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Most of the world's governments no longer use the death penalty. Among wealthy nations there is one exception remaining. The United States is among the top five killers in the world. Also in the top five: the recently "liberated" Iraq.
But most of the United States' 50 states no longer use the death penalty. There are 18 states that have abolished it, including 6 in this new millennium, including Maryland this week. Thirty-one states haven't used the death penalty in the past 5 years, 26 in the past 10 years, 17 in the past 40 years or more. A handful of Southern states -- with Texas in the lead -- do most of the killing.
The progress is slow and painful. Mississippi is right now having trouble deciding whether to spare a man just because he might be innocent. Maryland has perversely left five people waiting to be killed while banning the death penalty for any future cases. Next-door in Virginia we hold second place behind Texas and continue to kill.
Virginia electrocuted a man named Robert Gleason in January. Since then, Texas has killed four men, Ohio two, and Florida, Oklahoma, and Georgia one each -- all by lethal injection. Since 1973, there have been 141 exonerations from death row nationwide, including an innocent Virginian who came within days of being killed.
If you're convicted of killing a white person in Virginia, you're over three times as likely to receive the death penalty as you would be if the victim had been black. The injustice and backwardness is staggering, but so is the lack of democracy. Only a third of Virginians tell pollsters they favor the death penalty.
The evil of the death penalty is not limited to the instances in which it is used -- or to the corrosive influence it has on our culture. The death penalty primarily serves as a valuable chip in plea bargaining. Want someone to plead guilty, whether or not they actually are guilty? Threaten them with the death penalty. Who needs trials by jury (now used in under 2% of cases) when you have that kind of tool? And who has time for them when you've overloaded the system by treating drug use as a crime?
Remarkably, a former commonwealth's attorney here in Charlottesville, Va., named Steve Deaton is campaigning for his old job with a commitment to never use or threaten to use the death penalty.
"I believe the death penalty is barbaric and has no place in modern Charlottesville courts," Deaton says, reversing the electoral wisdom of many decades, which firmly holds that candidates must pretend to believe the death penalty is just and righteous and a deterrent to crime, even if the public thinks that's nonsense.
"I am calling for a moratorium on death penalty prosecutions," says Deaton. "During the past 20 years -- that is, the term of the incumbent Commonwealth's Attorney -- a number of capital murder charges have been brought against some people, almost all of them poor. Then the charge is often used as a bargaining chip to get the defendant to plead guilty to murder and accept a life sentence. This practice of using the threat of death to plea bargain is legal, and under current ethical standards, considered ethical. However, I find such a practice appalling. By engaging in this practice the prosecutor is tempting fate: what if their threat doesn't work and the case goes to a jury?"
Many in Charlottesville oppose the death penalty. Deaton explains the very real possibility that it will nonetheless be employed here: "The notion that no Charlottesville jury will return a death sentence is misleading. In a capital murder case the jury has to be 'death qualified,' meaning that the jurors must believe in the death penalty. Such a jury is not representative of the community! Studies have shown that a 'death qualified jury' is also much more likely to convict."
Deaton points out that prosecutors have a great deal of discretion: "A prosecutor does not have to bring a capital murder charge. They have the option of bringing a regular murder charge instead."
If elected, Deaton intends to use the enormous discretion given to prosecutors to try to make punishments more reasonably fit crimes, including so-called drug crimes. While Charlottesville City Council failed by a vote of 3-2 in February to end jail time for possession of marijuana, Deaton intends to charge those possessing marijuana with a different charge: disorderly conduct. It's technically a higher level charge -- a Class 1 misdemeanor -- but it does not carry the draconian punishments of loss of driver's license, subjection to drug testing, ruined college acceptance and student loan prospects, immigration status, etc. "If a person makes a mistake, they should be punished. They shouldn't have their lives ruined," Deaton says.
Deaton aims to counter mass-incarceration, not add to it. "The state has built a new $100 million prison in Grayson County and there is talk of expanding our local jail," he says. "All of this in spite of declining crime rates. It is time to stop feeding the prison-industrial complex. I believe the goal of the justice system should be to empty out spaces in the jails and prisons -- not to fill every available space!"
Of course, the system of mass incarceration creates a caste system by stamping the scarlet F of "Felon" on those released, no matter how many years of their lives are wasted in cages. Deaton favors restoring rights, including voting rights, for people convicted of nonviolent felonies.
Charlottesville has a chance to give the death penalty in Virginia a big push toward the door, which would help the United States and the world along that path. As Charlottesville only elects Democrats (and packs the full range of great to awful candidates into that one party) the election for Deaton is effectively the June 11th primary. Anyone in Charlottesville can vote in that primary, without swearing any loyalty to any party. And anyone else can help to spread the word or donate to the campaign.
Some human rights groups, especially Amnesty International, seem to have forgotten an important human right: peace. A petition has been launched to remind them.
These organizations are not the warmongers. They do tremendously great work addressing some of the symptoms of warmaking, including imprisonment and torture. But, because they avoid taking any position on war, and because of an apparent bias in favor of U.S. military intervention, they sometimes find themselves effectively promoting war and all the horrors that come with it. At Nuremberg to initiate a war of aggression was called the supreme international crime "encompassing the evil of the whole." Yet human rights groups are often on the wrong side of the fundamental question of war.
Amnesty International (AI) promoted the babies-taken-from-incubators hoax that helped launch the 1991 war on Iraq. AI has upheld the pretense that the US/NATO occupation of Afghanistan is about women's rights. And now Amnesty International is highlighting warmaking in Syria's civil war by one side only:
"Our team of researchers on the ground found evidence that government forces bombed entire neighborhoods and targeted residential areas with long-range surface-to-surface missiles," said an AI fundraising email on April 29th that made no mention of abuses committed by Syrian rebels supported by the U.S. and its allies.
This one-sided treatment by a group supposedly dedicated to all humans fuels the fires of a wider war from which the people of Syria can only suffer.
The email continued: "Amnesty has a strong track record of using our on-the-ground findings to pressure governments and the United Nations Security Council to hold those responsible for the slaughter of civilians accountable."
Does it? When the United States kills civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan or Libya, AI's silence has often been deafening. Shouldn't a human rights group press for an end to the killing of all humans by all parties?
While many good individuals who work for human rights groups like AI oppose wars, these organizations officially ignore President Eisenhower's warning and a half-century of evidence regarding the power of the military industrial complex -- and they ignore the criminality of war under the U.S. Constitution, the U.N. Charter, the Kellogg-Briand Pact and other laws.
These groups accept the existence of war (when not encouraging it) and then focus on specific crimes and abuses within the larger war-making enterprise. They promote the idea that human rights are governed by two sets of laws, one in peace and another weaker set in war. Voices for the human right to peace are missing and badly needed, as "humanitarianism" and "the right to protect" are used as excuses for war and intervention.
Amnesty International opposes imprisonment without trial and other abuses unless they adhere to the "laws of war," which is why AI is not opposing the outrageous charges leveled against Bradley Manning. Killing is opposed unless it adheres to the "laws of war." Under this standard, we pretend not to know whether blowing families up with drones is legal or not as long as the memos purporting to legalize it are kept hidden.
Groups like Amnesty oppose particular weapons, including the development of fully autonomous weapons (drones that fly themselves). No one in their right mind would oppose that step. But surely the human right not to be blown up does not vanish if the button is pushed by a person instead of an autonomous robot. Other organizations are pushing to ban all weaponized drones from the world.
Human rights groups should join the peace movement in targeting war and militarism itself, rather than just some of its symptoms. Amnesty International and all groups favoring human rights should be asked to oppose a U.S. escalation of war on Syria.
An NPR story on Monday carried this headline: "Expansion Plans At Arlington National Cemetery Cause Environmental Concerns." Only environmental concerns? Are there any other concerns that anyone can think of? I mean if, for example, "All Things" were going to be "Considered," would there be any other things worth considering?
U.S. troop deaths were 0.3 percent of the deaths in the most recent attack on Iraq. Most of those U.S. dead (and all of the non-U.S. dead) do not end up in Arlington. Most end up in other cemeteries. Some are never recovered. Some are unceremoniously dumped in land fills. And yet the cemetery is running out of room even for cremated corpses.
Advocates of military spending often push for increases to keep pace with gross domestic product. Should Arlington be the same? Should we kill off our young in proportion to how much money our bankers have? Should we expand cemeteries to keep pace with weapons budgets, prisons, highways, and fracking subsidies? Or should we take this opportunity to consider altering our priorities?
President Kennedy, whose eternal flame burns atop the hill at Arlington, wrote that we would have wars until the conscientious objector was given the prestige and respect now given to soldiers. Why is there no cemetery to honor those who resist massive crimes based on the sort of lies told about Iraq 10 years ago and told about Syria today? Why do we have to educators or doctors or diplomats or firefighters or historians or poets honored with the ceremonial wasting of fertile soil? Why only those who participate in state-sanctioned murder?
As Eisenhower warned on his way out of office, we get the society we prepare for. Expanding Arlington Cemetery is preparing us for a horrible future, one that we and the rest of humanity may not survive. The environmental concerns raised by this vision should be much more encompassing that a particular creek and stand of trees. The destructive arrogance of our war economy will either be replaced by a sustainable peaceful system or destroy us.
Pass that along to National Pentagon Radio when you get a chance.
The Obama administration has seemingly painted itself into yet another military corner by announcing that use of chemical weapons by Syria would constitute a red line that would mandate military action on the part of the United States. Now we are hearing reports that the red line may have been crossed, and some prominent officials are calling for the U.S. to step up its aid to the rebels and/or impose a no-fly zone. Proponents of military action such as Secretary of State John Kerry and hawkish Senator John McCain seem to think that the U.S. can sort out the “good guys” in the Syrian civil war, and use U.S. military assets to help the rebels take down the Assad government.
U.S. military involvement in Syria could only make things worse. Syria does not need a "no fly" zone. It needs a "no weaponizing" zone. The White House and its allies need to stop arming one side of a civil war, and to persuade Russia to stop arming the other. Further escalating the violence will result in nothing that could outweigh the damage of that violence.
The Netanyahu government in Israel has just raised the ante in this precarious situation by conducting air-to-ground missile attacks against Syria, undoubtedly with the tacit approval of the United States. Allowing Israel to attack Syria without consequences is not only the sanctioning of a crime; it also allows momentum to develop for greater violence and pushes peaceful resolution further out of reach. Diplomacy must be actively pursued before it is too late.
Further military interference in Syria would be a disastrous decision in important ways. For one thing, it is not at all clear if chemical weapons have been used, and if so, by which side. U.S. media has a tendency to turn conjecture into accepted fact merely by repeating it. Furthermore, the U.S. military has itself used and continues to use chemical and nuclear weapons — Agent Orange and napalm in Vietnam and white phosphorus and depleted uranium weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ongoing hypocrisy of U.S. policy and practice in this regard undermines our nation’s international moral and legal position.
Secondly, there are few if any “good guys” among the combatants in Syria. Because the White House has decided that regime change in Syria is our business, Americans are now squarely allied with extremist anti-democratic insurgents—the same people the administration has deemed our enemy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As it has time after the time, the theory that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” will come back to bite the U.S. once Assad is out of office.
Those who hold Libya up as an example of the kind of military action that should be taken in Syria don’t understand some very basic concepts. Syria’s air defense batteries are located in urban centers, not like Libya’s, which could be attacked without causing a high number of civilian casualties. If the U.S. targets urban centers in Syria, global opinion will quickly turn against us. Furthermore, the Assad government’s close relationship with major powers Russia and Iran could mean that a U.S. attack would lead to widespread war. An escalated U.S. war in Syria would not be waged simply on American terms. Those who advocate for military action don’t seem to understand the global response to our actions.
But the most basic reason that the U.S. should not interfere militarily in Syria is because we should support self-determination. It should be left to the Syrian people to decide who will run their government. Overthrowing foreign governments is not legal, moral, or practical. It is not a safe practice to encourage. In fact, in nearly a century of warmaking, there is still no example of the United States or NATO having “liberated” a country to beneficial effect. Libya's violence is spilling into neighboring nations. Iraq is arguably in worse shape post-intervention than Syria is pre-intervention.
In the immediate term, the Green Shadow Cabinet calls on the United States government and the international community to provide humanitarian aid—food and shelter for those displaced, and assistance to countries that are providing safe haven for Syrian refugees. And the administration should invest in multilateral diplomatic efforts involving both Russia and Iran, as well as others, to push for a cease fire and an end to weapons shipments.
In the long term, we must win an international ban on weapons and war profiteering, which is a major factor in feeding the cycle of violence.
LEAH BOLGER is Secretary of Defense in the Green Shadow Cabinet. She is a former Commander in the United States Navy, retired.
DAVID SWANSON is Secretary of Peace in the Green Shadow Cabinet. He is author of War is a Lie, When the World Outlawed War, and The Military Industrial Complex at 50.
So, wait. It wasn't the Syrian regime, but rather the Syrian rebels who used sarin nerve gas recently? That's the story being reported tonight by Reuters, from actually named sources among U.N. investigators. But will anybody notice? Or, with Israeli airstrikes already under way, and the neo-cons already demanding another new war, is the news too little, too late...again?
The week before last, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, reading from a letter sent by the White House to Congress, announced that the Administration believes that the Syrian government recently used chemical weapons against its own people. If true, it would be a move which President Obama had previously described as a "red line" and a "game changer" in the Administration's policy on the two-year old civil war still raging in that country.
This past Saturday morning felt like mid-winter in Asheville, North Carolina, but was actually some weeks past tax day, and dozens of people were gathered in front of a federal building to say something about what federal income taxes are used for -- something much more unusual than one would expect.
Posters carried messages including: "War steals from the poor" and "Defund Militerrorism." This in itself was not so unusual. Opponents of war often use tax season to inform their friends and neighbors that roughly half of income tax dollars go to war preparation. We could have the educations and health and happiness that other nations have if we didn't waste our money on the military, we say. We'd have more and better jobs, and jobs we could feel better about, we tell people.
If only our taxes weren't put to such bad ends.
But the people gathered from across the country in Asheville on Saturday were in town for a meeting of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. They had gathered on Saturday morning to announce the awarding of grants of thousands of dollars to a long list of great humanitarian causes -- all the things we wish our taxes were going to. For these people, this is in fact what their taxes are going to. Many of them have put the dollars they owe in taxes into one of a number of funds set up for this purpose. They can take their money back if they choose, but meanwhile the interest it earns goes to worthy causes of their choosing in the form of these grants announced in something more like a celebration than the usual tax-day lamentation that war opponents are all familiar with.
Following the announcements in front of the federal building, the small crowd stretched out in a long single-file line walking through Asheville, posters held high, making a tour of locations in the lives of the homeless and destitute, locations in need of the money that went to buy the bombs Israel was just then dropping on Syria.
And you thought corporate personhood was bad enough! Lacey Kohlmoos, Senior Field Organizer, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, tells us that the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) will create corporate nationhood by empowering corporations to sue and overrule real nations, as well as incentivizing the offshoring of jobs, hurting food safety, damaging environmental protections, enriching drug companies at the expense of human health, banning some generic drugs, further deregulating banks, forbidding the breaking up of too-big-to-fail financial firms, and creating SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) despite its failure in Congress as a result of strong public opposition.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
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Hundreds gathered in Dallas to reject the Bush Lie Bury, and three went to jail. I flew from Dallas to Syracuse, where hundreds protested Obama's drone-murder program, and 32 went to jail and are still there (and will stay until trial unless bail can be raised) -- some of them risk major jail time because they violated a protective order that the commander of a U.S. military base gained to protect himself from nonviolent peace activists. Another drone protester in Missouri, Brian Terrell, is just finishing a six-month sentence. Climate activist Tim DeChristopher just got out. The people locked in Guantanamo are refusing to eat, and groups around the world are making plans to fast with them. The people of Vieques are rallying on May 1st to demand that the U.S. military truly depart their island. Big plans are being made to rally for Bradley Manning on June 1st. This week I'm heading to the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee's meeting in North Carolina, after which -- just over in Tennessee -- three courageous activists go on trial, facing major time in prison, for having entered and protested a nuclear weapons facility.
The revolution will not be televised.
Oak Ridge, Tenn., was created during World War II as a secret city (actually two, it was segregated by race) for producing nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons have a history that marches hand-in-hand with U.S. human experimentation programs. I just had a chance to read Susan Griffin's A Chorus of Stones, and she recounts a nuclear test in 1957, when the U.S. government was still marching Marines to various distances from nuclear explosions in Nevada to find out what would become of them. Marines with their eyes closed saw the bones in their hands. They died of leukemia years later, but not before speaking about what else they saw: 10 or 12 people in a stockade formed by chain link fence and barbed wire, their faces and hands deformed, their hair falling out, their skin peeling off. Or this: men on the ground in agony, the smell of burning flesh, blood running from mouth, ears, and nose, a man trying to tear away wires that had been attached to his head.
In the late 1960s, Oak Ridge Associated Universities did radiation experiments on cancer patients, children of military personnel. NASA provided the funding, wanting to know how much radiation would produce nausea, in preparation for sending astronauts to the moon. And, boy, having sent astronauts to the moon has sure allowed us to take care of poverty and illness and environmental destruction. I don't know how we'd survive at all if we hadn't killed those children to send astronauts to the moon.
On July 28, 2012, Michael R. Walli (63), Megan Rice (82), and Greg Boertje-Obed (57) entered the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge undetected. You can't walk down the street without being filmed, but these three senior citizens were able to walk at night right up to a nuclear weapons facility. They hung up banners that read "Transform Now Plowshares" and "Swords into Plowshares Spears into Pruning Hooks–Isaiah." They strung up red crime tape. They hammered on the cornerstone of the newly built Highly-Enriched Uranium Manufacturing Facility (HEUMF), splashed human blood and left four spray-painted tags on the recent construction which read: "Woe to the empire of blood," "The fruit of justice is peace," "Work for peace not for war," and "Plowshares please Isaiah." When finally confronted by guards, they offered the guards bread and roses. They sang while forced to kneel for a long period of time.
"We come to the Y-12 facility because our very humanity rejects the designs of nuclearism, empire and war," the activists said in a statement. "Our faith in love and nonviolence encourages us to believe that our activity here is necessary; that we come to invite transformation, undo the past and present work of Y-12; disarm and end any further efforts to increase the Y-12 capacity for an economy and social structure based upon war-making and empire-building."
Vigils and other events are planned in Knoxville as the trial begins.
While the revolution is not televised, there is a calendar of events: http://warisacrime.org/content/upcoming-events
"Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin."
I do assess with varying degrees of horror (some of the varying degrees rather high even) that a lot of people are going to die. And how dare they die from chemical weapons when they should be dying from hellfire missiles and cluster bombs and napalm and depleted uranium and white phosphorous. We have a responsibility to protect these people from dying of the wrong type of weapon and in too small numbers.
I'm in Dallas protesting the rehabilitation of our last criminal president because of the precedents he set for our current criminal president. So, precedents are on my mind. One precedent for an illegal humanitarian NATO war on Syria is, of course, the illegal humanitarian war on Libya two years ago. And the pair of precedents (Libya and Syria) will put the target of the neocon/neoliberal cooperative war project squarely on Iran.
Syria will suffer, of course. There will be no more an example of a humanitarian war that actually benefitted humanity after Syria than before. The precedent will not be one of having accomplished something, but of having gotten away with something.
For some truly illuminating background on what was done to Libya, and some relevant discussion of what awaits Syria (if we don't prevent it), I recommend Francis Boyle's new book, Destroying Libya and World Order.
Boyle served as a lawyer for the government of Libya repeatedly, over a period of decades, more than once successfully preventing a military assault by the United States and the United Kingdom. Boyle details the aggression toward Libya of the Reagan administration: the lies and false accusations, the sanctions, the provocations, the assassination attempts, the infiltration, the blatant disregard for international law.
Boyle's history brings us up to and through the 2011 assault, and traces its precedents to a very similar war over a decade earlier in Bosnia. Boyle finds the unconstitutional and illegal assault on Libya a clear impeachable offense for President Obama. And why would we think otherwise? Only because we let Clinton and Bush get away with everything they got away with. It would seem unfair now to impeach Obama for a crime his predecessors committed as well.
But past, as well as current, presidents can be impeached, censured, prosecuted, and/or publicly shamed. Five of them came to Dallas today; there shouldn't be any trouble finding them. And the criminal attack on Libya can be treated as the crime it was. The excuse of protection was used to quite openly pursue the overthrow of a nation's government, bombing large numbers of civilians in the process, while arming brutal thugs and creating predictable blowback in neighboring nations as well.
In contrast, in Bahrain, nonviolent pro-democracy activists are left to their own devices as a U.S.-backed dictatorship jails, tortures, and murders them.
In Syria, the United States has worked against peace and for violence. That violence is not a justification for further and heightened violence. And every member of an intelligence "community" that announces that Syria might possibly have used a chemical weapon should be doing community service for the people of Fallujah and Basra and Baghdad, not prodding the world's only stupor power into another genocide.
Talk Nation Radio: Pentagon Professor Says the U.S. Military Overpowers Civilian Rule and Should Be Demilitarized
Gregory D. Foster is Professor of Political Science at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University, Washington, D.C., where he previously has served as George C. Marshall Professor and J. Carlton Ward Distinguished Professor and Director of Research. Foster says the United States no longer has civilian control of the military, and that the military should be "demilitarized."
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee hearing on drones was not your usual droning and yammering. Well, mostly it was, but not entirely. Of course, the White House refused to send any witnesses. Of course, most of the witnesses were your usual professorial fare.
But there was also a witness with something to say. Farea Al-Muslimi came from Yemen. His village had just been hit by a drone strike last week. He described the effects -- all bad for the people of the village, for the people of Yemen, and for the United States and its mission to eliminate all the bad people in the world without turning any of the good people against it.
The usual droning and yammering that preceded and followed this testimony seemed more offensive than usual. One witness summarized the general position of pointless witnesses who accept all common wisdom and have no information or insights to contribute:
If the drone strikes are part of war, that's fine, she said. But if they're not part of war, then they're murder. But since the memos that "legalize" the drone strikes are secret, we don't know whether they're perfectly fine or murder.
That's the common view of things. But to say it in front of someone who knows something about the killing from the perspective of the victims seems particularly tasteless.
The basic facts are barely in dispute. A single individual, President Barack Obama, is choosing to send missiles from drones into particular houses and buildings. Most of the people being killed are innocent and not targeted. Some of those targeted are not even identified. Most of the others are identified as run-of-the-mill resisters to hostile foreign occupations of their or neighboring countries. A handful are alleged to be imminent (meaning eventual theoretical) threats to the United States. Many could easily have been arrested and put on trial, but were instead killed along with whoever was too close to them.
If this is not part of a war, apparently, then it's murder.
But if it's part of a war, supposedly, it's fine.
It's funny that murder is the only crime war erases. Believers in civilized warfare maintain that, even in war, you cannot kidnap or rape or torture or steal or lie under oath or cheat on your taxes. But if you want to murder, that'll be just fine.
Believers in uncivilized war find this hard to grasp. If you can murder, which is the worst thing possible, then why in the world -- they ask -- can you not torture a little bit too?
What is the substantive difference between being at war and not being at war, such that in one case an action is honorable and in the other it's murder? By definition, there is nothing substantive about it. If a secret memo can legalize drone kills by explaining that they are part of a war, then the difference is not substantive or observable. We cannot see it here in the heart of the empire, and Al-Muslimi cannot see it in his drone-struck village in Yemen. The difference is something that can be contained in a secret memo.
This is apparently the case no matter whom a drone strike kills and no matter where it kills them. The world is the battlefield, and the enemies are Muslims. Young men in predominantly Muslim countries are posthumously declared enemies once a drone has killed them. They must be enemies. After all, they're dead.
I wonder how this sounds to a young Muslim man who's taken to heart the lesson that violence is righteous and that war is everywhere at all times.
Do people who blow up bombs at public sporting events think all together differently from people who blow up peaceful villages in Yemen?
Don't tell me we can't know because their memos are secret too. Those who engage in murder believe that murder is justified. The reasons they have (secret or known) are unacceptable. Murder is not made into something else by declaring it to be part of a war.
War is, rather, made criminal by our recognition of it as mass murder.
Watch my 10-year-old neice give an earth day speech that -- unlike Obama's -- mentions climate change
George W. Bush should be given an indictment, not a library. An online email action is letting the Department of Justice know the facts about the former president. And the People's Response to the George W. Bush Library and Policy Institute is filling the streets of Dallas with protesters this week as five current or former presidents join in a celebration of Dubya's national service. I'll certainly be there.
I wish I were kidding about the following. The Dallas Morning News is refusing to take good money to publish the ad below because it suggests former president Bush lied about Iraq.
Of course it would be shocking to suggest that Bush might have lied. Who ever heard of such a thing?
Campaign promises don't count, of course. Bush discarded those by the dozen, but who doesn't? And when he said he'd fire whoever leaked Valerie Plame's name and then didn't, that's more of a technicality than a lie. And when he claimed in his 2007 State of the Union to have prevented four terrorist plots and none of them were real, that was more of a poetic license than a lie. Also when he said he hadn't been warned about Hurricane Katrina and then we saw that video of him being warned, there was no proof he actually understood what was being said to him. Oh, and when he promised never to spy without a warrant and then got caught, that was sort of a willful falsehood for our own good, not a lie at all. And when he said he didn't torture and then confessed to torturing, that was the fault of pesky journalists; Bush himself never intended to admit to torturing if he hadn't been pestered about it!
But if we can remember all of these near-lies these several years later, it does seem possible that Bush had a little trouble with the truth. Let's look at Iraq, just to be sure.
On January 31, 2003, Bush met with Tony Blair in the White House and proposed all sorts of harebrained schemes to try to start a war in Iraq. They understood that Iraq was no threat. Bush promised an all-out effort to get U.N. approval for an attack. Then the two of them walked right out to the White House Press Corpse (sic) and proclaimed their intention to avoid war if at all possible, warned of the threat from Iraq, and claimed to already have U.N. approval for war if needed. I'll grant you that looks like a lie, but if none of the reporters there that day are bothered by it (not a one of them has ever complained), why should we be? Maybe Bush meant that he'd try to avoid war for 60 more seconds. That could have been true. Later that day when he had the NSA start spying on other nations' U.N. delegations, maybe he was trying to determine the best Christmas presents to send them. Hey, it's possible.
In 1999 Bush told his biographer Mickey Herskowitz that he wanted to start a war with Iraq. But that could have been just a random fleeting whimsy. Maybe you had to be there to catch the humor. Also in 1999 at a primary debate in New Hampshire, Bush said he'd "take out" Saddam Hussein. "I'm surprised he's still there," he said. But Bush did get the nomination, so we're probably misunderstanding him somehow.
When Bush moved to the White House he must have learned what was what. In 1995 Saddam Hussein's son-in-law had informed the U.S. and the British that all biological, chemical, missile, and nuclear weapons had been destroyed under his direct supervision. After U.N. inspectors left Iraq in 1998, the lead inspector said they'd come to the same conclusion. In 2002 the Defense Intelligence Agency agreed. Also in 2002 CIA Director George Tenet told Bush that Iraq's Foreign Minister Naji Sabri -- a CIA informer -- agreed with the U.N. and the D.I.A., as did Iraq's intelligence chief. So, still in 2002, the CIA sent 30 Iraqi-Americans to visit Iraqi weapons scientists, but the mission was a failure: they came back with the same definitive conclusion as the U.N., the D.I.A., and Sabri.
In 2001, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and others in the Bush Administration were telling the media that Saddam Hussein had no weapons. The closest connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden was that they had both worked with the United States. Everything changed in 2002, and not because of any evidence. In October 2002, the CIA told Bush that Hussein was unlikely to attack unless attacked first. The CIA had told Bush this four times in morning briefings since that spring. Bush immediately gave a speech in Cincinnati warning of a dire threat from Iraq. Bush's subordinates took an October 1st National Intelligence Estimate that said Hussein was unlikely to attack unless attacked and "summarized" it to say nearly the opposite in a "white paper" released to the public.
By the time Bush and Blair stood before the White House Press Corpse, they had decided on war and begun it. Troops were being deployed. Escalated bombing missions were preparing the ground. Assorted attempts to initiate all-out war had already failed or been abandoned. That Bush was interested in provoking Iraq is confirmed by extensive covert operations called DB/Anabasis reported by Michael Isikoff and David Corn in their book Hubris:
"Over an intense forty-five day period beginning in late 2001, [two CIA operatives] cooked up an audacious plan. . . . It called for installing a small army of paramilitary CIA officers on the ground inside Iraq; for elaborate schemes to penetrate Saddam's regime; recruiting disgruntled military officers with buckets of cash; for feeding the regime disinformation . . . for disrupting the regime’s finances . . . for sabotage that included blowing up railroad lines. . . . It also envisioned staging a phony incident that could be used to start a war. A small group of Iraqi exiles would be flown into Iraq by helicopter to seize an isolated military base near the Saudi border. They then would take to the airwaves and announce a coup was under way. If Saddam responded by flying troops south, his aircraft would be shot down by US fighter planes patrolling the no-fly zones established by U.N. edict after the first Persian Gulf War. A clash of this sort could be used to initiate a full-scale war. On February 16, 2002, President Bush signed covert findings authorizing the various elements of Anabasis. The leaders of the congressional intelligence committees -- including Porter Goss, a Republican, and Senator Bob Graham, a Democrat -- were briefed. 'The idea was to create an incident in which Saddam lashes out' [said CIA operative John McGuire]. If all went as planned, 'you'd have a premise for war: we've been invited in.'"
A White House staffer was instructed in 2003 to forge a letter that could be used to tie Hussein to al Qaeda as well as to forge letters smearing vocal opponents of invasion. Other information tying Hussein to al Qaeda consisted largely of claims fed to a torture victim. Evidence of biological weapons came from a German informant identified as a heavy drinker with mental breakdowns, not psychologically stable, "crazy," and "probably a fabricator." Evidence for nuclear weapons rested heavily on a forged letter, rejected as a forged letter by the CIA. There was also a claim re aluminum tubes that was rejected by the Energy Department and the State Department and even by the military until it contracted out to a couple of hacks in Central Virginia who were willing to say what was needed.
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller concluded that "In making the case for war, the Administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even nonexistent."
Clearly Rockefeller is jumping to a conclusion, and the more responsible people over at the Dallas Morning News know better.
Still, if you think there might be something to all of this, I recommend reading The 35 Articles of Impeachment and the Case for Prosecuting George W. Bush.
Laws clearly violated by George W. Bush include, among many others: The U.S. Constitution Article I, Sections 8, 9, Article II, Sections 1, 3, Article VI, and the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, the prohibition on covert propaganda, Title 2 U.S. Code Section 194, Title 18 U.S. Code Sections 4, 371, 1341, 1346, 1385, 2340A, 2441, The War Powers Act, the United Nations Charter Chapter 1 Article 2 Section 3, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the Hague Convention of 1899, Joint Resolution 114 Section 3, Additional Protocol I to Geneva Conventions, the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2008 Section 1222, the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Third Geneva Convention, the International Covenant on Human Rights Articles 7, 10, the Convention Against Torture, the Optional Protocol to the Fourth Geneva Convention on Rights of the Child, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Stored Communications Act.
But who's counting?
By David Swanson
I'm honored to have accepted the position of Secretary of Peace in the newly formed Green Shadow Cabinet. Of course, I cannot contrast my positions with those of the actual Secretary of Peace, as the United States has no such position.
There is a Secretary of War, although that title was changed to Secretary of Defense 66 years ago. It was changed the same year George Orwell wrote his masterpiece, 1984, in which he suggested that language is sometimes used as a disguise. In fact, ever since the War Department became the Defense Department, its business has had less than ever to do with defense and more than ever to do with promoting the use of war-making as an instrument of national policy. President Dwight Eisenhower observed and warned of this worsening situation 52 years ago in one of the most prescient but least heeded (even by Eisenhower) warnings since Cassandra told the Trojans to be wary of giant horses.
There is a Secretary of State, but the State Department has come to work arm-in-arm with the Defense Department, marketing weaponry to foreign governments, building coalitions for wars, imposing deadly sanctions as preludes to wars, presenting bogus arguments for wars at the United Nations, and holding the world's governments accountable for human rights abuses based less on the extent of the abuses than on the governments' relationships with the Pentagon. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and Israel don't have greater civil liberties and popular democratic rule than Iran; the State Department just acts as if they do.
Our entire government claims to be for peace, but it has become common to state one's support for peace, and then qualify it with the assurance that one is not against any wars. This is usually meant to convey understanding or affection for members of the U.S. military. But you can respect people while condemning what they do. If our understanding and affection are broadened to include Afghans and Pakistanis and Yemenis, then we are obliged to oppose what the War Department is doing to them. Supporting "peace on earth" in December, or peace in our hearts, or peace through war is not enough. We need to be working for peace -- the absence of war -- year round.
We invest roughly a trillion dollars in war preparations every year, roughly half of federal discretionary spending, roughly half of world military spending. With no credible enemy in sight, and with no beneficial war observable in our history, great quantities of fear-mongering and much beautification of history are required to get us to tolerate this. The Pentagon is investing $65 million of our money in a Vietnam Commemoration Project aimed at making that war look less horrible than it was.
A University of Massachusetts study found that investment in education or infrastructure or green energy or even in tax cuts for working people produces significantly more jobs than does the same investment in the military. As tiny and much-exaggerated cuts to the military may soon actually materialize, we should take the opportunity to begin a conversion process. We can retool and retrain and convert from a war industry to a peace industry without anyone having to suffer in the process, and with money to spare.
And if we take away the idea of justifiable killing in war, and if we continue to eliminate the death penalty from additional states, we may begin to move our culture in a direction that helps bring our epidemic of violence at home under control as well. That could be a project for a Department of Peace. It's not that some other department couldn't do it. But thus far, none is.
David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org andhttp://warisacrime.org and works for http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter:@davidcnswanson and FaceBook.
|David Swanson||Secretary of Peace||Foreign Affairs|
|Leah Bolger||Secretary of Defense||Foreign Affairs|
|Ann Wright||Secretary of State||Foreign Affairs|
|Harvey Wasserman||Secretary of Energy||Ecology|
|Bruce Gagnon||Secretary of Space||Ecology|
|George Paz Martin||Peace Ambassador||Foreign Affairs|
|David McReynolds||Peace Advisor to the President||Foreign Affairs|
|Daniel Shea||Veteran's Affairs: Chemical Exposure||General Welfare|
Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, has a new book that should be required reading for Congress members, journalists, war supporters, war opponents, Americans, non-Americans -- really, pretty much everybody. The new book is called Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield.
Of course, Scahill is not suggesting that the world should be a battlefield. He's reporting on how the Bush and Obama White Houses have defined and treated it as such.
The phrase "dirty wars" is a little less clear in meaning. Scahill is a reporter whose chronological narrative is gripping and revealing but virtually commentary-free. Any observations on the facts related tend to come in the form of quotations from experts and those involved. So, there isn't anywhere in the book that explicitly explains what a dirty war is.
The focus of the book is on operations that were once more secretive than they are today: kidnapping, rendition, secret-imprisonment, torture, and assassination. "This is a story," reads the first sentence of the book, "about how the United States came to embrace assassination as a central part of its national security policy." It's a story about special, elite, and mercenary forces operating under even less Congressional or public oversight than the rest of the U.S. military, a story about the Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA, and not about the "shock and awe" bombing of Baghdad or the activities of tens of thousands of soldiers occupying Iraq or Afghanistan.
The type of war recounted is variously identified in the book as dirty, dark, black, dark-side, small, covert, black-ops, asymmetric, secret, twilight, and -- in quotation marks -- "smart." At one point, Scahill describes the White House, along with General Stanley McChrystal, as beginning to "apply its emerging global kill list doctrine inside Afghanistan, buried within the larger, public war involving conventional U.S. forces." But part of Scahill's story is how, in recent years, something that had been considered special, secretive, and relatively unimportant has come to occupy the focus of the U.S. military. In the process, it has lost some of its stigma as well as its secretiveness. Scahill refers to some operations as "not so covert." It's hard to hide a drone war that is killing people by the thousands. Secret death squad night raids that are bragged about in front of the White House Press Corps are not so secret.
By T. Forsyth, Rochester Indymedia
On April 11, 2013, Rochester Indymedia interviewed anti-war organizer, journalist, and blogger David Swanson who will be going to Syracuse, NY on April 26-28th for the “Resisting Drones, Global War and Empire" convergence. (See the FaceBook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/540569232649914/?ref=22.) David runs the website David Swanson dot org and writes, in a coalition effort, on War Is A Crime dot org. Currently, he works for Roots Action dot org and Veterans For Peace.
In this interview, David talks about his entry into the peace movement, the abolition of war, the sequester, and North Korea, among other topics.
Either we're gonna stop investing in billionaires, bombers, and the war machine, and start investing in people or we're headed for absolute disaster, be it climate disaster, nuclear disaster, or other military and economic and environmental collapse. We have to change course.
For more about the upcoming, anti-drone "Resisting Drones, Global War and Empire" convergence in Syracuse, NY, please go to Upstate Drone Action dot org.
Tom Loudon is the co-director of the Friendship Office of the Americas and former executive secretary of the Commission of Truth in Honduras. He says that following the 2009 coup Honduras has spiraled into becoming the most dangerous country on earth, with much of the violence funded by the U.S. State Department, and with that Department clearly being less than forthcoming with the U.S. Congress or the public.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
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By Helen Jaccard and David Swanson, http://warisacrime.org/vieques
Ten years ago May 1, the people of Vieques, Puerto Rico and their supporters from around the world defeated the most powerful military machine ever, through mass civil disobedience and without firing a single shot. On May 1, 2003 the bombing stopped and the bases were officially closed. People from all over the world supported the struggle on Vieques, and the activists and residents have an incredible victory to celebrate.
There were decades of resistance, civil disobedience and arrests. But those hoping and laying the groundwork for greater resistance were given an opportunity on April 19, 1999, when a U.S. Marines pilot missed his target and killed civilian security guard David Sanes Rodriguez. That spark lit a fire of nonviolent resistance that brought together Viequenses, Puerto Ricans, and supporters from the United States and around the world. A campaign of non-violent civil resistance that began in 1999 lasted four years, including a year-long occupation of the bombing range, and saw over 1,500 people arrested. The Navy was forced to close the bombing range on May 1, 2003. Peace loving people had won most of the first of their demands for the island: demilitarization.
A huge commemoration is planned in Vieques for the anniversary from May 1 – 4, 2013.
Beautiful Vieques island is only 21 miles across and 5 miles wide, and 7 miles from the main island of Puerto Rico. It is home to about 9,300 people, as well as endangered turtle species, rare Caribbean plants and animals, bio-luminescent bays, and miles of what look like unspoiled beaches.
But crabs with three claws, grossly deformed fish laden with heavy metals, once-beautiful coral reefs, and beaches and seas that have been decimated by military activity tell a story of environmental disaster with huge health impacts on people, plants, and animals.
An incredible three-quarters of the island was appropriated in the 1940s and used by the U.S. Navy for bombing practice, war games, and dumping or burning old munitions. This was a terrible attack on an island municipality, one the United States was not at war with.
Now, Vieques Island, a paradise in trouble, is one of the largest superfund sites in the United States, together with its little sister island of Culebra, which took the brunt of the bombing until 1973, when the Culebra bombing range closed (also due to protests) and the bombing practice was transferred to Vieques.
In 2003, the Navy did not return the land to the people, but transferred its Vieques land to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates beaches that were never used for military activities.
Viequenses fear that keeping the U.S. Government in control of their lands could result in future re-militarization of the island. Residents aren't happy that their land has not been returned to them and that they are fined for staying on their land past sunset or collecting crabs -- a mainstay of their historic diet. There are also two military occupations of lands -- a ROTHR radar system and a communications area, and the people want these closed as well. You can add your name to Viequenses' demand for peace here.
For over 2,000 years people known as Taino inhabited Vieques, which they called Bieque. The Taino found and left behind them a paradise of fertile soil, fresh water, and trees. In 1493, the conquistadors arrived. In 1524, the Spanish killed every remaining resident. Vieques was then left uninhabited by humanity for 300 years, interrupted by a few British, French, and Spanish attempts to set up forts or destroy each other's efforts.
From 1823 into the 1900s, Vieques was used by the Spanish and French to grow sugar. English-speaking people of African origin, from nearby islands, were kept in slavery or the nearest thing to it, and forced to grow the sugar cane. They revolted in 1864 and 1874, and in the 1915 Sugar Strike. The United States took Puerto Rico from the Spanish in 1898 and made residents U.S. citizens in 1917. The depression of the 1930s, together with two hurricanes in 1932, brought on harder times than ever.
In 1939 the United States bought 26,000 of the 30,000 acres of land on Vieques from big sugar plantation owners. Living on that land were 10,000 to 12,000 workers who also raised crops to feed themselves. The U.S. Navy gave families $30 and one day's notice before bulldozing houses. Most people were left without means of subsistence, but many stubbornly refused to leave the island.
Carlos Prieta Ventura, a 51-year-old Viequense fisherman, says his father was 8-years-old in 1941 when the Navy told his family their house would be bulldozed whether or not they accepted the $30. Ventura says he has always resisted the Navy's efforts to force people off the island.
From 1941 to 2003, the U.S. military flew planes from aircraft carriers based on the main island of Puerto Rico dropping bombs over Vieques. Bombs "rained down," and you could feel the ground shake within the base, as one U.S. veteran told CNN. Bombs fell at all hours, all day, all week, all year, amounting to approximately a trillion tons of ordnance, much of which (some 100,000 items) lies unexploded on land and in the sea. Vieques was systematically poisoned by heavy metals, napalm, Agent Orange, depleted uranium, and who knows what all else that the Navy has not announced publicly -- having falsely denied using depleted uranium before finally admitting to it, and having dumped barrels of unknown toxic substances into the clear blue Caribbean.
The arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, and aluminum in the bombs are also found in hair samples of 80% of the people living on Vieques, who suffer at far higher rates than on the main island (and possibly anywhere else on earth) from cancer (30% higher than Puerto Rico), cirrhosis of the liver, kidney failure, hypertension (381%), diabetes (41%), birth defects, stillbirths, and miscarriages.
The impact of the U.S. occupation that began in 1941 was felt far more swiftly than cancer. According to Ventura, some 15,000 troops were routinely set loose on Vieques looking for booze and women. Women were dragged out of their homes and gang raped. A boy was killed by gang rape. Ventura says people had only a machete and a hole in the wall by the door where they could try to stab the Marines who would come to take women. A dozen people were killed over the years directly by the U.S. weapons testing. And the Navy banned fishermen from various areas, advising them to try food stamps instead. Fishermen attempted civil resistance actions, and many were arrested during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.
Lydia Ortiz, a Viequense who grew up in the small town of Esperanza, recalls the bombing: "A lot of houses had their roofs falling in and everything as a result of the vibrations from the bombs for many years. It was pretty nerve wracking because you never knew what was going to crash down in your house. We lived quite close to where the bombing was happening. When I was a child they were dropping bombs near me. In the school, you could hear the bombing. You couldn't even hear the teacher because of the noise. People were afraid to go anywhere near the base or the beach so it was very difficult for many years. It seems like just yesterday or only 5 or 6 years ago that the bombing stopped, even though it is really almost 10 years ago."
A celebration of the 10-year anniversary is indeed in order. We must remember victories as they have remarkable power to motivate others around the world.
But the Navy's presence and the environmental disaster it created continue to afflict Vieques today. The U.S. government has not cleaned up the poisons and bombs and continues to use practices that further endanger the people. There is no bomb explosion chamber on the island. The United States has disposed of what unexploded bombs it has disposed of by blowing them up, further spreading the contaminants that are killing the people of the island.
There is also no hospital on the island, few ferries to the island, few and overpriced airplanes, a handful of taxis and public vans, and very limited tourist facilities. There is no college or university, and very few jobs of any kind. Business licenses are issued in San Juan and require bribes. Viequenses' families are ravaged by cancer, but also by illiteracy, unemployment, violent crime, and teen pregnancy. All of the water -- like all electricity -- comes in a pipe from the main island. Two of the residents said that the one resort on Vieques sometimes uses all the water. Seven thousand Viequenses sued the U.S. government over their health problems, but the U.S. Supreme court refused to hear the case.
With very little land available for farming, Vieques, like all of Puerto Rico, imports almost all of its food. Some people have become so desperate that they gather old munitions to sell for a little money to someone who will melt the metal for aluminum cans. But heavy metals and depleted uranium endanger the metal gatherers and whoever later drinks from the cans.
Presidential candidate Obama wrote to the Governor of Puerto Rico in 2008: "We will closely monitor the health of the people of Vieques and promote appropriate remedies to health conditions caused by military activities conducted by the U.S. Navy on Vieques." But that promise remains unfulfilled.
Robert Rabin Siegal of the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques writes in a letter to President Barack Obama,
"Although I cannot claim the Navy and military toxics caused my cancer, you don't have to be a quantum physicist to understand how decades of exposure to heavy metals in the food chain, air, water and land, combined with the socio-economic pressures from the loss of two thirds of the island’s lands, would clearly contribute to high cancer rates. The Navy dropped radioactive uranium projectiles here, we believe, in large quantities, in preparation for military actions in the Balkans and the Middle East. The list of dangerous chemical components from munitions dropped on Vieques is extensive, as is the number of illnesses they cause.
"Mr. President: you received the Nobel Peace Prize; we demand peace for Vieques. An island and people used to protect U.S. interests since WWII, forced to sacrifice its land, economic prosperity, tranquility and health, deserves at least the hope of peace for this and future generations."
". . . A handful of powerful US based corporations have pocketed most of the more than 200 million dollars spent on clean-up over the past decade. We urge you to order technology transference to promote the creation of Puerto Rican and Viequense companies to carry out the clean-up of Vieques, thereby transforming that process into part of the economic reconstruction of the island as well as assuring community confidence in this crucial element in the healing of Vieques."
People anywhere in the world can take one minute to sign a petition to the Pentagon, Congress, and the White House in support of justice, at long last, for Vieques:
"I join the people of Vieques in demanding:
"Health Care -- Provide a modern hospital with cancer treatment facilities, early screening and timely treatment for all diseases. Create a research facility to determine the relationship between military toxins and health. Provide just compensation to people suffering poor health as a result of the Navy's activities.
"Cleanup -- Fund a complete, rapid cleanup of the land and surrounding waters, still littered by thousands of bombs, grenades, napalm, Agent Orange, depleted uranium and other explosives left by the Navy. Cease the ongoing open detonation of unexploded ordnance. Guarantee community participation in the cleanup; train Viequenses as managers, administrators, and scientists, and foster Viequense companies to do the work.
"Sustainable Development -- Support the Master Plan for Sustainable Development of Vieques which promotes agriculture, fishing, eco-tourism, small guest houses, housing, collective transportation, archaeology, and historic and environmental research, among other things.
"Demilitarization and Return of the Land -- Close the remaining military installations still occupying 200 acres of Vieques. Return to the people of Vieques all land still under the control of the U.S. Navy and the federal government."
For extensive documentation, see the attachments below and others at this link.
Helen Jaccard is Chair of the Veterans For Peace -- Environmental Cost of War and Militarism Working Group. She spent October, 2012 in Vieques doing research about the environmental and health effects of the military activities. Her previous article about Sardinia, Italy can be found at http://www.warisacrime.org/sardinia .
Remarks for conference on Building Bridges and Creating the Beloved Community, April 13, 2013
Sponsored by Maryland United for Peace and Justice, http://www.mupj.org
By David Swanson
Several years ago a bunch of peace activists were eating in a restaurant in Crawford, Texas, and we noticed George W. Bush. He was actually a cardboard version of George W. Bush like you might get your photo with in front of the White House, but he was almost as lifelike as the real thing. We picked him up and stood him in the corner of the restaurant, facing the corner. We asked him to stay there until he understood what he'd done wrong. For all I know he's still standing there.
Of course, a piece of cardboard wasn't going to really understand what it had done wrong, and the real president probably wouldn't have either. The benefit of standing him in the corner, if there was one, was for everybody else in the restaurant. And the benefit of impeaching or prosecuting Bush for his crimes and abuses would have been, and still would be, for the world -- not for him and not for those who are angry at him. We shouldn't imagine that vengeance would be very satisfying. Not when you punish a man. And not when that man destroys the nation of Iraq. Wishing others ill does ill to yourself. It cannot be truly satisfying.
Twelve days from now I'll be down in Dallas for the dedication of the Bush Library, or rather the Bush Lie Bury, a half-billion-dollar project aimed at burying lies. We'll be there to unearth what should not be forgotten.
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Now, I'm not so simple-minded as to believe that Bush ran the entire country on his own. I know how Dick Cheney manipulated him. I know that if people wanted to protest Cheney's disastrous role they could find him living near here at 1126 Chain Bridge Road in McLean, Virginia, as well as 7879 Fuller Road in St. Michael's, Maryland. Not that I would ever, ever recommend holding massive noisy protests at either of those homes.
I also realize that there's a permanent military-industrial-corporate-bankster complex. I know the Democrats controlled the Senate that voted for the war on Iraq. I know the corporate media spoon-fed the war lies to my friends and neighbors. But we should be holding all of these parties accountable, not excusing the man who was seated in virtually a royal throne just because he had a lot of help and encountered a massive outpouring of obedience.
When we tried to impeach Bush, people accused us of being cruel and vengeful. I denied it. I said that I was concerned about precedents being set for the future. But the fact is that a lot of people in the movement enjoyed being cruel and vengeful, and at moments I did too. It's great fun to point to a leader as the embodiment of evil policies. It humanizes structural wrongs.
We are actually up against the very same interlocking evils that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said we were up against when he spoke at Riverside Church 46 years ago last week. We're facing militarism, racism, and extreme materialism. But how do you take those and stand them in the corner? How do you mock their funny accent or their bad grammar? How do you throw your shoes at them?
We had a lot of fun denouncing Bush as an idiot and a liar. We had so much fun that we forgot he was an idiot when we were calling him a liar. Don't get me wrong: he knew perfectly well that he was lying. That's been completely established. This is a man who told Tony Blair he'd like to paint an airplane with a U.N. logo, fly it low over Iraq, get it shot at, and thereby start a war. This is a man who moments later walked out, together with Tony Blair, to the White House Press Corpse and declared his intention to avoid war if at all possible. This is a man who was asked after the invasion why he'd made the claims he made about weapons, and who replied, "What's the difference?"
But here's what I do mean to say: every leader who launches or continues a war does so using lies. Always. Without exception. But some of them tell their lies better than an idiot. Some of them don't pick obvious lies or lies that can be swiftly exposed by events.
Not everyone caught onto this. Some opposed the war on Iraq without opposing the war machine that generates new wars. Some even started calling Iraq the bad war and Afghanistan the good war, as if there can be a good war. Some imagined that because Iraq was based on lies and launched against the will of the United Nations, Afghanistan must have been based on truth and launched with a U.N. authorization. That was not the case. The U.N. approved of the occupation of Afghanistan two-months into it. That's how conquest has worked for millennia. Treaties and courts had been in place to pursue the prosecution of alleged 9-11 terrorists, and the Afghan government was open to such arrangements. Attacking the people of Afghanistan was not self-defense or moral or legal in any way, not even under the U.N. Charter, much less some of the stronger laws that we generally choose to ignore.
The Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, for example, bans all war. It is the product of a peace movement of our great grandparents that sought the elimination of war and has much to teach us.
We ought to have opposed the war on Iraq because it killed people. There's no better reason. But then we would have had to oppose all wars. They all kill people. It sounds so much more REASONABLE to oppose particular wars. Half of our neighbors work in the war industry. What about their jobs? North Korea may attack us at any moment. There are evil people in the world who want to kill us. Our government is pursuing economic and military policies that are sure to make them really, really want to kill us. Surely we can't oppose all war.
Well then, we needed to find a different reason to oppose the war on Iraq. And we found lots. And they were all bad ones. I'll give you four examples.
1. The war on Iraq was bad because Iraq had no weapons. What's wrong with that? Well, it implies that nations that do have weapons should be bombed. That would include our nation, by the way, above all others. But -- more immediately -- it would include Iran, which is being falsely accused of having weapons exactly as if that is grounds for bombing that country.
2. The war on Iraq was bad because Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11. This implies that if the government of Afghanistan had anything to do with even indirectly supporting anyone involved in 9-11, then the people of Afghanistan -- most of whom had never heard of 9-11 and still haven't -- should be bombed. The same logic is costing drone strike victims their lives by the thousands.
3. The war on Iraq was bad because it wasn't being won. This of course contributed to escalating the war in hopes of winning it, whatever that would have meant.
4. The war on Iraq was bad because it was a Republican Party war. This wasn't entirely true. It was also a position destined to create support for wars whenever a Democrat moved into the White House.
The argument for opposing little bits of militarism rather than the whole thing is that more people are likely to quickly join you. If you appeal to their patriotism or partisanship or religion or militarism but nudge them toward opposing one particular war for some tangential reason, well then maybe they'll be ever so slightly more likely to oppose the next war and the next war. I don't accept that argument.
For one thing, ill-informed as I think people are, I don't think they're stupid enough not to notice when I'm telling the truth and when I'm not -- when I'm actually making up excuses for a position that I hold for a different reason. I actually want wars ended because they kill people. If I claim to oppose just the Iraq War but not the Afghanistan War, what happens when the Iraq War ends and I shift to opposing the Afghanistan War? Who will take me seriously?
Also, if we don't tell the truth then people never find out how bad the wars are. But if they do find out how bad the wars are, then they oppose them along with us for all the right reasons, reasons that carry over to counter-recruitment and conversion -- that is, to keeping our kids from becoming cannon-fodder and converting our war industries to peace industries, which -- by the way -- produces more and better paying jobs for the same investment, not to mention greater happiness with one's career.
It's not easy to tell people how our wars really look while telling them that you support the troops and want to see wars waged with better strategies. Our wars are one-sided slaughters. U.S. deaths in Iraq were 0.3% of the deaths. Iraq lost a greater number of people and a greater percentage of its people than the U.S. lost in its civil war or World War II, or than Japan or France or England lost in World War II. Iraq lost millions of refugees, its education system, its health system, its entire society. The nation was destroyed. And a majority of Americans believe Iraq benefitted from the war while the United States suffered. We were happy year after year to see a majority of Americans say they wanted the war ended, but many of them were saying they wanted an act of generosity ended, not the war as it actually existed.
The trillions of dollars spent destroying Iraq and not rebuilding it could have been put to other uses. It could have eliminated world hunger. It could have saved many times the lives it was used to kill. But that would require real generosity, not just frustration that a war wasn't being managed well.
I was involved in working hard to make sure people knew Bush lied about Iraq. I'm pleased that a slim majority still says it knows that. I don't know how long that will last. But an overwhelming majority still believes some other war could be a good war.
Sitting on a train recently, I spoke to a young woman who told me she was studying dentistry and would be in the Air Force. Couldn't she be a dentist without the military, I asked? No, she answered, not without $200,000 in debt. Yes, I replied, but without the Air Force, we could have free colleges and no debts. No, she replied . . .
And, if you think for a moment, I know you'll know what she said next. It had nothing to do with the lies about Iraq, the financial cost of Iraq, the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq, or what war mongers the Republicans are. It had nothing to do with any of that. Think for a second, and you'll know.
She replied: if we didn't have the Air Force, North Korea would kill us.
Now, if you have a little education you probably realize that North Korea spends less than 1% of what the United States does on war preparations, that North Korea couldn't attack the United States without being completely obliterated, and that any nation on earth would scream angry threats if we pretended to drop nuclear bombs on it after having destroyed all of its cities, killed millions of its people, and threatened and antagonized it for over half a century through control of the military belonging to its former other half.
But if you'd just learned that the war on Iraq was a dumb war that cost too much, that nothing is more heroic than militarism, that even the peace movement should be led by soldiers, and that waving flags and valuing a particular 5% of humanity to a special degree are admirable values, where would you be?
There will always, always, always be another North Korea that's supposedly about to kill us. We don't need rapid-response fact corrections. We need citizens with some understanding of history, with knowledge of the Other 95%, with the capacity to resist terrorism-by-television, and capable of independent thought. To get there, we need a peace movement that moves us, at whatever pace it can, toward peace -- toward the popular demand for the absolute abolition of all war. And to get there we need to stop behaving like politicians.
Legislators have to compromise, and would have to compromise even if our government weren't so corrupted by money. We don't. Our unions and activist groups didn't have to ban the words "single payer" from rallies for the so-called "public option," thus pre-compromising and predictably ending up with nothing. We can let Congress do the compromising, but it will do it from where we begin. If we begin with self-censorship, we lose.
When Bill McKibben picks Bernie Sanders as his model, he's picking one of our better legislators. He shouldn't be picking any of them as a model for activism. Instead he should be looking to leaders of our civil rights movement, women's rights movement, labor, peace, and justice movements. He should be looking to activist models in Tunisia, Egypt, Spain, South Africa, South America, and Eastern Europe.
Activists' work is to speak the truth and nonviolently move the nation. Loyalty to political parties and officials is misplaced. Elections are relatively unimportant. We need teach-ins, sit-ins, boycotts, protests, marches, and direct actions and artwork and education of every variety. We have so much to do that elections ought not to be sitting anywhere near the top of the list, much less distracting people with something bordering on obsession.
I must have received emails from a dozen large organizations this week on the topic of Social Security with the message "This isn't what we voted for." They meant to say "This isn't what we want." They may have even meant to say "This isn't something we'll stand for." But they did vote for it in voting for President Barack Obama. We knew he would try to cut Social Security and now he's trying to. You may believe that backing some other candidate wouldn't have stopped him or would have been worse. But we have to recognize a certain incompleteness in a strategy that says, "We will vote for you no matter what, and please end the war and don't build the pipeline and don't pursue NAFTA on steroids in the Pacific and don't cut Social Security and don't prosecute whistleblowers and don't go through a list of men, women, and children every Tuesday and pick which ones to have murdered." Even when that strategy shifts to saying, "We voted for you and now we would really like you to end that war and stop building that pipeline and break off the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations and take back your proposal on Social Security and Medicare and free Bradley Manning and abandon the kill list and ground the drones," there's still something notably incomplete, at the very least, in such an approach.
President Obama has not killed the same number of people President Bush did. And President Bush gets some of the blame for having expanded the powers that Obama now abuses. But Obama has expanded those powers further still, and he too must take some of the blame for what all future president do now.
I helped draft about 70 articles of impeachment against Bush, from which Congressman Dennis Kucinich selected 35 and introduced them. I later looked through those 35 and found 27 that applied to President Obama, even though his own innovations in abusive behavior weren't on the list. Bush's lying Congress into war (not that Congress wasn't eager to play along) is actually a standard to aspire to now. When Obama went to war in Libya, against the will of Congress, he avoided even bothering to involve the first branch of our government.
When Bush locked people up or tortured them to death, he kept it as secret as he could. Obama -- despite radically expanding secrecy powers and persecuting whistleblowers -- does most of his wrongdoing wide out in the open. Warrantless spying is openly acknowledged policy. Imprisonment without trial is so-called law. Torture is a policy choice, and the choice these days is to outsource it. Murder is, however, the new torture. The CIA calls it "cleaner." And Americans tell pollsters that they oppose killing U.S. citizens but support killing non-U.S. citizens. And activists begin to focus on the danger to U.S. citizens, as if that were the strategic way to generate opposition.
President Obama runs through a list of men, women, and children to murder on Tuesdays, picks some, and has them murdered. We don't know this because of a whistleblower or a journalist. We know this because the White House wanted us to know it, and to know it before the election. Think about that. We moved from the pre-insanity state we were in circa 1999 to an age in which presidents want us to know they murder people. That was primarily the work of George W. Bush, and every single person who yawned, who looked away, who cheered, who was too busy, who said "it's more important to elect a new president than to keep presidential powers in check," or who said "impeachment would be traumatic" -- as if this isn't.
The war in Afghanistan is twice the size it was when Obama arrived, and we talk about it as if it's ending, even though they tell us it will continue for longer than most wars have taken from beginning to end. Military spending has risen in the Obama years. Foreign bases have expanded. The CIA has been given war making powers (and is being regularly protested just next door to Dick Cheney's house mentioned earlier). Special forces are operating in more countries. A new form of war, waged with drones, has been taken into new nations without any say from Congress or the U.N. or we the people. The Pentagon is moving into Africa in a major way.
And when we spend a trillion dollars a year on war preparations through various government departments, it's a banker bailout we never get back. Inequality of wealth in this country has been growing under Obama even faster than under Bush. The super-profitable, super-corrupt, and super-unaccountable war industry is part of the reason why. Any one of the 10 richest people in this country could set aside his income for one year and buy housing for every person who doesn't have housing. The poorest 47% of Americans own less than nothing. The poorest 62% of Americans own less than the richest 400 people. Only three nations on earth are more unequal than the land of the free and home of the suckered. The Wall Street crash reduced median wealth 66% for Latinos and 53% for African Americans. Dr. King said if we continued to spend more on war than on programs of social uplift we would approach spiritual death. The question now, these many years and wars later, is whether we can manage spiritual resurrection.
To do so, we'll need unity. We can't lack understanding for the student who goes into the military in order to become a dentist. We must appreciate the economic bind that we've all been put in. But that doesn't mean its wise to oppose cuts to Social Security by hyping the supposed "service" that veterans have done for us in wars. For one thing, just stop and consider where all the money is going that could lower the retirement age rather than increasing it. It's going to billionaires and the war machine. Glorifying the war machine is not a smart way to change that.
President Kennedy once wrote that war would continue until the conscientious objector had the prestige and honor that the soldier has now. Of course, soldiers would have to lose prestige as conscientious objectors and other resisters gain. The two cannot be honorable together. But opposing participation in the military is not the same thing as condemning any person who has done it. Most do it for economic, among other, reasons. I'm proud to be an associate (non-veteran) member of Veterans For Peace.
We also must separate the sin from the sinner when we consider employment in the weapons industry. When Congress funds a war machine that builds momentum for war, and does so for the stated reason of creating jobs, that's sociopathic. When someone with a family to feed takes one of those jobs, that's often a matter of survival. When the state of Maryland, even while banning the death penalty, forces Montgomery County to give millions of dollars to Lockheed Martin, that's pure corruption. But Lockheed's employees can't be expected to all just quit without alternative employment.
Our goal should be economic conversion from making weapons to making windmills and every other useful product. Bills to begin coordinating this at the national level made progress in Congress from the 60s through the 80s but haven't been heard of in recent years. One opportunity to begin this at the local level is anywhere that war jobs are actually lost during the much exaggerated current cuts, if any. Localities and states are starting to create commissions to lobby for more war money. Instead they should be studying the advantages of conversion.
The advantages include: more and better paying jobs, significantly so according to a study from the University of Massachusetts. The labor movement, which has been rather weak on opposing wars for many years in this country, should be opposing war spending even for purely economic reasons. Even tax cuts for working people produces more jobs than military spending. The only way you can cut military spending and get fewer jobs is if you give the money to that crowd we call the Job Creators.
Another advantage is, of course, safety. The Department of Defense endangers us. De-funding it is in fact in the interests of what they call national security. But there are many more advantages.
Civil liberties groups have done heroic work in this country in recent years opposing warrantless spying, lawless imprisonment, torture, assassination, and other atrocities generated by military spending. These groups ought to heed President Eisenhower's warning and oppose the root of the problem. Some of them are not just refraining from opposing war spending. They're actually supporting wars, even while opposing various evils that wars involve. We need to work on this with people concerned about civil liberties. When we recently passed a resolution against drones in Charlottesville, Va., it opened up a discussion about drone use abroad as well. I recommend that. I'll be glad to talk with you about how to do it. Also please be at the U.S. Senate hearing on drones a week from Tuesday morning if you can.
The School of the Americas Watch has not shut down the school, but has persuaded various nations to stop sending students to be trained in torture and murder at Fort Benning, Georgia. Sometimes our best allies are abroad. Powerful movements against U.S. military bases in the Philippines, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Italy, and elsewhere need our help, as we need theirs.
The torture techniques used by our death squads and proxies abroad are also developed in U.S. prisons. We lead the world in weapons sales, war spending, and incarceration. And these are connected. Taking on the prison industrial complex and the military industrial complex together is the most likely way for us to take on militarism, racism, and extreme materialism without dividing our strength.
Gun control should be holistic and international. While the NRA and the White House debate local gun restrictions, they join hands to oppose international ones. But selling weapons to the world, against some of which U.S. soldiers will certainly later fight, spreads the idea of righteous violence. Peace activists should work for gun control at home, but should take the opportunity to make people more aware of U.S. weapons sales abroad, and the kinds of governments those weapons are sold to.
Fox News' Sean Hannity says it's OK for basketball coaches to hit players because, "My father hit me with a belt and I turned out OK." I suppose we can each judge for ourselves how he turned out. Violence in any aspect of our lives can help to legitimate it in others. Hannity has not distinguished himself as an opponent of wars.
Environmental groups have largely, but not entirely, shied away from opposing our greatest consumer of oil, a machine that fights wars for oil and uses the oil to fight wars, poisoning our nation and others with chemicals and radiation to an extent that would rank such abuses above 9/11 or Pearl Harbor if foreigners were responsible. The anti-bases movement is slowly making connections, as in Jeju Island, South Korea, between environmental activism and peace activism. Such alliances can only make us stronger.
Immigrants rights can sometimes be thought of as "refugee rights." Little produces immigration the way wars do. And denying rights to people whose country your own military has ravaged is beyond the rudeness of most people, once made aware of it. Immigrants rights and peace are causes that must unite.
Education and housing and green energy infrastructure advocates, advocates for all good programs, have two possible sources of funding. We can tax the plutocrats. Or we can scale back a war machine currently as large as the rest of the world's combined. Practically speaking, we'll have to do both. The war machine generates plutocrats, and vice versa. About half of our tax dollars on Monday will go to war funding. There are funds that you can put that money into instead, an approach that some of you might want to investigate.
The Pentagon just announced that it went $10 billion over budget on killing children in Afghanistan. Oops. Meanwhile, Congress has manufactured the pretense that the U.S. Postal Service is billions of dollars in the hole. We are a nation that can afford services we don't dare imagine, and our government still hopes to privatize the post office. Instead of having no mail on Saturdays, I, for one, would prefer to wars on Saturdays.
The Military Industrial Complex is everything Eisenhower feared, and then some. But if every interest group and individual for whom it is a major stumbling block were to unite against it, and in favor of conversion to a peace economy, the Pentagon's walls would come crumbling down. Opposing militarism is not a separate little campaign, but ought to be part of a comprehensive plan for justice. Instead of shouting "Jobs Not Cuts," we should be demanding cuts to the military and to highways and to banks and to corporate welfare, and expanded investment in all the things we want and the things we don't dare dream of but can easily afford.
By direct democracy, Americans would reduce military spending right now. No persuasion is needed. But a movement of dedicated activists intent on enacting a major conversion program will require stronger and deeper public opinion than now exists.
We're up against belief in the possibility of a good war, and myths about past wars being good and just. We have to correct those myths and point out the altered state of the world that makes them unhelpful anyway. Weaponry, communications, and understanding of the tools of nonviolence have changed. War is no longer useful, even if you imagine it ever was. What we need is a movement for the abolition of war, and one place to look for inspiration might be to the original abolitionists, to Thomas Clarkson and Olaudah Equiano, and those who launched a movement that built pressure to end the British slave trade and slavery -- a movement that gained, of course, from rebellions by those enslaved in Jamaica and what we now call Haiti.
If you're like me, there are some things you would like to abolish. My list includes weapons, fossil fuel use, plutocracy, corporate personhood, corporate nationhood, health insurance corporations, poverty wages, poverty, homelessness, factory farming, prisons, the drug war, the death penalty, nuclear energy, the U.S. Senate, the electoral college, gerrymandering, electronic voting machines, murder, rape, child abuse, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and the Washington Post. I could go on. I bet you can think of at least one institution you believe we'd be better off without. I put war around the top of the list.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries in England, activists invented committees with chapters and newsletters, posters, speaking tours, book tours, petitioning, boycotts, theatrical props, and investigative journalism. Most people couldn't vote, and voting had nothing to do with it. Slavery was the norm across the world, and activists faced defeat after defeat for many years. They didn't quit. They demanded rights -- and not for themselves, but for others unlike them and for the most part unseen by them. Britons were familiar with having their sons kidnapped and enslaved by the British navy, but they applied that understanding to others in other circumstances. We can do the same. We see disasters in New Orleans or New York. We can begin to see them in Baghdad and Kabul.
Frederick Douglass went to England to meet with Clarkson. Douglass worked for the abolition of slavery here, but later remarked, "When I ran away from slavery, it was for myself; when I advocated emancipation, it was for my people; but when I stood up for the rights of woman, self was out of the question, and I found a little nobility in the act." Perhaps we too can act on behalf of others. Perhaps we can expand concern for U.S. citizens killed by drones to human beings killed by drones.
Douglass also said this: "War is among the greatest calamities incident to the lives of nations. They arrest the progress of civilization, corrupt the sources of morality, destroy all proper sense of the sacredness of human life, perpetuate the national hate, and weigh down the necks of after coming generations with the burdens of debt."
When Britain and France went to war, the anti-slavery movement stalled. When the global war on the globe started, progressive movements in the United States stalled. The idea that North Korea will kill us all aids the idea that we should cut Social Security and get started on killing ourselves. Permanent war means a permanent impediment to progress. We have the power to abolish war and to put a trillion dollars a year to better use.
"And these words shall then become," wrote Percy Bysshe Shelley,
"Like Oppression's thundered doom
"Ringing through each heart and brain,
"Heard again - again - again -
"Rise like Lions after slumber
"In unvanquishable number -
"Shake your chains to earth like dew
"Which in sleep had fallen on you -
"Ye are many - they are few."
David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.
April 26-28! Resisting Drones, Global War and Empire:
A Convergence to Action!
Three Days to Join the Resistance! Three Days of networking, learning, sharing and preparing to build a national movement! Three Days to say NO! to Drones. NO! to Global Wars. NO! to Empire.
At The SouthWest Community Center 401 South Avenue, Syracuse, NY.
6:00-9:30 PM, Dinner, Welcome and Introductions, Music and Celebration with Charley King
8:00 AM, Registration Opens, Continental Breakfast
9:00 AM, Plenary Panel with
Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative NonViolence,
Bruce Gagnon of Global Network and
David Swanson of War is a Crime [dot] org.
10:00 AM-12:45 PM, Workshops Session 1 & 2
1:00-2:00 PM, Lunch Break
2:00-4:45 PM, Workshops Session 3 &4
Dinner on your own
7 PM, Keynote Speaker: TBD
Followed by: Music and Celebration with Colleen Kattau and her band, 'Some Guys'
8:00 - 11 AM
8:30 AM, Peace Action NY Annual Meeting
9:00 AM, Final preparation for Demonstration
Presenters include:Colonel Ann Wright, David Swanson of WarIsaCrime.org, Kevin Zeese and Dr. Margaret Flowers of Occupy Washington, Joe Lombardo of United National Antiwar Coalition, Debra Sweet of World Can't Wait, Nick Mottern of Know Drones, Rafia Zakaria, Dr. Horace Campbell, Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative NonViolence, Bruce Gagnon of Space 4 Peace, Steven Downs of Project SALAM
Topics include:The War on Terror Under Obama, Full Spectrum Dominance, Ending the Fabrication of the War on Terror: Lessons from Africa, Mass Action as a Strategy for the AntiWar Movement, The Human Face of War, International Law and Restoring the Law to the People, Activism from Spirit, Veterans Reflecting on the Justification "But Drones Save Lives . . .", Resistance Through Art, Civil Resistance in Action, Networking, Community Organizing Against Drones, Organizing on Campus
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
Embed on your own site with this code:
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Maryland United for Peace and Justice, Inc.
Bringing peace, justice, and environmental groups and individuals together since 1985.
28th Annual Maryland Peace, Justice and the Environment Conference
"Building Bridges; Creating the Beloved Community"
Dedicated to the memory of Founding Member Bert Donn and Activist Bob Auerbach
Friday and Saturday, April 12th and 13th, 2013
Turner Memorial AME Church
7201 16th Place
Maryland United for Peace and Justice/Institute For Positive Action
and a host of other groups, listed below
The Rev. Howard Thurman, Martin Luther King’s mentor and spiritual advisor, wrote about and lived into “the Beloved Community.” This conference will consider ways in which we, as a diverse peoples, can build the bridges that can create his Beloved Community.
Friday, April 12
CO-SPONSORS (at press time):
Adelphi Friends Meeting
We also thank the following for their generous support:
Thank you all for making this conference possible!
The phrase "adding insult to injury" is no doubt being redefined in several online dictionaries this week following news of a U.S. effort to sneak one of our dumber religions (and that's saying something) into the minds of Vietnamese suffering from Agent Orange.
If you're not familiar with Agent Orange, here's a short summary from Veterans For Peace:
"Three million Vietnamese suffer the effects of chemical defoliants used by the United States during the Vietnam War. In order to deny food and protection to those deemed to be 'the enemy,' the U.S. defoliated the forests of Vietnam with the deadly chemicals Agent Orange, White, Blue, Pink, Green and Purple. Agent Orange, which was contaminated with trace amounts of TCDD dioxin -- the most toxic chemical known to science -- has disabled and sickened soldiers, civilians and several generations of their offspring on two continents. Millions of Vietnamese are still affected by this deadly poison and tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers. It has caused birth defects in hundreds of thousands of second and third generation children in Vietnam and the U.S."
And here's the latest news from the Associated Press:
"THAI BINH, Vietnam (AP) -- North Vietnamese army veteran Nguyen Anh Quoc grimaces as he forces down the last of the 35 vitamins he takes each morning. After decades of suffering from illnesses he believes were caused by exposure to Agent Orange, he is putting his faith in a regime advocated by the Church of Scientology.
"'I have to take them,' the 62-year-old said at a treatment center established with the help of a Scientology-funded group. 'They will clean up my body.'
"The center, a converted mushroom farm in northern Vietnam, owes as much to Scientology's desire to expand around the world, away from scandal in the United States, as it does to pressure in Vietnam to try to help aging veterans still suffering from the effects of war.
"Many medical experts regard the treatment -- a 25-day vitamin and sauna regime -- as junk medicine or even dangerous. But for now at least, it has found fertile ground here.
"The Vietnamese advocacy group overseeing the program in Thai Binh province wants to offer it to all 20,000 people suffering from ailments blamed on dioxins in Agent Orange. U.S. airplanes sprayed up to 12 million gallons of the defoliant over the country during the Vietnam War to strip away vegetation used as cover by Vietnamese soldiers.
"The advocacy group, which has the implicit support of the government, has almost completed a two-story accommodation block for patients and is raising funds for a much larger complex, with 15 more saunas than the five it currently has.
"'I have seen so many desperate families that their tears have dried up,' said Nguyen Duc Hanh, the head of local branch of the Vietnam Association of Agent Orange Victims in Thai Binh. 'I don't know what the scientists say about its effectiveness, but the patients say it improves their health. They should be able to experience it before they die.'
"Scientologists believe the regime, which includes massive consumption of vitamins, four-hour sauna sessions and morning runs, can 'sweat out' toxins stored in body fat. There are no peer-reviewed studies to back this claim. . . .
". . . In 1991, Scientology offered 'rundown' treatments in Russia to people suffering symptoms related to radiation exposure following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. The church still refers to the mission in its online literature, claiming numerous successes, but Russia banned it from performing medical treatment in the country in 1996.
"Last year, a French court upheld fraud charges and fined the church $791,000 for its efforts to persuade people to take the 'rundown.'"
I know: let's sell it to the Vietnamese! It's not as if we've done them enough harm yet!
Why did the peace movement of the middle of the last decade not grow larger? Why did it shrink away? Why is it struggling now?
As has been documented, a huge factor in the shrinking away was partisan delusion. You put a different political party's name on the wars and they become good wars.
But that also means that what you had was a peace movement that believed in the possibility of good wars. In fact, much of it believed that Iraq was a bad war and Afghanistan a good war. Many people even went out of their way to display their "reasonableness" by declaring Afghanistan a good war without actually examining the war on Afghanistan; this was imagined to be a strategic way to prevent or scale back or end the war on Iraq.
Of course, when the bad war ends, and all that's left is the good war, those who are actually motivated by opposition to war must shift to opposing the former good war as the current bad war. And why would you listen to anyone who did that?
Many, of course, opposed the war on Afghanistan until the invasion of Iraq, and then switched to talking almost exclusively about Iraq. Afghanistan was labeled the good war once Iraq had happened, just as World War II was labeled the good war once Vietnam had happened. Our beliefs regarding contrasts between Iraq and Afghanistan are mostly false. The invasion of Afghanistan was no more legal or moral or honest or U.N.-authorized than the invasion of Iraq. The occupation of Afghanistan is no less of a vicious one-sided slaughter of helpless people who wished us no ill than the occupation of Iraq was.
But we aren't in the habit of talking about wars as one-sided slaughters of innocent men, women, and children. And we aren't in the habit precisely because that is the essential feature that all of our wars share in common.
When we chose to oppose the war on Iraq without opposing all wars, we were obliged to find a reason why. We were obliged to oppose the war . . .
· because Iraq had no weapons (as if a government's possessing weapons were grounds for its people being bombed -- a notion that could cost Iran dearly),
· or because Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11 (as if a government's association with a group affiliated with a party having once met with a wing of an organization connected to a group involved in 9-11 were grounds for being bombed -- a notion now costing the lives of drone strike victims by the thousands, not to mention sustaining the war on Afghanistan),
· or because the war in Iraq wasn't being won (a notion that helped escalate that war and later the occupation of Afghanistan as well),
· or because -- in fact -- the war on Iraq was a Republican Party war (as of course it was not; just check who controlled the U.S. Senate at the time -- remember the Senate, that body that long prevented President Obama from doing any of the wonderful things he'd like to have done in his secret, if not imaginary, heart of hearts? And look at what happens to opposition to Republican wars when a Democrat is put on the throne.)
A forthcoming book by Paul Chappell is even better than all of his other ones, and I highly recommend it, but it's marred by advocacy for appealing to people's patriotism and religion. I attended a peace conference recently at which some of the speakers claimed that the movement against the war on Iraq had been more strategic than that against the war on Vietnam, and had done so by appealing to patriotism, waving flags, avoiding disrespect for the U.S. military, and not opposing war in general. For several years now, peace groups have been preaching that it would be unstrategic, if not racist, to oppose President Obama. We must oppose Obama's wars, but not him or his political party, as that might turn people off. So we're told.
Often it's considered humble and inclusive to reach people "where they are" and nudge them ever so slightly toward where you'd like them to be. And most of our country is saturated with militarism. But if a peace-in-certain-circumstances movement does manage to turn out a crowd for a march or two, what remains behind when the marches are over? Certainly not an understanding of what's wrong with militarism. Not even an understanding of what the war was that was marched against.
A majority of Americans believes the war on Iraq benefitted Iraq but hurt the United States. A majority wanted that war ended, year after year, for several years, many motivated by selfishness -- by a desire to cease bestowing such philanthropy on the undeserving and ungrateful people of Iraq. A majority believes President George W. Bush lied the nation into the war, but not that all wars are begun with similar lies. And almost no one in the United States understands what was done to Iraq, that more Iraqis and a higher percentage of Iraqis were killed than were Americans in our civil war, or British or French or Japanese or Americans in World War II, or that three times that many Iraqis were made refugees, that towns and neighborhoods and populations were wiped out, infrastructure destroyed and never yet rebuilt, cancer and birth defects at record levels, civil rights worse than under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, a nation devastated as totally as almost any other in history.
We opposed this without understanding a fraction of it, without educating others about it, and without displaying disrespect for the U.S. military. Is that an accomplishment to be truly proud of? How can counter-recruitment efforts possibly succeed in limiting the military's supply of cannon fodder if the peace movement doesn't disrespect the military? I think the simplemindedness here is not in the public we're so arrogantly trying to manipulate gently, but in ourselves. When we tried to impeach George W. Bush it was not with ill-will toward him, but with an eye on the future behavior of future presidents. When we treat membership in the U.S. military as respectable, how can we simultaneously convey to high school students the disgust we will feel for their action, should they choose to enlist? I said for their action, not for them. Are we not capable of recognizing the economic bind students are in and nonetheless stigmatizing participation in mass-murder? Or are we perhaps not even capable of recognizing mass-murder for what it is?
Here's a secret about people in this country: they don't support mass murder. Here's another: they're not stupid. So, when you force them to be aware that their government is committing mass murder and glorifying it, they get upset, angry, and often energized to make a change. And when you talk to them honestly, they know you're being honest even if they don't agree with you at first. And when you respectfully disagree, they are able to notice whether your position makes any sense. So, if you oppose wars because you oppose killing people, you have to explain to everyone you can that you oppose wars because they kill people. You can't say "I oppose this particular war because Paul Bremmer did something dumb," because everyone will fantasize about a future war that doesn't include the dumb thing. And once you've said that, you have to downplay the fact that the war is an act of mass-murder, because if it were, then why wouldn't you be opposing it for that reason? Why wouldn't your interlocutor as well? You have joined in a cooperative agreement to keep that matter secret as you turn the conversation to the WMD lies or the financial costs or the costs to the U.S. troops who made up 0.3% of the deaths.
On the train home from a recent peace conference, I spoke to a young woman who told me she was studying dentistry and would be in the Air Force. Couldn't she be a dentist without the military, I asked? No, she answered, not without $200,000 in debt. Yes, I replied, but without the Air Force, we could have free colleges and no debts. No, she replied . . . and, if you think for a moment, I know you'll know what she said next. It had nothing to do with the lies about Iraq, the financial cost of Iraq, the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq, or what war mongers the Republicans are. It had nothing to do with any of that. Think for a second, and you'll know.
Got it? She replied: if we didn't have the Air Force, North Korea would kill us.
Now, if you have a little education you probably realize that North Korea couldn't attack the United States without being completely obliterated, and that any nation on earth would scream angry threats if we pretended to drop nuclear bombs on it after having destroyed all of its cities, killed millions of its people, and threatened and antagonized it for over half a century through control of the military belonging to its former other half.
But if you'd just learned that the war on Iraq was a dumb war that cost too much, that nothing is more heroic than militarism, that even the peace movement should be led by soldiers, and that waving flags and valuing a particular 5% of humanity to a special degree are admirable values, where would you be? What would you know about militarism, where it exists, or how it functions?
There will always, always, always be another North Korea that's supposedly about to kill us. We don't need rapid-response fact corrections. We need citizens with some understanding of history, with knowledge of the Other 95%, with the capacity to resist terrorism-by-television, and capable of independent thought. To get there, we need a peace movement that moves us, at whatever pace it can, toward peace -- toward the popular demand for the absolute abolition of all war.