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Citizen Diplomacy May Save Us Yet

For as long as there's been a United States of America, its private citizens have done some of its best diplomacy.  In 1798 Dr. George Logan eased tensions between France and this country.  He got a law named for him, criminalizing such services, but nobody's ever been prosecuted under it -- probably because the crime prosecuted would itself be the act of crime prevention.

One of my favorite cases, recounted in When the World Outlawed War, involved James Shotwell, who worked for the Carnegie Endowment for Peace (created by Andrew Carnegie to work exclusively on abolishing war, and currently working on everything but). 

In 1927, Shotwell drafted a public statement for the Foreign Minister of France proposing to the United States the creation of a treaty criminalizing war.  When few took notice, Shotwell's colleague Nicholas Murray Butler wrote a response to the Foreign Minister in the New York Times.  These two ventriloquists' public diplomacy resulted in a treaty banning war to which the United States, France, and 79 other nations are party today. (Ssh! Don't tell them.)

Whether they're meeting with the president of Iran, as many of us did last month, or bringing downed U.S. pilots home from Vietnam, peace activists speak for and relate to the vast majority of every country, which always favors peace.  At RootsAction.org we've recently encouraged Spain and Italy in their investigations and prosecutions of U.S. torturers, letting those nations know that we, too, support the rule of law, even when our own government does not.

Some of the most important work of citizen diplomacy that's been done in a long time, I suspect, is the trip recently organized by Code Pink that took nearly 40 U.S. peace activists to Pakistan.  They met with elected officials, tribal leaders, drone victims whose existence the U.S. government denies, and with the U.S. Ambassador.  They brought with them petitions signed by many thousands of Americans.  They brought world attention to U.S. drone murders in Pakistan.  And they brought awareness to many Pakistanis that we in the United States do not all passively accept the slaughter of their neighbors and loved ones.  The Foreign Minister of Pakistan recently said that drone strikes are the top cause of anti-Americanism in Pakistan.  While the U.S. ambassador is still struggling with step 1 (admitting he has a problem), citizens are bridging international divides.

If we look at the State Department depicted by its own cables released through WikiLeaks, we see a sales office for U.S. weapons companies, a bully for the Pentagon, and a hotbed of corruption scheming against the principle of honest representative government in nations around the world.  We're working on our own step 1 with regard to what our government has become.  And our greatest assistance in that regard has come from the Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, who by all rights should be announced this week as the winner of that prize, Bradley Manning

There are 231 nominees, and I don't know who they all are.  I suspect that few if any have done remotely as much as Manning to earn a Nobel Peace Prize. 

Alfred Nobel's will, written in 1895, left funding for a prize to be awarded to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."  Peace congresses (having nothing to do with the U.S. Congress) were understood, in that age, as conferences that would bring together both peace activists and important members of national governments.  The "abolition of armies" actually meant what it said.  Most Nobel peace laureates, after the very early years of the award's history, have not worked for the abolition or reduction of standing armies.  Many would adamantly denounce the very idea, as Barack Obama did in his acceptance speech.

We know the most limited information about Bradley Manning's intentions, but what we know does not conflict with the actions credited to him.  Most other nominees are almost certainly either individuals and organizations that have done good humanitarian work unrelated to abolishing war, or in fact warmongers of great notoriety.  There are, of course, thousands of people doing tremendous work around the world toward the abolition of war.  I just don't expect them to be among the nominees.

Code Pink should be considered next year, following its work in Pakistan and elsewhere to end drone wars.  A dozen other groups merit similar consideration.  Members of Veterans For Peace, which I write press releases for when I can keep up with the work being done, this week took part in the anti-drone march in Pakistan (hesitating not at all in the face of threats from the Taliban), recruited active-duty soldiers in Washington State to refuse to deploy to Afghanistan, went to jail in New York nonviolently demonstrating against war, sailed on an aid ship to Gaza expected to be met by the Israeli military next week, and planned an upcoming trip to Iran, among other actions.  Not a terribly atypical week.

Our government doesn't talk to others, takes great pride in not talking to others, and assassinates rather than trying alleged criminals in court where they'd have to be spoken to.  But we have a government of the people even when our government is of the oligarchs.  Sending pizzas to Tahrir Square has done far more good than sending tear gas. We have the ability and the responsibility not to let a government that doesn't speak for us, speak for us.

David Swanson Speaking in Asheville, NC

New South Network of War Resisters is organizing with co-sponsorship of  VFP 099  and the Nonviolent Direct Action Trainers of Occupy Asheville.
 

“Nothing More Evil: Confronting the Military Industrial Complex

An evening with author, activist and speaker David Swanson

October 26, 2012

7:00 – 9:30 p.m.

Rooftop Room, Battery Park Apartments, 1 Battle Square, Asheville, NC

Sign up now on FaceBook

"Our times cry out for a smart, witty and courageous Populist who hasn’t forgotten how to play offense.  Luckily we have David Swanson."  —Mike Ferner, Veterans For Peace.

"David Swanson is an antidote to the toxins of complacency and evasion. He insists on rousing the sleepwalkers, confronting the deadly prevaricators and shining a bright light on possibilities for a truly better world."  —Norman Solomon, author of War Made Easy.

Swanson's books include:

War is a Lie! and When the World Outlawed War, and Editor of The Military Industrial Complex at 50

See:  davidswanson.org

Free and open to the public!

We'll pass the hat. Help if you can with speaker stipend & travel costs.

Sponsored by:

New South Network of War Resisters Action, Collaboration & Training in Organized Nonviolence

 Co-Sponsored by:

Nonviolent Direct Action Trainers of Occupy Asheville; Veterans for Peace 099,  & NC Peace Action.

New South Network of War Resisters
Action, Collaboration & Training In Organized Nonviolence
P.O. Box 2551
Asheville, NC  28802
828-301-6683

ACTION South
Stories and photos of Southeast activists at work building a regionally sustained
and locally informed movement from the ground up.

Cari Italiani, aiutateci a combattere la tortura in Usa

English version below.

MicroMega

Con la condanna degli agenti della Cia coinvolti nell'illegale sequestro dell'imam Abu Omar il sistema giudiziario italiano ha dimostrato che davvero la legge può essere “uguale per tutti”. Ora, quasi diecimila cittadini americani chiedono all'Italia di andare oltre.

di David Swanson*, traduzione di Patrick Boylan

Quasi diecimila americani hanno già inviato i loro ringraziamenti all'Ambasciata italiana a Washington in seguito alle condanne definitive inflitte in Italia dalla Cassazione, lo scorso 19 settembre, ai 23 agenti della Cia rei di aver rapito l'ex imam di Milano il 17 febbraio, 2003, e di averlo mandato in Egitto per essere interrogato sotto tortura. Noi di RootsAction.org, movimento di cittadinanza tra i più attivi negli USA, abbiamo promosso una raccolta di ringraziamenti per dire al governo italiano che esiste un'America felice della sentenza della Cassazione e che ora vuole l'estradizione in Italia dei 23 condannati che altrimenti continuerebbero a vivere liberi e impuniti negli Stati Uniti.

New Book for Ages 6 to 10: Tube World

http://davidswanson.org/tubeworld

New Book for Ages 6 to 10: Tube World

Tube World is the first children's book by David Swanson, author of several nonfiction adult books. The illustrations for Tube World are by Shane Burke.

Parents: Have your kids been tired in the morning?  Have you found wet bathing suits in their beds?  Do they know things about far-away places that you didn’t teach them and they didn’t learn in school?  Do children visiting your town from halfway around the world always seem to be friends with your kids, and to only be around during certain hours of the day?  You won’t believe the explanation, but your kids might grin and wink at each other if you read it to them.

Kids: Did you know the center of the Earth was hollow?  Do you know the words that can take you there, if you’re under the covers in your swimming suit and prepared for the trip?  Can you imagine traveling anywhere in the world where there’s a swimming pool — and being home again in time for breakfast?  If you haven’t been to Tube World yet, this book will tell you the secrets you need to know.  And it will tell you about some children who discovered Tube World and used it to make the whole world a better place.

Buy the PDF, EPUB (iPad, Nook, etc.), or MOBI (Kindle) from Ebookit.

The paperback has been published in two versions, one with slightly better color, slightly better paper, and a dramatically higher price.

Buy the standard paperback from Amazon,

(If you order from Amazon it will ship right away even if Amazon says it won't ship for weeks; it is print-on-demand.)

Buy the premium paperback from Amazon,

Your local independent bookstore can order the book through Ingram.

Anyone can order the book in bulk at the lowest possible price right here.

Buy PDF, Audio, EPUB, or Kindle for $8 right here:

http://davidswanson.org/tubeworld

Advance Praise for Tube World:

“This book will make you laugh till water comes out your ears!”--Wesley

“This story is super flibba garibbidy schmibbadie libbidie awesome, mostly!”--Travis

“The best part is we saved 2,000 islands and pretty much the whole world in our swimming suits!”--Hallie

About Shane Burke:
Shane Burke lives in Denver Colorado and has been drawing and painting since he could hold a pencil. He took private art lessons when he was young and began winning awards and contests by the age of seven. His first big commission came at age nine when he created artwork for a billboard near his home town of Tracy California. His greatest influences came from his grandfather and elementary school teachers. He loved watching his grandfather paint landscapes and wanted to be just like him. Shane is a creative day dreamer and at complete peace when putting ink to paper.  You can see more of Shane's work at www.beezink.com

Where Is War Making Taking Us?

Remarks at the New Hampshire Peace Action 30th Anniversary Celebration in Concord, NH, October 5, 2012.

First of all, congratulations on 30 years! Give yourselves some applause.

I should tell you now that I don't trust anyone over 30, so your time is running out quickly here.

George Bush the Murderer: The Movie

A new movie has just been released based on Vincent Bugliosi's book "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder."  Bugliosi, of course, prosecuted Charles Manson and authored best sellers about Manson's guilt, O.J. Simpson's guilt, and Lee Harvey Oswald's guilt.  Whether we all agree with all of those conclusions, it is worth noting that each book was reviewed and considered by the biggest U.S. newspapers and television networks.  When Bugliosi wrote a book about George W. Bush's guilt, something we're almost all united on, the corporate media shut it out.  Will the same fate greet this movie?

I hope not.  In the book, and in this new movie, Bugliosi makes a devastating, well documented case that President George W. Bush is guilty of the murder of U.S. soldiers as a result of the lies he told to justify the invasion of Iraq, and can be prosecuted by any state attorney general in the country, or by any county prosecutor from a jurisdiction where a U.S. soldier lived prior to being killed in Iraq. 

In the movie, we watch Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz remark that if presidents had to live in fear of their actions being scrutinized for criminality that would have a huge impact on their behavior.  Dershowitz means this as somehow a negative thing.  Bugliosi points out that that is exactly the point: we ought to deter criminal behavior in presidents.

Bugliosi's argument for prosecution is simple. Bush wanted a war with Iraq. He had to show that a preemptive invasion of Iraq was justified. To do this Iraq had to be an imminent threat to the United States. There were two major problems. Bush couldn't prove any connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. More importantly, Bush's own 2002 classified intelligence estimate found that Saddam was not an imminent threat to the United States. Bush simply reversed the findings of the National Intelligence Estimate of 2002, and sent men and women off to fight a fraudulent and unnecessary war, knowing full well that some of them would come home in boxes.

The facts are not in dispute.  Bush chose to send US troops into Iraq. He did not do so in self-defense or as a last resort or under an international mandate, but rather went out of his way to concoct false motives for war and to rush its launching. By sending troops into war, Bush was knowingly and needlessly but certainly condemning some of them to death. The Iraqis who killed those soldiers in predictable and legally justifiable defense of their country fall into the legal category of "third-party innocent agent." This does not mean they are innocent, but rather that their actions do nothing to lessen the guilt of George W. Bush as murderer of those soldiers. Bugliosi calls this the "vicarious liability rule of conspiracy."

Bugliosi explains:

"In other words, if Bush personally killed an American soldier, he would be guilty of murder. Under the law, he cannot immunize himself from his criminal responsibility by causing a third party to do the killing. He's still responsible. George Bush cannot sit safely in his Oval Office in Washington, D.C., while young American soldiers fighting his war are being blown to pieces by roadside bombs in Iraq, and wash his hands of all culpability. It's not quite that easy. He could only do this if he did not take this nation into war under false pretenses. If he did, which the evidence overwhelmingly shows, he is criminally responsible for the thousands of American deaths in Iraq."

In addition, Bugliosi argues, Bush could be found guilty of murder under the rule of "aiding and abetting," because he instigated the killing of American soldiers by ordering the invasion of Iraq.

Did Bush have "malice aforethought"? Yes, according to Bugliosi. We convict people of murder for driving 100 mph through a school zone and hitting a child, or for blowing up a building while unaware that someone is inside. These are cases where the murderer does not know he is committing murder but where he is reckless enough to take an unreasonable risk of doing so. In Bush's case, he absolutely knew that invading Iraq would involve U.S. casualties, and yet he ordered the invasion, thereby acting with the intent that American soldiers be killed.

Bugliosi strengthens this argument by pointing out that we often convict people of murder for accidental killings that occur in the act of committing other felonies:

"A robber, for instance, was convicted of first degree murder under the felony-murder rule where, as he was leaving the store in which he had robbed the owner, he told the owner not to say a word or he'd be harmed, and fired into the ceiling to scare the owner. The shot, after two or three ricochets, pierced the head of the owner, killing him. In fact, the felony-murder rule applies even where the defendant is not the killer! There have been cases where the proprietor of the store fired at a robber, missed him and hit and killed a customer. And the robber was convicted of first degree murder of the customer."

Bugliosi missed an opportunity here to further strengthen his case by noting that in the act of ordering the invasion of Iraq, Bush was committing a number of felonies. When Bush submitted his March 18, 2003, letter and report to the United States Congress providing reasons for attacking Iraq, he violated the federal anti-conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. - 371, which makes it a felony "to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose..."; and The False Statements Accountability Act of 1996, 18 U.S.C. - 1001, which makes it a felony to issue knowingly and willfully false statements to the United States Congress. Bush also committed a felony by misappropriating funds to secretly begin the invasion prior to this date.

Bugliosi notes that there is no statute of limitations for murder. Bush could be prosecuted by any future federal prosecutor who had the nerve to do so and could do so while keeping his or her job. But Bugliosi writes that a state attorney general or any district attorney in any city or county could bring a murder charge against Bush for any soldiers from that state or county who lost their lives in Iraq. And not just Bush, but Cheney, Rice, et alia. Bugliosi provides some truly talented proposals for questioning Bush in court and adds:

"I would be more than happy, if requested, to consult with any prosecutor who decides to prosecute Bush in preparation of additional cross-examination questions for him to face on the witness stand. I believe the cross-examination would be such that they'd have to carry the arrogant son of privilege off the stand on a stretcher."

I know the same offer to assist stands from former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega, author of "United States versus George W. Bush et al.," who also appears in the film.

Bugliosi believes he's found the one true way to bring Bush to justice.  I think numerous avenues lie open, and that what is lacking is the will.  But the statutes of limitations are running out on many crimes, narrowing the field for prosecution.  Only those torture cases that resulted in death, for example, can now be prosecuted without running up against the statutes of limitations.

The root of warfare, I believe, is the valuing of U.S. lives over the lives of others.  So it is unfortunate that Bugliosi's approach encourages that, even if unintentionally. Bugliosi does not see any legal case to try Bush for the murders of Iraqis, but he also openly admits that he cares more about the deaths of Americans. Bugliosi repeatedly cites the figure 100,000, or "over 100,000" as the number of Iraqi deaths, but never indicates where he came up with that number or how he ignores the fact that every serious study has placed the count above a million.  Even if Bugliosi sees no way to prosecute Bush for the murder of Iraqis, he does not seem to have considered the possibility that U.S. troops are guilty of those murders.  The U.S. troops in this story (and, sadly, it is thus far just a story, not a prosecution) play exclusively the role of victim.  The legal and moral reality assigns them multiple roles.

I don't think it hurts Bugliosi's legal case, but I doubt that most Congress members believed Bush's lies about Iraq.  At the very least, they were as reckless as he was.  And I think there is a fundamental problem with Bugliosi's belief that there was something unique about Bush lying us into a war in Iraq.  It has been firmly established that the U.S. invaded Mexico, that there was no evidence to tie Spain to the sinking of the Maine, that the troops and weapons on the Lusitania were public knowledge, that FDR told numerous lies about Japan and Germany, that the Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened, that the Taliban was willing to hand bin Laden over to a third nation to be tried, etc.  The belief that Iraq was a first led me to correct the record with a book called War Is A Lie.

Because I know war lies are not unusual, I may value deterrence more highly.  I also do not thirst, as Bugliosi does, for anger and vengeance against "evil monsters."  But Bugliosi, too, argues for deterrence as a central motivation, so it's interesting to see what the lack of deterrence has already wrought.  President Obama continued Bush's wars, including the one in Iraq.  President Obama has an open policy of murder including weekly Tuesday reviews of the names of victims.  The evidence is abundant.  Bugliosi promises in the movie that he would treat a Democrat exactly the same way he treats Bush.  I sure hope so.

Here's a radio interview I did with Bugliosi.

Here's a preview of the movie:

Debate Analysis Avoids the Donkey in the Room

 

We're told Obama messed up the debate last night because of a bad format, bad camera angles, and bad coaches, and because it was his anniversary.  Never mind that four years ago he could talk about closing Gitmo, ending the very mindset that gets us into wars, providing universal healthcare, restoring the rule of law, reforming NAFTA, creating the right to organize in the workplace, ending the Bush tax cuts, and so forth. 

You can blame his failure to actually attempt any of those things on the Republicans or Rahm Emanuel or his dog Bo, but all the post-debate analysis ignores the real way in which Obama must now debate with one hand tied behind his back.

Talk Nation Radio: Slow Democracy Is Better Democracy

Susan Clark discusses her new book, authored with Woden Teachout, "Slow Democracy: Rediscovering Community, Bringing Decision Making Back Home."  It's a rich and persuasive argument against centralization and privatization, and for the advantages of local democracy with real powers of self governance.

Here's a review.

Total run time: 29:00

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

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

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Embed on your own site with this code:

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

Veterans For Peace Now in Pakistan Opposing Drone War

Seven Members of Veterans For Peace are part of a 40-member delegation organized by Code Pink now in Pakistan through October 10th. VFP members Leah Bolger, Dave Dittemore, Bill Kelly, Jody Mackey, Rob Mulford, and Ann Wright are meeting with drone victims' families, elected officials, tribal elders, and residents of South Waziristan, where U.S. drone strikes have killed thousands, while injuring and making refugees of many more. Code Pink's Medea Benjamin is an associate member of VFP.

The relentless drone war continued with a U.S. drone strike in the Mir Ali area on Monday, reportedly killing three unidentified people.

At the same time, the Pakistani media is full of accounts of the U.S. delegation and their planned participation in a march to the heaviest hit areas, a story also appearing in British and other world media.  The English language Pakistani newspaper Dawn reports:

"ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan said that a 30-member foreign delegation had reached Islamabad on Sunday which would participate in PTI’s 'peace rally' in South Waziristan, DawnNews reported.

"The PTI Chairman Imran Khan said that people who do not want peace are against PTI peace rally.

"Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Khan said Mehsud, Burki and Bhittani tribes of  Waziristan have welcomed the peace rally. The tribal leaders had also assured the security of the participants of the rally, he added.

"He complained that the government was not issuing visas to the foreign journalists and human right’s activists who wanted to attend the rally.

"Speaking on the occasion, US citizen Ann Wright, who is a former diplomat and military woman, said most of the American people were against drone attacks.

“'Drone attacks are illegal and criminal. We request the people of Pakistan to raise their voice against them. We will go to Waziristan to apologise to the relatives of those killed by drones,' said Ms Wright, who is also the spokesperson for the Anti-War Movement.
"She said the US had been violating the sovereignty of Pakistan. 'There is travel warning for the US citizens but we have come here and will go to the places where our government does not want us to go,' she said.

Other US citizens who have reached here to take part in the PTI rally include Paki Wieland, a social worker (Massachusetts); Linda Wenning, a graduate from the University of Utah; Lorna Vander Zanden and Pam Bailey (Virginia); Jolie Terrazas, Judy Bello, Katie Falkenberg, Daniel Burns and Joe Lombardo (New York); Barbara Briggs, Tighe Barry, Sushila Cherian, Dianne Budd and Toby Blome (California); Leah Bolger, Tudy Cooper and Michael Gaskill (Oregon); Medea Benjamin, Jody Tiller and Alli McCracken (Washington DC); Anam Eljabali (Illinois), Patricia Chaffee (Wisconsin), Joan Nicholson (Pennsylvania), Robert Naiman and JoAnne Lingle (Indiana); Rob Mulford (Alaska), Lois Mastrangelo (Massachusetts) and Billy Kelly (New Jersey).

"Meanwhile explaining the route of the rally, the PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said  thet the march will start from Islamabad’s Blue Area and will proceed towards Balkasar, Talagang, Mianwali and DI Khan on October 6.

"On October 7, the rally will gather at Tank and then head towards South Waziristan where a public meeting will be held at Kot Kai, he added."

 

Veterans For Peace President Leah Bolger reports that, in addition to Ann Wright, Bill Kelly, Rob Mulford, and herself took part in the press conference representing VFP.  Wright was introduced by Khan and spoke about the purpose of the delegation, and answered questions from the press.  Bolger reounts:

 

"Ann did a fantastic job of describing the purpose of the delegation and responding to reporters' questions which included asking us if we were concerned for our own safety, given the strong anti-American sentiment in Pakistan.  She was very candid in saying that we were opposed to the policies of our own government which we consider to be illegal and immoral, and that as citizens of the United States we apologized for the deaths of Pakistanis because of the drone strikes.  She went on to say that the U.S. government does not want us to be here in Pakistan, but that despite official State Department warnings not to travel here, we are determined to meet with the people who have been harmed by our government, and in our name."

Rob Mulford sent in this comment:

 

"Love is the seed from which the flower of peace grows. Prior to coming to Pakistan, I was often asked by friends, family, loved ones the rhetorical question: why, what do you hope to accomplish, what is the efficacy? Sometimes when put on the spot I struggle for answers grounded in the technical without seeing the ubiquitous truth. I am here to say 'I love you' to a people who have for too long and too often been wrongly vilified. But words are empty without action. The warmth of tacit contact, the handshake, the hug, the reflection of an other's beauty in ones own eyes, and openly sharing one's own vulnerability. This is peace.

"Peace requires courage. Saturday we met with the anthropologist / filmmaker Samar Miniallah Khan. Samar, a Pashtun, tirelessly and courageously works to comfort and protect some of the most venerable people on the face of the earth, women and children who have had no part in the making of a world where they suffer. Her documentary 'Women Behind the Burqa' may just be the most powerful statement that I have ever seen in opposition to war. It needs to be seen by everyone in the United States, shown in schools, to those who govern, and on the popular media. It lays bare the lie that 'we' (US military forces) are involved involved in protecting women.

"Drones are robot assassins, murders. They are not tools of the just."

Pam Bailey reports on her blog:

"Monday evening, I will fly from New York City to Abu Dhabi, and then on to Islamabad. On Oct. 6, I and about 30 others from the United States and the UK will join PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or 'Movement for Justice') Chairman Imran Khan on a convoy into South Waziristan, the 'no-man’s land' along the border with Afghanistan where extremists hide and U.S. drones most often strike.
"Before founding the PTI party in 1996, Khan played international cricket for two decades (at 39, Khan led his teammates to Pakistan’s first and only World Cup victory in 1992) and became a much-beloved philanthropist, including the founding of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre. Foreign Policy magazine described him as 'Pakistan’s Ron Paul.'
"The original plan was for the convoy to penetrate deep into North Waziristan, the heart of the unrest and military response, allowing us to visit the families caught in the crossfire at 'Ground Zero.'
"However, after threats of suicide attacks were received, the plan was revised to limit the convoy to South Waziristan – a path that the Hakimullah Mahsud-led Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, or the Pakistani Taliban) has pledged to protect. The question now is whether the Pakistani government will allow the convoy to go ahead. In light of Khan’s criticism of the Pakistani government’s tacit complicity with the U.S. drone attacks, several international journalists already have been denied visas. Stay tuned."

Veterans For Peace member Ray McGovern, not on the trip, provides context here.

VFP is part of a coalition organizing an online petition in support of banning weaponized drones.  VFP members are delivering over 16,000 signatures on the petition to those they meet with in Pakistan: PDF.

In addition, Veterans For Peace is a member organization of UNAC (the United National Antiwar Coalition, a U.S. group), and Leah Bolger represents VFP on the UNAC Administrative Committee.  Joe Lombardo and Judi Bello, also part of the delegation to Pakistan, are also UNAC Administrative Committee members.  UNAC has just released a statement opposing the use of drones: PDF.

Participants are available for interviews by email and phone, and in-person after the trip.

Veterans For Peace was founded in 1985 and has approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters located in every U.S. state and several countries.  It is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and is the only national veterans' organization calling for the abolishment of war.

##

Nothing More Evil

A writer at the Atlantic named Conor Friedersdorf recently noted the level of evil many have been brought to support:

"Tell certain liberals and progressives that you can't bring yourself to vote for a candidate who opposes gay rights, or who doesn't believe in Darwinian evolution, and they'll nod along. Say that you'd never vote for a politician caught using the 'n'-word, even if you agreed with him on more policy issues than his opponent, and the vast majority of left-leaning Americans would understand. But these same people cannot conceive of how anyone can discern Mitt Romney's flaws, which I've chronicled in the course of the campaign, and still not vote for Obama. Don't they see that Obama's transgressions are worse than any I've mentioned? I don't see how anyone who confronts Obama's record with clear eyes can enthusiastically support him. I do understand how they might concluded that he is the lesser of two evils, and back him reluctantly, but I'd have thought more people on the left would regard a sustained assault on civil liberties and the ongoing, needless killing of innocent kids as deal-breakers."

Not long ago, I attended a speech by Obama, along with thousands of his adoring cheerleaders formerly known as citizens.  I asked him to stop killing people in Afghanistan, and the Secret Service asked me to leave.  But, just now, I got a phone call from the local Obama office.  They had my name because I'd picked up a ticket to attend the speech.  The young woman wanted to know if I would come help phone other people.  I asked if she was familiar with the president's kill list and his policy of killing men, women, and children with drones.  She said she knew nothing about that but "respected my opinion."  She hung up.  Objecting to presidential murder is now an opinion, and willingness to be aware of its existence is an appendage to the opinion.  If you don't object to presidential murder by Democrat, then you simply arrange not to know about it.  Thus, in your opinion, it doesn't exist.

Some of my friends at this moment are in Pakistan apologizing to its government and its people for the endless murderous drone war fought there by our country.  They're meeting with victims' families.  They're speaking publicly in opposition to the crimes of our government.  And my neighbors, living in some other universe, believe most fundamentally, not that one candidate will save us, not that the two parties are fundamentally opposed, not that a citizen's job is to vote, not that war is all right if it's meant well -- although they clearly believe all of those things -- but, most fundamentally, they believe that unpleasant facts should simply be avoided.  So, in a spirit of afflicting the comfortable to comfort the afflicted, here are a few from recent days:

WAR IS A LIE

We know that in the past "defensive" wars have been intentionally launched by fraud or provocation.  We know that many in our government want a war with Iran.  We know that several years ago then-Vice President Dick Cheney proposed disguising U.S. ships as Iranian and attacking other U.S. ships with them.  We know that then-President George W. Bush proposed disguising a plane as belonging to the United Nations, flying it low, and trying to get Iraq to shoot at it.  We know that there was no Gulf of Tonkin incident, no evidence that Spain attacked the Maine, no doubt that the weapons and troops on board the Lusitania were public knowledge, no question that FDR worked hard to provoke an attack by Japan, and so on.  And we know that Iran has not attacked another nation in centuries.  So, it almost goes without saying that Washington warmongers are contemplating ways to get Iran to make the "first move."  Assassinating scientists hasn't worked, blowing up buildings doesn't seem to do it, cyber-war isn't blossoming into real war, sanctions are not sanctioning armed resistance, and dubious accusations of Iranian terrorism aren't sticking.  Exactly what do we have to do to get ourselves innocently attacked by the forces of evil?

The Israel Lobby to the rescue!  Patrick Clawson, Director of Research at the Washington Institute Of Near East Policy, blurted out the following on video this week:


"Crisis initiation is really tough.  And it's very hard for me to see how the United States president can get us to war with Iran. . . . The traditional way America gets to war is what would be best for U.S. interests.  Some people might think that Mr. Roosevelt wanted to get us into World War II . . . . You may recall, we had to wait for Pearl Harbor.  Some people might think Mr. Wilson wanted to get us into World War I.  You may recall that he had to wait for the Lusitania episode.  Some people might think that Mr. Johnson wanted to send troops to Vietnam.  You may recall he had to wait for the Gulf of Tonkin episode.  We didn't go to war with Spain until the Maine exploded.  And Mr. Lincoln did not feel he could call out the federal army until Fort Sumter was attacked, which is why he ordered the commander at Fort Sumter to do exactly that thing which the South Carolinians had said would cause an attack.  So, if in fact the Iranians aren't going to compromise, it would be best if somebody else started the war. . . . I mentioned that explosion on August 17th.  We could step up the pressure.  I mean, look people, Iranian submarines periodically go down.  Someday one of them might not come up.  Who would know why? [LAUGHTER FROM AUDIENCE] . . . . We are in the game of using covert means against the Iranians.  We could get nastier."

This is serious advocacy for manufacturing a "defensive" and "humanitarian" war.  This is not a war critic or a Yes Men prankster.  The position of most elected officials in Washington, including the President, fits well with this.  That position includes the ultimatum that Iran must cease doing what U.S. National Intelligence Estimates say it is not doing, namely building nuclear weapons.  The goal at the bottom of all of this is war.  The purpose of the war is not related to any of the excuses for it.  The purpose is something else entirely.  But it's ugly, so it's easier not to look.

HUMAN EXPERIMENTATION

We often forget that war is the worst thing there is. Hence our government's shift in policy back to outsourcing a lot of the torture and insourcing the "cleaner" approach of assassination without torture.  Hence, also, our common fantasy that war can be used to solve a problem that is somehow worse than war.

We also forget that torturing people can be crueler than experimenting on them.  Torture has been given an acceptance in the United States during the past decade that "human experimentation" has not.  So, we are still capable of a bit of shock when a story comes out like this one: During the 1950s and 1960s the U.S. Army sprayed zinc cadmium sulfide, apparently including radioactive particles, in poor neighborhoods in St. Louis and other cities, to test the results on the people who unknowingly breathed it.

At the end of World War II, the U.S. military's Operation Paperclip brought nearly 500 Nazi scientists to the United States to work on U.S. weaponry.  Many view their influence on the nascent military industrial complex as critical to its sadistic and sociopathic tendencies ever since.  In fairness to the Nazis, it's possible that they simply fit in well, serving the military of a nation with a long history of genocide, slavery, torture, and public deception. 

I came across a member of Veterans For Peace this week who's been struggling many years as a result of experimental vaccines and drugs given to hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers during the Gulf War.  We also learned this week that every prisoner in the Guantanamo death camp has been given experimental drugs without their knowledge or at least without their consent.

And then there's this: "Congressional Probe Reveals Cover-Up of 'Auschwitz-Like' Conditions at US-Funded Afghan Hospital":

"A congressional investigation has revealed a top U.S. general in Afghanistan sought to stall an investigation into abuse at a U.S.-funded hospital in Kabul that kept patients in, quote, 'Auschwitz-like' conditions. Army whistleblowers revealed photographs taken in 2010 which show severely neglected, starving patients at Dawood Hospital, considered the crown jewel of the Afghan medical system, where the country's military personnel are treated. The photos show severely emaciated patients, some suffering from gangrene and maggot-infested wounds. For TV viewers of Democracy Now!, please be warned: these images are extremely graphic and may be disturbing."

NOTHING MORE EVIL

Here's what I'm trying to get at.  If you try to think of something more evil than what we are now doing, you'll fail.  Name your evil: destroying the earth's climate?  President Barack Obama flew to Copenhagen to single-handedly derail any process for protecting the earth's atmosphere.  The only way in which to fantasize about greater evil is quantitative, not qualitative.  We could drop more bombs.  We could starve more children.  We could experiment on more prisoners.  In fact, this is what Lesser Evilism amounts to.  A Lesser Evilist today is not choosing less evil policies, but the same policies in what he or she hopes will be lesser amounts. 

That might be a rational calculation within a polling place.  But living it prior to and after an election, apologizing and cheering for one of two teams, as if self-governance were a spectator sport, is nothing other than complicity in the most hideous forms of cruelty and murder.  That complicity is insidious.  Evil begins to look like something else, because the Lesser Evilist, within his or her own mind, comes to view the Lesser Evil forces as good, if not glorious, if not saintly.

U.S. and U.K. War Veterans Against Drones

"What, quite unmanned in folly?" --Lady MacBeth

This past Thursday was a beautiful day for a protest, both in London, England, and in San Diego, California.  Fortunately for those of us who still care about peace and justice in the world -- even to the point of opposing cold-blooded murder no matter who does the murdering or how far away the victim is -- Veterans For Peace has become an international organization.

General Atomics is the manufacturer of the Predator and Reaper UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) in service with the U.S. and U.K. militaries. These drones have  been used in numerous attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other countries. People targeted by these weapons are killed from above without warning and without due legal process. Numerous entirely innocent people including women and children have been killed by these weapon systems.  Here's a former British drone pilot who just admitted that he was minutes away from murdering "an insurgent" when he realized it was a little kid playing in the dirt.

Many of us remember taking over General Atomics' offices in Washington, D.C., last October (video).  That's me and Tighe Barry, with filmmaker Dennis Trainor Jr., going in the side door and opening the front door for the crowd.

As it happens, General Atomics does its evil work in San Diego and London.  Veterans for Peace has no tolerance for murderous robot planes, wherever they're made.  Mike Reid, executive director of Veterans For Peace, said on Thursday, "If we oppose murder at close range, we should oppose it at long distance.  If we oppose it when it's risky and difficult, we should be horrified of a practice that makes it trivial and easy.  Imagining that drone wars don't damage the very culture of the people engaged in them is naive.  Those manufacturing these instruments of death, in particular, should think long and hard about the road they are on."

They had a chance to do just that on Thursday.  "On a bright autumn afternoon," reports Ben Griffin, "VFP UK headed to Tower 42, which contains the offices of General Atomics in London. We took our placards bearing the slogans 'GROUND THE DRONES' and 'GENERAL ATOMICS, DEATH FROM ABOVE.'  We unfurled our VFP flag donated by Gerry Condon and set about handing out our flyers."

"Within minutes we were joined by over 20 nuns from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. They had heard about our protest and wanted to join in. They were soon into full song and dealt with an inquiring policeman effectively. Folks from Occupy, Friends of Bradley Manning, London Catholic Worker and supporters of Julian Assange also turned up."

Griffin's remarks to that crowd included this:

"People are targeted with these weapons without being identified and are killed from above without warning. Numerous innocent civilians including women and children have been killed as a result of these attacks. Mosques, schools, funerals and meetings of elders have all been attacked by drones. People responding to drone strikes by pulling the wounded out of buildings have also been attacked with these weapons. We must spread the word about these weapons, and the hidden wars they are used in."

And the word was spread to passing cars honking their support, passersby stopping to inquire, and many people who worked in the building, some of them surprised to learn that General Atomics was there as well. 

A bit later on Thursday, the afternoon sun reached General Atomics in Poway, California, where, Dave Patterson reports, "Veterans For Peace, Chapter 91, had terrific posters and banners.  I think I can say that our momentum is picking up for this cause now in week 6 of sequential demonstrations."

Here's a terrific video.

If you're in Southern California on a Thursday, join the protest from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. at the corner of Scripps Poway Parkway and General Atomics Way in Poway, CA.

Veterans For Peace is calling for the grounding of Predator and Reaper Drones and for General Atomics to stop manufacturing them.  Other members of VFP are currently traveling from the United States to Pakistan as part of a delegation organized by Code Pink to visit one area where U.S. drone strikes have become frequent.  VFP is part of a coalition organizing an online petition in support of banning weaponized drones.

Veterans For Peace was founded in 1985 and has approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters located in every U.S. state and several countries.  It is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and is the only national veterans' organization calling for the abolishment of war.

##

David Swanson is an associate (meaning non-veteran) member of and a paid contractor for Veterans For Peace.

Talk Nation Radio: Comedy as Political Force

Lee Camp is a comedian / political commentator / online video ranter extraordinaire.   In the edition of Talk Nation Radio, we sample his rants and discuss with him the development and political value of his medium.  For more see http://leecamp.net

Lee Camp's new book is called Moment of Clarity: The Rantings of a Stark Raving Sane Man

Total run time: 29:00

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

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

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Embed on your own site with this code:

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

Iran, Israel, and Existential Threats

I had dinner with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday night in New York, along with dozens of other peace activists.  This is an annual event, and I've taken part in it more than once. 

There's some divergence of opinion on Ahmadinejad.  The New York Daily News on Tuesday called Ahmadinejad "a pure evil crackpot Holocaust denier who wants to see Israel obliterated from planet Earth." 

In contrast, a Jewish lawyer addressing the dinner gathering said that a friend had told him not to come on Yom Kippur when he should be home atoning for his sins.  "I'm going to go," he said he told his friend, "and atone for the sins of Israel."

The media tells us that Ahmadinejad is "an existential threat to Israel."  Let's consider that.

I start from the assumption that an existential threat to a human being is a greater concern than an existential threat to a government.  Denying a past existential threat to millions of human beings is offensive and dangerous.  Creating a new existential threat to millions of human beings is worse -- is, in fact, the danger we try to avoid by properly remembering the past.

President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that no speech, not even a video attacking Islam, should be censored, and no speech can justify violence.  But the absence of speech, in Obama's view, can justify war.  The Democratic Party Platform calls for war on Iran if Iran does not cease violating the nonproliferation treaty.  Obama declared on Tuesday that if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons it would destroy the nonproliferation treaty.  It would start a nuclear arms race.  Iran would be, or rather it already is, a threat to Israel's existence.

But how exactly can Iran stop violating a treaty that it is not violating?  What can it say to prove it does not have what even the U.S. National Intelligence Estimates say it does not have and is not working to produce?  How can Iran prove a negative?  Many of us still recall that impossible task being assigned to Iraq in 2003.

As Ramsey Clark, the U.S. attorney general at the time the nonproliferation treaty was created, argued at the meeting with Ahmadinejad, the United States is itself violating the treaty -- a treaty that would be better called the nonproliferation and elimination treaty, as it requires the elimination of nuclear weapons.  Iran is a party to the treaty and in compliance with it.  Israel has refused to sign the treaty or to allow inspections.  Iran received its nuclear power technology from the United States, which also gave it the plans to build a bomb -- this through a CIA project that might fairly be characterized as pure evil crackpotism.  The United States has also spread that technology to India and Pakistan.  The nukes in Western Asia are in Israel and on U.S. ships off the coast of Iran. 

U.S. and Israeli forces have Iran surrounded, and are threatening war in violation of the U.N. Charter.  Israel and the United States have attacked Iranian computers, assassinated Iranian scientists, flown drones over Iran, imposed sanctions on the Iranian people (including cutting off oil supplies and clean energy technologies).  The United States has organized a massive military exercise off the coast of Iran, and has just taken the terrorist label off an Iranian terrorist group, opening the door to funding its operations.  The very real threat of war on Iran is an existential threat to millions of human beings, a threat -- in other words -- of mass murder.

What kind of threat is Iran to Israel?  According to Ahmadinejad, his religious and political leaders have made the possession or use of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons a terrible sin.  When attacked by Iraq with chemical weapons -- some of them supplied by the United States -- Iran refused to use such weapons in response.  Iran, which remembers chemical weapons as an argument for peace in the way that Japan remembers nuclear weapons, makes a distinction between defensive weapons and weapons that indiscriminately kill the innocent.  The latter are forbidden.  Iran this month persuaded 120 nations of the world to back a plan to do exactly what the nonproliferation and elimination treaty requires: eliminating nuclear weapons. 

Talking about the nuclear question, Ahmadinejad told us, has grown tiresome and repetitive.  Iran is in compliance with the law and has put the IAEA in charge of inspections.  The root cause of U.S. aggression toward Iran, he said, has nothing to do with nuclear weapons.  Why did the United States back Saddam Hussein in a war against Iran?  Because the Iranian people had overthrown a U.S.-backed dictatorship.  Why has the U.S. imposed sanctions on Iran in the past, he asked, when nuclear enrichment was not an issue?  In the past year, he noted, the United States has sold over $70 billion in weapons to nations in the Persian Gulf, while Iran spends less one-fifth that amount.  How, he asked, is Iran the aggressor?

When U.S. headlines tell us that Ahmadinejad will destroy Israel, we picture Hiroshima, or Dresden, or Fallujah.  That's how we think of a nation ceasing to exist.  We think of its people destroyed from above.  But Ahmadinejad says he wants to end killing and injustice.  He speaks of peace and love, fairness and kindness.  How does this make sense?  Well, look at what he says on Israel:

"During a historical phase, they [the Israelis] represent minimal disturbances that come into the picture and are then eliminated."

The Wall Street Journal follows that paragraph with this: "Note that word -- 'eliminated.' When Iranians talk about Israel, this intention of a final solution keeps coming up. In October 2005, Mr. Ahmadinejad, quoting the Ayatollah Khomeini, said Israel 'must be wiped off the map.' Lest anyone miss the point, the Iranian President said in June 2008 that Israel 'has reached the end of its function and will soon disappear off the geographical domain.'"

But in fact, when pressed on this, what Ahmadinejad has said is: "Our proposal is for everyone to allow people to freely hold elections and choose their governors. It's been 6 ½ to 7 decades during which the people of Palestine have been dislodged from their homes. And their territories are under occupation, and an occupying regime has been bullying them and forcing them into the current conditions. If such a fate would have come into the lives of ordinary Americans, what proposal would you have had for them? I am sure you would propose for their elimination of international bullying and occupation. Imagine in your mind that the occupation of Palestine has come to an end. What would there remain? So this is the essence of what we are saying."

In other words, were Palestine freed of apartheid and occupation, were all of its people permitted to freely determine their future, that future would not include a government that gives superior status to Jews.  Such a future could be horrible, or it could be more democratic and respectful of individual rights than Israel is, or than Iran is, or than the United States is.

"If there are other inhabitants there," Menachem Usshiskin said of Jewish plans for Palestine in 1930, "they must be transferred to some other place.  We must take over the land."  The occupation of Palestine is not so much an existential threat as an existential fait accompli.  The state of Israel was created through ethnic cleansing.  It was created as a state to privilege one religious group, something that states should not be. 

But two wrongs cannot make a right.  Evicting Israelis from their homes, inside or outside the Green Line, is not a solution.  Much less is killing them a solution or anything that Ahmadinejad is proposing.

Yehouda Shenhav's new book, "Beyond the Two State Solution: A Jewish Political Essay" tells the story of Israel's creation.  The language of the Green Line, Shenhav writes, is "a language through which Israel is described as a liberal democracy, while the Arabs (and Mizrahi and religious Jews to boot) are described as inferior and undemocratic.  This is the language of someone who came to the Middle East for a short while, not to integrate but to exist here as a guest.  The position it expresses is not only immoral with regard to the Palestinians, but also potentially disastrous for the Jews.  It commits them to life in a ghetto with a limited idea of democracy based on racial laws and a perpetual state of emergency."

This is an Israeli suggesting that the worldview of Israel agrees with Ahmadinejad's prediction for Israel.  Israel is not behaving as if it means to settle down and become part of the region it inhabits.  Shenhav wants to restore awareness of 1948, but not to try to reconstruct the world of 1948.  He does not propose eliminating Israel.  He does not propose uniting the people of Israel and Palestine into a single nation.  He does propose allowing Palestinians to return to their homes in a manner least disturbing to Israelis already living in those villages or buildings, including with compensation paid to residents evicted by an agreement with returning refugees.  He proposes a bilingual society, with a fragmented political federation.  He expects this to be very difficult, while preferable to any other approach.  And he rightly sees the first step as recovering honesty with regards to not-so-distant history.

Another book just released by Brant Rosen, a Rabbi in the United States, is called "Wrestling in Daylight: A Rabbi's Path to Palestinian Solidarity."  Here we have a brand new genre: the transformation of a website, including blog posts and the comments under them, into a work of literature on the printed page.  Here we have an example of civil discourse, of diplomacy, of people with the views of the New York Daily News and the views of the Iranian government ceasing to speak past each other, coming to understand each other, realizing that neither wants to destroy the other.  I highly recommend reading it and emulating it.

A Mennonite speaking at Tuesday's meeting with Ahmadinejad said he wished others could travel to Iran, and that more Iranians could visit the United States.  He said that after decades of visiting Iran frequently, he not only viewed Iranians as friends but understood the source of tension to be the Iranian government's insistence on remaining independent of U.S. control.  As if to prove the value of his recommendation for personal interaction, the next person to speak, an evangelical pastor from Texas named Bob Roberts said that he used to be afraid of Muslims.  Then he met some in Afghanistan, and they became his friends.

Exiled critic of the Iranian government Shirin Ebadi released a message on Tuesday worth reading and signing on in support of.

I discussed these matters on New York's WBAI on Tuesday.  Here's that audio.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Nuclear Lies

Remarks at protest at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on the International Day of Peace, 2012

 

Our government likes to lie to us about nuclear weapons.  This poor impoverished nation halfway around the world is about to nuke us.  No, that one is.  The result, of course, is mass murder.  But there's another result potentially even worse.  We begin to think there's something wrong with being terrified of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy.  There isn't.  This stuff should scare the hell out of us.  And the arrogant lunacy of imagining that even an honest and accountable authority, much less our government, could set up a commission to regulate the winds of hell and deadly substances with a half-life as long as the age of the Earth must give us serious pause.

Rally: NO NUKES – NO WAR / Occupy the NRC

When: September 21, 2012 @ 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Where: NRC Headquarters
11545 Rockville Pike
Rockville
Maryland

Cost: Free
Contact: info@coalitionagainstnukes.org
Categories: Action
   

Rally NO NUKES NO WAR!! / Occupy The NRC @ 11545 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland, This will include a peaceful protest outside the building and a public meeting inside the building if possible. This Rally will have a NO NUKES/NO WAR theme and is taking place on what the United Nations has designated as the International Day of Peace or “Peace Day”. Speakers will address radiation and public health, the NRC’s reclassifying of depleted uranium to be used for weapons making, uranium mining and enrichment, nuclear weapons and war, and the relationship between the nuclear energy industry and the war machine.  Confirmed speakers for this historic demonstration include Green Party presidential candidate Jill SteinSierra Club environmental justice organizer and native Rights Activist Robert Tohe, Congressional Fellow for the Physicians for a

National Health Program Dr. Margaret Flowers,  War is a Crime.org peace activist David Swanson, Its Our Economy activist Kevin Zeese and grassroots voices from across the country from Vermont Yankee to Indian Point to North Anna to Palisades to Davis Besse to Fermi to Hanford to San Onofre and beyond! The rally will also address the NRC’s reclassifying of depleted uranium to be used for weapons making, uranium mining and enrichment, nuclear weapons and war, and the relationship between the nuclear energy industry and the war machine. 2pm – 5pm (confirmed)

Italy 1, CIA Torturers 0

Forza Italia! After years of appeals, Italy's highest court has upheld the conviction of 23 Americans involved in a CIA kidnapping of a man off the street in Milan, whom the CIA shipped to Egypt to be brutally tortured.  This ruling could result in Italy demanding their extradition.  For, you see, the 23 are living comfortably in the United States.  They look just like decent people.  They blend in.  I don't advise Italy to kidnap (or "rendition") these Americans just because President Obama says that's legal.  But I do encourage Italy to demand extradition.  And I hope that one or another of them will be so good as to seek sanctuary in an Ecuadorean Embassy, just to see how many heads explode in Washington as people try to determine what they're supposed to think of that.

For background on this case, sadly still relevant, here's something I wrote on November 6, 2010:

One Place to Cut Spending: Kidnapping and Torture

By David Swanson

I know it seems like more of a noble sacrifice to cut spending on things people less fortunate than ourselves need, but can somebody explain to me why it wouldn't be at least that noble to eliminate the budget of the CIA, which serves no one?

The Washington Post and the Obama administration have been busy telling us that it's legal to kidnap people and send them to countries that torture. They may call it "renditioning" to nations that use "enhanced interrogation techniques," but a new book details what this means in English.

A man was walking near his home in Milano, Italy, and was stopped and questioned by a policeman. When they had been engaged in conversation for some minutes, the side door of a van parked behind the man crashed open with a thunderous sound, two extremely large and strong men grabbed the civilian and hauled him inside, and the door slammed shut three seconds after it had opened, as the van accelerated and the two men hit and kicked their victim repeatedly in the dark of the van's interior, pounding his head, chest, stomach, and legs. They stopped. They stuffed a gag in his mouth and put a hood over his head, as they cinched cords tight around his wrists and ankles. Hours later they threw him into another vehicle. An hour later they took him out, stood him up, cut his clothes off, shoved something hard up his anus, stuck a diaper and pajamas on him, wrapped his head almost entirely with duct tape, and tossed him in an airplane.

The torture he received when he got where he was going left him nearly dead, prematurely aged, and barely able to walk. It was US-sponsored and Egyptian administered. And it is described in all of its almost unbearable detail in Steve Hendricks' "A Kidnapping in Milan: The CIA on Trial."

Believe it or not, most of this book is enjoyable. Hendricks knows the United States and Italy and how to write about one for readers in the other. His remarks on Italian culture are outdone only by his background on Muslim terrorism, his account of who this kidnapping victim was, and the inclusion of dialogue picked up by Italian wiretaps of terrorism suspects' private conversations. But just as terrific reading are Hendricks' histories of the practice of rendition, of the use of torture, of U.S.-Italian relations, of domestic Italian terrorism, and of modern Egypt.

Not to ruin the punch line -- and this has long been public knowledge -- the kidnapping, transporting, imprisoning, and torturing of this man and many others is paid for with U.S. tax dollars. I'm sure it all sounds very important and rational given how demonically evil Muslims are supposed to be. But how do you justify the dozens of CIA agents living it up in Italy's most luxurious hotels while plotting this operation? And how do you rationalize the damage done to U.S. relations with Italy? Of course, Italians quickly discovered that the CIA was behind this crime. It would have been harder to track them if they'd worn neon signs on their chests. They used cell phones and frequent flyer accounts that were easily identified, not to mention names and addresses similar to their real ones. Hendricks describes their methods as Keystone Kommandoism.

No doubt some of these CIA bunglers and butchers were outsourced and untrained, but they also believed they were above the law. They thought they had immunity. Italian law enforcement thought otherwise. For decades during the Cold War, the CIA kept an army and caches of weapons in Italy to be used if communists were ever able to gain significant political power. A long list of abuses has come to light and no one ever been held accountable. Magistrate Armando Spataro, like many Italians, adored the United States. When reporters asked him why he had indicted two dozen CIA agents, Spataro said he was opposing lawlessness, not his beloved United States. He warned of following the path of Mussolini. He pointed out that Italy had defeated domestic terrorists with the rule of law. He showed that the new U.S. lawlessness was just encouraging terror. His record of prosecuting leftist terrorists and his indictment for terrorism of the victim himself of the U.S. kidnapping made claims of bias difficult to pin on Spataro. The approach resorted to by the U.S. media was -- to the extent possible -- to ignore the whole thing, especially when Spataro won convictions of the agents tried in absentia.

The Italian legal system is one thing, its government in Rome quite another. The latter will never ask the United States to extradite the convicts unless the U.S. president requests it first, just as the United States would never kidnap a man in Italy without telling the Italian president and the Italian spy service first. So, none of the culprits are behind bars, but they are unable to live in or travel to Europe. And a strong signal has been sent about the likelihood of Italy tolerating more such crimes. This is the sort of message Nancy Pelosi would have sent by impeaching Bush even if the Senate had not convicted him.

Hendricks tracked down most of the scofflaws. They're spread around the United States engaged in a variety of work, most of them completely unknown to the public. The man chiefly responsible, on the other hand, is undergoing a public rehabilitation and it about to open a presidential library, while the man responsible for the continued practice and for the freedom of his predecessor has two more years in the White House.

Hearts and Mines

Russell Snyder's new book is called "Hearts and Mines: With the Marines in Al-Anbar: A Story of Psychological Warfare in Iraq." It's a beautiful book and one that may move you to outraged action, but not in the way you might expect.

I got the book from its author at a Veterans For Peace convention.  I assumed it was an anti-war book.  I was startled first by the literary skill of the author, who paints a powerful picture of his time in Iraq.  I was startled second, slowly, gradually, as I waited for the author to turn against the war.  I've read many other accounts by soldiers who came to regret their actions.  They suffer from the actions they have taken.  They deeply regret having killed innocent people.  They find it almost too much to bear.  They lay down their guns.  They resist.  They go AWOL. They file for conscientious objector status. Or they receive their discharge and then denounce the institution of war, committing never to be a part of it again.

That never quite happens with Snyder.

Here's an intelligent, sensitive young man capable of describing a wide array of conflicting emotions that soldiers experience in wartime.  He enjoys the camaraderie of the military.  He respects the professionalism.  He honors the self-sacrifice.  And he resents the stupidity, fears for his life, and questions the wisdom of the entire enterprise.  Just questions.  He doesn't reject.  This is not a book aimed at moving you to demand an end to military spending.  This is a book aimed -- intentionally or not -- at moving you to seek out and struggle against the cultural habits that allow people to accept war so completely that they can recognize it as an unnecessary piece of barbarism and nonetheless take part in it with pride.

"It's a worrisome flaw humanity has yet to overcome that in our modern age we still accept the butchery of our human brothers and sisters as a means of settling our politicians' and religious leaders' disagreements," writes Snyder in the introduction.  He writes that his viewpoint evolved there.  But the narrative of the book doesn't display evolution so much as complexity and contradiction. 

Snyder's job was to blast loud messages in Arabic at Iraqi villages, in order to win their hearts and minds.  He notes that in shooting practice "two in the heart, one in the mind" meant two bullets to the chest and one to the head -- mocking the futility of "psy-ops."  When, in Chapter 2, Snyder puts bullets into live humans, he describes the success of the conditioning that allowed him to do so without thought.  That thoughtlessness largely remains, at least on the surface, for the rest of the book. 

Snyder describes the difficulties of "winning" an occupation of a country, the inability to trust anyone, the cycles of revenge, the brutality, the lack of understanding, the torture, the sadism, and the tricking of Iraqi children into cursing their country in English or drinking urine.  Snyder describes a remarkable number of incidents in which he could easily have died, as well as learning that someone was offering $5,000 to whoever destroyed his loudspeaker truck or killed his Iraqi translator.  This is a book with more "action" in it than most such accounts I've read -- even as it still manages to convey the deadly boredom these incidents interspersed, and the adrenaline high that drove soldiers and Marines to seek out more activity, even at the risk of death.  Snyder describes the fear of death, the resort to religion, and ultimately his attempt to believe that God saved him (while, of course, not saving thousands of others). 

Snyder disapproves of the worst attitudes and actions he recounts.  "It felt hypocritical," he writes, "that we should attempt to convince [Iraqis] security was improving and they shouldn't be worried while we Americans swaddled ourselves head to toe in armor and protective gear.  Our hosts must have sometimes regarded our argument as condescending. Since we didn't allow them to have armor or weapons, it seemed to imply their lives were not deserving of the same level of protection as our own."  At various other times, Snyder writes that his actions had the merit of possibly saving Marines' lives.  Not lives, Marines' lives. 

Snyder describes himself as torn. "My soul ached, torn between feeling a sense of contractual obligation, a desire to fulfill my duties as a soldier and to commiserate with my brothers in uniform while mourning the seemingly pointless extinction of so much innocent life.  Not only the little girls whose stiffening corpses were now rotting like refuse in the backyard, or the baby chicks that had survived two tank rounds only to succumb to the sadistic whims of bored Marines, but the countless thousands of other human lives destroyed by war and remembered only as collateral damage. . . .  Prolonging the war seemed akin to setting fire to a neighbor's house and then attempting to extinguish the flames with more fire.  I felt at once very weary, exhausted by the heavy knowledge of so much violence and needless death.  But I remained quiet as I crawled into the turret, resigned to accept my own sinful role."  In fact, the possibility of acting otherwise is never mentioned in the book -- except for others.  Snyder writes that he "lamented the state of what I imagined to be my countrymen's lack of awareness that permitted their collective conscience to embrace a war . . . ."  In reality, there is no collective in such matters.  We each have to act alone.  We each bear a different share of guilt.  But most of us at least were not taking part in what we were lamenting.  Snyder ends the book feeling more guilt over his decision not to reenlist than anything else.

It's possible that some of what Snyder has experienced and taken part in lies buried within him, threatening to erupt years or decades from now.  "I might never live," he writes, "long enough to atone for everything that troubled me, but maybe I didn't have to if I made a sincere effort to live a life that benefitted others."  In my view, what's needed is not further suffering by Russell Snyder.  More suffering benefits no one.  If he is able to move on to a productive nonviolent life, I only hope that it includes more writing.  What's needed, I think, is for the rest of us to appreciate how a book like this one already benefits others. 

Start with Snyder's condemnation of the effort underway during his time in Iraq to recruit Iraqis to take over the killing of Iraqis.  A similar effort is failing miserably in Afghanistan right now, without any alternative entering the minds of our public policy decision makers. 

Look at Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's bewilderment at the Libyans' lack of appreciation for all that our bombs have done to their country.  Here's a book that could ease our national case of bewilderment as to why the recipients of our "aid" tend to show so little gratitude. 

The importance of this book is that it takes someone who largely believes (or used to believe) in U.S. propaganda and puts him into face-to-face exchanges with its victims.  These exchanges are riveting:

After Snyder's team blasts an area with an instruction to leave, they find an old man in a house with two young boys.  The old man asks where in the world he was supposed to go, the desert? 

"A tear formed in a wrinkled corner of the man's eye and sparkled down his cheek.

"'I have my son's family here too.  You shot him driving his tractor home.  He was a good man, an innocent man.'

"He pointed up the street to the burnt-out remnant of a vehicle.  The Marines had destroyed several vehicles with tank rounds during the push into the city, which they identified as potential suicide car bombs. It was pointless to wonder whose version of events was true.  The son was dead, or at the very least his father was a good actor.

"'I'm sorry to hear of your loss, but sometimes there are accidents in war.  You fought against Iran, did you not?  You know things like this happen.  There are bad people here, people who want to kill us.  We have to protect ourselves.  It is our job to make Iraq safer, and sometimes that means making hard decisions.  Maybe sometimes the wrong people do get caught in the middle.  We try to be careful, believe me.  The terrorists will stop at nothing, even killing children, but we Americans do our best to avoid unnecessary violence.  We follow the Geneva Conventions.  We want to help you.  That doesn't bring your son back, I know, but we are only trying to do our job.'

"The man rebutted my statement, morosely shaking his head in disbelief that I could be so wrong.

"'Iraq was safe before you came.  My town was quiet before you bombed it.  Now I cannot even go outside.  We don't have water.' He sighed. 'If you can just let me go to the water valve down the street, I can maybe turn the water back on.'

"'I can't make that decision.  Our commander wants everyone to stay home.  It's better if you stay inside, safer.  We can bring you water later.'

"I turned to Sonny. 'Ask him if he has ever seen strangers here.'

"I looked back in the old man's eyes. 'Has he seen foreign fighters here.'

"Sonny paused.  'He says, "Just you."'

"I squeezed my eyes shut at the old man's audacity and pinched the bridge of my nose.  It was a true statement, from his perspective, that I was a foreign fighter, but not the answer I looked for.

"'There are dead Africans in the street up there.  He never saw anyone like that?'

"The man shook his head.

"'He didn't know there was a torture dungeon just down the road, where they kept captured border guards?  He never heard a scream? They didn't think it was safe here.'

"I carefully watched the man's reaction to the news there had been such crimes committed so close to his home.  He showed no surprise.

"'If you say so,' the old man replied. 'I don't know anything.'"

Talk Nation Radio: War Tax Resistance

Ruth Benn explains the why and how of not paying taxes for war and war preparation.  Benn is the Coordinator of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC), a position she has held since 2003. She co-edited with Ed Hedemann the fourth and fifth editions of the book War Tax Resistance: A Guide to Withholding Your Support from the Military, published by the War Resisters League.  Benn has a Masters in Education with a concentration in Peace Studies from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She began refusing 100% of federal income taxes owed in 1989 and has filed and refused to send a check to the IRS each year since then. Ruth redirects taxes not paid to the federal government to organizations that feed the hungry, care for victims of war, house the homeless, and work for peace and justice. Ruth regularly counsels people who are considering refusing to pay for war or who have run into problems with the IRS. She attended the International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns in the Netherlands (1989), Washington, DC (2000), and Manchester, England (2008).  Learn more: http://nwtrcc.org

Total run time: 29:00

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Veterans to Stand Firm as Afghan War Enters Year 12

Dedicated and disciplined nonviolent activists, and in particular military veterans, are being openly invited to join members of Veterans For Peace in a peaceful vigil in New York City that will as likely as not result in their wrongful arrest and prosecution.

The time will be 6 p.m. on October 7, 2012, as the United States and NATO complete the eleventh year of the current occupation of Afghanistan and launch the twelfth.  The crowd at the Republican National Convention cheered for complete immediate withdrawal, but the nominee's plans don't include it.  The crowds at rallies for President Obama's reelection cheer for both the continuation of the war and its supposed status as "ending," even though the timetable for that "ending" is longer than most past wars, and a massive occupation is supposed to remain after the occupation "ends."  Veterans For Peace, an organization dedicated to the abolition of war, is hoping to inject a discordant note into this happy discourse -- something that the ongoing reports of deaths just don't seem to manage.

The place will be Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza, 55 Water Street, New York City.  It was there that some of the same veterans gathering this October were arrested last May First.  The memorial is normally open around the clock, but on that day the New York Police Department decided to close it at 10 p.m. in order to evict the Occupy Movement's nonviolent general assembly.  Eight members of the Veterans Peace Team and two members of Occupy Faith were arrested for refusing to leave.  Since that day, a small metal sign has been posted at the park stating that it closes at 10 p.m.  This October 7th, the veterans have a permit for sound equipment lasting until 10 p.m., but they intend to remain overnight.

Vietnam vet Paul Appell says, "War veterans, loved ones of the fallen, and certainly those living in war zones do not have the option of closing down their memories at 10 p.m. There is a good reason why suicide is an attractive option for many. It is truly the only sure way of ending the memories. For a memorial to shut down at some convenient time for the city is an insult to all those who do not have the luxury of shutting down their war memories at a specific time. I know that many want us war vets to go out of sight and not bother them, except when we are needed for some parade. Some of us are not going away at 10 p.m. or any other time. If they do not like it, maybe they should have thought of that before they sent us to war.

Tarak Kauff, U.S. Army, 1959-1962, and one of the organizers of VFP's Veterans Peace Team, says, "We will be there standing together and getting arrested again if necessary for our right to remember the fallen, to oppose and 'abolish war as an instrument of national policy' and to affirm our right to do so in a public place of remembrance that has great meaning for all veterans."

The plan is not for a mass demonstration.  In fact, many are explicitly not invited.  Non-veterans are enthusiastically welcome, including associate members of Veterans For Peace and anyone else dedicated to ending violence in the world.  But "diversity of tactics" is unapologetically rejected.  Anyone inclined toward violence, provocation, or threats, including violence to inanimate objects, is kindly asked on this day, to respect the Memorial, the veterans, and the commitment to nonviolence.  This event will involve hundreds of activists who intend to peacefully vigil all night, and who will not respond to police violence with any violence of their own.

Speakers at the vigil will oppose a single additional day of U.S. warmaking in Afghanistan.  Speakers will include Leah Bolger, Margaret Flowers, Glen Ford, Mike Hastie, Chris Hedges, George Packard, Donna Schaper, Kevin Zeese, and Michael Zweig. Dr. Cornel West has also been invited.  At 9:30 p.m. participants will lay flowers for the fallen.

The purpose of this action, which will succeed whether the police interfere or not, is well expressed by several vets planning to take part.  Mike Ferner, Navy Corpsman 1969-1973, and past president of Veterans For Peace, says, "I'm coming to NYC October 7th because I need to do more for myself and the world than just get angry at the misery and suffering.  Being with my comrades again and standing up for peace uplifts my spirit."

Rev. George E. Packard, Retired, Bishop for the Armed Forces of the Episcopal Church, asks, "How can we, as Americans and compassionate human beings, tolerate even one more day creating a toxic battle environment in that southwest Asian country? We increase the lethality of our weaponry -- more drones, more firepower -- so we can protect our troops and not face the bad news of casualties at home. But it is a useless scheme and one that sacrifices the lives primarily of Afghan women and children, the real collateral damage.  Also, this destruction becomes latent in our culture as the postponed agony of PTSD in thousands of troops extends to their immediate families in the United States. Entire segments of our population are sentenced to living addicted or arrested lives because we weren't wise enough to figure out a more humane and effective foreign policy."

Ellen Barfield, Heavy Equipment Mechanic Sergeant, U.S. Army, 1977-1981, adds, "I will mourn the New York U.S. soldiers dead from Vietnam whose names are there on that wall, and the thousands of U.S. and other soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan in these more recent wars, and the millions of civilians who were killed in Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan. But I will also express our right to visit memorials and speak out against wars at any time of the day or night. Sadly, war trauma does not sleep, so setting arbitrary curfews at war memorials is cruel and unjust. We will object with our bodies to the repression of mourning and dissent."

Erik Lobo, Navy veteran, remarks, "I will be at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial because the oath I took -- both in the Navy and during 28 years in law enforcement -- to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, does not have an expiration date."

David Ross, Vietnam veteran, explains, "Once again I will be honored to stand with my sisters and brothers and our friends regardless of the inconvenience. I owe this and, looking back over 40 years of veteran organizing, the need to take a stand has never been greater."

William P. Homans, a.k.a. Watermelon Slim, Vietnam veteran, says, "I will be returning to the New York Vietnam Memorial to play Taps. . . .  I will also be there because the American right to dissent from 'business as usual' is at risk. I was in the anti-Vietnam War movement back in the early '70s when I returned from Vietnam, and I never considered the absolute right to speak and dissent to be threatened. . . . But mostly I will be there to mourn."

John Spitzberg of Ashville VFP, puts it this way: "I speak for those who have died and for those who are so infirm that they are unable to come to New York on October 7th. We are the living and able who rally for you so that your voices are heard and are not in vain. We come to say 'Enough of this travesty of mindless war, mindless mayhem and devastation.'"

Finally, Kauff, who is doing a lot to organize this event, says, "I have a fury inside me against war and those rich fat cats who perpetrate wars and militarism. Yes, I take it personally.  These wars are not about defending freedom or democracy. They have nothing to do with that -- just the opposite. The top-down leaders, the corporate warlords, the politicians, the Masters of War don't give a damn about freedom and democracy, about the lives and money going from the poor and middle class to fight and pay for these wars. They and their kids don't fight, die and come home wounded in body and soul. No, they make fortunes selling weapons while destroying the world. It pains and angers me deeply, and I want to stop it.  On October 7th, while grieving for, remembering and respecting the fallen, I will take a stand for my and others' right to peacefully and nonviolently affirm this whenever and wherever we want to, especially at this hallowed place, where memories and reminders of the futility of war never cease, not at 10 p.m., not at any time."

The website is StopTheseWars.org  There you can register to participate, whether you wish to stand with the vets after 10 p.m. or to serve in a supporting role.

Will the 2012 Presidential Election Be Stolen?

Why would I even ask that question?  I've been trying (with virtually no success) to get everyone to drop the election obsession and focus on activism designed around policy changes, not personality changes.  I want those policy changes to include stripping presidents of imperial powers.  I don't see as much difference between the two available choices as most people; I see each as a different shade of disaster.  I don't get distressed by the thought of people "spoiling" an election by voting for a legitimately good candidate like Jill Stein.  Besides, won't Romney lose by a landslide if he doesn't tape his mouth shut during the coming weeks?  And yet . . .

It matters to me whether our elections are stolen in any number of ways in which they can be stolen, some of which would simply mean Romney robbing Obama, but others of which are related to the barriers facing non-corporate candidates.  Most of these dangers face congressional candidates as well; election theft is not exclusively a presidential problem. Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman have just published "Will the GOP Steal America's 2012 Election? Corporate Vote Theft & the Future of American Democracy," with an introduction by Greg Palast.  I recommend it especially for the history of election fraud back through the centuries, but also for the collection of Fitrakis-Wasserman articles that make up the vast bulk of the book.  The book opens, however, with a systematic survey of the ways in which your vote can be disappeared.  Here's a taste:

"The Republican Party could steal the 2012 US Presidential election with relative ease.The purpose of this book is to show how, and to dissect the larger -- potentially fatal -- warning signs for American democracy, no matter which corporate party is doing the stealing.Six basic factors make this year's theft a possibility:

"1.The power of corporate money, now vastly enhanced by the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens' United decisions;

"2.The Electoral College, which narrows the number of votes needed to be moved to swing a presidential election;

"3.The systematic disenfranchisement of -- according to the Brennan Center -- ten million or more citizens (a million in Ohio alone), most of whom would otherwise be likely to vote Democratic;

"4.The accelerating use of electronic voting machines, which make election theft a relatively simple task for those who control them, including their owners and operators, who are predominantly Republican;

"5.The GOP control of nine of the governorships in the dozen swing states that will decide the outcome of the 2012 campaign; and,

"6.The likelihood that the core of the activist 'election protection' community that turned out in droves to monitor the vote for Barack Obama in 2008 has not been energized by his presidency and is thus unlikely to work for him again in 2012."

Each of these points is explained and elaborated in the book.  Why, you might ask, does it matter which party a governor belongs to?  Well . . .

"Without his brother Jeb as governor of Florida 2000, and Kathleen Harris as secretary of state, George W. Bush could not have become president of the United States.  As we have seen, Governor Bush purged Florida's voter rolls of tens of thousands of likely Democrats.  Various ballot 'problems' emerged, including the electronic 'glitch' in Volusia County.  Then Secretary of State Harris stalled a statewide recount and opened the door for the Supreme Court's Bush v Gore decision.  Without Governor Robert Taft and Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell in Ohio 2004, Bush could not have gotten a second term.  Taft facilitated another purge of voter rolls, removing some 300,000 names from the lists.  Then Blackwell ran an astonishing range of dirty tricks aimed at Democratic voters, culminating in his now-infamous late-night manipulation of the electronic vote count that moved the victory from Kerry to Bush.  The personal, private election day visit the President and Karl Rove paid to Blackwell in his Columbus office may have been their most important stop of the campaign."

Fitrakis and Wasserman also don't skimp on proposals for actual change of the sort you won't hear discussed much, if at all, in the Romnobama Debates in October:

"1.Money must come out of politics.  No nation can allow a tiny handful of million/billionaire corporatists to pour unlimited cash into our elections and expect to emerge with even a semblance of democracy.  If elections can be bought, so can our government, to the detriment of us all.  Citizens United must be reversed, corporations must be stripped of legal personhood, and money must be banned from the electoral process.  This will take an unprecedented nation-wide grassroots campaign resulting in at least one Constitutional amendment.  The odds may seem daunting.  But George III was not Divine, and corporations are not people. 

"2.Elections cannot be administered by partisans.  All local, state and federal election officials must be banned from playing any role in any campaign relating to the election they are administering.  A strict non-partisanship must apply to establishing congressional districts and all other aspects of our democratic process.

"3.All American citizens must be automatically registered to vote upon turning 18.  The arduous, unfair practice of forcing pro-democracy organizations to go out and register voters is nonsensical.  Voting is an inherent natural right and responsibility.  Citizens should be removed from voter rolls only upon death or renunciation of citizenship.

"4.All places of voting must be convenient, stable, well-known and easily accessible. 

"5.Voting should be available over a period of weeks by mail, and at polling stations through the Friday-Saturday-Sunday-Monday around Armistice Day, November 11.  The polls should be largely worked by high school and college students who will get school credit for the day, and who will get a holiday that Tuesday to count the ballots.

"6.All electronic voting and counting machines should be banned (as Ireland has just done, and as has long been the case in Canada, Japan, Germany and elsewhere) with all ballots cast on recycled paper, to be hand-counted."

Not a bad list.  Too bad you can't vote it into being.  But we probably won't get it at all if we lose every last pretense of legitimate elections.  Reforming our elections must be integral to our agenda, even once we've figured out that the Messiah hasn't been nominated.  After all, that realization is tightly connected to the realization that our elections need major repairs.  The Messiah will never be nominated, even after all of these reforms, but we might manage to nominate a junior assistant disciple -- which is actually preferable, and which will be far superior to the current crop of moneychangers.

The Military Spending Cut Scare

The fearmongering is on.  Here's a typical article, this one from the only daily newspaper in my hometown:

"Defense spending could face large loss from federal cuts

"Charlottesville and Albemarle County could see a potential loss of $46.5 million in defense-related spending if federally mandated cuts, which are slated to start next year, come to fruition."

There are several ways in which this is misleading.  First, "defense" here means military, whether or not defensive.  Second, "cuts" in Washington-talk includes reductions in a budget from one year to the next, OR reductions from a desired dream-budget to a less-desired budget, even one that is an increase over last year's.  For the past 13 years, military spending has grown to levels not seen since World War II. It's over half of federal discretionary spending, and as much as the rest of the world combined.  The Pentagon's budget grew each year George W. Bush was president and the first three years that Barack Obama was president.  It is being cut by 2.6% this year, not the 9% used to calculate a portion of that $46.5 million figure.  If the mandated cuts mentioned above go through, the Pentagon will still be spending next year more than it did in 2006 at the height of the war on Iraq.

In addition, military contractors have been bringing in more federal dollars while cutting jobs.  They employed fewer people in 2011 with bigger contracts than in 2006 with smaller ones.  So the logic of bigger contracts = more jobs is essentially a bucket of hope and change.

And the Pentagon's base budget is less than half of total military spending. It's necessary to add in war spending (over $80 billion nationally this year), nuclear weapons spending through the Department of Energy, military operations through the State Department, USAID, and the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security, etc., to get the real total. The Pentagon also has $83 billion in unobligated balances it can draw on.

The war industries in the United States are also by no means limited to the U.S. government.  U.S. weapons makers brought in $66.3 billion last year from foreign governments.  Many of those governments, like our own, are engaged in horrendous human rights abuses, but as long as we're being sociopathic about job creation, there's no reason to leave this out.

The article continues:

"The figures - compiled by the Center for Security Policy and the Coalition for the Common Defense, conservative-leaning Washington, D.C.-based think tanks - are based on publicly available information on Department of Defense contracts compiled and made available online through the Federal Procurement Data System website.

"The coalition describes itself as a group of individuals and local and national organizations 'committed to the Constitutional imperative to provide for the common defense and returning the United States to sensible fiscal principles without sacrificing its national security.'"

Never mind that the Constitution was written to include the creation of armies in times of war, not the permanent maintenance of a military industrial complex as a jobs program.  The above is how the two groups pushing the "news" in this article describe themselves.  How would a journalist describe them?  Well, as long as they're promoting military spending, it seems most relevant and significant to describe the ways in which they benefit from that spending.

The Center for Security Policy has a board of advisors packed with weapons makers executives and lobbyists from such disinterested parties as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, TRW, Raytheon, Ball Aerospace & Technologies, and Hewlett-Packard.  The Coalition for the Common Defense has been maneuvering the anti-spending Tea Party behind massive military spending. Hence the Constitution-talk.  But the "Coalition" isn't run by Constitutional scholars.  It's dominated by weapons company lobbyists, including the Aerospace Industry Association, which represents Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Honeywell, L-3 Communications, and other military industry corporations.  The Aerospace Industry Association spends over $2 million a year lobbying our government in Washignton.  Much of that money ends up being spent on luxurious lobbyist lifestyles in the great Commonwealth of Virginia.  Never forget the danger of the loss of that source of job creation should Congress simply and unquestioningly take direction from the weapons makers.

The article goes on:

"The data is reported by fiscal year and does not include grants or loans.

"From 2000-2011, more than 14,000 Virginia businesses provided defense-related goods and services, according to a state level report prepared by for Common Defense.

"Based on fiscal year 2011 defense contract date, the estimated reduction in Albemarle County in 2013 would be $43.25 million; in the city, the reduction would be an estimated $3.25 million.

"Earlier this year, defense budgets were cut by about $487 billion, an average of a 9 percent cut over a decade. In addition, the reports reflect the impact of sequestration, a 2011 mandate for about $500 billion more in defense spending reductions from 2013-2021, which averages to about an overall 18 percent cut in defense spending."

Here it's worth pausing to note that the $487 billion figure has been multiplied by 10.  It's a figure "over a decade."  Divided by 10 it would be $48.7 billion "over a year."  Or, it could be multiplied by 100 to give us $4,870 billion "over a century."  The reasons to talk about the decade are two.  First, it sounds bigger that way.  Second, by loading the later years heavily, politicians can claim to be making big cuts while actually passing those cuts on to future politicians who may not make them.  While all the news articles deal with cuts "over a decade," Congress actually only passes budgets for a year at a time.

"Published earlier this year, the reports indicate the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads regions would see the most severe losses if the cuts are fully implemented, while the state overall could lose $7.24 billion in earnings and more than 122,000 jobs.

“'There’s no question that Virginia will be the most impacted,' Christine Brim, chief operating officer of the Center for Security Policy told The Daily Progress. 'Virginia has the largest amount of defense spending. This is, without a doubt, the state that is the most impacted.'

"Furthermore, Brim said the effects go beyond just the financial to the core of Virginia’s identity, history and culture as a state important to America’s defense, character traits that still hold true today."

Here's Democratic Virginia Senate candidate Tim Kaine claiming that one in three Virginians depends directly on military spending.  These claims are almost certainly exaggerated. They are for Albemarle County.  The county's website says: "The economy of Albemarle County is vital and growing. The predominant economic sectors are services, manufacturing, education, retail, tourism, trade,  care & social assistance, technical & professional services and agriculture. The County of Albemarle's labor force is roughly 53,000 and its unemployment rate of 2.6% is consistently lower than the state and national averages." 

"However, Jeff Caldwell, a spokesman for Gov. Bob McDonnell, said the state does not yet have any estimates for the effect of sequestration in Virginia.

“'With so many variables involved, there is no firm number to delineate that impact on the commonwealth or any particular area,' Caldwell said by email.

"Rep. Robert Hurt, R-5th, called the looming cuts 'devastating' for his district, which encompasses most of the Charlottesville region.

“'The White House and the Senate must join with the House [of Representatives] in addressing this impending crisis so we can keep our military men and women adequately equipped, protect jobs across the 5th District and the Commonwealth, and reduce our national debt in a responsible manner,” Hurt said in a statement."

A few points missed in the above: First, refusing to cut military spending does the opposite of reducing the national debt.  Second, military spending is the least cost-efficient way to produce jobs.  It produces fewer jobs than spending on infrastructure, green energy, education, or even tax cuts for working people.  So, if the goal is to save money while producing jobs, military spending is exactly the place to cut.  Third, there is absolutely no evidence that "adequate equipment" is what's on the chopping block here.  Hurt makes it sound like putting the U.S. navy on Jeju Island, South Korea, against the passionate will of the people there, is being done not to threaten China but as an act of philanthropy for U.S. sailors.

"House Minority Leader Eric Cantor, whose 7th District encompasses portions of the Charlottesville region, issued an even more sharply worded statement on his website, calling the planned cuts a 'dangerous threat' and urging President Obama and Senate Democrats 'to take serious action to prevent these arbitrary, devastating cuts from taking place.'"

Did he offer any evidence for those sharp words?

"While Brim acknowledged the need and desire to cut federal spending, she said gutting the defense budget would derail America’s recovery from the recession.

"That’s because conflict would interrupt trade and commerce and 'there would be nothing more costly than having our trade routes disrupted,' she said."

Now this is a new one.  Unless we continue to borrow money from China with which to build up our military presence all over the globe, including in every location strategically helpful in cutting off China's trade routes, our trade routes will be disrupted.  What trade routes?!  Can she name one?  Conflict, indeed, dirupts peaceful activity.  But conflict comes from war spending.  War spending and war preparation spending does not reduce conflict.

"Local leaders, however, were more measured in their assessment of the effect of the cuts on the local economy.

“'While our area would be affected by any change in federal spending, the overall impact would be minimal given that defense spending constitutes a small percentage of our overall economy,' Chris Engel, Charlottesville’s economic development director said by email.

"Albemarle County spokeswoman Lee Catlin said recent reaffirmations of the county’s AAA bond rating in spite of potential defense-related reductions is an indicator of confidence and stability in the local economy.

“'However, we are home to several major federal installations and associated defense contractors who are valued and important partners in our economy, so we are concerned about funding uncertainty,' Catlin said by email.

"And if the spending cuts do come to pass, Engel expressed confidence that the region’s economy would persevere. 'I think our business community has proven itself to be very adaptable in the past and this could be another instance where that trait will be needed,' Engel said."

If these last paragraphs had come first, this would not have been a bad article at all.

Nuclear Roulette

As the Coalition Against Nukes prepares for a series of events in Washington, D.C., September 20-22, including a Capitol Hill rally, a Congressional briefing, a fundraiser at Busboys and Poets, a ceremony at the Museum of the American Indian, a rally at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), a film screening, and a strategy session, the time seems ideal to take in the wisdom of Gar Smith's new book, Nuclear Roulette: The Truth About the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth.

Most dangerous indeed, and most useless, most inefficient, most destructive, and dumbest.  How does nuclear energy make the human species look like the stupidest concoction since the platypus? Let me count the ways:

1. After the mining, processing, and shipping of uranium, and the plant construction, maintenance, and deconstruction, a nuclear plant only produces about as much energy as went into it -- not counting the need to store the only thing it actually produces (radioactive waste) for hundreds of thousands of years -- and not counting the sacrifice of areas of the earth, including those poisoned with uranium, which has a half life of 4.5 billion years and causes lung cancer, bone cancer, and kidney failure.

2. Wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal have far better net energy ratios.

3. If nuclear power actually worked against climate change, that fact would not be useful, because there is no way enough nuclear power plants to significantly contribute to the required difference could be built quickly enough.

4. If nuclear power plants could be built quickly enough, that wouldn't matter, because the financial cost is prohibitive.  Only with multi-billion-dollar bailouts from the government can a tiny number of nuclear plants be considered for construction at all.  The sainted Private Marketplace of Freedom will never touch nuclear construction on its own -- or insure it.  And the small number of jobs created by the "Job Creator" lobbyists who push for the generous public loan guarantees mostly show up in Japanese and French nuclear companies, thus depriving the whole enterprise of its anti-foreign-oil xenophobic appeal.  (Not to mention, most of the uranium used in U.S. nuclear plants comes from abroad just like oil.)  Deconstructing the plants when they grow too old to operate costs so much that the job is routinely and recklessly put off -- and that doesn't count the fairly common expense of compensating the victims of accidents.

5.  The nuclear industry is in debt up to its ears already, without our feeding its habit any longer.  For example, Washington State's Hanford Nuclear Reservation has dumped 1.7 trillion gallons of contaminated waste into unlined trenches.  The latest plan to try to deal with the mess comes with a $12.3 billion price tag.

6. Even if nuclear power worked when it worked, it's remarkably unreliable.  Between 2003 and 2007, U.S. nuclear plants were shut down 10.6 percent of the time, compared to 1 or 2 percent for solar stations and wind farms. 

7. Nuclear power produces greenhouse gases in the mining, production, deconstruction, shipping, and waste storage processes.  It also discharges 1000 degree Fahrenheit steam directly into the atmosphere. Considering the entire fuel cycle, a nuclear reactor burning high-grade uranium produces about a third as much carbon dioxide as a gas-fired power plant.  As high-grade uranium runs out, low-grade ore will result in a nuclear plant producing just as much carbon dioxide as a gas plant.

8. Climate change may have reached a tipping point.  Radioactivity could as well.  Birds and insects near Chernobyl are adapting.  Humans, too, may be beginning to evolve within the Radiocene era to which the earth has been condemned.

9. Climate change limits nuclear energy, as the heat forces plants to shut down for lack of cool water.

10.  The Three Mile Island disaster killed birds, bees, and livestock.  Pets were born dead or deformed.  In humans, cancer, leukemia, and birth defects spread.  Chernobyl gave cancer to about a million people.  Fukushima looks to be far worse.  Meltdowns and other major malfunctions are common, in the United States and abroad.  Gar Smith documents dozens.  The worst nuclear disaster in the United States was in Simi Valley, California, and no one was told about it.  The rates of disease and death led residents to investigate.  I shouldn't use the past tense; the disaster is still there and not going anywhere in the span of human attention.

11. The rate of break downs and failures thus far is very likely to grow as nuclear plants age.  Meanwhile, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), subservient to the nuclear profiteers, is drastically reducing safety standards.

12. In the normal course of proper nuclear power production, the water, air, and earth are poisoned.

13. The NRC publicly dismisses concerns about earthquakes, but privately panics.  Earthquakes are on the rise.  Fracking may cause even more of them.  Fukushima should scare us all; but closer to home, a plant at Lake Anna, in Virginia, was shut down by an earthquake last year, possibly caused by fracking, and the first response was the publication of lies about the damage. 

14.  If anticipated solar flares (or anything else) collapse power grids, nuclear plants could overheat, melt down, or explode. 

15.  An average nuclear plant produces 20-30 tons of high-level waste and 70 tons of low-level waste per year.  No proven long-term storage site exists.  If one ever does, we won't know what language to post the warning signs in, as no human language has lasted a fraction of the time the nuclear waste will remain deadly. 

16. When a country develops nuclear energy, as the United States encouraged Iran to do in my lifetime, it brings that country very close to developing nuclear weapons, which has become a leading excuse for launching and threatening wars.  It doesn't help for the CIA to give Iran plans for building a bomb, but ridding the world of that sort of stupidity is just not within our reach.  Ridding the world of nukes needs to take priority.

17.  There is no purpose in a nation developing nuclear weapons if it wants to target an enemy that possesses nuclear power plants.  Sitting duck nuclear catastrophes waiting to happen -- by accident or malice -- exist in the form of nuclear power plants within 50 miles of 108 million people in the United States.  Nuclear reactors could have been somewhat protected by being built underground, but that would have cost more.  Haruki Murakami, a Japanese novelist, commented on Fukushima: "This time no one dropped a bomb on us. . . . We set the stage, we committed the crime with our own hands, we are destroying our own lands, and we are destroying our own lives."

18. The latest designs in nuclear reactors don't change points 1-17.

19.  The Associated Press in 2011 found that, "Federal regulators [at the NRC] have been working closely with the nuclear power industry to keep the nation's aging reactors operating within safety standards by repeatedly weakening those standards, or simply failing to enforce them."

20. Helping to shake the nuke habit would take 30 seconds and be ridiculously easy, and yet many won't do it.

It's Us or the Nukes

President Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor was about to wake him up in the middle of the night to inform the President that 220 Soviet nuclear missiles were headed our way, when he learned that someone had stuck a game tape into the computer by mistake.

Three years later a Soviet Lieutenant Colonel acted out the same scene, with the computer glitch on his side this time.  Then in 1984 another U.S. computer glitch led to the quick decision to park an armored car on top of a missile silo to prevent the start of the apocalypse.  And again in 1995, the Soviet Union almost responded to a U.S. nuclear attack that proved to be a real missile, but one with a weather satellite rather than a nuke.  One Pentagon report documents 563 nuclear mistakes, malfunctions, and false alarms over the years  -- so far.

Then there are the accidents, of all variety.  Nuclear submarines of the sort now looking for trouble in the Persian Gulf have been known to collide with other ships.  At least eight nuclear submarines (one French, two American, and five Russian) are known to be rotting at the bottom of the sea, leaking uranium and plutonium.  In 2003 the U.S.S. Hartford, a nuclear powered submarine, hit a rock on a tiny island north of Sardinia.  The area is now highly radioactive.

In 1961 a U.S. B-52 with two nukes on board blew up over Faro, North Carolina.  One of the bombs, with a parachute to slow it down, was found.  Five of the six fuses designed to prevent full nuclear detonation had failed.  The other nuclear bomb buried itself 20 feet deep in the ground, lighting up the sky like daylight.  The military deemed that one hard to dig out, and left it there.  And there it sits. This little mishap involved bombs that were each 250 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb.  The commander of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team, Lt. Jack B. ReVelle, remarked, "How close was it to exploding? My opinion is damn close. You might now have a very large Bay of North Carolina if that thing had gone off."

In 1956, a B-47 carried two nuclear capsules from MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, headed to a refueling over the Mediterranean, but never arrived and was never found.  In 1958, a B-47 crashed into an F-86 during a combat simulation off the coast of Georgia, near Savannah.  A nuclear weapon was jettisoned over water and never found.

On January 17, 1966, a U.S. B-52 carrying four live hydrogen bombs smashed into a tanker during midair refueling over Spain. Two of the bombs were blown apart like dirty bombs scattering radioactive particles all over Palomares, Spain.  The United States dug up 1,400 tons of radioactive Spanish dirt and took it to Aiken, South Carolina., where the Savannah River Site has been producing nuclear weapons material, trying to dispose of the waste, and radiating people for over half a century, and where radiation was even recently detected coming all the way from the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan. 

This was just after the U.S.S. Ticonderoga sailed from Vietnam to Japan with a nuclear-armed airplane on board and accidentally dropped the plane, complete with nuclear bomb and pilot, to the bottom of the ocean, where they remain.

Then, in 1968, another U.S. B-52 with four nukes on it crashed in Greenland.  Three of the bombs exploded, while the fourth has yet to be found.  It's among 11 nuclear bombs the United States admits to having lost over the years.  That's not counting the ones it's temporarily lost and recovered.  In August 2007, a U.S. crew accidentally (or as part of a secret plan; and I'm not sure which is worse) flew six live nuclear bombs from North Dakota to Louisiana and left them sitting there unguarded until the ground crew noticed. 

Oh, and if you doubt that these people will arm unmanned drones with nukes just because the drones tend to crash and malfunction, you haven't yet begun to grasp the sort of madness we're dealing with.

The really good news is that more and more nations have nuclear weapons, and even more have nuclear power, which puts them close to having nuclear weapons.  The thing to remember about every one of these nations, is that they screw up too, through bad luck, stupidity, rage, or madness.  Baharul Haq was an Air Vice Marshall in Pakistan involved in security for Kahuta, Pakistan's main nuclear weapons facility.  Later, his son, Faisal Shahzad, claiming the motivation of outrage at U.S. drone killings, tried to blow up a bomb in Times Square, New York.  What if Faisal and his father had been on closer terms?  Should the fate of New Yorkers really have to depend on such luck?

Nuclear weapons testing on the Marshall Islands produced babies born looking like jelly fish.  Nuclear weapons use on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed like nothing had ever killed before. On October 22, 1964, and again two years later, the U.S. government exploded nuclear bombs underground in Mississippi, and then put up a sign asking people not to dig in the area.  Uranium mining of the sort the profiteers now want to reopen in Virginia has spread cancer through every community it's touched.  And the use of depleted uranium weapons has likely contributed to thousands of deaths and birth-defects in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, and among members of the U.S. military and their families, not to mention the weapons' producers in places like Jonesborough, Tennessee.  The United States has also sold DU weapons to 29 other countries.

What Are You Going to Do About It?

There are three barriers to ridding the world of nuclear weapons.  First, our governments don't represent us and will have to be compelled to act when and if we get our act together. 

Second, people imagine we're safer spreading nukes around the globe by the thousands than we would be eliminating them while a few rogue non-state terrorists hang onto some.  This is crazy, of course.  An arsenal of nukes doesn't discourage a terrorist.  Nor can it discourage a state any more than can the non-nuclear weapons capable of complete devastation. 

Third, people fantasize that there are advantages to nuclear energy that outweigh the problem of its technological vicinity to nuclear weaponry.  There are not.  Nuclear energy barely reproduces the amount of energy it takes to build and operate the plants; the waste materials cannot be put anywhere safe for 250,000 years; and the inevitable accidents pose such a risk that no private "free-market" insurance company will take it on -- only taxpayers' misrepresentatives in government are willing to pick up the tab.  Nuclear energy is how India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea got nuclear weapons.  It's also Israel's and the United States' excuse for threatening Iran.  Uranium radioactive waste is among the horrible things being dumped by the West off the lawless coast of Somalia.  The results of such dumping include attacks on Western ships by angry "pirates."  The pirates are generally explained to be hating us for our freedom.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich is hosting a Congressional briefing, Thursday, September 20, 2012, on the medical effects of radiation exposure, and the health threats presented by our nation's nuclear power plants, nuclear fleet, and the on-going tragedy in Fukushima, Japan. There will be expert testimony from Physicians for Social Responsibility and others.  Ask your senators and representative to attend.

The ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan has displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Prior to this disaster, the regulators in Japan said they had all possible safety measures in place. Our Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has said the same thing about our 104 aging nuclear power plants, 23 of which have the same flawed design as in Fukushima.

Nuclear disasters are not unique to Japan. Chernobyl killed and sickened many, as did Three Mile Island on a smaller scale. A nuclear plant in Virginia was damaged by an earthquake last year.

If you're in the Washington, D.C., area, the Coalition Against Nukes invites you to a series of events September 20-22, including a Capitol Hill rally, the Congressional briefing, a fundraiser at Busboys and Poets, a ceremony at the Museum of the American Indian, a rally at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a film screening, and a strategy session. http://coalitionagainstnukes.org

The nukes have got to go, or we do.  This planet's not big enough for both.

If You're in New Hampshire

On October 5, 2012, don't miss NH Peace Action's 30th Anniversary Event and Fall Fundraiser, at The Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 South Main Street, Concord, NH. 

Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Featuring Author/Activist and RootsAction.org Campaign Coordinator David Swanson.

And featuring Singer/Songwriter David Rovics

$30 for tickets in advance, $35 at the door, $10 for students or limited income.

Please be in touch about sponsorship opportunities, silent and live auctions, and ads in our program book!

http://nhpeaceaction.org

NH Peace Action
4 Park Street, Suite 210
Concord, NH 03301
(603) 228-0559

info@nhpeaceaction.org

Funding Teachers Doesn't Get Embassies Attacked

We're not out of money. We've stopped taxing billionaires and corporations, and we're funding war-preparation so generously that we're sparking a global arms race that will eventually generate some enemies with which to justify the war preparation . . .  which will make sense to students who were never taught to put events into chronological order.  They couldn't be taught that because their teachers had to be laid off so that greedy billionaires could stuff a little more cash into their fat "Job Creator" tote bags.

Talk Nation Radio: The Risks and Benefits of Political Theater in the West Bank

The Freedom Theater in the Jenin Refugee Camp in the West Bank produces politically engaged theater and is under assault by both the Israeli military and the Palestinian Authority.  We speak about theater as therapy and theater as an alternative to violence with Gary English and Laura Wilson. 

Gary English is a Stage Director and Designer with credits that include over 100 productions at many of America’s major repertory theaters.  He is a Distinguished Professor of Drama at the University of Connecticut and a member of the Human Rights Institute Faculty at Connecticut.  He has been to the Middle East five times in the last two years and will spend the next year on leave from Connecticut when he will serve as Artistic Manager of The Freedom Theatre in the Jenin Refugee Camp in the West Bank. 

Laura Wilson is a professional Stage and Event Manager based in New York City with credits on Broadway and regional theatres who has been involved with active research and development for Freedom Theatre activities in the United States for the past year and a half.  She is working with Gary English as Editor on a book project entitled Theatre and Human Rights: The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.

Read: "The Freedom Theatre Under Assault; Building a Cultural Institution Under Military Occupation" by Gary M. English and Laura L. Wilson -- PDF.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download or get embed code from AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Embed on your own site with this code:

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

The Environmental Antiwar Movement

Events in South Korea are putting U.S. and international environmental groups into coalition with antiwar groups, and in rare opposition to one of the most environmentally destructive forces on earth: the military industrial complex. 

Normally, this doesn't happen.  Typically, civil liberties groups oppose the detention and torture and assassination that come with military spending, but not the spending and not the wars.  Typically, anti-poverty and pro-education groups lament the supposed lack of funding, but avoid all mention of our dumping 57% of federal discretionary funds into war preparation and war.  Typically, for environmental groups, our top consumer of oil, producer of superfund sites, and poisoner of the earth is off-limits.  We oppose pollution, but not pollution in the cause of killing people more quickly.

Jeju Island, South Korea, is changing this.  A coordinated international campaign is trying to save this beautiful island from destruction.  The World Conservation Congress 2012 is being held on Jeju Island -- while just four miles away, in the island's Gangjeong Village, construction is beginning on a massive new naval base to be used by the United States.  Dredging of the seabed and coral has already begun.  94% of the residents of Gangjeong Village have voted against construction of the base.

The extraordinary biological diversity, unique volcanic topography, and the culture of Jeju Island attract many tourists. The Sea of Gangjeong is a national cultural treasure adjacent to a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Only 114 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins remain in Korea, and they live here -- one of many species threatened by base construction. The damage will be devastating.

If the base is constructed, it will host nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers, as well as Aegis missile-carrying warships. U.S. taxpayers will pay the cost of the Obama administration "pivot" into the Asia-Pacific, while Jeju Islanders pay with a damaged home. Ultimately, the cost to the earth and the risk of war will belong to all of us.

Villagers have been arrested during nonviolent protests. Police and construction workers have assaulted elderly members of the community, who represent a large portion of the activists.  Raising our voices in solidarity is the least we can do.  But Samsung, the primary contractor for base construction, is sponsoring the World Conservation Congress (WCC), which opened pretending all was well.  That pretense is crumbling.

From afar, we are flooding the WCC and Samsung with emails.  You can help" Let them know we aren't fooled. Demand that Samsung halt construction and the WCC oppose the base.

On location, activists have made every single participant in the World Conservation Congress aware of the destruction underway on the island where the WCC is meeting. And a resolution is being introduced by 34 organizations from around the world calling for a halt to the military base construction.

Please take the time to read this resolution, and check out the list of signers.  This is how the military industrial complex will eventually do itself in.

World Appeal to Protect the People, Nature, Culture and Heritage of Gangjeong Village

UNDERSTANDING that Gangjeong Village, also known as the Village of Water, on the island of Jeju, also known as Peace Island, is a coastal area home to thousands of species of plants and animals, lava rock freshwater tide pools (“Gureombi”), endangered soft coral reefs, freshwater springs, sacred natural sites, historic burial grounds, and nearly 2,000 indigenous villagers, including farmers, fishermen, and Haenyo women divers, that have lived sustainably with the surrounding marine and terrestrial environment for nearly 4000 years;
 
NOTING that Gangjeong Village is an Ecological Excellent Village (Ministry of Environment, ROK) of global, regional, national and local significance, sharing the island with a UNESCO designated Biosphere Reserve and Global Geological Park, and is in close proximity to three World Heritage Sites and numerous other protected areas;

NOTING that numerous endangered species live in and around Gangjeong Village, including the Boreal Digging Frog (Kaloula borealis) listed on IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species; the red-footed crab (Sesarma intermedium); the endemic Jeju fresh water shrimp (Caridina denticulate keunbaei); and the nearly extinct Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins;

NOTING the global uniqueness of the Jeju Soft Coral habitats, designated as Natural Monument 422 of Korea: the only location in the world known to have temperate octocoral species forming a flourishing ecosystem on a substrate of andesite, providing ecological balance to the Jeju marine environment and the development of the human culture of Gangjeong Village for thousands of years;

UNDERSCORING that of the 50 coral species found in the Soft Coral habitats near Gangjeong, 27 are indigenous species, and at least 16 are endangered species and protected according to national and international law, including Dendronephthya suensoni, D. putteri, Tubastraea coccinea, Myriopathes japonica, and M. lata;

THEREFORE CONCERNED of the Civilian-Military Complex Tour Beauty project, a 50-hectare naval installation, being constructed within and adjacent to Gangjeong Village, estimated to house more than 8,000 marines, up to 20 warships, several submarines, and cruise liners;

NOTING the referendum of Gangjeong Village on August 20, 2007, in which 725 villagers participated and 94% opposed the construction;

ACKNOWLEDGING that the construction of the military installation is directly and irreparably harming not only the biodiversity, but the culture, economy and general welfare of Gangjeong Village, one of the last living remnants of traditional Jeju culture;

NOTING the Absolute Preservation Act, Jeju Special Self-Governing Province (1991) and that Gangjeong Village was named an Absolute Preservation Area on October 27, 2004: a permanent designation to conserve the original characteristics of an environment from the surge in development, therefore prohibiting construction, the alteration of form and quality of land, and the reclamation of public water areas;

CONCERNED that this title was removed in 2010 to allow for the Naval installation, and that this step backwards in environmental protection violates the Principle of Non-Regression;

RECALLING the numerous IUCN Resolutions and Recommendations that note, recognize, promote and call for the appropriate implementation of conservation policies and practices that respect the human rights, roles, cultural diversity, and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples in accordance with international agreements;

CONCERNED of reports that the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for the naval construction was inaccurate and incomplete and may have violated well-known principles of international law concerning EIAs, transparency, public and indigenous participation, right to know, and free, prior and informed consent;

CONCERNED of the destruction of sacred natural sites in and near Gangjeong Village, noting that the protection of sacred natural sites is one of the oldest forms of culture based conservation (Res. 4.038 recognition and conservation of sacred natural sites in Protected Areas);

ACKNOWLEDGING that IUCN’s Mission is “To influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable;” and that “equity cannot be achieved without the promotion, protection and guarantee of human rights.”;

NOTING Resolution 3.022 Endorsement of the Earth Charter (Bangkok, 2004) that endorsed the Earth Charter as “the ethical guide for IUCN policy and programme,” and that the military installation is contrary to every principle of the Earth Charter;

NOTING the U.N. World Charter for Nature (1982), and that the military installation is contrary to each of its five principles of conservation by which all human conduct affecting nature is to be guided and judged;

AND ALARMED by reports of political prisoners, deportations, and restrictions on freedom of assembly and speech, including the arrests of religious leaders, for speaking against the naval installation and for speaking in promotion of local, national, regional and world conservation and human rights protections;

NOTING Res. 2.37 Support for environmental defenders, “UNDERSTANDING that the participation of non-governmental organizations and individual advocates is essential to the fundamentals of civil society to assure the accountability of governments and multinational corporations; and AWARE that a nation’s environment is only truly protected when concerned citizens are involved in the process;”

NOTING principles enshrined in the Draft International Covenant on Environment and Development such as those concerning military and hostile activities (Art. 36), culture and natural heritage (Art. 26), and the collective rights of indigenous peoples (Art. 15);

FURTHER ACKNOWLEDGING that militarization does not justify the destruction of a community, a culture, endangered species or fragile ecosystems;

AND UNDERSCORING that IUCN’s aim is to promote a just world that values and conserves nature, and the organization sees itself as nature’s representative and patrons of nature;

The IUCN World Conservation Congress at its 5th session in Jeju, Republic of Korea, 6-15 September 2012:

1. REAFFIRMS its commitment to the UN World Charter for Nature and the Earth Charter;
2. CALLS ON the Republic of Korea to:
(a) immediately stop the construction of the Civilian-Military Complex Tour Beauty;
(b) invite an independent body, to prepare a fully transparent scientific, cultural, and legal assessment of the biodiversity and cultural heritage of the area and make it available to the public; and
(c) fully restore the damaged areas.

Sponsor – Center for Humans and Nature
Co-Sponsors
-Chicago Zoological Society (USA)
-International Council of Environmental Law (Germany)
-El Centro Ecuatoriano de Derecho Ambiental, CEDA (Ecuador)
-Sierra Club (USA)
-Fundacion Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Argentina)
-Center for Sustainable Development CENESTA (Iran)
-Asociación Preserve Planet (Costa Rica)
-The Christensen Fund (USA)
-Terra Lingua (Canada)
-Ecological Society of the Philippines (Philippines)
-Citizen’s Institute Environmental Studies (Korea)
-Departamento de Ambiente, Paz y Seguridad, Universidad para la Paz (Costa Rica)
-Coastal Area Resource Development and Management Association (Bangladesh)
-Fundação Vitória Amazônica (Brazil)
-Fundación para el Desarrollo de Alternativas Comunitarias de Conservación del Trópico, ALTROPICO Foundation (Ecuador)
-Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano (Ecuador)
-EcoCiencia (Ecuador)
-Fundación Hábitat y Desarrollo de Argentina (Argentina)
-Instituto de Montaña (Peru)
-Asociación Peruana para la Conservación de la Naturaleza, APECO (Peru)
-Coordinadora de Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica, COICA (Ecuador)
-Fundación Biodiversidad (Argentina)
-Fundacao Vitoria Amazonica (Brazil)
-Fundación Urundei (Brazil)
-Dipartimento Interateneo Territorio Politecnico e Università di Torino (Italy)
-Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas (Costa Rica)
-Corporación Grupo Randi Randi (Ecuador)
-Living Oceans Society (Canada)
-Instituto de Derecho y Economía Ambiental (Paraguay)
-Korean Society of Restoration Ecology (Korea)
-Ramsar Network Japan (Japan)
-The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (Isreal)
-Chimbo Foundation (Netherlands)
-Endangered Wildlife Trust (South Africa)

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