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The Case for Irrational Voting

When I was a philosophy grad student in the ancient times at the U. of Virginia, some over-smart logician pointed out to me that voting is not rational, since a single vote is never decisive. It's all the other stuff that's rational: appearing to have voted, applying a sticker to your bumper, registering voters, making phone calls -- because all of that stuff has the potential to spread sufficiently to make a difference in the election, or perhaps in a future election or in other forms of civic engagement.

But, of course, unlike the model "persons" in philosophical or economic mental experiments, actual people tend not to be sociopaths. Pretending to vote without voting is far more work than actually voting, which -- while it may be irrational -- does no harm. And so, good citizens tend to vote even understanding its irrationality, and even when there are no candidates worth voting for.

Some smart friends of mine argue for a particular type of quasi-rational voting in such situations. Because of our antiquated electoral college that pretends an entire state voted for Tweedledee even if 49% of it voted for Tweedledum, moral voters should, this argument goes, vote for truly good candidates -- even write-in candidates -- in most states, in order to send a message. But they should only do so because there are too few such informed ethical strategic voters to actually swing the state. In the all-important handful of Swing States, however, where the contest between the two Tweedles is too close to call, we are advised to vote for the less hideous of the two.

This is a difficult argument to face down. It seems to leave the vast majority of us free to vote our consciences, while requiring that those of us with the (mis)fortune to live in the states that count are required to grit our teeth and do our civic duty. No matter how godawful the less-evil candidate may be, the other one is more evil and therefore worth resisting. This is not a time for self-indulgent purity. Lives are at stake. Mr. Less-Evil will kill a great many human beings through war, climate-crisis-aggravation, and misdirection of resources, but Mr. More-Evil will kill more people faster and bring on the risk of complete catastrophe faster. Ergo we have no choice. Suck it up. Vote for the occupier of brown countries who's not the racist.

If elections changed anything, said Emma Goldberg Goldman, they'd be banned. Policy-driven independent activism is far more important. We can make that case. It's not who's sitting in the White House but who's doing the sitting in, said the late great Howard Zinn. But some of the people making the above argument for letting the electoral college determine who you vote for are also leaders in-between elections in independent risk-taking creative nonviolent activism. I'm thinking of people like my friend Daniel Ellsberg.

But that's just it: the people who manage to think this way tend to be few and far between and usually worthy of Nobel Peace Prizes, if those prizes were still given out for -- you know -- peace.

People, as a general rule, do not function as the theoretical sociopath who could pretend to be a voter and not vote. This is why employers have begun instructing their employees to vote for Republican candidates. We have secret voting. An employee could act as if he or she were going to vote as instructed and then vote for someone else. But many employees will not draw sharp lines in their minds between the employer's threat to fire them and the employer's false claim that electing Democrats will require firing workers, any more than they will draw sharp lines between sticking a Romney sign in their yard and punching Romney's name on a voting machine owned by one of Romney's companies. When employers hold mandatory anti-union meetings, their intimidation and propaganda mix. Some workers turn against a union out of fear but tell themselves it’s a strictly strategic choice; for most it's probably a combination of the two. The same will happen with mandatory pro-Republican meetings in the workplace.

The number of registered likely voters with a high enough level of information to vote strategically by state is probably too small to swing any Swing State. This is a sliver of the population that understands the truth about the less-evil candidate (i.e. his evilness) but is willing to urge others to vote for him (one vote makes no difference, remember; they must urge others to do likewise for their action to be worth anything). They must then immediately or even simultaneously devote themselves to a movement of resistance to that candidate, and open their minds to information on his or her ongoing crimes and abuses, information that is not helpful in campaigning for them. For, without that resistance movement there is no way to break out of the downward spiral that gives us ever-worse lesser-evil candidates. We can choose the less-evil one each time, but if next time they are both more evil, some other tool is needed for positive social change.

And here we come to a second key factor that our rational strategists fail to adequately reckon with. The problem is not just that people are irrational, or that I am giving them too little credit in terms of their ability to become rational. I do think people overwhelmingly IDENTIFY with candidates and parties and begin to self-censor their intake of information and their expression of disagreement. They become fans instead of participants in self-government. But, beyond the people, there are the organizations. A movement that can fix what ails our politics cannot be driven by organizations, think tanks, labor unions, activist groups, and media outlets that identify with and seek patronage from a party or an elected official.

A couple of years ago, AFSCME, a labor union that had favored nonprofit universal single-payer healthcare for many years, brought a bus tour to Charlottesville, Va., to hold a rally for something called "the Public Option." Whatever that was, it was not a demand that had originated with AFSCME members or any other group of ordinary people outside of our government. The rules for the rally were laid out ahead of time: speakers and posters that favored or mentioned single-payer were forbidden.

This year, President Obama came to Charlottesville, and a number of us handed out flyers and held up posters outside the entrance to his event. We discovered that the crowd going in did not support policies such as his "kill list" assassination program. Rather, they had never heard of them. They had clearly gone to great lengths to avoid major news stories that would have occupied their attention and their passions were the president a Republican.

In considering how we deal with elections, we cannot avoid dealing with the way our activism and its funding and its communications work year-in and year-out. Do we become hopelessly compromised? Clearly, there would have been a greater chance of creating a single-payer system had we not censored the demand. Clearly, there would have been a greater chance of winning the pathetic "public option" had the demand of people in the streets been for single-payer, and had the "public option" become a compromise. And clearly the positive bits in the atrocious corporate giveaway that was passed in the end would not have suffered from a full-throated movement of greater size and clarity demanding healthcare for all. What did us in, in this case and thousands of others, was not lesser-evil voting in an election, but people and organizations acting as if they were doing lesser-evil voting even when there was no election.

Half the country does not vote. Most of the country has no idea there are truly great candidates like Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson on the ballot. Some activists are urging people to not vote, in order to "send a message." But half the country doing that has already failed dramatically to send any message for many years.

What might do some good would be to vote for a good candidate, whether or not you're in a Swing State. I understand that you could then be blamed, and not without cause, for the election of President Romney and all of his evils. Truly you would have to be irrational to face that risk. But being blamed for something is hardly the greatest risk our current situation demands of us. Many of us will have to face far worse if we are going to prevail. The case for casting your irrational vote for someone like Jill Stein is not that they are likely to win (and completely unconnected to whether they will "spoil"), and not that your one vote will put them over the top, or that the votes of others you recruit will do the trick. The reason to vote and campaign for a good candidate is that we need to build an independent movement that's honest, that doesn't self-censor, and that supports candidates or elected officials who come to us -- rather than us running to them. We also need a movement that makes reform of our electoral system a central part of our agenda. It is very hard to work for electoral reform properly if we are devoting ourselves to acting within the broken system. The Swing States are where the action is. Backing good platforms in the 38 states from which all candidates and journalists have fled misses huge opportunities. A national movement devoted to protecting lesser-evil officials in Swing States will behave as a fan-club for those officials in-between elections in every single state. And the fact is that electoral work for lesser-evil candidates drains huge amounts of time and energy away from other projects for the Ellsbergs among us, no matter how much good activism they do for three years out of four.

We desperately need automatic voter registration, just as we have automatic war draft registration. Door knocking could then be done on behalf of peace and justice, which -- after all -- are far more popular than any Duopoly candidate. We need to break out of the notion that electoral busy-work created by anti-democratic legislators counts as activism -- and in fact amounts to the complete array of possible activism. We need access to vote, access to placing names on ballots, access to media, and to debates. We need free air time for qualified candidates (for a limited time period!), a ban on private spending, an end to the electoral college, and verifiable counting of paper ballots where they are cast. We won't vote ourselves any of these things. We will only compel them through the true array of activist tools: educating, organizing, communicating, boycotting, blockading, marching, rallying, interrupting, mocking, mobilizing, inspiring, shaming, and struggling our way forward. Women did not vote themselves the right to vote. Nobody elected us workplace rights, environmental protections, or a safety net. We moved the whole country through policy-based movements that often involved moving third- and fourth-party candidates.

I once turned down a chance to run as a Veep candidate on a truly great ticket, primarily because I want to redirect attention away from personality-change politics to policy-change politics. But I had other reasons. I didn't want to offend half my friends and allies. Again, people are not rational about this. They take sides, identify with those sides, and passionately oppose the other sides in a mental space that does not divide itself along state lines. Additionally, I confess, I didn't want to make myself unemployable in an activist world where I know of no organizations with any funding that agree with what I've written above. But just imagine if that ceased for a moment to be the case. Imagine if the labor movement, cast aside by President Obama like a cheap mistress, didn't respond by dumping more hard-earned pay than ever into his election effort. Imagine if well-meaning people and groups took one election cycle off. The money saved could create a television network, a newspaper, a team of investigative journalists, and a grassroots organization, all of them dedicated from here on out to a nation in which every person has the right to a living wage, full education, full healthcare, a sustainable environment, peace, and civil rights. Wouldn't that be worth something? Wouldn't it have been valuable to have those things when Bush was president? Wouldn't it even -- admit it -- have been nice to have those things these past four years?

In my view, the severity of the militaristic and climate crises we face recommend my strategy over lesser-evil voting.  I'm not proposing utopia.  I'm proposing merely daring to to dream of human survival.

There's a Real Debate With Debating in It Next Tuesday

Next Tuesday, October 23rd, 9 p.m. ET, there will be a different sort of presidential debate.  It'll be in Chicago, hosted by http://freeandequal.org and I'll be there in Chicago covering it for Al Jazeera.  Six candidates have been invited to participate, and four have accepted: Jill Stein, Rocky Anderson, Gary Johnson, and Virgil Goode.  The moderator will be Larry King.  You can submit questions here.

I know we've all thrilled to the body-language and tone analysis that has followed the debates between the guy who favors 12 more years in Afghanistan, imprisonment without trial, lower corporate tax rates, for-profit health insurance, assassinations, corporate trade pacts, imprisonment without trial, oil and coal and nuclear power, charter schools, a military budget outpacing the rest of the world combined, and an ongoing "war" on drugs, . . . and the other guy who favors all of those exact same things.

I know it's been tantalizing, in a grotesque I-can't-stop-staring sort of way, to watch debates that don't mention climate change or drone victims or poverty or the possibility of prosecuting mortgage fraud or torture or war, or the alternatives that exist to military spending and tax breaks for our oligarchs -- alternatives like free education, green energy, infrastructure, transportation, and housing.

Yes, yes, there are differences between Romney and Obama.  But imagine if, when you'd finished cheering Obama for accusing Romney of opposing coal pollution (gotcha!), your brain had to wrap itself around a third candidate -- someone with a serious proposal to stop burning coal?  Sure, Obama is less enthusiastic about massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare than Romney is, but imagine if the two of them had to answer to someone who spoke for the rest of us, pointed out the advantages of lifting the cap on payroll taxes so that the wealthy could start funding Social Security at the same rate as the rest of us, and advocated expanding Medicare to all who want it -- someone who swore not to allow any cuts -- even backdoor cuts -- to these successful programs?

A relatively small number of us have seen a facsimile of that kind of debate by watching the coverage on Democracy Now! But the non-corporate candidates have not had the same amount of time to speak as the two participating in the corporate-sponsored Debate Commission self-parody.  Nor have the locked-out candidates been able to address the two moneyed candidates directly.  And they've been asked the same alternate-universe questions asked by the corporate moderators: "What will you sacrifice on the altar of deficit reduction?" Et cetera.

I know. I know. Larry King is no Amy Goodman.  But if Larry King is given good questions to ask, he'll ask them.  And his approach of avoiding knowing anything before an interview actually works well for an audience -- if, as I hope, there is one -- that has never before heard of the Works Progress Administration and doesn't know that military spending lowers employment.

There should, in fact, be far more debate among the four candidates taking part than there is between the two media-approved gentlemen. 

Jill Stein is a fantastic candidate.  I've spoken with her a number of times during this campaign, and am more impressed each time.  She stands with majority opinion against wars and waste and corporate welfare, for green energy, education, nonprofit health coverage, and full-employment.  She tried to enter the corporate debate this past Tuesday and was arrested for her trouble.  She was handcuffed to a chair for 8 hours, and if you hear how powerful and popular her proposals are you'll have a good guess as to why.

I'm hoping that Stein pushes Rocky Anderson a little on his limited acceptance of militarism.  He's no Bush-Obama-Romney.  He'd cut the military significantly (at least half the Pentagon's budget) and scale back the global cowboy killing, but that's a very low hurdle.  Without a clear vision of why war is never acceptable, we won't move our nation and the world decisively away from it.  That being said, I know Rocky and consider him a tremendous candidate with courage, integrity, and experience.  He'd make an excellent president, especially if we had a Congress, and a media.

Gary Johnson will be the newest to me.  He's a Libertarian and tends to agree with me by opposing every horrible thing governments do and to disagree with me by opposing every useful thing governments do.  I'm eager to see that worldview go up against Stein and Anderson.  I'm hoping for something more enlightening than the he-said / he-said squabbles between Romney and Obama in which we are asked to choose between someone who blames anti-U.S. sentiment on a stupid movie and someone who blames it on unfathomable ingratitude for our benevolent invasions and occupations. There's truth in Johnson's opposition to centralized national control of schools and many other things, just as there's truth in Stein's desire to provide schools with adequate funding currently wasted on prisons and highways and weapons.

All four of these candidates will be less imperialistic than Obama or Romney, but not all of them will be less exceptionalistic.  My former congressman Virgil Goode will bring the racism and the xenophobia full throttle.  It's his answer to every question.  I'd love to see one of the other candidates ask if Goode understands the history of U.S. wars generating immigration and U.S. capitalists demanding more immigration.  Goode will try to play the Libertarian, but those of us in his district who kept asking him in vain to stop funding wars know different.

Of course, Goode was bumped out by Tom Perriello riding Obama's '04 '08 coattails, and Perriello funded every war he could, only without any public opposition to speak of due to his being a Democrat.  He lasted one term, and peace protests of his Republican successor Robert Hurt have been minimal since the wars are either now Obama's and therefore good or are imagined not to exist at all.  This district in South-Central Virginia has been swept by the same wave of ignorance that is washing over the rest of the nation.

Not everything will be on the table on Tuesday.  All four of these candidates, like virtually everyone else in the country (and even the New York Times now), will oppose some truly crazy ideas, like more years in Afghanistan.  We leave those to the "good" and "bad" pair of often indistinguishable candidates that we so cherish our right to choose between.

I'm not asking anyone to think their way out of lesser-evil voting in swing states -- at least not anyone who truly understands and acts on the understanding that independent activism around policy changes is far more important than electoral campaigning for personality changes.  But I do encourage watching this alternative debate.  And if you watch it on Al Jazeera I promise not to devote my commentary to the candidates' body language and facial expressions.

Talk Nation Radio: Kucinich Says Failure to Impeach Bush Has Allowed Obama to Intensify Bush's Policies

Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who led failed efforts to impeach then President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney, says that failure to hold them accountable has allowed the continuation and intensification of their war policies under President Obama.  Kucinich believes that, more than anything else, a truth and reconcilation process is needed.

Total run time: 29:00

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

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

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Embed on your own site with this code:

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

IRAN, SYRIA AND THE U.S. - Event in Charlottesville, Va

Propaganda in the U.S. media is very real. In an attempt to counteract its effects and to offer the Charlottesville public a deeper understanding of the situation in the Middle East, Random Row Books has invited several local experts to give their take on the continuing volatility in that region.

Wednesday, October 24th beginning at 7 PM

at Random Row Books

Helena Cobban is a British-American writer and researcher on international relations, with special interests in the Middle East, the international system, and transitional justice. In March 2010, she founded Just World Publishing.

W. Scott Harrop currently teaches in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Culture at UVA, with Iran as his area of expertise.

David Swanson is a local author and activist at the forefront of the peace movement in America. During Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent visit to New York for the U.N. talks, David was one of several activists who had dinner with the Iranian president. His most recent books are War is a Lie and When the World Outlawed War. He also hosts Talk Nation Radio.

Roy Hange pastors Charlottesville Mennonite Church and has worked with Mennonite Central Committee in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East. He has taught faith-based peacebuilding courses at EMU and UVA.

Three Peace Events in the Bay Area, November 10-11, 2012

November 10, 2:00 p.m., Walnut Creek
David Swanson
Mt. Diablo Peace Center, 55 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek, CA 94596 - (925) 933-7850 - http://mtdpc.org
Free and open to the public.

Sunday, November 11, 1:30-4:30 p.m. San Francisco
Medea Benjamin, Cindy Sheehan, and David Swanson
On the traditional Armistice Day, the War and Law League (WALL),
http://warandlaw.org, presents a forum on the theme, "U.S. Wars -- Are They Lawful?" Admission is free. The forum, highlighting WALL's biennial general meeting, is endorsed by the S.F. American Friends Service Committee and East Bay Peace Action. Main Public Library, Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin Street at Grove Street, San Francisco, CA, near Civic Center BART/Muni station.

November 11, 7:00 p.m. Marin County
Medea Benjamin and David Swanson
"Stopping War: The Next One?  Forever? -- An Armistice Day Instead of Veterans Day Event"
Sponsor: Marin Peace & Justice Coalition.  Co-sponsors: Social Justice Center of Marin and Community Media Center of Marin.
Olney Hall, College of Marin, 835 College Ave, Kentfield, CA
Admission $10 (No one turned away for lack of funds).

****

About the speakers at these three events:

David Swanson will sign books including "War Is A Lie," "When the World Outlawed War," "The Military Industrial Complex at 50," and his new children's book "Tube World." Swanson blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works as Campaign Coordinator for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio.

Medea Benjamin is Co-Founder of Code Pink and Global Exchange and author of "Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control."

Cindy Sheehan is a gold star mother, peace activist, host of Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox, and author of "Revolution: A Love Story."

Why Europe Did Not Deserve a Nobel Peace Prize

Yes, indeed, it is a little-acknowledged feat of miraculous life-saving power that Europe has not gone to war with itself -- other than that whole Yugoslavia thing -- since World War II.  It's as clear a demonstration as anything that people can choose to stop fighting.  It's a testament to the pre-war peace efforts that criminalized war, the post-war prosecutions of the brand new crime of making war, the reconstruction of the Marshall Plan, and ... and something else a little less noble, and much less Nobel-worthy.

Alfred Nobel's will, written in 1895, left funding for a prize to be awarded to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." Fredrik Heffermehl has been leading a valuable effort to compel the Nobel committee to abide by the will. Now they've outdone themselves in their movement in the other direction. 

Europe is not a person.  It has not during the past year -- which is the requirement -- or even during the past several decades done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations.  Ask Libya.  Ask Syria.  Check with Afghanistan.  See what Iraq thinks.  Far from doing the best work to abolish or reduce standing armies, Europe has joined with the United States in developing an armed global force aggressively imposing its will on the world. 

There were good nominees and potential nominees available, even great ones

Now the Nobelites have almost guaranteed themselves a second-ever pro-war peace-prize acceptance speech.  If you don't recall who gave the first one, I'll tell you after the U.S. election when you might be better able to hear me.

What a disgrace that the Nobel peace prize needs alternative awards that don't go to warmongers.  What a further shame that even those don't always go to people who measure up to Nobel's will.

Was Nobel asking so much really when he asked that a prize go to whoever did the best work toward abolishing war? 

The West is so in love with itself that many will imagine this award a success.  Surely Europe not going to war with itself is more important that Europe going to war with the rest of the world!  Imagine how many white people might have died if Europe had kept its warmaking to itself.  By directing the threat of war outward and engaging in humanitarian wars and philanthropic wars, Europe has taken us beyond naive war abolition and into an era of powerful possibilities. Oh, and some dark people died.  But we're looking at the Big Picture.

Does this not frighten anyone?

Talk Nation Radio: How Did NATO Go Global?

How did NATO eveolve from a regional and theoretically defensive institution into a global and aggressive power?  We speak with Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, author of the new book "The Globalization of NATO."

Here's a review.

Total run time: 29:00

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

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

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Embed on your own site with this code:

<object autostart="false" data="http://davidswanson.org/sites/davidswanson.org/files/talknationradio/talknationradio_20121010.mp3" height="100px" width="400px"></object>

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

Citizen Diplomacy May Save Us Yet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Swanson Speaking in Asheville, NC

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

“Nothing More Evil: Confronting the Military Industrial Complex

An evening with author, activist and speaker David Swanson

October 26, 2012

7:00 – 9:30 p.m.

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

Sign up now on FaceBook

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

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

Swanson's books include:

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

See:  davidswanson.org

Free and open to the public!

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

Sponsored by:

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

 Co-Sponsored by:

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

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

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

Cari Italiani, aiutateci a combattere la tortura in Usa

English version below.

MicroMega

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

di David Swanson*, traduzione di Patrick Boylan

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

New Book for Ages 6 to 10: Tube World

http://davidswanson.org/tubeworld

New Book for Ages 6 to 10: Tube World

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

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

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

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

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

Buy the standard paperback from Amazon,

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

Buy the premium paperback from Amazon,

Your local independent bookstore can order the book through Ingram.

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

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

http://davidswanson.org/tubeworld

Advance Praise for Tube World:

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

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

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

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

Where Is War Making Taking Us?

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

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

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

George Bush the Murderer: The Movie

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

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

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

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

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

Bugliosi explains:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's a radio interview I did with Bugliosi.

Here's a preview of the movie:

Debate Analysis Avoids the Donkey in the Room

 

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

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

Talk Nation Radio: Slow Democracy Is Better Democracy

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

Here's a review.

Total run time: 29:00

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

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

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

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

Veterans For Peace Now in Pakistan Opposing Drone War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Rob Mulford sent in this comment:

 

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

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

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

Pam Bailey reports on her blog:

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

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

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

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

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

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

##

Nothing More Evil

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

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

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

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

WAR IS A LIE

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

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


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

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

HUMAN EXPERIMENTATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOTHING MORE EVIL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Griffin's remarks to that crowd included this:

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

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

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

Here's a terrific video.

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

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

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

##

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

Talk Nation Radio: Comedy as Political Force

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

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

Total run time: 29:00

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

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

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Embed on your own site with this code:

<object autostart="false" data="http://davidswanson.org/sites/davidswanson.org/files/talknationradio/talknationradio_20120926.mp3" height="100px" width="400px"></object>

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

Iran, Israel, and Existential Threats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lies, Damn Lies, and Nuclear Lies

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

 

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

Rally: NO NUKES – NO WAR / Occupy the NRC

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

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

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

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

Italy 1, CIA Torturers 0

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

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

One Place to Cut Spending: Kidnapping and Torture

By David Swanson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hearts and Mines

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

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

That never quite happens with Snyder.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The man shook his head.

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

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

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

Talk Nation Radio: War Tax Resistance

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

Total run time: 29:00

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

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

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Embed on your own site with this code:

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

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