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Can We Get Along Without Authorities?

Some years ago, I watched a screening of a film about Daniel Ellsberg and the release of the Pentagon Papers.  The film was shown in the U.S. Capitol, and Ellsberg was present, along with others, to discuss the movie and take questions afterwards. 

I've just read Chris Hayes' new book "Twilight of the Elites," and am reminded of the question that progressive blogger and then-Congressman Alan Grayson staffer Matt Stoller asked Ellsberg.

What, Stoller wanted to know, should one do when (following the 2003 invasion of Iraq) one has come to the realization that the New York Times cannot be trusted? 

The first thing I thought to myself upon hearing this was, of course, "Holy f---, why would anyone have ever trusted the New York Times?"  In fact I had already asked a question about the distance we'd traveled from 1971, when the New York Times had worried about the potential shame of having failed to publish a story, to 2005 when the New York Times publicly explained that it had sat on a major story (about warrantless spying) out of fear of the shame of publishing it.

But the reality is that millions of people have trusted and do trust, in various ways and to various degrees, the New York Times and worse.  Ellsberg's response to Stoller was that his was an extremely important question and one that he, Ellsberg, had never been asked before. 

It's a question that Hayes asks in his book, which can be read well together with Chris Hedges' "Death of the Liberal Class."  Hedges' book goes back further in U.S. history to chart the demise of liberal institutions from academia to media to labor.  Hayes stays more current and also more conceptual, perhaps more thought-provoking. 

Hayes charts a growing disillusionment with authorities of all variety: government, media, doctors, lawyers, bankers.  We've learned that no group can be blindly trusted. "The cascade of elite failure," writes Hayes, "has discredited not only elites and our central institutions, but the very mental habits we use to form our beliefs about the world.  At the same time, the Internet has produced an unprecedented amount of information to sort through and radically expanded the arduous task of figuring out just whom to trust."  Hayes calls this "disorienting."

While I have benefitted from Hayes' brilliant analysis, I just can't bring myself to feel disoriented.  I can, however, testify to the presence of this feeling in others.  When I speak publicly, I'm often asked questions about how to avoid this disorientation.  I spoke recently about the need to correct much of what the corporate media was saying about Iran, and a woman asked me how I could choose which sources of news reporting to trust.  I replied that it is best to watch for verifiable specifics reported by multiple sources, to begin by questioning the unstated assumptions in a story, to study history so that facts don't appear in a vacuum, and to not blindly trust or reject any sources -- the same reporter or outlet or article could have valuable information mixed in with trash.  Such critical media consumption may not be easy to do after a full day's work, I'll grant you.  But it's not any harder to do than reading the New York Times and performing the mental gymnastics required to get what you've read to match up with the world you live in.

Talk Nation Radio: Chase Madar on the Passion of Bradley Manning

Chase Madar discusses his new book "The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story of the Suspect Behind the Largest Security Breach in U.S. History."  Madar is a civil rights attorney.  He writes for the London Review of Books, Le Monde diplomatique, the American Conservative, CounterPunch, and TomDispatch.  He discusses with host David Swanson the voluminous information that Manning is accused of providing to Wikileaks and to us, and some of the startling insights it gives us into what our supposedly representative government has been up to. The show also looks at the official and public responses to Manning, his mistreatment, his legal status, and the fate of whistleblowers under the Obama administration.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.

Producer: David Swanson.

Engineer: Christiane Brown.

Music by Duke Ellington.

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

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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Charlottesville Passes Resolution Against Citizens United

As of Monday evening, Charlottesville City Council has joined the list of over 250 localities, several state legislatures, 22 state attorneys general, the Supreme Court of Montana, four Supreme Court justices, dozens of Congress members, countless clubs and organizations and political parties, and -- in poll after poll -- the vast majority of the people of the United States -- all of whom want the U.S. Constitution amended or by other means wish to undo the Citizens United ruling that opened the flood gates on corporate election spending.

A group of local citizens met, one at a time, with four of the five City Council members ahead of time to win their support.  Several of us spoke at Monday's meeting.  When I spoke I asked people to stand up if they believed that Congress and states and cities should be allowed to limit or ban corporate and private spending on elections.

A delegation of over a dozen Afghans, mostly women, was attending the meeting.  I encouraged them to stand up if they thought the model for Afghanistan's future should be democracy rather than corruption.

I didn't spot a single person left seated.

But there probably was one, because a woman had spoken against the resolution.  She'd falsely accused those of us speaking in support of not being from Charlottesville and not caring about local people or local issues.  We of course had explained the importance of local governments representing their constituents to higher governments on matters of great importance.

The local newspaper, the Daily Progress, had devoted a big front-page story a few days beforehand to the point of view of the one city council member who opposed the resolution on the grounds that it was not a local matter.  Following a 4-0 vote in favor of the resolution, the Daily Progress quickly produced a new article about the point of view of that same city council member who had abstained, not the four who had voted yes, not the crowd that supported them, not what it does to Charlottesville to have a Congress that ignores majority opinion and obeys its funders, not the people who had drafted and promoted the resolution, not the impact it might have, not the national trend, not the pending U.S. Supreme Court case, but the one councilwoman who abstained from voting and who -- during the course of Monday's meeting baselessly accused her four colleagues of being "manipulated" -- presumably by us.

City Councilman Dave Norris pointed out that every single locality in Virginia petitions the state goverment every year, and many petititon Congress every year.  Councilwoman Kristin Szakos noted that when she and her colleagues devote 30 minutes to an important issue, they don't neglect others but simply extend the meeting 30 minutes.

Also covering the story, and in fact grasping a bit better what the story was, were NBC 29 and this Newsplex Video.

 

The resolution text, or very close to it, follows.  For exact wording check with Charlottesville City Council.

WHEREAS, We the people adopted and ratified the United States Constitution to protect the free speech and other rights of people, not corporations; and

WHEREAS, Corporations are not people but instead are entities created by the law of states and nations; and

WHEREAS, for the past three decades, a divided United States Supreme Court has transformed the First Amendment into a powerful tool for corporations seeking to evade and invalidate the people’s laws; and

WHEREAS, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, relying on prior decisions, interpreted the First Amendment of the Constitution to afford corporations the same free speech protections as natural persons; and

 WHEREAS, Citizens United overturned longstanding precedent prohibiting corporations from spending corporate general treasury funds in our elections; and

WHEREAS, Citizens United unleashed a torrent of corporate money in our political process unmatched by any campaign expenditure totals in United States history; and

WHEREAS, Citizens United  purports to invalidate state laws and even state Constitutional provisions separating corporate money from elections; and

WHEREAS, Citizens United presents a serious and direct threat to our republican democracy; and

WHEREAS, hundreds of municipalities across the nation are joining together to call for an Amendment to the United States Constitution to establish that political speech and spending by corporate entities to influence the political process must be regulated and made subservient to the people’s interest in authentic democracy and self-governance; and

WHEREAS, the people of the United States previously have used the constitutional amendment process to correct decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court that are deemed to be egregious and wrongly decided and which go to the heart of our democracy and self-government. 

 NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT WE CALL UPON THE VIRGINIA STATE LEGISLATURE AND THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS TO SUPPORT A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO REVERSE CITIZENS UNITED V. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION AND TO RESTORE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS AND FAIR ELECTIONS TO THE PEOPLE.  By the People of Charlottesville, Va.

[signed]

Add your voice at RootsAction.org.

David Swanson: A Voice For Never-Ending Activism

By Joanne Boyer of Wisdom Voices

For activist, author, and blogger David Swanson, it really is about the never-ending struggle for social and economic justice; the same battle that has been fought since time began.  And for him, “success” or “defeat” cannot be defined by one election or one Supreme Court ruling.  For Swanson, “victory” may be generations away, but that does not deter him from keeping the activism fires burning via every avenue he can find.


David Swanson: "We're in a place in history that we've never been before in terms of our democracy."

“I don’t necessarily tell people not to lose hope,” Swanson said in a recent interview with Wisdom Voices.  “I think there’s a problem with having a dependency on hope. I don’t go through these cycles of being hopeful and then being despondent. I actually enjoy activism. I don’t think activism is something temporary that we do it once and then everything will be fixed and then we stop.  I think it’s permanent and it should be permanent.  Activism is more enjoyable than sitting home and griping.  It provides me a way to enjoy living every day.”

Based in Charlottesville, Virginia, Swanson is a prolific writer and author of several books, the most recent being:

  • The Military Industrial Complex at 50 (2012)
  • When the World Outlawed War (2011)
  • War Is A Lie (2010)
  • Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union (2009)

Information on his books and other articles can be found at his web site:  www.davidswanson.org.

Activism has been rooted in almost all of Swanson’s adult life.  He holds a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including press secretary for Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign, media coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association, and three years as communications coordinator for ACORN.  John Nichols of The Nation magazine once said:  “David Swanson will be remembered and well recognized as the citizen who held up a lamp in the darkness and cried, as did good Tom Paine: ‘We have it in our power to begin the world over again.’ ”

“The most important work I think is educational,” Swanson said.  “By that I mean activism has to take a kind of broad term organizational effort.  It’s not in passing a particular bill or electing a particular person.  Setbacks shouldn’t get us down.  If all of our hopes lie in (President) Obama turning out to be better than he claimed to be or all of our hopes are in un-electing (Wisconsin Governor Scott) Walker, we’re setting ourselves up for defeat because we can lose a particular battle and because elections can be the wrong place to be putting our emphasis to begin with. I think we should be putting about 95 percent of our efforts into educating and organizing and mobilizing non-violent struggle and maybe 5 percent into elections.

“But that doesn’t mean I’m not disturbed about what’s going on in our country today.  I’m extremely disturbed that the primary business of our government has been mass murder and the preparation for mass murder. And we’ve given presidents powers that kings never had, and most of us will be completely oblivious to that fact as we grill out and shoot off fireworks on another 4th of July.

“And I find it extremely disturbing that we are ruining our earth’s atmosphere for our children and grandchildren. I think we either go down fighting or we win by reversing these trends.  But to sit back and watch TV, and say we can’t do anything or we lost an election seems to me immoral. Maybe that’s because I really do enjoy activism.


Activism is a way of life for David Swanson

“We are in a struggle for our lives…a struggle that will not see victory come for generations. And we don’t have to be martyrs about it or somehow make ourselves victims about it, but it is something we have to understand will just go on. But even for people who have demanding day jobs, they are doing a ton of work for peace and justice. People do it in different ways; mine happens to be writing.”

And although the struggle for economic and social just has been a continuing and historic struggle, Swanson does sense something “different” about what’s happening today.

“Historically everyone has thought that their age was the crisis or turning point in history,” he said. “I think in a certain sense we are in a more dangerous time globally than we’ve seen before.  I say that in terms of the environmental devastation that is ruining our atmosphere and our ecosystem as well as in terms of our proliferation of weapons that can destroy life on earth.

“Those twin dangers are unprecedented in the military empire of the United States in terms of military spending and production and the number of bases and our presence in occupations around the world. No one has ever had an empire remotely resembling this. It is something we haven’t seen before and it’s incredibly dangerous and destructive environmentally as well as other terms.  For example, the U.S. military is our biggest consumer of oil and uses the highest percentage of oil that it fights wars for.  It’s an incredibly dangerous cycle.

“And, we are in a place in history that we’ve never been before in terms of our democracy. We’ve done away with more civil liberties, more checks and balances.  We have formally legalized a form of campaign bribery.  We have less control over our so called representatives in Washington.

“Granted, you can go back in history and find whole chunks of the populace who were forbidden from voting or were slaves or were shut out of the process, but there’s always been popular activism and popular media.  And that’s missing today. We are now in a place in which majority opinion is just ignored in Washington by both parties. We’ve never so empowered a set of parties and we’ve never so shut out popular opinion even as we continue to wage wars in the name of democracy.

Swanson points to some positive developments such as the rise of the Internet to counter the corporate controlled main stream media. “If you poll the American people on what we actually want, if majority opinion really ruled, we’d be in a much better place than we’ve been in the past. But we have less activism today and much greater belief in the futile inability of activism. We have people believing they are a minority when they are a majority on positions such as taxing the rich, green energy, etc. We have people believing activism doesn’t work and so we should sit home and be miserable, and that’s a very dangerous trend.

“People want to understand how what they are doing can do some good. They’ve been taught that only elections matter or that the things we see daily are the only things that matter.  And then we give up. That’s the wrong frame of mind to be in. We have to tell people the good their work is doing…even if that good doesn’t show up for a long time and even with the fact that the government is trying to hide from us the way we influence it.

“There’s value in election campaigns if they build a movement, if they organize, if they educate, whether they elect an official or not.  It’s an added plus if they do.  But fundamentally we’re currently electing people in a pair of parties that have sold out and are doing the work of their funders.”

Swanson specifically pointed to the recent New York Times article that described the drone killings by President Obama.  “If somehow it had been revealed that Obama was really George W. Bush in disguise, we would have had millions of people surrounding and protesting at the White House.  Somehow, we’ve imagined that when Obama does this, he somehow is wringing his hands with guilt or that everyone tells themselves that secretly Obama means well.  Or that it’s our job to denounce Mitt Romney because some how he would be even worse.  And that’s fatal for us as a country.

“If you can’t object to giving someone arbitrary power to kill, if you can’t object to that because you can imagine someone else coming up will be even worse, then we’ve really tied both hands behind our back.”

The son of a man who studied to be a preacher, Swanson carries that fiery vocal force in his talks and conferences he leads or supports.  He was part of the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) at 50 conference in September 2011 and is one of the featured speakers at Peacestock 2012 at the Windbeam Farm in Hager City, Wisconsin.

“I’ve never understood there to be an alternative (to activism),” Swanson said. I would be miserable if I weren’t working a job to help save the world…if I were just working to make a buck.”

See below to hear David Swanson in his own words:

This week's Sprouts: BRADLEY MANNING AND WHISTLE BLOWERS

Produced by David Swanson, Christiane Brown of Talk Nation Radio

Left KU Channel
Thursday, May 30th, 2012 3:00 PM EST
TRT: 29:00

Download as broadcast quality .mp3:
http://audioport.org/index.php?op=program-info&program_id=50450&nav=&

This week's Sprouts is a discussion with Chase Madar, author of the new book "The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story of the Suspect Behind the Largest Security Breach in U.S. History." Speaking with Madar is David Swanson, host of the weekly program Talk Nation Radio, produced in Charllottesville, Va. Madar discusses the voluminous information that Manning is accused of providing to Wikileaks and to us, and some of the startling insights it gives us into what our supposedly representative government has been up to. The show also looks at the official and public responses to Manning, his mistreatment, his legal status, and the fate of whistleblowers under the Obama administration.

Sprouts is a weekly program that features local radio production and stories from many radio stations and local media groups around the world.It is produced in collaboration with community radio stations and independent producers across the country.

The program is coordinated and distributed by Pacifica Radio and offered free of charge to all radio stations.

Chris Hayes, Heroes, and Morons

Chris Hayes was driving me crazy, because I was beginning to think I'd need to start watching television. Luckily I've been saved from that fate, it seems. Hayes' comments on MSNBC, for which he has now absurdly apologized, were the type of basic honesty -- or, better, truth telling as revolutionary act -- that was tempting me.

MSNBC is part of a larger corporation that makes more money from war than from infotainment. Phil Donahue learned his lesson, along with Jeff Cohen. Cenk Uygur did too -- or perhaps he taught them one. Keith Olbermann didn't last. Rachel Maddow wants war "reformed" but would never be caught blurting out the sort of honesty that got Hayes into trouble.

Hayes questioned the appropriateness of calling warriors heroes, and of doing so in order to promote more war-making. He was right to do that. This practice has been grotesquely inappropriate for a very long time.

Pericles honored those who had died in war on the side of Athens:

Mitt's Military and Misleading Media

According to Mitt Romney, the world is not safe.  Presumably someone somewhere says the world is perfectly safe, and to that person we can all bellow: "Ha! Mitt's right, and you are wrong!"  Except that what Mitt seems to mean is all wrong.  He declares in the next breath that Iran is rushing to become a nuclear nation and share nuclear weapons with terrorist groups.  According to the Secretary of "Defense" and the rest of the gang with access to the government's secrets, or at least the list of whom Obama plans to murder, Iran has no nuclear weapons program. 


Next Romney lumps together as U.S. enemies Pakistan, China, Russia, and Venezuela.  Does that make us more or less safe?  Or does it just help sell weaponry?  According to Mitt the U.S. should have the world's biggest military.  According to reality, the United States could cut its military by two-thirds and have the world's biggest military.  Military spending has increased every year that Bush or Obama has been president.


Romney says a bigger military means fewer wars.  Eisenhower's prediction of 51 years ago, and the past 51 years worth of evidence, says the opposite: the military creates momentum for wars, planning for wars, and neglect of alternatives to war. 


According to Mother Jones, "Mitt Romney Wants the Biggest Military Ever, Regardless of Cost."  What can we say but "Mission Accomplished"?  We've got the biggest military ever, and the financial cost has damaged our economy while requiring tragic trade-offs from human needs spending, not to mention devastating the environment, slashing our civil liberties, and making us less safe.


Mother Jones cheers for Obama's murder program and his illegal war on Libya.  Less "liberal" groups and outlets love Obama's militarism even more, promoting it as politically advantageous.  Yet, veterans, white males, and warmongers in general will vote heavily for Romney even if Obama commits to savaging Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect weapons spending and untaxed wealth.  Why?  The same reason poor deluded well-meaning people will vote for Obama: Because Romney will always promise worse.

Talk Nation Radio: Marcy Winograd on Leaving the Democratic Party and Opposing War

Marcy Winograd was a leading Democratic Party activist in Los Angeles, nearly elected to Congress as a Democrat herself.  She has renounced that party and become a Green.  Her positions on public policy have not changed.  She is still a leading peace activist in Southern California.  Winograd discusses her change of party and approaches to activism in an election year. Winograd is a teacher with much to say about counter-recruitment in a time of ubiquitous militarism.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.

Producer: David Swanson.

Engineer: Christiane Brown.

Music by Duke Ellington.

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

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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Obama's Principles and Will Create Kill List as Test for New York Times

The New York Times chose this "terror Tuesday" to publish an article called "Secret 'Kill List' Proves a Test of Obama's Principles and Will," a bizarre article that never explains what Obama's principles or will are or even offers any evidence that Obama has any principles or will.

There is one section in which the authors point out that Obama went out of his way to sneak the despicable John Brennan into his White House despite Congressional opposition, and that none other than Harold "these bombs are not hostilities" Koh swears Brennan is a moral man. Perhaps we should assume that Brennan's morality oozes upward from his "cave-like office in the White House basement" since his support for Bush's crimes is redeemed by Koh who only supports Obama's crimes.

Elizabeth Warren vs. the Establishment

U.S. Senate candidate from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren is taking on the establishment.  Her campaign website declares:

"Iran is a significant threat to the United States and our allies.  Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, it is an active state sponsor of terrorism, and its leaders have consistently challenged Israel’s right to exist. Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is unacceptable because a nuclear Iran would be a threat to the United States, our allies, the region, and the world. The United States must take the necessary steps to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. I support strong sanctions against Iran and believe that the United States must also continue to take a leadership role in pushing other countries to implement strong sanctions as well. Iran must not have an escape hatch."

Warren has been asked by local and national activists for months to take this down or correct it.  Instead, she is standing by principle and against a corrupt ill-informed establishment.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons.  He's joined in that outrageous claim by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, and their Israeli counterparts.  Elizabeth Warren knows better, and she knows enough not to cite her sources.  We are better off just trusting her, and we feel better just trusting her.

The idea of Iran as a significant threat to the United States and our allies is mocked and laughed at by a motley crew made up of just about everyone who knows anything about the world whatsoever.  Iran spends a half a percent of what the United States spends on its military, and a much smaller fraction of what all NATO nations spend together.  Iran has never threatened the United States or any of its allies.  Iran is literally surrounded by U.S. bases and ships.  Iran is seeking to avoid conflict by agreeing to inspections and restrictions on civilian nuclear power not required by any treaty or law.  But don't let the established facts fool you.  They're a trick of the establishment, and Elizabeth Warren knows better.

Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor admitted that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad never said Iran wanted to "wipe Israel off the face of the map" in an interview with Al Jazeera in April, agreeing somewhat anticlimactically with the known facts as understood by such irresponsible commentators as anybody reading reliable news sources or accurately translating the original speech. 

When Madeline Albright said that strong sanctions on Iraq did more good than the harm done by killing over a half a million children, the uninformed imagined they were witnessing a burst of courageous feminism.  Ha!  They ain't seen nothing yet.  If what you want is strong female leadership, and the facts and human lives be damned, get ready for the one, the only, the lying scheming warmongering candidate who will make the bankers pay for part of the killing so it's all OK, Elizabeth Warren! 

Elizabeth Warren will stand alone against a mountain of evidence when need be, but if Palestine tries to join the United Nations with the support of the other nations of the world, Warren will denounce any such move as "unilateralism" and support a unilateral veto of it.

Elizabeth Warren says, "We need to continue our aggressive efforts against Al Qaeda, and we need to continue to support the efforts of our intelligence, law enforcement, homeland security, and military professionals."  And if that means dumping over half of discretionary spending into war preparations every year, well so be it -- we'll be responsible by not borrowing the money.  We'll get a bit of it from the banksters.  We'll be bad-ass killers and populists, even if the killing isn't especially popular.

You don't need to understand.  You need to trust in Elizabeth.

For more of this profile in courage read:
 http://elizabethwarren.com/issues/national-security-foreign-policy


Lies and Consequences in Our Past 15 Wars

"Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their peoples in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was their object.  This, our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us."--Abraham Lincoln

AFGHANISTAN

Prior to 2001, the Taliban was willing to turn Osama bin Laden over to a third country if he was promised a fair trial and no death penalty, and if some evidence of his guilt of crimes were offered.  In 2001, the Taliban warned the United States that bin Laden was planning an attack on American soil.  In July 2001 the United States was known to have plans to take military action against the Taliban by mid-October. 

When the United States attacked Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, the Taliban again offered to negotiate for the handing over of bin Laden. When President George W. Bush refused, the Taliban dropped its demand for evidence of guilt and offered simply to turn bin Laden over to a third country.  Bush rejected this offer and continued bombing.  At a March 13, 2002, press conference, Bush said of bin Laden "I truly am not that concerned about him."[i] When President Barack Obama announced, in May 2011, that he had killed bin Laden, the war didn't even slow down.

The Special Loophole in Hell for War Lawyers

The strict rule of law is an ideal and a fantasy.  Conflicting and archaic words must be interpreted, and doing so is an art, not a science.

But there is an enormous chasm between honest attempts to approach the ideal of compliance with written law, and open disregard for it.

It is becoming standard practice for our government to enforce laws selectively or not at all, to openly defy laws, to enact laws in violation of the higher law called the Constitution or in violation of the treaties which that Constitution defines as the Supreme Law of the Land. 

At the same time, charades of legality degrade it as an ideal: the International Criminal Court is not international, military justice makes a mockery of justice, etc.  And anti-legal measures, like secret sections of the PATRIOT act that can be enforced against us but which we cannot be permitted to read in order to comply with, muddle for many people the very idea of lawfulness.

Video: Peace Perspectives on Iran with Majid Amini, Michael Fischbach, and David Swanson

Dr. Majid Amini is Professor of Philosophy at Virginia State University. He was born in Iran and comes from a family that has had extensive public and political participation in Iranian affairs since the turn of the 19th century. Currently he is working on two projects: one on the limits of religion in the public square and another on divine regret.

Dr. Michael Fischbach is Professor of History at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia. He received his doctorate in modern Middle Eastern history from Georgetown University. He researches issues relating to land and property ownership in the modern Middle East. Fischbach frequently addresses international conferences and the media, and has been a consultant for Middle Eastern negotiators as well as the Library of Congress, the United Nations Development Programme, and the International Development Research Center.

David Swanson is a nationally recognized author and peace activist. He currently works with Veterans for Peace and hosts Talk Nation Radio. His most recent books include The Military Industrial Complex at 50 and When the World Outlawed War. Swanson helped to plan the nonviolent occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., in 2011, and blogs at http://davidswanson.org.

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Iran: War Is Not Even the Question

(Remarks prepared for Richmond Peace Education Center Event in Richmond, Va., May 24, 2012)

I have a friend who's a compulsive liar.

OK it's not a friend. It's my television. And my newspaper.

According to them, the United States, as one among equals, in coalition with most of the world's good countries, is asking the evil nation of Iran for some very reasonable requests, Iran is refusing, and the result, very regrettably and reluctantly -- as an absolute last resort, albeit one we will celebrate with flags and music -- will be war.

An op-ed in the Washington Post last Friday (and you know you can trust the Washington Post, because its fervent push for war on Iraq worked out so well) said:

Why Even Failed Activism Succeeds

I enjoy reading histories of past activism, including memoirs by long-time activists, such as Lawrence Wittner's new book, Working for Peace and Justice.

Almost every such account includes belated discoveries of the extent to which a government has been spying on and infiltrating activist groups.

And almost every such account includes belated discoveries of the extent to which government officials were influenced by activist groups even while pretending to ignore popular pressure.

These revelations can be found in the memoirs of the government officials as well, such as in George W. Bush's recollection of how seriously the Republican Senate Majority Leader was taking public pressure against the war on Iraq in 2006.

Chicago: Peace Town

A huge crowd gathered for several hours and marched for over two miles in the hot sun to oppose NATO and U.S. wars on Sunday in Chicago.  Finishing the march outside the NATO meeting, numerous U.S. veterans of current wars denounced their previous "service" and threw their medals over the fence, a scene not witnessed since the U.S. war on Vietnam.

This event, with massive turnout and tremendous energy, saw the participation of numerous groups from Chicago and the surrounding area, including students, teachers, and activists on a variety of issues, as well as anti-war activists and Occupiers from around the country and the world.  No one can have been disappointed with the turnout, but it might have been bigger if not for the fear that was spread prior to Sunday.  In the face of that fear, Sunday's action was remarkable.

Ending the Mindset That Gets Us into War

 

MAY 20, 2012, MILITARIZED CHICAGO -- Next month in Baltimore they're going to celebrate the War of 1812.  That's what we do with wars.  We say they're the last resort.  We say they're hell.  We say they're for the purpose of eliminating themselves: we fight wars for peace.  Although we never keep peace for wars.  We claim to wage only wars we have been forced into despite all possible effort to find a better way.  And then we celebrate the wars.  We keep the wars going for their own sake after all the excuses we used to get them started have expired.  The WMDs have not been found.  Osama bin Laden's been killed.  Al Qaeda is gone from the country where we're fighting it.  Nobody's threatening Benghazi anymore.  But the wars must go on!  And then we'll celebrate them.  And we'll celebrate the old ones too, the ones that were fought here, the ones that were in their day not quite so heavily painted as last resorts or humanitarian missions. 

 

Last year Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee persuaded Congress to create an Iraq-Afghanistan Wars holiday.  It's on our calendars now along with Loyalty Day (formerly May Day), Veterans Day (formerly Armistice Day), Memorial Day, Yellow Ribbon Day, Patriots Day, Independence Day, Flag Day, Pearl Harbor Day, and of course September 11th, among many others.  Last week there was an Armed Forces Spouses Appreciation Day.  The military holiday calendar is like the Catholic saints' days now: there's something every day of the year. 

 

But there's no celebration of the times we avoided war. We claim to prefer peace to war, but we don't make heroes of those presidents or Congresses who most avoided war.  In fact, we erase them.  Our history books jump from war to war as if nothing happened in between.  Nobody celebrates 1811, only 1812.  Even the peace movement doesn't celebrate the past decade's prevention, thus far, of a war on Iran.

Bring on the Beautiful Trouble

Now here's a book that's meant to be used: "Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution" edited by Andrew Boyd and Dave Oswald Mitchell.  The subtitle should be "Try this at home -- but innovate!"  Instead it's "From the people who brought you the Yes Men, Billionaires Against Bush, etc."

Beautiful Trouble is a terrific addition to Gene Sharp's catalog of nonviolent tactics, less comprehensive, more up-to-date, more U.S.-centric, and focused on the artistic and the entertaining. When someone whines about what they can possibly do if it's really true that voting won't fix everything, hand them this book.  When someone proposes violence as the only serious option available, hand them this book.  

Here is a guide to activism that focuses on the serious moral case for fundamental change and on making it fun as hell.  Here is a sophisticated tool for shaping strategies that are both uncompromising and welcoming of newcomers.  

The book is divided into five sections: Tactics, Principles, Theories, Case Studies, and Practitioners.  The section on Tactics is far and away the best, with some of the inspiring tactics further developed in the case studies.  While the book looks like a reference designed to be searched as needed like an encyclopedia (tons of pull quotes and text in cute little boxes, as if laid out for someone with a four-second attention span) it actually reads very well as a book if you focus on the largest font size and just read it straight through.  

Long time activists may find more and more of the material to be familiar as the book progresses, but it is a book that practices what it preaches.  It is open to brand new participants in government of, by, and for the people as well as to those who've been trying to get it right for many years.  For the most part, even the familiar is so well presented and contextualized that people are likely to find new insights in what they thought they already knew.

We always wonder how to welcome war criminals and robber barons to town.  Do we protest?  Do we try to participate in their public events in an approved manner?  Do we hold up posters silently without interrupting?  "Beautiful Trouble" is packed with great approaches to this and other common scenarios.  For example, in 2006, Rainforest Action greeted the CEO of General Motors at the Los Angeles Auto Show by pretending to be emcees, thanking the man for the speech he'd just given about GM's commitment to the environment, and unfurling a giant pledge for him to sign putting his promises in writing.  He then had two bad choices.  He chose to refuse to sign, and the media ran with that story.  

Other great tactics explored include "nonviolent search and seizure," or the theatrical attempt to liberate secret documents to which the public has a right.  Governments are presented with the option of looking secretive and suspicious or exposing what they're up to and revealing themselves as corrupt and destructive.  Successful uses of this tactic are recounted.

Then there's the case of families setting up a childcare center in the office of a public housing official until provided with other means of childcare.  With each such idea, others will appear in the reader's mind.  Why not move a school into the office of a weapons profiteer?  Why not move a library into the office of a war-funding, banker-bailing-out Congress member?  Such variations gain and lose various advantages that this book can help an organizer sort through.

Or there's the case of the teddy bear catapult.  When officials lock themselves inside a fortress (at Camp David, or in Chicago, or anywhere else), a catapult can be a means of sending them a message in which the main message is in fact the medium.  

Other tactics, such as the general strike, are extremely difficult, or -- as with a "debt strike" -- have yet to be successfully pulled off.  

"Beautiful Trouble" is not just a list of colorful actions.  It analyzes the pros and cons, principles involved, potential dangers, and insidious tendencies.  It gives detailed advice on how a tactic should be used most effectively.  It can build your movement more, for example, to not just shout people down but to do so very politely under the banner of a Public Filibuster, insisting on upholding their rights as well as your own.

"Beautiful Trouble" includes an excellent rejection of "diversity of tactics" -- which can become "code for 'anything goes'," as well as an explanation of the power and superior success rate of disciplined strategic nonviolence.

Rather than pretending to list all available types of approaches, the authors (dozens of them, activists all) seek to guide the reader toward a model for inventing and generating new approaches.  Part of theatrical activism, of course, involves tricking the corporate media into covering positions toward which its owners are fundamentally opposed or -- at best -- indifferent.  Even the best of tactics can lose that power simply by having been used before.

The Theories section of the book may be the weakest, as a lot of it amounts to Cliff's Notes versions of well-known intellectuals. And the Practitioners section at the end, which really is just a list of activist groups, leaves much to be desired.  

It's also stunning that an up-to-the-minute book drawing heavily on the Occupy movement and other events of recent years and months contains so many examples of opposing George W. Bush, while Barack Obama gets a single mention -- which comes in an account of the Tar Sands protests in which the wisdom of not polarizing against Obama is explained to us.  Oh, and there's one other mention praising Obama's campaign messaging.

"Beautiful Trouble" discusses the Overton Window and the benefit of pushing for what you really want or even more.  It even offers the example of pushing for single payer if what you want is a "public option."  But groups that did that are missing from the book, while praise goes repeatedly to organizations that blatantly violated that specific advice.  "Beautiful Trouble" even declares the healthcare legislation that failed to include the "public option" a victory. 

An account of "Billionaires for Bush" is followed by an account of misguided (by the book's own advice) healthcare groups "succeeding" in finding some target other than the Democrats in power in Washington to protest, which is followed by another account of random protesters of Bush.  I was a big fan and participant in Billionaires for Bush, but when -- in 2008 -- I asked them why in the world they were shutting down rather than evolving into Oligarchs for Obama they never gave me a straight answer. 

Oddly missing from the book's advice for activist organizing is any warning about the corrupting influence of large, well-funded groups or of partisan politics.

Note that this is a book that dares to go after capitalism and many basic assumptions in our society, a society in which most people already condemn elected officials of both major political parties, so it would be at least a challenge to make a case that criticizing Obama's corruption would have somehow closed the book off to many of its potential readers.

I would also quibble with the happiness of the book's introduction which says:

"The realization is rippling through the ranks that, if deployed thoughtfully, our pranks, stunts, flash mobs and encampments can bring about real shifts in the balance of power."

But the same introduction also says:

"Through the last decade, though we've lost ground on climate, civil liberties, labor rights, and so many other fronts, we've also seen incredible flourishing of creativity and tactical innovation in our movements, both in the streets and online."

That is an extremely odd sentence.  Logically, it could be rewritten:

"Through the last decade, though we've seen incredible flourishing of creativity and tactical innovation in our movements, both in the streets and online, we've also lost ground on climate, civil liberties, labor rights, and so many other fronts."

We are losing.  We are losing badly and we're pretty darn close to Game Over.  And yet we have seen small victories and hints at the possibility of larger ones.  We have learned what tactics work better than others.  In my view, there's not much more useful that anyone could do than to learn from this book, and with independent analysis, as the authors themselves would recommend, go forth and do likewise.

113 in House Vote to End War on Afghanistan -- How Many Will Vote Against the NDAA?

Lee amendment for swift withdrawal from Afghanistan falls short in House vote

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced an amendment to H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), that would bring about a responsible and immediate end to the war in Afghanistan. The amendment would end combat operations at the same time it protects troops by requiring that any dollar directed to Afghanistan could only be spent for the safe and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops and military contractors.  The amendment did not pass the House (113-303).

“The American people have overwhelmingly come to the conclusion that our brave men and women in uniform have accomplished all that we have asked of them and it is time to bring them home from Afghanistan,” said Congresswoman Lee.  “My amendment provided Members of the House the opportunity to stand squarely with the war-weary American people.  I am disappointed that a majority of House Members did not stand with seven out of ten Americans who oppose the war in Afghanistan.”

On Wednesday, Congresswoman Lee was joined by 100 Members of the House, including five Republicans, in sending a letter to President Obama urging an expedited withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan n advance of the NATO summit. 

“Our brave troops have done everything that was asked of them,” said Congresswoman Lee.  “With almost two thousand U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan, and many tens of thousands more maimed with injuries both hidden and visible, we must recognize that the boots on the ground strategy in Afghanistan is not working.  After 11 long years of war, I will continue to work to bring the troops home from Afghanistan.”     

###

Today’s House Floor speech: here

Link to letter to President Obama: here

Text of the Lee Amendment:

AMENDMENT TO H.R. 4310, AS REPORTED

OFFERED BY MS. LEE OF CALIFORNIA

At the end of subtitle B of title XII of division A of the bill, add the following:

Sec. 12xx. LIMITATION ON FUNDS FOR OPERATIONS OF THE ARMED FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN.

            (a) IN GENERAL --- Funds made available to carry out this Act for operations of the Armed Forces in Afghanistan shall be obligated an expended only for purpose of providing for the safe and orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan of all members of the Armed Forces and Department of Defense contractor personnel who are in Afghanistan.

            (b) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION --- Nothing in this section shall be construed –

(1)   To authorize the use of funds for the continuation of combat operations in Afghanistan while carrying out the safe and orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan of all members of the Armed Forces and Department of Defense contractor personnel who are in Afghanistan; and

(2)   To prohibit or otherwise restrict the use of funds available to any department or agency of the United States to carry out diplomatic efforts or humanitarian, development, or general reconstruction activities in Afghanistan.

Talk Nation Radio: Cindy Sheehan on the Venezuelan Constitution as a Model for the United States

Cindy Sheehan discusses the new Venezuelan Constitution as a model for reforming the U.S. Constitution in the direction of greater democratic and economic rights, as well as the politics of Hugo Chavez, and her new book, Revolution: A Love Story.  Cindy Sheehan is a leading U.S. peace actvist, a gold star mother, an author, blogger, and radio host.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.

Producer: David Swanson.

Engineer: Christiane Brown.

Music by Duke Ellington.

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Even Star Spangled War Is Hell

Originally published in the Indypendent Reader

In this bicentennial year of the War of 1812, the StarSpangledBaltimore.com website tells us:
Star-Spangled Banner Sheet Music
"The War of 1812 represents what many see as the definitive end of the American Revolution. A new nation, widely regarded as an upstart, successfully defended itself against the largest, most powerful navy in the world during the maritime assault on Baltimore and Maryland. America's victory over Great Britain confirmed the legitimacy of the Revolution."
 
But the revolution had ended three decades before 1812, and the choice to launch a new war was made by the U.S. government in Washington, D.C.
 
In the lead-up to the War of 1812, the British and Americans exchanged attacks along the Canadian border and in the open seas. Native Americans also exchanged attacks with U.S. settlers, although who was invading whom is a question we've never wanted to face.  But the choice to launch a full-scale war was not made by the "largest, most powerful navy in the world"; it was made by the national government that we now depict as fighting defensively in Baltimore.
 
Maritime offenses, skirmishes, and trade disagreements can be resolved diplomatically, continued at the same low level, or expanded into much more massive killing and destruction.  These are options our government still faces today.  In 1812, the choice of war resulted in the burning of our national capital, the death in action of some 3,800 U.S. and British fighters, and the death of 20,000 U.S. and British from all causes, including disease.  About 76 were killed in the Battle of Baltimore, plus another 450 wounded.  Nowadays an incident in Baltimore that resulted in that kind of carnage would be described with words other than "exciting," "glorious," and "successful."
 
And what was gained that could balance out the damage done?  Absolutely nothing.

Judge Deliberates on Whether to Save Earth's Atmosphere

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Wilkins heard the arguments on Friday in Washington, D.C., and is deliberating now on the question of whether young people can sue to compel their government to take serious measures to stop global warming. 

Judge Robert Wilkins is familiar with discrimination, having been the plaintiff in a well-known driving-while-black case of racial profiling in Maryland.  But few of us are familiar with the concept of discrimination against future generations.  We grow easily indignant when living people are unfairly treated.  We grow confused when considering the injustice of depriving our grandchildren of a habitable planet so that we can drive our SUVs and fight our wars.  There's no living person or group of persons we can point to as being wronged, unless perhaps it is the young.

Judge Wilkins is familiar with, and appreciative of, the role federal courts played in the U.S. civil rights movement.  But a case had been made that certain people's Constitutional rights were being violated.  Whose Constitutional rights are violated by condemning young people to grow old on a damaged planet turning to desert and barren rock? 

There may be an answer to that.  The Constitution's purpose is to "insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."  Surely there is a violation of the Constitution in making the earth uninhabitable for our Posterity.  But no court has ever arrived at that conclusion. 

"Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person," says the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which under Article VI of the Constitution is the supreme law of the land.  "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family."  How can we protect those rights for everyone, including the young and the not-yet-born, without putting everything we have into trying to preserve a climate in which humans can prosper?  How can the U.S. government fulfill its obligations to Native American nations while finally completing the destruction of their land along with everyone else's?

Courageous young people filed suit a year ago against the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Department of the Interior, the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States Department of Commerce, the United States Department of Energy, and the United States Department of Defense.  One would think being sued for ruining the earth's atmosphere with greenhouse gases was not terribly desirable, but there was a mad rush by other parties to be added to the list of defendants.  These additional defendants succeeded in getting themselves added: Delta Construction Company Inc., Dalton Trucking Inc., Southern California Contractors Association Inc., California Dump Truck Owners Association, Engineering & Utility Contractors Association, and The National Association Of Manufacturers.

The National Association of Manufacturers openly claims selfish interests for being involved:

"NAM moved to intervene in this litigation, because the law suit, if successful, would have a dramatic effect on manufacturing processes and investments, increasing production and transportation costs, decreasing global competitiveness and driving jobs and businesses abroad. The litigation, which seeks a minimum 6% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions every year, would be devastating to the entire U.S. economy."

NAM also says:

"The NAM's members include many of the major oil, coal and natural gas producers, petroleum refiners, and petrochemical producers, as well as manufacturing companies that make the tools and components critical to such industries.  Id.  Obviously, immediate reductions—and eventual elimination—of conventional fuel use is a central business concern for these members of the NAM."

So, this was the argument for joining the case: our profits would suffer.  Well, of course, they would.  The government would have to stop giving $11 billion a year or more to fossil fuel companies.  Arguably, the government would have to stop putting over $1 trillion a year into preparation for wars fought largely to secure fossil fuels.  Taxes would have to be imposed on carbon emissions.  But there would also have to be massive public investment in green energy, investment that could help companies become profitable in new ways.  Or it could not.  What's guaranteed is that the current profit-making plans of these companies would suffer, while humanity would benefit.  We're trained to think such conflicts don't exist, that what's good for Exxon-Mobil is good for all of us.  It isn't true.  The oil companies are arguing for the right to ruin the atmosphere.

In Friday's hearing, however, other arguments were advanced.  Three men spoke for the defense, one from the government, one from NAM, and one from the California interveners.  They did not dispute the reality and seriousness of global warming, which James Hansen called "apocalyptic" in Thursday's New York Times.  They did not claim ownership of the sky.  Instead they argued for democracy, the Constitution, the separation of powers, the right of the legislative branch to legislate, and the existence of the EPA as sufficient to answer the plaintiff's claims whether or not the EPA was doing any good. 

It was curious to hear the government's defense of the rights of the legislative branch for a number of reasons.  First, the executive branch in recent years has been rapidly eroding Congress's powers.  Second, the Constitution has been discarded when it comes to Congressional war powers, or habeas corpus, or much of the Bill of Rights.  Third, Congress almost never represents majority opinion in the country on any important issue, but is instead openly working for the legal bribes authorized by the Supreme Court as election spending -- for which the Supreme Court has argued to protect the human rights of corporations.  To pretend that the legislative branch envisioned by the Constitution still exists is bizarre.  Fourth, immediately after the government's lawyer rhetorically asked, "In a democracy whose job is it to take public actions of the first order?" he turned the floor over to the lawyer from NAM.  Where in the Constitution does it assign corporate lobbyists the duty to defend the government against popular petitions for redress of grievances? 

The NAM lawyer said not one word about his clients' profits.  Instead he proposed, among other things, that "national security" might require current levels of C02 emissions.  He was, of course, using a narrow conception of national security.  How secure is a nation that is losing its farmland and coastlines?  But, if the argument was to be made on behalf of the Pentagon, why not let the Pentagon do it?  Why allow the oil barons' hired hand to substitute? 

Julia Olson argued ably for the plaintiffs, citing numerous precedents for her claim that the atmosphere is a public trust and that public trusts must be protected.  As in the on-going struggle over the Supreme Court's pro-bribery Citizens United ruling, the state of Montana is featured in this debate, as the Supreme Court once ruled that Montana had a right to protect its rivers as a public trust, a ruling based on a long legal tradition, but later reversed.

Judge Wilkins asked Olson numerous detailed questions in a lengthy exchange that reviewed many precedents and hypothetical arguments.  Olson pointed to a case that had established a three-judge panel to direct the state of California to reduce its prison population.  The judges had not handled the details of the changes made to California's penal system, but had enforced a level of reduction by a deadline, just as these plaintiffs want CO2 levels in the atmosphere reduced to 350 ppm by a set date.

Olson's co-counsel Philip Gregory brought to Friday's hearing something that was otherwise missing in hours of technical debate: honest passion.  Gregory made a moral as much as a legal case on behalf of the rights of the plaintiffs, a row of several teenagers seated in the front row of the courtroom.

Judge Wilkins argued to Gregory that either he was being asked to tell six government agencies that they were not doing their jobs as required by statute -- in which case, the judge said, such matters could be handled one-at-a-time outside of this lawsuit, or he was being asked to instruct six agencies to act outside of their Congressional mandate.  Gregory's response focused, rightly, on the magnitude and urgency of the crisis we face.

Trying to get courts to do Congress's job may, in fact, not be ideal.  Trying to get state or foreign prosecutors to indict Bush for torture is not ideal.  Pinochet's indictment in Spain was not ideal.  Federal desegregation of Southern states was not ideal.  Protecting voting rights state-by-state is not ideal.  But in an emergency, shouldn't one try the tools that are available? And shouldn't one drop counterproductive pretenses, such as the pretense that a functioning Congress still exists? 

What if the mythical humanized frogs in the pot of gradually warming water -- thousands and thousands of such frogs in a giant pot on a giant stove -- had a frog government?  And what if the frog Congress had been bought off with piles of flies by a frog whose business it was to sell tiny, cold, bottled water to the frogs as they warmed?  If the frog courts decided to leave the decision to hop out of the pot to the frog Congress, they would make the correct decision that would best allow representative frog government in the future.  But would that do anything to guarantee that there would be any future for those frogs?

In case it isn't blatantly obvious, the above and everything else written here is my opinion, not the plaintiffs' legal arguments.  The hearing ran for about three hours, and was all very formal and polite.  Judge Wilkins generously thanked both sides for their "sincerity, diligence, and earnestness." 

"But I would be remiss," he added, "if I did not say that it is a struggle for any judge to determine based on our Constitutional system how best to play the proper role in adjudicating a case like this one.  I don't take the Constitution lightly. . . ."

"That said, it behooves all of us, regardless of the resolution of this case, to really think about what we can do to resolve this very serious problem."

Of course, we aren't all in the same position to do the same amount of good.  By ruling that this case can proceed, Wilkins would open up a public forum on intergenerational justice and a ground-breaking earth-protecting suit that the plaintiffs would be very likely to win.  Future generations would, quite likely, revere the name Robert Wilkins.  His heroism would not be quickly forgotten.

Colin Powell's Tangled Web

“I get mad when bloggers accuse me of lying -- of knowing the information was false. I didn’t.” -- Colin Powell.

Can you imagine having an opportunity to address the United Nations Security Council about a matter of great global importance, with all the world's media watching, and using it to… well, to make shit up – to lie with a straight face, and with a CIA director propped up behind you, I mean to spew one world-class, for-the-record-books stream of bull, to utter nary a breath without a couple of whoppers in it, and to look like you really mean it all? What gall. What an insult to the entire world that would be.

Colin Powell doesn't have to imagine such a thing. He has to live with it. He did it on February 5, 2003. It's on videotape.

Talk Nation Radio: Stephen M. Kohn on Our Government's Attacks on Whistleblowers

Stephen M. Kohn of the National Whistleblowers Center says that for national security whistleblowers, Obama's presidency has been "a disaster."  Kohn, the author of eight books on whistleblower law, represents Sibel Edmonds, an FBI whistleblower and the author of the just-released Classified Woman. Edmonds submitted her book to the FBI for censorship, and the FBI failed to identify anything that she could not print, but also refused to approve of the book.  Edmonds, however, has gone ahead and published it.  The book protects, rather than endangering, national security.  But it does embarrass the FBI.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.

Producer: David Swanson.

Engineer: Christiane Brown.

Music by Duke Ellington.

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Drones in U.S. Flight Paths: What Could Go Wrong?

On March 9th the Federal Aviation Administration requested comments from the public on drone test sites.  On May 8th, lengthy comments were submitted by Not 1 More Acre! and Purgatoire, Apishapa & Comanche Grassland Trust.  The FAA asked all the wrong questions, but still got a lot of the right answers.  When the drone accidents start, and you're told "Nobody could have known," refer them here: PDF.

I would have asked "Should weaponized drones be permitted to exist on earth?" and "How can surveillance drones possibly comply with the Fourth Amendment?"  The FAA asked:

"The Congressional language asks the FAA to consult with and leverage the resources of the Department of Defense and NASA in this effort.  Since many public operators already have access to test ranges and control the management and use of those ranges, should the management of these new test ranges be held by local governments or should private entity [sic] schedule and manage the airspace?"

Not 1 More Acre! replied:

"Neither.  Although the pilot UAS [Unmanned Aircraft System] program is a Congressional mandate, and the timelines are accelerated, the complexities and potential dangers of integration of UAS into civilian airspace must not be delegated to local governments or private organizations in the name of expediency, entrepreneurship, or profit. . . . The wording of Question A suggests that the FAA is contemplating abdicating its inherent authority to manage the NAS [National Airspace System] by ceding broad discretion over UAS flight operations. . . .

". . . The primary driver of the move to integration has clearly been contractors funded by the DOD, working in concert with the secretive Joint Special Forces Operation Command, the Department of Homeland Security, and the CIA, among others. . . . Private defense [sic] contractors increasingly woo local law enforcement agencies and other community groups with grants to help fund the purchase of new UAS.  The FAA should not allow any other federal agency to usurp its authority over the NAS or circumvent the pre-decisional public disclosure requirements of NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] including agencies like the CIA, NASA, and JSOC which are not transparent or accountable to the public."

Of course, there's a catch.  Even the accountable agency has, naturally, ceased to be accountable:

"However, the FAA has never conducted any NEPA review related to UAS.  The agency has never prepared an Environmental Impact Statement or Environmental Assessment to disclose the potential impacts of UAS to the public and agency officials, despite issuing hundreds of Certificates of Waiver and Authorization to some 60 public agencies."

Have you heard about the 51st State for Armed Robotic Drones?

The 63 drone sites in the U.S.?

The 30,000 drones planned for U.S. skies?

The habit drones have of crashing even on their own?

While initially cheaper than manned planes, unmanned drones of the sort used now tend to require many more personnel: 168 people to keep a Predator drone in the air for 24 hours, plus 19 analysts to process the videos created by a drone.  Drones and their related technologies are increasing in price rapidly.  And to make matters worse, they tend to crash.  They even "go rogue," lose contact with their "pilots" and fly off on their own.  The U.S. Navy has a drone that self-destructs if you accidentally touch the space bar on the computer keyboard.  Drones also tend to supply so-called enemies with information, including the endless hours of video they record, and to infect U.S. military computers with viruses.  But these are the sorts of SNAFUs that come with any project lacking oversight, accountability, or cost controls.  The companies with the biggest drone contracts did not invest in developing the best technologies but in paying off the most Congress members.

What could go wrong?

"We Did Not Choose This War" and Other Hypocrisies

By Leah Bolger and David Swanson

"We did not choose this war.  This war came to us on 9/11.  We don't go looking for a fight.  But when we see our homeland violated, when we see our fellow citizens killed, then we understand what we have to do." 

These are the words that President Obama used on Tuesday to describe the Afghanistan war, but they would have been more appropriately said by any Afghan citizen.

Coming out of the mouth of the President of the United States, these words are nothing more than nationalistic propaganda — designed to justify an aggressive war of choice launched against a sovereign nation.  Somebody chose this war, and it certainly wasn't the Afghan people — 92% of whom have never even heard of the events of 9/11.

Talk Nation Radio: Rebecca Vilkomerson on Jewish Voice for Peace

Rebecca Vilkomerson is the executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace.  She discusses Jewish-American opposition to the Israeli government's policies of war and occupation.  Vilkomerson has over 15 years of experience in community organizing, advocacy, program development and fundraising in the United States and Israel. She has been an active member of JVP since 2002, and lived in Israel with her family from 2006-2009. In 2010, the Forward recognized her as one of the 50 most influential Jewish leaders in the U.S.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.

Producer: David Swanson.

Engineer: Christiane Brown.

Music by Duke Ellington.

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

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

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Leaving Afghanistan by Staying

Obama-Karzai

Is staying in Afghanistan OK with you as long as we call it leaving?

President Obama has signed an agreement with President Karzai to keep a major U.S. military presence in Afghanistan (currently about three times the size Obama began with) through the end of 2014, and to allow a significant unspecified presence beyond that date, with no end date stipulated.  Obama stresses that no permanent U.S. bases will be involved, but his agreement requires Afghanistan to let U.S. troops use "Afghan" bases.

Obama forgot to provide any reason not to withdraw from Afghanistan now, given majority U.S. desire to end the war.  Like Newt Gingrich promising to quit campaigning before actually doing so, Obama is promising to leave Afghanistan, but not yet -- except that he isn't promising to ever leave at all.  The agreement is open-ended.

Obama spoke on Tuesday of a transition to Afghan control, but we've heard that talk for a decade.  That's not some new bright idea that requires two-and-a-half more years to develop.

Obama talked of fighting al Qaeda, but the U.S. has not been fighting al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and has admitted for years that there is virtually no al Qaeda presence there.  That's not the two-year project, and it's not the reason to remain indefinitely after 2014.

The agreement requires that all "entities" involved in a peace process renounce violence, but the Taliban will no more do that while under foreign occupation than the United States will do so while occupying.  This is not a serious plan to leave.  Nor is it a plan based on Afghan sovereignty, numerous claims to the contrary notwithstanding.  This is a treaty for more years of war, on the model of the Bush-Maliki treaty for Iraq, but with the difference that theirs included an end date.

The agreement says it enters into force when "the Parties notify one another, through diplomatic channels, of the completion of their respective internal legal requirements."  The U.S. Constitution requires ratification by the Senate of all treaties.  Congress could insist on its right to approve or reject this, just as the Afghan Parliament will be permitted to do.  Or Congress could require withdrawal now, as does bill HR 780, which has 70 cosponsors.

The written agreement doesn't mention it, but Obama said on Tuesday that he would withdraw 23,000 troops by the end of the summer, after which reductions would continue "at a steady pace."  Assuming 90,000 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan, a steady pace would get them all home by about a year from now, not two-and-a-half years from now.  But Obama says that it will be the end of 2014, not when the last troop leaves, but when a significant number of troops remain, as Afghans become "fully responsible for the security of their country" -- except for whatever it is that the U.S. troops will do.

Obama is full of praise for U.S. troops, as if they've benefitted Afghanistan.  And he's full of concern for the suffering of U.S. troops and U.S. citizens.  When he mentions Afghans, at best he equates their suffering under U.S. bombs, drones, night raids, and prison cells, to the suffering of Americans scared by their television sets and forced to over-eat to relieve their stress.  "Neither Americans nor the Afghan people asked for this war," Obama said, forgetting that one of those two countries had invaded the other one and occupied it for over a decade.  "The reason America is safe is because of you," Obama told U.S. troops, forgetting that the war has made our nation more hated around the world.

This agreement is inexcusable.  It's also vague and preliminary.  A more detailed treaty will be worked out on May 20th when NATO meets in Chicago.  We need to be there en masse in protest. 

##

David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." 

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