew in age by regularly reinventing itself to stay ahead of the tide of change in the world; and a determination that its work should produce real change in the real world.

The most recent reinvention was the announcement of our Global Vision of 2007, a plan to create the world’s first global think tank. Today, with a thriving network of locally staffed centers in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and America, the institution is on its way to achieving that ambitious goal. Those of us, past and present, who have had the great fortune to serve this extraordinary institution can look forward to our second century with a real sense of accomplishment and with the expectation of notable contributions to a more peaceful world yet to come.

Jessica T. Mathews
President

It's fitting that Matthews will accept her award at the home of Thomas Jefferson, a man who believed that ending slavery was unattainable, just as others have believed that ending every foul practice once established is unattainable.  In fact, ending war is perfectly within our grasp.  But that doesn't mean we can afford to have someone divert hundreds of millions of dollars from the task, even if they do find creating uncontroversial websites and "think" tanks more convenient.

Talk Nation Radio: Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy on Bahrain, AIPAC, and Military Spending

Robert Naiman, just returned from Bahrain, discusses the popular uprising there, the upcoming conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its push for war with Iran, and the prospects for reducing U.S. military spending.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson

Producer: David Swanson

Engineer: Christiane Brown

Download from Archive.org or AudioPort or Radio4All or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network

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

Un-Cheating Justice: Two Years Left to Prosecute Bush

Elizabeth Holtzman knows something about struggles for justice in the U.S. government.  She was a member of Congress and of the House Judiciary Committee that voted for articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon in 1973. She proposed the bill that in 1973 required that "state secrets" claims be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. She co-authored the special prosecutor law that was allowed to lapse, just in time for the George W. Bush crime wave, after Kenneth Starr made such a mockery of it during the Whitewater-cum-Lewinsky scandals.  She was there for the creation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in 1978. She has served on the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group, bringing long-escaped war criminals to justice.  And she was an outspoken advocate for impeaching George W. Bush.

Holtzman's new book, coauthored with Cynthia Cooper, is called "Cheating Justice: How Bush and Cheney Attacked the Rule of Law and Plotted to Avoid Prosecution -- and What We Can Do About It."  Holtzman begins by recalling how widespread and mainstream was the speculation at the end of the Bush nightmare that Bush would pardon himself and his underlings.  The debate was over exactly how he would do it.  And then he didn't do it at all.

So Many Prisons and No Room for War Propagandists?

Article VI of the US Constitution makes treaties the United States signs and ratifies the supreme law of the land.  The United States has signed and ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 20 of which reads:

1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.

2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.

But the United States has ratified that with this reservation:

 "(1) That article 20 does not authorize or require legislation or other action by the United States that would restrict the right of free speech and association protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States."

So, in a sane world in which freedom of speech had not already been stretched to include the bribery of elected officials, there would be a serious question to place before our courts, or our legislature, or -- better -- our people: Does the First Amendment protect this?

Preaching Peace

Sermon by David Swanson on February 26, 2012, at Unitarian Universalist church in Hilton Head, SC. Video by Alan Ammann.

Lifting the Shadow of War

David Swanson on February 25, 2012, in Hilton Head, SC, with HiltonHeadForPeace.org. Video by John King.

Palestine on Talk Nation Radio

Talk Nation Radio for February 22, 2012

Christopher Allen-Doucot on his 2011 experiences in Palestine, where a peaceful protest movement continues.

U.S. Catholics are celebrating a holy week and it seemed appropriate to reair our special with this prominent Catholic peace activist. Chris Doucot talks about what he saw in Palestine of a growing protest movement as he puts the occupation in perspective. We hear about the impacts of the right wing religious movement, Christian Zionism, on the lives of Palestinian Muslims, Christians and Jews, through recent history.

While peace talks between Israel and Palestine remain stalled, a growing number of peace activists from around the world are visiting Palestine to observe or participate in a growing protest movement there. At stake are the illegal Israeli settlements and separation wall, and a lack of access to Jerusalem where many holy sites are now blocked off for both Jewish and Christian Palestinians. The event was organized by the Israel/Palestine Peace, Education and Action Group of N.E. CT. They invited Chris Allen-Doucot to discuss his recent visits to Palestine and Afghanistan.

(First aired April/May 2011, still very fresh and relevant. Meanwhile, David Swanson tools up for continued great programming. He is forming a production team.) 

Total Run Time: 29:28

Host: David Swanson

Producer: David Swanson

Download at Pacifica’s Audioport here http://audioport.org/index.php?op=program-info&program_id=40426&nav=&

Or at Archive.org here http://www.archive.org/details/ChrisAllen-doucotOnVisitToPalestineSettlersBothJoinInProtestsCause

The 10 Most Excellent Reasons to Attack Iran

1. Iran has threatened to fight back if attacked, and that's a war crime. War crimes must be punished.

2. My television says Iran has nukes.  I'm sure it's true this time.  Just like with North Korea.  I'm sure they're next.  We only bomb places that really truly have nukes and are in the Axis of Evil.  Except Iraq, which was different.

3. Iraq didn't go so badly. Considering how lousy its government is, the place is better off with so many people having left or died.  Really, that one couldn't have worked out better if we'd planned it. 

4. When we threaten to cut off Iran's oil, Iran threatens to cut off Iran's oil, which is absolutely intolerable.  What would we do without that oil? And what good is buying it if they want to sell it?

5. Iran was secretly behind 9-11. I read it online. And if it wasn't, that's worse. Iran hasn't attacked another nation in centuries, which means its next attack is guaranteed to be coming very soon.

6. Iranians are religious nuts, unlike Israelis and Americans.  Most Israelis don't want to attack Iran, but the Holy Israeli government does. To oppose that decision would be to sin against God. 

7. Iranians are so stupid that when we murder their scientists they try to hire a car dealer in Texas to hire a drug gang in Mexico to murder a Saudi ambassador in Washington, and then they don't do it -- just to make us look bad for catching them.

7. b. Oh, and stupid people should be bombed.  They're not civilized.

8. War is good for the U.S. economy, and the Iranian economy too.  Troops stationed in Iran would buy stuff.  And women who survived the war would have more rights.  Like in Virginia.  We owe Iranians this after that little mishap in 1953.

9. This is the only way to unite the region.  Either we bomb Iran and it swears its eternal love to us.  Or, if necessary, we occupy Iran to liberate it like its neighbors.  Which shouldn't take long.  Look how well Afghanistan is going already.

10. They won't give our drone back.  Enough said.

Why Students Are Hunger Striking in Virginia

Twelve students at the University of Virginia on Saturday began a hunger strike for a living wage policy for university employees.  They've taken this step after having exhausted just about every other possible approach over a period of 14 years.  I was part of the campaign way back when it started.  I can support the assertion made by hunger-striking student A.J. Chandra on Saturday, who said,

"We have not spent 14 years building up the case for a living wage.  Rather, the campaign has made the case over and over again."

UVA Living Wage Hunger Strike 1

This is the latest in a long series of reports making the case.

Another striking student, David Flood, explained,

"We have researched long enough. We have campaigned long enough. We have protested long enough. The time for a living wage is now."

UVA was the first campus with a living wage campaign back in the late 1990s, but many campuses that started later finished sooner.  UVA has seen partial successes.  In 2000, the university raised wages to what was at the time a living wage.  But those gains have been wiped out by inflation.  Local businesses have voluntarily met the campaign's demands, and the City of Charllottesville has both implemented a living wage policy and called on UVA to do so.

When we started, no one dared to say the word "union," but by 2002 a union had formed.  It lasted until 2008, and now a new organizing drive is underway. 

Workers, however, still fear being fired for joining a union or for joining the living wage campaign.  (Does anyone recall the Employee Free Choice Act from way back yonder in 2008? It would really come in handy.) With workers fearing retribution, students and faculty are the campaign's public face, and even some students (especially those with scholarships) and faculty are afraid to take on that role.

In 2006, UVA students tried a sit-in as a tactic to pressure the University's Board of Visitors.  The students were arrested after four days, and wage policies unaltered.  But now they are looking to the model of Georgetown University's successful hunger strike in 2005.

Since 2006, the campaign has been building support among workers, faculty, and the Charlottesville community whose economy is dominated by UVA and almost a quarter of whose population is below the federal poverty line.  Here's a debate on the topic from 2011. A petition has been signed by 328 faculty members.

UVA Living Wage Hunger Strike 2

A rally was held on the steps of the Rotunda on Saturday to launch the hunger strike.  Chandra told the gathered crowd that this 14-year campaign by an ever-changing cast of students who typically stay only 4 years has tried teach-ins, concerts, film showings, petitions, letter-writing, marches, seminars, reports, and community outreach of all sorts.  Speaking privately, he told me that the university measures its success by its publications and many other quantities. "The well being of the lowest paid workers," he said, "has to be part of deciding whether this is a successful institution."

Without pressure for action, Chandra said, "the same passive acceptance of injustice that allowed blacks to be excluded from UVA until 1950 and women until 1970" will win out. 

Hunter Link is another hunger-striking student, the only one of the 12 not currently enrolled.  He graduated in December.  He pointed out that UVA sends students abroad to do service projects with money it could have used to pay its own workers a living wage.  Of course, it also builds giant sports arenas, raises its top salaries, and adds more buildings to its main campus all the time. 

For most of the past 14 years, UVA had a president who gave no indication that I ever saw of caring in the least what happened to the people who scrubbed his toilets.  Now, UVA has a new president, its first female president.  Her name is Theresa Sullivan, and she has published books, including quite recently, advocating for a living wage.  When it comes to actually paying one at UVA, where doing so would cost a fraction of a percent of the billions of dollars UVA is hoarding, Sullivan sings a different tune.

UVA Living Wage Hunger Strike 4

Hunter Link read to the crowd on Saturday a letter from an unnamed worker who complained that President Sullivan talks about "a caring community" but -- asks the worker -- "what good are values if you don't live them?"

It's popular in U.S. politics these days to prefer words to actions, but the UVA living wage campaign is taking the opposite approach, pointing out the deceptions in Sullivan's claims.  "Contrary to President Sullivan's inexplicable claims," said hunger-striker David Flood, "real wages have declined in the past six years."  Objecting to non-monetary compensation as an alternative to wages, Flood remarked to loud applause: "You cannot pay the rent with a course at UVA.  You cannot buy medicine with a coupon good only at the UVA company store."  Before UVA workers can take classes, Flood said, they must be able to buy housing, food, and medicine.  They must be able to live in the community that they make possible.  I would add that they must be able to quit their second or third jobs if they are to have time for taking classes.

The living wage campaign is demanding a minumum wage for direct, contracted, and subcontracted employees of no less that $13, and that wages be adjusted each year to comply with the Economic Policy Institute's regionally sourced cost-of-living and inflation calculations.  This must be implemented without reducing other benefits, including healthcare, without under-staffing, without reducing hours worked, and without demanding increased productivity.  We started out demanding $8, and if the University had met that demand and indexed it to the cost of living, this campaign would have ended.  Professor Susan Fraiman, who has been part of the campaign from the start, remarked on Saturday that she very much hoped she was speaking at the last living wage rally that would be needed.  That will depend on the impact of the hunger strike.

UVA Living Wage Hunger Strike 3

The strikers have set up a permanent vigil between the Rotunda and the UVA Chapel.  The strikers are informed, articulate, dedicated, and deadly serious.  They've had physicals and will consume only liquids.  One of them, Hallie Clark, pointed out that the Black Student Alliance rallied for higher wages at UVA in 1969.  This has been a long struggle indeed. And the majority of the lowest paid workers at this slave-built campus are still black.  The honor code still forbids cheating on tests or treating students as if they would cheat on tests.  But it does not at the moment require presidents who have publicly articulated the moral demand for a living wage to actually pay one.

President Sullivan must work with UVA's Board of Visitors.  The board members are almost all from out of town.  Most students and workers have no contact with them.  They are not a part of the Charlottesville community.  Some of them are graduates of UVA's Darden Business School, which of course teaches the benefits of low pay for workers other than oneself and erases from consideration the question of whether a worker must hold a second job, or must use only emergency rooms for healthcare, or must leave his or her children unsupervised.  When I was a graduate student in philosophy at UVA, I took a course at Darden that was jointly listed as business and philosophy.  The course sought to apply ethics to the view of business regularly promoted at Darden, which felt a bit like applying a stick of lipstick to a large and fast-moving pig.

Here's a list of the members of the Board of Visitors along with their phone numbers. You can also click their names to email them. Or click HERE to email them all at once.  Hunter Link told me the campaign had been in touch with Mark Kington of the Finance Committee and found him less than supportive.  Here's what the various members do for their day jobs.  Other than the student member and the ex-officio member, if you can find a connection between any of the other members and education please let me know.  They seem to be almost all bankers, lawyers, CEOs, and . . . well, the sort of gang that ought to be the Board of Visitors for Darden Business School, not UVA; except they wouldn't have to visit as Darden has its own supply of these types.

President Sullivan is going to have to take the lead here.  It is her students refusing to eat, across the street from her house.  Her office phone is 434-924-3337.  During the next week, she and the board members need to hear from every single one of us who cares.  The Board of Visitors will be meeting next week.  There will be rallies every day this week, leading up to that meeting.  To get involved, go to livingwageatuva.org

UVA Living Wage Hunger Strike 5

Talk Nation Radio

Talk Nation Radio (found at talknationradio.com) has long been hosted wonderfully by Dori Smith. I've enjoyed being a guest on her program and am now honored to be hosting the show.  I'll have a new show available every week.  Guests lined up include Robert Naiman, Pat Elder, Michelle Brown, Karen Malpede, John Horgan, Cindy Sheehan, Jeff Cohen, Coleen Rowley, Marcy Winograd, Jeff Clements, and Bruce Gagnon.  But the first guest is Paul Chappell. Enjoy!

Author, Activist, War Veteran Paul Chappell on How We End War Forever 

Paul Chappell discusses the investigations into the making of war and of peace found in his books "Will War Ever End," "The End of War," and the just published "Peaceful Revolution: How We Can Create the Future Needed for Humanity's Survival." Chappell also authored a chapter in "The Military Industrial Complex at 50."

Total Run Time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson

Producer: David Swanson, in Charlottesville, VA

Music: Duke Ellington

Syndicated by Pacifica Network

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

Download from Archive.org, or AudioPort.org, or DavidSwanson.org.

Embed on your own site with this code: <iframe src="http://www.archive.org/embed/AuthorActivistWarVeteranPaulChappellOnHowWeEndWarForever" frameborder="0" height="50" width="400"></iframe>

A One Percenter Puts Over $200 Million into the Peace Movement

I'll tell you who did this below.  First read part his rather unusual letter:

"I have transferred to you as trustees $231 million in bonds, the revenue of which is to be administered by you to hasten the abolition of international war, the foulest blot upon our civilization.  Although we no longer eat our fellow men nor torture prisoners, nor sack cities killing their inhabitants, we still kill each other in war like barbarians.  Only wild beasts are excusable for doing that in this, the Twenty First Century of the Christian era, for the crime of war is inherent, since it decides not in favor of the right, but always of the strong.  The nation is criminal which refuses arbitration and drives its adversary to a tribunal which knows nothing of righteous judgment. . . .

"I hope the trustees will begin by pressing forward upon this line, testing it thoroughly and doubting not.

"The judge who presides over a cause in which he is interested dies in infamy if discovered.  The citizen who constitutes himself a judge in his own cause as against his fellow-citizen, and presumes to attack him, is a law-breaker and as such disgraced.  So should a nation be held as disgraced which insists upon sitting in judgment in its own cause in case of an international dispute. . . .

"Lines of future action cannot be wisely laid down.  Many may have to be tried, and having full confidence in my trustees, I leave them the widest discretion as to the measures and policy they shall from time to time adopt, only premising that the one end they shall keep unceasingly in view until it is attained is the speedy abolition of international war between so-called civilized nations.

"When civilized nations enter into such treaties as named, and war is discarded as disgraceful to civilized men, as personal war (duelling) and man selling and buying (slavery) have been discarded . . . the trustees will please then consider what is the next most degrading remaining evil or evils whose banishment -- or what new elevating element or elements if introduced or fostered, or both combined -- would most advance the progress, elevation and happiness of humanity, and so on from century to century without end, my Trustees of each age shall determine how they can best aid humanity in its upward march to higher and higher stages of development unceasingly. . . ."

War Propaganda in the Anti-War Punditry

To the Charlottesville Daily Progress

To the Editor:

"Headed to another Persian Gulf War" is a helpful column in that it seeks to avoid a war on Iran, but unhelpful in that it makes that war just a little bit more likely. 

Don Nuechterlein claims to know the motivations of our two presidents Bush in launching a pair of wars on Iraq.  But he makes no mention of oil, of bases, of profits, or of global politics.  The babies-taken-from-incubators fraud is forgotten along with the WMD lies.  In fact, the WMD lies of 2002-2003 are given new support -- albeit baseless and undocumented -- in Nuechterlein's claim that the war was intended "to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime and prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons."  It had of course been totally and entirely prevented from any such thing, prior to and without the war.  Overthrowing a foreign government is not a legal basis for a war.  Limiting weapons production, even when not a fantasy cooked up in Washington, is not a legal basis for war.  In fact, there is no legal basis for war, which is banned by the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the U.N. Charter, and banned to presidents acting without the Congress by the U.S. Constitution.

By the next paragraph Neuchterlein is referring to Iran's "nuclear arms program," something the existence of which is supported by zero evidence, something the U.S. Secretary of "Defense" says does not exist.  Neuchterlein doesn't argue that it exists.  That would make him seem like a pro-war propagandist.  He just assumes baselessly that it exists in order to proceed from there to an argument for being very reluctant and oh-so serious about going into another spree of pointless mass murder. 

In the next paragraph we hear that Iran is refusing to negotiate.  Iran has tried repeatedly to negotiate the end of its nuclear energy program or the exportation of its uranium for refinement outside of the country.  It is difficult for Iran to negotiate when the U.S. State Department doesn't speak to it.  Neuchterlein, to be sure, is opposed to acting rashly on the basis of Iran's supposed refusal to negotiate.  Nonetheless he is in favor of pretending it exists. 

We then learn that "All Arab countries, especially in the Persian Gulf region, live in fear of Iran's hegemonic ambitions."  What world does that claim come out of?  Can Neuchterlein name one Arab Gulf country with an Iranian military presence?  Can he name one without a U.S. military presence?  Two paragraphs later he's admitting that Syria (not a Gulf state) is aligned with Iran.

Neuchterlein frames the choices as including sanctions or war.  But sanctions, for which Nuechterlein offers no evidence (and I know of no evidence) that they are having a serious negative impact on the Iranian government, are a step toward war, not away from it.  They strengthen nationalism, not democracy.  They punish ordinary people (and by punish I mean kill), not presidents. 

Neuchterlein then describes Obama as a fellow reluctant warrior who might be forced into a war against his deep desire, despite the fact that Obama has been pushing very similar propaganda to Neuchterlein.  Neuchterlein labels Newt Gingrich "pro-Israel," even though a majority of Israelies are against attacking Iran and Gingrich is for it.  Neuchterlein pretends that Obama has no influence over Israel, even though the United States gives Israel billions of dollars worth of weapons, vetoes every measure of accountability for Israeli crimes at the United Nations, and works closely with the Israeli military and Mossad. 

NBC this week reported that Israel is funding and training the Iranian group MEK to engage in terrorism in Iran.  The MEK is a group the U.S. government has designated terrorist, but which a gaggle of big whigs like Howard Dean and Rudi Giuliani illegally work for, and which the U.S. government, like Israel, has been funding, according to Seymour Hersh.  But the onus is on Iran to start "negotiating." 

How about this negotiation: all paries stop threatening war, and all parties comply with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  You see the trouble?  Iran has already met both of those demands and always had, whereas Israel and the United States have not and have no intention of doing so.

After his onslaught of lies, Neuchterlein proposes that we avoid war if possible.  If possible?  It is ALWAYS possible to avoid war.  But there is no easier way to get into a war than by establishing that it might be "impossible" to avoid, thus removing all moral and legal responsibility.

Please check facts even in the "Commentary."

Thank you.

David Swanson


Learning From La Venezuela

Imagine that your son, your darling little boy, was killed during the past eight years in a war that served purely to kill a whole lot of Iraqis and enrich a small number of billionaires, while causing horrible environmental damage, stripping away our civil liberties, and poisoning foreign relations elsewhere.  And imagine that, instead of avoiding this reality or lying about it, you confronted it.  Further, imagine that you became so famous confronting it, that everybody wanted to be your friend, at least for a minute. You might even get invited to Venezuela by President Hugo Chavez, and you might go with a mind open to hearing what he had to say.

Cindy Sheehan did.  And now she's published a book about it.  If Venezuela makes it to the top of the list for the next U.S. war, this book will be a valuable tool for confronting the propaganda.  But why wait?  Our government has attempted a coup and is openly funding opposition groups.  Why wait to consider what it is we're paying to try to undo?

Venezuela could be targeted for its oil, of course.  But Cindy proposes another reason why the government in Washington, D.C., that we all so love to hate except when it kills lots of people, might be targeting Venezuela.  In an interview included in the book, she asks Chavez: "Why do you think the Empire makes such a concerted effort to demonize you?"  His response, which has been translated from Spanish, is:

"I think for different reasons. But I've gotten to the conclusion there is one particular strong reason, a big reason. They are afraid, the Empire is afraid.  The Empire is afraid that the people of the United States might find out about the truth, they are afraid that something like that could erupt in their own territory -- a Bolivarian movement; or a Lincoln movement -- a movement of citizens, conscious citizens to transform the system. . . . So, why do they demonize us? They know -- those who direct the Empire -- they know the truth. But they fear the truth. They fear the contagious effect. They fear a revolution in the United States. They fear an awakening of the people in the United States. And so that's why they do everything they can. And they achieve it, relatively, that a lot of sectors in the United States see us as devils. No one wants to copy the devil."

But we might copy some little things even from the devil if they were worth copying.  What is it that Sheehan and Chavez think might be contagious if we found out about it? 

This is why the book is a valuable resource now, threat or no threat, war or no war.  It's a story of a people's movement, largely nonviolent.  It's a story of dramatic change that was slow in coming and then burst into fruition.  It's a story of a work in progress that is moving in positive directions, investing in education, protecting the environment, raising the living standards of the majority of the people.  Can a new political party succeed?  Yes, it can.  Can an outworn Constitution be rewritten at great length and well by a popular movement?  Yes, it can. (PDF). Cindy lists some of the changes brought by this Constitution:

·      added a "people's branch"
·      added an "election's branch"
·      citizens are able to recall the president
·      health care is enshrined as a human right
·      education is enshrined as a human right
·      gender inclusivity in the language
·      equal rights for women under the law
·      only the people can amend the document
·      aggressive indigenous rights
·      commits the power of the state to protect the environment

The horror!  I know some USians who don't dare HOPE for such a CHANGE. I even know some who are learning that such changes are perfectly possible, but that they don't come about through hoping, or through voting alone. 

The weakness of the Venezuelan revolution, however, is very similar to the weakness of US liberalism.  Each pins its hopes on a single messiah.  Of course, Chavez is making the poor richer, while Obama is making the rich richer.  But it appears entirely possible that positive movement in Venezuela will be thrown into reverse when Chavez dies.  Chavez ought to be teaching his nation not to depend on one man.  He ought to step down while alive and well enough to help guide his successor.  He ought to move on to a focus on uniting the nations of South America.  That he does not do this seems to me a mark against his character.  But it does not change the fact that the Venezuelan people have been empowered to rule by referendum, while in the United States the presidency has been made more powerful than that of Venezuela -- and without the addition of direct democracy.  The Venezuelan Constitution has already been amended, by public referendum.  The U.S. Constitution hasn't been touched in 40 years except through dramatic changes imposed by the Supreme Court or the President.

The question that my mind focuses on in reading Cindy's account is not, however, what can I find wrong with Chavez.  It's this: Can we make an Occupy movement worthy of the title Bolivarian?

Informed Activist

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